Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Traveler at Home: Ojo Caliente

I am back home now, in New Mexico, for two reasons. One was to celebrate my 60th birthday with friends and family, and the other was to finish a book. So far, I've completed only the celebrating.

The outdoor swimming pool
My friend Suzanne offered to take me to Ojo Caliente, a hot springs resort north of Santa Fe, for a birthday present. In my world view the best of all presents are experiences, and this was one of best presents I've had in a long time. Not only did it take us an hour to drive each way, chatting and laughing the whole distance, but then we spent another three hours getting sunburned and soaking in mineral pools.

The facility is beautifully maintained and much larger than it was years before when I last visited. Most of the cars in the lot were from New Mexico with a few Colorado license plates. Most of the clients were women, and most of them older than us. They were there to relax, read books, have a massage and/or a mud bath. The mud area had instructions for "lathering" up with mud and lounging in the sun on chaises stained ochre. A reddish brown pool in the middle of the mudbathing area was meant for washing off the residue.

There are several pools, all of different temperatures and a few with a high concentrations of some mineral like iron or magnesium. One pool is inside a building for the sun avoiders, others are solar extreme. A large swimming pool is relatively cool, but next to it is the hottest pool of all so you can hop from one to the other. April is barely spring in northern New Mexico, and the stiff breeze made pool hopping a chilling experience.

Scattered around the pools were ramadas, a traditional structure of tree trunks holding up poles and sticks that provide shade and support for numerous hammocks.

The resort has small rooms for overnight guests, the size and shape of monk cells. In the older building there is an excellent restaurant, and in the lobby is a perfect rock fountain. Over many years I've seen attempts at rock fountains where water flows over a smooth edge down the face of the rock, but always there is a flaw, a place the water won't flow, leaving a long dry island. This fountain featured a flawless surface with a thin sheen of water in a constant silent decent.

It was an exquisite birthday gift, thank you Suzanne!

Most unusual fountain in the lobby

Men's bath house and traditional ramadas for shade