Monday, November 10, 2014

I Love Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa

 
February 2014 my wife and I had been gifted with an overnight retreat to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. It was the dead of Winter with a light snowfall, early morning temperatures began at 7 degrees, with daytime temps reaching 35 at best. This may sound like an absolutely crazy time to visit a Hot Spring, yet I found it to be more magical.
On the way there we noticed a few Big Horn Sheep grazing, by the side of the road. Magic was indeed in store for us.
In over 20 years living in New Mexico I had never visited the Ojo Hot Springs. In Taos we live just up the road from the Ponce de Leon Hot Springs. (http://twograces.blogspot.com/2011/06/blessing-llano-quemado-ponce-de-leon.html). There are a few various natural Hot Springs in Northern New Mexico. All a bit tricky to find perhaps, but they do exist.
 So, why pay to visit Ojo Caliente?

The weekday fee Mon-Thurs is $18. & weekend Fri-Sun rates at $28.
The hot springs and water in the rivers around New Mexico can contain the parasite Giardia. At Ojo you will not be subject to this risk.
There are a variety of pools at Ojo all offering unique experiences, and Ojo offers a whole lot of services, and you won’t be confronted with a crowded pool of naked visitors, there are rules at Ojo, bathing attire required.
At the Admission Desk you’ll sign in, check about your reservation if you’d chosen extra Spa Services, and pay the fees involved (please note: No Reservations required to visit the pools themselves). You’ll be given a fluffy towel (overnight guests are the ones wearing the special robes). There are locker rooms for day guests, bring a lock for the lockers, locks are not provided, they do sell them if you need one. They have a terrific Gift Shop attached to the lobby, my favorite thing to purchase are a bag of Chipotle Roasted Almonds.
From Yoga Classes to Meditation Sessions, Body Wraps to Massage Packages, there’s quite a bit available to visitors, check it all out online before your visit.
I recommend a dip into the pools, a hike, break for Lunch at the Artesian Restaurant and another dip into the pools.
Upon entering the pool area there are 3 various pools to the right after the women’s locker room and massage room area. Iron, Soda and Arsenic (the furthest away with 2 pools). There’s also a large kidney shaped swimming pool, a small very Hot pool and an area for ‘Mud Bathing’. The very hot pool is often crowded. Lounge chairs are everywhere along with hammocks, they’ve done a great job on the comfort level. During cold evenings kiva fireplaces are lit in lounge areas.
You may lounge and soak all day, hours are 8AM- 10PM, 365 days a year!
Let me also recommend along with bathing suit and sandals, bring a robe, hat, sunglasses and bottled water.
There’s a lovely private pool option, these are fenced and include kiva fireplaces, a way for couples to have some privacy. The private pool is hourly, it’s worth it, especially during busy season.
Ojo posts currently checked temperatures of the water at each pool, mostly around 103 or so.
At the check in desk you may want to ask which pool to enter first, the desk staff has not been helpful with this at all each time I’ve asked. So, I’ll tell you here and now, the Arsenic Pool should be entered first, soak in the bigger of the 2 for a while, move to the smaller (it’s not as hot). Try to soak long enough in each pool to feel relaxed. 
The Arsenic pool is one of the rare Arsenic Hot Springs in the world.
Before visiting Ojo I checked with my cardiologist if it would be safe for me. My Doctor basically told me to use common sense and not go overboard. My experience has been that I have not felt this good in a very, very long time. The constant pain in my chest for over 2 years was alleviated rather miraculously. Various health professionals have told me they believe that the Arsenic Pool can help draw out toxins from your system. Now I’m not suggesting any miracles at Ojo Caliente, (it’s not Lourdes!) yet my experience has been such that I try to return every other month or so.
The Iron Pool should be next, I found this to be quite buoyant it also seemed to give me a bit of a ‘flush’, not a bad feeling at all, but it was unexpected.
Lastly the Soda pool (a covered area, which in the cold of winter was so steamy I couldn’t find where the pool began and the concrete floor ended) large enough and underutilized enough to swim laps in. 

Perhaps there’s something in the literature for Ojo about its healing powers, if not, there should be.

I was scheduled for a Hot Rock Massage. As I am Not the ‘all in’ massage type, this was more for the purposes of having a complete Ojo Experience. My masseuse began with a story of Grandfather Stones, which made me want to gag, so I asked her to kindly stop. My objection is to a completely made up New Age experience. Now don’t get me wrong it’s really Just Not For Me, as for you, please take a look at their website choose (make a reservation) and enjoy your own experience.

There are also a few well-marked hiking trails around the Ojo Caliente Resort. Ask at the front desk for a map, unfortunately most of the staff is unfamiliar with the hikes! I highly recommend hiking to the Mica Mines, begin at the northern end of the parking area (furthest parking area from the resort buildings, look for the water tower and head up towards it) walk up a very rocky rutted road, at the top you’ll see signage to which way the trail runs. There are well placed signs and Rock Cairns (basically piles of rocks) along trails to help guide you. 
The other beginning point (between the Hot Springs and the Restaurant Lodge) is much more of a scramble. Bring bottled water with you and bring a camera, your cell phone may not have reception. Although I do not remember ever seeing Petroglyphs anywhere around Ojo, I’m certain they exist, the logo itself is one depicting the Spring. 
The Mica Mine trail is about 2.5 miles (5 miles round trip). You’re close when you begin to see the rocks on the trail change to a peach color. 
A few of the Ojo product lines, creams and shampoos, use this mica in their formulations. Mica is also used in the local Pottery, it creates a way for the pot to expand and contract in the heat of an oven or stove top, it’s a wonderful cooking tool, pots are available at the Ojo Gift Shop.
Food at the Artesian Restaurant is wonderful, with Breakfast and Dinner absolutely amazing. There’s also a hopping bar scene there with wine and local beers available. The Artesian lunch menu is designed to get people fed quickly as the restaurant is quite busy at lunch time. The move’em in, move’em out lunch crowd misses out on Breakfast and Dinner where this restaurant truly shines. Visitors will more than likely not avail themselves to Breakfast here, everything I’ve had here for breakfast is delicious and perfect. Breakfast is something the overnight guests partake in, but let me tell you, if you go to Ojo early enough for a day trip, run to the restaurant first and enjoy its deliciousness.
The real treat of the Artesian Restaurant is Dinner, go here for dinner, slow down, relax and enjoy. I’d place them in the top ten restaurants of Taos County. I Love dinner at this restaurant, we enjoyed a wine from the local Black Mesa Winery perfectly paired with our meals. 
Take a look at the menu online, you’ll want to make a reservation. Artesian Restaurant should be on your list of places to have dinner when you are visiting the area. 
So who visits Ojo Caliente anyway?
From couples visiting during Ski Season, European Hot Spring Pros, Hipsters from LA, Moms and Pops with Grandparents and Children, Executives on retreat and yes indeed, the New Age and the Hippies. It’s a mixed bag of people from everyday life, including me (grumpy old guy).
My wife and our friends have been visiting Ojo for years, even my 80 year old Mother has gone. During a very long time I had a stigma about it, thankfully now I do not.
There are signs posted around the pools to “Whisper Please”, often this particular rule is ignored. A staff member occasionally walks around discreetly with signage stating “Whisper Please” a gentle reminder, no scolding involved here and I for one appreciate this.
Some form of soft music may help cut down on the chitter chatter of the guests which does get loud at times.
I’d like to see local music ‘unplugged’ become a part of this resort, the softness of a Pueblo drummer, the lilting take you away on a breeze of the Native American flute. At the very least a sound system with flute, maybe some classical music, with some Inuit Chanting and sounds of the Brazilian Rainforest, (alright NOW ‘I’m’ sounding all New Age-ee).
Try to take the opportunity in your lifetime to actually visit Ojo Caliente overnight for the full experience. Overnight lodging rates begin at $140. There is also lodging that includes a fenced private pool, with Kiva fireplaces in rooms, this is a luxurious treat for guests. The rooms are southwest elegant. Someone recently told me that they took a tent and camped there, if you cannot afford the overnight lodging, then perhaps camping could be an option for you too.
I am grateful to Wendi Gelfound (Ojo Marketing Director) for gifting us my first experience at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. If it were not for her great kindness I truly believe I would still be suffering from the nagging pain of my heart disease. Yes, it took a bit of convincing me to visit, but I am hooked and a true believer. I was really only going because it made my wife giddy with delight of the opportunity for an overnight visit. Her feeling is that when she leaves Ojo amazingly relaxed, the last thing she ever wants to do is take that drive home.
The drive to and from Taos is actually magnificently beautiful. 
I could, but shouldn’t jabber on about how much I truly am addicted to Ojo and of my utter enjoyment each time we’ve visited.
For much more information and reservations please visit the website www.ojospa.com
*All photographs are copyright Robert Cafazzo 2014, except for the vintage ca.1930's images provided by OCMSR&S.







3 comments:

  1. My sister's favorite place and I cannot wait to go. So nice to see photos Robert and that wine/meal looks delicious!

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  2. Thank you. Excellent. I will be going again. It was all pretty rustic on my last visit: 1971 !!

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  3. Thanks...it is now maybe somewhere I would go for a night or two!

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