The Ojo Caliente hotel, built in 1916, is on the historic registry.
Hotel guests get a complimentary Milagro Wrap after their soak in the hot mineral pools.
Between seasons at Ojo Caliente
–Ty and Barb Belknap
It finally snowed on November 12, giving hope that we’d soon be skiing and snowboarding. Outdoor enthusiasts like us are in limbo between seasons; it’s too cold for camping and boating and there’s still not enough snow on the mountains for winter sports. Our family was also suffering from annual change-of-season colds, but we still needed a little time off.
The Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Spa had been luring us back over the years since the time we enjoyed a quick afternoon’s visit after retreating from a disastrous cross-country ski weekend in Chama. November seemed like the perfect time to book a night and just relax in the historic hotel at one of the oldest health resorts in North America. It was an easy hour’s drive north of Sante Fe on NM 285.
The hotel does not appear to have been remodeled since 1916. The rooms include bare white walls and no TV. We sat on the bed and drank mineral water while adjusting to the pleasures of sensory deprivation. Then, after a nice meal in the simple old-time elegance of the Artesian Restaurant, we walked across the courtyard to the spa.
Staying at the hotel is practically free, since a two-day admission to the springs is part of the package. Guests are also treated to two Milagro Relaxation Wraps each. After raising your core body temperature in a private tub, they wrap you in a light cotton blanket, then with a heavier wool blanket, and leave you to sweat in cozy silence for twenty-five minutes.
The cliff above the pools is lit up dramatically. There are three mineral pools—iron, arsenic, and soda—which are believed to be good for your, heart, joints, and digestion respectively. The existence of these different minerals all in one place is one of the unique features of Ojo Caliente.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed sneezing and reading in bed, sleeping through the 8:00 a.m. yoga session. We assume it was yoga in the pool. After lounging around through the 9:00 a.m. yoga session in the Yoga Yurt, we returned to the pools in the bright morning sunshine, half expecting to be besieged with a New Age-healing hard sell. Nobody tried to sell us anything.
Privacy and quiet are encouraged, and you could probably get through the weekend without talking at all, especially if you choose to stay in one of the cottages that come equipped with refrigerators and microwave. There is also a beautiful area next to the river for campers.
Plenty of healing available, though. Guests can opt for all kinds of massage therapy, including massage for a couple, aquatic massage, and hot-stone massage. You can get several kinds of facials, hair treatments, salt glows, body polishes, herbal wraps, mud wraps, or a combination package of several of the above. Sunday morning meditations offered instant bliss, assisted by a trance channeler.
We settled for a drink from the lithia spring that has been dispensing “happy water “ since the nineteenth century. It’s supposed to relieve depression, but we had only our colds to be depressed about. We had another Milagro Wrap in the bathhouse converted from the old recreation hall. The building, constructed in 1860, is geothermically heated. Antonio Mauro operated a convenience store and informal gambling hall here from 1947 to 1976. The sign at the door says “While you are deeply relaxed and immersed in your Milagro Wrap, allow your senses to expand. You might get a whiff of cigar smoke, and if you listen carefully, you might hear the dice cup banging on the table.”
Relaxed and rejuvenated enough for another day, we hiked above the springs in the ruins of Posi-Ouige Pueblo. No obvious structures remain from the large pueblo that thrived here during the 1300s through the early 1500s, but the ground is practically carpeted with pottery shards. A copy of the guide brochure would have been helpful, but the gorgeous views of the heart of northern New Mexico make the walk worthwhile.
There is also a mountain-bike trail to the old Joseph mica mines. Maybe next change of season we’ll bring the bikes along.
For more information about the Ojo Caliente MIneral Springs Spa, call 1-800-222-9162 or visit www.ojocalientespa.com. For holiday gifts, click See Site Index, then Gift Certificates. The certificates are good for lodging, spa services, meals, and products.