Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ojo Caliente

For Christmas my wife bought the family an overnight at Ojo Caliente, the hot springs and spa in Northern New Mexico.  We went there with our son, Hunter, who was visiting from Los Angeles.

I believe there is a certain amount of mysticism and faith necessary to fully appreciate the healing benefits of hot springs, but that belief has lasted through many centuries and maybe there is something to it.  The forefathers of the Tewa Indians who live in Northern New Mexico today all believed in the healing powers of the waters and even when there were warring factions in the neighborhood they would come in peace to the springs at Ojo Caliente. 

The baths are below the cliffs where underground lava warms the pools.  Different springs are rich in different minerals.  Here is the iron spring right below the cliffs

and in this hot pool  is yours truly with his baseball cap covering his ever balding and sun susceptible pate!

Hunter is in the mud spring, or mudpot as it is sometimes known.  It is supposed to be good for skin texture as well as to ameliorate arthritis and soft tissue injury

In the 16th century the Spanish came up from Mexico through New Mexico in search of gold and the fountain of youth and discovered the springs.  With such a history and being so important to so many peoples it is not surprising that the springs have been designated as a historic site.  Three of the original buildings have been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places) This is one of those buildings, the hotel built in 1916.

There they sit in a valley in the high desert.  On our way to the springs we had some pretty breath-taking views.  To our surprise, the Rio Grande which can look like a dry riverbed  at times was actually flowing as were a few creeks.

As I did some research for this Missive I found on the Spa’s website 10 pages of references to article written about Ojo Caliente in the last couple of years.  There are even more pages of videos on Youtube.

New Mexico did not become a state until 1912 but already in 1868 we had a territorial representative to congress, Antonio Joseph , and he built the first bathhouse at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and they became one of the first natural health resorts in the country.  I am sure even then there was a realization of the importance of tourism in the state, and what better way to attract visitors than saying we have the next best thing to the fountain of youth!

The valley with water was a natural place to build overnight lodging, a post office and a general store.  Ojo is quite close to Taos where Kit Carson and his family lived. The general store’s ledger shows that Carson made frequent visits to buy supplies there.

Only Hunter fully partook of the offerings of the place, which include night-time soaks in the mineral baths. Penelope and I were not anxious to head back to our rooms from the baths soaking wet in below freezing temperatures.  We plan to go back in another season.

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