If you’re driving around New Mexico and come across a 200-yr old church, then you probably stumbled over one of the old land grant towns. When families moved here from Mexico, often back in the 1700s, a church was one of the first things constructed – typically of adobe and built like a fortress, for safety from marauders was one of its key purposes.
Ojo Caliente has a church like that – or two, actually. Through the trees are two buildings, on the left is the original structure. The one on the right came later. More on the town’s history here.
Adobe construction involves stacking large bricks made of mud and straw, then slathering a mud mixture on the interior and exterior walls to give them a smoother finish – the exterior surface must be bolstered with new mud periodically as the elements will erode it. In the pic of an unfinished wall below, a piece of straw bloomed. There’s probably a sermon in there somewhere.
After the church, is a bridge leading to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. It’s posh.
But not too posh.
The place is serene. People stroll around talking in hushed tones, many wearing pale yellow dressing gowns supplied by the resort. There are hiking trails, mud baths, multiple spa pools – some indoor and some outdoor, some public and some private – with chaise lounges and hammocks for relaxing. And an air-conditioned yurt for yoga.
The building below is old and appears to be part of the original lodge, built almost 100 years ago. It houses the restaurant at the far end, which looks out at the hills, and guest rooms in front. In the lobby area is a large glass urn containing ice, water and lemon slices. Grab a cup to sip while you walk around and you’ll fit right in.
Guest lodging is available at a variety of price points. Buildings typically host six to eight guest rooms, and are connected to each other by winding pathways and lush landscaping. It’s a nice place to stroll, but warm in the afternoon sunlight. One of the startling aspects of high-altitude desert is the difference between full-sun and shade. There is a huge shift in temperature between the two. Showering outside, even in full sunlight, is brisk if there is a breeze.
You walk through the main hotel lobby to reach a large courtyard area housing the pools. A wall rings that area to keep it private. There are several public pools of varying sizes, and around the perimeter are small buildings and courtyards housing specialty pools – their waters contain different mineral concoctions that supposedly address specific ailments.
There were quite a few guests inside this area, perhaps 40 or 50, and also many more out on the grounds, but I try to not photograph them – maintaining a sense of decorum. After all, I’m an interloper here.
Newer housing. It rings a landscaped courtyard with a well-disguised hot pool in its center.
This farm caught my eye on the way out.
Time for lunch. When possible, each day I take one meal at a local eatery, one representative of local fare. This looks promising. Turns out a husband/wife team runs it, also a good sign.
Seeing this gentleman here is yet another good sign – I don’t know why; it just is!
Strolled up to the counter and addressed the gentleman standing behind it (his head is visible in the pic below, he’s sitting in the corner) enquiring whether they have any specials. He replies he’ll check with the boss, turns, enters the kitchen area and I hear him murmuring to someone. Then a female voice pipes up, loudly and clearly: “I’m special” … at this point she heads through the doorway, wiping her hands on her apron and asking what I’m hungry for. I laugh, throw up my hands defensively and say: “Ma’am, whatever you think I should eat, that’s what I want.”
Asked if I could take a pic of them, but not posed. When she’s in action, she doesn’t stop moving. Took several pics and this is the least blurred. She decided that I needed two chicken enchiladas smothered in green chili sauce. Winner!
Stopped on the way out of town to visit this motel. The buildings, transported here from nearby Los Alamos, were originally constructed in the 1940s as housing for people working on the Manhattan Project. About eight little bungalows are being nicely renovated. The owners were friendly and waved me over to take a look inside two of them – each had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen. They’re rough hewn, but clean.
The name of the place is Taos Trail Inn Brewery and Steak House (the couple also owns the eatery next door). This place looked like a lot of fun, and definitely a good place to stay if the Spa down the road is too fancy for you.