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All Relaxation, No Fun

May 12, 2019

The spa entrance

I love me a hot spring. When I lived in San Luis Obispo, my favorite thing to do was to rent a hot tub on the side of the mountain at Sycamore Hot Springs and soak in the sulfur water for an hour, watching the blue jays flit around among the oaks.

Ojo Caliente

I was so excited to get to Ojo Caliente, halfway between Taos and Santa Fe, way out in the countryside. It’s a historic hot springs that has been visited by humans for at least 3,000 years and “discovered” by Spanish explored Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca in the 1530s.

They have a hotel, a restaurant, and best of all, an RV/camping area in addition to hot pools located at the foot of some desert cliffs that look for all the world like Radiator Springs.


Part of the old hotel

I arrived Friday night and spent some time sitting in the RV musing on my good fortune as I watched a woman my age with a German Shepherd and a puppy try to set up two tents. No, thank you. I am not a camper.

Discovering the Pools

At 9 a.m., I took the 1/4 mile walk over to the hot springs. It is a beautiful spa – quiet location, beautiful landscaping, a fancy gift shop, restaurant and wine bar. Aromatherapy scents of sage and lavender float through the lobby, which features some spectacular artworks and Native American artifacts.


The newer hotel suites

The springs themselves consist of a large oval swimming pool at 89 degrees and a series of smaller pools with warmer water, each containing different types of minerals. My favorite was the Lithia pool, rustic and filled with slippery lithium water, said to help promote a mellow mood. I know I certainly felt fine, soaking with my big hat on in the 102 degree water.

The Iron pool was another favorite because the water rises up from a spring at the bottom, which is covered with a thick layer of gravel pebbles, so your feet get a warm stone massage as you walk around.

I didn’t visit the Arsenic pools because arsenic (I’m sure it’s fine, really), but later I found the arsenic and iron waters are mixed in all the pools. Oops. No ill effects, though…I think.

Getting Muddy

I took a mud bath – a first for me. A water-fountain-like thing pours forth a thin, slippery stream of mud – it’s more like colored water. You smear yourself with it and then bake dry in the sun. A shallow pool of opaque muddy water is provided for a first rinse, then showers made of buckets with holes in the bottom sprinkle you clean (or mostly clean) of the remaining red mud.


The pool area

The day was a warm spring day, hovering between 65 and 70 degrees and breezy, so a little cool to just lay out, especially since I had chosen a lounge under a shade, fearing the high-altitude New Mexico sun. But I did spend most of the day and evening in and out of the pools and under a towel on my lounge chair, reading or just listening to the Native American flute music they play to set the mood.

Shhh Be Vewy Quiet

The crazy part about Ojo Caliente is the enforced silence. The whole thing is a “whisper zone” – no speaking above a whisper – and they seriously enforce this. Several times an hour, staffers with paddleboards  saying “Whisper Please” and chimes march through the pool areas, rattling the chimes at anyone who dares speak.

If you ignore them, they will stand there pointedly, becoming more insistent and jingling their sign. I didn’t see anyone get ejected, but I don’t doubt it has happened.

I could see that there were groups of girlfriends and families who really wanted to bust loose and talk, but for the most part people obeyed the rules.

I get it. It’s a spa. It is for relaxing. But some people relax by talking and socializing. I think there should be an area for talkers or a time of day set aside for a more lively interchange.

As a solo traveler, I realized there was no way to get to know anyone, as friendly as they might seem – because you just can’t walk up and begin whispering animatedly to someone. You would seem demented. It’s too weird.

Chow Time

After I got done soaking for the day, I had an excellent flatbread and glass of wine at the bar and ended up talking for about an hour and a half to one of the massage therapists. He was fascinating. We talked about energy, body senses not normally recognized, protecting your body while giving massage, neural massage, and a lot of other stuff. So I got my talk on. Whew.

So my advice is go to Ojo Caliente with your mind right. You’re going to relax, which is probably what you need. But hush your mouth, or seek the wrath of the guy with the paddleboard.

*No pics of most of the pools, because I didn’t want to invade swimsuit-clad peoples’ privacy.


Even a little spiral labyrinth!

  1. Elvie permalink
    May 12, 2019 10:27

    Sounds wonderful, but people with Davis genes’ can’t not talk. Glad you are exploring and sharing the wonders with us.

    • May 12, 2019 15:33

      Thank you. I know, we never learned the lesson about not talking to strangers!

  2. May 12, 2019 12:19

    I’m following along and taking notes on some itinerary. Planned on a trip last fall to New Mexico and who knows where else with tent and van to get out of the rain or away from bears farther north. My trip had to be delayed but getting ready again. Hot springs sound grand. Only ever been to them once in Banff. What a feeling! But not spa-like but rather just a pool in the trees. Thanks for sharing your travels and giving me ideas.

    • May 12, 2019 15:34

      It’s a nice place, especially for relaxing! I loved Taos, too, and Madrid is tiny and artsy and cute.

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