Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Southwestern Brain Wash

It's amazing how much a road trip to a beautiful place can clear your head. After a relaxing weekend lounging in natural hot springs in a tiny New Mexico town, I feel rejuvenated. My mind was so sharp and focused yesterday - let's hope it stays around for awhile, at least before I leave for the Gulf Coast on Friday.

My travel buddy, Primo, and I stayed in the tiny town of Jemez Springs, population 320. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, it took no time at all to get to know all the characters. We stayed at the sweet and clean Jemez Mountain Inn and the owners, Paul and Luanna, made the place feel like one big house. Paul even let me peruse their liquor stash and make my own cocktail, right in his own kitchen.

One evening, Paul says to me, "C'mon, go get Mat. We're all going to Raymond's house." So, Paul, Luanna, me and Mat all piled into Luanna's car and off we went. Raymond turned out to be the amazingly talented artist, Raymond Sandoval, who greeted us with open arms.

Mat and I couldn't believe our luck. First of all, Raymond's house is a gorgeous adobe that Raymond made himself. Even in the bathroom ceiling is a beautiful scene of twigs and logs. Everything in the place - Raymond's art especially - was jaw dropping. Crawling plants, crystal chandeliers and comfy couches - all amazing.

Born and raised in Jemez Springs, Raymond had gone to art school in Philadelphia, and was there when the community tore down the nation's very first all-black Elk's Lodge. The treasures he got from that excavation  - including a floor-to-ceiling gilded mirror - add the perfect baroque touch. Meeting Raymond was a real highlight for both of us and yes, we both left with purchased art. It was hard to resist!

And then there was the amazing open skies and natural hot springs every ten feet or so. Some were fancy, like the Giggling Springs next door, which included a nice lady who brought us homemade lemonade or fruit smoothies whenever we put up the 'Drink, Please!' flag, as instructed.

There was also San Antonio Springs, a clothing-optional (yay!) springs that is hard to get to - double yay! Located high up in the mountains, the 5.5 mile road is impossible without a 4WD and thankfully, I had one handy. (What's the point of owning a tough vehicle if you're not going to star in a car commercial once in awhile, right?)

After a very bouncy drive, you then cross a river (next to the remnants of a bridge) and hike up a ways. Several stacked pools - the top one being the hottest - were available. With a view of those craggy pink mountains and lots of great company, it was pure heaven. (Although Mat was admonished for being part of a nude party, totally harshing his mellow.)

Earlier that day, we got caught in a fluke hail storm right in the middle of Valles Caldera. Thankfully, we were already heading to the teensy visitor center and it was there we took up shelter. With plenty of maps, books and helpful local guides (including one named Jim Trout), we made the best of it, although it squashed our hiking plans pretty good.

We got caught in another random hail storm as we were leaving on Monday. The weather changes were fairly normal to me, thanks to my Colorado training, but Mat couldn't get over how dramatically things can go from 94 degrees and sunny to 54 degrees and white.

Neither of us wanted to leave, we were so relaxed and content. I chirped and smile the whole way home. I can't wait to go back and continue my crush on New Mexico.


More photos from my trip can be found here.

1 comment:

hotdrwife said...

Nobody seems to understand why Dr. GOP and I went to Taos, NM for our honeymoon, but man ... it's just a beautiful state. And the B&B we stayed in was so perfect, and the wood burning fireplaces in our room in January just made it all the better.

Glad you had such a great time!!