The dogs and I left sweet Santa Fe and headed to Toas, NM. There are a few good wineries to visit along the way if you take the high road. The reds are ok but the champagne and port seem to be the best productions coming out of NM vineyards thus far. What a beautiful drive worth the extra time. When I arrived to my airbnb rental it was a disaster of a location, directly behind a loud car-wash with the sound of vacuums running non-stop. After calling airbnb corporate office, I decided not to wait around and instantly found an earthship for rent, 11 minutes away in El Prado. I had no idea how amazed I would be by this community and way of living!
An earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and up-cycled materials such as earth-packed tires. Architect Michael Reynolds pioneered this invention to address six principles:
Thermal/solar heating and cooling
solar and wind electricity
self-contained sewage treatment
building with natural and recycled materials
water harvesting and long term storage
some internal food production capability
Earthship structures are intended to be "off-the-grid-ready" homes, with minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. They are constructed to use available natural resources, especially energy from the sun and rain water. when inside you feel so safe and secure like being inside a cave, since the homes are partially built into the ground. When they warm up with the early morning sun, the walls stay cozy on the inside into the evening. I have truly never felt so at home within walls. My favorite aspects of earthship living:
Wine bottle brick wall construction (I could have built a mansion by now with my recycled bottles in life!)
Zero noise and light pollution, the star gazing is magnificent
Even though off-grid, I never once had to mess with a generator or batteries. Plenty of power
My ship had fully equipped gas appliances and high speed internet.
The indoor greenhouse makes for an oxygenated atmosphere, cleans the air
One persons rubbish is another ones treasure
Here is the link to the large studio earthship home I rented. It was so incredible I did not want to leave! Kirsten and Ron are the gracious hosts. It is quite, cozy and has a fabulous bathtub inside under the glass where you can see the stars dance at night. I am convinced this type of living is in my future.
The Drive- The reason I came to Toas from Santa Fe was to be closer to Ojo Caliente, the famous mineral springs my friend works for. This was one of the top spas on my list for the entire road trip out west. Now that I was staying in the earthship community it would only be a 30 minute drive on beautiful back roads through Carson State Park. About half way there, just about the time I was questioning the drive distance I committed to for this spa journey, A bald eagle swooped up in front of the car from the road where it was then joined by two ravens eating on a dead rabbit. It was huge and absolutely stunning but did not quite fit with the scenery. I immediately felt this was a strong sign that I was on the right path.
Arrival- I arrived at Ojo with plenty of time to kill so decided to take a hike on the trail systems directly behind the property. I chose the Posi Ruins trail since I had heard about it from my friend Ken back home and I'm just a sucker for anything architecturally really old. It was so much in ruins now that it is barely visible and the old pueblo was caved in, but I did take a picture of several Native American pottery pieces that were scattered about the trail, found by other explorers. So conscious that people are not pocketing these pieces so they can be seen.
Confusion- I checked in at the front desk. The entry way was quite large with a long front counter with at least 3 desk attendants. I felt there was way to many forms and waivers to sign, to the point I almost felt like I was in a Saturday Night Live skit. The gentleman who waited on me was certainly nice but spoke so fast with all the instructions that nothing made sense. He was aware it was my first visit and pointed me to the general direction, however I felt completely lost which is not easy for me at a spa, I am typically at home quick. I ventured out the doors and to the right where I saw a ladies locker room. Pretty quickly I realized there must be another locker room because locker 108 did not exist there. I walked across the public pool areas trying to find an attendant. In the mens locker room area an employee explained to me I had to go back across the pool area and there is another locker room for woman getting spa treatments. At this point I am starting to get annoyed and she reluctantly walked me over to "the spa". Why, I wondered, since I already paid dearly for the treatments that were not even performed yet, couldn't a friendly front desk/spa attendant just walk me to the spa ladies locker room when I first arrived? When you do get to the spa ladies locker room you have to punch in a code to open the door. This all seemed like an extravagant waste of not only my time but the amount of time the guests are wondering around confused. Once I finally changed into my robe and found out the hard way that sandals were not provided, I asked the spa attendant how to get to my private tub. She told me I had to walk across the public pool areas again to the mens area and the other attendant would walk me to my tub. Holy cow, by now I need a stiff drink!
Luckily things eventually shifted when she walked me to my beautiful and very private mineral tub. I received no instruction again so I politely asked if she would be calling me on the intercom next to the door 10 minutes before my spa treatment? She said no that the intercom did not work and that she would come and knock. When that door shut I let go of all my issues with patience, stripped off my robe and took a deep breathe. Shweeeeew, time to relax, let go of it all and connect with the royal view of a yang desert mountain in front of my private mineral pool.
The Soak and Massage- The water temperature was perfect maybe 102 degrees, the sun was hot which made for a 63 degree winter day. I wet my hair and slapped on a moisture mask that I brought from my spa, grabbed my water bottle and simply meditated on the fact that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I had at least 40 peaceful minutes in my tub when it was time to go prepare for my massage. The small waiting room in the spa was nice and warm I believe it had heated floors. It was an older building with cozy lounge chairs and blankets. It could have been tidier but I was content. I was relaxing for about 10 minutes when CJ my massage therapist took me into the small massage cabana. They have maybe 8 rooms lined up side by side that step down into comfortable treatment rooms with high ceilings. I purchased a one hour customized massage. CJ was attentive, finally someone who worked there was. She did a great job. The therapy staff were much more inviting and helpful. The therapists, like at Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, are all private contractors who make their own schedule and work in the same cabana room throughout their shift. It seems to me this model really works nicely in New Mexico verses having the therapists as employees that inter mingle with other employees in a break room. It weeds out the drama and seems to me keep the atmosphere much more professional.
Conclusion- Once my therapy was finished I hydrated, changed into my clothes and headed to the wine bar for their legendary fish tacos. They will never be forgotten and the wait staff was excellent. In conclusion, I do not want to compare spas, for they are all thankfully unique. I held Ojo so high in my expectations since they were an actual mineral hot spring destination spa, but in reality "Ten Thousand Waves" set the standard and their pools are simply very purified well water. When we spend ample hard earned cash on a spa experience we should feel nurtured, relaxed and taken care of, from the time we enter the door until we drive away. The property at Ojo is unique and the mineral water is superb, all this spa needs is some tightening up of management and a better delivery of policy, procedure and training. I would also add on a sandal rental, gender specific soaking tubs and dog friendly room rentals. There is no gender separate tubs and I came without a bathing suit, so I did not get to partake in all of the other soak options like the mud tub. Oh and I almost got naked in the steam room before the vapor subsided and I saw a man! I thought it was maybe the ladies spa since it was near the locker room. There was very little explanations or signage. The rest rooms, showers, and basically all of the dressing room were dirty, even toilet paper on the floor and this was a week day. They have several accommodations to chose from and an RV park. I think the prices are inflated and the standards are low. Overall management could use a huge upgrade to match the beautiful property. As a spa professional, I would not make a special trip back here, nor could I recommend my clients to, but if I was camping and wanted a soak under the stars perhaps with a loved one and a nice dinner after, I think this is the perfect place for that.
I asked several locals if they had ever seen a bald eagle in the area, every one said no. I still left feeling blessed, thankful, relaxed and full.
Stay tuned for the next blog! True story: as I am in my delightfully comfortable earthship thinking, "I will just buy a ship and make an ayurvedic inspired earthship spa in Toas", I actually found just that.
Next Blog- "Auromesa", an Ayurvedic Earthship and Soul Sister Practitioner