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Soaking in the Springs

There’s a story I sometimes share of the first time I soaked in the hot springs of the Jemez Springs area. I was in my late 20s, living in Albuquerque, and working as an archaeologist for the Cultural Resource Management office at the University of New Mexico. My roommate, Jon, suggested a weekend adventure of going to some free hot springs not too far away from the city, “It’s clothing optional,” he shared. “Sure, Why not?” was my response.

So we drove off to Jemez Valley and up the scenic route 4. We found parking for the springs just beyond the Battleship Rock formation. A muddy trail with a log across a stream of water led us uphill. The pools go from coolest near the bottom of the slope and hotter as you climbed. Jon found his spot in one of the low pools and I decided to climb up to one of the higher pools. There was definitely a hippie crowd along the way and the scent of Ganga mixed with the deep pine of the surrounding forest.

I found a pool to soak in. There was a naked woman sunbathing on a rock alongside the pool. I know this may be difficult to believe, but I swear it was Demi Moore…either that or Demi’s doppelganger (I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so, yeah, it could be my over-active imagination was doing overtime). So, as I recall, along with the beautiful scenery, hot springs, and healthy steam, I had the privilege of soaking with Demi (I have been told by one source she was/is a regular at 10,000 Waves in Santa Fe). That’s the story of my first soak in the Jemez Hot Springs.

Fast forward to the present. I have lived and worked in the valley since late July. Being The History Mystery Guy, I felt obligated to share something about the springs for which this area is so well known.

During my first months in the area, I lived a nice 5-mile hike from the San Antonio Springs and usually soaked once, sometimes twice every weekend. I must admit I found it ironic so many smokers of cigarettes found it necessary to indulge in their stinking habit while soaking in these beautiful springs. Cigarette butts litter the areas around the soaking pools. Added to the negativity are the dog owners who bring Fido but are too lazy to clean up his crap. Ughh! Anyhow, my last visit to these beautiful springs has lasting visions of dog crap and cigarette butts. Somehow you don’t expect inconsiderate souls to bother hiking to such a fine setting. Come on, people clean up after yourself and your dog!

The springs near Battle Rock have been closed off since my arrival and I’m not certain why. Someone suggested they were closed to keep the nude bathers out. Who knows? I guess I could dig a little deeper, but figure- What’s the point? They aren’t currently open and that is that.

Downtown Jemez Springs is primarily made up of tourists and art shops. Los Ojos Bar is a must for any visitor as it has that old bar charm about it (but recall the ordeal my friend Suzette, Bowie, and I had when we last when for a late lunch there after our hikes in the Valle Caldera area). There are two major locations for a hot springs soak- Jemez Hot Springs (formerly Giggling Springs) and the historic Jemez Springs Bath House.

The Bath House has prices posted up front and is set up for individual or couple soaks in the privacy of a curtained-off tub. I went there recently after having some pains in my left hip. The tub was deep but wouldn’t allow me to stretch out my hip (and it actually hurt more). I asked at the front desk if they’d considered building a therapy pool. The attendant responded, “We’re a historic building. These tubs are over 100 years old!” I really didn’t understand her response or tone but didn’t push it.

More costly and social, the Jemez Hot Springs (formerly Giggling Springs) has become a Wednesday afternoon tradition for me (a local discount on Wednesday makes it more affordable and gives me a reason to Jemez Springs proper to get my mail from the post office). I also like the sometimes social scene in the biggest pool. It seems the healing waters bring out good conversations. My imagination can easily transfer the conversations and interactions as shades of a long-ago Roman Bath House.

The old building and signage for the Sulfur Springs are located adjacent to the Jemez Hot Springs. I could not arrange to look inside the buildings, but find they share much even from the exterior.

I also peeked in on the hot springs behind the Buddhist Center. I am told you can soak there for a donation. I have never pursued doing this, but should.

If you visit the Jemez Springs area, consider a soak in the springs an essential part of your stay. The healing waters from the geothermal depths of this volcanic area provide a much-needed break from the world at large. You deserve it! As for myself and Demi, the call to a hot spring will always lure us in.

Man, I need a soak!

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