Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Hot dip can turn cold
Mary soaks her aching body as often as she can in the 118 degree, once abandoned hot spring pits at Montezuma Castle outside the other, lesser known Las Vegas in New Mexico.
“I could sit here all day,” she said, clad in her required bathing suit and soothing a sore sciatic nerve in her left leg. “It makes everything, your whole body feel pretty good,” she said, even though the well has green, slimy walls and dark floaties in the mineral water.
Her companion waddles through chocolate brown mud alongside the baths hugging the main road, taking another sort of soul cleansing. He then rinses his dirty shell in 40 degree, mountain fresh water running through a creek before returning to Mary’s side.
Montezuma Resort and Hot Springs was built in 1882 for Santa Fe Railroad along the Santa Fe Trail that once brought expensive trade to the region by covered wagon.
This Las Vegas, founded in 1832, now has an economy that suffers dearly from the decline of the railroad era. The boom left behind more than 900 historic buildings representing nearly every construction style in America.
After falling into disrepair, the Victorian castle became the first property west of the Mississippi River to become a concern in 1997 of the Save America’s Treasures program. It was resurrected in a multimillion dollar renovation by the Armand Hammer United World College, which now operates an exclusive high school on the site for international students.
While the local tourism office promotes tours of the castle, the school’s cold-spritied security guards will tell visitors to immediately leave the property unless they want a peek inside an unusual small chapel that is lit inside by a bunch of large prisms.
Public tours of the old brick hotel are offered for one hour on just a handful of dates each summer.
The springs, however, are open to the public at its own risk. The guards stop by here frequently, too, to make sure that no one is dipping in the nude.