I didn’t even want to go.
My friend Tea (who’d lived in New Mexico for upwards of 30 years) had told me about the wonderful hot springs at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center near Jemez Springs. She’d visited the place a couple of times over the course of several years and remembered it fondly. When my sibling came to town to visit me, Tea wanted to share the experience with us. She suggested the three of us take a road trip to the Zen Center to soak. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The problems started immediately.
First I realized my van only had two seats, which meant only two seatbelts, which meant only two people could ride safely. How would the three of us get there? I knew Tea’s wouldn’t want to take her old clunker, and it might not even make the trip. I didn’t want us to get stuck on the side of the road.
No problem, my sibling said. A car could be rented. The cost would be offset by staying with me at the house I would be sitting instead of renting a hotel room.
The day of our trip, the rental car proved to be a problem. We called ahead to make sure the car would be ready at the appointed time. Well, no it wouldn’t, the rental car company employee told us. The car hadn’t been returned yet, and they’d have to clean it when it arrived…We could pick up the car two hours later than it had been promised to us. (Why promise a car to a customer at a certain hour if you don’t know if it will be ready at that time?)
Our entire trip had been planned based on the earlier pickup time. My sibling and I were on vacation, but Tea had all these constraints. She couldn’t meet us too early in the day, but she had to be home to care for her six dogs well before dark. Leaving two hours later would put her back home two hours later, or else cut our time at the Zen Center so short as the render the trip ridiculous. (Why drive 2+ hours to get somewhere and 2+ hours back only to stay at the place for one hour?)
The real problem was that Tea was getting on my last nerve. I love Tea. I really do. She has always been a good, kind, generous friend to me. However, she can also be bossy, nosy, and mothering to the point of smothering. She was really being demanding about this trip too, placing constraints on when we could go and when we had to get back. We were in a phase where I was annoyed by everything she did, and this road trip was beginning to seem like a really bad idea.
That’s it! We can’t go, I said with relief when the rental car company started jerking us around.
My sibling didn’t give up, whether because of really wanting to visit the hot springs or just to be nice, I still don’t know.
We started making phone calls. There was another rental car company at the town’s tiny airport. The company’s national call center said there was an economy car available immediately. We were ready to take it, but them my sibling suggested we call the local office just to make sure they really had what we wanted. The phone rang and rang and rang until finally some guy answered. He didn’t have an economy car available, he said. He had an SUV available and would be glad to rent it to us at a higher price. We told him the company’s national call center said an economy car was available, but he said they were wrong. I asked why the national call center said an economy car was available if it wasn’t, and he said he’d have a manager call me back immediately. To this day, I have not received that call from a manager.
My sibling called the first rental call company again and spoke quietly and firmly to the company representative. When the call ended, I found out a car had just been returned. It would be cleaned immediately. We could pick it up at the time originally promised. It looked like we’d be going on this trip after all.
When we picked up Tea, I had her sit in the front seat. I told her she would do best up there as she was navigating. Really, I just wanted to sit in the back seat and pout about going on this trip I had decided I didn’t want to take.
The scenery on the way to the Center was FABULOUS! The road we took brought us past the entrance to Bandelier National Monument. We saw lovely rock formations, as well as folks climbing a sheer rock wall. We passed elk viewing areas (but did not see any elk). In some places, the road was VERY narrow and very steep, and it seemed doubtful two cars going in opposite directions would be able to pass each other, but they did.
Once at the Zen Center, Tea and my sibling and I headed directly to the hot spring pools (located behind the Center’s buildings and next to the river.) I was quite disappointed to find there was no shade over the pools. I’m really sensitive to the sun and burn easily, so I was hoping to sit in the shade while I soaked. Nope! All of the pools were in full sun.
The water in the pools was very hot. It would have felt great in the winter or at night, but on a sunny June afternoon, it was too much for me, although I typically enjoy really hot water. I could only sit in the hot water in the hot sun for a few minutes before I had to stand up and cool off.
There was some algae in the pools. Not a terrible lot, but it was kind of slimy and gross looking. What was really gross was the unwrapped, bloated tampon floating in the far pool. Yuck! How did that even get in there? I’m not typically squeamish, but it really grossed me out, even though it didn’t seem to be bloody. I really hope it had gotten there by falling out of someone’s bag.
Between the too hot water, the unrelenting sun, and the floating tampon, I didn’t spend much time in the water. I put on my robe and headed to the front porch where I cooled off, dried off, and read a book. I enjoyed my porch sitting and book reading very much.
When we visited, the use of the hot springs cost $10. For that price a person could stay all day (and possibly into the night…I’m not sure what time they wanted day soakers to leave). Payment was on the honor system. We placed our payment in a wooden box near the door of the room we passed through to get to the restroom/changing room.
While writing this post, I looked at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center’s website and found nothing about the hot springs. There’s no mention of the springs being open to the public, the cost to use them, or when they are available. There’s no mention of the springs at all, although there is one photo of two of the pools. If I wanted to utilize Bodhi Manda’s hot springs I would email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (575-829-3854) before showing up.
My sibling and Tea didn’t stay in the water much longer after I got out. Soon we were on the road again, heading to return the rental car.
If I were going to visit the Bodhi Manda Zen Center again, I would go when the weather is much cooler, maybe even in the winter. I would also arrive much earlier in the day, so I could get a lot of soaking time for my $10. However, I don’t feel like the springs were so great that I need to go back. That tampon in the pool really turned me off.
To find out about other places where you can soak in hot mineral water, check out the article “11 Hot Springs in New Mexico You Need to Visit” on the All The Rooms blog.