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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Natural Hot Springs of New Mexico

When the Spanish explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries stumbled across New Mexico’s natural hot springs, they discovered the healing properties that the Native Americans had already known for centuries.

Some claimed they had found the Fountain of Youth in these relaxing and calming hot springs. Now guests have a chance to follow in their footsteps with a visit to some of the most spectacular locations in the “Land of Enchantment.”

Jemez Springs

The village of Jemez Springs is one of New Mexico’s most enchanting destinations.

Nestled between stunning red rock remnants of ancient lava flows – which are over a million years old - the village is world renowned for its famous mineral hot springs.
Fissures in the earth allow water near the surface to make contact with the rock below that is heated by the magma. The result is a steady supply of wonderful, hot springs that bubble up naturally throughout the valley. Jemez Springs is a great place to get away for the weekend, reconnect with nature and enjoy the healing mineral waters.

The Jemez Valley runs from an area just north of the Jemez Pueblo up through to the Valles Caldera preserve. Along this 45-mile stretch of state highway, guests will find natural hot springs, great fishing spots, endless hiking trails and lovely camp sites.

The springs include the Spence Hot Springs, Giggling Springs, and the San Antonia Hot Springs. More information for visitors can be found at the Jemez Sprigs website.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs & Spa

Steeped in myth and legend, these ancient springs have been a gathering place and a source of healing for hundreds, even thousands of years. The use of the waters can be traced back to the earliest human settlements in the region when ancient people, believed to be the ancestors of today’s Native American Tewa tribes, built large pueblos and terraced gardens overlooking the springs.

Posi (or Poseuing) - ‘village at the place of the green bubbling hot springs’ - was home to thousands of people.

Although Ojo Caliente’s natural springs were used for centuries by the area’s Pueblo Indians, today the resort consists of an historic mission-style hotel that dates back to 1916 and is one of the longest continuously operating health resorts in the U.S.

The Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa (pictures right) is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water, and the resort’s ten pools are filled with different combinations of waters and temperatures.

There’s also a mud pool where guests can apply mud all over their bodies and then bake in the sun, releasing toxins from the pores of the skin. Recent renovations and expansions have enhanced the service offering without abandoning the authentic and historic nature of the original environment.

Accommodation includes: The Historic Hotel, charming cottages, and suites with private outdoor soaking tubs.

Other hot springs in New Mexico:

Outside of the star attractions there a host of other hot springs in New Mexico. Here takes a quick look at some of the best.

Firstly the large, 99°F hot Battleship Rock & McCauley Hot Springs are located in a high mountain meadow near the Battleship Rock in Jemez Springs, named for its similarities to the prow of a ship.

Clothing is optional.

Located along the spectacular canyon of the Rio Grande near Taos, Black Rock Hot Springs is a small grouping of hot springs that forms a small pool alongside the Rio Grande when the river is low.

North-west of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument are the House Log Canyon Hot Springs - a little hot spring found only when the Gila River is low.

It is unimproved and surrounded by trees and ferns. Clothing is optional.

The Lightfeather Hot Springs are also alongside the Middlefork of the Gila River, near Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Finally, Montezuma Hot Springs is a collection of hot springs bubbling out of the side of a hill, feeding a variety of rock and cement tubs.

Though the springs were originally used by the historic Montezuma Castle Resort near Las Vegas, they are now accessible to the public.

More Information

Please note many of these springs are located in remote destinations and may require a certain amount of hiking, climbing or other physical activity to reach. Guests should always check with the Forest Service or local ranger station before attempting to access these pools.

The only place in the world you can buy original recipe Dr. Pepper

Spoonful of sugar is just what the doctor ordered

Out in the flatlands of Texas, a good two hours' drive from the nearest city any outsider has ever heard of, lies a town called Dublin. It has no important industry or institution to draw visitors and the main occupation of the 4,000 residents is dairy farming.

All the same, about 65,000 people a year make a pilgrimage to Dublin to tour a small factory in the centre of town that has been bottling Dr Pepper since 1891. The big draw for fans of the carbonated soft drink is that it is the only plant in the world that still produces the original recipe.

When other bottling factories turned to cheaper high-fructose corn syrup in the 1970s to sweeten their Dr Pepper - with a handful opting for processed liquid sugar - this family-owned plant refused to phase out the granulated cane sugar that had been added to the concentrate since the drink was invented back in 1885 (a year before Coca-Cola was born).

By bestowing on the drink a particular kind of authenticity to complement its long heritage, the decision to stick with sugar has turned out to be a winning marketing strategy and helped Dublin Dr Pepper - as the plant's Dr Pepper is known - to cultivate an intensely loyal customer base.

Dr Pepper was first concocted at the Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, by Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist educated in England who felt customers were bored of the fruit flavours at the store's soda fountain.

The Dublin operation came into being six years later, when Texas businessman Sam Prim tasted the new fountain drink while travelling through Waco and decided he wanted to sell it in his bottling plant. The plant is now run by descendants of Bill Kloster, the long-time manager of the factory who inherited it from Mr Prim's daughter in 1991.

The bottling plant buys the concentrate from what is now called Dr Pepper Snapple group, and rates within the top 10 per cent in per capita sales for its distribution area. That area is admittedly small, but that has proved to be another strength - adding an air of exclusivity.

Dublin Dr Pepper can be marketed only within 40 miles according to its original franchise contract because Mr Prim could only go that far in a day to deliver the soda using his horse and buggy. As a result, obtaining the drink is an achievement - something that restaurants and retailers boast about on signs for miles outside the distribution area.

Linda LaMarca, assistant professor of marketing at nearby Tarleton State University, says the exclusivity of Dublin Dr Pepper "increases the mystique" and, therefore, demand for the drink. "It's not an accident," she says. "Dublin Dr Pepper is run by very smart people."

Betsy Gelb, professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and a self-confessed Dr Pepper devotee herself, adds: "Dr Pepper connotes daring to be different, unconventionality, authenticity . . . Putting sugar in it makes it more so. What is the most authentic way to sweeten anything? Sugar."

Some fans make it a personal quest to get to the factory as often as possible, boosting the plant's total sales to between 500,000 and 700,000 cases a year - with 24 bottles or cans to a case.

Lori Dodd, the plant's in-house historian, notes there are more than a few devotees such as Joseph Graham, an attorney who makes the 1,000-mile, eight-hour, round-trip drive from Brownsville, Texas, twice a year to get 28 cases - at $16 (£11) a case versus about $13 for the corn syrup version. Mr Graham brings his own traditional 10oz glass bottles because nobody makes them any more. "I'm single, don't have to answer to anybody, so I can indulge my idiosyncrasies," says Mr Graham.

The scarcity of the traditional bottles also adds to the exclusivity and authenticity. Customer loyalty is further helped by the pride Texans take in the fact it was invented in the state. Indeed, when Coke managed to edge in on Dublin Dr Pepper's territory, winning a contract several years ago to be the only supplier at nearby Tarleton State University, it provoked protests on campus. Dublin Dr Pepper was soon back in vending machines.

Philip Hargrove, 58, makes up to six trips a year to the Dublin factory - a 240-mile round trip from his home in Flower Mound, Texas - to refill his 16 cases. "In Texas, you drink water, whisky and Dr Pepper," he says.

Bonus: They'll shipanywhere in the U.S.

Saturday, May 2, 2009