Pondering a doomsday 2012 scenario, I wondered which Santa Fe offering I would visit if I had only 24 hours to go. Then it hit me: Were I facing inevitable death, I'd want to be as relaxed as possible.
Santa Fe's surroundings offer countless hot springs in which to loosen up, but all require at least a one-hour drive. Those feeling less adventurous and more prodigal with their wallets can go to Ten Thousand Waves, the popular destination located on the city's outskirts.
The resort, modeled after Japanese onsens, is a simple drive up Artist Road just before the Santa Fe National Forest. My trip to the spa turned out to be an admittedly rushed visit. Although Ten Thousand Waves offers a range of private baths, lodging and massages, I opted to sit in the public bath because I was paying my bill with limited SFR funds.
At the stoop of its entrance near the parking lot are stone steps that extend up a narrow garden. A wooden sign reads, "91 steps, 60 vertical feet, 47 calories burned." As you walk up, you can hear audible splashing and dripping coming from the private baths within the spa. New Mexico chiles hang in the doorway as an artificial waterfall greets you inside.
A reasonably affordable $25 (approximately) buys you an all-day pass to the public hot tub. Private baths range from $29-$50 per person, although sessions are timed at 60-90 minutes. Massages are priced at approximately $100-$180, the most expensive of which uses four hands.
If you get to the public bath during the day, you can sit in it naked. Ten Thousand Waves has two public baths: one for women only and one that's gender neutral. Although I arrived after 8:30 pm, when swimsuits are required, I think it's fair to assume women rarely go naked in the gender-unspecified public bath.
The public unisex bath is located upstairs from the main lobby. In the lobby, visitors can drink as much free hot tea as they need. Outside the lobby is a footbath—pretty much a hot tub for legs—and a "relax room" full of blankets and pillows.
The men's changing room upstairs resembles a glorified YMCA men's locker room. Its sink is made of marble, and the lockers are made of wood.
Across the changing room is the public bath, which features a hot tub, a sauna and a hole of cold water for anyone in need of a polar bear plunge.
Although Santa Fe suffers its share of light pollution, it's still not enough to prevent a glimpse of the Milky Way from the hot tub on a lucky, cloudless night—impending apocalypse notwithstanding.