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SpaWatch: Mohonk Mountain House


By Mary Alice Kellogg

SpaWatcher has been fond of Mohonk Mountain House for years, and she's not alone. This venerable National Historic Landmark hostelry a scant two hours from Manhattan has attracted guests since 1869 with Catskill Mountain views on one side and a glorious glacial lake framed by giant boulders on the other.

Owned by the same family since its beginning, the rambling stone-and-wood resort buildings have endless parlors and niches in which to read, charming Victorian guest rooms with working fireplaces, and balconies with rocking chairs from which to enjoy the views. Its 85 miles of hiking trails are punctuated by benches, many with plaques commemorating the families who have loved the place for generations (Norman Vincent Peale's has a particularly fetching vista). Horse-drawn carriages continue to bring guests to the impressive Sky Top overlook. Mohonk remains, happily, an oasis of time-warp bliss.

When Mohonk opened a new 30,000-square-foot spa three years ago — the first addition to the hotel since 1902 — this spirit of place was preserved with sun-drenched indoor/outdoor relaxation areas, wicker rocking chairs and blazing fireplaces, the building blending seamlessly into the aesthetic. The ambitious treatment menu reflects Mohonk, too: I chose the "Shawangunk Grit" Body Treatment not the most felicitous monicker, to be sure, but named for the surrounding Shawangunk mountain range beloved of rock climbers.

The treatment uses pulverized, quartz-rich bits of the eponymous rock to exfoliate. I am afraid, very afraid, but needn't be. It starts with a warm fragrant bath oil and sea salt soak in a high-tech hydrotherapy tub for the first 15 minutes. The tub has an arsenal of relaxation features — soothing jets, and underwater lights corresponding to the body's energy chakra centers. I spend the first few minutes trying to figure out how I could buy one just like it, even though it's larger than my apartment.

Next came the "gunked" part. Led to another treatment room, it was time for a full-body exfoliation beginning with a gently applied mix of sea salt, oil and … powdered local boulders. All divine. After showering away bits of salt and scenery, a liberal application of moisturizer was followed by a guided 15-minute "power nap," my therapist quietly intoning something about an island, a mineral pool, the stars — unusually bright at Mohonk. I was out like a light.

The relaxing effects of this lasted for two days, long after I reluctantly checked out of my circa-1899 tower room (No. 638, flanked by private balconies overlooking lake and valley. Sigh.)

My first call upon returning was to my dear friends Harvey and Estelle Jacobs. Fifty-four years ago, they had spent their honeymoon at Mohonk. I told them they'd find this treasured place little changed and, if they couldn't climb the boulders these days, then the boulders could come to them. Gently. In the spirit that is Mohonk.

The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House; 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz. NY

MARY ALICE KELLOGG, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.

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