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Issue Date: March 2008 Issue

Cloud 9 - Mohonk Mountian House

Jay MacDonald
I love “green spas,” those Earth-friendly, Zen-inspired sanctuaries that use local botanicals and minerals to restore our thread-bare urban souls. Unfortunately, too many of them leave me cold once I peel off my cucumber headlights, wash off the rejuvenating mud and return to the minimal comforts of another chicly minimalist resort.

Mohonk Mountain House, on the other hand, is a majestic, seven-story Victorian-style castle. It seamlessly embraces the “green spa” movement, but maintains a tradition of luxury dating back more than a century.

Founded by Quakers in 1869 and family owned and operated ever since, Mohonk sits miragelike on the shore of a private lake atop the sheer stone cliffs of New York’s Shawangunk Ridge, a Native American name that translates as “lake in the sky.” A National Historic Landmark and Historic Hotel of America, Mohonk is surrounded by 26,000 acres of groomed wooded trails that give way to jaw-dropping views.

Mohonk retains its cozy gentility inside with updated vintage baths, rockers on the Juliet balconies and afternoon tea and cookies. My favorite Quaker touch: no televisions to spoil the relaxing sounds of the fireplace crackling and oars on the lake.

The Spa at Mohonk, a $13 million, 30,000-square-foot addition, opened in 2005. Last year, it was named one of the best eco-spas by readers of Spa Magazine and a favorite hiking spa by Luxury SpaFinder. Indoor, New England-style verandas wrap around the circular top floor, enclosing 16 treatment rooms. A solarium with stone fireplace overlooks an outdoor sun deck and heated mineral pool.

My Warm Stone Massage ($125) features two treatments, a traditional massage followed by pressure-point work with warmed basalt stones. Unlike similar treatments that conclude with a body wrap (not a personal favorite), my masseuse simply places a warm stone in each of my palms as I lie on my stomach. It’s a deeply relaxing touch.

Much green thought went into planning this spa, where the term “bring the outside in” takes on a whole new meaning. Six hundred tons of quartz stone, excavated from the bluff below to make room for the spa addition, was recycled into stone fireplaces and retaining walls. A finer grind of the conglomerate, nicknamed “Shawangunk grit,” is used as an exfoliant in many of the spa’s treatments, as is native “Mohonk red” witch hazel and moss, a natural anti-inflammatory.

That just scratches the surface, so to speak, of Mohonk’s eco-friendly features. A soundless geothermal system uses the constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool the spa, virtually eliminating on-site emissions. A “green roof” garden terrace, where shallow-rooted grasses and ground covers are grown seasonally in a special eight-inch growing medium, cuts summer cooling costs by up to 30 percent and provides a popular setting for outdoor fitness, yoga, Qi Gong and meditation classes.

If you haven’t spent time with your planet lately, Mohonk is the perfect place to recharge and reconnect.
Hone your skills on the 111-year-old Mohonk Golf Course ($24 for guests), modeled after Scotland’s famed “olde links,” Prestwick and St. Andrews.

Get Dirty with the Shawangunk Grit Mineral Body Treatment ($160), which utilizes the local quartzlike conglomerate.

1000 Mountain Rest Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

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