El Monte Sagrado-A Taos hideaway

Why would one fly so far for so little? Little in terms of size is what I mean. My destination was not another mega resort, but rather an intimate hideaway in an off the beaten path place, serviced by an tiny municipal airport. This is what I was asking myself as my Air West flight was delayed in Phoenix for three hours. I was waiting for a flight to Albuquerque, and then another two and a half hour drive to Taos, where I would stay at a chic, but rather small hideaway called El Monte Sagrado.

I knew the 36 suites and casitas from their Web site, but not much more. But the suites did look magnificent, each named for a destination the owner of this artistic hideaway had visited: Tibet, China, Japan, Marrakesh, Balinese, Egyptian (and for lovers of love, the Kama Sutra). With snow falling, a chill in the air and the darkness of a Taos night upon me, I entered the world of El Monte Sagrado, alone and freezing.

As I crossed the threshold, leaving the memory of cold and damp to my growing files of traveler’s ‘travails,’ I looked up, finding I was standing under a magnificent, naturally occurring 90-pound citrine crystal from Brazil that was suspended from the towering ceiling. Yes, I thought, it is right I am here tonight. The journey was worth the destination, and at that moment I was convinced this mesmerizing cue portended a worthwhile experience.

The crystal pointed the way to other world-class art I discovered as I made my way to the China Suite, my retreat for three nights. Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all from the collection of Tom Worrell, the owner and driving force behind El Monte Sagrado. I was in good company.

“Living in harmony with the earth” best describes El Monte Sagrado, starting at the point of entry. Tom Worrell Jr., owner and visionary, goes beyond the limits. The Biolarium(r), an architectural space showcasing a water-purification system designed to grow fruits, plants and herbs onsite, is just one of the inventions making news. This environmental statement is reflected throughout the three and a half-acre resort, revealing his futuristic design in subtle and unexpected ways. For example, the indoor swimming pool is chlorine-free as it is treated with Curoxin(r), a light pure liquid created by Dharma Living Systems. Worrell’s imagination is boundless.

Global suites

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As I made my way along a rock pathway to the China Suite, I looked up and discovered energy-producing solar panels cleverly placed on wrought sculptures resembling trees. This magical mystery tour eventually led me to the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, where esoteric treatments not found anywhere else in the spa world are on the “menu.”

For those seeking Sound and Vibrational Therapy, the two-hour session (in your suite or casita) is designed to challenge body tension, sleeping disorders, headaches, fatigue and restlessness. Alex Rentz arrives with tuning forks and instruments producing sound vibration that he says “heals the body.” Don’t get up from the table and expect to walk into town to look at art galleries after this experience. These two intensive hours require a few hours of uninterrupted relaxation to maximize the stress-free state induced by this treatment.

Spacious and gracious

Amy McDonald, Spa and Programs Director of the Living Spa, feels the Spa Menu reflects the Native American traditions she has grown to admire. Consequently, the spa menu reflects this in products and treatments. For example, the Signature High Desert Body Treatment (90 minutes) uses a Zuni salt mixture for exfoliation, followed by a mineral rich volcanic-ash mask and concludes with a gentle massage and application of hydrating sage lotion. The Ayurvedic blend of wild-crafted sage and herbal extracts from the sacred mountains of Taos is revitalizing, leaving the body silky smooth from head to toe. For more information, visit the Web site at www.desertblends.com.

Another two-hour treatment in the “Special Offerings” category is Egyptian Anointing with Maria Mikhailas. This “out of this world” session is actually a deeply relaxing massage evolving into the anointing, with sacred oils combined with gemstones. This formula is applied to the seven chakras. The goal is to magnify the potency of the oils and your life intensions.

Such treatments require correct dining. And that’s why executive chef Kevin Kalpaka sources ingredients from local and regional farmers for a menu best described as “global cuisine.” The De La Tierra restaurant seats 50 people in a spacious room filled with greenery. On the menu are choices such as Nepalese Style, Latir Ranch, Organic Yak Momo (five steamed dumplings, red chili sauce, sour tamarind and fried jalapenos) along with a traditional, yet terrific, hamburger!

Ken Collura, wine director and sommelier, has done well in presenting wine and food pairings, holds weekly wine classes and writes a syndicated newspaper column. Wine fans should check with him as there might be a wine dinner they can reserve in advance. When I asked Collura about a tangy cheese, he sent back a card with the description “Mine Shaft’s Blue Cheese.” He let me know that this cow’s milk cheese was aged in a California cave. Attention to detail is routine here.

Yak facts

Yak is a healthy alternative to red meat, says Tom Worrell Jr. And he should know as the owner of the sprawling 6,500-acre Latir Mountain Ranch, home to the largest and only certified organic yak farm in the United States, where cultural and environmental awareness prevails. Case in point: two yaks were blessed by the Dalai Lama on the steps of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. last year.

El Monte Sagrado has as many facets as the dazzling citrine crystal that caught my eye the moment I arrived. This was one time the tedious journey was worth the destination.

Contact El Monte Sagrado at 800.828.TAOS or 505.758.3502 or visit www.elmontesagrado.com. Guest room rates range from $345 to $375 per night. Double occupancy suites (your choice, one or two bedroom) range from $595 to $795. Two-bedroom global suites cost about $1,495. Ask about rates for stays more than two nights.

Getting to Taos

Check out Westward Airways for the two daily flights between Albuquerque and Taos. (877.937.8927 or 977-WESTWARD) or 758.758.2542 or WestwardAir.com

Pamela Price is the co-author of the just released 5th edition of “Fun With the Family in Southern CA” and “100 Best Spas of the World” (www.globepequot.com).

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