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Jemez business open after weekend rain

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By Tris DeRoma

Business owners relying on visitors to the Santa Fe National Forest are breathing sighs of relief after forest officials announced the forest is now open again. 

On Saturday, Santa Fe National Forest officials announced that they were opening the forest to visitors. The forest was closed June 1 due to heightened fire hazard conditions. 

Chris Blecha, manager of Amanda’s Jemez Mountain Country Store in Jemez Springs, said things were looking a little bleak for a while. During the closure, he and store owner Ray Anderson estimated store business decreased by 80 percent.

“Closing it of course was dramatic,” Blecha said. 

However, Blecha said Anderson was prepared.

“This wasn’t his first rodeo, he anticipated some challenges, but now that the forest is opening, we’re pretty excited to be back into business,” Blecha said.

Amanda’s, located at the intersection of N.M. 4 and N.M. 126, has been the area’s long time go-to information center for sportsmen, hunters and tourists. Amanda’s sells groceries, bait and tackle, camping gear, fishing licenses, knives and many other things to make one’s visits to the Jemez Mountains better.  Amanda’s has been the place to go for local tips. According to the review site Yelp, the staff sometimes lets people know where the good fishing spots are. 

Monique Barto, of the Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon in Jemez Springs Village is not only glad to see the forest open for the restaurant, but also for her customers. 

“The biggest thing was people coming to our restaurant only to realize the forest was closed,” Barto said. “So, hikes they thought they were going to get to do, fishing, it just wasn’t available to them. They were definitely disappointed for sure.”

She also said Los Ojos has weathered the storm so far.

“We’re excited because our business will pick up more than it has, though it has been pretty good, considering.”

One thing that’s helped the restaurant, is it’s deep roots in the area. The restaurant has been there since 1947. The upstairs section offers great views of the Jemez Mountains, and the restaurant also has a patio area where visitors can enjoy many of the restaurant’s specials such as its Famous Jemez Burger or a nice piece of chicken fried steak. 

Other well-known businesses in the village include the Jemez Springs Bath House. As an actual destination, Perian McBee said business has been steady during the closure. She said people from the hotter, dustier parts of New Mexico have always come to the hot springs to refresh themselves. 

“They come because they love the water,” McBee said. “We were OK, but it did affect us.” 

The natural spring water contains acid carbonate, aluminum, calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, potassium, silicate, sodium and sulphate. 

McBee, a resident of the Jemez, was personally glad to know the forest is now open.

“I miss going camping myself, even though I live up here,” McBee said. “There’s a couple of really nice places I like to go to when there’s nobody there. I missed it.”

The Jemez Spring Bath House has been around since the 1870s and offers hot baths, massages and wraps. Jemez Springs Bath House gives bathers control over the temperature of their baths through a tap system by pumping water from the natural spring into tanks overnight, where it cools. From there, bathers can control the temperature by combining the hot and cold water through the tap. The house has four massage rooms and eight large cement bathtubs. 

Call 575-829-3303 for more details. 

To find other things to do in Jemez Springs, go to jemezsprings.org/jemez-is-happening. There, people can find discounts and activities to do. Just look for the link to the itineraries page.

The site was launched because when the forest closed, many people thought the businesses in Jemez Springs and the forest itself were closed.

“There are some visitors that come for camping, but there are still a lot of attractions within the village limits that campers can still enjoy,” said Erica Asmus-Otero, communications director for Jemez Springs Village. “In the future, if there is a restriction or a closure, it’s always advisable to look at our website or our Facebook page.” 

Attractions in the Jemez include Soda Dam, and the Jemez Historic Site, which features the ruins of a 400 year-old church. All of these attractions are right off of NM 4 into Jemez Springs Village.