While nearly everyone else in the country was getting ready for fireworks and barbecues, I spent July 4th weekend sampling the wellness offerings of Asheville, North Carolina. There was the salt cave in the middle of downtown (its walls, ceiling, and floor covered in over 20 tons of Polish and Dead Sea salt)—a haven that straddled the therapeutic and the mystical. There was Wake Foot Sanctuary, where attendants brought out golden basins to soothe customers from the shin down in a warm soak of their choosing (mine: rose petal and shea butter). The inviting Herbiary boutique proffered natural remedies, old-world herbals, and aromatherapy, while the town's three crystal shops glimmered with quartz and amethyst geodes. There was Warm Power Flow yoga and Gentle Yin yoga—and gluten-free Southern biscuits to nosh on afterwards in organic cafés.
It led me to wonder: Could I replicate my Blue Ridge tour back home in our Hudson and Catskill highlands? Thus began a quest to find some of our stomping grounds' most unusual and noteworthy wellness experiences. In my search, I looked beyond the common spa fodder for something walk-on-the-wilder-side different. Happily, I found plenty of hot spots, more than I could possibly include in an article of this size. So please forgive the inevitable errors of omission, and consider this a jumping-off point for a wellness tour of your own right here in our feel-good valley.
Float Your Boat
"Relief from almost anything" is the promise at Mountain Float Spa in New Paltz, the Hudson Valley's only floatation therapy spa. Upon arrival, you're guided to a salt-lamp-lit private room featuring your own floatation cabin—an oversized bathtub of sorts filled with 12 inches of water and over 800 pounds of Epsom salt. The salty water is warmed to a temperature to match your skin—so when you enter the cabin, you don't quite know where you end and the water begins. In this buoyant, sensory- and gravity-free environment, your job is to simply float, and to soak in health benefits ranging from stress and pain relief to a theta-brainwave state akin to deep meditation. Customers run the gamut from sleep-deprived moms to achy athletes and PTSD veterans. "We get people with fibromyalgia, MS, people in rehab after surgery," says Joey La Penna, who co-owns the spa with his fiancée Grace Kladstrup. The freedom from pain during a 60- or 90-minute float can be profound; after a session like that, "people just want to hug you," says La Penna. He adds that the benefits aren't just physical but mental too, and sometimes spiritual, as epiphanies and creative insights can bob to the surface. For a bonus treat: Combine your float session with a massage that's also offered here. After a day of hiking or biking at Minnewaska or rock climbing in the Gunks, it's manna for your muscles (and your mind).
Get Foot Fetishized
Down the river in Warwick, find sweet sanctuary for your feet at The Foot Spa & Tea Bar. A session here starts with a warm foot soak and a gentle back rub, followed by the spa's signature reflexology treatment—involving gentle pressure applied to points on the feet that are said to align with specific regions of the body. Slow and lingering, the tactile therapy is meant to bring targeted relief. Sessions are 30, 50, or 80 minutes long and can be combined with your choice of essential oils—and, as the name suggests, a lovely cup of fresh-brewed tea.
(Sky) Baby Yourself
No, you're not in SoHo or upscale Brooklyn, but it might feel that way in the loft-like Sky Baby building on Main Street in Cold Spring. It's here where founder Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman has set up Cold Spring Apothecary, a hub for her line of natural products for body and soul, home and heart. "About 95 percent of our products are medically focused, remedy based," says Dugliss-Wesselman. "If you have sore joints, congestion, or trouble sleeping, we have a salve or bath salt for that. For skin issues from eczema to acne, we have an oil to help you." Perusing CSA's products is like strolling through a cottage garden—geranium, hibiscus, rosehip, carrot, and sweet fennel are headliner ingredients. Candles and diffusers are heady with scent, and an apothecary section offers dried medicinal herbs by the ounce. You can get your hair cut and styled with CSA hair products right on site—or test drive the skin-care line with a massage or facial in a tucked-away treatment room. "We're a one-stop shop, and we make everything we sell," notes Dugliss-Wesselman about her goods, earthy in spirit yet packaged in the urban-chic style that's gradually infiltrating this once-sleepy river town.