Gingerbread house under construction at Mohonk Mountain House

It must be the witch hazel. My daughter Mel and I had the best facials we’d ever had at Mohonk Mountain House ( The Mohonk- “ Mohonk Red” treatments, I learn, use witch hazel from trees grown on the extensive mountain grounds here.

Besides the usual cleansing, exfoliating and more, the session included warm and cold quartz stones. So relaxing! I also indulged in the “Mohonk Red” massage that used the witch hazel-soaked warm towels.

Despite the dire stock market — or maybe because of it — the spa is bustling this late afternoon. Moms confided they were thrilled that the kids were off in organized activities so that they could steal an hour to themselves.”We had to convince them to go this morning and then they said they want to go to every session,” said one mom.

The Mohonk Spa, just three years old, clearly has been a welcome and successful addition to the resort that is celebrating its 140th birthday in 2009. It’s huge — 30,000 square feet with stellar views of the mountains and grounds from the “relaxation” areas, an outdoor hot mineral pool, yoga studio (Mel gave a thumbs up to the class), fitness center and big indoor pool that kids love because they hear the piped music when they stick their heads underwater. Treatments all seem nature-inspired. How about an Indigo Herbal Poultice Massage or one called The Fragrant Earth that uses medicinal herbs found here? Peppermint foot massage maybe?

There are treatments for teens (lavender Massage or teen care facial) and manicures for kids as young as six, pregnant women and couples including mother-daughter massages.. But the best part is the ambiance. The spa is carved into a stone bluff overlooking Lake Mohonk. My eco-minded daughter loved that the stone excavated from the site was recycled into walls, fireplaces and more. There’s a huge green roof!

Mohonk, it seems, has been “green” before green was even a concept and the spa’s eco friendly design underscores that commitment with its geothermal heating and cooling system and use of some 600 tons of recycled rock.

I haven’t been this relaxed in months. No if only I can remember the breathing techniques they taught me at the end of the treatment and “let out all of the stress.”

Cleansing breath…..