All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Site was launched in 2011 independent of SMS management by longtime local Springs aficionado and volunteer Stuart Ward.
Until late 2017, was only mildly disgruntled work-trade volunteer (relatively speaking) over dismal changes soon after first 'ownership' change in generations went down. In denial, nurtured hopes place would turn around with new, at first seemingly promising, stewardship.
Toward that end, continued doing dedicated work-trade on bathhouse's creek cold plunge...but with fast-sinking spirits once clothing-optional policy of 17 years was shockingly scrapped with zero outreach to realm's longtime worldwide fan base.
In wake of calamitous changes new 'ownership' brought about once showing their true colors, writer became one uber-disgruntled ex-"employee" indeed. With heavy heart suspended 18 years psyched involvement (10% paid, 90% informal volunteer work-trade) to join growing de facto boycott of cherished realm.
Tragic December 2017 sweat lodge removal and taking out spring source gazebo's love-offering prayer altar, on top of year-earlier, oppressive clothing-optional ban, became the last straw for countless now-estranged supporters.
With pandemic initially forcing shutdown of bathhouse and subsequent management decision (likely made before even beginning new absentee stewardship) to KEEP it shut and cease massage service -- and now reported unspeakable repurposing of bathhouse by dismantling tub rooms -- place has entered truly uber-weird, terminally disheartening territory.
See below for analysis of sorry situation -- also 12-part writing, currently far down endless home page)
Note: some of what follows was written long ago during relatively more tranquil, tenuously alternative-culture-friendly times. Make due allowances.
What's made this rustic retreat tucked away in the wilds near Weed, California revered by so many for so long?
Its mineral water? Its age-old Native American reverence as sacred healing grounds? The sound of rushing creek amid evergreen canyon just minutes off interstate highway?
Maybe being a believed energy vortex, amplifying vibrations any present might call forth? Or dollop of body freedom -- allowed until late 2016 and, if there's a God in heaven, will some day be again -- to fully embrace nature, experience body liberation, and enhance purifying, healing and rejuvenating process?
Or employees, when not scrambling or caught up in tedium, almost feeling transported to summer camp, whose enthusiasm rubbed off on visitors and vice versa?
Maybe the patina of rustic historic establishment and legend of pioneer Henry Stewart found in dire straits by natives, rescued and brought to the Springs and restored to life through mineral soaks, making him a true believer in the waters' curative powers and decades later launching a dedicated mission to 'buy' place and share it with the world?
Of course, that indefinable attraction to Stewart Springs has been for all the above and more.
Surprisingly then, no book has ever been written about it. Feeling by this longtime Springs aficionado was that the place deserved something more... More than the official in-house info and sizzle, ephemeral online reviews, and thumbnail write-ups in springs guidebooks, places' policies sometimes changed before book even off the press.
And so this site was launched in 2011 in hopes of remedying a lamentable situation. Original intent: offer viewers a more nuanced appreciation, history, and critical analysis of that rare jewel that is Stewart Springs while also inviting others to share their own thoughts and experiences. The latter didn't pan out further than three contributed write-ups, and site over time become blogcentric beyond various reposted online articles and reviews, transcribed feature articles, and book excerpts mentioning place.
New, additional goal: alert public -- and mineral-spring spa aficionados in particular -- how new absentee stewards (isn't that a choice oxymoron?) have legally seized the place, effectively stolen it from the people, taking it ever further away from founder's original nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service operation that every mindful first-time visitor seemed to sense and resonate with...
...how it erased the old-timey, down-home cultural climate to heedlessly try remaking place to suit own conservative mindset and serve as Pneuma Institute's world headquarters and related retreat center...one seemingly, for now at least, subsidized by the public. And possibly, if giving credence to worst fears of some, eventually privatizing place outright, slamming front gates to general public...after 145 years of (mostly) altruistic healing service and simple unassuming hospitality. (see new intro to Rants and Raves)...
...also, crucially, to convince mostly-international 'owners' that they'd be far happier -- and restore a good measure of now-tattered integrity in eyes of all who truly love Springs and its service legacy -- by moving Pneuma scene to a more suitable location, once taking the time to find new appropriate steward(s)...ones who'd be tickled -- after virus has run its course and life regains some new semblance of normal -- to resurrect operation and land back to its original DNA roots as a unassuming legally nonprofit healing refuge dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation, serving the greater good.
Hope is that massive de facto boycott and social media alerts -- perhaps eventually also a lack of support from even outfit's own cadres once learning of the extreme bad-karma its heads have created for themselves -- plus virus maybe somehow providing coup de gras, will soon put to a mercifui end the misguidedly dreary plans, whatever they might be exactly...
..that, barring melting their hearts and radically changing their tune, they'll finally throw in the towel...yet, again, be conscious enough to realize that even though they created a lamentable situation that painted themselves no less than dastardly villains in the eyes of countless, they can handily redeem themselves by 'selling' land to new, appropriate stewards...
...one(s) who would see the wisdom of bringing back the downhome service-loving spirit of the essentially nonprofit operation's first 78 years by Stewart family and a few legal stewards and/or managements since...ones who would happily rescue realm, working towards service operation reflecting place's original spirit updated with present-day's growing holistic awareness, mindfulness, diversity embrace reflecting the emerging natural lifestyles of a rapidly growing, enlightened segment of public mainstream...
...thereby enabling people around the world trekking up the hill to once again enjoy the bohemian retreat as a lighthearted, service-based healing and cultural center...place finally freed of off-putting money-hungry vibes and inappropriate repurposing intents, with all its attendant spirit-crushing service disconnects and short-circuiting of land's healing potential.
If enough fans visualize and pray for this -- present 'owners' at last recognizing their folly and the need to let go of a place they'd possibly only unwittingly misappropriated, unmindful of its legacy and widespread public sentiment of being a treasured healing and rejuvenatory realm -- then, with crucial help of the right angel 'investors' and volunteer local and regional aficionados -- plus renewed visitor support by growth-minded, nature-loving public -- the place could again transform.
Epecially with radically shifting societal dynamics over current virus pandemic once it fades; wracked economy, and historic racial-injustice time of reckoning, together creating triple whammy meltdown obliterating former lah-de-dah business models viewing visitors as mindless, undiscriminating 'consumer units' and prodding awake former asleep-at-the-wheel mindsets...all giving way to people learning to share this strange but wondrous planet we find ourselves sharing a ride on as it floats majestically through the heavens.
Biden-Harris presidential victory reflects the grand turnaround to re-emergence of more positive, progressive ways...though still steep uphill struggle against delusional forces hypnotized by giddy prospects of either total anarchy or over-controlling, escape-from-freedom totalitarianism.
While last 'owner' held place's innate free spirit captive on certain levels for a long 34 years, by profit-generating focus putting a damper on any more enlightened, service-dedicated scene, two of the six post-Stewart-family legal stewardships lasted only a very short time indeed. (see History)
(Last owner John Foggy's great redeeming quality was in letting long-time-locale managers run things according to their lights -- reflecting community lifestyle values that serendipidously more or less coincided with venerable healing and rejuvenation tradition of place -- just so long as the money rolled in.)
May this become the third short-term stewardship, clearing the way for the magic SEVENTH.
Pages here form a varied, ever-evolving zine collection and blog -- history, re-posted articles, personal experiences and reflections, hundreds of online travel review excerpts...informed and semi-informed analysis and opinion, wild speculation...plus occasional news, photos, quotes, anecdotes on anything Stewart Springs related deemed worthy of notice.
By offering diverse takes on an extraordinary place -- albeit one with a pronounced checkered history of light and dark energies ever since advent of so-called civilization, with all its glaring perfidies -- hope is to foster a deeper knowing by place's fans, and introduction to those who had perhaps never even heard of the place til now, to help it realize its greater potential as the extraordinary healing spot it is...once a loving universe, ending current nightmare, manifests the perfect legal keeper and hands-on operation, liberating the realm to serve greater humanity once more.
Site launcher, again, is moi, Stu Ward, former steward of Stewart's. (Yes, synchronicity gone wild.) Though naturally resonating with name, would no doubt have loved place -- as it was and is meant to be -- almost as much even were it only called Henry's Mud Flats.
The Springs enriched my life so much, I simply wanted to give back and enable others, through my own knowledge of place plus penchant for writing and sometimes out-of-the-box thinking, to grok the extraordinary realm on new levels...gleam its bigger story, one long shrouded in the mystery of vortex energies constantly reflecting and amplifying varied imprints of myriad visitors over time...from sleepwalkers to awakened, nature destroyers and culture killers to Gaia venerators and peace-loving utopians.
Since launching, site's received some 95,000 visits around the world, maybe 75,000 or so from actual humans, vs. crawling search engines. Some left fast, no doubt looking for additional in-house, commercially-steeped info that dutifully did a song and dance to woo one's business, concluding "Well, this site's useless; obviously some lunatic fringe". (Trivia aside: that term was coined by U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.)
Or assume writer was just going down memory lane (certainly true, but only in part); or is some disgruntled ex-employee with a big ax to grind; or built vanity site just to bolster fragile ego and brag how he covered self in glory in some now-bygone time (again probably true in part)...more than, beyond any such human foibles, one of countless devoted Springs fans appreciating how on the Spirit plane past-present-future are all one. Wanting to seize the moment to catalyze positive change for the realm, so that people might again enjoy its bountiful blessings and rendezvous with kindred openminded seekers of purification, healing and rejuvenation.
Other viewers linger on site, soaking in Stewart Springs tales and re-posted comments of hundreds of visitors, perhaps sampling writer's endless ramblings -- some well-informed, others speculative; others intuitive, using cracked but perhaps still serviceable crystal ball.
Though formerly trying to keep tone tenuously positive and upbeat -- place having taken numerous slams over the years (many, alas, fully justified) -- site was NEVER a whitewash, never some dubious shill effort, designed to drum up more revenue for place's 'owner'.
With place having a life of its own, site's perspective has alwlays tried to be one transcending any given stewardship -- especially those seen by dyed-in-the-wool spa purists as woefully inappropriate.
Here I add full disclosure: Before 'owner' change and de facto boycott, writer got unlimited free saunas and a few free baths a year in exchange for all the informal volunteer cold plunge management, plus things like shoveling snow off sundeck, bringing back grounds' overgrown paths, building tent platforms, picking up litter... So writer naturally felt a judicious need to pull punches and tell it between the lines lest forces that be get ticked off and clip my wings.
After having with grave reluctance 86ed myself from place once becoming radicalized in cold fury over unspeakable developments, there was one positive result: suddenly I was free to fully speaking my mind. I could at long last talk out of school self-expelled from, revealing operational secrets that discretion and self-survival once forbade ever sharing with the public.
Focus is on critical analysis, including ideas how to possibly further fine-tune place and manifest new 'owner' change (see New Day Dawning), and, like anything or -one cherished, see it as already perfect within its imperfection.
Admittedly that's one rough row to hoe now, with present interests pulling place ever further away from original healing spirit of founder's family, willfully ignoring the 145 year-old DNA in its bones that always patiently await reactivation.
(Stray thought: ever tease apart the word 'realty'? It's 'reality' blinded and depersonalized without a seeing 'i'. In such property transfers, it's land that's sold, not business operation itself or any well-established ways and customs, even if steeped in place for generations, in extreme cases, like this, amounting to what one might rightly call something akin to oxymoronic legal thievery.)
Meditating on Springs through time as a balanced whole can enable a fuller understanding of place's lingering gnarly karma and non-progressive energy patterns that it's long been plagued with. Such patterns need to be brought about, dealt with, and banished...in order to let the realm's rare healing properties flow freely again, awakening place to greatest benefit for visitors finding their way up the winding hill road in the hopefully the not-too-distant future.
Goals: manifest new,
ban nudity ban;
return sacred sweat lodge
First, fans suffered clothing-optional ban, then kicking out of sweat lodge. Both tested the forbearance of legion of free-spirited fans' love of place to breaking point and de facto boycotting it. Dismantling bathhouse only confirmed dire situation.
Countless -- including writer -- years ago vowed never to set foot on property again until either owners' hearts miraculously melt and they ask forgiveness of legion of devastated former supporters after returning clothing-optional and inviting sweat lodge back...or, far more likely, until finally seeing beyond their obtuse disregard for spiritual realities of the place, reading the writing on the wall and, having the grace to feel duly chagrined, give up their dubious diversionary pursuits and divest...redeeming selves by finding and selling to new, public-minded steward(s).
Ones who, with support of both longtime and new fans near and far, can restore its soul to serve again as affordable, free-spirited, NONPROFIT, culturally-diverse healing refuge...
...OF, BY and FOR the people.
First strike came in late 2016 with banning clothing-optional at bathhouse compound, suddenly forbidding the time-honored tradition to merge with elements in creek and sauna and on sundeck, huddled masses happily shedding unneeded coverings, stimulating exhilarating release of feel-good endorphins and enabling more effective purification and healing.
Such personal and social freedom and enhanced healing potential had been central to place's rejuvenation process. It made the place an incredibly popular destination for a generation. Take that away and in many people's minds (check visitor feedback to clothing-optional ban - scroll halfway down) place
essentially once again became hostage to convention-locked, body-alienated mindset. It had quashed most profound enjoyment of the place for countless free-spirited and bohemian-friendly people around the world.
In times when any rural mineral springs operation in northwest U.S. worth its salt allowed some measure of mindful body freedom in course of spa beyond any private tub/shower, Stewart's became just another watered-down, conventionalized, clothes-minded rural springs tourist trap...sadly out of resonance with natural setting, healing waters, and place's original dedicated focus on deep purifying, healing, and rejuvenating.
Second strike came in December 2017 with emptying creekside spring gazebo's altar of years' worth of heartfelt prayer and love offerings, replaced initially with cheery sign barking, 'No Trespassing - Violators Prosecuted'...a peoples' shrine callously destroyed.
Third strike: also in December 2017: scrapping of 45-year-old Native American weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremony...frosting on the cake in new owners' seeming aspirations to either mainstream/upscale place or eventually shut out public entirely to pursue own private shtick...or some unwieldy variation thereof...which they might've been playing by ear and mostly by remote from thousands of miles away as given feedback by on-grounds management...until pandemic came along and threw giant curve ball into the mix.
Regardless of actual intent, it was three strikes and you're out -- LONG before scrapping bathhouse operation entirely. Out of favor with thousands of former fans who spread word to tens of thousands more, generating so much ill will and bad press that any plans to effectively seize once wildly popular healing retreat to support their own private gig might fail abysmally over time -- even if closely-guarded intent actually does include trying to shut gates to general public and privatize former quasi-progressive-minded paradise to serve exclusively as some international Pneuma headquarters and retreat.
In last scenario, it's impossible imagining them ever enjoying one shred of peace of mind and open-flowing hearts for knowing that by shutting gates of beloved institution they would have broken the hearts of countless around the world.
Hope of this then in-denial writer had been that a new, more fine-tuned c/o policy would SURELY emerge once new ownership came to appreciate how mindful clothing-optional policy was such an essential offering. One appreciated by an overwhelming majority of the visitor base. A perfect fit for any genuine rural mineral springs retreat.
Especially one in progressive-minded, nature-loving rural northern California...and, most especially, one near world-popular, little quasi-bohemian haven of City of Mount Shasta and that upper-chakra tickling, big rock candy mountain of Mt. Shasta.
Writer's now long-abandoned hope was based on four things: hearing from outgoing manager that they basically liked the place just the way it was; that they'd promised to pour every cent of any net profits back into improvements during first two years; that they'd raise rates of workers to more livable wage; and, crucially, reading on website that one of affiliated outfit Incarre's stated spiritual aims was dedication to helping people realize "profound re-integration of body-mind-spirit on higher levels."
Now, of course, towards that goal no other aid is likely anywhere NEAR as powerful, effective or as easily implemented as giving Springs visitors the option to enjoy simple mindful nudity during their spa regimen, thereby greatly enhancing healing process on all levels -- body, mind, and spirit -- becoming magically one with nature's elements.
Writer believed the future of Springs as a true healing place hinged on the legal stewardship realizing this obvious fact and promptly re-instating clothing-optional on a newly-focused, more mindful level.
They'd acknowledge simple mindful nudity's amazing reintegrative powers. And be openminded enough to embrace place's long tradition of cultural diversity and universal spiritual seeking to find a solution to the fire/liability insurance issue of
sacred sweat lodge that ostensibly caused group to have to leave in first place, unable to afford reported Hobsen's choice of covering reported $2,000/month fire/liability insurance rider clause quote if wanting to stay. (Such exorbitant amount was no doubt sparked by participant deaths in pseudo sweat lodge near Sedona, Arizona years earlier.)
So much for wistful hopes. Obviously, soon all bets off were off. By remaining adamant on nudity ban, taking down gazebo altar, and effectively kicking out sweat lodge -- and reportedly STILL only paying minimum wage for all non-management gigs -- again, they showed themselves to be something very akin to villains in the eyes of dyed-in-the-wool Springs fans everywhere. (see New Day Dawning and
And of course it got worse. Grounds masseuses took a pay cut, gift shop consignees had bigger slice taken from sales, and employees no longer received monthly free bath -- not even a discount!
And, tragically, dozens of mature pine and cedars -- some no doubt growing contentedly while founder Henry was still caring for place before World War I -- were mindlessly cut down to make way for new bathhouse greywater septic system, the need of which surely could've been met in a far less disruptive, more creative and ecological way rather than blindly caving to outmoded, environmentally hostile, conventional means. (Maybe it was in part a forceful gesture to show in no uncertain terms there was a new sheriff in town.)
No doubt, before virus many people visiting for the first time -- those never having experienced earlier days that in rarest moments could approach blissful, heaven-on-earth communion with nature -- might've still enjoyed themselves, having nothing to compare current social climate and policies to. For the place indeed has charm to spare.
But any the least bit sensitive among even uninformed newbies might've easily sensed disruptive energetic undercurrents bent on erasing place's former vibrant bohemian culture and replacing with restrictive, bland, "refined" culture.
This, while still taking dollars of non-discerning unwittingly funding diversion -- along with support of remaining masseuses and employees who remained dependent on place for making rent or mortgage no matter how much it galled the spirit and crimped one's heartsong...
...and longtime annual, ostensibly spiritually-centered event organizers, who appeared loathe to change locale though all too aware (or in abject denial) that all hell
had broken loose on the subtle -- and not so subtle -- planes...until one day they either got priced out, became hooked on the Kool Aid, or too become abjactly repulsed by the scene...
...or the imposing front gates slammed shut. Then clueless, would-be soakers merrily zipping up hill would be greeted with growling signs: Private Property, Go Away - Violators Prosecuted - No Peak Experiences for YOU - Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere
bit of my story
& site's evolution
For what it's worth anymore, following is a brief history of my involvement with Springs over the years, for any curious about my bona fides, background, and/or this site's evolution.
Rambling includes sidebar on employee burnout and random sprinkling of Springs history. (Some written long before current crisis, so parts have a more leisurely, all's-well-relatively-speaking tone.)
Stuart discovers Stewart's
Native San Franciscan, I first stumbled onto Stewart Springs in late 1983 five years after moving to region that followed seven years dharma-bumming around the West.
It was for a full moon evening sweat with Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom. (Flew away October 8, 2013.) One of about twelve in modest sweat lodge, I'm a Springs dinosaur to most, a relative newcomer to others -- whose brains sometimes picked for old
stories and missing puzzle pieces...like late springs aficionado Jonathan Wolfe, who shared fond memory of 1970's co-owner Carole Goodpasture greeting him at far end of walking bridge with cup of mineral water to drink and so begin spa treatment.
With Charlie lovingly so sharing his timeless wisdom and deep roots to the land with our small group, I was instantly smitten by the powerful magic of the place... And saddened when, soon after, operation closed gates to general public for several years, for want of absentee owner's finding responsible management willing to work cheap and drum up then-slack visitor volume without worrying about would-be backwoods operation. (Then extended family of Suzy, Mary, Pat, CeCee, and Linda came along to rescue place. See their story, which includes that of writer's, in time coming aboard to reinforce their dedicated efforts.)
Same-elevation off-grid patch of juniper-and-sagebrush high desert across Shasta Valley from Springs has been home most of adult life. Built off-grid cabin almost entirely myself from ground up and without power tools, over leisurely three year period.
Went from growing up in the most densely populated spot in State to one of sparsest. (Formerly anyway, before phenomenal tsunami of large-scale blackmarket pot growers hit locale in 2015, causing once-sleepy Mount Shasta Vista subdivision to gain current wide notoriety...but that's another story.) Burned out on city living and always a nature boy at heart, plus s bit of a recluse, happily embraced living in the middle of nowhere. (Talk about social distancing...)
Sporadic duty freak, felt blessed to become Spring's resident volunteer groundskeeper and man Friday to late general manager Mary Hildebrand during a historic turning point in place's evolution from late 1999 through early 2002. Place was going year-round, clothing-optional, restaurant reopening, increased hours, majorly upgraded hot-water system installed, booked flurry of new workshops, concerts, and group retreats... Place began to feel more down-home and happening (if still a little lame around the edges for management's bold, off-putting profit preoccupation) than perhaps anytime since momentous Goodpasture stewardship of the 1970s. see History
Blessed because there had always been an amazing spiritual force afoot there. One that could super-ground and envelop any receptive and dedicated worker. That is, barring gnarly internal politics, questionable 'owner' directives or misplaced workers and visitors. It enabled one's spirit to at once ground solid and soar like an eagle in joy of service. Some believe the Springs has had its own angel watching over place. (If true, we perhaps need only be patient.)
Also did two runs as paid bathhouse attendant, in 2002 and 2005. Joy of service buoyed efforts there as well, unalloyed by any gnawing financial needs for having small inheritance, growing a small home-biz, and living simply in boonies on own land, no always-looming rent or mortgage to sweat; just annual property tax bite.
Not that I didn't cause management headaches; of course I did. Over time I got fired not once but twice. Long stories, but essentially for high -- okay, borderline quixotic -- service standards inextricably tangled up with with romantic fantasies and delusions over various co-workers both interfering with business as usual.
Though by 2015 I hadn't earned a cent as staff in over a decade (still sold bulk pumice and obsidian stones in gift shop), until late 2017 I'd kept an oar in the waters through work-trade by helping Mario maintain cold plunge that had formerly been my own bailiwick, having created and maintained the plunge for 14 years until a hernia from over-ambitious boulder moving (going undiagnosed for six years of mysterious pains) finally forced stepping aside.
In light of triple whammy inflicted on genuine spring lovers by current, woefully misguided owners -- apparently tone deaf to extraordinary publicminded tradition of place, unwilling to tune in to and continue supporting resort's unassuming, non-commercial service heritage -- writer could no longer aid and abet such a heartbreaking scene.
Suddenly not being able to skinnydip in the very plunge I'd built and often worked on in the buff, sometimes along with others, was galling beyond measure. It took irony to a whole new level. Actually got busted for skinnydipping all of five seconds on New Year's Day 2017 in low-key manner that had long been allowed by last' owner' even before his liberalizing clothing-optional policy in 2000. No one was around to possibly take offense...except, of course, a new dutiful underling who happened to come down just then to re-fill foot-dip basin in creek and so promptly reported me. I was called into inner office for a silly but deeply unsettling reprimand.
THEN junking the sweat lodge ceremony -- so crucial in helping erase place's severe karmic blot, slaughter of indigenous peoples who had long revered land as sacred (see History) on and around very lands -- plus tearing down prayer and love altar in spring gazebo. It finally made unplugging from place a no-brainer.
While still dedicated to posting relevant review excerpts (seeming scarce to nonexistent lately), gleaning first-hand reports, and spouting own evolving reflections and understandings of place (as of mid 2021 ceasing barring new developments), de facto boycott by myself and others was a spontaneous gut reaction to an intolerable situation.
Suddenly countless c/o fans found themselves up a tree as far as partaking in long-accustomed spa visit.
Every aficionado has had their own intimate relationship with place. Unorganized de facto boycott obviously has no leader...least of all some doofus like me. Watchwords of Nobel laureate of literature: "Don't follow leaders / watch the parking meters."
An acquaintance once called me not unkindly "the Ghost of Stewart Springs." Whatever influence I once had is nonexistent now beyond serving as historian, chronicler, and analyst...and perhaps playing Jimminy Cricket and haunting 'ownership's' ostensible conscience for having so foolishly turned their backs on the revered realm's time-honored ways. BOO!!!
Fun fact: Park Creek's coldplunge temperature varies widely over year...from too-chilly-for-words 30 degrees F. during major winter cold snaps (flowing water freezes at lower temp.) to a thoroughly pleasant and linger-able 70 degrees F. during summer heat waves.
Long released from day to day operational cares, writer offers a perspective integrating 16 years volunteering, 30 months actually living on the grounds as custodian and groundskeeper, plus weekly or better use of spa for over a quarter century...along with diligent research of buried past, now-sketchy acquaintance with present, and elusive psychic glimpses of unborn future.
Never being dependent on place for income has always kept perspective crystal clear, free of any monetized interest whatsoever.
Main story thread continues after yet another long rambling sidebar
Take this job...
on employee burnout
Sadly, no more than few of countless former employees -- it seems everyone and their uncle has worked at Stewart Springs some time or another -- still visited before momentous December 2017 sea change. More than once in a blue moon, anyhow. (Which, being second full moon of any month having two, averages every 33 months.)
Some got so involved hustling for paltry paycheck that they forgot to enjoy amenities and refresh spirit, place becoming just another time-punching gig until something better came along...or work pressures got so gnarly they ran off screaming.
In happy contrast, during Goodpasture stewards' more leisurely reign in 1970s -- simpler times and more modest visitor flow for sure -- everyone, owners and employees alike, did daily bath and sweat, thus keeping in resonance with spirit of place and reason for being.
Work burnout could easily take its toll, in time creating pronounced disenchantment with place. Especially if strapped for cash and feeling disheartened busting a gut at twenty-five cents
over minimum wage on undersized staff. Wages were reportedly raised first thing by new 2016 owners, given reason for prices going up, covering more decent worker pay, at least for upper-level positions...serving perhaps as incentive to follow strict orders...work becoming far more for pay than any abiding affection for place and desire to turn others onto its healing benefits.
That said, former two-bits-over-minimum-wage reality could make it all but impossible for those hoping to cover rent or mortgage to experience anything remotely approaching that ennobling feeling of toiling in the vineyards.
ESPECIALLY if being forced to work off the clock and not always getting state-mandated work breaks.
About 2005, writer was invited to join group of livid ex-employees filing grievance claims with State labor board over such former shady owner practices.
Opted not to, even though claimants were eventually well compensated by owner fines. Reason: others, spitting-nails mad, had burned bridges with place -- hadn't seen one there in decade -- whereas writer, again, never
dependent on place for income, I had time of my life playing working class hero. I wanted to stay welcome, not become persona non grata for having joined outraged whistle-blowers over then-managers' owner-father's dubious labor practices. Not so much noble as practical.
Place could be one super-demanding juggernaut of operation regardless of pay -- especially during (at least former) peak season and any holiday weekend. Any employee aware and hoping to last learned in a hurry to work double-time when need be, sometimes even triple-time -- hopefully while keeping positive attitude locked in service mode. Only alternative was being left wanting number of truck.
Writer was spared such burnout or getting thrown under bus (all these vehicle analogies) only for being volunteer work-trader first and foremost and able to mobilize energies when needed. It was the only way could keep enjoyment and veneration of place alive. (One exception: things got so gnarly at front desk in summer 2015 with over-her-head, control-freak employee that I completely detached from place, taking this then mostly tribute-focused site offline a full year, feeling ZERO tribute was merited then, and stayed away for four months until hearing person was gone. Turns out it was during stressful period of property-transfer negotiations wrapping up, PLUS final throes of co-manager Ted's terminal illness, dying two months later. see Management in More Rants & Raves)
It was incredibly disheartening seeing dedicated workers giving their all, place inspiring more mindful workers to do their utmost, only later to quit in disgust, or be fired over petty internal politics -- conflicts created by former contentious work climate, which was in turn the product of over-focus on profits by last absentee 'owner', on-site salaried managers scrambling to do bidding. Resulting often-graceless exploitation of overworked, underpaid workers could all too easily quash any effort to offer any genuine, heart-centered, relaxed healing service as so behooves such a special place.
Examples: one office worker got fired for being too friendly and personable with visitors, perhaps making others, especially managers, look too UNfriendly in comparison. And a housekeeper wanting to deep-clean cabin in desperate need of it fell behind mad-scramble work pace disallowing any such conscientious effort to make visitors' stays more pleasant, and so was instantly dismissed.
Tawdry but True Dept:
Own second firing
While sauna-ing one night in 2005 hoping to unwind off-duty, writer spotted a roving young sexual predator who'd been banned for life years earlier. He'd begun molesting a fellow off-duty female employee alone in sauna at night before someone came in and he aborted efforts and was nearly arrested. Ages had passed since incident. With all-new workers and managers, no one recognized him...except me, of course, springs dinosaur. I shifted gears in a heartbeat. Managers were by then gone for day, so, only the recourse was to alert the office.
Alas, at moment it was run by man with long history of sticky-finger proclivities who would soon get caught and imprisoned for plying shadowy trade at Stewart's. Earlier, I'd cautioned co-manager Astra from keeping him on the second I learned he was hired, but to no avail. As scrambling newbie managers, they were hard-pressed for help -- any help -- at start of super-busy peak season that often completely overwhelmed them.
Indifferent to what might prove another despicable incident, he acted as if there was no problem at all, saying dismissively, "He paid his admission." Then he hatched a diabolically clever revenge plan on me, as earlier he'd learned how I'd blown the whistle on him once manager confronted him with sticky-fingers allegation (and they didn't see fit to protect my anonymity). He'd acted all chagrined, humbly professed to have mended his ways, become better person, ad naseum.
Now, totally ignoring the red alert of a banned sexual predator on the loose, he instead fabricated his OWN red alert, delivered to manager later that night after I'd gone, of receiving heated desk complaint of ME egregiously misbehaving in sauna.
Already out of management's good graces, having almost been fired once for unrelated reason, it seemed they were now looking for ANY excuse to be rid of me in their willy-nilly Trumpian revolving door of staff...which fact he knew and shamelessly exploited.
So I was summarily fired the next day on coming to work psyched up for another service stint. I was also banned from grounds for six months. And would never get an apology for their believing his lie and dismissing me, not even after he was soon caught
pocketing restaurant receipts and sentenced to three years in state prison, and so obviously an egregious liar. That's how crazy and dispirited things could get there.
I received a miserable bit of consolation later, when in town he gleefully bragged to a casual girlfriend of mine -- whom he also knew and who'd in fact alerted me of his past job thievery in the first place -- how "I just got Stuart fired!" He had clearly underestimated her regard for me and no doubt forgotten her part-Cherokee, hair-trigger temper. She up and punched him in the mouth.
Used to be fun raking
the place over the coals
Disillusionment and outrage over former, sometimes astonishingly gnarly energies had tarnished memory of many, as it easily might've done me, had I been dependent on job for filling my belly. It could ruin one's ability to ever enjoy place again...short of letting go, forgiving, and pushing re-set button.
It seems some actually preferred staying mad at place, enjoying the piss-and-vinegar rush of righteous indignation in raking the place over the coals. Before coronavirus, when new owners upped the ante to insufferable levels for many former fans, one could either give up on place in sad resignation, suffer changes and go into denial if still trying to cop another long-accustomed soak and sauna now and then, or shun place altogether and spread word to join de facto boycott while at same time envisioning more positive future.
Then the plague hit and bathhouse operation closed down by state mandate (perhaps a blessing in disguise in some weird way). While waiting for some new normal to emerge, one can either visualize (unlikely) miracle of current 'owners'' hearts melting...OR manifestation of new, appropriate stewardship redeeming current sad scene. One perhaps ambitious and visionary enough to build a new, thoughtfully laid-out bathhouse (and separate office), since it appears current 'owners' have already gutted tubs to repurpose building.
Maybe might as well start over now.
Place has life of its own
Anyone the least bit aware soon learned to appreciate how the Springs, rare earth phenomenon that it is, is worlds more than any owner, manager, staff member, person, or operation overlay.
It has a life of its own. One saddened by those who don't recognize or appreciate its extraordinary healing properties and gladdened by those who do...enough to want to work in harmony with its gifts to freely share with as many others as possible in lighthearted service.
Given a future enlightened stewardship, everyone setting foot on land with mindfulness would serve as handmaiden helping redeem place from over-worldly focus and diversionary use, aiding and abetting the rebirthing of sacred healing and rejuvenation grounds for the benefit of a greater humanity.
my story, cont'd
time capsule project
Sporadic writing freak, I'd long felt pulled to cobble together some writing on place. Idea first took hold in 2000 at start of two-year groundskeeper stay in little abode above the Cottage and apartments.
It was then called the Shed; it's now called Henry's -- for good reason.
As some know, this modest structure, closest to creek of any, is believed the very first one on grounds. Its earliest form was built by none other than founder Henry Stewart (1827-1914) along with friends, soon after start of last century. Hard to believe now, but it actually served as the first-generation bathhouse.
It had long been relegated to musty storage and semi-feral cat hangout by time I set up makeshift lodgings in it. Having electricity but no plumbing or kitchen, it nonetheless held a rare treasure -- best river song in whole place, bar none. You swung open the big window and sweet thundering creek music flooded the room, filling air with negative ions and white-noise supreme. Such meditation-inducing atmosphere, immersed in so long, no doubt sparked my deeper interest in place and where it was coming from.
I became first of many resident workers staying there over the years. (It's now plumbed and enlarged, served as extra office many years; then combination office/staff residence, as is next-door Cottage; now, no idea.) Wood floor planks beneath multiple layers of curling linoleum were old. Official, yellowed county health department notice on wall, dated 1934, dourly warned of unlawfulness of more than 34 people cramming into tiny structure.
Being super-impressionable, and like Frasier's Daphne Moon, a bit psychic, felt I'd tuned into Henry on some level.
Sensed he'd maybe like his larger story told...especially in light of fact place still bears his name. Like many, wondered what his story actually was, beyond sketchy legend of being rescued by natives in 1850s when life was in peril and brought to waters to be healed, and decades later buying property to dedicate rest of his life turning others on to it. see History
Who needs a
Initial book enthusiasm evaporated after exhaustive research revealed that little written history seemed to exist. Daunted, abandoned project and went on to craft and self-publish two factional novels on body freedom and compassionate diet, thus sating writing lust for a while.
Concluded maybe place didn't need a book after all. Seemed everyone was all right without one...or it would've been already written. Anyhow, history accounts can be dry, so not here-and-now.
Last flash before abandoning project was to cobble together a book of everyone's written experiences with place, ala Studs Terkel's shared-bio collection approach on given subject. It also went nowhere. Perhaps it was my at times off-putting manic enthusiasm, leaving
others little room to get excited themselves...or others' disinclination to write, seeing little value in such pursuit in our seemingly post-literary world (especially if not getting paid for effort, only possible cheap thrill seeing one's byline atop efforts). It was frustrating. Many have been made to feel they can't write, probably due to some long-ago English teacher from hell convincing them of such. But it's said oftentimes the best writing is simply writing the same as you speak.
contact, or offer feedback
Over time site has, by default of de writer, become blogcentric. It wasn't capable (or desirous) of instant posting ala Facebook) to attract others to contribute their own take on place or share a noteworthy experience. (Didn't want to get into entirely too common snarky devolution of comments that can plague most sites.)
That said, the original site vision WAS of place's fans doing just that, contributing own perspective or unique story, if through a time filter. Hope springs eternal a so-inclined reader might sometime surprise me by emailing in fresh, thoughtful perspective to add to site. (Writing would likely go to top of New Tales from Stewart Springs page; opinion piece on News and Op-eds page)
One story heard in January 2020 by a woman visiting for first (and only) time around 2012: Apparently some gay men's group had swooped in for a retreat, bacchanal or such, and had taken over bathhouse, chasing each other about in naked glee. She assumed place was always that way!
Springs seems to be natural mystical realm everyone adopts as own medicine grounds. At it's best, deeply personal, inward -- sometimes even celestial -- experiences are to be had there, ones which elude ever being verbalized, let alone being put into print and read by unknown others.
It's the kind of place that, neglected and/or abused for so long, people build protective feelings about...a mystical place in which everyone effectively directed, scripted and starred in their own private super-natural movie, sometimes slipping out of rational temporal mind and into timeless realms, grounds serving as rarefied portal. "Wow, that's a wrap on eternal soul memory #7,472."
Stewart Mineral Springs is steeped inside a vanished past, a convoluted mystery of man's light and dark impulses wrapped inside nature's dreamlike forces.
Words can often fail to do justice in explaining the staggering life-changing episodes some have experienced there over the years.
It's the kind of place that can spark awakening from slumber, sometimes getting a painful realty check...like thinking
one's all right, then suddenly gazing into the eyes of true, eternal love and then nameless fears of unreckoned-with shadow self flood in, causing paralysis, as if feeling cast into outer darkness...until finally pushing re-set button, flushing demons away and moving on, feeling new reintegration of being.
Some were naturally disinclined to share more out-there tales for fear of sounding too woo-woo-ka-choo. Long-ago veteran office manager CeeCi, for instance, was one day convinced that a flying saucer had landed on grounds. (Who knows? Maybe a scout ship actually did, though there's precious little landing room; maybe at favorite wedding-site clearing above Conference Hall and A-Frame.)
Trivia: Restaurant building in Mt. Shasta now known as Lalo's was built in 1970s by then Springs owners Carole and Winston Goodpasture and family. It briefly served as town compliment to thriving natural food restaurant on grounds (which reportedly they also built). It was deemed by many the best restaurant in county at the time.
After dedicated resistance to pursuing any online creation -- being die-hard book lover, preferring physicality of inked words immortalized on dead trees -- was finally won over. (Losing small fortune in self-publishing ventures no doubt helped.)
Electronic compilations like this are worlds easier to create, vastly cheaper ($22./month, my dime), and allow instant free global access. Plus, can change, re-arrange, add, or delete text and pix anytime. How spiffy is that?
Not least of all, they can be super green: having lived off-grid since 1978, 98% of time without generator -- it's sunshine or bust -- all site work is powered by bottled sunshine from modest solar array. (Teaches energy conservation and efficiency in a heartbeat).
First imprint on land stays forever
To metaphysical thinking, earliest human imprints on a given land stay forever embedded in it. For sure, Springs still resonates with Stewart family's nearly 80 years of dedicated service, from 1875 to
1953. see History...also, alas, with earlier tragic Native American massacre taking place about grounds before family purchase -- but, saving grace, before that with earliest, peaceful, harmonizing energies of indigenous peoples revering land as sacred healing ground for time untold. That being the earliest imprint keeps it the dominant one, no matter what subsequent overlays might obscure it.
THAT'S the deeper understanding lending hope that place can indeed be restored in future to nonprofit, community-active stewardship...resurrecting it as much as modern times allow -- with current, growing state-of-consciousness twist and teeming lifestyle diversity -- to its peaceful, pre-historic healing sanctuary lands vibration.
The Springs is like a giant onion, inviting one to peel away layer after layer and reveal ever deeper understandings -- of place, life and selves. The more one groks the essence of place, the more it becomes a no-brainer to want to revive it to to some semblance of its original pure devotion to natural healing.
While most Stewart Springs snapshots are mine, a few are re-posted from Internet by photographers unknown. (Credit here to Minna C. of L.A. for nice close-up of now-gone gazebo altar.)
All, mostly vintage, nudist pictures are from site nudistfun.com (caution: non-secure site; and now, sadly, apparently connected to video marketeers obviously catering to pedophiles).
Thanks to all who have contributed or given permission to re-post/reprint writings; they anchor site. Springs aficionados no doubt appreciate hearing diverse takes on place. The more unique takes are shared, the better the chance of building up the critical mass to manifest a turnaround and redemption of revered realm.
Though no formal network exists, together devotees of rarified realm constitute a protective loose-knit mystical lodge, a de facto Friends of Stewart Springs. Better yet, potentially a Liberate Stewart Springs Collective, growing and fine-tuning within planetary oversoul.
For it's a fact: even if one last visited 20 or 30 years ago, precious memories of place stay sweetly locked in the gourd.
As writer keeps hammering and yammering, it's CRUCIAL since draconian changes that informal Friends visualize the place gaining new stewardship and re-harmonized energies.
Now more than ever, with virus concerns shifting global energies so radically. May current 'owners' realize they'd be FAR happier doing their thing elsewhere, seeing the light and redeeming themselves by seeking out appropriate stewards, ones who'd be tickled pink seven ways to Sunday to meet creative challenge of resurrecting place as a legal nonprofit healing/cultural center...maybe even build a brand new spa compound of inspired design.
Think mini Breitenbush or Harbin.
One mustn't assume it inevitable that our once-treasured place is forever doomed to devolve into a conventional watered-down resort -- or now, worse, lodging only, repurposed bathhouse's dry water pipes longing to have healing waters flow through them again to help purify and heal the masses.
Demand a miracle. Great spirit could have other plans IF hearing a great enough chorus of heartsongs from all who have loved and cherished realm.
Of course, current owners' hearts could melt and place return to roots of serving as sacred healing ground for greater public. But barring such a miracle, if they've got a modicum of consciousness they'll get a grand reality check and might in time resolve to redeem their legacy by finding new, appropriate stewardship to 'sell' briefly 'borrowed' realm to.
THEN fans near and far might again join in to help create a flourishing,
affordable, culturally-diverse healing retreat center...
...one more awesome than ever.
< A-Frame front door's stained glass inset, artisan unknown