All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
About the Site
About the Site
Site was launched in 2011, independent of SMS management, by longtime local Springs aficionado and volunteer Stuart Ward.
Until late 2017, was only a mildly disgruntled work-trade volunteer (relatively speaking) over dismal changes made soon after first 'ownership' change in generations went down. In denial, nurtured hopes place would turn around with the new, at first seemingly promising, stewardship.
Toward that end I continued doing my dedicated work-trade on bathhouse's creek cold plunge...but with sinking spirits once the clothing-optional policy of 17 years was scrapped with zero outreach to realm's longtime supporting fan base.
In the wake of the calamitous changes new 'ownership wrought once showing their true colors, writer became one uber-disgruntled ex-"employee" indeed. With heavy heart, suspended 18 years of psyched involvement (10% paid, 90% very informal volunteer work-trade) to join growing de facto boycott of the cherished realm.
The tragic December 2017 sweat lodge removal and taking out of 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, with spa-indifferent repurposing fantasy of bathhouse, dismantling tub rooms -- place has entered truly uber-weird, terminally disheartening territory.
See below for analysis of situation and reason yet for hope. -- also 12-part writing far down endless home page)
Note: some of what follows was written long ago during more tranquil, tenuously alternative-culture-friendly times. Make due allowance.
What has 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, and 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.
Surprising then that no book has ever been written about it. Feeling by this longtime Springs fan was that the place deserved something more...more than the usual official in-house info and sizzle, and ephemeral online reviews and thumbnail write-ups in springs guidebooks, places' policies sometimes changed before book was even off the press.
And so this site was launched back 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. It also invited others to share their own thoughts and experiences. The latter didn't pan out more than three contributed write-ups, and site over time become blogcentric beyond various reposted online articles and reviews, transcribed feature newspaper 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 public, taking it even further away from founder's original nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service operation that every mindful first-time visitor seemed to immediately sense and resonate with...
...how it erased the old-timey, down-home cultural climate to heedlessly try remaking place to suit their own conservative mindset and serve as Pneuma Institute's world headquarters and related retreat center...one seemingly hoping to become subsidized by the public on some level (lately, only group-event bookings). 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 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 their now-tattered integrity in the 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 scare has run its course -- to resurrect the operation and land back to its original DNA roots: an unassuming, legally nonprofit healing refuge and public trust, dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation, purely focused to serving the greater good of an ailing, nature-loving humanity.
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, and (dare one hope) 'owners' wake up and get a grand reality check -- will put to a merciful end the misguidedly dreary plans, whatever they were exactly...
..that, barring their hearts melting and radically changing tune, they'll finally throw in the towel...yet, again, be conscious enough to realize that though they created a lamentable situation and painted themselves dastardly villains in the eyes of countless, they can yet redeem themselves by 'selling' the special healing land to new, appropriate stewards...
...one(s) who would naturally 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 enthusiastically rescue realm, working towards service operation reflecting the place's original spirit...updated with present-day's growing holistic awareness, mindfulness, and diversity embrace reflecting the emerging enlightened natural lifestyles of the rapidly growing aware segment of the 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...the place at long last freed of off-putting money-hungry vibes, and inappropriate repurposing schemes with all their attendant spirit-crushing service disconnects and short-circuiting of land's healing power.
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, powerful public sentiment for 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 serve to heal and uplift humanity.
Especially with radically shifting societal dynamics over 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 little more than 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 share a ride on as it floats through the heavens.
Biden-Harris presidential victory reflects the grand turnaround to re-emergence of more positive, compassionate ways...though still a steep uphill struggle against delusional extremist forces hypnotized by the 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 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 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 kept rolling 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, an embarrassment 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 that's 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 the advent of so-called civilization with all its glaring perfidies -- hope is to foster a deeper knowing by place's fans, and provide a 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 humanity once more.
Site launcher, again, is moi, Stu Ward, former steward of Stewart's. (Yes, synchronicity gone wild.) Though naturally resonating with name, I'd no doubt love place -- as it was and is meant to be -- almost as much were it only named Henry's Mud Flats.
The Springs enriched my life so much that I wanted to give back is all. Enable others, through knowledge of place -- plus a penchant for writing and sometimes out-of-the-box thinking -- to grok the extraordinary realm on new levels...gleam the bigger story, long shrouded in the mystery of vortex energies that constantly reflected and amplified varied imprints of myriad visitors over the ages...from sleepwalkers to awakened, nature destroyers and culture killers to Gaia venerators and peace-loving utopians.
Since launching, site's received some 100,000 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, blurby info that dutifully did a song and dance to try to woo one's business, concluding "Well, this site's useless; obviously some lunatic fringe". (Trivia aside: term was coined by U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.)
Or assume writer was just going down memory lane (certainly true in part); or is just some disgruntled ex-employee with ax to grind; or built a vanity site to bolster fragile ego and brag how he covered himself in glory in some now-bygone time (last probably true in part)...more than, beyond any such human foibles, simply one of countless devoted Springs fans appreciating how on the Spirit plane the past-present-future are all one and wanting to seize the moment to catalyze positive change for the realm so that people might once again enjoy its bountiful blessings and rendezvous with kindred nature-loving spirits.
Other viewers perhaps lingered on site, soaking in Stewart Springs tales and re-posted comments of hundreds of visitors, perhaps sampling writer's endless ramblings -- some well-informed, some speculative; others intuitive, using cracked but still serviceable crystal ball.
Though formerly trying to keep tone tenuously positive and upbeat -- place having taken numerous slams over the years (many, alas, 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 always tried to be one transcending any given stewardship -- especially those seen by dyed-in-the-wool spa purists as inappropriate.
Here I'll 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 informal volunteer cold plunge management, plus doing things like shoveling snow off sundeck, bringing back grounds' overgrown paths, building tent platforms, picking up litter, etc... So writer naturally felt a judicious need to pull punches and only tell it like it was between the lines lest forces that be get ticked off and clip my wings and make me pay like everyone else or even banish me.
After having with grave reluctance 86ed myself from place once becoming radicalized over unspeakable developments, there was one positive result: I was now free to fully speaking my mind. I could at long last talk out of school I self-expelled from, revealing operational secrets that discretion (and self-survival) once forbade sharing with public. Though my writings sometimes might give a know-it-all vibe, truly grokking the place involves a shared group understanding and group pool of knowledge of what made the place so great rather than a any one person's own knowledge or experiences. That said, for better or worse I probably do know more than most about where the proverbial bodies have been buried over recent decades, and being able to share that here at last is a grand unburdening.
Focus of site has always been 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, try to remember to 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 its 145 year-old DNA that forever patiently awaits 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 the Springs through time as a balanced whole might enable fuller understanding of place's lingering gnarly karma and non-progressive energy patterns with which it's so long been plagued...patterns to be recognized, brought about and dealt with, and banished in order to let realm's healing properties flow freely again, awakening place to greatest benefit for any and all visitors finding their way up the hill again in (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 the dire situation in giant day-glow lettering for any slow to grasp the writing on the wall.
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 spa service and inviting sweat lodge back...or, far more likely -- finally seeing beyond obtuse disregard for the spiritual realities and altruistic heritage of the place 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, will restore its soul to serve again as affordable, free-spirited, NONPROFIT, culturally-diverse healing and rejuvenation refuge...
...one 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 the creek and sauna and on the sundeck, huddled masses happily shedding unneeded cover, stimulating exhilarating release of feel-good endorphins and thereby enabling more effective purification and healing.
Such personal and social freedom and enhanced healing potential had long been central to place's rejuvenation process. It made place an incredibly popular destination for over a generation. Take that away and in many people's minds (check visitor feedback to clothing-optional ban - scroll halfway down) the place essentially once again became hostage to a convention-locked,
body-alienated mindset. It quashed any more 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...out of resonance with its 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 indifferently destroyed.
Third strike: also in December 2017: scrapping the 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 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 one giant curve ball into the mix.
Regardless of actual intent, it was three strikes and you're out -- LONG before scrapping bathhouse operation and trying to repurpose the entire space. 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 the once wildly popular healing retreat to support their own gig would fail abysmally over time -- even if closely-guarded intent actually included trying to shut gates to general public and privatize former quasi-progressive-minded paradise to serve exclusively as international Pneuma headquarters and retreat.
In last scenario, it's impossible imagining them ever enjoying one shred of peace of mind and open-flowing joy for knowing that by shutting gates of beloved institution they would have broken the hearts of untold thousands around the world.
As said elsewhere, 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 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 the world-popular, little quasi-bohemian haven of the City of Mount Shasta and that upper-chakra tickling, big rock candy mountain, Mount 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 the 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."
Of course, towards such a supposed 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 spa regimen, greatly enhancing healing process on all levels -- body, mind, and spirit -- by 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 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 several years earlier.)
So much for wistful hopes. Obviously, soon all bets 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 non-management gigs -- again, they showed themselves to be something akin to dastardly villains in the eyes of 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 on one.
And, tragically, dozens of mature pine and cedars -- some no doubt growing contentedly even while founder Henry was 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 that there was a new sheriff in town.)
No doubt, before virus many people visiting for the first time -- 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 and intuitive among even uninformed newbies might've easily sensed murky, disruptive energetic undercurrents, mindlessly bent on erasing place's former vibrant bohemian culture and replacing with a 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
was breaking loose on the subtle, and not so subtle, planes...until one day they either got priced out, became hooked on the Kool Aid, or finally themselves become disheartened and repulsed by the scene...
...or the imposing front gates slammed shut. Then clueless would-be soakers and overnighters merrily zipping up hill would be greeted with growling signs: Private Property, Go Away - Violators Prosecuted - No Peak Experiences for YOU - Transcend Yur Sorry-ass Little Selves Elsewhere
bit of my story
& site's evolution
For what it's worth anymore, following is a brief history of my own involvement with Springs over the years, for any curious about my bona fides, background, and/or site's evolution.
Rambling includes a sidebar on employee burnout and random sprinkling of Springs history. (Some written long before current crisis, so parts might have a more leisurely, all's-well-relatively-speaking tone.)
Stuart discovers Stewart's
A native San Franciscan, I first stumbled onto Stewart Springs in late 1983, five years after moving to region following seven years of 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 a 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 a fond memory of 1970's co-owner Carole Goodpasture greeting him at far end of walking bridge with a cup of mineral water to drink and begin spa treatment.
With Charlie so lovingly sharing his timeless wisdom and deep roots in 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 the general public for several years, for want of absentee 'owner's' finding responsible management willing to work cheap and drum up slack visitor volume without worrying about th would-be backwoods operation. (Then extended family of Suzy, Mary, Pat, Cece, aunt Mary 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.)
The same-elevation off-grid patch of juniper-and-sagebrush high desert, across Shasta Valley from Springs (in now-notorious rural Mt. Shasta Vista development), has been home most of my adult life. I built an off-grid cabin mostly by myself, from ground up and without power tools, over a leisurely three-and-half year period.
I went from growing up in the most densely populated spot in State to one of sparsest. (Formerly, anyway.) Burned out on city living and always a nature boy at heart, plus bit of a recluse, happily embraced living in the middle of nowhere, hoping to maybe generate a circle of kindred souls sharing the land over time.
Sporadic duty freak, I 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, open hours increasing, majorly upgraded hot-water system installed, booking a flurry of new workshops, concerts, and group retreats... Place began to feel more down-home and happening (if still lame around the edges for management's sometimes off-putting rigid profit preoccupation) than 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 seriously misplaced workers and visitors. It enabled one's spirit to at once ground solid and soar like an eagle in the simultaneous joy of service and communion with nature. Some believe the Springs has had its own angel watching over place. (If true, we perhaps need only be patient now.)
Also I 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 a small inheritance, growing a small home-biz, and living simply on own land, no always-looming rent or mortgage or utility bills to sweat; just the 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 pumice and obsidian stones in gift shop), until late 2017 I still kept an oar in the waters through work-trade by helping Mario maintain cold plunge, formerly my 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) 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 the realm, unwilling to tune in to and continue supporting resort's unassuming public-benefit 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 in work parties, was galling beyond measure; it took irony to a whole new level. I actually got busted for skinnydipping for 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 change 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 a foot-dip basin in creek and promptly reported me. I was called into inner office for a silly but still deeply unsettling reprimand.
THEN junking the sweat lodge ceremony -- so crucial in helping erase place's severe karmic blot, slaughter of indigenous peoples in 1870s who had long revered land as sacred (see History) on and around very lands -- plus tearing down the prayer and love altar in spring gazebo. It finally made unplugging from the place a no-brainer years before the bathhouse shut.
While still dedicated to posting relevant review excerpts (seemingly scarce to nonexistent now and no wonder), gleaning first-hand reports, and spouting own evolving reflections and understandings of place, the 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, body-friendly 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 of course nonexistent now beyond serving as historian, chronicler, and analyst...and perhaps playing Jimminy Cricket, 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 varied widely over the 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 100 degree F. heat waves.
Long released from day to day operational cares, writer offers a perspective integrating 16 years volunteering, for 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 possible unborn future.
Never being dependent on the place for income has always kept my perspective crystal clear, free of any monetized interest whatsoever.
Main story thread continues after 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.
Some got so involved hustling for a paltry paycheck that they forgot to enjoy amenities (or never learned how) and refresh spirit, place becoming just another time-punching gig until something better came along...or work pressures got so gnarly in due course 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, resident legal stewards and commuting 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 the place and desire to turn others onto its healing benefits.
That said, former two-bits-over-minimum-wage reality often made it all but impossible for those hoping to cover rent or mortgage to experience anything remotely approaching the 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 former shady owner practices.
I opted not to, even though claimants were eventually well compensated by owner fines. Reason: others, spitting-nails mad, had burned bridges with place in royal disgust -- hadn't seen one there in decade -- whereas writer, again, never dependent on the place
for income, had the 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 former peak season and any holiday weekend. Any employee aware and hoping to last soon learned 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 the number of the truck.
Writer was spared such burnout or getting thrown under the bus (to continue vehicle analogies) only for being volunteer work-trader first and foremost and able to mobilize energies when needed. It was the only way I could keep enjoyment and veneration of place intact. (One big 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 for a full year, feeling ZERO tribute was merited at that point, 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 best, only later to quit in disgust or get 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', with on-site salaried managers scrambling to do his bidding. Resulting often-graceless exploitation of overworked, underpaid workers could quash any effort to offer heart-centered, relaxed healing service, as so behooves such an enterprise.
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 that disallowed any such conscientious effort to make visitors' stays more pleasant, and 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 the second I learned he'd been 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 would often completely overwhelm them.
Indifferent to what might prove a notorious incident, giving Springs a black eye, he acted as if there was no problem at all, saying dismissively, "hey, 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 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 even get an apology, even after he
was finally caught pocketing restaurant receipts and sentenced to three years in state prison and obviously was a liar as well as thief. That's how crazy and dispirited things could get.
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 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 the former, sometimes astonishingly gnarly energies had tarnished memories 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 a re-set button.
It seems some actually preferred staying mad at place, enjoying the piss-and-vinegar rush of righteous indignation one got raking the place over the coals. Before coronavirus, when the 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, while still trying to cop another long-accustomed soak and sauna now and then, or shun place altogether and spread the word on the tragic developments, while at same time envisioning a more positive future for the treasured realm.
Then the plague hit and bathhouse operation closed down by state mandate and soon 'owners' announced intention to scrap spa service completely. Now one can either visualize (unlikely) miracle of current 'owners'' hearts melting...OR manifestation of new, appropriate stewardship redeeming current scene. One ambitious. respirceful and visionary enough to perhaps eventually even build a new, thoughtfully laid-out bathhouse (and separate office), especially since current 'owners' have already gutted tubs to repurpose building.
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 the 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 a book on place. Idea first took hold in 2000 at the start of two-year groundskeeper stay in the 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 the grounds. Its earliest form was built by none other than the 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 -- the best river song in whole place, bar none. You swung open the big window and sweet thundering creek music flooded the room, charging air with negative ions and white-noise supreme. Such meditation-inducing atmosphere immersed in so long no doubt soon sparked a profound interest in the place and where it was actually 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, warned of unlawfulness of more than 34 people cramming into the tiny structure!
Being super-impressionable and, like Frasier's Daphne Moon, a bit psychic, I felt I'd tuned into Henry on some level. Sensed he'd maybe like his larger story told...especially in light of fact the place still bears his name (if now only in the past tense, as in 'formerly Stewart Springs'). Like many, I wondered what his story actually was, beyond the sketchy legend of being rescued by natives in 1850s when his life was in peril and brought to waters to be healed, and decades later buying property to dedicate the 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, I abandoned project and went on to craft and self-publish two factional novels on body freedom and compassionate diet, thus at least 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 a 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 the effort, only the 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.
Over time the 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 takes on the place or share a noteworthy experience. Besides not liking the appearance of the nuts-and-bolts platform structure required to allow such a feature, I didn't want to get into too common devolution of snarky, uninformed comments that so often come to plague sites.
That said, the original site vision WAS of the place's fans doing just that, contributing their own perspective or unique story. (Hope springs eternal a so-inclined reader might sometime email a new tale to add to the site.)
In any event, here's a contact link for reaching me for any reason:
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 the 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 Cece for instance, was one day convinced that a flying saucer had landed on the grounds. (Who knows? Maybe a scout ship actually did, though there's precious little landing room; maybe at the 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 a die-hard book lover and preferring the physicality of inked words immortalized on dead trees -- I was finally won over. (Losing a 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 a generator -- it's been sunshine or bust -- all site work is powered by bottled sunshine from a modest solar array. (Teaches energy conservation and efficiency fast).
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 of the place, lending hope that it 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 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 the site nudistfun.com (caution: non-secure site and now, sadly, apparently connected to video marketeers clearly catering to pedophiles).
Thanks to all who have contributed or given permission to re-post/reprint writings; they anchor the site. Springs aficionados appreciate hearing diverse takes on place. The more unique takes are shared, the better the chance of building up a critical mass to manifest the merry turnaround of the revered realm.
Though no formal network exists, together devotees constitute a protective loose-knit mystical lodge, a de facto Friends of Stewart Springs...better yet, 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, sometimes life-changing, memories of the place stay locked in the gourd.
As writer keeps hammering and yammering, it's CRUCIAL since draconian changes that true-blue fans 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 stoked to meet the creative challenge of resurrecting the place as a legal nonprofit healing/cultural center...maybe even build a brand new spa compound of inspired design.
Think mini Breitenbush, Harbin or Jackson Wellsprings.
One mustn't assume it inevitable that the treasured place is forever doomed to devolve into a conventional watered-down resort or some fate far worse.
Demand a miracle. Great spirit could have other plans IF hearing a great enough chorus of heartsongs from all who have loved and cherished the realm.
Of course, one supposes the current 'owners'' hearts could melt and place return to it roots of serving as sacred healing ground for the greater public. But barring such a miracle, if they've got a modicum of consciousness they'll get a grand reality check and in time resolve to redeem their legacy by finding a new, appropriate stewardship to 'sell' briefly 'borrowed' realm to -- or let themselves be approached, as they reportedly did Foggy, the last 'owner.'.
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.
Note: if maybe interested in reading something about singular history of writer's nearby homefront development, tucked away in Mt. Shasta region's high-desert woodlands, visit here and click Mt. Shasta Vista on menu. (Site is my now winding up wholesale pumice biz.)
< A-Frame front door's stained glass inset, artisan unknown