All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
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Site 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 way things were going after first ownership change in generations. Nurtured hopes place would turn around...eventually. Especially with new, at first seemingly promising, stewardship.
Toward that end continued doing dedicated work-trade upkeep on bathhouse's creek cold plunge...but with fast-sinking spirits
once clothing-optional policy of 17 years was scrapped.
In wake of shocking changes new ownership brought about once showing true colors, became one uber-disgruntled ex-"employee" indeed. With heavy heart, suspended 17 years of psyched involvement (10% paid, 90% informal volunteer work-trade) to join growing de facto boycott of the long cherished realm.
Tragic December 2017 sweat lodge removal and taking out spring source gazebo's love-offering prayer altar, on top of
taking out gazebo's love-offering prayer alt year-earlier, ridiculously oppressive clothing-optional ban became absolute last straw for countless now-former, longtime supporters near and far.
With pandemic forcing shutdown of bathhouse and subsequent management decision (likely made earlier) to KEEP it shut, along with ending massage service, place has entered truly uber-weird territory.
See below for analysis of sorry situation (also 12-part writing, currently far down on home page)
Note: some of what follows was written long ago during relatively more tranquil, semi-alternative-culture-friendly times. Make due allowances.
What has made this rustic retreat tucked away in wilds near Weed, California, revered by so many for so long?
Its mineral water? Age-old Native American reverence as sacred healing grounds? Sound of rushing creek amid evergreen canyon minutes off interstate?
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 be again -- to fully embrace nature, experience body liberation, and enhance purifying, healing and rejuvenating process?
Or staff who, when not scrambling or caught up in tedium or falling down black holes, could feel 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 and brought to the Springs and restored to life, making him a true believer in the waters' curative powers?
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 place deserved something more... More than mere official in-house info and sizzle, ephemeral online reviews; and thumbnail write-ups in springs guidebooks, places' policies sometimes changed before even off the press.
And so this site was launched in 2011 in hopes of remedying sorry situation. Original intent: offer viewers a more nuanced appreciation, history, and critical analysis of that rare jewel that is Stewart Springs while inviting others to share their own thoughts and experiences. Latter didn't pan out beyond three contributed write-ups, and site over time become blogcentric, along with reposted online articles and reviews, transcribed feature stories, and book excerpts mentioning place.
New, additional goals: alert public -- mineral-spring spa aficionados in particular -- how new absentee stewards (isn't that a choice oxymoron?) have (legally) seized place, taking it ever further away from founder's original nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service operation that even more-aware first-time visitors sensed and appreciated...
...how it erased recent decades' liberal-minded, old-timey, down-home cultural climate to try to remake place to suit own conservative mindset and serve as Pneuma Institute's world headquarters and related retreat center...seemingly, for now at least, subsidized by public. And possibly (if giving credence to dire suspicions of some), eventually privatize place outright, shutting gates to general public, after 145 long years of (mostly) altruistic healing service and simple 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 the Springs and its abiding legacy -- by moving Pneuma scene to a more appropriate location once taking time to find new, appropriate steward(s)...ones who'd be tickled -- after virus has run its course and life gains some new semblance of normalcy -- to resurrect operation and land back to its DNA roots...as a legally nonprofit healing refuge dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation for the greater good.
Hope is that massive de facto boycott and social media alerts, lack of support by own cadres on learning the extreme bad-karma situation -- plus, now, virus maybe ultimately providing coup de gras -- will soon put to an end misguided, dreary plans, whatever they are exactly...
..that, barring radically changing tune, they'll throw in towel...yet, again, hopefully be conscious enough to realize that even though they created a lamentable situation and thereby painted themselves villains in the eyes of many, they can redeem selves by selling to new, appropriate ownership...
...one(s) who will see the wisdom of bringing back the downhome, service-loving spirit of 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 that reflects place's original spirit, updated with present-day's growing holistic awareness, mindfulness, and emerging super-natural lifestyles...
...thereby enabling people around the world to once again enjoy the beautiful, wild, free-spirited retreat as a service-based healing and cultural center...place finally freed (again) of off-putting money-hungry vibes and inappropriate repurposing, with their attendant spirit-crushing service disconnects and short-circuiting of place's healing potential for the public good.
If enough fans visualize and pray for this -- owners at last recognizing their folly and need to let go of place they'd possibly only unwittingly misappropriated, not mindful of its extraordinary legacy and widespread public following -- then, with crucial help of right angel 'investors' and volunteer local and regional aficionados, plus renewed visitor support by growth-minded, nature-loving public, the place could turn around seven ways to Sunday...
...especially with radically shifting societal dynamics over current virus pandemic (once it fades away), wracked economy, and historic racial-injustice time of reckoning, together creating triple whammy meltdown obliterating lah-de-dah, former business models and prodding awake former asleep-at-the-wheel mindsets, giving way to everyone learning to share this strange but wondrous planet we find ourselves living on.
Biden-Harris presidential victory only reinforces grand turnaround to re-emergence of more positive, fair-minded, and progressive values (though still uphill struggle against delusional forces apparently hypnotized by merry prospect of over-controlling, escape-from-freedom totalitarianism).
While last owner unfortunately held place's innate free spirit captive in some ways for 34 years by profit-generating focus putting damper on any more liberal-minded scene, know that two of six post-Stewart-family ownerships lasted only a very short time indeed. (see History)
Last owner John Foggy's great redeeming virtue regarding Springs was in letting long-time-locale managers run things according to their lights -- reflecting community lifestyle values that more or less coincided with venerable healing and rejuvenation tradition of place -- just so long as the money kept rolling in.
May this one become the third short-term steward, clearing the way for the magic seventh.
Pages form a varied, ever-evolving zine collection and blog -- personal experiences and reflections, history, re-posted articles and hundreds of online travel review excerpts, informed and semi-informed analysis and opinion (current whenever possible), wild speculation...plus occasional news, photos, quotes, anecdotes on anything Stewart Springs related worthy of notice.
By offering diverse takes on extraordinary place -- albeit one with a pronounced checkered history of light and dark energies 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 have perhaps never even heard of the place to help place realize greater potential as an extraordinary healing spot...once a loving universe, ending current nightmare, manifests the perfect legal keeper and hands-on operation.
Site launcher, again, is moi, Stu Ward, former steward of Stewart's. (Yes, synchronicity gone wild.) Though naturally resonating with name, would no doubt love 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 wanted to give back and enable others, through own intimate knowledge of place plus penchant for writing and out-of-the-box thinking, to possibly grok the extraordinary realm on new levels...gleam its bigger story, one so long shrouded in mystery of vortex energies that have always perfectly 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 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 did grand song and dance 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's just going down memory lane (certainly true in part); or is some disgruntled ex-employee with big ax to grind (not so); or is building vanity site just to feed ego and brag how covered self in glory in bygone times (okay, again probably true in part, but only in part)...more than, beyond any such human foibles and ego tripping, one of countless devoted Springs fans who deeply appreciate how on Spirit plane past-present-future are all one and wants to seize the moment to catalyze positive change for the realm, so that in the future greater humanity might again enjoy its bountiful blessings.
Others 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 hopefully 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 tried to be one transcending current stewardship -- especially those seen by dyed-in-the-wool spa purists as woefully inappropriate.
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 and picking up litter. So writer naturally felt a judicious need to pull punches, lest forces that be get unduly ticked off.
After having reluctantly 86ed myself from place, finally becoming radicalized over sorrowful developments, there was at least one positive result: suddenly had no problem totally speaking my mind. Or talking of school self-expelled from, revealing secrets discretion once forbade sharing with public.
Focus is on critical analysis, including ideas of how to further fine-tune place and manifest new owner change (see New Day Dawning), and, like anything or -one cherished, seeing it as already perfect within its imperfection.
Admittedly one rough row to hoe now, what with present interests pulling place ever further away from original healing service spirit of founder's family, heedlessly ignoring the 145 year-old DNA in its bones that patiently await reactivation.
(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 might enable a fuller understanding of place's lingering gnarly karma and non-progressive energy patterns it's so long been plagued with. Such patterns need to be brought about, dealt with, and banished in order to let realm's rare healing properties flow most freely, awakening place to greatest benefit for visitors finding their way up the winding hill road in hopefully 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, not 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 getting their woefully obtuse disregard for spiritual realities of the place, reading the writing on the wall, and, having the grace to feel duly chagrined, give up 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, 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 thereby enabling far more effective purification, healing, and precious rejuvenation.
Such personal and social freedom and enhanced healing potential had been central to place's rejuvenation process, making place incredibly popular for a full 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 quashed profound enjoyment of 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 allows 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 rejuvenation.
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. 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 in time 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 hearts for knowing that by shutting gates of beloved institution they would have broken hearts of so many.
Again, never dependent on place for income, had time of life playing working class hero. I wanted to stay welcome, not become persona non grata for joining understandably outraged whistle-blowers on some of then-managers' owner-father's practices. Not so much noble as practical.
Hope of this at times gullible writer had been that a new, more fine-tuned c/o policy would 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.
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 known as 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, writer having read 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 of enjoying simple mindful nudity during spa regimen, thereby 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 mindful nudity's amazing reintegrative powers. And be open-minded 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, AZ some years back.)
So much for wistful hopes. Obviously, all bets off now. 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 -- 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 pay cut, gift shop consignees had bigger slice taken from sales, and employees no longer received monthly free bath or 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 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, no-nonsense 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 stayed dependent on place for making rent or mortgage, no matter how much it galled 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 repulsed by 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 Selves Elsewhere
bit of my story
& site's evolution
For what it's worth anymore, following is a brief history of my involvement with Springs, for any curious about my bona fides, background, and/or site's evolution.
Rambling include a 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 following seven years dharma-bumming around the West.
It was for a full moon evening sweat with 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.
As Charlie so lovingly shared his timeless wisdom and deep roots to 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 my reclusive home most of adult life. Built off-grid cabin myself, with 10% help, from ground up without power tools, over leisurely three year period.
Went from growing up in most densely populated spot in State to one of sparsest. (Formerly anyway, before phenomenal tsunami of scofflaw, large-scale pot growers hit locale in 2015 to establish serious extension of former 'Emerald Triangle'...but that's another story.) 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. (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 went year-round, clothing-optional, restaurant reopened, increased hours, upgraded hot-water system, 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 anytime since momentous Goodpasture stewardship of the 1970s.
Blessed because there's 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 Springs has its own angel watching over place. (If true, we perhaps need only be patient about current dilemma.)
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 had 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 public-minded 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 heartbreaking scene.
Not being able to skinnydip in the very plunge 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 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 promptly reported me. I was called into inner office for a silly but still unsettling reprimand.
THEN junking the sweat lodge ceremony -- so crucial in helping erase place's severe karmic blot, slaughter of indigenous peoples who 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 an absolute 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 understanding of place, 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, of course, nonexistent now...beyond serving as historian, chronicler, and analyst...and perhaps haunting 'ownership's' ostensible conscience for having so callously turned backs on place'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 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 the custodian and groundskeeper, and 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 kept perspective 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, 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 work breaks. About 2005,
writer was approached, invited to join group of livid ex-employees filing grievance claims with State labor board over such former shady owner practices.
Opted not to, though claimants were well compensated in 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, had time of 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 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 had to detach from place, taking this then tribute-only site offline a year and staying 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 disheartening seeing dedicated workers giving their all, only later to quit in disgust or get fired over petty internal politics -- conflicts created by former contentious work climate, 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 genuine, heart-centered, relaxed healing service, as so behooves such a 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 also dismissed.
Tawdry but True Dept:
Own second firing
While sauna-ing, hoping to unwind off-duty one night in 2005, 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. Ages had passed since incident. With all-new workers and managers, no one recognized him...except me, of course. I shifted gears in a heartbeat. Managers were gone for day, so, only recourse was to alert 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 was hired for this very reason, but to no avail. As scrambling newbie managers, they were hard-pressed for help -- any help -- at start of super-busy peak season that overwhelmed them.
Indifferent to what might prove another despicable incident, he acted as if there was no problem at all, saying dismissively, "Well, he paid his admission." Then hatched a diabolically clever revenge plan on me, as earlier he'd learned how I'd blown the whistle on him when manager confronted him with sticky-fingers allegation (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 red alert, he instead fabricated his OWN red alert, delivered to manager later that night after I'd gone, of receiving desk complaints of ME egregiously misbehaving in sauna.
Already out of management's good graces, having almost been fired once for unrelated reasons and 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.
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 when shortly after
he was 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 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 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 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 positive future changes.
Since the plague hit and bathhouse operation closed down by state mandate (perhaps a blessing in disguise in some weird way). While waiting for eventual resumption of some new normal to hopefully emerge, one can either visualize (unlikely) miracle of current owners' hearts melting...OR manifestation of new, appropriate stewardship redeeming scene in future. 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 and bath stalls to repurpose building...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 and freely share with as many others as possible in lighthearted and unassuming, mindful service.
Given a future enlightened stewardship, everyone setting foot on land with mindfulness serves a handmaiden helping redeem place from over-worldly focus and diversionary use, aiding and abetting the rebirthing of sacred healing grounds for the benefit of 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 held a rare treasure -- best river song in whole place, bar none. You swung open 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 a 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, perhaps become too blogcentric (plus not being capable (or desirous) of instant posting ala Facebook) to attract others to contribute their own take on place or share a noteworthy experience. But as said, the original site vision WAS of place's fans doing just that, contributing own perspective or unique story. 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 New sand Op-eds page)
One story heard in January 2020 by 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 boldly 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 had there, which elude ever being verbalized, let alone being put into print and read by parties unknown.
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 directs, scripts and stars in their own private super-natural movie, sometimes slipping out of rational temporal mind and into timeless realms, grounds serving as rarefied portal. "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 flood in, causing paralysis, as if feeling cast into outer darkness...until finally pushing re-set button, flushing demons away, and moving on, feeling an amazing new reintegration of being.
Some were naturally disinclined to share any 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 a lot.)
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 since 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; now, sadly, apparently somehow connected to video marketeers 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 a critical mass to manifest an amazing turnaround.
Though no formal network exists, together devotees of rarified realm constitute a protective loose-knit mystical lodge, a de facto Friends of Stewart Springs, as it were. 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 once-treasured place is forever doomed to devolve into conventional watered-down resort -- or now, worse, lodging only, repurposed bathhouse's dry water pipes longing to have healing waters flow through them again.
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