All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Site was launched in 2011 independent of SMS management by longtime local Springs aficionado and volunteer, Stuart Ward.
Until late 2017, I was only a mildly disgruntled work-trade helper (relatively speaking) over the dismal changes made soon after first 'ownership' change in generations went down. In denial, nurtured hopes place would turn around eventually with the new, at first seemingly promising, stewardship.
Toward that end, I continued my dedicated efforts on maintaining 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 calamitous changes new 'ownership wrought once showing their true colors, writer became one uber-"disgruntled ex-employee" indeed. With heavy heart, I suspended 18 years of psyched involvement (10% paid, 90% very informal work-trade) to join the growing de facto boycott of the cherished, now beleaguered realm.
The tragic December 2017 sweat lodge removal and taking out of spring source gazebo's love-offering prayer altar -- on top of the year-earlier shocking 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 their new 'absentee stewardship') to KEEP it shut and cease massage service -- and now, with spa-indifferent repurposing detour of bathhouse use, dismantling the tubs -- the place has entered truly uber-weird territory.
See below for analysis of the situation and reason yet for hope. -- also 12-part sussing.
Note: some of what follows was written long ago during more tranquil, tenuously alternative-culture-friendly times. Make due allowances.
What 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, who when not scrambling or caught up in tedium almost felt 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 water soaks, making him a true believer in its curative powers and decades later launching a dedicated mission to 'buy' place and share it with the world the rest of his life?
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. The feeling by this longtime 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, place's policies sometimes changed before the book was even off the press.
And so this site was launched in 2011 in hopes of remedying a lamentable situation. Original intent was to offer viewers a more nuanced appreciation, history, and critical analysis of the rare jewel that is Stewart Springs. It also invited others to share their own thoughts and experiences. The latter didn't pan out, producing only three contributed write-ups, and s over time the site become more blogcentric beyond various reposted online articles and reviews, transcribed feature newspaper articles and book excerpts mentioning the place.
New goal became to alert public -- and mineral-spring spa aficionados in particular -- how new absentee stewards (isn't that a choice oxymoron?) legally seized the place. How they've effectively stolen it from the public, taking it even further away from the founder's original nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service operation that every mindful first-time visitor seemed to sense and resonate with...
...how it heedlessly erased the old-timey, down-home cultural climate to 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 sans spa amenities). And possibly, if giving credence to the 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 might be far happier -- and restore a good measure of now-tattered integrity -- moving their Pneuma scene to a more suitable location once taking the time to find new appropriate steward(s)...ones who'd be tickled to resurrect the operation and land back to its original DNA roots: an unassuming, nonprofit (in spirit or in fact) refuge and public trust dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation, merrily focused on serving the greater good of an ailing nature-loving humanity.
Hope is that the 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' read the writing on the wall -- will put to a merciful end the current misguidedly dreary plans for the place, whatever they are exactly...
..that, barring their hearts melting and radically changing tune, they'll throw in the towel...yet be conscious enough to realize that though they created a lamentable situation and painted themselves as villains in the eyes of countless Springs fans, they can 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 growing holistic awareness, mindfulness, and diversity, all reflecting the emerging enlightened natural lifestyles of the fast growing, more 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 sundry spirit-crushing service disconnects and short-circuiting of land's healing properties.
If enough fans visualize and pray for this -- present 'owners' at last recognizing their folly and the need to let go of a place they'd possibly only unwittingly misappropriated, unmindful of its legacy and widespread public sentiment as 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 can once again serve to heal and uplift humanity.
Especially with the radically shifting societal dynamics precipitated by the recent pandemic: a wracked economy and historic racial-injustice time of reckoning together creating a triple whammy meltdown obliterating former lah-de-dah business models that view visitors as little more than 'consumer units' to seduce manipulate and prodding awake former asleep-at-the-wheel mindsets...all giving way to people learning to share this strange, wondrous planet we all presently find ourselves on.
While last 'owner' held place's innate free spirit captive on certain levels for 34 years by a profit-generating focus putting the damper on any more enlightened, service-dedicated scene, two of the six post-Stewart-family legal stewardships lasted only a very short while indeed. (see History)
(Last 'owner' John Foggy's great redeeming quality was in letting long-time-locale managers run things according to their lights -- reflecting community lifestyle values that, serendipidously, more or less coincided with the 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 magical SEVENTH.
Pages here then form a varied, ever-evolving zine collection and blog -- history, re-posted articles, personal experiences and reflections, 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 such diverse takes on an extraordinary place -- albeit one with a pronounced checkered history of light and dark energies since the advent of so-called civilization with all its glaring perfidies -- the hope is to foster a deeper knowing for the 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 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 have loved the place -- as it was and is meant to be -- almost as much as if it were instead named Henry's Mud Flats.
The Springs enriched my life so much, I wanted to give back. Enable others through knowledge of the 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, one long shrouded in the mystery of vortex energies that reflected and amplified the imprints of the myriad visitors over the ages...from sleepwalkers to awakened, nature destroyers and culture killers to Gaia venerators and peace-loving utopians.
Since launching, the 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 info that dutifully did a sizzling song and dance to try to woo one's business, concluding "Well, this site's useless; obviously some lunatic fringe". (Trivia aside: the 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 an ax to grind; or built a vanity site to bolster a fragile ego and brag how he covered himself in glory in a bygone time...more than, beyond any such human foibles, simply one of countless devoted Springs fans who appreciates how on the Spirit plane the past-present-future are all one and wants 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 in the extraordinary mystical realm.
Other viewers have perhaps lingered on the 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 (and many justified) -- site was NEVER a whitewash, never some dubious shill effort designed to drum up more revenue for the 'owner'.
With the place having a life of its own, the site's perspective has always tried to be one transcending a given stewardship -- especially those seen by dyed-in-the-wool spa purists as inappropriate.
Here I add full disclosure: Before 'owner' change and de facto boycott, writer got unlimited free saunas and a few free baths a year in exchange for informal volunteer cold plunge management and 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 try to tell it like it was between the lines lest forces that be got ticked off and clipped my wings and made me pay like everyone else or even banish me.
After having with grave reluctance 86ed myself from place, once becoming radicalized over the unspeakable developments, there was one positive result: I became free to fully speak my mind. I could at long last talk out of school that I self-expelled from, revealing operational secrets that discretion (and self-survival) once forbade me from sharing with the public.
Though writings might sometimes have a know-it-all vibe, that was far from the intent, for 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 doubtless know more than most about where the bodies were buried, as the saying goes, over the place's recent history. Being able to share that here at last is a grand unburdening.
Focus of the 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. A public-minded DNA that forever 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 the place for generations, in extreme cases like this, amounting to what one might rightly call something akin to some sort of oxymoronic legal thievery.)
Meditating on the Springs through time as a balanced whole might well enable fuller understanding of the place's lingering gnarly karma and the non-progressive energy patterns with which it's so long been plagued...patterns to be recognized, brought about, dealt with and banished in order to let realm's healing properties flow freely again, awakening place to the greatest benefit for any and all visitors who find their way up the hill again in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.
Goals: manifest new
nonprofit stewardship; resurrect bathhouse;
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 the 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 mustering the grace to feel duly chagrined -- give up their dubious diversionary pursuits and divest...finally 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.
The first strike came in late 2016 with banning clothing-optional at the 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 covers, 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 the 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 the 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 profound purifying, healing, and rejuvenating.
Second strike came in December 2017 with emptying the creekside spring gazebo's altar of years' worth of heartfelt prayer and love offerings, replaced initially with a 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 their 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 a 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 popular healing retreat to support their own gig would fail abysmally over time -- even if closely-guarded intent actually included trying to shut the gates to general public and privatize the former quasi-progressive-minded paradise in order to serve exclusively as international Pneuma headquarters and retreat.
In the last scenario, it's impossible imagining them ever enjoying one shred of peace of mind and open-flowing heartsongs for knowing that by shutting gates of beloved institution they would have broken the hearts of untold thousands around the world.
As said elsewhere, the 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 being 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 easily implemented as giving Springs visitors the option to enjoy simple mindful nudity during their spa regimen, thereby greatly enhancing healing process on all levels -- body, mind, and spirit -- becoming magically one with nature's elements.
Writer believed the future of Springs as a true healing place hinged on the legal stewardship realizing this obvious fact and promptly re-instating clothing-optional on a newly-focused, more mindful level.
They'd acknowledge simple nudity's profound reintegrative powers. And be open-minded enough to embrace the 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.) Writer's later understanding was that since the new 'stewards' had their own shamans, they didn't want or need the local medicine wheel turning there anymore.
So much for wistful hopes. Obviously, soon all bets were off. By remaining adamant on nudity ban, taking down the gazebo altar, and kicking out the sweat lodge -- and reportedly STILL only paying minimum wage for non-management gigs -- again, they showed themselves villains in the eyes of Springs fans everywhere. (see New Day Dawning and
And of course it only 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 the place before World War I -- were mindlessly cut down to make way for a 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 the pandemic 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 had charm to spare.
But any the least bit sensitive and intuitive among even uninformed newbies might've easily sensed murky, disruptive energetic undercurrents, ones mindlessly bent on erasing place's former vibrant bohemian culture and replacing it with a restrictive, bland, "more 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 or crimped one's heartsong...
...and longtime annual, ostensibly spiritually-centered event organizers who appeared loathe to change locale despite being all too aware (or in abject denial) that all hell
had broken loose on both 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 duly 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 Little Selves Elsewhere
bit of my story
& site's evolution
For what it's worth anymore, the following is a brief history of my own involvement with Springs over the years for any curious about my bona fides, background, and/or this 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
Native San Franciscan, I first stumbled onto Stewart Springs in late 1983 five years after moving to the 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 the far end of the walking bridge with a cup of mineral water to drink and begin his 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 the absentee 'owner' closed the gates to the general public for several years for want of finding responsible management willing to work cheap and try to drum up slack visitor volume and so not have to worry about the place falling apart. (Then extended family of Suzy, Mary, Pat, Cece, aunt Mary, and in-law 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 rural Mt. Shasta Vista development), has been home most of my adult life. I built an off-grid cabin mostly by myself from the ground up, without power tools, over a leisurely three-and-half year period.
I'd gone from growing up in the most densely populated spot in State to one of sparsest (until 2015 discovery by growers ). 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.
A sporadic duty freak, I felt blessed to become Spring's resident volunteer groundskeeper and man Friday to late general manager Mary Hildebrand during the historic turning point in the place's evolution from late 1999 through early 2002. The place was going year-round, clothing-optional, the restaurant reopening, open hours increasing, majorly upgraded hot-water system was installed, the place now booking a flurry of new workshops, concerts, and group retreats... It began to feel more down-home and happening (if still lame around the edges for management's off-putting rigid profit preoccupation) than anytime since the momentous Goodpasture stewardship of the 1970s. see History
Blessed because there'd 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 both 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 my 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 the gift shop), until late 2017 I still kept an oar in the waters through work-trade, helping Mario maintain the cold plunge, my former wheelhouse, 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 the triple whammy inflicted on genuine spring lovers by current, woefully misguided 'owners' -- apparently tone deaf to the extraordinary public-minded 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 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 the 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 a new dutiful underling who of course happened to come down just then to re-fill a foot-dip basin in the creek and promptly reported me. I was called into inner office for a surreal, still deeply unsettling reprimand.
THEN junking the sweat lodge ceremony -- so crucial in helping erase the place's severe karmic blot, the 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 ever shut.
While still dedicated to posting relevant review excerpts (seemingly scarce to nonexistent now and no wonder), gleaning first-hand reports, and spouting my 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. The unorganized de facto boycott obviously has no leader...least of all some doofus like me. Watchwords of a recent 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 naturally 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, public-minded 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 supplies a perspective integrating 16 years volunteering, 30 months actually living on the grounds as custodian and groundskeeper, plus weekly or better use of spa for over a quarter century...along with diligent research of the buried past, now-sketchy acquaintance with the present, and elusive psychic glimpses of possible unborn futures.
Never being dependent on the place for income always has 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 worked at Stewart Springs sometime or another -- still visited before the momentous December 2017 sea change. More than once in a blue moon, anyhow.
Some got so involved hustling for their paltry paycheck that they forgot to enjoy the amenities (or never bothered to learn how) and refresh their spirit, the 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, resident legal stewards and commuting employees alike, did a daily bath and sweat, thus keeping in resonance with the spirit of the place and its reason for being.
Work burnout could easily take its toll, in time creating pronounced disenchantment with the operation. Especially if strapped for cash and feeling disheartened busting a gut at twenty-five cents
over minimum wage on an undersized staff. Wages were reportedly raised first thing by new 2016 owners, given reason for prices going up, supposedly to cover more decent worker pay, but reportedly only for upper-level positions...serving perhaps as incentive to follow strict orders, no matter how outrageous...work becoming purely for pay than out of abiding affection for the place and desire to turn others on to it.
That said, the 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 any 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, the writer was invited to join a group of livid ex-employees who were filing grievance claims with State labor board over the former shady practices.
I opted not to, even though claimants were eventually well compensated in owner fines (one for $5,000). Reason: others, spitting-nails mad, had burned their bridges with the 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 his life playing working class hero. I wanted to stay welcome, not become persona non grata for having joined the outraged whistle-blowers over then-managers' owner-father's dubious labor practices. Perhaps not so much forgiving as practical.
Place could be one super-demanding juggernaut of operation regardless of pay -- especially during former peak seasons 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. The only alternative was being left wanting the number of the truck.
Writer was spared such burnout, or getting thrown under the bus, only for being volunteer work-trader first and foremost and having the ability to mobilize energies when needed. It was the only way I could keep my enjoyment and veneration of place intact. (One big exception: things got so gnarly at the front desk in summer 2015 with an 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 the stressful period of property-transfer negotiations wrapping up, PLUS the final throes of co-manager Ted's terminal illness, he dying two months later. (see Management in More Rants & Raves)
It was incredibly disheartening seeing dedicated workers give their all, the place inspiring more mindful workers to do their best, only later to quit in disgust or be fired over petty internal politics -- conflicts created by the former sometimes trey contentious work climate, which was in turn the product of over-focus on profits by the 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 any heart-centered, relaxed healing service, as so behooves such a de facto public-benefit enterprise.
Examples: one office worker got fired for being too friendly and personable with visitors at the desk, 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 in the 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 years earlier been banned for life. He'd just begun molesting a fellow off-duty female employee alone in sauna at night before someone came in and he aborted efforts; he was nearly arrested. Ages had passed since the incident. With all-new workers and managers, no one recognized him -- except me, of course, being a 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 a long history of sticky-finger proclivities who would soon get caught and imprisoned for plying his 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 the start of a super-busy peak season that would often completely overwhelm them.
Indifferent to what might prove a notorious incident giving the Springs a black eye, he acted as if there was no problem at all, saying dismissively, "Hey, he paid his admission." Bit 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 (they didn't see fit to protect my anonymity). He'd acted all chagrined, humbly professed to have mended his ways, become a better person, ad naseum.
Now, totally ignoring the red alert of a banned sexual predator on the loose around vulnerable nude patrons, he instead fabricated his OWN red alert, delivered to manager later that night after I'd gone, of receiving a heated desk complaint of ME egregiously misbehaving in the sauna.
Already out of management's good graces, having almost been fired once for unrelated reason, it seemed they were then looking for ANY excuse to get rid of me in their willy-nilly revolving door of staff...which fact he knew and slyly 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 even get an apology, even after he
was soon thereafter caught pocketing restaurant receipts and sentenced to three years in state prison, obviously proving himself a liar as well as a thief. That's how crazy and dispirited things got.
I received a miserable bit of consolation soon after when in town he gleefully bragged to a casual girlfriend of mine -- whom he also knew and who'd in fact been the one alerting me of his past job thievery -- 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 grand re-set button.
It seems some actually preferred staying mad at place, enjoying the piss-and-vinegar rush of righteous indignation they got raking the place over the coals. Before the pandemic, when the new 'owners' upped the ante to insufferable levels for many former fans, one could either give up on the place in sad resignation, suffer the sorry 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 the intention to scrap spa service completely. Now one can either visualize the (unlikely) miracle of current 'owners'' hearts melting...OR the manifestation of new, appropriate stewardship resurrecting the scene. One ambitious. resourceful and visionary enough to, perhaps, even build a new, thoughtfully laid-out bathhouse (and separate office), especially since the current 'owners' have already gutted the tubs to repurpose the 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 it with as many others as possible in lighthearted service.
Given a future enlightened stewardship, everyone setting foot on the land with mindfulness would serve as a handmaiden helping redeem place from over-worldly focus and diversionary use, aiding and abetting the rebirthing of the sacred healing and rejuvenation grounds for a greater humanity.
my story, cont'd
time capsule project
Sporadic writing freak, I'd long felt pulled to cobble together a book on the place. The idea first took hold in 2000 at the start of a 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 the creek of any, is believed the very first one on the grounds. Its earliest form was built by none other than the founder himself, Henry Stewart (1827-1914), along with friends, soon after the start of the last century. Hard to believe now, but it actually served as the first-generation bathhouse.
It had long been relegated to musty storage and a semi-feral cat hangout by the 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 a big window and sweet thundering creek music flooded the room, charging the air with negative ions and white-noise supreme. Such a meditation-inducing atmosphere, immersed in so long, no doubt suddenly sparked a profound interest in the place and wanting to learn where it was actually coming from.
I became first of many resident workers staying there over the years. (Now plumbed and enlarged, it served as extra office many years; then a combination office/staff residence, like next-door Cottage. Now, no idea.) The wood floor planks beneath multiple layers of curling linoleum were old. An official, yellowed county health department notice on wall dated 1934 warned of the unlawfulness of more than 34 people cramming into the tiny structure.
Being super-impressionable and, like TV Frasier's Daphne Moon, a bit psychic, I felt I'd tuned into Henry on some level. Sensed he'd maybe like his story told...especially in light of the 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 his 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 the project and went on to craft and self-publish two factional novels on body freedom and cruelty-free diet, thus at least sating writing lust for a while.
I'd 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 the place, ala Studs Terkel's shared-bio collection approach on a given experienced subject. It also went nowhere. Perhaps it was my then at times off-putting manic
enthusiasm, leaving others little room to get excited themselves...or others' disinclination to write, seeing little value in such a 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 had been made to feel they couldn'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 one speaks.
Over time the site has, by default of de writer, as said, become blogcentric. It wasn't capable (or desirous) of enabling instant posting ala Facebook in order 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 the all 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, well considered perspective and unique stories
Hope springs eternal a so-inclined reader might sometime email a new tale to add to the site.
If ever one wants to surprise the heck out of me, here's a contact link for sending one in (or contacting me for any reason):
One story heard in January 2020, by a woman visiting for her first (and only) time around 2012: Apparently some gay men's group had swooped in for a retreat, bacchanal or some such, and had taken over the bathhouse, chasing each other about in naked glee. She assumed the place was always that way.
The 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 has effectively directed, scripted and starred in their own private super-natural movie, sometimes slipping out of rational temporal mind and into timeless realms, the grounds serving as rarefied portal. "Zowie, 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 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 an awakening from slumber, sometimes getting a painful realty check...like thinking
one's all right, then suddenly gazing into the eyes of true love and the nameless fears of unreckoned-with shadow self flood in, causing paralysis and feeling cast into outer darkness...until finally pushing re-set button, flushing demons away and moving on, feeling new a reintegration of being.
Some were naturally disinclined to share their 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 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 the thriving natural food restaurant on grounds, which they also built. The latter was deemed by many the best restaurant in the entire 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 helped.)
Electronic compilations like this are worlds easier to create, vastly cheaper ($22./month, my dime), and allow instant free global access. Plus, one 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. (Such a setup teaches energy conservation and efficiency fast).
First imprint on land stays forever
To metaphysical thinking, the earliest human imprints on a given land stay forever embedded in it. For sure, Springs still resonates with the Stewart family's nearly 80 years of dedicated service, from 1875 to
1953. see History...also, alas, with the earlier tragic Native American massacre taking place about grounds before family purchase -- but, saving grace, before that with the 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 a deeper understanding of the place, lending hope that it can indeed be restored in the future to a 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 the place, life and self. 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 the 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: it's a 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 grand 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 perhaps, a Liberate Stewart Springs Collective, growing and fine-tuning within the 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 the 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 global energies shifting 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 (ideally) a legal nonprofit healing/cultural center...maybe even build a brand new spa compound of inspired design.
In any event, think mini Breitenbush, Harbin or Jackson Wellsprings.
One must never assume it's inevitable that the treasured place is doomed to forever devolve into a conventional watered-down resort or worse fate.
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 over time.
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 sooner or later and resolve to redeem their legacy by finding a new, appropriate stewardship to 'sell' the 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 magical than ever.
< A-Frame front door's stained glass inset, artisan unknown