All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
"Oats were great...until feedbag taken away. Felt horses were no longer welcome. And made to wear a blanket on a 90 degree day? Neigh I say."
-- Gallumpher, Globetrotter Quarterly
Stewart Mineral Springs
Review Rants & Raves
Trying to Make Sense of
Dizzying Disparity in
Travel Site Reviews
Scroll down half way to skip long introduction
Scroll 4/5 for re-posted pushback on Nov. 2016 clothing-optional ban.
Flood of Dec. 2017 posted sweat lodge ban reactions reside about halfway down home page
"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift..."
-- Jill B, San Luis Obispo, CA Yelp review
"...this place is a blessed piece of Mother Earth"
-- Luizasso - Instagram
"It's a shame what has happened
to the once-wonderful establishment"
-- Michael B., Santa Fe, N.M., Yelp review
"A long-standing, respected and beloved space destroyed."
-- Laurie L., Middletown, CA, Yelp review
"I am deeply saddened... I will not be back... I pray for the land and the new owners."
-- Carla C., Weed, CA Yelp review
"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."
-- Michele Feasby, Instagram
"The current owners and management have sucked the beauty, joy, innocence and purity from this sacred place... changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades."
-- Anu Honey, Nevada City, CA Yelp review
"I love...the shift in energy that the new owners have brought..."
-- Beth W., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review
"I have had many healing moments at this hot springs but will likely not be returning due to the changes with new ownership ..."
-- Sarah B., Ashland, OR, Yelp review
"...WHO are they catering to? The old management was bad enough, the new management sounds even WORSE..."
-- Zp Zap, Google review
"It's sacred land and you really feel that as soon as you arrive."
-- Caroline H., Ojai, CA Yelp review
"...the best we can hope for is the new owners fail in their attempt to pimp this place for the big money..."
-- Todd C., Mt.Shasta, CA
"This used to be a California gem...The baths are gone, as is the sauna. Its become a half-assed new age center selling dubious breath work retreats. Breaks my heart...."
-- Jeff L., Mill Valley,Yelp review 3-11-22
by Stu Ward
Volunteer Stewart Springs assistant to manager Mary H. 1999-2002 while living on grounds; work-trade cold-plunge creator/maintainer 1999-2014; withdrew all support and began boycotting December 2017
Two Intros - first, pre-new-owner times; second, post-new-owner meltdown
Part I - rustic nature - former friendly staff - soak limits - water quality - nominal countercultural flavor - laid-back or not?
Bouncing off select thumbs-up and -down excerpts are in-depth takes -- some speculative, others well-informed -- rambling asides on such things as soak limits, restaurant, open hours, clothing-optional, and sometimes off-kilter management and 'ownership.'
It attempts, finally, to demystify the place some by offering a Big Picture metaphysical overview.
Analysis freak at heart, started this page in 2013 to try making sense of polarized online travel reviews of Stewart Springs posted over the years. Soon branched to address frequent visitor concerns, and the page grew like Topsy (whoever Topsy is). Then added SMS Facebook reactions to 11-1-16 clothing-optional ban. Then it got so long after sweat lodge ban, split into three pages.
Revised or tweaked last on July 17, 2022
If not a die-hard fan or not concerned about grave peril now facing Springs -- hard to imagine -- scroll past this long introduction. Same if you're only all too aware of the sorry situation and just want to scope some of hundreds of excerpted online reviews and headlines on place posted online over the decades, maybe to rekindle fond memories of what a treasure the place once was (and can be again). Scroll down about half way to start of countless reviews interspersed with comment.
In this intro -- one of site builder's own mega rants, if you will -- hope is to provide something of a nuanced overview to inform and empower fans to visualize rescue of a much loved place from current, woefully inappropriate "absentee stewards."
Note: Some analysis was written years before 'owner' group's intentions became painfully obvious and is now a bit dated; others are as relevant as ever. Former ramblings left as skeletons of earlier understandings.
Is there hope
or are we screwed?
Unimaginable disaster befell the once-magical, culturally-diverse, fitfully open-minded healing spa refuge long known around the world as Stewart Mineral Springs.
Anyone the least bit bohemian who visited after November 1, 2017, when clothing-optional policy of 17 years was summarily scrapped, or especially since sea change in December 2017, with essential kicking out 45-year sacred sweat lodge, is all too aware of tragic turn of events...events unfolding LONG before March 2020's state-mandated closure of bathhouse due to pandemic and then shocking 'ownership' May 2020 announcement of decision to KEEP it closed, and THEN tearing out tubs to mindlessly try re-purposing age-old spa building to own misguided ends.
One might by now not unreasonably conclude actions are part of some misbegotten plan to convert place from a once-beloved, public-friendly spa healing realm into a Keep-Out-It's-Ours-All-Ours, exclusive retreat...their own event, headquarters and workshop compound for Pneuma's own shtick plus, to help pay the freight, select outside groups wanting a nice place to rent a while to hold a function and having little or no regard for what place was all about for nearly a century and a half, before being rudely wrested from the global community -- maybe even like the flavor of the Kool-Aid they're dispensing.
In light of the historic pandemic, economic meltdown, racial injustice reckoning, epic wildfires, mis-information viruses, etc., some might have little desire to gain a better understanding of where Springs current 'ownership' is at...or their now-obvious spa-less, control-minded designs on place.
Or, more crucially, be curious about the peculiar realm's singularly checkered history.
If so, it's understandable. People's feelings towards the place -- until recently nominally dedicated, by dint of its traditional, if long fading, altruistic focus, to serving the greater good with mindful spa healing and restful retreat -- have tended to run to extremes over time...like some intense fickle love affair flipping from red hot to ice cold in an instant and back again.
More's the pity, though. For the more one groks the time-shrouded place -- both its recent history and especially its older -- the better a handle and greater appreciation one can gain of its energetic patterns and long-established roots of serving as an affordable purification, rejuvenation and healing refuge and de facto public trust.
It then becomes easier to visualize a positive, do-able future and push a grand re-set button...either with present 'owners'' radically changing their tune or -- far more likely once their public-be-damned, diversionary designs on place go bust, buried under global condemnation and boycott while drowning in red ink from lost visitor volume -- they realize trying to take away a place so deeply regarded as a beloved sanctuary from the global community was perhaps not their best move ever...and they can muster the grace
to make amends by 're-selling' grounds to APPROPRIATE stewardship...thereby ultimately redeeming themselves somewhat and eventually gaining, albeit offhandedly, a positive place in the Springs's long legacy.
With positive visualization of such a reality check manifesting the appropriate stewards by enough aware fans, we can bring the place back full-circle to the sterling service-grounded nonprofit-in-spirit healing retreat it began as seven generations ago.
Otherwise...with so many seemingly having been forever fickle towards it -- happy to make use of place when convenient but never allowing room in their hearts to cultivate any viable hope of seeing it again become a popular public- and service-minded realm of low-key global renown (or never aware of such history in first place) -- then we indeed might just as well kiss the place goodbye.
No doubt such defeatist attitude was borne of place having so often been rudely mismanaged, neglected, and original focus diverted ever since leaving Stewart family hands in the 1950s (see history). People couldn't let go of the cynical attitude, therefore were unable to glimmer the possibility of rekindling realm's positive operation. Continuing on with such toxic thinking would let place remain effectively forever kidnapped, held without ransom, while estranged fans meagerly settle for wistfully remembering better days and seeking out other rural spas.
Again...the collective energies of mineral spring aficionados everywhere towards the beloved treasure might well determine its future.
What ill tidings befell
erstwhile magickal realm?
Bear in mind that many posters of the countless ecstatic raves reposted far below, had they visited between November 2016's clothing-optional ban and May 2020's bathhouse shutdown, would've felt like rescinding them in a heartbeat, loathe to encourage any patronage whatsoever as things stood. (A moot point now, with place closed to all except prearranged groups who can still enjoy place even without a functioning bathhouse, massage service or weekly sweat lodge.)
"The Illuminati have taken over the Springs!," wailed one early on. Don't know about that exactly, but it didn't take too big a stretch of imagination to sense the Springs operation seemed somehow to have suddenly gone over to the dark side...new conservative 'ownership' appearing to manipulate and intellectualize spirit towards non-public professional ends...setting up rigid rules to assure keeping tight handle on visitors (or totally ignoring them unless trying to skinnydip, as accustomed), so no one would enjoy place TOO much...besides them, that is, during their affiliated gatherings, in 'their' new little new shangri-la and any willing to rent out place who are all hunky dory (or at least borderline tolerant) with new, spirit-crushing restrictions and unmindful of realm's former dedication to healing, purification, and rejuvenation.
In the process, they're making the place a better fit to perpetuate their Pneuma Institute -- a peculiar international amalgam of quasi-new-age/conventional-religion/psychoanalytical shtick, all wrapped up in smiley face for public consumption.
Tragically, heedless actions erased the place's former fitfully free spirited culture -- a longstanding one they apparently couldn't or wouldn't understand, appreciate or respect. And, as time has shown, couldn't WAIT to get rid of...apparently along with the very heart and soul of the place, the venerable bathhouse spa -- which had for over a century been providing a far-flung humanity with healing waters -- once people rejected their disastrous effort to turn it into a conventional no-nudity-allowed spa. But they might've decided to close it down permanently all along in order to re-purpose the 'valuable realty' space.
Stewart Springs had long been a place with an endearing old-timey air...one managing to evolve in leaps and bonds over the ages into a quasi open-minded bohemian retreat...despite last longtime S.F.-based 'owner's' relentless profit focus and consequent latter-day's over-wound management seemingly all but clueless to ways of genuine mineral springs culture with their simple, unassuming focus on down-to-earth purification and healing.
Current buttoned-down, seemingly tone-deaf absentee-steward mindset and policies have been shown to be intractably disconnected from the cooperative spirit embraced by every other popular rural mineral spring resort in the entire wider northwestern U.S.
Tearing out the tubs left no doubt whatsoever.
"Refine the culture"
While grimly enduring the light bohemian-culture foothold on the place over her decade-long tenure, former head manager Rowena constantly envisioned 'Refining the Culture' -- her pet phrase and constant mantra. No surprise then that she, serving as broker for land sale (reportedly pocketing over a quarter million dollars commission in what some might perhaps consider the ultimate Springs sellout), attracted energies sharing similar bland bourgeois ambitions for the place.
While she loved the springs too in her own way -- as far as she understood it -- her love of lucre apparently proved greater than desire to preserve the place for the good of greater humanity by seeking out an appropriate party (rather than the first one who approached her) with an "Say, has the owner ever thought of selling this place" query)... one dedicated to carrying on long traditions and possessing a vital sense of public-minded spa service and desire for providing forthright, no-airs hospitality.
One of their Facebook Pneuma website statements gave a clue where they were at: "Formation of Spiritual discernment is a great need for our present time! Pneuma offers such formation programs..."
Yes folks, buy your way into enlightenment, we know the way! Special discount on three-day class intensive, this week only.
Formerly, self-empowered, spiritually disciplined visitors gained such discernment on their own, thank you very much. No need to pay one blessed cent past bathhouse admission or lodging rental, the staggering healing and transformative power of realm's special natural forces being greatest teacher of all -- for free.
Gave benefit of doubt
Sometimes-naive writer's own previous copious rants on former inappropriate 'ownership' focus, interspersed with rants and raves of others, were hoped to be ancient history by now and long ago deleted.
Present absentee 'ownership' -- again, peripherally involved in transcendent awareness via its Pneuma Institute -- was given every benefit of the doubt for nearly two interminable years -- despite oppressive clothing-optional ban that, begun nine months in, threw place into mourning over lost body freedom, with its near-magical ability, pursued mindfully, to foster body-mind-spirit reintegration on higher levels, indifferently strangled as oppressive, shamelessly clothes-minded thinking reemerged triumphant.
Thinking was they'd been sadly misinformed somehow, perhaps taken in by the Machiavellian wiles and wonky upscale visions of longtime former manager. Knowing she had a fish on the line, could practically hear her having pitched, "The upside potential here's enormous!" and "Everyone hates clothing-optional except a few wild, low-spending locals; it's killing business, I tell ya!" Or, to give her some credit, perhaps she herself was taken in by their glib assurances they basically liked the place just the way it was (if true, the biggest, most baldfaced lie ever uttered on the grounds).
How to alienate supporters
in three easy steps
Long abandoned hope: they'd come around once realizing the wool had been pulled over their eyes. They'd be chagrined to realize they'd been unwittingly destroying the place's rich culture and longtime core support base of those seriously into genuine rural healing and rejuvenating spas, while shutting out droves of others primed to give the time-honored , free-spirited purification regimen a try, shaking free
of long-term systemic body oppression and discovering the profound reintegration the free-body state so easily catalyzes when in safe, nurturing environs.
They'd naturally want to do everything possible to keep such a loyal growth-minded visitor base from unraveling, working to keep place's nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-natural-healing service DNA intact as a thriving, lighthearted rejuvenation retreat. A win-win-win formula, rewarding to legal stewards, management team and visitors alike.
Wrong. Dead wrong. Turned out the wool was over writer's eyes. Current 'owners' appeared totally sold on her "Project Refine/Homogenize Culture"...but then revealed their own, devastatingly public-indifferent intent -- one they'd obviously waited a good while to unfold.
For, along with intent to 'cultivate' place's clientele (i.e., turn more upscale, conventional and 'bourgey friendly' -- devolving former quasi-bohemian almost paradise into yet another lah-de-dah, 'Your water's drawn;
ya got 40 minutes, meter's running so best not dawdle'" retreat (for a while at least) -- they also radically altered place's very social climate. One to suit their own headspace and intent ...even though maybe only flying in to visit a day or two each year -- switching focus to have grounds serve first and foremost as Pneuma Institute's international headquarters, workshop, pirvate retreat, and classroom space...
...thus essentially becoming its own public-supported retreat/headquarters. With bathhouse spa destruction, it's easy to see now that getting rid of the nudity and pow-wow drummers and everyday people in general was just the first remedial step in their bald privatization and repurposing scheme. (See flood of concerned and scathing comments over ending Karuk weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremony on home page -- scroll down a ways.)
Clearly it seemed people were now welcomed to the grounds ONLY to subsidize Pneuma operation and 'ownership' costs a bit rather than out of any altruistic spirit to provide affordable purification, healing and rejuvenation...long the place's simple yet notable tradition.
Lest one forget and as writer keeps reminding, the place -- with a few brief interruptions -- had been until 2016 offering countless visitors with simple down-home healing-water spa service and lodging and the chance to purify and rejuvenate while drinking in the glad tidings of nature for over 140 years.
Without formally setting up legal protection through a dedicated nonprofit status -- preventing changing legal stewards from doing with the place whatever they wanted, like some fresh canvas to paint on whatever they fancied -- the place has always been vulnerable, at the mercy of latest 'ownership' whim.
Many visitors over the decades assumed or wanted to believe the place was somehow forever locked into serving as a dedicated public trust, a modest natural healing retreat. But it was only because of last 'owner's' long 34-year run, during which time he let things more or less be, according to the lights of dedicated management...just so long as the green kept rolling in.
Pneuma's own website quickly dispelled any notions of resurrecting the original spirit of the place early on the second they tipped their hand by referring to it as Pneuma Retreat Center...
...and later, if any doubt at all yet remained, by announcing intent to convert the historic bathhouse into more private retreat and class space once ripping out bath tubs...and then, final insult, officially changing name of the hallowed realm ("formerly Stewart Springs" now rests forlornly underneath title) and deleting the Springs website entirely.
Had founder's name been kept public business name merely for illusion of continuity perhaps, hoping to minimize public outrage until shameless conversion was more of a done deal?
Imagine how stalwart California pioneer founder Henry Stewart and family might react if time-traveling to now.
Elsewhere, place and its legal 'ownership' have been variously referred to as Golden Eagle resort, Kairos Inc., and Logos, Inc. Wouldn't be surprised if there isn't another name or two floating about obfuscating ownership and accountability over what's going on...again, starting LONG before virus upended things further...a debacle viewed as a travesty pure and simple by legions of the realm's now-estranged fans.
Painful fact: Stewart Springs is no longer Stewart Springs.
Not only does former all-business focus appear live and well -- now with new narrow organizational focus replacing former unassuming, down-home spa and hospitality service -- but it ramped up a full magnitude.
And maybe something worse. For again, it looks as though unapologetic intent is nothing less than the outright closing of the entire grounds to the general public.
As it stands, reportedly no individual visitors or overnighters are now allowed. (Not that many would even want to without bathhouse, except maybe those only attracted to simple, remote lodgings.)
Of course, anyone enrolling in their pricey workshops or events or hosting one of own happenings is probably still more than welcome (all major credit cards accepted)...if willing to sign some no doubt depressingly restrictive boilerplate agreement and stomach the stringent new social climate -- perhaps ideally those who'd shared disdain for the former, more free spirited culture that cramped the style of lah-de-dah minded from more fully enjoying the fabled, if often bedeviled, realm.
rumors running wild - what's the truth?
As said, at first blush it appeared to some that the new operators had maybe only inadvertently, ingloriously, shot themselves in their collective foot...that they'd doomed the once- viable operation for having so unwittingly and cavalierly disregarded the place's established culture...in the process grievously alienating countless supporters...obliterating the former large loyal-visitor base to hell and gone. Surely in time they'd realize their grievous error, apologize for misguided changes, and bring place back to even keel.
Countless fans got the bum's rush
But as time's proven, they couldn't have cared less.
They apparently had the bucks to give myriad long-established visitors the bum's rush while leisurely changing the place to suit their own purposes and perhaps that of new hoped-for upscale visitorship...again, possibly only sought for a while to help subsidize 'ownership' costs during transition phase...and maybe give now-alienated public a chance to get used to the idea of having irreversibly lost a place long cherished, while gearing up for the fuller transition to being a more exclusive compound, maybe ultimately slamming the imposing twin entrance gates shutter than any bygone cavalry fort under siege.
What totally boggled the minds of countless is how they could claim to champion furthering higher consciousness with a straight face, attempting to build their scene furthering said avowed aim atop the very ruins of the time-honored quasi-bohemian, generally mindful Springs culture they themselves had so indifferently, willfully, systematically destroyed.
More than a few might've cynically regarded such an awareness-disconnected pursuit -- what might, again, be called for lack of any better term bourgeois spirituality -- seemingly little more than wanting to hoard the longtime publicly revered grounds expressly to suit their own private professional interests (which, by the way, not all in their field find as effective and therapeutic as other, more time-proven approaches).
highlighted dumfoundingly inappropriate
With bathhouse spa now seemingly toast, place is reduced to bare-bones, lodgings-only operation. Legal land holders appear to cling to the hope of continuing to pursue their own gig and resume converting place into some international headquarters, classroom, retreat, private celebration and bureaucratic center showcasing clinical, super-structured Pneuma teaching and practicing model of transpersonal psychotherapy...
...and, riding on coattails of place's one-time staggering popularity, continue renting out lodging and remaining facilities to a select public, on group basis only, for events and workshops...those indifferent to the place having been stolen from the legions of growth-minded public...and those enrolling in classes and retreat/event organizers to cover some of the rent, hoping enough people would still want to stay there even without the century-old spa facility -- which, along with sweat lodge in later decades, were, again, the very heart and soul of the realm (among man-made efforts) -- all so they could keep bogarting the joint to pursue their own gigs and enjoy more exclusively...without any troublesome riff-raff despoiling their 'What?-keep-sharing-the-place-with-the-great unwashed?--no-way!' mindset.
Such a spa-bereft set-up is of course a terminally lame scene -- a cake without the frosting -- to any and all long accustomed to enjoying the healing realm in a relaxed atmosphere, creek providing continuous, pleasing soundtrack while day tripping or overnighting, leisurely coursing through spa regimen liberated from the tyranny of cloth if so choosing, often leaving reluctantly and anticipating returning as soon as possible.
One would think such a lodging- and groups-only scene could never work with both bathhouse and sweat lodge gone...unless finding enough would-be patrons who, again, knew or cared nothing about place's legacy and didn't realize the new offerings were built atop ruins of a beloved popular healing culture...unless maybe believing new 'owners' had nobly rescued place from miscreants, perverts, and other assorted rabble who'd been ruining grounds for more deserving to enjoy...people who count...dollars in their sleep.
Perhaps the more likely scenario, again, is continuing to lukewarmly invite outside groups as part of some long-term plan transition to convert place from one long dedicated to serving the greater good into an exclusive private domain touting new cheery signs: 'Keep Out - Trespassers will be Prosecuted.'
Yet another take: might it be that despite their website painting a seductively rosy picture with fabulous emerging plans for place -- plans obviously aimed at own groups and a more affluent, altruism-challenged, history indifferent public -- that current lodging- and workshop-only operation prove only to be a temporary stop-gap effort after never hitting their stride? One to try to staunch hemorrhaging of funds sucked into a money-pit as they awaken to the fact of having been in staggering denial over karmic realities?
That is, until they can decide how and when to best divest of what turned out to be a misguided investment, in their covetousness having dared ignore global sentiment towards a place so long cherished it became firmly (if erroneously) regarded as a de facto public institution.
The operation had been treading water at best all along...even before pandemic roared onto the scene, throwing a giant monkey wrench into an already shaky operation, perhaps indirectly providing the coup de gras to half-baked hopes of re-purposing place to suit private intentions.
If so, it wouldn't be the place's first diversionary bust.
"All right, we've got it! Now what'll we do with it?"
Sadly, for over a half century the operational blueprint of the original 78-year, service-grounded stewardship by Stewart family had been fading away, watered down, indifferently dismissed as a foolish-minded waste of valuable property and resources.
At times it seemed its noble lost dream could be sensed only by the more openhearted and nature-health minded, those who gravitated towards simple holistic living and healing and who were already aware or awakening and revered Mother Earth's rare medicines.
So over time place attracted inappropriate stewards who brought in their own wonky, pie-in-the-sky, profit-minded and/or private-use brainstorms...intentions that never panned out.
For obvious reason: such powerful and sacred land, with long tradition of being a de facto revered public trust, resonates ONLY with and supports stewards dedicated to pursuing purifying, healing and rejuvenation...those wanting to share it in the joy of service...
...and in the long run causes only chaos, financial hardship and busted fantasies for blindly flying in the face of spiritual realities and revered traditions by pursuing ANY other use of the gift to mankind of one of nature's mystic healing realms.
Time has proven time and again that anything short of working hand in hand with nature and freely sharing the blessings of the land with all possible is ultimately a doomed effort...like spitting in the wind.
Before virus outbreak forced the bathhouse closure -- then, perversely throwing the baby out with the mineral water, making it permanent -- they seemed willing enough to take the cash of any who could stomach the disheartening changes.
Especially that of newbies knowing no different...perhaps most especially upscale, "cultivated" visitors into charming exclusive resorts offering over-solicitous, prim-and-proper, no-nonsense service; or own affiliated groups, into super-structured, new-age-tinged teaching programs -- weirdly overlaid with uptight, guilt-based morality and dry, over-intellectualized teaching models -- rather than former, trey distasteful, hippie-ish, help-yourself-and-welcome, clothing-optional spa purification, healing, and rejuvenation, connecting directly with the mother, thank you very much.
County property tax meter running
at seventy-seven dollars a day
Again, continued halfhearted catering to public, now only on group basis to a spaless grounds, appears more than anything to reflect some expedient hope of offsetting the $2.6 million purchase price and not inconsiderable ongoing operating expenses.
Some $77.00 every day of the year is needed now just to cover annual county property taxes.
One wonders, again, if they hadn't perhaps finagled a tax write-off of some sort against another, successful branch of international outfit or that of one of co-owners', thus having no worries about losing in droves the patronage of once-dedicated repeat visitors. Or took out second mortgages on homes or other land holdings to meet purchase price, optimistic that changes would be embraced by the greater public...and they're now freaking out on a gnarly grand reality check.
In any event... misguided changes have tragically erased the former wild, beautiful -- often free-flowing, at times holy-stoned -- energy of the place. Energy that over recent decades made it a favorite place both for locals as well as regional, national and global sojourners on nature-friendly, life-affirming paths and pulled in by the magic of Mt. Shasta.
Despite 'owner' groups' attraction to the realm, having done many workshops there in times past, outfit's exclusive focus and relatively conservative -- some say fundamentalist --
mindset struck true-blue fans as being at incredibly depressing odds with place's long-abiding spirit... one until recently at least fitfully open-minded despite constant profit preoccupation by management, its bohemian spirit enduring absent any limiting doctrinaire mindset, as now weighs down realm's former dreamy, lighthearted air like a ton of bricks.
Cynical might well view Pneuma's focus as little more than trying to cram the wild, infinite Great Mystery life force into some handy-dandy box for three-dimensional clinical analysis and packaged, monetized promulgation, for serving a branch of the high-end healing profession known as psychotherapy.
Their site proclaimed, "Our intention is the Spirit to be always present in each of our actions." Talk about your spiritual reality disconnect. Why does saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", come to mind?
Seemingly progressive psychology branch
Pneuma's hybrid system, as noted, incorporates psychology's fourth branch, transpersonal psychology.
It grew out of humanistic psychology and human potential movements of the mid-'60s through early-'70s. It's since been academically debated within psychology circles how effective it's therapeutic approach really is. see here
Sometimes referred to as the 'spiritual branch' of psychology, the discipline apparently seeks to formally study, promote and train transcendence of personal being through such things as mystical trances, peak experiences and other altered states -- enhanced spiritual awareness in general -- aided by focused deep breathing... and integrate methodology for fostering such transcendent mindstates into formalized, gazillion-dollars-an-hour psychotherapy profession.
Like Spock, they perhaps distrust emotions as irrational. And sadly, parted ways with one of branch's human-potential movement/humanistic roots, which had in more liberal-minded times incorporated mindful nudity into select group-therapy workshops.
Promising therapeutic breakthroughs were made once realizing the profound mind-body-spirit re-integration simple mindful nudity fostered in appropriate environment and under mindful direction. It enabled people to become profoundly more aware, sensitive, and present. (In the 60s, famously at Big Sur in California's Esalan Institute, as featured in national Life magazine.)
Fast-forward and...nope, they'd have none of that. Not in "their" Springs, no siree; don't even think about it. Oughta be ashamed; shades of Sodom and Gomorrah; nude's rude and crude, dude; oughta be eschewed and roundly boo-ed...
But then along with conscious breathwork they also threw into mix Judaeo-Christian tenets with all their baked-in body guilt and burden of original sin... putting a decided damper on anyone simply hoping to luxuriate in the simple yet rare opportunity in a perma-dressed world to get mindfully, unabashedly nekkid in a natural healing environment for a while...whether solo, as a couple, family and/or socially.
A peculiar amalgam indeed, one foot seemingly planted on relatively solid ground of innovative, growth-minded psychotherapy, the other in sinking quicksand of outmoded, guilt-based morality and attendant baggage of time-warped, restrictive mindsets.
The more impressionable might imagine a therapy session going something like this:
"All right, lie down on the couch and get fully comfortable; now breathe deep and -- no, not that comfortable, please leave your clothes on...[later] Well, praise the Lord! Now, how does this enhanced mindstate make you feel? Be specific and -- oh darn, time's up. Hold that thought til next session. By the way, your last check bounced; we'll need a card number this time."
Okay...in fairness, the system might well prove excellent therapy for any so inclined who can afford it and is maybe worthy of being cultivated -- in appropriate places.
But diverting the age-old prime focus Stewart Springs in order to facilitate it? A place so accessible and rich with healing energies that it naturally fostered altered consciousness, peak experiences, transcendent awareness, and profound body-mind-spirit healing?
...without any help from dry, super-structured workshop intensives and long-term instruction on how to get yourself and others enlightened: This week only, $2,000 off two-year credential program. Become a certified graduate of Institute and start making big bucks doing the same thing teaching and enlightening others!
Enlightening wallets anyhow.
No need to put God in a box...leastwise, not at the expense of countless longtime Springs fans and sea of others now deprived of its healing magic and receptive, open-circuit atmosphere, so long conducive to cultivating freebody breakthroughs into higher, more integrated awareness.
Perfect little Buddha crystal formation of Stewart Springs mineral water, photographed by Dr. > Emoto's team
Again, no doubt it might work fine in more consciousness-starved areas and profession-rich, neurosis-inducing urban scenes, but it's one mindbogglingly poor fit in northern bohemian wilds of the Future State of California, its denizens already soaring through the cosmos.
No coals needed in Newcastle, thank you.
'More than a peak experience'
One can maybe blame Mt. Shasta's chamber of commerce for long ago coming up with the classic slogan still posted on Interstate 5' southbound's vintage billboard: "Mt. Shasta -- More than a Peak Experience". The term 'peak experience' was of course coined by Abraham Maslow of the earlier humanistic movement that focused on fostering positive, transcendent wellbeing over looking for neuroses under every rock. No doubt at some point the sign had caught the eye of one of travelling, psychology-enamored group -- "Wow, the region's psych-friendly!" -- thus planting seed for the eventual snapping up of beloved Springs that had so long cried out for APPROPRIATE stewardship to redeem its legacy...
...and the current abysmal overhaul attempt by new, woefully misguided 'owners': too much nudity, too many trees, too much drumming, too many pagan cards, too much...aggrh, I need my shrink!
pick a rumor, any rumor...
Various overarching 'owner' intent, according to different rumors, have included transforming what was until late 2016 an incredibly popular rural healing and rejuvenating retreat into:
1. Sterile posh resort, serving as backdrop for Pneuma headquarters and transpersonal training classes, workshops, and related retreats. Suffering select outside groups willing to drink the Kool-Aid to help fund Institute and cover operating costs and perhaps recoup some of purchase price by leasing now spa-less grounds for events/retreats
2. Private domain; at some point gates slamming shut to entire public, privatizing Stewart Springs outright for exclusive use of Pneuma Institute and its sundry affiliations
Both disheartening prospects, last rumor especially filled with dread any who has treasured the realm, making one pray it isn't true -- or if true will fail miserably.
Whichever the case, in both scenarios the remedial first step in revamping operation was to get rid of the riff-raff: everyday alternative-culture friendly, freespirited visitors, the very ones who had supported and championed place since the renaissance Goodpasture-ownership era of 1970s, so much so that the place had reportedly started turning a healthy profit for first time ever in the last few years under 'owner' Foggy's absentee stewardship.
Such visitors naturally locked into the healing spirit of the land's powerful mineral waters and operation's (fitful) tradition of offering services with simple, unassuming spirit of service.
This in turn fostered a tenuously progressive social climate, one conducive for people from all walks of life, to enjoy letting go and tuning into deeper self and nurturing both inner child and higher being. Again, despite recent decades of profit-driven 'ownership' intent and resulting control-freak management so often crimping scene on subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) levels.
New 'owners' either couldn't connect dots or simply didn't want to, having a dandy dot matrix of their own: diluting focus and effectiveness of affordable body-mind-spirit therapy of time-honored spa regimen into a sideline money maker (for a while at least) to subsidize costs, while focusing on own pricey, effectiveness-debated clinical psychotherapy approach...
...and use place as international headquarters, running formal indoctrination workshops, from time to time enjoying it all to themselves as their own baby...all the while thanking the Lord for being
rich enough to rescue the place from those countercultural misfits who were ruining it for more deserving bourgeois to enjoy in an atmosphere befitting the dignity of their elevated stations in life. "Taupe...the walls must be taupe!"
It would now seem obvious the fox was left guarding the hen house. Re-purposing traditional spa therapy retreat to take out of circulation unfair, cheap, more expedient competition in the lucrative healing market...diverting focus onto own, pricey, over-intellectualized, full-chakra imbalanced, therapy regimen, while upgrading lodgings to lure booking groups that will embrace (or at least tolerate) disruptive changes.
Sounds like a plan. What could go wrong?
Some might view seeming stony attitude as, "Hey, we stole the Springs from you fair and square with our hard-earned cash. We're pursuing our own gig here now and whether you like it or not frankly doesn't concern us. It's our baby now. Accept the changes or go elsewhere. Have a nice day... [aside:] or not. Damn hippies, shameless nudists, pitiful pagans;...public service? gimmeabreak...mumble grumble..."
< an unabashed freebody lifestyle can be so unnerving to clothes-minded sensibilities
Even though they clearly have privatizing intent -- rather than just proving inept in trying to go more mainstream as one might've perversely hoped was the case -- it's possibly a simple matter of time before operation terminally hemorrhages red ink.
As word saturates planet how new 'owners' destroyed the historic refuge's fragile, tenuously-progressive spa culture and long healing traditions, they won't be able to entice enough undiscriminating mainstream hordes -- or workshop/retreat/concert event organizers -- to fill gaping void. Not in long run. Or keep any more mindful staff on board, those willing
to enforce and endure muted, tightly-controlled scene at minimum wage and not run off screaming by the second day.
With pneumatic tires of Pneuma's wilderness outpost vehicle thus springing serious leaks, they'd be prompted to either radically change their tune or, if remaining unyielding in hopes of transforming place to suit own private-minded agenda, concede defeat and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...putting place back on market for new stewards -- service-loving, nonprofit-minded folks -- to rescue...
...if any justice in the world at a discount for the mountain of destroyed good will -- that intangible, priceless business asset they heedlessly tossed off wholesale to accommodate their wildly inappropriate private intent. In so doing, again, they might thus salvage a bit of now-tattered integrity and credibility and thus ultimately gain an offhandedly positive role in Stewart Springs 146-year legacy.
They seemed to try to go all posh -- once-humble bathhouse was, until recently gutted, grandly referred to as the "Wellness Center" and A-frame's pedigree was upped to "the Chalet".
Now, even among would-be higher-end clientele and own groups, one hopes enough actually have enough social conscience to recognize when something's not right, something's seriously out of whack, and so refuse to support it.
As word keeps spreading how new 'owners' -- whether willfully or unwittingly seems moot now -- alienated thousands of former faithful fans and longtime supporters, poisoning place's free-spirited vibe and creating a veritable Matterhorn of bad karma for themselves and their ostensibly laudable cause, then 'owners' might, again, never gain enough steam to make
a viable go of whatever their non-public-minded fantasies for the place might be exactly.
Unable to successfully subsidize the depressingly over-organized, credentials-dispensing shtick there and tiring of pouring ever more cash into a bottomless money pit, again, they'll give up and seek headquarters elsewhere...putting place back on market -- ideally mustering enough consciousness to find appropriate buyers (or be approached by some)...thereby redeeming something of now-tattered integrity and ultimately having contributed a positive net legacy in Stewart Mineral Springs's ongoing evolution.
If, however, intent is indeed on privatizing and they've the bucks and wherewithal to forever run at a loss, and/or have finagled some legal tax write-off, on the surface it might look as if fans are screwed. As others have pointed out, assuming this is case boycotting and badmouthing only helped along the drastic transition away from serving as a public trust in spirit.
It would enable swinging fortress gates shut to the public that much sooner with minimal howling from disenfranchised. 2-15-18 Yelp review by Reality Check Z, of Napa, CA would be music to their ears: "Very poorly run operation. Stay away". Hee-hee, please stay away. Also, 2-22-18 Yelp from Share S., of Seattle. WA: "Worst place i have ever stayed. No heat i frooze to death awful management who does not care." Heh-heh, glad you got the message; keep those rants coming!
With fans thus giving up on once-magical, universal-spirited, affordable healing refuge (in mid 1990s on locals day saunas were $5, baths $10), and aware newcomer groups being duly repulsed, present detached absentee "owners" of new acquisition and their affiliated groups would be left alone to enjoy their legally-stolen paradise. But with what could only be hopelessly contentious un-peace of mind, sensing the reckoning force they created.
In any event, no bothersome demanding riff-raff blocking their midnight sun while pursuing their own particular quasi-spiritual teaching
model amid a refuge now safe from distasteful teeming hordes of everyday people so abominably clueless and unsympathetic to the crushing burdens and grave responsibilities of the deserving rich.
We'd then at least more fully appreciate how original First Nations soakers felt when their sacred medicine grounds were destroyed in 1870s massacre by intolerant settlers, likely stirred to frenzy by hired railroad guns. see history
Perhaps the best hope -- should this actually be intent and not simply an unfounded, assuming the worst, sky-is-falling rumor -- is to continue shaming through social media as so many have done. (see sweat lodge removal outrage re-posts on home page; also clothing-optional-ban re-posted rants, later this page.)
Offer them grand reality check of consequences IF misguided enough to think of going forward with such ill-suited use of place, having done too dastardly a deed to ever experience one SHRED of peace of mind or abiding enjoyment of place for having created one giant boatload of gnarly, stinking-to-high-heaven karma if actually ever fully closing to the public one of the planet's beloved and treasured healing retreats.
Assuming they do realize this in time (again, if indeed there is in fact such a plan), they'd either come around and change course or, if feeling they'd blown it too royally to even try redeeming scene, give up, re-sell, and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...
...guaranteed to be one more peaceful and fruitful, no more outraged public diverting focus to do good works for having to constantly put out brush fires of negative publicity...
.. and place can get back to genuine love-of-service spirit it was founded on so long ago.
Maybe some reader knows of possible someone(s) and can connect them -- or IS that someone, or like-minded group. Ideally a small contingent of so-inclined Springs fans might in time work with buyer(s), offering focused, informed support,donate resources, making available interest-free seed money as needed for operational expenses, and brainstorming do-able ways to set place up and develop committed community support and volunteer work-trade options...thus establishing an informed, fully staffed, dedicated and transparent operation almost from the very get-go.
Stating the obvious: the more former fans visualize place beina a fine-tuned, legally-chartered nonprofit mineral springs retreat/resort, the sooner such a vision can actually manifest.
'Owner' change at first seemed so promising
Despite initial promise of what at first appeared enlightened intent by new ownership as of 1-19-16 -- first in 34 years despite wild epidemic of false rumors to contrary circulating for decades, and place having enough charm to spare for first-timers to enjoy, blissfully ignorant of relative shangri-la place once was -- things are now unspeakably dispirited to anyone who ever enjoyed it in mellower times.
...to point myriad, including writer, vow never to set foot in place again, not until 'owners'' hearts miraculously melt -- or far more likely, they give up misguided plans and sell to new, more progressive-minded stewards. Or, if indeed hellbent on eventually privatizing and shutting fortress gates and actually succeeding in achieving their overall, woefully dismal goals (though hard to imagine a just universe allowing it), perhaps never.
What's most galling is how, in the name of proclaimed pursuit of inner peace and world enlightenment, they could so mindlessly erase the rich quasi-bohemian social climate that place's myriad fans and staunch supporters had lovingly built up over the decades, a climate that aided open-minded visitors in often having transcendent experiences and life-changing breakthroughs.
Again, it was a people's culture that had evolved despite profit-minded focus of absentee 'owner' of previous 34 years, but one who, saving grace, was liberal-minded enough to let late local manager Mary H. and family run place to suit visitor preferences, which eventually included clothing-optional. He happily realized that droves of open-circuit, free-spirited and growth-minded travelers the world over either seemed to totally resonate with it, quickly learned to, or at least tolerated situation as the way things were -- as do visitors to any well-established clothing-optional healing resort.
At the risk of stating the obvious once more: the former atmosphere embraced mother earth's healing power by becoming one with the elements, free of society's mandatory cloth cover-ups, making for WORLDS easier and faster purifying, healing and rejuvenating.
There was ZERO need to dryly analyze spiritual influences on psyche or pursue any particular approach to enlightenment or salvation to exclusion of others' own unique awareness, lifestyle, or belief systems, as now seems underway...all in name of an unwieldy, often impersonal scientific discipline...one so oddly overlaid and entangled with the claptrap of various organized religions.
Altering grounds to mirror 'ownership's' more conservative ways and private-minded re-purposing intent obviously precluded (before scrapping bathhouse operation) letting visitors enjoy place any more for having the option to sauna nude, skinnydip in creek, or sunbathe au natural -- even if receiving profoundly more benefits in the process...healing benefits long accustomed to and embraced by countless fans from everywhere on the planet for decades.
Or visit mineral water source gazebo to center and reflect and maybe leave prayer and love offerings, building up momentum of realm's healing medicine wheel, merrily spinning 'round. Or be inspired by time-enchanted divining cards during purification in bathhouse, helping activate and reinforce higher consciousness in the moment, not years later during $200+/hour shrink session in some obscure urban outpost. Or experience life-changing miracle in sacred traditional sweat lodge, connecting participants with deeper-most, prehistoric roots of the American continent.
Not that they were actually thinking this, but it sometimes seemed their overarching attitude and strategy essentially boiled down to something like:
"Hey, if everyday visitors have illuminating and liberating experiences on their own, in good part for being allowed the freedom to gallivant about in their birthday suits, it'll make our own vested formalized method on how to cure what ails you look pretty damn lame.
"Can't have that; we'd appear irrelevant, maybe even stodgy. Would-be enrollees in classes wouldn't be anywhere nearly as attracted and support operation costs. Gotta dial down scene to make our own shtick, with goal of 'profoundly reintegrat[ing] body-mind-soul on higher level', actually look liberating -- or we're sunk."
"How does that make you feel?"
As said, traditional psychoanalysis all too commonly found festering neuroses under every rock, maladies, needing slow curing through long pricey analytical sessions. Even though new approach focuses more on positive-awareness growth and attuning to one's heart and higher spirit, it still seems so locked into long-term, dry, controlled procedure that could all too easily straitjacket Divine Spirit's wild infinite nature and rapid transformative healing power.
What appears to have created the current spa-culture destroying dilemma is 'owners' being so smitten by and vested in scientific methodology that they lost touch with own inner child...that wild, freedom-loving being with innate, all-inclusive compassion and enthusiasm, qualities vital in running any heart-centered purifying and healing service like Stewarts...rather than, sadly, before closing bathhouse outright becoming control-freaks forcing mandatory cover-up, turning place into a watered-down resort only toying with radical purification and healing and transformation, as it were gingerly testing the healing waters with one's big toe rather than jumping in with both feet.
It might seem new outfit has so intellectualized and bureaucratized the process of achieving an enlightened state of mind that it's fairly lost sight of the spiritual law that the end never justifies the means...that, in the process of so trying, any would-be integrity and lofty intent is neutralized and voided.
Verdict in the Court of Public Opinion
Overwhelming evidence supports a verdict that new 'ownership' betrayed place's public-minded healing spirit -- again, no matter if re-purposing was done in ignorance of divine law or willful rebellion -- while imposing hard worldly edict of 'Whoever has the gold makes the rules, deal with it -- greater good? gimme a break!':
Exhibit A: scrapping super-therapeutic 17-year clothing-optional policy
Exhibit B: ridding springs gazebo of love and prayer offerings altar
Exhibit C: ending 45-year weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremony
Exhibit D: slashing take of masseuses and increasing take on consigned gift shop items
Exhibit E: no longer offering employees free monthly bath, a decades-old tradition
Exhibit F: clear-cutting over an acre of mature trees on grounds above main road below cabins, for new septic system leach field for bathhouse greywater, pumped across creek. (surely a more ecological solution was out there)
Exhibit G: removal of rich assortment of inspiring divining cards from bathhouse lobby table
Exhibit H: ending spa operation permanently
One shudders to think what a next exhibit could be...
If ultimate plan is to privatize and close place outright to the great unwashed masses, as now appears the case by dismantling the bathhouse fixtures ("Hey, that's valuable real estate's going to waste"), perhaps they've only been trying to piss everyone off all along. That way nobody would mind if the gates actually DO slam shut and new signs greet trekkers, basically saying:
Go Away - Private Property - Trespassers prosecuted - No Bliss for You -
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere - What Sacred Waters?
Over-commercial, conventional-minded ways of recent decades at Springs, so rife with authoritarian stances it seldom even bothered to mask milking the place blind, has long interfered with earnest original focus of place's pioneer namesake founder: relaxed purification, healing, and rejuvenation in the tranquil arms of nature. Simply and affordably. And before that, centuries of peaceful, reverent sharing of healing land and waters by First Nations people.
Fans of place, including writer, tried making the best of a bad situation, and for long while were fitfully successful as nature's wild and free spirit prevailed. For former absentee San Franciscan owner, John Foggy, beyond relentless profit focus, appeared something of an easy-going, liberal-minded Libran who let many things be.
Since recent intolerable developments, former 34 year regime, flawed as it was, looks pretty damn good now. Can just hear Foggy chuckling, "Betcha miss me now, huh?"
Since dumbfounding sea change in operations, writer has obviously changed tone and focus of entire site. Sweat lodge ban flood of spitting-nails-mad, reposted rants, most of which had ephemeral original-site life, soon disappearing, are plunked on home page rather than risk getting buried here; they perhaps constitute the strongest collective voice of feelings towards a beloved Springs and its traditions ever expressed.
Re-posted clothing-optional rants and raves still reside below; old slams over bygone management were moved to more rants and raves, along with some of latest reviews, page also exploring plight of under-utilized restaurant and offering a grand metaphysical/historical take on place's checkered history of pronounced light and dark energies.
~ Despite all, dreams of
peaceful planet persist.
Note: most of re-posted reviews below and on More Rants & Raves page and Yet More Rants & Raves, were originally posted long before lamentable sea change in operation...many even before fair-warning harbinger of clothing-optional ban that took effect 11-1-16. Such reviews go back to FAR different times.
Again, many such posters would no doubt feel like retracting or reversing raves in heartbeat if visited now (and some indeed have) -- which was obviously not recommended unless in denial, thinking plight was surely exaggerated, or morbid curiosity compelled witnessing and verifying heartbreaking changes firsthand.
Glowing posts are left up both to remind people of what a treasure the place was AND to
spark imagination on what it might be again...
...IF enough fans INSIST on it, through positive visualization of a perfect stewardship rescuing storied realm.
* * *
Rants & Raves
Rustic nature - Soak limits - Water Quality - Former Friendly Staff - Countercultural Flavor - Laid Back or Not?
Surf through various trip review sites like yelp and tripadvisor in pre-covid times and you read wildly opposing Stewart Springs takes. Everything from "Heaven on earth" to "I'll never go there again!" Understandably it made for one roller coaster of a ride, leaving one to wonder how everybody could possibly be talking about the same place.
Of course, one bore in mind that some reviews were posted ages ago. Different times, different managements -- even, now, different 'owners'. Stewart Springs, like people and planet as whole, is always changing. It has its good moments and bad moments; good days and bad days; good years and bad years. Plus, everyone brings own unique awareness into mix -- often with expectations, reasonable or not, happily fulfilled, wildly exceeded, or utterly crushed.
That said, it might still seem odd how two people visiting the same day might be 180 degrees apart in experiences and estimations. This could lead one to conclude some reviewers were perhaps tad snooty, not in touch with inner bohemian, holding up unreasonable expectations and irrelevant comparisons to more upscale spas and amenities impossible to provide -- many roundly undesired anyhow -- while others were more easy going, nature-attuned and rural friendly, open to embracing rustic environs and focused on enjoying having a therapeutic spa and retreat amid glad tidings of nature.
Is 'rustic' a bad word?
WorkshopAttie of Monterey, CA bemoaned how, "For $130 a day, we had to build a fire in the woodstove as there was NO HEATING..." (Venerable wood heat doesn't seem to count.)
And Google reviewer Christian George, in glorious contradiction, groused, "I'm all for rustic, but no phones, no TV, and NO WIFI! Did I fall off the face of the earth?" [yes, and many relished the feeling]
Also: "We had planned to have a wonderful experience and really start our vacation with a relaxing trip to the mineral baths, get massages and stay in the woods. Our experience was to the contrary..." (KnitVallejo, Vallejo)
50-50 review: "The hot springs is magical if you come just for the hot spring and meditate on the forest and creek side. But the accommodation is terrible." (Unattributed Yelp review)
In contrast, countless happier campers raved:
"The place has an amazing rustic charm, and is the real deal as a mineral springs." (1Shastagirl Redding)
"Funky and perfectly rustic and remote. We love everything about the experience. Reminds us of a more authentic, down to earth time. Absolutely healing..." (Nina Hyatt, Google review)
"Extremely relaxing. Nice people, they're not crazy, they're just not from a city." (S.F., CA)
"I absolutely love the peaceful tranquility of this special place..." (Crystal Dawn)
"I don't go through Northern California without a stop here. A magical place... If I could live just up the road, I would." (Psychedelic_, Bloomington, Indiana)
"I must say, I wanted rustic and boy, did I ever get it!" (Alexia J., Montreal, Canada)
"The place is absolutely the most magical..."
John R., Clay, MO)
"...a little run down and shabby. But this is the charm of it. Makes me feel more relaxed than somewhere fancy." (Cyndi Johnston)
"This place attracts people from all walks of life, all with the same intention -- to heal." (A Google User)
"If you're someone like me for whom periods of 'unplugging' are both feasible and valuable, you will definitely appreciate this setting..." (WaterViolet)
"One of the coolest mineral springs I've ever been to!!" (Kiki S., Los Osos, CA)
"The place is a rustic gem, beloved by many, with countercultural overtones." (Anonymous, hotspringsdirectory.blogspot.com)
"There is nowhere in the world that is like it, I have been to countless spas, banyas and sanctuaries and this is my absolute favorite..." (Jasmine, Sebastopol, CA)
"We are glad that they have not caved to any pressure to install TV, Internet and telephones in any rooms. It is really wonderful to UNPLUG and enjoy the nature..." (naz s., Redwood City, US)
"...although it was a short two night stay, it was very profound. I can still feel the 'high' from this place." (Rose R., Willows US)
"What an excellent spring!...the grounds are amazing...and the stream that runs through it is absolutely joyful." (Miranda D., Santa Fe, NM)
"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift. I was enchanted by my time here."
(Jill B - San Louis Obispo, CA)
"Rustic but perfect at same time. For those of you sensitive to beautiful healing energy you are going to love it. For those of you expecting a four star resort you will not be getting that! For myself, I would go back in a heartbeat." (thefunns)
"This is a relaxing rustic retreat from the rest of the world...if you want to recharge your batteries then you have found the right oasis. "
(John 434 on YellowBot)
"It's a place I return to over and over..."
"I was completely charmed by this simple and relaxing gem of a place..."
(Jamie H., Alamo, CA Yelp review)
"The actual spring house (up the creek) completely stoned me out -- great energy there." (Cee Jay 60-27, Aromas, CA)
"...never tire of it. I love going on a beautiful drive past the horses and the cows, up a mountain in the forest to a beautiful secluded rustic mineral spa. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes wonderfully blustery. When the weather is cold, it's lovely to sit by the fire. When it is sunny, it's exhilarating to jump in the creek. I love the ritual of going from a mineral bath, sauna and then the creek...
< Former office manager Danielle with long-time bathhouse mascot, Mr. Beechum. "My grandmother always told me, 'Love what you do and you'll never work another day in your life." "Meow."
"...Yes it is 'funky' not your upscale experience, but it is way nice and all the other guests seemed 'chill'...if you are sensitive to nudity go someplace else." (WanderlustSal)
"If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people." (BoyneDefender)
"Pretty and unpretentious" (SubjectTravel)
"A magical place, really. The accommodations are simple and rustic and the mineral baths are out of this world." (Psychedelic-Doughboy)
"An awesome retreat that was so good for this soul." (Darla M., Bend, OR)
Conclusion: some relish being immersed in the rustic simplicity of the place and seriously unwinding, perhaps adventurously building a fire in simple cabin's wood stove to stay cozy on a cold snowy night. But others take uber-urbanized umbrage having to resort to such primitive labor intensive heating methods, expecting conventional amenities and constant pampering, even in the middle of the woods, and had lived to gripe about no hair dryer or wi-fi or hordes of shameless naked people despoiling an otherwise charming landscape.
long op/ed aside
(feel free to skip)
Split-focus made operation challenging;
Diverse visitor expectations brought to fore the split focus and constant challenge even the most dedicated mineral springs resort faces. So it can terminally over-complicate things if owner directive causes over-wound preoccupation in maximizing profit, making for seriously off-putting schitzy management energies that, naturally, adversely affect any fuller enjoyment of one's stay.
But even if latter wasn't the case, running both a healing day mineral springs scene and comfortable overnight lodgings can be trey tricky. Unless stay intent includes relaxing into focused spa and/or meditative communing with nature and/or mindful workshops/retreats, resulting disconnected visitor energy can all too easily muddle management team's focus. It pulls it in two directions at once: Healing place, Motel 6; healing place, Motel 6...
At Stewarts, would-be flowing organic scene could turn hopelessly disjointed and watered down when drive to generate profit at every turn totally eclipsed original, focused, purifying and healing intent.
Visitors expecting typical amenity-loaded lodgings, with spa perhaps an offbeat bonus -- or, especially, if coming for lodgings alone -- were bound to be disappointed at the basic, sometimes threadbare accommodations.
In happy contrast, visitors intent on purifying, healing, rejuvenating and enjoying immersing in nature -- age-old vision of place and, lest one forget, original reason for operation (after eons of prehistoric healing use), lodgings developed solely to support purifying spa treatments and unwinding in woods -- were more than willing to take break from TV, phone, wi-fi, etc. and embrace lodgings. No matter how bare-bones, just so long as basic creature comforts and amenities were covered. It was part and parcel of the backwoods healing retreat experience.
Can place's original intent be
Original dedicated purpose of Stewart's - - offering healing waters and restful rustic respite from cares of the world -- had, again, been gradually fading due to no more of six post-Stewart ownerships resonating any better with founding vision since pioneering reign of Stewart family's dedicated 78-years ended in early 1950's. To the point place seemed to have segued into more of quirky, relatively cheap, fashionably off-beat, rustic quasi-resort with extra-pay option to take the waters.
More's the pity. Writer once naively hoped newest 'absentee ownership', together with fresh dedicated management, would at last return cart to back of horse and reclaim vision of namesake, wife and daughter and her husband, who between them ran a rare oasis of down-home, essentially non-profit service operation for four generations...
...hoping they'd emulate their profound reverence for the special realm, echoing that of natives before them for time untold, and re-energize the non-profit in spirit, service-first focus, as likewise observed in varying degree by the Masons in 1950's and 1960's and by the Goodpastures in 1970's (see History). One that enables visitors to partake of realm's sacred healing and grounding power without off-putting over-commercial headwinds or serious re-purposing intent putting damper on potential for profound healing and life-changing experiences by diverse visitorship.
Obviously, writer's no longer holding his breath in light of drastic and mindnumbingly callous actions dictated by absentee 'stewards' that have effectively disconnected the very heart and soul of the place.
Paging lucky seventh. We know you're out there. Destiny is calling.
Even a conscious for-profit ownership instinctively realizes there must be a critical balance at Stewarts, seeking that elusive sweet spot between making reasonable return on tied-up capital and visitors most fully benefiting from place. If lacking, if inappropriate monetary and/or narrowed focus and privatizing intent dominate, then chaotic and sorrowful karma of place's tragic massacre of original soakers in 1870s re-surfaces...as surely as night follows day. Any well-meaning but clueless 'stewards' are left feeling 'Wha' happened?'
Better than a for-profit model...as a nonprofit, place could blossom in luxuriant profusion, formally liberated from any depressing material- gain focus...which can, if consciousness is sketchy, all to easily become an anti-life force of some sort. (Telling: some Natives called paper money dead frog skins; western settlers nick-named dollars bucks after hides of slain deer once used as unit of trade.)
Urge the universe to manifest an awakened wealthy soul, couple, or group, happy to rescue place from jaws of disaster and at last legally establish the realm as a nonprofit operation. One dedicated to purifying, healing and rejuvenating, with psyched support and input of community and every aware or awakening visitor making a pilgrimage up the hill.
Odds are in our favor it's not too late.
For of the 145 years of combined wise and foolish stewards, 54% formed the dedicated efforts of founder and daughter and another 17% under earnest stewardship of masonic lodge and Goodpastures. That's a total of some 70%...versus only 30% for recent profit-driven and/or seimi-private, shtick-minded focus.
So the greater long-term momentum overwhelmingly remains towards dedicated effort serving the public as an affordable place of purification, healing and rejuvenation!
This amazing free-flowing energy can be re-activated IF enough fans of place INSIST on it, collectively visualizing it happening with stone-pure intent, under dedicated new FUTURE ownership.
That's the dream.
Do people who cherish the realm want it enough to actually manifest it?
Yet more endless raves:
"I love Stewart Mineral Springs [not for lodgings but]...for the spiritual power of the place and the healing properties of the land and mineral waters." (Diane Elliot)
"...absolutely the most magical place. I stayed here last night in this really cool, rustic cabin. The staff is amazing and friendly. If you want fancy and frilly, this place isn't for you but if u want pure and simple natural beauty, come here. It will blow your mind." (John R., Clay, US)
Reviewer Boyne Defender of Detroit, MI summed up place so neatly, reprising it here: "If you are looking for a pampered spa, this is not for you. If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people. I have had a great time each and every time I have been there."
Another qualified rave: "I love this place! It is not fancy, schmanzy but a great woodsy, spiritual place...the moment you come in to the grounds you feel yourself relax." (Carla C., Weed, CA.)
< Amazing gravity-defying rock sculpture by cold plunge, summer 2012, builder unknown. Like to think it was playful earth spirits, creating it overnight to blow minds of mortals on arriving the next day
And: "Once I got snowed in here for a few days right after Christmas. Not a bad place to be stuck!" (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)
"Truly sacred land." (A Groggel, S.F., CA)
"The whole scene imparts an incredible sense of relaxation and rebirth." (Kitty Case)
"...sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta ..." (Doug. S., Pacifica, US)
"Wonderful rustic resort. Totally off the beaten path...place has a magical feel to it..." (Crystal S., Davis, CA)
"It is not your 'upscale' Napa-type hot springs and I love that!" (Unattributed, 'not recommended' Yelp review)
vs. more rants
Others have not been so charitable. One felt rich barbarian spa freaks had stormed the gates, crowding out everyday people.
And from Martinez, CA, an old post by shastadaisey:
"The earth goddesses have now been replaced by rude people in BMWs who leave you standing while they lay in the sauna. The sage weavers [smudge bundlers] have been replaced by signs with rules. It used to be a wonderful relaxing experience, but... truly peaceful earth-loving folks can't afford to participate anymore..."
Also: "I've loved this place for 20 years, but am disappointed in the recent changes. " (Benicia B., S.F.)
If indeed place is an energy vortex that many believe it to be, amplifying whatever vibrations are brought into realm, then it's no wonder such diverse reactions occur. People from all walks of life have been attracted to place, each day a unique blend of energies: expectations and head spaces, mood of times, day's staff, 'owner' support and involvement or lack thereof, manager mindfulness, energy flow de jour, weather, shifting mass consciousness, world events, one's financial means, economy in general, Mercury retrograde,water heater going on strike, moon void-of-course, bad hair day...
You call this a friggin' campground?
Some campers were sorely disappointed at lack of camping amenities...and rightly so, often there being no handy drinking/washing water, shower, or bathroom better than porta-potty anywhere by:
"Camp sites are not much more than a parking spot for $35 a nite." (Juliane, Google review)
"Quite uninviting...no drinking or washing water anywhere near the campsites." (Bistra, tripadvisor review)
Camp/picnic tables were only added around 2001, around same time fire pits were removed as a fire-safety precaution. For a while sleeping cots were provided, then it was back to dealing with the hard, cold ground.
Place Better or Worse?
One said they were "...pleased to discover that it was so much nicer than it was a few years ago" and that "...the resort is managed by caring people who are restoring it with ecological consciousness." "[M]anagers have made some much needed and lovely improvements". (Betsy46, Sacramento, CA).
Another: "One of my favorite places on the entire West Coast."
(Travis P., Ashland, OR)
"Simply put, this is the BEST place on Earth. If you are looking for a sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta with the astounding, and in fact miraculous, addition of a twin (female/male) underground spring of healing mineral waters all offered to you in a rustic, laid back and very affordable way, with much love, then this IS the place for you. The bathhouse experience is incredibly healing and rejuvenating, the grounds are gorgeous and the accommodations are comfortable and cozy. We love the cabins. I cannot recommend Stewart Mineral Springs highly enough..." (Doug S., Pacifica, CA - obviously pre-sea-change review)
For every rave a rant
"I was met cordially with the information that things were 'much better than they used to be.' I had used the baths about 5 years before and thought they were great", going on to say not so now.
Or: "...in spite of lovely renovations to both the bathhouse and the sauna, the service has sadly declined."
One really discouraging pan: "Overpriced, disgusting place. I didn't sleep a wink..." (Emma L., Lechtenberg)
2017 visitor balthazer b, S.F., gave mixed review, put off by A-frame accommodations, sauna not hot enough, mineral water irritating skin, but enjoying the plunge, left to muse, "Odd that the best part about the place was running out to jump in a creek."
While one enthused about how "mineral baths, sauna and river cold plunge were all fantastic, the best of that kind of thing I've ever experienced anywhere," another griped about jagged rocks at "outright dangerous" creek plunge, along with stains in tubs.
And bemoaned the limited soaking time and open hours:
"I spent my time worrying about how much time I had left, rather than relaxing into the experience." (Benicia B., S.F., CA)
"Extremely limited bathhouse hours..." (Michael B., Santa Fe, NM)
"We checked in at 5:45 and were disappointed to find out that the bathhouse closed at 4:30 pm and didn't open until 12:00 pm the next day. That meant that we wouldn't be able to soak, the main reason that we chose this resort." (unattributed Yelp review "not currently recommended" at bottom of page - might have to click a few times to bring up)
One especially poignant, more recent post reflected how Springs's limited mineral water supply and tubs had kept more visitors from enjoying therapeutic soaks:
"I reserved a place to sleep here after climbing Mt. Shasta knowing that our group of 5 would be exhausted and need recovery in the baths. We arrived and were surprised with the information that there were not enough baths for us and that they were closing them down two hours early. We decided against staying because there was really no point if we were not able to use the facilities to recover our bodies. I was charged the full rate for the few minutes we spent in the office before leaving.
"I guess this is their policy but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up an hour away from Stewart Mineral Springs and have always been really curious to go, which makes this experience devastatingly disappointing.
"I walked away with tears of disappointment and a much lighter wallet."
-- April L., San Diego
another inevitable sidebar
(as always, feel free to skip)
Limited but Powerful Mineral Water
On surface, time limit on soaks might appear an understandable concern. Especially considering that most rural mineral spring resorts of Northwest allow unlimited soaking, albeit mostly in self-serve, communal pools.
Many Eastern spring resorts with private tubs have similar time limits -- some for only 30 minutes and for more coin than Stewart's more leisurely 75 minutes. But any limit can be off-putting if tub enthusiast is hoping to relax and totally forget about time for a while.
But developed springs with communal mineral pools have far greater replenishment rates. Ashland, OR's Jackson Wellsprings, for example, changes water in Olympic-sized pool each week (reportedly -- and understandably -- diluted with fresh) and full-strength hot mineral pool twice a week; even showers are mineral water. They likely have thousands times more mineral water to play with, as probably do most others in wider region. If we did too there'd maybe be less time restriction and more tubs. (But probably not, for reason soon to follow.)
As many spring enthusiasts, given choice, far prefer communal soak experience in sunshiny out-of-doors over any private indoor private bathtub inside open-topped, low-ceiling-ed, noise-echoing hallway stall. Stewart's might've long ago developed a mineral water pool too had it the water to play with. (Though, being cold water, ambient-temp pool might not have been popular except in hottest weather.)
But magic elixir wells up at super modest clip, sometimes only gallon or two a minute, requiring close rationing. And it must be propane heated at no small expense to boot (yes, it is a cold mineral spring), making each drop even more precious.
To main point of time limit: Springs' mineral water can be powerful -- sometimes almost industrial strength. (Potency varies throughout year for reasons uncertain.) Well-traveled soakers report it's the strongest mineral water they've ever experienced. Tall claim posted on sign inside entrance is perhaps less than your typical mineral springs hyperbole.
Some people perhaps hadn't learned to appreciate how various mineral springs' waters can differ. The unaware, especially longtime bathtub enthusiasts addicted to soaking for hours and merrily scrubbing at will, could easily overdo, losing benefit and gaining skin irritation lasting for days if not weeks:
"I did not hear that I should soak only a limited time in that water, so I stayed 50 minutes. I have been itchy and miserable for 10 days. Please put those signs someplace where no one will miss them..." -- Bets S., Talent, OR Yelp
More than 30 minutes total soak time could be pushing luck unless well-attuned to water properties, proper way to soak, and listening to one's body.
It might've helped to think of Stewart's silica-rich water as liquid glass crystal, scouring off dead skin, opening pores to enable beneficial minerals to soak in and freer sweating out of toxins in sauna. (See list of minerals from analysis in Emile Frank's article, Part 2.)
Also, while not justifying reason in itself, setting time limit does allow more people to enjoy soak when things get mega-busy (one formerly could count on it middle of any three-day holiday weekend year-round), there being only dozen tubs. Plus it serves as way to track hygienic cleanliness of tubs between use. (In other, self-serve, no-time-limit springs like Orr, Sierra, and Mercy, tubs are user-cleaned before and after each use.)
Oldtimers remember slow days with the time-stopping luxury of claiming one's tub for four to six hours -- real oldtimers, for the entire day -- leisurely stretching out mini-soaks, slowly acclimating to water's power and proper soaking method and maybe having lunch or taking leisurely hike between soaks. (Or soaked for hours on end, having hide of rhino or wisdom to stay absolutely still.)
There's a rural legend that, beyond one-time outdoor Jacuzzi, an outdoor communal mineral soak once existed on grounds. For sure, there was once an over-sized indoor tub in the 1970s -- former tub rooms 3 and 4, for a while later two dressing rooms -- big enough for three or four to immerse frames in. Rumor has it that during its lingering purple-haze heyday more than a few doobies and vino jugs got passed around.
It's the Water!
Many noted the quality of mineral water:
"It felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to. It is slippery and a little gritty. Odd, but blissful.
"I felt no need for a massage after that......felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to. " (Deborah D., Redwood City, CA)
< Dr. Emoto team photo of spring water's molecular structure. Some think it looks like circle of little blissed Buddhas
"The water made my skin really soft (also it really improved the condition of my stubborn psoriasis)." (Natalie L., Redding, CA)
"They claim it has the highest quality mineral water in the world! [Just all of America actually.] I must agree in some ways...I am very fair skinned, so I have to be careful. Sometimes the minerals are so strong it almost feels like I'm sunburned afterwards..." (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)
"The mineral waters are amazing!" (Isabel Martinez)
"Water is the strongest I've ever been in [emphasis added]. If you stay in too long, your skin begins to peel off. At its worst, it can be like soaking in bleach." (Tim Wu, author and well-soaked traveler, from his site exploring global hot springs)
"...the mineral baths are out of this world. I love the way my body buzzes after a soak..." (Psychedelic_Doughboy)
"...Mother Nature's healing properties at their best." (Brookings,OR)
"The experience was amazing. I didn't want to leave!!!" (LIBLKS, Paso Robles, CA)
One, while enjoying water, took exception to bathhouse setup:
"When you go for a mineral bath you get your own bath tub in a private room. The water is amazing, but honestly, I didn't like the isolation within a small room [open-topped stall, actually]....while still being able to hear people in the other rooms." (Angela F., Berkeley.)
During former, pre-sea-change ownership, many visitors raved about place's now bygone staff:
"We have very nice young people caring for us..." (1shastagirl)
"The office staff was EXCELLENT! They were kind and helpful...all the kind people who work there...made...trip PERFECT." (DarlaM)
"For all of the years that I have been coming, the staff has always been friendly and kind. I bring friends and family. They love it, too!"
-- S.S., San Diego, CA yelp review
"Staff was extremely helpful" (Persephone2010)
< Former bath attendant Ally's 5-year-old twin girls would trail close behind, like ducklings in pond, as she made her rounds
"Staff is made up of dedicated and friendly people" (Ori977)
"Staff seems to genuinely honor the spirituality of the place and the peace experienced there is pervasive." (Nearyme, TripAdvisor)
"Respectful staff who make it clear their goal is to facilitate each guest's peaceful and restful stay. I think SMS is awesome!" (Kae L)
"The staff were very friendly and helpful" (Lizypeterson, TripAdvisor)
bathhouse attendant Lara >
"Compassionate friendly staff." (Celinda Carlisle Cheskawich)
"...exceptional customer service...accommodating, friendly, professional..." (Mrsmueller)
"...helpful and friendly" (Margain)
"...front desk staff were pleasant and efficient. Never came across a person who didn't gave a certain joy about working at the SMS." (Brookings Oregonian)
"The vibe of the staff was a welcome balance of attentive and unassuming." (Waterviolet)
"I can't speak warmly enough about the land and the people who watch over it." (Andy G)
"...the tender loving care of the Goddesses in the Bath House are something beyond words." (Shasta Visitor) (from Netherlands)
yet another rambling aside
Some might not realize that the Sixties countercultural movement, with its radical lifestyle changes by untold millions creating global cultural impact, was in fact only the exponential expansion of an earlier turn of 20th century movement begun in Germany, known as the Natural Man movement.
And THAT earlier movement was, in turn, a widespread protest over the massive disruption created by the industrial revolution that had suddenly prevented people from living in long-accustomed proximity and relative harmony with nature.
Situation had become intolerable. The movement included celebrating getting back to nature, radical body freedom, saunas and mineral baths, massage (until recently all features of Stewart's), communalism, raw food diet, feminism, loose fitting clothes and resisting draft and public schooling. (Sounds a lot like late '60s/early '70s, no?) Including such luminaries as Herman Hesse and Isadora Duncan, it laid the energetic groundwork for later back-to-nature countercultural
movement that, despite gross media distortions and snarky dismissal as flaky, ephemeral social phenomenon, helped spread a more natural, holistic, liberated mindset onto a global level. (Check out well-illustrated book Children of the Sun, by Gordon Kennedy, out-of-print but around.)
Big duh: mindful mineral soaking and sauna-ing with clothing optional are essential parts of alternative natural healing and so naturally attract nature-loving alternative-minded.
But, again, what IS "alternative culture" anymore?
Fifty years ago, trying to discourage Spring visits from rebellious wild hippie-types due to often low spending habits, smash-the-system attitudes and then shockingly free ways, might have seemed a valid effort to ensure making the operation inviting and safe to more respectable and solvent mainstream visitors.
No longer. Since then, the essence of the harbinger countercultural influence has gone viral, spreading like wildfire to fringes of mainstream consciousness, diversified lifestyles of growth-minded people everywhere en masse seeking more mindful, holistic ways of living.
Witness the soaring interest in yoga, transcendental meditation, conscious diet, cannabis and hemp healing, recycling, pre-cycling, alternate energy, appropriate livelihood, simpler living, tiny houses -- ALL championed ages ago by the hippie culture... along with an unabashed delight in getting nekkid in nature on nice sunny days.
Flash: Over the last half century, countercultural influence has been transforming mainstream culture -- the ever-expanding life-affirming part of it -- as if people are awakening from long sleep, while others continue slumbering, oblivious to unfolding miracle.
Radical body freedom is, obviously, no longer the sole domain of so-called hippies, naturists, and stereotypical gated volleyball-ing nudists. Not so subtly proving point, shown here is Spencer Tunick's art installation, with some of 6,000 naked people in Mexico City, happening around 2006.
Body freedom is one of many emerging lifestyle preferences (or high on one's check-out list) of myriad health and freedom minded humans of all walks of life, cultures and incomes, all around the world.
Hence Stewart became such an incredibly popular go-to spot at dawn of new millennium. Besides being set in a charming region, rich in history and possessing special water, it was one of a select few spas open-minded and enlightened enough to permit visitors to experience the simple yet profound joy of getting unabashedly bare in nature, enabling taking a mini-vacation from depressingly perma-dressed society, regaining simple childlike innocence and becoming one with healing elements among kindred spirits, amping palliative benefits of mind-body-spirit reintegration. Even if one opted to keep covered, the liberated air itself was a healing balm.
rants and raves cont'd
"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." - Van Gogh
"If you live in a van and love Burning Man, this place may not be right for you..." -- online review
San Francisco reviewer Byron Gordon groused, "Beware. This place operates on limited hours..." He and his arrived at four on day bathhouse closed at five and didn't re-open til noon next day, too late for them so they never got looked forward to bath. (He claimed he wasn't told of open hours on making reservations.)
His verdict: "This place lacks budget and it shows... Restricting hours during the summer months during the longest days of the year is ridiculous..."
and yet another rambling aside ("Make them stop")...
On former limited water,
hours, & staff
Place in 1990's hobbled along for a seeming eternity on a water-heating system so anemic it often only supplied three tubs' worth at a time. This was due largely to owner reportedly finding a damaged heater at 90% off, trying to save money and hoping it would work. Alas, it often didn't. Countless would-be soakers were kept on hold in sauna so long, while more water slowly heated, they'd finally give up and demand refunds.
Manager Mary wisely saved refund receipts and presented double fistfuls to owner during annual visit to show it might be good business to spring for a system upgrade -- at which point he went whole hog and had late, great plumbing ace Matt Reed custom design and build a grand heating system enjoyed today. (Or could be again, anyhow.) Certain special-made plumbing components were imported from Europe that wouldn't be affected by water's mineral content.
Thank goodness such disconnects appeared only sporadically. Rest of time place could run like clockwork. Among other operational refinements, bathhouse (and office) since 2000 began staying open evenings on Thursday thru Saturday during peak season. (Roughly May thru October)
Of course, crucially, it also used to get far fewer visitors. Place wasn't on the map, receiving merest trickle of present visitor volume that can sorely tax mineral water supply.
Again, Stewart's mineral water is far more limited than places like Orr, Harbin, Breitenbush, and Jackson Wellsprings. Reducing operational hours help stretch supply, so expectant visitors all day on road are less likely to be told, "Sorry, just ran out." (But, alas, sometimes instead finding place closing at seemingly ridiculous early hour.)
A former, trey dubious way to stretch mineral water briefly done years ago -- much to writer's shock -- was to dilute it with fresh. Rationale was that water was getting too strong. Maybe a few times it actually was; water at times could seem almost industrial strength -- but veterans realize potency fluctuates and adjust soaks accordingly, and newbies would be strongly cautioned. Couldn't help but be reminded of shady dives watering down pricey drinks. Full-strength mineral water is what people paid good chunk of change for and so should have gotten.
Shorter hours and closed days off-season were cutbacks started during fun-filled Great Recession of 2008-2009. Fewer visitors came, though conserving water supply was no doubt one reason for continuing shorter open time since the so-called jobless recovery. There were other possible factors. Perhaps owner liked reduced labor overhead it allowed and/or management got used to luxury of sleeping in now and then, enjoying morning mini-respite from operation pressures. In any event, varied hours and closed-days off-season, for better or worse, became new standard long after the economy rebounded and visitors returned.
Skeleton staff abused by bone-headed management
At times it seemed any higher standard of operational integrity was deemed optional. For chumps. Place as directed appeared to pursue the old-school hardball business model, forever preoccupied with milking most revenue for least outlay, bending labor laws when possible, breaking them if thinking could get away with it.
One might've thought such bold operation practices would cause bottom line to suffer, but it didn't seem to, not unduly. But only for being a well-positioned and renowned mineral springs, able to coast on historic reputation and, again, being in seller's market.
Unfair and dispiriting practice ended only after owner finally got busted and fined a good pile of cash by state labor board around 2006. A furious group of ex-employees filed complaints for being forced to work off-clock and slave through work breaks if things got busy, undersized staff not allowing relief workers.
rants and raves cont'd
One first-time walk-in visitor, Javacat of S.F., arrived before open hours but didn't realize it. She was misled by 'Office' sign posted on wall a few feet from sauna maintenance door, no arrow indicating that office was actually around corner. She was about to have a crazy Alice in Wonderland experience. She'd meet up with stand-in for testy Mad Hatter who'd breathed in too many mercury fumes (but who this time was in fact Ted, late operations manager, dying of liver failure and no doubt wanting to cop more precious alone time to cope):
"I opened the door next to the office sign, walked in a very dark room [sauna]...and navigated my way through the dark room towards light at the back of the building.
"Just then, a man bustled out a door with an armload of supplies, looked up at me, and YELLED, "What're you doing in here? How did you GET IN HERE??!! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!"
Ya gotta be kidding, another aside?
On lack of critical signs...
and a blizzard of others
Tho told she was first person to do such a dumb thing, it was in fact once not too uncommon an occurrence. Back door was kept unlocked during open hours for emergency exit.
A group might be sweating away in still near-darkness and -- suddenly! -- backdoor, one many didn't know existed, was flung open wide with blinding flood of daylight. Confused reaction of inadvertent intruder was usually good for chuckle once startled reaction subsided, appearing as visitor from
another dimension: sudden flash, chagrined mumble of "Oh..sorry, thought this was the office," door shutting and returning room to dark silence. One's imagination reeled at notion of dim roomful of often-nude people sweating away actually being the office: "No, but it is the Springs think tank. We've been waiting for you. Take a load off and give us your take on chem trails."
For some reason, getting all grounds signage logical and clear often proved either elusive goal or little cause for concern. Perhaps the result of former untoward profit focus, to obvious detriment of any more relaxed interaction with visitors along with periodic labor shortages and log-jam of daily chores and maintenance tasks, all contributed to ungracious treatment reviewer experienced.
(Also, again, manager was facing decade-long terminal disease, something that could understandably make anyone who'd really rather not check out more than bit testy or indifferent to all beyond small trusted circle.)