All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
"Oats were great...until feedbag taken away. Felt horses no longer welcome. And made to wear a blanket on a 90 degree day? Neigh I say."
-- Gallumpher, Globetrotter Quarterly
All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
~ Independent tribute & watchdog site ~
Stewart Mineral Springs
Review Rants & Raves
Trying to Make Sense of
Dizzying Disparity in
Travel Site Reviews
Note: If not on a mobile device and lines are stretched out with ginormous images, change format by entering stewartsprings.org and clicking Rants and Raves on upper left menu
(Scroll down 3/5 for pushback on late 2016
nudity ban; late 2017 sweat lodge ban reactions on 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
by Stu Ward
Volunteer Stewart Springs assistant to manager Mary H. 1999-2002; work-trade cold-plunge creator/maintainer 1999-2014; withdrew support 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 (sorry to use 'm' word) management. It attempts, finally, to demystify place a bit by offering Big Picture metaphysical overview.
Analysis freak at heart, started page in 2013 to try making sense of polarized online travel reviews of Stewart Springs posted over long years. Soon branched to address frequent visitor concerns, and page grew like Topsy (whoever Topsy is). Then added SMS Facebook reactions to 11-1-16 nudity ban. Then got so long after sweat lodge ban, had to split into two pages.
Revised November 2020
If not die-hard fan and not concerned about or unaware of what many perceive as grave peril currently facing Springs, you might want to scroll past this long introductory rant.
Then again, maybe you shouldn't. Your call. If wanting to just scope the hundreds of excerpted online reviews on place over the decades, interspersed with editor comment, scroll down about 2/5.
Is there hope
or are we screwed?
Unimaginable disaster has befallen the once-magical, culturally-diverse, fitfully open-minded healing spa refuge known as Stewart Mineral Springs.
Anyone the least bit bohemian who visited since November 2017 when clothing-optional policy of 17 years was scrapped, or especially since sea change in December 2017 with essential kicking out 45-year sacred sweat lodge is all too aware of the tragic turn of events...events, again, unfolding long before March 2020's state-mandated closure of bathhouse due to pandemic and then ownership's following May 1 announcement to KEEP it closed.
Some might view action as no more than latest effort in hell-bent, five-year plan to convert place from beloved public treasure to Keep-out-it's-ours-all-ours.
In light of game-changing pandemic, economic meltdown, racial injustice reckoning, firestorms, etc., some now might have zero interest in gaining better understanding of where ownership is coming from or their designs on place. Or be curious about realm's singular and checkered history.
If so, it's understandable. People's feelings towards a place that was until recently at least nominally dedicated to serving the greater common good have tended to run to extremes...like an intense love affair, flipping from red hot to ice cold in a heartbeat.
More's the pity, though. For the more one groks place -- both recent history and, especially, its older -- the better handle and greater appreciation one gets on its energetics.
It then becomes easier to visualize a more positive, do-able future when epidemic fades enough to push grand re-set button...either with present owners radically changing tune or, more likely, once their public-be-damned diversionary intentions for place go bust and they give up trying to steal it from the people...but perhaps at least having the grace to make some amends by 'selling' to an APPROPRIATE stewardship and thereby redeeming their ultimate place in Springs's legacy.
With enough positive visualization of future stewards, people might manifest bringing operation back home full circle to the service-grounded, nonprofit-in-spirit, healing retreat place was born as seven generations ago.
What ill tidings hath befallen
yon erstwhile magical realm?
Bear in mind many posters of countless ecstatic raves below, had they visited before shutdown, no doubt would've felt like rescinding them in heartbeat, loathe to encourage any patronage whatsoever as things stood.
"The illuminati have taken over the Springs!," wailed one. Don't know about that exactly, but it didn't take too big a stretch of imagination to sense that the Springs operation seemed somehow to have suddenly gone over to the dark side, new conservative ownership appearing to manipulate and intellectualize spirit for own non-public, professional ends...setting up rigid rules to assure keeping tight handle on visitors (or totally ignoring them unless trying to skinnydip), so no one would enjoy place TOO much...besides them, that is, during their own affiliated gatherings in their new little shangri-la...
...in process making place a better fit to perpetuate its Pneuma Institute -- a peculiar international amalgam of quasi-new-age/conventional-religion/psychoanalytical shtick, all wrapped up in smiley face for public consumption.
Tragically, their actions erased place's former fitfully free-spirited, progressive-minded culture -- a longstanding one they apparently couldn't or wouldn't understand, appreciate, or respect... and, as time proved, couldn't wait to get rid of, apparently along with the very heart and soul of the place, the bathhouse spa.
It was an open-minded, bohemian air. One managing to evolve and thrive in leaps and bonds for decades...despite last longtime S.F.-based owner's relentless profit focus and consequent over-wound management seemingly all but clueless to ways of genuine mineral springs culture with their simple, unassuming focus on down-to-earth purification, healing, and rejuvenation.
Current buttoned-down, seemingly tone-deaf absentee-owner mindset and policies appear intractably disconnected from the cooperative spirit embraced by most every other popular rural mineral spring resort in the northwestern U.S.
"Refine the culture"
Indeed, while grimly enduring light countercultural foothold on place in decade-long tenure, former head manager constantly envisioned 'Refining the Culture' -- her pet phrase. No surprise she, serving as broker for land sale (reportedly pocketing over quarter million dollars in ultimate sellout), attracted energies sharing similar bland bourgeois ambitions for place.
One of their Facebook Pneuma website statements gives a clue to where they're 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, 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.
New absentee ownership -- again, peripherally involved in spirituality via its Pneuma Institute -- was given every benefit of doubt for nearly two interminable years despite absurdly oppressive clothing-optional ban that instantly threw place into profound mourning over lost body freedom with its amazing ability to foster body-mind-spirit reintegration on higher level.
Thinking was they'd been sadly misinformed somehow, perhaps taken in by Machiavellian wiles and wonky upscale visions of longtime former manager. Can practically hear her having pitched, "The upside potential's enormous!" and "Everyone hates clothing-optional except a few wild, low-spending locals; it's killing business, I tell ya!"
How to alienate supporters in three easy steps
Long abandoned hope: that they'd naturally come around once realizing wool had been pulled over their eyes. They'd be chagrined to realize they'd been unwittingly destroying place's rich culture and longtime core support base -- those seriously into genuine rural healing and rejuvenating spas -- plus shutting out droves of others primed to give time-honored clothing-optional regimen an earnest try, shaking free of systemic body oppression and discovering the profound re-integration appropriate and mindful freebody state so easily catalyzes in safe, nurturing environs.
They'd naturally want to do everything to keep such a loyal, growth-minded visitor base from ever unraveling, work to keep place's nonprofit in spirit, love of natural healing service DNA intact, ensuring keeping place a thriving rejuvenation retreat...a win-win formula, beneficial to legal stewards and visitors alike.
Wrong. Obviously, it turned out that wool was over writer's eyes. Current owners appeared sold on her "Project Refine/Homogenize Culture"...but then fatally added their own public-unfriendly twist -- one they waited a good while to spring.
Along with intent to indeed 'cultivate' place's culture (i.e. turn more upscale, conventional, and bourgeois-friendly), devolving former quasi-bohemian almost-paradise into yet another quasi lah-de-dah, "Your water's drawn, sir; you've got 40 minutes and meter's running, so best not dawdle'" retreat, they also radically altered place's climate to suit own headspace (even though only flying in to visit a few days a year), while switching focus to have grounds serve as Pneuma Institute's international headquarters, workshop, retreat, and classroom space...
...thus fundamentally becoming its own, public-supported retreat centre...for now, at least. (See flood of concerned comments on ending Karuk sweat lodge ceremony on home page -- scroll down)
It clearly seemed people were being invited only to subsidize Pneuma operation and ownership costs, rather than from any altruistic spirit to provide affordable purification and healing to the public...long the place's devoted tradition (if fitful in more recent times), having offered visitors simple, down-home spa service and lodging since its founding seven generations ago.
Their own website quickly dispelled any such notions of resurrecting original spirit of place the moment they tipped their hand by referring to Stewart's as Pneuma Retreat Center...
...and, if any doubt at all yet remained, by more recently showing apparent intent to convert shut historic bathhouse into more private retreat and class space, tearing out all or most bathtubs and stalls.
Is founder's name kept in public business name merely for illusion of continuity and minimizing pubic outrage until shameless conversion is a done deal?
Imagine how stalwart California pioneer founder Henry Stewart would 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 at all surprised if there isn't another name or two floating about obfuscating ownership and accountability over what's going on...starting long before virus upended things further...a debacle viewed as a travesty pure and simple by legions of singular realm's now-estranged fans.
Stewart Springs is obviously no longer Stewart Springs in their minds.
Not only did former all-business focus appear live and well -- now with new narrow organizational interest watering down former unassuming, down-home service focus -- but even ramped it up a full magnitude.
And maybe something even worse. For, again, it sounds like misguided long-range plans might include eventual closing of entire grounds to public. Of course, anyone enrolling in their pricey workshops or events, or hosting one of own might still be welcome...if able to stomach rigid new climate replete with fear and loathing over former simple ways like mindful, low-key nudity over course of spa regimen.
rumors run wild - what's the truth?
At first blush it appeared new operators had maybe only inadvertently, ingloriously shot themselves in collective foot...that they'd doomed viable operation for having unwittingly and cavalierly disregarded place's long established culture...in process grievously alienating countless supporters...obliterating former large loyal-customer base to hell and gone. In time they'd naturally realize their grievous error, apologize for misguided changes, and bring place back on even keel.
Fans got bum's rush
As time's proven, it's seems far more likely that they simply didn't care. And had the bucks to give myriad, long-established customers the bum's rush while leisurely changing tone of place to suit own conservative lifestyle and that of new hoped-for visitorship...again, sought for now at least seemingly only to subsidize ownership costs during transition phase...and perhaps give public a chance to get used to the idea of having forever lost a place so long cherished.
What positively boggles the minds of many former fans and supporters is how they can possibly claim to champion furthering higher consciousness with a straight face while attempting to build a scene furthering said aim on top of ruins of time-honored, thriving grounded Springs culture they so indifferently, willfully, and systematically destroyed.
The more cynical might regard such an awareness-disconnected pursuit -- what might be called for lack of better term bourgeois spirituality -- little more than a shameless effort to exploit the free gift of Spirit for private gain while hoarding place to suit egregiously unsuitable own devices.
Bathhouse shutdown highlights
inappropriate 'owner' intent
With bathhouse spa now supposedly toast, place is reduced to bare-bones, lodgings-only operation. Owners might still cling to hope -- when things return to some new normal -- to continue pursuing own gig and resume converting place into international headquarters, classroom, retreat, and bureaucratic center, showcasing clinical, super-structured Pneuma teaching and practicing model of transpersonal psychotherapy...
...and, riding on coattails of place's one-time enormous popularity, continue renting lodging to general public and those enrolling in classes and retreat/event organizers a while longer to cover the rent, as it were, hoping enough people will want to stay there even without spa, which, along with sweat lodge, had once been very heart and soul of realm, so they can keep bogarting the joint for own gig and more exclusive enjoyment.
Such a spa-bereft set-up would be unspeakably lame scene to any visitor used to affordably enjoying healing realm in quasi-bohemian atmosphere while day tripping or overnighting, leisurely coursing through clothing-optional spa regimen, often leaving reluctantly, anticipating returning as soon as possible.
One might think such a sad lodging-only scene could never work with both bathhouse and sweat lodge gone with the wind...unless finding enough would-be patrons who know nothing about place's extraordinary legacy and don't realize new offerings were indeed built on ruins of beloved popular culture -- or know and just don't care...and buy into management's probable twisted take of having nobly rescued place from miscreants, perverts, and other assorted rabble who'd been ruining it for more deserving to enjoy...people who count...dollars in their sleep.
More likely scenario, again, is continuing to lukewarmly invite public in as part of some five-year plan transition to convert place from public to private domain.
Yet another take: might it be that despite their website painting a seductively rosy picture of future plans for place, plans obviously aimed at own groups, current lodging-only operation proves only some temporary stop-gap effort to try to staunch hemorrhaging of funds until they can decide how and when to best divest of what increasingly seems to have become one colossally misguided investment?
...both by dint of unrealistic and inappropriate fantasies for new operation that appeared to be treading water water at best all along, then pandemic roared onto scene, throwing giant monkey wrench into shaky operation and providing coup de gras.
If so, it wouldn't be place's first diversionary bust.
"All right, we've got it. Now, what'll we do with it?"
For over a half century now the energetic blueprint of the original 78-year, service-grounded stewardship by Stewart family has, sadly, been fading away. At times it almost seems it can be sensed only by openhearted true believers in natural living and holistic healing. So over time place has attracted a series of woefully inappropriate stewards who bring in with them their wonky profit-minded, and/or private-use intentions that never pan out.
And for obvious reason: sacred medicine land resonates ONLY with and supports stewards mindfully dedicated to pursuing purifying, healing, and rejuvenation...those revering nature's medicine and wanting to freely share it in service with any seeking healing and rejuvenation...and, in long run, causes only relentless chaos, financial hardship, and busted fantasies for ANY other use.
Time has proven time and again that anything short of working hand in hand with nature and freely sharing blessings of the land and waters for the greater good of planet is a doomed effort...like spitting in the wind.
Before virus outbreak forced bathhouse closure -- then perversely throwing baby out with the mineral water, making it permanent, they seemed all too willing to take the cash of any who could stomach disheartening changes.
Especially that of newbies knowing no different...perhaps most especially upscale, "cultivated" visitors, into charming exclusive resorts with over-solicitous, prim-and-proper, no-nonsense service; or own affiliated groups, into super-structured, new-age-tinged teaching programs -- so weirdly overlaid with old-age bourgeois, guilt-based morality and dry, over-intellectualized learning models -- rather than former, trey distasteful, hippie-ish, help-yourself-and-welcome, clothing-optional spa purification, healing, and rejuvenation scene for connecting with the Grandmother, thank you Great Spirit.
This, again, in hopes of offsetting $2.6 million purchase investment and not inconsiderable ongoing operating expenses. (Some $77. a day 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 patronage of once-dedicated repeat visitors. Or, an opposite possibility, took out second mortgages on homes or other land holdings to meet purchase price, optimistic that changes would be embraced by greater public...and they're now freaking out on gnarly, grand reality check.
In any event... misguided changes tragically erased former wild, beautiful -- often free-flowing, at times even holy-stoned -- energy of place. Energy that over recent decades had made it a favorite place for countless global sojourners on nature-friendly, life-affirming paths and pulled to the magic of Mt. Shasta.
Despite owner groups' own attraction to realm, having done many workshops there in times past themselves, outfit's specialized exclusive focus and conservative 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, bohemian spirit of place enduring, absent any limiting doctrinaire mindset as now weighs down realm's former lighthearted air like a ton of bricks.
Cynical might view efforts as nothing more than trying to cram the wild, infinite Great Mystery force into box for three-dimensional clinical analysis and packaged, monetized promulgation.
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 that saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", so readily come to mind?
Seeming 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 mid-'60s through early-'70s.
Sometimes referred to as 'spiritual psychology', discipline branch 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 apparently distrust emotions as irrational. And, sadly, parted ways with one of branch's human-potential movement/humanistic roots that had successfully incorporated mindful nudity into select group-therapy workshops.
Promising therapeutic breakthroughs were made on 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. (Famously at Big Sur, in California's Esalan Institute, when featured in Life magazine.)
Nope. They'd have none of that. Not in "their" Springs, no sir-ee; don't even think about it, bub. Oughta be ashamed; shades of Sodom and Gomorrah; nude's rude and crude and oughta be eschewed, dude...
But then, along with conscious breathwork, they also throw into mix Judaeo-Christian tenets with all their baked-in body guilt and burden of original sin... putting decided damper on anyone hoping to luxuriate in rare chance in our perma-dressed world to be mindfully nude in natural environment, whether solo, as couple, family, or socially.
A peculiar amalgam indeed, one foot seems firmly planted on solid ground of innovative, growth-minded psychotherapy, the other in sinking quicksand of outmoded, guilt-based morality.
More impressionable might imagine a therapy session going something like:
"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, our time's up; hold that thought til next session. By the way, your last check bounced; we'll need a card this time."
Okay...in fairness, system might well prove excellent therapy for any so inclined and who can afford it, and is probably worthy of being cultivated -- at appropriate places.
But diverting age-old prime focus Stewart Springs in order to facilitate it? A place so accessible and rich with healing energies that it naturally fosters, often through catalyzing boost of radical body freedom, such altered consciousness, peak experiences, transcendent awareness, and thus, 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 certified graduate of Institute and start making big bucks doing same thing teaching and enlightening others!
Enlightening wallets at least.
No need to put God in a box...leastwise, not at expense of countless longtime Springs fans and sea of those now deprived of discovering its magic in receptive, open-circuit atmosphere.
Again, no doubt it might work fine in more consciousness-starved areas and profession-rich, neurosis-inducing urban scenes, but it's one mind-mindbogglingly poor fit in northern bohemian wilds of Future State of California, denizens already soaring through the cosmos.
No coals needed in Newcastle, thank you.
More than a peak experience...
One can perhaps blame Mt. Shasta's chamber of commerce for long ago coming up with classic slogan still posted on Interstate 5' southbound's vintage billboard: "Mt. Shasta -- More than a Peak Experience". Term 'peak experience' was, of course, coined by Abraham Maslow, of earlier humanistic movement that focused on fostering positive, transcendent wellbeing over seeking neurosis under every rock. No doubt at some point sign caught the eye of one of travelling psychology-enamored group -- "Wow, this region's psych-savvy!" -- thus planting seed for recent snapping up of beloved Springs, which had so long cried out for APPROPRIATE stewardship to rescue it...
...and 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 intents, according to various rumors, include transforming what was until recently an incredibly popular rural rejuvenating retreat into:
1. Bland, culture-deprived place suitable for non-discriminating mainstream consumerist traveling hordes, better to fund Pneuma Institute's doings and cover ownership costs
2. Sterile posh resort, serving as backdrop for Pneuma headquarters and transpersonal training classes, workshops, and related retreats. Suffering general public to help fund Institute and cover ownership costs
3. Private domain; at some point gates slamming shut to general public, privatizing Stewart Springs outright for exclusive use of Pneuma Institute and perhaps a few select invited groups that can stomach (or even embrace) dreary changes...to help fund Institute and cover ownership costs
All disheartening prospects, last rumor especially fills with dread any who have treasured realm, making one pray it isn't true -- or if true will fail miserably.
Whatever the case, in all three scenarios the remedial first step in revamping operation is, of course, to get rid of all the riff-raff: everyday alternative-culture friendly, free-spirited visitors, the very ones who supported and championed place ever since renaissance Goodpasture-ownership era of 1970s.
Such visitors naturally locked into the healing spirit of land's powerful mineral waters and operation's (fitful) tradition of calm mindful service with open, unassuming spirit.
This in turn fostered 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 care to, having dandy dot matrix all their own: diluting focus and effectiveness of affordable body-mind-spirit therapy of time-honored spa regimen into sideline money maker to subsidize ownership cost while focusing on own pricey, clinical psychotherapy healing approach...
...and use place as international headquarters, running formal indoctrination workshops and enjoying it for themselves as 'their' baby...all the while thanking the Lord for being rich enough to rescue place from the countercultural
misfits who were clearly ruining it for more deserving bourgeois to enjoy in atmosphere more befitting dignity of more elevated station in life. "Taupe...the walls must be taupe!"
It would seem now that the fox is guarding the hen house: Re-purposing traditional spa therapy retreat to take out of circulation unfair, cheap, more expedient competition in lucrative healing market and diverting focus onto own, pricey, over-intellectualized, full-chakra imbalanced, therapy regimen, while upgrading lodgings to lure visitors and groups that will embrace (or at least tolerate) changes. Sounds like a plan. What could go wrong?
Cynically inclined 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 now. Whether you like it or not doesn't really concern us. It's our baby now. Accept the changes or go elsewhere; we don't much care either way. Have a nice day... [aside:] or not. Damn hippies, shameless nudists, pitiful pagans, mumble grumble..."
< Natural beings are so unnerving!
Even though they clearly have privatizing intent -- rather than just proving extraordinarily 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 business terminally hemorrhages red ink.
As word saturates planet how new owners destroyed place's fragile, tenuously-progressive spa culture and traditions, they won't be able to entice enough undiscriminating, bland mainstream hordes -- or workshop/retreat/concert event organizers -- to fill gaping void, not in long run. Or keep any more-
awakened staff on board willing to enforce and endure muted, tightly-controlled scene at minimum wage and not run off screaming the second day.
With pneumatic tires of Pneuma's wilderness outpost vehicle thus springing serious leaks, they'd be prompted to either radically change tune or, if remaining unyielding in hopes of transforming place to suit private-minded agenda and pet shtick, finally concede defeat and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...putting place back on market for new, more appropriate ownership to rescue...
...if any justice in world to appropriate, steward-minded folks and at a discount for mountain of destroyed good will, that intangible, priceless business asset they so heedlessly tossed off wholesale to accommodate interest's lamentably un-northern Californian lifestyle and mindset. In so doing, they might thus salvage bit of tattered integrity and credibility, gaining ultimately positive role in Stewart Springs legacy.
In trying to go all posh -- once-humble bathhouse was until gutted grandly referred to as "Wellness Center" and A-frame's pedigree was upped to "the Chalet" -- bathhouse remained open to public but effectively excluded all without money to burn and/or disinclination to stay imprisoned in sensory-deadening cloth during spa regimen.
Now, even among would-be higher-end clientele and own groups, one would hope enough actually have enough social conscience to recognize when something's clearly not right, but egregiously out of whack, and so refuse to support it.
As word keeps spreading how new owners -- whether willfully or unwittingly is moot now -- alienated likely 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 causes, then owners might, again, never gain enough steam to make viable go of it.
Unable to support depressingly over-organized, credentials-dispensing shtick there, they'd give up and seek headquarters elsewhere...putting place back on market -- hopefully conscious enough to take the time to find appropriate buyer and thereby redeem their honor for 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 run at loss, manage to turn visitor volume around, and/or have finagled some legal tax write-off, on surface, it might at least look as if we're screwed. As others have pointed out, assuming this is case, boycotting and badmouthing only help drastic transition.
It would enable swinging fortress gates shut to 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, bath $10), and aware newcomers being duly repulsed, present detached absentee "owners" of new acquisition, and their affiliated groups, would be left alone to enjoy legally-stolen paradise. But with what could only be hopelessly contentious un-peace of mind.
In any event, no bothersome demanding riff-raff blocking midnight sun while pursuing their own particular money-making quasi-spiritual teaching model, amid refuge now safe from distasteful, teeming hordes of everyday people so abominably clueless and unsympathetic to the crushing burdens and responsibilities of
the higher class of monkeys. 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 best hope -- should this actually be intent and not simply an unfounded, assuming worst, sky-is-falling rumor -- is to continue shaming them 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 actually think of going forward with any such shamefully ill-suited use of long-time service-minded place, having done too dastardly a deed to ever experience one shred of peace of mind or abiding enjoyment of place for having created giant boatload of gnarly, stinking-to-high-heaven karma in closing to public one of planet's treasured retreats.
Assuming they do realize this in time (again, IF indeed there is in fact any such long-range plan), they'd either come around and change course or, if feeling they'd blown it too royally to even try redeeming scene -- or perhaps lacked any such inclination to begin with, having minds set only on doing own thing all along and general public be damned -- give up, re-sell, and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...guaranteed a more peaceful and fruitful one, no more outraged public diverting focus to do good works for having to constantly put out brush fires of negative publicity...
...again, redeeming themselves by taking time and effort to seek out and transfer to appropriate new stewardship at fair price, allowing for mountain of good will destroyed, one psyched at idea of transforming Stewart's into legal non-profit healing cultural center, place and at last getting back to genuine love-of-service spirit that operation was founded on long ago.
Maybe some reader knows of possible someone(s) and can connect them at future time -- or IS that someone or group. Ideally a small contingent of so-inclined Springs fans might, early on, work with buyer(s), brainstorming ways to set place up and develop committed, robust community with work-trade support, establishing informed, fully staffed, dedicated and transparent operation from very get-go.
Stating the obvious: the more fans visualize making place fine-tuned, legally-chartered non-profit mineral springs retreat/resort, the sooner such a vision could 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 they give up misguided plans and sell to new, progressive-minded ownership. Or, if indeed hellbent on eventually privatizing and shutting fortress gates and actually do succeed (though hard to imagine a just universe allowing it), perhaps never.
What's most galling is how, in name of proclaimed pursuit of inner peace and world enlightenment, they could mindlessly erase rich quasi-bohemian culture that place's myriad fans and staunchest supporters had so lovingly built up over decades.
Again, it was a people's culture that 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. run place to suit local/regional preferences that eventually included clothing-optional, happily realizing that droves of open-circuit, free-spirited and growth-minded travelers the world over fully resonated with it, or quickly learned to.
Former atmosphere embraced mother earth's healing power by becoming one with elements, allowing for far easier 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, and belief systems as now so tragically seems underway...all in name of unwieldy, often impersonal, scientific discipline...so oddly overlaid and entangled in this case with apparent claptrap of organized religion.
Altering grounds to mirror ownership's more conservative ways and private-minded re-purposing intent obviously precluded letting visitors enjoy place too much any more for having the free-minded option to sauna nude, skinnydip in creek, or sunbathe au natural -- even if receiving profoundly more benefits in process...healing benefits long accustomed to and fondly embraced by countless.
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 American continent.
Not that they're actually thinking this, but it can seem their overarching attitude and strategy might essentially boils down to something like:
"Hey, if everyday visitors have illuminating and liberating experiences on their own through 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 in comparison.
"Can't have that; we'd appear irrelevant, maybe even stodgy. Would-be enrollees to classes wouldn't be anywhere nearly as attracted and so support operation costs. Gotta oppress scene to make own shtick, with goal of 'profoundly reintegrat[ing] body-mind-soul on higher level', actually look liberating in contrast. (And we were never really all that interested in running a spa, anyhow.)"
"How does that
make you feel?"
As said, traditional psychoanalysis all too commonly discovers 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, it still seems locked into longterm, dry, controlled procedure that it would seem could all too easily straitjacket Divine Spirit's wild infinite nature and rapid transformative healing ability.
What appears to have created 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, becoming control-freaks forcing mandatory cover-up, turning place into watered-down resort only toying with radical purification and healing and transformation, gingerly testing healing waters with big toe, as it were, rather than jumping in with both feet.
It might seem new outfit has so intellectualized and bureaucratized process of achieving enlightened an state of mind that it has fairly lost sight of (or hasn't learned yet) the spiritual law that the end never justifies the means...that, in process of so trying, any would-be integrity and lofty intent is neutralized and voided.
Verdict in the Court of
Overwhelming evidence supports verdict that new ownership has utterly betrayed place's spirit -- again, no matter if in ignorance of divine law or willful rebellion to re-purpose place -- while imposing hard worldly edict of 'Whoever has the gold makes the rules, deal with it':
Exhibit A: scrapping super-therapeutic 17-year clothing-optional offering
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, decades-old tradition
Exhibit F: clear-cutting acre of mature trees on grounds above main road below cabins for new septic system leach field for bathhouse greywater pumped across creek. (surely better solution was out there)
Exhibit G: abrupt removal of rich assortment of inspiring divining cards from bathhouse lobby table
One shuddered to think what exhibit H might've been...had they only put bathhouse on hold for pandemic rather than totally scraping it... Up baths to $50? Fine any reckless enough to move deck lounges one inch from strictly appointed placements? Crowd covered bridge with junk-food vending machines and ATM? Build dank dungeon in bathhouse basement to hold any would-be skinnydippers until nude police come and haul them away for indecent exposure?
If ultimate plan is to privatize and close place outright to great unwashed masses, as it now appears, again, perhaps they've been trying to piss everyone off. That way nobody'd much mind if gates slammed shut and new signs greeted trekkers, saying, in effect:
Go Away - Private Property - Trespassers prosecuted - No Bliss for You - Transcend Yur Shameless Naked Selves Elsewhere
Over-commercial, conventional-minded ways of recent decades, so rife with authoritarian stances it seldom even bothered to mask milking place blind, has long interfered with earnest original focus of place's pioneer namesake founder: relaxed purification, healing, and rejuvenation in tranquil arms of nature. Simply and affordably. And before that, centuries of peaceful, reverent sharing of healing land by First Nations people.
Fans of place, including writer, tried making best of bad situation, and for long while were fitfully successful, as nature's wild and free spirit prevailed and former absentee San Franciscan owner, John Foggy, beyond relentless profit focus, appeared something of 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 -- again, open-minded enough to accept place's bohemian base so long as money kept flowing -- chuckling, "Betcha miss me now, huh?"
Since dumbfounding sea change in operations, writer has, obviously, changed tone and focus of much of this page and rest of 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, as they perhaps constitute strongest collective voice of feelings towards beloved Springs ever expressed.
Re-posted clothing-optional rants and raves still reside below; older slams over management were moved to more rants and raves, along with some of latest reviews, page also exploring plight of under-utilized restaurant and offering metaphysical/historical take on place's checkered history of pronounced light and dark energies.
Note: most of re-posted reviews below and on More Rants & Raves page originally posted long before most recent sea change in operation, many even before fair-warning harbinger of clothing-optional ban that took effect 11-1-16, going back to FAR different times.
Again, many such posters would no doubt feel like retracting or reversing their full-tilt raves in heartbeat if visiting now (and some indeed have) -- which is not recommended...unless in denial, think plight is exaggerated, or morbid curiosity compels witnessing and verifying heartbreaking changes firsthand.
Glowing posts are left up both to remind people of what we once had AND to
spark imagination on what we COULD have agai -- maybe even better...
...IF enough fans insist on it, through both total boycott of current misguided operation AND positive visualization of future, perfect stewardship rescuing realm once current owners realize they'd be happier elsewhere...
...again, redeeming honor and building ultimate positive Springs legacy by seeking appropriate stewardship to carry on operation on profoundly higher, non-profit level, enabling far greater benefit to humanity as a whole.
* * *
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.
Is 'Rustic' a Bad Word?
That said, it might still seem odd how two people visiting same day might be 180 degrees apart in experiences and estimations. This could lead one to conclude some reviewers are 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 are 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.
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.)
Connie Carbarry was "...appalled by the accommodations...perhaps this is a fun place to spend the day but not the night."
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, myriad 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)
"I must say, I wanted rustic and boy, did I ever get it!" (Alexia J., Montreal, Canada)
"Extremely relaxing. Nice people, they're not crazy, they're just not from a city." (S.F., CA)
"The place is absolutely the most magical..." (John R., Clay, MO)
"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)
"...loved every minute of it. Very tranquil forest, a cleansing mountain creek, and quiet atmosphere for healing in a rustic, earthy way. If you want to REALLY connect with nature without all the frills of a resort, this is the place for you." (Emily C., Moss Beach, CA)
"My favorite retreat spot!" (Ronit Ashkenazi)
"...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 rustic simplicity of nature and seriously unwinding, perhaps building fire in simple cabin's wood stove to
keep cozy on snowy night. 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 live to gripe about no hair dryer or wi-fi, or hordes of shameless naked people despoiling an otherwise charming landscape.
(feel free to skip)
Split-focus makes operation challenging -- schitzy too
Diverse visitor expectations brought to fore split focus and constant challenge of even most dedicated mineral springs resort. It terminally over-complicated things when owner directive caused over-wound preoccupation maximizing profit, making for seriously off-putting schitzy management energies that, naturally, adversely affected any fuller enjoyment of one's stay.
Again, even if latter wasn't the case, running both 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 as visitors to dedicated mineral spring resorts lean towards, resulting disconnected visitor energy all too easily muddles management team focus. It pulls it in two directions at once: Healing place, Motel 6; healing place, Motel 6...
Would-be flowing organic scene could turn hopelessly disjointed and watered down by the drive to generate profit at every turn totally eclipsing 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 basic 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 so long as basic creature comforts and amenities are covered, as part and parcel of backwoods healing retreat experience.
Can place's original intent be re-activated?
Original dedicated purpose of Stewart's - - offering healing waters and restful rustic retreat -- has been gradually fading due to no more of six post-Stewart ownerships resonating better with founding vision since pioneering Stewart family's dedicated 78-year reign ended in early 1950's. To point place seems 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 hoped newest absentee ownership, together with fresh dedicated management, would at last put cart to back of horse and reclaim vision of namesake, wife and daughter, who between them ran a rare oasis of down-home, essentially non-profit, service operation for four generations...
...hoped they'd emulate their profound reverence for special realm, echoing that of natives before them for time untold and re-energize non-profit in spirit, service-first focus, as likewise observed by Masons in 1950's and 1960's, and last by 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 breath, in light of drastic changes that have effectively disconnected the very heart and soul of place.
Paging lucky seventh. We know you're out there. Magic destiny's calling.
Even a conscious, for-profit ownership instinctively realizes there must be a critical balance at Stewarts, seeking 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, chaotic and sorrowful karma of place's tragic massacre of original soakers in 1870s re-surfaces -- as surely as night follows day.
Better than a for-profit model, place would blossom once liberated from depressing material gains focus...which can, if consciousness is wanting, all to easily become anti-life force. (Telling: some Natives called paper money dead frog skins; western settlers nick-named dollars bucks after skins of slain deer once used as unit of trade.)
Urge the universe to manifest an awakened wealthy soul or group of same, happy to rescue place from jaws of disaster and legally establish realm as a non-profit operation dedicated to purifying, healing and rejuvenating, with psyched support and input of community and every aware and awakening visitor making a pilgrimage up the hill.
Odds are in our favor it's not too late. For of 145 years of Springs stewards, 54% were dedicated efforts of founder and daughter, and another 17% under earnest stewardship of masonic lodge and Goodpastures, for total of some 70%...versus only 30% for recent profit-driven and/or private-shtick-minded focus.
Greater long-term momentum overwhelmingly remains towards dedication to serving public as place of non-profit 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 and awakened new FUTURE ownership.
That's the dream.
Do enough people want it?
Yet more 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. From Martinez, CA, 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 energy vortex many believe it to be, amplifying whatever vibrations are brought into realm, it's no wonder such diverse reactions occur. People from all walks of life have been attracted to place. Each day is 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 campground?
Some campers have been disappointed at lack of amenities and rightly so, often 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)
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 enjoyed plunge, left to muse, "Odd that the best part about the place was running out to jump in a creek."
While one enthuses 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 gripes about jagged rocks at "outright dangerous" creek plunge, along with stains in tubs.
And 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 reflects how Springs's limited mineral water supply and tubs keep 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, Powerful Mineral Water
On surface, time limit on soaks might appear understandable concern. Especially considering 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 more coin than Stewart's more leisurely 75 minutes. But any limit can be off-putting if tub enthusiast hoping to relax and totally forget about time.
But 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 -- mixed 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 hot 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 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 haven't learned to appreciate how various mineral springs' waters can differ. The unaware, especially bathtub enthusiasts addicted to soaking for hours and merrily scrubbing away at will, can easily overdo, losing benefit and gaining skin irritation lasting 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 can be pushing luck unless well-attuned to water properties, proper way to soak, and listening to body.
It might help 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 time-stopping luxury of claiming tub for four to six hours -- real oldtimers, for entire day -- leisurely stretching out mini-soaks, slowly acclimating to water's power and proper soaking method. (Or soaked for hours on end, having hide of rhino or wisdom to stay absolutely still.)
There's a rural legend that an outdoor communal mineral soak once existed on grounds. For sure, there was indeed over-sized indoor tub in '70s -- now tub rooms 3 and 4, for a while two dressing rooms -- big enough for three or four. Rumor has it in its heyday more than a few doobies and vino jugs were merrily passed around.
It's the Water!
Many note 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)
"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_Dou)
"...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 just like ducklings in pond as she made 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)
Former longtime 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)
"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 longwinded aside
Some might not realize that the Sixties countercultural movement, with its radical lifestyle changes of untold millions creating global cultural impact, was in fact the exponential expansion of an earlier, turn of 20th century movement begun in Germany and known as the Natural Man movement.
And earlier movement was, in turn, popular protest over massive disruption created by industrial revolution that suddenly prevented people from living in close, long-accustomed proximity and harmony with nature.
Situation had become intolerable. Movement included celebrating seriously 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
energetic groundwork for later back-to-nature countercultural movement that, despite gross media distortions and dismissal as flaky, ephemeral social phenomenon, helped spread nature-attuned, liberated mindset to 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 culture.
But, again, what IS "alternative" culture anymore?
Fifty years ago, trying to discourage Spring visits by rebellious wild hippie-types due to low spending habits, smash-the-system attitudes, and then shockingly free ways might have seemed valid effort, to ensure making business operation inviting and safe to more respectable and solvent mainstream visitors.
But no longer. Since then, essence of harbinger countercultural influence has gone viral, spreading like wildfire to fringes of mainstream consciousness.
Witness 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 hippie culture along with unabashed delight of getting nekkid in nature on a sunny day.
Flash: Over last half century countercultural influence has been transforming mainstream culture -- the ever-expanding life-affirming part of it -- as if awakening from long sleep, while others continue slumbering, oblivious to unfolding miracle.
Radical body freedom is, obviously, no longer 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, 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, around the world.
Hence Stewart became such an incredibly popular go-to spot at dawn of new millennium. Besides being set in charming region rich in history and possessing special water, it was one of select few spas open-minded and enlightened enough to permit visitors to experience simple yet profound joy of getting unabashedly bare in nature, enabling taking mini-vacation from depressingly perma-dressed society, regaining simple childlike innocence, becoming one with healing elements among kindred nature lovers, amping palliative benefits of mind-body-spirit reintegration...whether one opted to lose coverings or not.
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
S.F. 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 another rambling aside...
On former limited water,
hours, & staff
Place in 1990's hobbled along for years on water-heating system so anemic it often only supplied three tubs' worth at a time. This was due largely to owner finding damaged heater at 90% off and trying to save money, hoping it would work, which, 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 wisely saved refund receipts and presented double fistful to owner during annual visit to show it might be good business to spring for system upgrade -- at which point he went whole hog and had late, great plumbing ace Matt Reed custom design and build grand heating system enjoyed today. 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 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 was; water at times seemed almost industrial strength -- but veterans realize potency fluctuates and adjust soaks accordingly, and newbies could 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 get.
Shorter hours and closed days off-season were cutbacks started during fun-filled Great Recession. Fewer visitors came, though conserving water supply was no doubt one reason for continuing shorter open time since 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 economy rebounded.
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 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 at last got busted and fined a good pile of cash by state labor board, around 2006, once a furious group of ex-employees filed complaints for being forced to work off-clock and slave through work breaks when things were busy.
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 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, meeting 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 just 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?!"
Yet another rambling aside
(will they never cease?)
On lack of critical signs...
and a blizzard of others