All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Mystery of the
a sideways look at
by Stuart R. Ward
volunteer Stewart Springs assistant manager 2000-2002; work/trade bathhouse plunge-keeper 1999-2014; withdrew support late 2017
"If you would understand anything, observe its
beginning and its development." -- Aristotle
Note: Temporary glitch: If page appears with ginormous images and spacey lines and you're not on mobile device, you've accessed mobile version. View computer version by MANUALLY entering stewartsprings.org, (if you click, will stay in mobile mode), then click History in upper left menu. Or delete 'm.' from address and reenter. (Or if you like huge images and spacey text, no problema)
Ever wonder why there's never been a book written about so rare a place as Stewart Mineral Springs? On hearing snippets of its colorful history, you'd think surely there must be one out there, but no.
After a fair amount of sleuthing and deduction, many likely reasons surfaced. In course of telling, scraps of history that were unearthed are shared here for a crazy-quilt journey through Stewart Springs's elusive past -- a most singular, circuitous, sometimes tragic, one -- that's brought it to be the way it is now.
Writer doesn't claim total objectivity; it's said such a thing is impossible anyhow. Though trying not to over-color facts with personal, strong-felt opinions and former deep insider perspective, sometimes found the effort a losing battle. Attempted to corral the most subjective writing within editorial sidebars that readers wanting only to glean factual history of place can simply scroll past to gain relative rant-free understanding of mysterious healing realm long known as Stewart Mineral Springs.
Few Written Records
Region was remote. There weren't people around in pioneer days to document its evolution, as in more populous regions or areas that later became populous. To this day there's a pronounced lack of published source material from which to cobble together an even half-way thorough history of the Springs.
Many invaluable historic records, writings and photos that almost certainly did exist no doubt perished in fire of July 4, 1948 that destroyed on-grounds home of founder Henry Stewart's daughter, Katy Stewart Lloyd, and late husband, former Weed barber and British immigrant Edward Lloyd. They'd been managing operation since her father Henry's passing in 1914. (His story later.)
Fire may well have devastated her so much that she lost heart to continue service operations much longer. She'd lost her only offspring, Stewart Lloyd, a year after her husband, in 1941, likely a war casualty. Maybe she'd been thinking of retiring anyhow. In any event, she'd divest of place a few years later.
Born in 1880, a few years after her father bought Springs land, bespectacled Mrs. Lloyd was 68 at time of fire -- age her Jersey-born mom, Julia Newman Stewart, passed in 1911. She herself would live to 92, hopefully learning through channels how the Goodpasture family in early 1970s had rescued place from inappropriate use on assuming their 11-year stewardship. (Their story to come)
After grounds fire, dedicated momentum was likely lost and dashed any possible plans to pen account of her California pioneer father's colorful life and mystical healing springs to which he devoted his last 39 years.
see old newspaper article about fire (check index and scroll down)
Factual Side Story
One Vexed Vanderbilt
George Vanderbilt, son of robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, was interested in spas and living in area. After fire, he offered Katy pots of gold for place. He felt every respectable gazillionaire should have his own rustic mineral spring, then-fashionable bauble among uber-wealthy. He no doubt thought it a fire-sale offer she couldn't refuse.
She knew he'd close the place down to public and turn it into private playground retreat for the rich and famous -- as his opulent estate on second-choice site half-mile down road, built in 1949, indeed became.
In 1950s and 1960s he hosted such notables as Harry S Truman, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne, one imagines at least some of them must've taken the waters, maybe at special off hours time, grounds being only short ways uphill. (If known for sure, one could post signs like "Audrey Hepburn Soaked Here" outside various tubrooms.) Van Heflin's daughter, Katy, visited with dad as girl and reported finding Vanderbilt a most disagreeable man.
The mansion burned down night of January 3rd, 2012 on wings of current owner's restoration work, old faulty electrical wiring deemed likely culprit.
Wagonloads of shame
There are even fewer records than one might expect due to settlers' and descendants' likely calloused feelings or shame over hell-bent campaign during 1870's peak of racial/cultural intolerance to wipe out region's First Nations people. The latter heard white man's war drums after being accused of widespread violence, when likely it was only stray renegade or two involved in isolated tragic incident that sparked primitive blood lust and resolve to be rid of them all for good.
Tribal members sought refuge by fleeing to hallowed medicine grounds, place of peace and healing for time untold, where even warring tribes would leave weapons on hillsides and soak in truce. Those unable to get away from outnumbered, out-armed forces that quickly found them there, or who chased them down as far away as Castle Lake, were duly massacred. Such despicable legacy didn't lend place any subject to wax nostalgic over in any hidebound regional-history annual like Siskiyou Pioneer.
It's likely Henry got wind of extermination plan, and, while refusing to have anything to do with it, he was no doubt powerless to stop it. One story has it that secret advance warning of imminent attack leaked out, at least enabling warriors to steel themselves (or, possibly, hoping there was no need to, being on sanctuary land) and reportedly spirit women and children to safety across valley to near present-day Carrick Addition off Highway 97, a few miles north of town of Weed.
If true, perhaps it was Stewart who got word to peoples who a generation earlier had very possibly saved his life. In any event, ensuing horrific slaughter around current resort grounds cast a long and deep shadow over once peaceful, sacred place.
Metaphysical thinking holds that residues of the tragic energies of massacre linger on the spot to this very day on the subtle, lending the place its at times somewhat eerie, almost mournful, vibe, crimping any fuller healing potential. It has no doubt directly contributed to the unfortunate tendency of various legal stewards to get abysmally off track with inappropriate operational intent. hindering ability of mindful visitors to tap any more deeply into realm's special healing powers.
Spring purists hold that pursuing monetized and/or private-minded use of land results not only in straitjacketing potential to help a greater humanity, but also to heal grievous psychic scars of the land. (More on this below. Also Co-manager's exorcism story [top article], and towards end of More rants & Raves page.)
It's just water,
and the long and winding road
Natural healing methods like taking the waters fell out of fashion during 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. With advent of materialistic reductionist thinking, to medical science divorced from holistic awareness of nature's curative powers, water was just water. Any claims of health benefits by soaking and steaming and drinking mineral water were obviously pure poppycock, shameless attempts to fleece the gullible public and divert them from their own magic pills and eager blades.
Who'd want to read about such an obscure place anyhow? There was only the two-lane State Highway 99 until advent of 1950s' grand interstate highway system. Unpaved before 1960s, Stewart Springs Road's dirt surface no doubt discouraged all but more determined souls. It was paved when it was only because of a county supervisor's efforts after ailing son was helped by visits to the waters; he felt the place worthy of easier access.
Historic phone number trivia: while well known that Native Americans called gold yellow stone, less known is that in the 1950s the Springs's phone number prefix was YEllowstone (YEllowstone 8-7955); YE converts to 93 in current Weed, California area's 938- prefix
Dizzying ownership turnover
Once place left dedicated Stewart family hands of 78 years, from 1876 to 1954, there was frequent turnover of Springs owners, four, up to 1982:
- Sacramento Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge (15 years) - c. 1954-1969
- Group of three Weed, CA businessmen - (brief) c. 1969 - 1971
- Goodpasture family (11 years) - c.1971 - 1981
- Whitney couple (brief) c. 1981 - 1982
Before long holding by fifth post-Stewart owner, San Franciscan John Foggy -- from early 1982 through January 2016, some 34 years, over twice as long as any other post-Stewart holder -- either none of various owners were around long enough or had inclination to absorb saga and pen chronicle. Fragments of history were all we had -- and appears is all we still have...that is, beyond oral histories passed down by tribes and possibly some elusive treasure-trove of diary journals buried and forgotten in bottom of attic trunk in Eerie, Pennsylvania, or gathering dust in Smithsonian's vast storage acreage.
Masons - first
A few years after refusing Vanderbilt's offer, Stewart's daughter Katy, in astonishing move, essentially gave the place away. In 1954, the Sacramento (CA) Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge, recipient of her largess, took over, momentously ending an extraordinarily dedicated Stewart family service run.
She'd receive a modest $100/month stipend* from Lodge and reportedly extracted solemn promise from new stewards to keep place forever simple and affordable for all who sought its curative waters.
* Siskiyou County Historical Society in May 2012 newsletter reported through Sacramento Bee reprint that "The Scottish Rite paid approximately $40,000 for the property." However, since Rite's own newsletter says the land was a gift grant to them, writer tends to believe their version, since a gift is only a gift if one doesn't pay for it. Maybe figure was new assessment value, made whenever property changes hands, and reporter assumed they'd paid that for it, masons having kept secretive terms of transfer, figuring it was nobody's business, and reporter never considering that someone might've actually given away the property.
She, like her father, believed it essential that operation of one of earth's powerful healing spots be kept simple, affordable and service-oriented. No room for any get-rich-quick schemes, with unseemly preoccupation ramping up revenue with lure of fancy lodging and restaurant, OR subsidizing cost of re-purposed, semi-private use by suffering general public.
Only enough to cover everyday costs, maintenance, live-on-grounds manager's living expenses, maybe a modest improvement or two now and then. Operations under Stewarts and, later, Masons, it seems often ran break-even or at modest loss, apparently more or less acceptable for all concerned.
For the place was never about making money; it was dedicated to providing genuine, affordable purification and healing as a public service to benefit the greater good.
It was essentially a love of service, nonprofit-in-spirit enterprise, one devoted to enabling city-choked travelers to rejuvenate in easily-accessable wild nature, roughing it with only basic amenities provided while focusing on detoxing, unwinding, and healing nature's ancient, time-proven way.
"It's a 24-hour day. It's like a child - you're always caring for it, nurturing it, trying to make it better." -- Crystal Foggy, co-manager with sister Astra, 2004-5, daughters of former owner John Foggy
With Sacramento masons running retreat from 1954 to 1969, lodge member couples drawn to the place themselves benefited from water treatments while living on grounds and managing the then seven-month open season spanning April Fools Day through Halloween.
Beyond hosting visitors at a then still uber-rustic retreat and providing bath and sauna treatments, they busied themselves constructing new lodgings, like the row of present day apartments #1 - 6 next to the Cottage. (Still uncertain who built Cottage, or dorm units #7 - 10 for that matter, but had to be either masons, following Weed investors, or Goodpastures.) Such lodging expansions enabled more to enjoy extended benefits of waters. A focused series of 21 daily baths was then recommended to turn around the most troubling maladies. see Masonic bulletin excerpts in Vintage News Articles
Synchronicity? Henry Stewart and daughter each successively devoted 39 years of service to place. Stairway up to dorm rooms 7-10 above bathhouse, built by others long after their reigns, excluding later-added cement landing pad has...39 steps.
Weed Consortium Followed Masons
In 1969, after some 15 years' operation, Masons sold the place, for reasons unknown. Maybe they got tired of place not paying for itself better with only fitful
< A-frame group lodging,
built with NFL earnings
visitorship, and/or managers got cabin fever and wanted to move on, and no replacements could be found.
In any event, it was soon sold for unknown price to a consortium of three local Weed, California businessmen: Joe Aquiaand Fred Pillon (both of whom died around 20ll), and head, former NFL football star Aaron Thomas, Jr.
(still kicking in Grants Pass, OR, as of mid-2018). He played tight end for S.F. 49ers and New York Giants, 1961-1970.
And if new ownership didn't, well, it was on them.
If so, fat lot of good it did. Besides quickly carving up acreage for private vacation fiefdoms, there was talk by owners -- no doubt among other fantasies -- of turning place into a football training camp. (As not too far away, recently-resurrected Harbin Hot Springs was once long ago a boxers' retreat, stranger things have happened. Farmers downstream who'd divert water from creek might've earned extra money fishing out and returning errant throws bobbing their way into their onion fields.)
After 78 years of earnest straightforward dedication to healing under Stewarts plus another 15 of what might fairly be called dedication-lite by Masons, things got sketchy...fast.
While triumvirate did make improvements to aid in enjoyment of public visits during their tenure of 19 months, including building current cabins #13 - 17 (unplumbed until later owner), they also, as said, subdivided land...legally lopping off top and bottom quarters of former 40-acre parcel between themselves.
The A-frame house that's now rented to large groups (shown two pictures up) was built as Thomas's own private vacation home on topmost land, separated out. To this day it remains a legally separate parcel from the main 20+ acre chunk, though it has always been tacked on to larger piece in Springs property transfers.
And what's known as Green Springs House located just outside entrance gates, somehow appearing as the Springs gatehouse or manager's or steward's residence, was in fact built as another private vacation home for another of the three. It too was legally separated out, becoming its own narrow ten acre slice of former Springs property.
In contrast in A-frame land, it wasn't tacked onto rest of Springs property in future transfers, but was kept under different ownership. Massive gated wood fence built between it and rest of property -- and much later, surreal wire spanning high across creek with No Trespassing sign weirdly swinging out over waters -- underscored the fact in no uncertain terms. In time, house became longtime home of 1970's co-owner Carol Goodpasture's sister, renowned polarity massage therapist Elizabeth Wagner (crossed over 2012).
In the early 1980s it was briefly the leased residence of world-renowned Findhorn's Peter Caddy He was interested in possibly setting up a new kind of Findhorn at Stewart Springs as a teaching and retreat center, and did do some workshop conferences on grounds, but things never panned out. see Book Excerpts
What's now known as the Cottage, located above apartment row #1-6, was possibly built by the third member and kept within main parcel, dweller maybe willing to serve as caretaker for occasional guests, possibly run the bathhouse between enjoying one of the best sites on land for enjoying water music, being located right above the seasonally thundering creek.
In any event, on subtle planes such divisive subdividing of land could be viewed as having further handicapped the spirit of oneness of operation and any more holistic enjoyment of realm by more psychically attuned and awakened visitors.
Stewart family's pure intent to keep the place simple, essentially nonprofit and dedicated to affordable healing and rejuvenation -- focus apparently more or less honored by masons so long as they ran it -- faded like a rose cut from life-giving roots the instant the masons abdicated their stewardship trust, for reasons unknown.
It's a profound pity that the Masons couldn't have taken the time to find suitable buyers, ones who'd naturally want to keep alive the essential, dedicated
focus of honoring land as sacred while healing visitors affordably as a good-karma, benevolent public service...rather than ones going off the deep end on inappropriate diversionary trips, copping mundane attitudes of "Well, it's our property now; we can do whatever the heck we want with it."
Possibly the owner triumvirate and various other owners through time considered the Stewarts fools for seemingly never having exploited the place for profit. That, or assumed -- as have many of uninformed public -- that they were just bumbling operators with no real head for business, and so never got ahead...when, in fact, as noted elsewhere, Henry Stewart was already a successful businessman from several related ventures.
He no doubt bought and started Springs retreat as a relaxing retirement service...possibly a way of giving back after all his good fortune -- and in process acknowledging and honoring the earth wisdom and land reverence of the native culture, whose members decades earlier had likely saved his life. His daughter and her husband appeared to have followed in the same attitude of gratitude, dedicating efforts to affordably help serve ailing humanity by offering a nourishing retreat amid the blessings of wild and free nature.
Maybe over time masons came to resent being saddled with the remote operation. Possibly it had become a white elephant, sapping lodge's energy, focus, and funds, and they simply wanted to be shut of it after latest caretakers/operators burned out on uber-rural scene.
Maybe the actual masonic members who had reportedly made a solemn vow to Stewart's daughter Katy to preserve and perpetuate her family's 78-year mission had by then died or retired...and current heads didn't feel the same same solemn responsibility to keep honoring commitment. That, or, for all anybody knows, maybe she'd told them to just do the best they could for as long as they could, crossing her fingers and hoping for the best, that it might thus remain locked in to high-minded service in perpetuity.
One might wonder if she or husband had ever considered making place a legal nonprofit operation, or had encouraged masons to pursue such a change. More likely she would've felt any such legal moves unnecessary in an age when one's word was their bond and so there was no need to pay some high-priced lawyer for a convoluted paper chase that would've likely required spelling out in exacting terms how to run what had always been a super relaxed, downhome operation.
It's likewise unknown exactly why the three Weed businessmen didn't make any longer go than 19 months. Maybe they'd snapped up place cheap as a bargain they couldn't resist, then were never quite sure what to do with it beyond making some improvements and enjoying place for themselves awhile in newly-built vacation homes, before reselling for nice profit when things got old and they itched for yet another new venture.
It's fairly safe to assume they weren't exactly keen on ever running a bathhouse. Maybe all had agreed beforehand on short-term investment and enjoying land privately, and/or hoped to get place to pay for itself by becoming more a rustic resort rather than mineral spa, lodging now becoming the central attraction, through building the five hillside rental cabins. Maybe one or more ultimately felt a tad guilty for breaking up the tea set, as it were, realizing place had been such a historic operation that, after all, it deserved to be kept going by someone who could actually get into running a rural healing spa retreat like founding family.
Or, again, being businessmen, maybe they'd all agreed to make improvements while enjoying the place a while, then flip it, all too willing to part with it to first comer down the pike plunking down cash on the barrel head.
In any event, as fate would have it they sold it to a party that to date came closest to resurrecting the original love-of-service spirit and healing vision of realm.
Grand Goodpasture Era
Far and away the most colorful and thriving post-Stewart ownership reign unfolded when Carol and Winston Goodpasture's family arrived to take the helm in early 1970s.
They'd moved up from South Pasadena in Southern California on tidal wave of late 60's-early 70's rebirth in natural healing ways and popular resistance to oppressive forces, wherever they lurked. It was a season of miracles. Visionary thinking held that those rarefied times were no less than Infinite Spirit giving all receptive lucid, super-technicolor previews of coming attractions of a planet transformed. Carol said she felt guided to the place. They called the A-frame home. (Unknown if they felt some unaccountable urges to watch NFL games.)
During those purple haze days the Springs enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, becoming something of an earthly paradise by most accounts of longtime locals. Upbeat owner-resident family graciously hosted visitors to immaculate grounds, zenned-out bathhouse operation, and plentiful natural food in grounds restaurant that they reported built, all at friendly prices, doing the same in City of Mt. Shasta once building another restaurant building there that eventually became Lalo's.
Revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom was invited to do regular full-moon sacred sweat lodge ceremonies on grounds, beginning a tradition that lasted some 45 years, until December 2017 when present ownership effectively told them to leave, claiming otherwise prohibitive fire/liability rider would be tacked onto new insurance policy that lodge couldn't begin to cover.*
There wasn't a car bridge much (any?) of the time. Everyone parked on upper road and approached bathhouse across covered foot bridge spanning Parks Creek, once known as Angels Bridge. Carol sometimes greeted newcomers there with cup of cold mineral water to drink and start healing regimen -- if one could accept mild sulfur taste. Drinking mineral water was traditionally deemed as important as immersing in and breathing steam from waters.
What was until about 2014 main bathhouse parking area back then offered inviting soft grass for clothing-optional sunbathing and picnicking.*
Further decline & fall of
The Goodpastures' divorce -- there was trouble in paradise after all -- prompted hasty selling of place in 1980. They obviously were in no mood to write any book (or "How my Husband Merrily Blew My Fortune" might've been title). Springs had the misfortune of being sold to a couple, the Whitneys, who either didn't appreciate treasure, know how to care for it, and/or seriously lacked means to. They weren't good for $300,000. balance due soon after the initial $30,000. down had apparently exhausted resources.
Was Whitney related to S.F.'s Sutro Baths owner George Whitney?
Pure speculation here, but... wonder if ephemeral Springs owner Robert Whitney was any relation to San Francisco brothers Robert and Leo Whitney, who at various times owned and ran The City's Ocean Beach Playland-at-the-Beach, the Cliff House...and famous Sutro Baths.
Whitney, The City's "Barnum of the West," purchased the place and attempted rescue of the renowned but perennially money-losing Sutro Baths operation after Sutro's death, keeping it going a few decades more (enabling writer to enjoy fanciful sprawling realm during youth), before throwing in one of ten thousand towels stocked for masses who never came.
Later-day Robert Whitney connected with Foggy in San Francisco, where Foggy was based.
Combine these facts and curiosity's aroused. Granted, Whitney's not that uncommon a name, but can't help wondering if perhaps Springs's defaulting Whitney owner was grandson or some such to regionally renowned Whitney family. If so and in the genes as it were, he'd perhaps become irresistibly drawn to rescue yet another historically famous, financially-indifferent bathhouse operation, this time one at top of state and tucked in the woods, but lacked wherewithal to succeed.
If true, it would further solidify place's historic San Francisco connection, as back in the day visitors flocked to Stewart's from Bay Area, taking train up for grand outing in wilds of state's sparsely populated northern region. (If not, it's still a good story.)
San Francisco's Foggy
(well of course it is)
It's rumored the floundering Whitney couple actually tried to get mafia financing at some point for looming hefty balance.They finally snagged last-minute investment loan from San Francisco entrepreneur John Foggy.
He no doubt sensed business opportunity if couple defaulted, as it must've seemed very possible they would.
In less than two years, during which time the over-their-heads (and reportedly a bit whacked-out) couple let place go to wrack and ruin, they indeed gave up on their misguided efforts, threw in towel, and place went into foreclosure.
Foggy promptly snapped up property at county auction, for $20,000. He was basically buying the place from himself as he was not about to lose his investment. He thus became absentee owner for next 34 years, until early 2016. Hereby put to rest are rife rural legends how he picked place up for a song on the county courthouse steps or won it in some high-stakes poker game -- unless one considers original speculative investment a poker hand of sorts, and, as it turned out, an incredibly long one. (More on Foggy years later.)
Pioneer Henry Stewart
According to 1890 census reports, founder Henry S. Stewart stood six feet even and was a blue-eyed gent. He came out west in 1851 on wings of California gold rush in his early twenties, no doubt seeking fortune, fame, and adventure.
He had trekked from northeastern Pennsylvania's coal-barging canal hometown of Honesdale, newly built to help sate New York City's voracious fuel appetite. For historic perspective, the year he was born, 1827, was mere year after July 4, 1826 deaths of U.S. founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (famously on nation's 50th anniversary).
Arriving in California by oxen wagon via Salt Lake City, after possibly first giving gold panning a try he found himself exploring the top of the state. Story goes that natives secretly watched him exhaust himself futilely trying to get heavy-laden wagon unstuck from mud. They took pity on him after he keeled over in total prostration and likely faced possible death (winter conditions?) if not rescued. They carried him up to their sacred mineral waters sanctuary to soak in healing waters, made hot by throwing in rocks super-heated in fire, similar to sweat lodge heating method still used today.
He credited the healing waters, along with their kind ministrations, for saving his life.
Stewart returned East during American Civil War years. (Undetermined whether or not he enlisted, as so many Henry Stewarts of Pennsylvania did.) He came back in late 1860s, sailing around Horn this time, with new wife, Julia Newman, plus milling equipment. He reportedly started first grain mill in Edgewood region and over time prospered through milling, farming, cattle ranching and dairy.
Long after having been cured by mineral springs on first visit and becoming staunch believer in waters' healing powers, after lengthy legal delays he purchased Springs from federal government in 1875. Apparently there'd been a dispute whether it was government land or land given away by government to Central Pacific Railroad as part of incentive to build line.
Such further contentious energies present around founding of charitable enterprise might linger on subtle as well to metaphysical thinking, further hobbling place's fuller potential as healing retreat until karma's fully erased by full-tilt long-term dedication to providing compassionate purifying, healing, and rejuvenation in nonprofit spirit, as operation of old.
< Poster from unknown year. maybe 1910s.
Note exorbitant bath price!
His was a labor of love, pure and simple. A fulfilling retirement gig, perhaps, at age 46. While this doesn't sound old today, average lifespan then was, of course, considerably shorter.
With no interest in making retreat any sort of cash cow, happy to break even and subsidizing operation cost when need be, he and family between themselves dedicated 78 years to fostering affordable rural retreat for purifying, healing, and peaceful recreation (well, apart from killing non-human residents for sport, that is) amid wild alpine surroundings, with often-lively Parks Creek coursing its merry, determined way through.
Trivia: Henry Stewart's middle name was Stella. Back then it wasn't uncommon to honor female family member by bestowing her name in male
Resourceful, self-made millionaire, John Foggy, fifth post-Stewart family steward, had likely never before dealt with such an operation, one whose bottom line -- very reason for existence -- was, historically, NOT to generate profit but instead to selflessly offer affordable purifying, healing and retreating as a public service. While two post-Stewart owners before him tried to make a go of things, operation was still far from commercially viable.
What to do with such a philanthropic oddity? Re-sell it? Or -- as he did after briefly putting it on market and intuiting from ready responses that the place was undervalued and perhaps worth building up as a long-term investment -- figure a way to make it a going concern.
Of course, Foggy wasn't always an absentee owner. Early on he came up to stay in A-frame with family on working vacations. Future co-managing daughters Crystal and Astra reported having fond childhood memories of place. He tuned into grounds, sussing possibilities and brainstorming ways to upgrade it into a more upscale rustic springs resort, hoping to attract broader variety of visitors beyond then-limited base of natural healing devotees and sometimes thin-spending countercultural trekkers.
Over time he'd produce radio and TV ads using management personnel. Manager Mary Hildebrand's front office manager mom, Pat, reportedly offered folksy pitches ala Motel 6 chain's Tom Bodet. (And, also like Motel 6, management had staff turn porch light on before leaving for home if guest planned on arriving after nightfall.)
Side Story: Iconic & Ironic Fort Entrance
One dramatic change: building wooden faux fort entrance that to this day greets visitors, replete with massive gates, iron bracing and crenelated watch towers. Impressionable half-expect to see towers manned.
It possibly strikes some as misplaced movie set from a '50s western or bygone, bizarre attempt to create rural Frontierland amusement park in the boonies. One story has it that it was created to attract investment interest from Hollywood.
Then, too, it's likely owner appreciated how John Wayne and other westerns film stars formerly visited a mile down hill at Vanderbilt mansion and perhaps thought it fitting symbolic tribute to frontier times of retreat founder Henry Stewart. Be that as it may, it did serve to help protect grounds from vandals, thieves, and would-be squatters, as place always closed for winter until late 1999.
In any event, entrance is a mind-boggler for every first-timer:
"Now entering Fort Stewart. Safe at last! Let our cavalry help you find respite from slings and arrows of current times by enjoying our refreshing spa. (Kindly check any attitudes at front office.)"
Managements under Foggy reign:
Early 1980s thru 2016
Having other, larger businesses to run -- Foggy reportedly once held custodial contracts for every U.S. Air Force base west of the Rockies -- he switched operations to macro-management, hoping to build it up as going concern by relying on modestly-paid, living-on-grounds managers' business acumen and creative innovations -- within his hardnosed guidelines, of course. He told them that since he lived so far away and would seldom visit, they should act as if they owned the place in order to gain the best sense of what needed to be done to increase business. Of course, illusion of owning it often clashed with reality as place straggled by with fitful, small staff working on starvation budget.
He'd apparently often flirted with the idea of selling it -- reportedly soliciting offers, then withdrawing from market once essentially getting real-life appraisals (and possibly having a few almost-sells). Hollywood action Hollywood actor Steven Seagal once made an insultingly low counter-offer on place -- reportedly some $60,000 -- that was rejected out of hand.
Again, this led to an epidemic of false rumors of some mysterious new owner having snapped up the place every time a new manager appeared in the front office displaying a pronounced proprietary airs. (Absentee owners, it seems, all too easily cause such faulty assumptions. Over decades, reviewers frequently referred to place's hired managers as actual owners -- and still do -- when, of course, they're only employees doing the absent "owner" bidding.)
He finally DID let go of operation, on January 19, 2016, after 34 years of alternately sitting on place and building it up. (His daughter, two-year manager Crystal, had earlier passed on offer to take over the place permanently as not really her cup of tea.) For how much?
Trip to county court house where it's public information revealed that place went for the princely sum of $US 2.6 million.
Foggy managers over years:
~ (Earliest managers unknown)
~ Couple: Susie Frank and Joe Helweg, lived on grounds, 11 years, 1989-1999
~ Mary Hildebrand, Susie's cousin, five years, 1999-2004 (died 2004), lived 12 miles away, both tenures with Susie's and Mary's mothers, CeCi and Pat respectively, taking turns managing front office
~ Foggy's daughters Crystal and Astra (latter lived on grounds in Cottage), two years, 2004-2006
~ Couple: Ted Duncan, 2006-2015, ten years; (died 2015); and wife Rowena Pantaleon, 12 years, 2006-2017; lived on grounds in Cottage much of time until Ted's passing, then mostly remote managing last two years for new ownership from distant home
(see story of 1989-2005 family management in second tale in Something about Mary)
Fair warning: Long opinionated sidebar
New, still inappropriate ownership focus
Will place ever get it right again?
As most everyone surely knows by now, Springs got its first new ownership in ages. Title transferred January 19, 2016. Individual names are unknown to writer (which fact speaks volumes).
As mentioned, vague rumors of new ownership were rife over decades, resulting every time some officious new front desk manager appeared. Many visitors apparently couldn't -- and often still can't -- distinguish between absentee owner and various managers hired by
them who must, in absence of owner, ACT as though they own the place. Perhaps notion of proprietor not being there, or at least popping in now and then to mingle with guests, was -- and remains -- too weird and unsettling a reality to wrap mind around.
We have to cut down all those hillside trees... (?) well, okay. Tell people they can't skinnydip anymore... ya gotta be kidding! -- okay, okay, don't get your undies in a bunch... Sign this nondisclosure agreement if you want to keep your job... jeesh...okay (something's really fishy here, but hell, it's a paycheck...)
Long before sale to present owners, a hidden microphone was craftily planted in office by management. Apparently done, among other reasons like security, to nip in bud any staff member who might dare grumble about sometimes-draconian marching orders, mic seemed to continue serving much the same function with new owners. It worked to keep any office staff from talking out of school, perhaps over-commiserating with dumbfounded longtime visitors without dire consequence once sea-level operational changes all but gutted former bohemian spirit of the place.
At least one office worker was fired as a result (Planned to quit anyhow, unable to deal with way things were going.)
Is that spooky or what? Writer suspected such a device existed long before owner change, ever since a personal incident. One day, no sooner had I started voicing bit of constructive criticism in office, as was my wont, to front desk Linda Boyle's sympathetic ear*, than suddenly head manager Rowena rushed in out of nowhere for no apparent reason, trying to act all nonchalant, just standing there looking about, the very picture of (feigned) innocence.
* Sad to report, office manager Linda and husband Joe, vital SMS handyman for many years, lost everything but lives in tragic fire a few years after retiring to Paradise, California, site of state's devastating 2018 Camp Fire.
More sensitive visitors, especially those treasuring memories of mellower times, might've felt as though some springs gestapo had abruptly, surreally taken over place. Same basic thing happened after Foggy bought place in early 1980s before later mellowing, as related further on. see new owner article
Owner change at first seemed so pregnant with possibility. Writer had hoped it would prove the golden opportunity to finally redeem legacy of pioneer founding family and fully re-activate healing spirit of land. New ownership was, after all, involved in quasi-spiritual field, and before sale had reportedly told manager they basically liked the place just the way it was. (see home page). Of course, it's very possible this was only a fabricated story to keep natives from rebelling until she was safely out of the picture.
It was surely a golden chance to re-dedicate place and fine-tune operation to affordable, profound purifying, healing and rejuvenation, in process drawing in renewed involvement of wider community, with all its varied talents, skills, and resources. Place would become a thriving cultural healing center for community, both local and global.
Sadly, time has obviously proven owners were not at ALL interested in keeping place just the way it was. They'd apparently only been biding their time, all the while busy spinning private-minded, diversionary plans. In fact, they proved intent on SERIOUSLY changing place, essentially re-purposing it to suit own conservative organization's private shtick and mindset.
Apparent aim: revamping visitor base to more upscale/mainstream traffic (at least for a while) to better support focus of outfit's psychoanalytical shtick, public effectively defraying 'rental' cost of having place also serve as Pneuma world headquarters (they have branches in several countries). Plus, of course, enable its various groups to enjoy place for themselves from time to time as their own little shangri-la.
Forget any altruistic, unassuming effort to provide general public with former 100%-dedicated, genuine, affordable healing spa and simple lodging for longer enjoyment and benefit.
Gone with the wind.
Spring-purist visitors on finding the cornerstone of progressive spa atmosphere, clothing-optional, suddenly verboten, plus sacred sweat lodge kicked off land, viewed changes as little more than place having tragically morphed into some ersatz, convention-bound, watered-down tourist trap with commercialized new-age overtones.
Again, many including writer suspected new bathhouse and lodging operation appeal to more like-minded upscale and/or conventional visitors was simply a means of subsidizing diverted focus of operation that's now tellingly referred to among selves as "Pneuma retreat center" and world headquarters. And ostensibly permanently closed and revamped bathhouse is being touted as new Shambala House for future classes and retreats. see home page
One would think that over $26,000 a year in county property taxes to scrape together would've provided a world of incentive to stay with proven formula that was solidly supported by longtime loyal customer base. But they seem to have made a gamble they could in time generate more (and be more comfortable) with an entirely different visitorship, so blew off the huge bohemian-leaning base, whose support, again, was largely responsible for putting operation well into the black in recent times...possibly for the first time in place's history.
That, or had intended all along to segue place into becoming closed to the general public and were resigned to the high 'rent' of taking over the place to suit their own purposes.
As related on home page, soon after new actual-on-grounds management arrived in December 2017 on wings of ownership board member's visit, place's sporadically powerful medicine wheel ground to a screeching halt. They'd essentially kicked out the sweat lodge and erased the springs gazebo love and prayer offering altar...on top of a year earlier scrapping old-management unsupported but owner-okayed, wildly popular, clothing-optional policy of 17 years standing.
No great surprise, visitor volume tanked overnight.
Misguided changes obviously mark a grievous crimp in place's healing energy and precipitous decline of place as the tenuously open-minded, service-focused healing refuge it had so unassumingly been for ages.
Place has lost every cultural touchstone that helped make it so extraordinarily popular in recent decades.
Actions devastated myriad former supporters. Sweat lodge was deep tradition at springs, keeping alive spirit of thriving cultural diversity, including -- critically -- original pre-white-man descendants' tapping the natural medicine of sacred grounds, in ritual connecting participants with prehistoric roots of American land.
Current woefully inappropriate intent, again, seems to be bound and determined to re-purpose place to serve, among other things, as academic teaching center for practicing therapy professionals to gain extra credentials, enabling one to add transpersonal psychology methodology to tool chest and hang yet another framed certificate on wall to gather dust and reassure patients paying small fortunes for long-term psychotherapy that money's well spent.
Stripping out former vibrant, bohemian-leaning culture to accommodate own more buttoned-down mindset, that of target visitor base, and super-structured, clinical approach to healing patients in distant cities has, obviously, alienated myriad long-time Springs aficionados to point of de-facto boycotting place en masse, writer included.
Countless fans around the world soon refused to support the place as so shockingly run.
Prayers are for appropriate future ownership to rescue realm after anticipated abysmal failure of misguided effort to mindlessly alter place to serve psychology shtick -- one that in many ways can't begin to hold a candle to mother nature's own simple effective way (when able to become fully one with her via clothing-optional) to dramatically uplift and reintegrate body-mind-spirit. (One of ostensible central goals of Pneuma approach...ahem.)
Action is seen as too bizarre for words. It's a severely unacceptable departure in light of how place served most of its 145 years as an affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating spa retreat. It's a sorry change that time will almost certainly prove unsustainable.
Not that that would necessarily be best idea. Far better if future benefactor owner legally set up place as charitable non-profit operation in perpetuity, as long ago nearby Jackson Wellsprings in Oregon reportedly did, and as Harbin did, creating non-profit Church of Heart Consciousness -- thus quashing any possible future inappropriate notions of would-be ownership ever again trying to co-opt place to run in dubious variance from simple de-facto non-profit tradition: perennial public-minded dedication to providing affordable purifying, healing, and rejuvenating amid glad tidings of nature.
Any so inclined former fans of place might bestir themselves to work on finding possible new benefactor(s) for place...one both conscious and affluent enough to afford to buy place once current owners throw in towel and Springs become a good-karma operation once again...re-established as non-profit, perhaps eventually self-supporting --brainstorming ways regional community can plug into place, volunteering diverse talents, ideas, and resources, at long last make place everybody's baby.
More synchronicity: amazing indication universe is on our side is that said Harbin Hot Springs, one of the U.S. West Coast's most popular and free-spirited clothing-optional spa facilities, busy rebuilding after devastating fire, finally re-opened January 19, 2019 -- the same exact date that three years earlier new Stewart owners took legal control. Some kind of grand neutralization effect might just appear to be in effect.
(Stewart Springs History, cont'd)
in early 1980s
As noted, Whitney owner couple before Foggy let place go to wrack and ruin over short 20 month tenure -- a state it seemed to take decades to recover from. Some who remember halcyon Goodpasture days or momentous millennium-fever times might say it was still struggling to recover when latest ownership changed everything once again.
Of course, the former were euphoric times of massive first flushes of humanity's latest cycle of spiritual re-awakening, replete with giddy possibilities after slumbering through abysmally dark and violent times.
Far easier to build positive energy flows with spiritual bar ridiculously low. Some hold early '60s marked spiritual low point in grand 26,000 year spiritual cycle and, now, the only way was up, that all the over-the-top psychedelic hippie hoopla only reflected full-tilt celebration of historically staggering cosmic moment.
The latter turn of century period was a similarly euphoric time, one that fostered wildly free, liberating notions like enjoying spa non-encumbered by needless cloth if one so chose.
Place had earlier turned a hard 180 degrees from lighthearted bohemian oasis to murky wayward backwater -- even rednecky* -- leisure resort. No doubt nature spirits who'd once enchanted place fled in terror, no longer feeling loving kindness of humans resonating with land.
*In writer's first time in bathhouse in 1980s, encountered a rough, unkempt man, slouching in chair behind desk, obviously just hanging out chewing the fat with another. Trying to get handle on new place and lost at sea, instantly sensing utter chaos and confusion, for want of any better question I asked uncertainly if he was the owner. "Wrong color," he snorted in contempt. (Absentee owner of time was black.)
Findhorn's Peter Caddy &
French Chef Serge Margot discover Springs
There were fitful spiritual retreats and workshops, aided by nearby Mount Shasta's powerful metaphysical energies, calling forth healing forces to reactivate and hold sanctuary's positive frequency -- notably in 1983-1984, when Peter Caddy of international Findhorn fame held workshops on grounds while living at Green Springs house outside fortress gate, and sussed possibilities of buying place, then tenuously on market, and creating a "New Findhorn" teaching center. see Book Excerpts
Unknown how long it lasted or why such a solid addition to place ended (if far from plant-based focus, as befits any real healing place); possibly inability to find right management for Springs as a whole. Or maybe Foggy tried upping lease into the stratosphere on wings of operation's roaring success. Anyway, building soon enough reverted to accustomed forlorn empty-building status. see Jenny Coyle's newspaper article.
Despite such extraordinary happenings at Springs, overall trajectory of place seemed to be downhill, not enough abiding positivity to keep negativity from eclipsing and dominating scene over long run. Too often visitors seemed far more interested in hiding out in the country a spell and perhaps go on bender rather than focus on any silly purifying spa regimen.
While some indeed did keep coming to soak and sauna, others simply liked to get drunk off their butts in cabins -- or nurse bottle of Jack Daniel's and puff stogie in outdoor Jacuzzi outside office, thereby neatly accomplishing both at once. Until 2000, ashtrays were scattered throughout sundeck area -- even directly outside main massage room off deck, smoke drifting underneath door, making getting relaxing massage a bit problematic. It seemed all for smokers' convenience, lest, perish the thought, one started feeling too healthy. Rumored reports of prostitution bust on grounds further scandalized place.
History trivia: word 'SPA' was born as acronym for Latin phrase Salus Per Aquas, meaning "Health through water". Who knew?
Local free spirits briefly claimed place a de facto free hippie summer camp after then-gateless business operations ceased and personnel vanished between owners Whitney and Foggy. They were finally ordered off grounds by unpleasant ex-Marine packing lethal sidearm whom Foggy had brought in. It was felt by those who'd loved place for decades and remembered mellower times that once Goodpastures abandoned ship all the carefully built-up good will and loving care and open-minded, progressive spirit were being destroyed wholesale. (Not unlike now; Springs history seems to be rhyming.)
Place went through scary times of lost vision -- sterling century-old track record tarnished like silver jewelry left on during mineral water soak. Things got so bad at one point that a hard-drinking custodian patrolled grounds at night with double-barreled shotgun. Seems place can be either heaven or hell, with precious little in between.
(see second Something about Mary story, in part about dedicated 1989-2004 family management by cousins Suzy and Mary, mothers CeeCi and Pat, respectively, latter's sister Mary, plus longtime bath attendant in-law Linda, married to sisters' brother.)
Managers under Foggy had work cut out for themselves. They dealt as best they could on often over-tight budget. Managements over decades varied approaches from gracious benign neglect and micro-manged no-nonsense with spirited teamwork to chaotic macro management and near-anarchy with surreally casual hirings and capricious firings. Each according to owner and management intent, awareness, lifestyle, budgetary support of owner, management skill or lack thereof, and, of course, that major wild card, changing times.
Everyone pretty much flew by seat of their pants trying to revive the patient and get new -- hopefully profitable -- handle on institution, seemingly often ailing as grievously as young Henry had been.
Editorial esoterica sidebar
In metaphysical teaching each calendar day has unique blend of subtle yet pronounced astrological influences. Property officially changed hands January 19 (2016), a powerful prosperity day -- on all levels, not just material, but spiritual and emotional as well. (As it turns out, it's birthday of no less than wild-child powerhouse singers Janice Joplin and Dolly Parton, and, in amazing synchronicity, January 19 (2019) was re-opening date of Harbin Hot Springs.) One might've hoped this would bode well for new, prosperous, feel-good Springs chapter.
Also though, Mercury was retrograde, which, oddly enough, can reportedly have positive effect on existing businesses, as truth is potentially brought to fore, giving chance to correct course and refine operation.
As time has revealed, this is not always case, especially for what had long been in spirit at least if not legally, a nonprofit charitable operation. And if well-centered, forthright, integrated intent is lacking at gate, then uncertain, potentially chaotic, and mentally confusing energies might seem inevitable result. Especially if harboring intentions at such drastic odds with Stewart Mineral Springs's long-dedicated reason for being, utterly betraying it.
Planetary influences might thus ultimately serve to make current ownership a brief one indeed.
New, ideally appropriate owner(s) might then rescue place and invite community to seriously plug in, sharing diverse talents, resources, and brainstorms, at last redeeming place's historic legacy, serving as down-home, affordable healing and rejuvenation mineral springs retreat that every true-blue lover of genuine spa retreats.
Stewart Springs History cont'd
It was a steep and rocky climb getting even tenuous positive energies back after place's first unscheduled detour through hell. This in part due to putting off countless needed repairs and upgrades until increased business volume could justify outlays -- or to avoid lawsuits over unsafe conditions. Example of latter: before car bridge was finally rebuilt there were planks so rotten, a heavy person could've jumped down hard at one spot and conceivably crashed right through into creek. Situation was also in part due to elusive efforts to find fresh management not dragged down by inertia of place's sometimes-gnarly past, willing to work cheap and roll with owner's sometimes hard-nosed directives.
Just smelly water, revisited
After Stewart family's 78-year tenure, spanning 1875 to 1954, each new owner scrambled to re-define place according to their own lights. Even the most earnest efforts could be hampered by a faster-paced materialistic world that no longer gave credence to clear water. So little, there wasn't time, interest, or inclination to write any history of place -- one, again, so vested in such perceived quaint folk cure remedies that it was simply ignored, if not harshly discredited and ridiculed, by nature-alienated, unenlightened minds.
Crystal Foggy, during brief general manager tenure along with older sister Astra, before, as said, deciding it wasn't her thing, had been interested in the idea of writing some book on the place. She'd recently graduated from San Francisco State University with master's in international business and had creative ideas kicking around. She implemented some during few-years tenure, including expanding office to include renovated gift shop, creating wellness cabin, adding custom tile design work to office and changing-room floor, building new, wider stairway from sundeck to creek -- and biggie, building new, larger sauna.
Rebirth of Sauna
Before Foggy sister managers Crystal and Astra flew off to Rio for Carnivale with brother in winter 2006, they told contractor John Monk to have venerable but badly-aging old sauna torn out and new, larger one up and running in its stead by time they got back one short week later. This involved among other things repurposing space of tub rooms #5 and 6 by tearing down walls and building new ones and LOTS of poured concrete.
Design spun on the fly, local crew of ten-- including carpenters Ohbe and Lewis, stone mason Tony, and electrician Andy -- miraculously manifested it on time, despite working with foot of fresh snow on ground. Crystal brought back large heart-shaped double crystal that was worked into stone wall and backlit for magical, slowly color-changing accent. (When daily programmed, that is; left to own devices it soon began to flash like over-caffeinated neon sign, driving sweaters nuts -- and served as dead giveaway of underlying over-commercial focus of place).
Crystal considered separating noisy laundry room from bathhouse, as it detracted from soakers achieving any more serene state. At one point, discouraged by ailing infrastructure needing so much money constantly poured into it to bring it back up to snuff, writer once heard her mutter, "Sometimes I think it'd be easier to just to tear the old place down and start over."
On wings of sudden demise of longtime manager Mary Hildebrand in 2005, things were in too much upheaval with struggle to get grip on basic everyday operation to even think of taking on any such nonessential project like writing some history of the place. See something about Mary
Significantly, and closely related to earlier reason no book's ever been written, is apocryphal American Indian curse -- one apparently attributed to many native-revered mineral springs, and almost certainly to Stewart's -- that white men never profit from wrested sacred healing grounds.
As droll wits pointed out, curse wasn't all-inclusive enough, as former owner Mr. Foggy, Black, indeed actually started turning decent profits (perhaps for first time in Springs history). Towards end of tenure he reportedly cleared over a quarter-million dollars a year. Of course, he'd sporadically plow loads of revenue back into improvements and upkeep like rebuilding car bridge, replacing bathhouse flooring, rebuilding stairways, installing new plumbing, creating new walking bridge below conference hall...
Add to original white 'owners' the longtime black owner, former yellow manager, new brown co-owner and, of course, sweat lodge's and prehistoric red non-owners, and Springs might appear to be gaining some powerful harmonizing cultural rainbow energy for most diverse, all-inclusive, global culture to flourish in future. see New Day Dawning
Tragic Lore: Renaissance rock star David Crosby's brother, Ethan, also a guitar musician, once worked at Stewart's, and later took his life, as did at least two other then-current or recent Springs employees. plus manager Mary H., all female. (None at property, small mercy.) Place's violent-legacy influence?
Curse or no, Mother Nature's protective elemental forces no doubt rebelled whenever man's covetous hopes for bountiful investment return by trying to cash in on special waters and natural environ superseded desire to serve and heal. Maybe natives, so rich in earth wisdom, didn't so much cast a curse as merely point out obvious. Obsession with accumulating yellow rocks and dead frog skins of paper currency had inevitable consequences.
However, since there was such a hellacious effort by intolerant settlers, likely stirred up and led by hired railroad guns, to wipe them out -- as fate would have it, in and around long-established sacred healing ground -- there almost undoubtedly was one mighty curse cast. As mentioned elsewhere, many believe angry ghosts of slain warriors served as enforcers by haunting grounds beyond time, casting dark shadows over place and seriously crimping potential for healing visitors.
Psychic visitors with ability to sense presence of earthbound discarnates reported tuning in to incredibly hostile energies. One such gifted woman, Sequoia, who earlier had to quit a hospital job for all the restless spirits she encountered there, related to often being screamed at to go away during her bathhouse work tenure. Understandably, she had trouble focusing on her work.
Late revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom led exorcism of ancestral tribe's slain spirits from grounds, on request for help from late co-manager Ted Duncan, who was having violent nightmares. Charlie's grandfather and father, then a boy, were spared massacre only because they were camped further up snake canyon (as they called it) for hot season. They heard prolonged gunfire and came down later and witnessed massacre's unspeakable aftermath.
Fast forward and Charlie was considered too sickly a child to bother trying to brainwash in culture-destroying boarding schools. So he was left undisturbed at home to receive treasure trove of tribe's wisdom and ways. He would spend his life imparting special knowledge, spirit at one point telling him it was time to share sacred medicine with all respectfully interested. (Some tribal members disapproved; to this day there's a serious split in Karuk circles -- new casino in Yreka is product of those not approving of his open sharing, nor of Walking Eagle's sacred sweats that remain open to all earnest seekers.)
Time and effort helped place get back to some semblance of healing grounds by more mindful modern-day owners. But as it was long revered as sacred land, a mystical realm where even warring tribe members laid down their weapons and soaked together peaceably, it remains to this day ambitious climb to regain anything even remotely approaching original prehistoric scene -- one purely dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation in profound respect for nature and in complete harmony with it -- before greed and intolerance, frequent ugly handmaidens of so-called civilization, came along.
Sharing the Misery
There was only small, modestly paid staff to work through often gnarly winters. Complicating operations were periodic disasters on grounds, due to only partially winterized plumbing and daunting efforts to keep roads cleared and paths shoveled after periodic deep snowfalls. Also, serious lack of sunshine in steep alpine canyon after October could greatly lower staff's serotonin levels, further depressing work morale. It was as if land wanted to hibernate and humans were only meddling with plan.
It almost seemed, at lowest moments, that the violent vibration of grounds' tragic past re-surfaced. Then an angry climate prevailed, with hair-trigger tempers and attitudes of "Why do I even bother? Nobody appreciates my efforts" and "I'm not getting paid near enough for this," among both staff and management. Whenever they fell down such black holes of despair -- feeling overworked and underpaid -- day visitors, and especially overnight guests, who experienced resulting indifferent to rough sketchy treatment, reacted variously with furious disdain, grave disappointment and stupefied disbelief.
It made for everyone being unhappy campers indeed. see Rants & Raves
Medicine Wheel Slows
Many deemed the tightrope act of management -- trying to balance place as healing ground while attempting to generate maximum profit -- an impossible one. It lent exquisite irony to old businessman quip, "I'm not in business for my health."
There were dark days, days anyone who experienced them tried to forget. Writer, for instance, was once threatened with being thrown off covered bridge for trying to quietly enforce new no smoking on bridge policy to a Nam vet local with PTSD. Violent
energy could all too easily prevail whenever too few people held intent to reactivate place's healing medicine wheel, potential majestic rotation hampered by over-worldly, covetous owner/management focus.
To the degree owners, managers, workers -- visitors, too -- didn't attune to sacred power of land and waters, region's medicine wheel slowed, too much for most to appreciate or even recognize its existence with timeless potential for extraordinary healing. Or want to write about it. Not beyond occasional newspaper articles like thoughtful mid-1970s series by Emilie Frank for decades preserved on yellowed wall plaques on bathhouse lobby and restaurant walls. It painted vivid picture of place during renaissance
Goodpasture years in 1970s for visitors, reminding locals of jewel -- diamond in rough -- place was and remains.
Viva la Musica!
During more together times, place hosted repeated popular gatherings, workshops and music events. A host of regional and visiting healing musicians, recording artists, and entertainers graced Springs over the years, Eric Bergland, Matisha, Kathy Zavada, Carolyn Hedger, and Anton Miserak among them. Some event organizers (not all musical) would go on to greater renown, like best-selling author Gary Zukav and peace troubadour/author/film producer James Twyman.
The region is so rich in musically transcendent talent and Stewart Springs such a natural locale for people far and wide to enjoy them in a nature-rich, healing atmosphere, it seems a travesty how place's current ownership's non-community-minded intent feels light years away from enabling any such cultural coming together of wider community...as currently done regularly with wild success at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings, in northern outskirts of Ashland, Oregon.
Yet another long editorial sidebar
plus current nudity Ban
Is for-profit operation self-defeating
at healing resorts?
Over-focus on turning profit obviously can all too easily erode any ostensible healing place's potential. In times past, management and staff's brisk cordial business surface could mask a callous drive to feed ever-hungry maw ever more revenue, management possibly incentivized through profit-sharing bonuses if exceeding annual-set financial goal.
All involved could end up compromising finer natures and personal integrity for sake of job security, financial reward, free baths, and maybe the power trip of running renowned institution. If so doing, they naturally became poorer for it. They mortgaged chance of ever grokking what place was all about: healing body and spirit and coming into closer harmony with nature and other beings, while receiving soul-enriching blessing from universe for performing dedicated service.
This is why so many of northwest's most popular mineral spring resorts are run non-profit, like Harbin and Ashland, Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings -- sometimes collectively owned and/or operated like central Oregon's intentional community Breitenbush. Such setup potentially allows deeper focus, providing more-grounded and heart-centered service, unalloyed by any off-putting, growling profit hunger.
Of course, nonprofit as business model can have their own problems -- like over time possibly experiencing disconnect
between original intent and current operation, becoming bureaucratic machine, or cliquish social scene more dedicated to perpetuating themselves than offer genuine service. Example: when Volunteers of America booked lavish party junket at Springs in 2001, writer was shocked at giddy spending from donated funds, including luxuriant terrycloth robe giveaways at blow-out cheese and wine tasting party in A-frame -- likely a corporate donor tax write-off or some such.
That said, the way non-profit springs keep revenues pegged to actual running costs and building improvement/replacement reserves rather than running place to generate wealth, it can tend to inspire and empower staff and management to create far more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere...one more dedicated to joy of service. Where is this more important than at place existing to purify and heal while offering retreat from stresses of everyday world?
Barring such a set-up, only with enlightened compassionate capitalism, like Stewart's was hoped to have by some with new 2016 ownership (scroll down past top editorial), can place ever excel and unfold greatest potential as healing retreat...one that keeps place from turning into yet another superficial spa for spiritually challenged and nature alienated seeking pampering to compensate for having let higher selves be compromised in mad scramble for mammon.
Though some like writer bemoaned the fact that the operation wasn't nonprofit like Harbin or collective like Breitenbush, Stewart's came along nicely in some ways during last years under Foggy, who had by then unlimbered wallet and lavished many improvements; place made notable strides beautifying grounds and upgrading facilities, while allowing c/o last 16 years.
Nicer grounds can of course foster greater peaceful relaxation and sense of well being. Even if perhaps more motivated by wanting to sell it faster and at better price, such improvements likely helped those pursuing lightwork to better tune out any untoward business energies floating about around the edges and tune in to place's original harmonious healing and purifying vibration. (And let better flourish infectious popularity among bohemian-friendly.)
Some say last managers tried as best they could, given strictly-business directive within 10-year contract, to maximize revenue, even amid critically failing health, to build more healing-focused, albeit conventionally-leaning, operation. But, again, it was one impossible tightrope act. Predictable mixed-bag result of miracles and disasters was inevitable result, dramatically reflected in polarized reposted online rants and raves reviews.
Bottom line: Regardless of financial structure, intent is always crucial factor. Ironic case in point: new ownership's Pneuma Institute is a non-profit. See how much good that's doing for place, being run as a for-profit adjunct acquisition by non-profit parent, as allowed by California law.
Clothing-optional: gone with the wind?
More than mild cause for concern among countless now-estranged friends of Stewart Springs is how new absentee ownership so mindlessly junked clothing-optional policy. Countless instantly found new mandatory cover-up laughable, depressing, and intolerable.
It went into effect 11-1-16 after 17 years of bathhouse being low-keyly clothing-optional (in sauna, sundeck and creek area, wrapping up in between places).
Ban possibly came about from erroneous perception bred of buttoned-down conservative lifestyle, aided and abetted by likely Machiavellian maneuvers of old manager, that opting freebodies were mostly low-spending wild local hippies, kinky voyeurs, and shameless exhibitionists -- obviously bad for business -- rather than in fact representative of respectable broad cross-section of awakening global humanity that mindfully embraces radical body freedom in appropriate public places as a basic human right on our fair planet.
Truth is, Stewart Springs management never gained any real conscious handle on clothing-optional policy like other regional rural spring resort permitting simple nudity. (Current layout isn't optimal, besides.) As mentioned elsewhere, past manager Mary finally permitted it, on approval by owner Foggy, but was so bummed over office-manager mother's sudden death that she never hammered out any solid policy (and possibly lacked mindful awareness on the delicate matter to have ever created one anyhow).
So, all along, scene was semi-anarchistic, allowing loads of wiggle room for abuse by any so inclined to ogle (including, mea culpa, writer, in less conscious times) and exhibit selves rather than lift up consciousness by attuning to higher body-mind-spirit re-integration that simple mindful nudity so easily fosters in properly set-up environment.
One would've hoped that new management would resurrect policy once seeing the light, how such simple nudity works hand-in-glove with healing oasis Springs when pro-actively working to raise respectability of clothing-optional scene -- as, gain, have virtually every other more popular regional rural mineral springs resort in northwest US.
That is, unless, to more cynical thinking, new owners banned it along with sweat lodge to intentionally alienate old customer base and make self-interested designs on privatizing/upscaling the historic 143 year, public-minded place easier to suit own intent and taste...and the public be damned.
Some returning visitors, not knowing what triggered such drastic policy change, only being told lamely that it was to make things "more comfortable for everyone", understandably see it as surreal throwback to enforced body shame so many came to Springs in part to get away from.
Prayer had been ownership would reconsider, before realizing they were adamantly against it.
Again, being involved with seeming spiritual organization Incarre, which claims dedication to "re-integrating body-mind-spirit on profoundly higher levels", one would think that present ownership would've realized how simple, mindful nudity is amazingly effective and easily implemented tool towards realizing that very aim. There's a glaring, exasperating disconnect somewhere.
Sounds like it was all talk. Mere sizzle, calculated selling point for enrolling people in long pricey workshops. Why allow people opportunity to experience dramatic, affordable healing through simple, mindful nudity, so liberating and re-integrating of mind-body-spirit in course of bathhouse visit, and thus have no need for any pricey long-term psychotherapy?
Obviously that'd be bad business.
It'd make shtick look more than tad superfluous. Get rid of unfair competition that made them uneasy, making energies too liberated to keep iron handle on visitors, as seemed to be their want. It's essentially the same self-interested energy that refuses to recognize startling efficacy of medical cannabis in treating a host of diseases while so many respectable mad-scientist pharmaceuticals are on scene sucking up life savings, pushing sometimes truly dangerous drugs. (Ever notice how often products' endless legal disclaimers end with "May cause death"?)
In contrast, the only real danger of excessive nude sunbathing is, at worst, risking skin cancer later down the road if overdoing it. And admittedly it's easier burning your butt on hot sauna bench. Can't think how skinnydipping could ever be dangerous, unless getting so used to it that one risks hassle at other public places if trying to practice easily accustomed-to body freedom.
(Springs history concluded)
No time to write
Finally, for some reason it appears few other historic Northwest mineral spring resorts ever published their stories either. Harbin Hot Springs's in-depth book and Breitenbush's booklet are only known exceptions.
To writer's knowledge, neither Orr, Wilbur, Jackson Wellsprings nor Sierra Hot Springs have ever written their histories in any
published form. see Other Resorts This, though some are older than Stewart's and possibly even richer in lore (and for sure less tragic). Possibly both Orr and Wilbur were stagecoach rest stops in 1800s. One wonders if maybe Black Bart liked to unwind with good mineral soak amid redwoods at Orr after latest Wells Fargo stageline holdup.
Perhaps it's not so much a mystery after all that there's never been a book on Stewart Springs.
With ongoing operations in it for long haul, mineral spring resorts' focus is of necessity kept on present and future to stay on top of operations and plan fine-tuning of things. No time to divert limited energies trying to unearth and make sense of any elusive, vanished past.
More's the pity, though. As every conscious being knows (and writer reminds self), past, present and future are all one on spiritual plane -- each constantly influencing others in myriad ways.
Knowing place's past, its beginnings and evolution, can allow visitors fuller appreciation and keener enjoyment of Springs...and give any aware stewards more solid foundation of understanding for charting viable new projects to further place in ways allowing visitors to better experience healing affects of rare portal.
Beyond sometimes dreary human politics of place and current muted policies inhibiting becoming any more one with realm's wild healing beauty, if one listens closely one can hear the land's timeless history in the rushing of the creek and wind through the trees.
It's perfect after all
Seventy-eight years under the Stewarts' dedicated care and over 65 years under various other land stewards since -- each with
Mendera and spirited Mexican >
crew's new bridge near A-frame
different visions and intents creating varied land improvements, all overlays on original pre-historic use as sacred healing ground -- have made for the grand crazy-quilt rustic springs operation we have today.
Disregarding unfortunate and misguided notions any new ownership might harbor to re-purpose or privatize place, no matter what man attempts to do to magical healing realm, it remains perfect in its imperfection...an exquisite jewel of sacred ground and healing waters that have drawn people for centuries, formerly for free, now for coin of realm, to heal, rejuvenate, and, not infrequently, connect with kindred spirits amid glad tidings of nature in optimally relaxed way that losing clothes so magically fosters.
Even when place loses its way and jumps down a rabbit hole of grossly inappropriate ventures, like now, on crucial level the mystic realm ALWAYS transcends any human use intent.
With new ownership connected to apparent spiritual and quasi-spiritual organizations and earth's vibrational frequency increasing, one would've naturally hoped medicine wheel of sacred land would now be gathering serious new momentum.
That instead it's obviously regressing further away under self-interested private-minded intent doesn't mean it can't bounce back in the future.
Either new ownership's hearts will melt or, barring that seeming unlikelihood (writer would currently give hundred to one odds against), they run place into ground until Infinite Spirit eventually foils wonky intent to wrest healing lands away from the people.
Then they'll throw in towel, maybe redeeming selves and ultimate Springs legacy by finding and selling place at fair price to one or group who will gladly honor restoring land to former ways of culturally-diverse, open-minded ways, ideally as perennially protected, nonprofit operation.
One enjoyable by all on mindful paths, as land merrily resonates with grand, albeit fitful, rebirth of our little blue ball in space.
The place deserves no less.