All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Yet More Rants & Raves
(Part Three, continued)
Yet More Rants & Raves
(Part Three, continued)
One thoughtful San Francisco reviewer, CM Zinger, commented long ago on ownership not making better use of ground's charming old restaurant building.
Located over covered walking bridge from bathhouse and below cabins, it was long open only half the year; then often only for three days a week and sometimes only for evening meals. In past, it often put little more than a token focus on healthy natural foods -- raw, veggie and vegan foods
sometimes weren't even listed on the menu -- that befit any true health-minded resort...unless catering a mostly-veggie retreat group, when place might, or might not, have been open to general public.
Anyhow, he noted:
"The restaurant is like a ghost house. No one uses it, yet it's one of the nicest spaces in the whole complex. Make this into a common space, put a store selling some health food items and other necessities, and let the guests enjoy this beautiful space or really invest in a place the people would want to eat like at Harbin or Sierra Hot Springs."
Once and future restaurant
(Yet another long aside. Scroll past to more visitor comments if of little interest.)
It's a lamentable situation all right. In times past building was shuttered for years on end, giving it time indeed to accumulate motley crew of earthbound spirits, seeking peaceful haunting ground away from noisy mortals.
It's likely thought historic visitor volume couldn't justify budgeting enough to pursue such laudable ideas. Even having it as simple common space for congregating -- in
contrast to encouraged silence in bathhouse -- would require new staff position or committed work-trader to oversee things...lest some guest break into beer stash or assume it's a common kitchen like Orr, Wilbur, or Harbin's, and try frying up platter of portabella burgers on the fancy commercial range, burn themselves, and sue.
To successfully serve with longer hours, among other things there's tricky feng shui to remedy the split-level layout, for the sunken kitchen area can make serving masses a constant uphill effort without such corrective measures.
That said, old-time irregulars remember great restaurant success Goodpasture family ownership had in '70s with Greg's tasty, nutritious, stick-to-the-ribs food at friendly prices in down-home atmosphere. For a while it was actually considered best restaurant in county; people drove up just to dine in time when inspired food offerings were scarce to nonexistent in region. (See tribute to its chef by sister on New Tales page. Also their menu wrap newsletter. Also Part II of Emile Frank's article series on springs.
Or phenomenal if brief success of certified French chef Serge Margot running of the place in early 1990s. It's amazing to reflect that such an unassuming restaurant building tucked away in the woods could become the phenomenon it was, blessed with talented gourmet chef. (see Jenny Coyle's news article) It seemed only fitting that such a miracle followed on wings of Greg Goodpasture's earlier inspired devotion to place that so energized building.
In more recent times, some might remember Julie's spirited running of place as Springs-employed chef 2000-2001. She had a sweet deal, living on grounds in the Cottage as part of incentives, as operation was then funded by and integrated with Springs management rather than leased out, as has been for long time now.
Living on grounds can make big difference in attitude and dedication. When it's your home and not just job to commute to, you naturally tend to resonate with place more and invest operation with more heart (except perhaps if living-on-grounds manager and soon creating defensive posturing and visitor avoidance if not on the ball and/or privacy-starved).
Julie, seasoned quick-order chef, was happy to call place home and play queen of the range, and it showed. In even more recent times, lessee Bianca, living within walking distance, lent place warm down-home ambiance in which to enjoy inspired Cuban influenced offerings. Most recently Gia has helmed place and tho commuter restored place's former down-home glory with fine veggie offerings and cheery spirit.
More than a few have been convinced restaurant could be popular again... IF offering same healthy delicious foods it did with Goodpastures, which included more informal service and people's prices.
They're convinced this is restaurant's true niche, matching rustic nature of resort and healing focus -- vs. in times past so often futilely trying to cater to upscale tastes with fancy, often cruelty-based and/or eco-intensive, foodstuffs. Encourage easing off animal-based foods the same way place encourages purifying and healing through soaks and saunas and making grounds smoke-free and alcohol free. It could also offer delicious healthy take-out for picnics, eating in lodging, road trips, and hikes.
Lamentably, weird tendency in recent decades had been one of trying to emulate big city dining establishments: Operators put on the dog with starched tablecloths; impressive uniforms, head honcho's replete with trey fancy chef's hat, making one resist urge to either salute or laugh out loud; hovering, "Can I refill your coffee?" service (often alternating with long disconnects and week-long waits for food); and fancy, haughty cuisine (spelled the way meant), along with beer and wine offerings to wash it all down ...and perhaps dull one's senses to ouchy tab.
That Springs owner held beer and wine license no doubt worked to keep operation in traditional upscale restaurant mode, seeming to lean on alcohol to lift spirits rather than spa healing accented after with generous portions of tasty, nutritious food prepared with heart. An alcohol-serving establishment is just as unlikely to offer natural food as natural food place is to serve alcohol.
In times past it was no doubt a delightful experience for handful of well-healed omnivores and splurgers, wanting to indulge and be pampered, as scattering of positive reviews indicated. And pleasant and novel change of workplace for presiding chefs and staff, even if surreally keeping intact city-operation attitudes and expectations, seemingly -- and weirdly -- never embracing rustic surroundings and special relaxed nature and health focus of place. And at prices that moved former stalwart office staffer Linda B. to sniff, "Food sounds great; wish I could afford to eat there."
Witnessed around 2012: young immaculately uniformed waiter delivering meal to bathhouse visitor lounging by creek below bathhouse. While such service was touching on one level, it mostly struck viewer as time-warped throwback to ritzy east coast 1930s' resort catering to idle rich.
Over-rich animal-based foods, of course, neutralize any healing benefit mineral soak and sauna regimen foster, leaning more thoughtful to conclude resort was only providing illusion of being rejuvenating retreat, rather than plunging in full-tilt to create genuine one. Contrast this with Oregon's Breitenbush, where price of stay includes three scrumptious all-you-can-eat veggie/vegan buffet meals.
Unknown whether such focus was last owner's or managers' possible aversion to perceived hippie crunchy-granola-tofu fare and light spending pursuers of such, projecting own dietary preferences, and/or most restaurant leasers' belief place must cater to most solvent mainstream omnivore tastes...and so try to appear snooty upscale eatery to have any chance of succeeding.
Maybe it was inability to find -- or even bother looking for -- any talented and ambitious veggie chef eager to run seasonal rustic-set restaurant in simpler, just-folks way...one more in keeping with relaxed spirit of bathhouse and earlier successful operations.
One suspects, again, that beer and wine license served to keep offerings and setup locked into dismally conventional mode. While at most all other regional rural springs alcohol is outright banned (Orr is exception), Stewart's had sodden tradition during resort's lost days of yore of rednecky visitors getting drunk off butts in cabins on hard liquor, having lost weekend in woods, utterly disconnected from bathhouse scene except as place to nurse hangover and litter scene like empty beer cans. Later getting alcohol license only perpetuated sorry legacy and/or peculiar disconnect from ostensible healing focus of springs resort.
"And in this ring..."
During peak season Stewart Springs could be dizzying five-ring circus: walk-in bathhouse guests, reservation and walk-in overnighters, extended stays of special workshop groups, sweat lodge (independently run), plus restaurant operation. Owner or management, liking to be freed of extra direct load of operating restaurant on top of everything else, had been leasing out place for years.
Suspect that annual lease cost might've been such that, again, leasee felt had no choice but to go for big-ticket meals to make nut, rather than go with cheaper, more basic meals in greater volume, to avoid losing shirt...like those across creek were so happily doing.
If so, it would go long ways to explain occasional tense vibes some reported, diner volume far below optimistic projections to be successful or even break-even. Who knows? Maybe lessee took out bank loan, remortgaged home, dipped into life savings, or blew dream-vacation fund to finance venture, rosy dreams of thriving establishment freaking out on reality of embarrassingly slack diner volume.
Latter could've been partly caused by chronic disconnect from larger grounds operation, place becoming a stilted world apart. In earlier years when Springs management ran it, the two places were seamlessly integrated: menu on bathhouse lobby table and tempting evening specials posted outside office.
Occasional teaser freebie samples were set out on bathhouse's lobby table to entice visits, and desk manager often had quick meal delivered to post, busily scarfing, giving raves when asked how it was. "Great! Better hurry if you want some, it's going fast!" Traffic flow between the two places was phenomenal. One seldom did bathhouse without at least scoping restaurant's special to see it it could excite taste buds, or decide to partake when finding friends or new acquaintances leisurely parked on eatery's front deck, or inside.
Later leasees often got into loggerheads with management over sundry miscommunications and unreasonable expectations and demands of one or the other, or both. One tragi-comic incident: chef was busy going around grounds putting up unapproved signs to try shaking off slow spell and attract diners...while managers came along soon after, tearing signs down and tossing in trash.
Another involved a disgruntled chef, contract terminated after long cold war with management, sicking county fire marshal on place, which in 2005 apparently had numerous fire-safety-code violations. Result: soon after, even managers joined staff in hasty efforts to get back into compliance to avoid steep daily fines if not remedied before fast-looming deadline.
Such strains naturally worked against fostering any more relaxed place with feel-good energies and affordable healthy food to complement grounds' soak, sauna and coldplunge/cold shower (traditionally in that order).
Instead, in worst moments restaurant appeared some spiderweb, its idle proprietor patiently awaiting to snag a fresh victim, building laden with leaden silence repelling prospects... rather than, say, merry Billie Holiday tunes pouring out door and kitchen window as with friendly, down-home management of Julie in 2000-1, pulling in steady stream of the pleasantly famished; or Bianca's down-home spicy offerings, or colorful prayer flags festooning deck with Gia's relaxed operation (last one under old ownership).
Food, Glorious Food...
Whether former upscale dining focus struck one as incongruous or not, reviewer's main issue was over making better use of venerable structure. Lodgers are, understandably, loathe to drive down hill and to town when restaurant's closed, which is most of the time ("The drive to Weed for a mediocre dinner is a drag..." said Subject Travel), and they didn't rent room with kitchenette or bring food, and don't fancy fasting. ("Oh, good, it's got a restaurant!" some no doubt enthused on gleaning official website, possibly assuming it was open every day, year-round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
Especially since after good long soak and sauna one can hone an exquisitely keen appetite. And, concern for any with picky palettes or dietary regimens, regional veggie restaurants are scarce. There was only Deli in Mt. Shasta's Berryvale and Andaman Healthy Thai Restaurant and Yreka's Nature's Kitchen, all 15-20-mile freeway drives and with own limited serving hours.
It's perhaps downside of being in such a rural area that it seems there aren't enough visitors to support any full-time eatery on grounds. One happy solution might be, as reviewer suggested, opening it as common kitchen for guests at certain times. Orr Springs, which is far more rural, has smooth-running communal kitchen/dining hall (albeit in same building as office and manager's lodging, enabling easy overseeing, but still...) Wilbur and Orr, too. To work it would require new staff position or committed work trader to keep things running smoothly.
A mountain of work and long-term investment, but it would almost guaranteed attract more overnight visitors and for longer stays (assuming, of course, that trying to increase business is deemed a laudable pursuit, which spa purists might well say it is not, if at price of having optimally relaxed visit). Of course, all lodgings except dorms #7-10 already have kitchenettes of some stripe (if only electric hot plate and mini-frig in some), but it'd be popular for these exceptions -- plus any not wanting to cook and dine in private but prefer mingling with fellow visitors -- including campers and day trippers otherwise without access to food prep area.
Alternately, one could run restaurant longer hours and always include staple plant-based offerings like hearty bowls of brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and chili, at affordable prices, ready to serve at buffet table, with condiment island for doctoring to taste. It would pull in more day-visitors with hearty appetites, soakers who'd afterwards happily stroll across covered bridge to scarf meals and stretch enjoyment of realm.
Inertia and tradition have both been strong at Springs. Might never happen, but it's fun imagining place finally breaking through into mellow, full-tilt scene in post-virus, 'new-normal' time.
Writer believes that if enough people imagine and desire such things for place, in time they WILL happen. Are there enough out there who have loved the place so much that they're willing to actively visualize the once and future magickal realm being rescued for the greater good?
Yet more rants and raves, cont'd
Following are three noteworthy posts from long ago under former Stewart Springs management.
TripAdvisor review posted long ago by Christopher M., of Somerville, MA is reprinted here mostly in full.
"I spent two months recording my album in Weed. By week 4, I wanted a nice message. By week 7 I was ready to kill for one, so I asked the Radiostar staff [former local recording studio in Weed's old theater, which hosted town's Blackbird Festival] where to get the best massage and they pointed me here.
"Alright, I'm used to urban trendy spas, or massage therapy businesses that are decorated like aforementioned spas, so you can imagine my shock when I arrived here to crunchy granola get-in-touch-with-your-inner-goddess hippie heaven. This place is in the woods. Not a wooded area set up for tourists, this is the middle of the woods... wild animals and all.
"Upon my entry to the main building to check in I was forced to wait behind a woman and her daughter who were checking out, or rather trying to check out without paying because 'someone had stolen her cat.'
"The idiocy of and behind that sentence made me more tense than when I walked in, but I soon realized just how calm every employee here is with the conversation that ensued:
"Manager: 'I highly doubt anyone here would steal your cat. Did you keep her inside or outside of your cabin?'
"Her: 'she's an outdoor cat!'
"Manager: 'Well, ma'am, we are in the middle of the woods. Wild predatory animals have been seen around here. My guess is that your cat is simply gone. That is the reason for our no outdoor pets policy. Had you informed us of your cat upon check-in, we would have explained that to you. I'm very sorry for your loss.'
"Woman: *jaw on ground*
"Alright, so with that settled, I got checked in and taken to a little hut with sister moonbeam (I seriously think her name was something very similar) who proceeded to give me the greatest hot stone massage of my life..."
Another classic, this 2012 TripAdvisor review by PilgrimOnEarth of Pleasanton, CA, gave place perhaps most rarified kudos ever put to pen or pixels:
"Having spent forty of my sixty years of life outside of the USA and having stayed in countless hotels and resorts and inns on six continents, I submit with all sincerity that my five days at Stewart Mineral Springs Retreat afforded me as much well-being of soul and body as I have ever found in the most remote and undeveloped corners of this planet, which well-being at Stewart Mineral Springs derived not only from the retreat's pristine natural setting, but also from the management and staff's palpable desire to provide their guests with a genuinely rejuvenating experience..."
"Why I like Stewart Mineral Springs"
Carlflygt of S.F. also lavished praise:
"I've been using this resort regularly for about ten years, driving from the San Francisco Bay Area or Reno, Nevada sometimes on a weekly basis. The appeal and usefulness of the facility are several-fold:
1. Powerful mineral water, easily the best I have experienced anywhere in California with comfortable, private tubs;
2. An aromatic, wood-fired sauna maintained at temperatures that facilitate sweating and inner cleansing;
3. A magnificent, high-volume creek cascading out of the Siskiyou mountains, very cold in the winter and spring and pleasantly warm during the summer;
4. A sun deck in mountain air that affords healthy dosing of sunlight;
5. A beautiful drive into the aura of Mount Shasta, the sight of which "turned John Muir's blood into wine;"
6. A friendly and accommodating staff, attuned to the mystical qualities of the resort and the mountain and to the native traditions that are maintained here;
7. Good amenities in the neighboring cities, in particular the Andaman Healthy Thai restaurant and the Berryvale Natural Foods Grocery in Mount Shasta City.
"My inner practices are a combination of Chinese chi kung and the anthroposphical ideas of Rudolf Steiner. I am particularly enthusiastic about working with the extremes of cosmic heat and cosmic cold, fundamental to the evolution of living systems and to the ranks of spiritual beings that are said to stand behind these systems. In the context of deep relaxation, these extremes can be tested at the resort, and I find myself continually intrigued by what they can do. The context of nature, including pine and aspen, wildflowers, birds, clouds, dragonflies, sunlight and billions of stars and galaxies on clear nights, only adds to the mystery of existence that one experiences here..."
Part 4 of Rants & Raves
management -- big picture overview -- universe paging
From highest praise to most discouraging words...
For what it's worth, most of following reviews were aimed at past management, under previous ownership. However, past energies tend to remain present without positive, conscious, open-minded ownership/management banishing old ones -- obsessive profit focus replaced with fresh awareness and heart-centered intent -- not simply coasting on former...or, for appearance sake making nice on superficial level while re-purposing place to suit and support lah-de-dah and semi-private-minded leanings.
Without understanding where place is coming from, breaking through into any robust, here-and-now, can-do operation becomes well-nigh impossible -- and now most likely undesirable anyhow to new outfit's seeming buttoned-down mindset, seemingly indifferent to lukewarm to notion of actually running place for general public's well-being, duly responsive to vox populi rather than boldly trying to steal it away from them.
Alas, unkind comments abound over place's former management, 'rude' being all-to-frequent summation:
"extremely rude and condescending" (Shastadaisey, Martinez, CA)
"These are the rudest people I have ever met." (Unattributed Yelp review)
"I hope one day someone takes over with the love and care [place] needs." (Unattributed Yelp review)
"Completely hostile and rude" (Javacat_Calif, S.F.)
"Rude, short and simply unyielding" (497Laurie497, Benecia, CA)
"Lady in the office was not friendly..." ( EvaKing, Bangkok, Thailand, TripAdvisor)
"...very unprofessional" (Kris Silva, May 2018 Google Review)
"Incredible rudeness..." (Chris Robideaux, Google review)
"Management here is not friendly" (Mathias D., S.F. TripAdvisor)
"Extremely rude... (Andy G., TripAdvisor)
"Shockingly rude..." (Tim K., Woodstock, IL, TripAdvisor)
Longer vintage rants
"Great Place Very Poor Management
This is a fantastic place. However I think that all the staff have taken a course in how to be extremely unfriendly. The receptionist was rude. [In] the dining room 'if you can call it that' the staff were so rude I got a fright and as for the manager of the place she is pretty damn scary. There is a list of rules and regulations with fines attached which is hilarious... This is a deeply spiritual place which I thought was just gorgeous. Its just such a damn shame that the management are so horrible..."
-- Steven M., Sydney, Australia, TripAdvisor review
"This management husband/wife are extremely angry, so while the minerals springs and baths may be really nice on a lot of different levels, if a guest has any one-on-one with either managers, the overall experience will end up lessened. these two managers...are angry and whether you are working at the springs or a guest, i can just say from experience that you want to stay as far away from these two people as possible. they promote themselves as being healers and or shamans, and they are really just the exact opposite... if you actually have to come in contact with them, just remember that the truth isn't always spoken by them, and that the bottom line is, all they want is your money. they are rude, and talk about the guests, which in their line of work should, quite honestly, NEVER happen!!!
"The turnover of employees/staff is incredibly high, that speaks volumes.... so, even though it is an amazing place/space, it could be incredible and awesome without the current management, bringing their negativity to every part of the property..."
-- Jessica B., Dixon, N.M., Yelp review
Springred of Redding, CA in 2015 related a stressful experience at front desk:
"Great place, horrid desk clerk
...I called a day before and lucked into a cabin due to a cancellation. The woman on the phone was delightful and friendly - I was told check-in was 4:00 pm but since no-one was in the cabin I could check in anytime in the afternoon...Next day, I packed up and bought food and drove for an hour and a half arriving about 1:45. I happily walked in to the office and told the woman I was here to check in. She rudely announced that check in wasn't until 4:00.
"I don't know what her problem was and don't really care... She has no business being behind a reservation desk. She ruined my first day, although the other staff were incredibly kind and professional during the remainder of my stay. I've never had anyone treat me so horribly..."
Such a thing obviously should've never happened. The fact that over-her-head, new clerk wasn't summarily given notice or switched back to housekeeping, especially in light of shameful review that instantly went out around world giving place black eye, bespoke former incredibly chaotic, under-siege mentality of management...one incapable of being gracious and geared to offering real service as so befits any real healing operation.
It also reflected place's unruly past, with its crude unapologetic focus on profit over service and unseasoned management's negative reactionary effort to try keeping handle on things on a poverty budget. Resulting sometimes uber-sketchy service made for epidemics of unhappy overnighters like Springred.
Episode was symptomatic of chronic, serious disconnect from any more solid staff communication, so essential for running a tight ship. Plus, inability to find right employee for position, willing to work for peanuts.
It's a perfect example of what happens when management's over-focus generating profit shuts down any real desire to serve and work together to make place a genuinely pleasant refuge, a break from the unconscious scrambling tedium of everyday, often-shallow world...rather than some pitiful continuation of it.
In more recent times it was often the result of freaked mindsets of a management couple under relentless pressure to max profits while also suffering medical death sentence hanging over head of one. Such downer strains combined to crush spirits and, as reviewer above noted, adversely affected vibration of the entire place. (One can't help wonder if they took the job mostly so Ted, knowing he was terminal with stage-4 liver failure all along, could effectively have his own hospice, taking frequent mineral soaks during closed hours in hopes of affecting miraculous cure, or at least slow down decline, suffering having to constantly deal with demanding public as the steep price he had to pay...and seldom loathe to show his displeasure over such trying circumstances...nor his wife.)
Springred's story was, of course, far from an isolated incident.
Another classic tale of woe hit the nail on the head:
"Beware the staff...was met with a shockingly rude woman at the front desk...rather than being helpful - or even neutral! - she was confrontational and downright poisonous. At a 'place of healing'! Ruined my bath experience...she should be fired. Terrible to go to a place for peace and end up more stressed than you were before you arrived!"
-- Tim K., Woodstock, IL, TripAdvisor
Writer's not positive, but this might well have been none other than the former general manager herself, a tad difficult to fire with ten year contract and former distant 'owner' reportedly not wanting to talk to customers...unless sued, and even then his people would've contacted their people.
Also from 2015, page headline worthy of reprise:
"I have LOVED this place for over 50 years!....but last time we were there the head lady there gave a weird vibe. She was short & belittling to the help, and phony nice with customers..." -- Althea H., Park City, UT, Yelp, under 'not currently recommended'
Writer himself of course rolled with many punches over the years. Used to peculiar, often-contentious climate of operation, thought I could weather most anything, but in 2015 found energy at front desk so intolerable, had no choice but to unplug from place. Quit visiting and working on plunge for months...until hearing things had chilled again, relatively speaking, and culprit fired. (Took this site offline a year as well, as it was then less critical, more of a tribute site alone, and the way things were going zero tribute was merited.)
Later, realized it was the same time that co-manager Ted D. was in his final throes of liver failure, passing away two months later...PLUS final phase of years-long negotiations for sale of place being hammered out. (Beyond having to agree on purchase price, reportedly it also took a long time due to legal complexities of joint ownership being in part foreign -- Mexican and Chilean.) Pure pity there wasn't any well-seasoned, cheerful office presence then, like former troupers Danielle, Linda or Allison, willing and able to carry through even trying periods unsupervised, with noteworthy diligence, aplomb, and kind understanding...
...but then, such gnarly chaos perfectly reflected what was going on behind closed doors: half of management was dying while the other half was busy selling the place out -- to parties with wildly inappropriate, if at first well concealed, intent.
No Band-aids could begin to cover such grievous wounds.
End of online review excerpts & commentary
For further possible insight as to why management had been so dysfunctional in recent decades and continues on in sad variation today under wildly inappropriate diversionary intent, consider the following op-ed. Also, 12-part editorial "What Happened to Stewart Springs?" on home page - scroll way down, past lead posting and visitor rants on sweat lodge ban.
Towards better grokking Springs
Gracious healing resort
or over-milked cash cow?
Gracious healing resort
or over-milked cash cow?
Will Stewart Springs ever rediscover its simple altruistic calling, offering affordable purification, healing, and rejuvenation that the place was founded on, echoing reverential and timeless spirit of first nations visitors?
Or will it further degenerate into callous, rigid, for-profit operation, trying to max greenbacks at every turn -- or worse, totally eclipse former public-minded spirit with woefuly inappropriate absentee stewards' exclusive, private-minded shtick that so chillingly seems to cop attitude of "It's OUR place; we''ll do whatever we damn well please"?
With game-changing agenda of new 'owners', will it successfully strip out 144 years of unassuming healing service and re-purpose place to exclusively serve as conservative Pneuma's headquarters, class space, and retreat for its
own functions and enjoyment? And perhaps welcome kindred bourgeois-minded and suffer former free-spirited support base remnant that still straggled in, if only to help defray purchase and ongoing operational costs a while? ($2.6 million purchase price, plus ongoing $28,000/year, or $77/day in property taxes alone.)
Or, with upshot of virus seemingly prompting closing down bathhouse permanently and possibly unable to make go of things by renting lodgings alone, or gain sufficient support from its own groups, might current owners finally decide to throw in towel on a money pit and put place back up for sale...creating grand new opportunity for appropriate steward(s) to redeem place for greatest good of mankind?
Time will tell. In the meanwhile...
Through metaphysics one can gain a far greater understanding of that often baffling puzzle that has been Stewart Springs.
Why have such unlikely, untoward energies sporadically cropped up here over the decades since founder's daughter Katy essentially gave place away in early 1950s, after a dedicated 39-year run that followed her dad's own 39-year run? (see history)
"the only good injun..."
There's a tragic secret buried at Springs...one some have no idea of and others, alas, know about all too well.
In the 1870s, racial intolerance of 'civiized' whites towards First Nation peope reached a blood-thirsty frenzy on wings of 1876 Little Bighorn comupance of genocidal U.S. troops.
So when a stray renegade attacked and killed some settlers, others, possibly riled up by hired railroad guns, became bound and determined to exterminate ALL the local natives. Getting apparent warning of imminent hell-bent campaign, natives fled to ancestral safe place of healing waters -- traditionally a protective place of peace where even warring tribes laid down their weapons on hillside to soak together in temporary truce.
Most were massacred in short order. Late medicine man Charlie Thom's father, then boy, and his grandfather were spared only for being camped further upstream at time to enjoy a bit cooler weather during the hot summer.
Horrific legacy of land now known as Stewart Mineral Springs remains to this day, a grievous wound constantly needing to be healed.
Metaphysics holds that earliest energy imprints by people on any given land stay embedded in its vibrational makeup throughout all time...no matter how many changes happen in following centuries.
If true, then both earliest imprint -- peaceful sacred use of land -- and to significant degree later hideous massacre energies because so devastating -- still resonate on place now known as Stewart Mineral Springs. There's effectively an ongoing civil war between profoundly peaceful and incredibly hostile forces.
The former, being earliest and spanning centuries, is naturally stronger. But the latter, being so unspeakably violent, became unmoored in time stream -- like Titanic sinking, 9-11, or San Francisco's 1906 quake and fire -- and will crop up to eclipse former energy imprint to this very day whenever unpeaceful, exploitative, or selfish use of land is attempted instead of service-focused sharing of earth's priceless healing gift.
Skeptics might say, "Oh, come on, that was over 140 years ago; get real." But a thousand years is a day in the Lord...in divine time that tragedy happened mere hours ago. Any activity on land not centered in purifying and healing and peaceful harmonizing with land and one another calls back mournful, chaotic violent embedded energies of land in a heartbeat.
Only through dedicated service and respect for descendants of original persecuted peoples who so deeply revered land can mindful Springs management ever make things right, erasing old karma and restoring realm's original profoundly peaceful healing spirit.
That's why kicking out sacred sweat lodge marked an unspeakably shameful regression.
Anything short of such dedicated service results in chaos and discord, a resurrection of violent karma of place's original visitors being slaughtered on sanctuary land in that sorry time when, as ugly saying of time went, or Hollywood accurately coined, the only good injun was a dead injun.
It can't be stressed enough:
Land can only heal from its tragic karma by present-day stewards devoting ALL efforts to genuine healing and hospitality service...with no thought of trying to exploit place by unduly profiting from sacred waters OR co-opting operation in ways keeping general public from seeking out place to affordably purify, heal and rejuvenate, in free and light, original spirit of realm...one untainted by any untoward commercial or private-minded preoccupation. All else is guaranteed to end badly.
(To last owner's credit, one way operation worked towards this end was by offering free mineral bath to any Native American showing tribal membership ID. Also, locals eligible for discount extended clear to Ashland, OR. (and maybe down to Redding). With new owner, discount was only a token dollar or two and then only for Siskiyou County residents.)
Days of Future Past
To further understand profit drive and other inappropriate energies crimping place in recent decades, it might help to realize that earlier 'owner' of some 36 years, John Foggy, was a fairly hardnosed businessman. He simply wasn't that into new-age stuff (or altruistic old-timey service gig, as founder), offering mineral-water healing and access to vortex energies as any genuine service. Waters had to be commodified for gain.
He couldn't see percentage in running a business if not to make biggest bundle possible off it. What was the point, otherwise? Towards that end, workers, including writer, when briefly on payroll, were paid a token 25 cents over measly state minimum wage and for years forced to work off the clock and/or not get work breaks if place got busy...all for an undersized staff. Smoldering resentment, bickering among selves, and burnout were the inevitable result. Workers felt shamelessly exploited. Those refusing to work off-clock or through lunch break at such times were fired.
No bones about it: skeletal staff sweating at bare-bones wages could make for sketchy spa under numb-skull management.
If not locked into true service mode backed by ownership and management, staff's ability to keep even a semblance of gracious hold on place for any length of time was -- and continues to be -- doomed. Snappish behavior and dispirited chaos are inevitable result.
Too often it seemed rudeness ruled the day...in spades. It was as if classic business motto "The customer is always right" was replaced with "Hey bub, you don't like how we run things, go somewhere else; plenty more coming down the line; next."
Hence bushelfuls of clearly unhappy online reviews over years competed with cheerier ones. (And, now, going beyond even bothering to post rants, the ever-expanding de facto boycott of place with positive visualization of place's future stewardship.) They could leave bleak overall impression that things at a supposed healing place were hopelessly out of wack. It naturally (unnaturally?) defeated original dedicated purpose...as if some virulent cancer had set in, gradually eating away at retreat's once rock-solid integrity.
Such a contentious environment obviously made any positive, fair-minded, easy-flowing operation all but impossible.
Flare-ups created by less than noble and earnest intent snowballed soon after Stewart family divested of place and masonic owners bowed out. Once-dedicated intent seemed to fade more and more with every ownership change -- with two notable exceptions -- six times now since early 1950s' Stewart family divestiture. see history
Weird vibes often infected management and staff alike. No surprise, various visitors unlucky enough to visit during high-tide operational freak-outs and melt-downs (or rank indifference and neglect) were stunned by malaise and so dispensed uncharitable review headlines like "Retreat from What?", "Rude Staff", "Felt Ripped Off", and "Wish I had Never Gone There."
While stepped-up visitor volume (which, mea culpa, writer aided and abetted in mellower early 2000s) let more people enjoy place, renewed focus on healing and service needs to be stepped up as well, keeping pace, or spirit of place was/is lost. What might help is moving laundry/housekeeping away; and building bigger, separate front office (charming as current one is). Latter could be repurposed as steam-room, say, with side office as new entrance, with alcove for shoe removal like at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings. It would thus better accommodate staff and visitors without cramping energies -- and offer comfortable buffer distance from bathhouse, where most relaxed atmosphere is essential for fullest benefit.
Anyone visiting pre-fire Harbin Hot Springs might remember uber-relaxed, 33-1/3 rpm grounded energy at front gate booth as arrivals leisurely mustered in. Workers refused to be pulled out of diligent but relaxed comfort zone to process any faster. Those waiting learned to appreciate fact as wound-up road energies dissipated: it sank in they were entering not some fast-food joint, but a special healing and awareness-awakening zone dedicated to profound body-mind-spirit reintegration and rejuvenation.
Newly resurrected Harbin was long ago set up as nonprofit Church of Heart Consciousness. People slowed down to await turn, attuning to here-and-now while building anticipation of entering free-spirited grounded-culture paradise, far from so-called real world. (More like reel world, running illusory films nonstop on how life is supposed to be lived in order to not upset one-percenter apple cart, dependent on keeping everyone down and in their place, scrambling for just enough crumbs to not want to revolt.)
It dawned on writer how, unlike at Harbin, where one stepped UP to office window to check in, at Stewarts both paths leading to main office run DOWNhill. Any familiar with precepts of Feng Shui know how invisible chi energy forces build up, becoming stronger, faster, and more turbulent when flowing downward, as at bottom of a stairway. While the path inclines are slight, they do build up faster chi, approachers often walking faster along them, which can make graciously dealing with such energized flow of visitors descending into office more challenging.
Before changing former low sit-down desk to tall protective and practical counter for standing staff, effect of faster chi bombarding seated workers with arrivals standing over them was often overwhelming. Poor Pat, CeeCee and countless others who dealt with visitors that way for ages. But on positive side it did make place endearingly "just folks."
Infinite possibilities under perfect stewardship -- paging universe for new champion of public good
Infinite possibilities under perfect stewardship -- paging universe for new champion of public good
Every mineral springs resort of course routinely deals with trying pressures that floods of visitors can create. Orr Springs and Breitenbush eased problem by setting limits on number of day visitors allowed in, all by call-ahead process -- no walk ins. Stewart's in times past ineffectively tried getting handle on occasional flood of locals-day visitors by limiting number in group without zapping surcharge, with predictably unfavorable response. It was like saying, "Okay, we'll let you crowd in, but it'll cost ya extra."
Better to set limits, be fully transparent, give people credit for intelligence to understand situation, rather than keep inner workings and limited-water reality of place on some secretive need-to-know basis, treating visitors like mushrooms (kept in dark and fed crap).
Despite current tragic dilemma of yet again inappropriate ownership holding place hostage and clipping its wings, infinite new possibilities might loom on the horizon.
Venerable Karuk sweat lodge, effectively
kicked off land after generations >
Current owners do seem obtusely determined to play out their wonky fantasy diversion of water healing and rejuvenation retreat open to general public for better part of nearly a century and a half.
As of May, 2020, they've whittled down operations to lodging and workshops and events, no doubt hoping through them to stanch flood of lost revenue. How long can that go on before they conclude they'd be far better off letting go of place entirely?
They'd let go and sign over to new, ideally blissfully appropriate new legal steward interested in making place a nonprofit retreat...given current owners might eventually be gracious and awake enough to seek out the right person or group to transfer to, thus redeeming their now-tattered integrity and ultimately carve a positive legacy in place's evolution...plus assure their own continued enjoyment of it in future if so inclined.
With Springs aficionados visualizing a positive future transformation of place with well-matched future owner, management, and staff, fans can manifest a springs the way every aware and mindful person who's ever known and loved it in earlier times would love to see it become. Making operation a legal, well thought out, nonprofit healing retreat in perpetuity would all but guarantee it.
With new stewardship following universal passion to heal and enlighten and keep that green energy called money working intentionally and plowed back locally, place would have golden opportunity to thrive once again, regaining rightful place in peoples' hearts around the world.
A quote from Emile Frank's 1984 article, endorsement as it turned out not fully deserved then, and definitely still premature, is perhaps as good a way as any to end this endless rambling...reinforcing the vision of a future enlightened stewardship shepherding one of planet's beloved natural realms:
"Henry Stewart, whose lifetime wish was that the mineral springs could forever continue to heal his fellowman, probably turned over in his grave a couple of times during the evolution of the Springs, but it's pretty safe to say that Stewart Mineral Springs is finally in good hands and that Henry is resting easy these days."
Writer Stu Ward was involved with Springs for better part of 20 years, including work-trade assist to late manager Mary Hildebrand while living on grounds, building and maintaining bathhouse coldplunge 16 years, and low-keyly rallying for clothing-optional in 1999