Site launched in 2011, independent of SMS management, by longtime local Springs aficionado and volunteer Stuart Ward.
Until late 2017 was only mildly disgruntled volunteer (relatively speaking) over way things were going. Nurtured hopes place would turn around...eventually. Especially with new -- at first seemingly promising -- stewardship.
Towards that end, continued doing dedicated work-trade of bathhouse cold plunge upkeep...but with fast-sinking spirits once clothing-optional policy of 17 years was scrapped.
In wake of shocking changes new ownership made once showing true colors, became one uber-disgruntled ex-"employee" indeed. With heavy heart suspended 17 years of psyched involvement (10% paid, 90% informal volunteer work-trade) to join growing de facto boycott of once-cherished realm. Tragic December 2017 sweatlodge removal and taking out gazebo's love-offering prayer altar on top of year-earlier, ridiculously oppressive clothing-optional ban became last straw for writer and countless other, now-former longtime supporters, both near and far.
With pandemic forcing shutdown of bathhouse and subsequent management decision to keep it shut, plus scrap massage service, place is entering truly uber-weird territory.
see here for analysis of situation.
Note: some of what follows was written long ago during relatively more tranquil, alternative-culture-friendly times -- or, actually, more alternative-culture-barely-tolerant times. Make due allowances.
(note: If page appears with stretched out lines you've accessed mobile version of site. If on computer, re- enter site at stewartsprings.org )
What has made this rustic retreat tucked away in wilds near Weed, California, revered by so many for so long?
Its mineral water? Age-old Native American reverence as sacred healing grounds? Sound of rushing creek amid evergreen canyon minutes off interstate?
Maybe its believed energy vortex amplifying vibrations that any present might call forth? Or dollop of body freedom -- allowed until late 2016 and if there's a God in heaven, will be again before very long -- to fully embrace nature, experience body liberation, and enhance purifying, healing and rejuvenating process?
Or staff who, when not scrambling or caught up in tedium or falling down black holes, could feel transported to summer camp, and whose enthusiasm rubbed off on visitors, and vice versa?
Maybe patina of rustic historic establishment and legend of pioneer Henry Stewart, said to be found near death by natives and brought to Springs and restored, making him a true believer in waters' curative powers?
Of course, that indefinable attraction to Stewart Springs has been for all the above and more.
Surprisingly then, no book has ever been written about place. Feeling by this longtime Springs aficionado was it deserved something more... More than official in-house info and sizzle, ephemeral online reviews, and thumbnail write-ups in springs guidebooks, places' policies sometimes changed before books even off the press.
And so site was launched in 2011 in hopes of remedying sorry situation. Original intent: offer more nuanced appreciation, history, and critical analysis of rare jewel that is Stewart Springs and inviting others to share own thoughts and experiences. Latter didn't pan out, and so site over time become blogcentric, along with reposted articles and reviews.
New, additional goals: alert general public -- and mineral-spring spa fans in particular -- how new absentee stewards (isn't that a choice contradictory term?) have been taking place further away from founder's original nonprofit in spirit, love-of-service operation. How it's erased recent decades' free-spirited down-home cultural climate to try to remake place to suit own conservative mindset and serve as Pneuma Institute's world headquarters and related retreat center...one seemingly subsidized by public. And, possibly (if giving credence to dire suspicions of some) even try to privatize it outright, shutting gates to general public after 145 years. (see new intro to Rants and Raves)...
...also, crucially, to convince mostly-international owners they'd be happier -- and restore a good measure of now-tattered integrity -- by moving scene to more appropriate location after taking time to find new, appropriate steward(s)...ones who'd be tickled -- once virus has run its course and life gains some new semblance of normalcy -- to transform operation and land into legal nonprofit healing refuge, dedicated to serving progressive interests of wider general public...especially those interested in natural, radical purification and rejuvenation amid healing arms of nature.
Hope is that massive de facto boycott and social media alerts -- plus now, maybe virus providing coup de gras -- will soon put to an end woefully misbegotten plans, whatever they've been exactly...
..that, barring radically changing tune, they'll eventually throw in towel...yet be conscious enough to realize that even though they've created a bad-karma situation, they can fully redeem selves by selling to new, appropriate ownership. One(s) who see wisdom of resurrecting the downhome, service-loving spirit of essentially nonprofit operation's first 78 years by Stewart family and a few legal stewards and managements that followed in their footsteps...ones who would happily rescue realm, working towards service operation reflecting place's original spirit with present-day mindfulness and emerging new, viable lifestyle twist...
...thereby enabling people around the world to once again affordably enjoy beautiful, wild, free-spirited retreat as service-based healing and cultural center...one finally free (again) of off-putting for-profit, money-hungry vibes and inappropriate repurposing, with its attendant spirit-crushing service disconnects and short-circuiting of place's healing and tranformative potential.
If enough fans visualize and pray for this -- owners recognizing their folly and need to let go of place they had likely unknowingly essentially misappropriated -- then, with crucial help of right angel 'investor' and volunteer regional aficionados and renewed visitor support by growth-minded, nature-loving public, place could turn around seven ways to Sunday ...even allowing for radically shifting societal dynamics over current virus pandemic, wracked economy, and racial-injustice reckoning, creating triple whammy meltdown that's obliterated former business-as-normal realities.
While true last owner (black, incidentally) held place's innate free spirit captive in some ways for 34 years by profit-generating focus putting damper on scene, realize that two of six post-Stewart-family ownerships lasted only a very short time indeed. (see History) (Last owner's greatest redeeming virtue regarding Springs was letting long-time-locales managers run things according to their lights -- reflecting community lifestyle values that more or less happily coincided with long venerable healing tradition of place -- just so long as the money kept rolling in.)
May this one become the third...clearing the way for magic seventh.
Pages form a varied zine collection -- personal Stewart Springs experiences and reflections, history, re-posted articles and online travel review excerpts, informed and semi-informed opinion and analysis, wild speculation...plus occasional news, photos, quotes, anecdotes on anything Stewart Springs related.
By offering diverse takes on extraordinary place -- albeit one with trey checkered history of light and dark energies since advent of so-called civilization, with all its glaring perfidies -- hope is to foster deeper knowing and help place realize greater potential as healing spot, a loving universe manifesting the perfect future legal keeper and hands-on steward. Or current, non-stewarding stewards' hearts miraculously melt.
Site launcher, again, is moi, Stu Ward, former steward of Stewart's. (Yes, synchronicity gone wild.) Though naturally resonating
with name, would no doubt love place -- as it was and is meant to be -- almost as much even if it were called Henry's Mud Flats.
The Springs enriched my life so much, simply wanted to give back and enable others, through own intimate knowledge of place, plus penchant for writing and out-of-the-box thinking, to grok realm on more informed levels...gleam bigger story of historic realm, one long shrouded in mystery of vortex energies that so perfectly reflect and amplify imprints of myriad visitors over ages, from sleepwalkers to awakened, nature destroyers to Gaia venerators.
Since launching, site's received some 89,000 visits around world, maybe 60,000 or so from actual humans vs. crawling search engines. Some leave fast, no doubt looking for additional in-house, commercially-steeped info that does song and dance to woo one's business and concluding "Well, this site's useless; obviously some lunatic fringe". (Trivia aside: term coined by Teddy Roosevelt.)
Or assume writer's just going down memory lane (certainly true in part, but only in part), or is just some disgruntled ex-employee with ax to grind, or one building vanity site to feed ego and brag how covered self in glory long ago (again, perhaps true in part, but only in part)...more than -- beyond any such foibles -- one of countless devoted Springs fans who appreciates how on spirit plane past-present-future are all one and wants to seize moment to catalyze positive change for realm, so that in future more might enjoy abundant blessings of place.
Some linger on site, soaking in stories and re-posted comments of hundreds of visitors, perhaps sample writer's endless ramblings -- some well-informed, others speculative, yet others intuitive, using cracked but still serviceable crystal ball.
Most popular pages over past year:
Though formerly trying to keep tone tenuously positive and upbeat -- place having taken numerous slams over years (many, alas, fully justified) -- site was NEVER a whitewash, never some dubious shill effort to drum up more revenue for place's then 'owner'.
With place having life of its own, site's perspective has tried to be one transcending ownership -- especially those seen by dyed-in-wool spa purists as woefully inappropriate.
Admittedly, before owner change and de facto boycott writer got free saunas and a few baths a year in exchange for informal volunteer cold plunge management, plus things like shoveling snow off sundeck and picking up litter. So naturally felt a judicious need to pull punches.
After having reluctantly 86ed self from place once becoming radicalized over sorrowful situation, there was suddenly no problem in more candidly speaking my mind.
Focus is both on critical analysis, including ideas of how to further fine-tune place (see New Day Dawning), and, like anything or -one cherished, seeing it as already perfect within its imperfection.
Admittedly that's one rough row to hoe now with present interests, up until virus outbreak pulling place ever further away from original healing service spirit of founder's family, 145 year-old DNA still in its bones, wanting to re-activate.
(Ever tease apart the word 'realty'? It's 'reality' blinded and depersonalized without any seeing 'i'. In such property transfers, it's land that's sold, not business operation itself, or any well-established ways and customs that happen to be on it.)
Meditating on Springs through time as balanced whole can enable better understanding of place's lingering gnarly karma and non-progressive energy patterns, which it's so long been plagued with...patterns needing to be brought about, dealt with, and banished, to let realm's rare healing properties flow freely, awakening place to greater benefit potential for every visitor finding their way there in hopefully not-too-distant future.
Goals: manifest new,
ban nudity ban;
return sweat lodge
First, fans suffered clothing-optional ban, then kicking out of sweat lodge. Both tested the forbearance of legion of free-spirited fans' love of place to breaking point of outright boycotting it.
Countless -- including writer -- vowed never to set foot on land again until either owners' hearts miraculously melt and they beg forgiveness of legion of devastated former supporters after returning clothing-optional and inviting sweat lodge back...or, far more likely, until they read writing on wall and give up dubious diversionary pursuits, divest, and, ideally, redeem themselves by finding and selling to new, public-minded steward(s). Ones who, with support of both longtime and new fans near and far, will restore its soul to serve as affordable, free-spirited, NONPROFIT, culturally-diverse healing refuge...
...one of, by and FOR the people.
First strike came in late 2016 with banning clothing-optional, forbidding time-honored option to merge with elements in creek and sauna and on sundeck, huddled masses happily shedding unneeded coverings and stimulating exhilarating release of feel-good endorphins, enabling more effective purification and healing in process. Such personal and social freedom and enhanced healing potential had been central to place's rejuvenation process, making place so incredibly popular for a generation. Take that away and in many people's minds (check visitor feedback to clothing-optional ban - scroll halfway down) place had essentially once again become hostage to convention-locked, body-alienated mindset. It quashed fuller enjoyment of place for countless free-spirited and bohemian-friendly people around the world. In times when any rural mineral springs operation in northwest U.S. worth its salt allows some measure of mindful body freedom in course of spa beyond any private tub/shower, Stewart's became just another watered-down, conventionalized, clothes-minded rural springs tourist trap out of fuller resonance with natural setting, healing waters, and place's original dedicated focus on deep cleansing, healing, and rejuvenation.
Second strike: in December 2017, emptying creekside spring gazebo's altar of years of heartfelt prayer and love offerings, replacing initially with mean-spirited sign barking, No This, No That, Violators Prosecuted...a peoples' shrine callously destroyed.
Third strike: also in December 2017, scrapping 45-year-old Native American weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremony...frosting on cake in new owners' seeming aspirations to either mainstream or upscale place or eventually shut out public entirely to pursue own private shtick...or some unwieldy variation thereof...which they might've been leisurely playing by ear and mostly by remote, from thousands of miles away, as given feedback by on-grounds management, until pandemic came along and threw giant wild card into mix that threw everything off.
Regardless of actual intent, it was three strikes and you're out. Out of favor with thousands of former fans, who spread word to tens of thousands more, generating so much ill will and bad press that any plans to effectively kidnap once wildly popular healing retreat to support own gig would fail abysmally over time -- even if closely-guarded intent actually included trying to shut gates to general public in time and privatize former quasi-progressive-minded paradise to serve exclusively as international Pneuma headquarters and retreat.
In last scenario, it was impossible imagining them ever enjoying one shred of peace of mind for knowing how in shutting gates of beloved institution they'd have broken hearts of untold thousands of place's former staunch supporters around the world, creating a stench reaching to high heaven.
Karma's a bear.
Unwitting appeaser Hope of this at times gullible writer had been that a new, more fine-tuned c/o policy would emerge...once new ownership came to appreciate how mindful clothing-optional policy was an essential offering, appreciated by overwhelming majority of visitor base...a perfect fit for any genuine rural mineral springs...
Especially one in progressive-minded, nature-loving rural northern California...most especially one near world-popular, quasi-bohemian haven of City of Mount Shasta and upper-chakra-tickling big rock candy mountain known as Mt. Shasta.
Writer's now long-abandoned hope was based on three things: hearing from outgoing manager that they'd promised to pour every cent back into place first two years; that they'd raise rates of workers to more livable wage; and, crucially, reading that one of affiliated outfit Incarre's stated spiritual aims on website claimed to be dedicated towards helping people realize "profound re-integration of body-mind-spirit on higher levels."
Now of course, towards that goal no other aid is likely anywhere NEAR as powerful, effective or as easily implemented as by giving visitors option of experiencing simple mindful nudity during spa regimen and thereby greatly enhancing healing process on all levels -- body, mind, and spirit -- in becoming one with nature's elements.
Writer believed future of Springs as true healing place hinged on ownership realizing this obvious fact and promptly re-instating clothing-optional on newly-focused level.
They'd acknowledge simple nudity's powerful reintegration ability. And be open-minded enough to embrace place's long tradition of cultural diversity and universal spiritual seeking to find solution to fire/liability insurance issue of sweat lodge that ostensibly caused group to have to leave in first place, unable to afford reported Hobsen's choice of covering $2,000/month fire/liability insurance rider clause quote if wanting to stay. (Such exorbitant amount no doubt sparked by participant deaths in pseudo sweat lodge near Sedona, AZ some years back.)
So much for wistful hopes. Obviously all bets off now. By remaining adamant on nudity ban, taking down gazebo altar, effectively kicking out sweat lodge -- and, reportedly, STILL only paying minimum wage for non-management gigs -- they showed themselves to be something very akin to villains in eyes of Springs fans everywhere. (see New Day Dawning and home page )
And of course it got worse. Grounds masseuses took pay cut, gift shop consignees had bigger slice taken from sales, employees no longer receive monthly free bath, or even a discount...and, tragically, dozens of mature pine and cedars -- some no doubt growing contentedly while founder Henry was still caring for place before World War I -- were mindlessly cut down to make way for new bathhouse greywater septic system, the need of which surely could've been met in far less disruptive, more creative and ecological way, rather than blindly caving to outmoded, environmentally hostile, conventional means. (Maybe it was in part a forceful gesture to show, in no uncertain terms, that there was a new sheriff in town.)
No doubt, before virus, many people visiting for the first time -- those never having experienced earlier days, which, in rarest moments, could approach blissful, heaven-on-earth communion with nature -- might've still enjoyed themselves, having nothing to compare current social climate and policies to. For place does have charm to spare.
But any the least bit sensitive, among even newbies, might have sensed the disruptive energetic undercurrents bent on erasing place's former vibrant bohemian culture and replacing with either restrictively bland, "refined" culture or catering to lowest-common-denominator mass market.
This while still taking dollars of non-discerning unwittingly funding diversion -- along with support of remaining career masseuses and employees who stayed dependent on place for making rent or mortgage no matter how much it galled spirit and crimped heartsong...
...and longtime annual, ostensibly spiritually-centered event organizers who appeared loathe to change locale, though all too aware (or in abject denial) that all hell had broken loose on the subtle (and not so subtle) planes -- until one day they either priced out, became hooked on the Kool Aid, or they too finally become duly repulsed by scene...
...or front gates slammed shut. Then clueless, would-be soakers merrily zipping up hill would be greeted with growling signs: Private Property, Go Away - Violators Prosecuted - No Peak Experiences for YOU - Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere
bit of my story
& site's evolution
For what it's worth anymore, following is brief history of my involvement with Springs for any curious about my bona fides, background, and/or site's evolution.
Rambling include sidebar on employee burnout and random sprinkling of Springs history. (Some written long before current crisis, so parts have more leisurely, all's-well-relatively-speaking tone.)
Stuart discovers Stewart's
Native San Franciscan, first stumbled onto Stewart Springs in late 1983 five years after moving to region following seven years dharma-bumming around West.
It was for a full moon evening sweat with medicine man Charlie Thom. Flew away October 8, 2013. One of about twelve in modest sweat lodge, am a Springs dinosaur to most, relative newcomer to others -- whose brains sometimes picked for old stories and missing puzzle pieces...like late springs aficionado Jonathan Wolfe, who shared fond memory of 1970's co-owner Carole Goodpasture greeting him at end of walking bridge with cup of mineral water to drink and so begin spa treatment. As Charlie lovingly shared his timeless wisdom and deep roots to land with small group, I was instantly smitten by powerful magic of place... And saddened when, soon after, operation closed gates to general public for several years, for want of finding responsible management willing to work cheap and drum up then-slack visitor volume, without distant owner worrying about would-be backwoods operation. (Then extended family of Suzy, Mary, Pat, CeCee, and Linda came along to rescue place. See their story, including writer in time joining their dedicated efforts.) Same-elevation off-grid patch of juniper-and-sagebrush high desert across Shasta Valley from Springs, in Mt. Shasta Vista, has been reclusive home most of my adult life. Built cabin myself from ground up over leisurely three years without power tools.
Had gone from growing up in most densely populated spot in State to one of sparsest. (Formerly anyway, before phenomenal scoff-law pot-growing influx commenced in 2015 to create serious extension of former so-called Emerald Triangle...but that's another story.) Burned out on city living and always a nature boy at heart, happily embraced living in the middle of nowhere.
Sporadic duty freak, felt blessed to become Spring's resident volunteer groundskeeper and man
Friday to late general manager Mary Hildebrand during historic turning point in place's evolution, from late 1999 through early 2002. Place went year-round, clothing-optional, reopened restaurant, increased hours, seriously upgraded hot-water system, booked flurry of new workshops, concerts, and retreats... Place began to feel more down-home and happening (if still a little lame around the edges for its unseemly profit preoccupation) than anytime since epic Goodpasture stewardship of 1970s.
Blessed because there's been an amazing spiritual force afoot there. One that could super-ground and envelop any receptive and dedicated worker...that is, barring gnarly internal politics, outrageous owner directives, or misplaced workers and visitors. It enabled spirit to at once ground solid and soar like an eagle in joy of service. Some believe Springs has its own angel watching over place. If true, we perhaps need only be patient about current dilemma, now more so as obviously compounded greatly by coronavirus pandemic.
Also did two runs as paid bathhouse attendant, in 2002 and 2005. Joy of service buoyed efforts there as well, one unalloyed by any gnawing financial needs for having small inheritance, growing small home biz, and living simply in boonies...on own land, no always-looming rent or mortgage to sweat (just big-bite annual property tax).
Not that I didn't cause management headaches. Of course I did. Over time I got fired not once but twice. Long stories, but essentially for high -- okay, borderline quixotic -- service standards, ones inextricably tangled up with with romantic fantasies and delusions over various co-workers both interfering with business as usual.
Though not having earned a cent as staff in well over a decade (did sell stones in gift shop for long while), until late 2017 kept an oar in the waters through work-trade by helping Mario maintain cold plunge. It had formerly been own bailiwick, having created and maintained plunge for 14 years until hernia from over-ambitious boulder moving (going undiagnosed for six years of mysterious pains) finally forced stepping aside, at 64.
In light of triple whammy inflicted on genuine spring lovers by current well-meaning but misguided owners -- apparently tone deaf to traditions of place, unwilling to tune into and respect resort's unassuming, non-commercial service heritage and bohemian-leaning lifestyle of core of frequent soakers -- writer could no longer aid and abet such a heartbreaking scene.
Not being able to skinnydip in very plunge built and often worked on in the buff, sometimes along with others, was too galling; it took grand irony to a new level. Actually got busted for skinnydipping five seconds on New Year's Day 2017 in low-key manner that had been allowed by last owner even before liberalizing clothing-optional policy in 2000. No one was around to possibly take offense...except, of course, new dutiful underling, who happened to come down just then to re-fill foot-dip basin in creek and promptly reported me, and so was called into inner office for silly reprimand.
THEN junking the sweat lodge ceremony -- so crucial in helping erase place's severe karmic blot, slaughter of indigenous peoples who long revered land as sacred (see History) on and around very lands -- plus tearing down prayer and love altar in spring gazebo. It finally made unplugging from place an absolute no-brainer. While still dedicated to posting relevant review excerpts (seeming scarce to nonexistent lately), gleaning first-hand reports, and spouting own evolving reflections and understandings of place, de facto boycott by myself and others was spontaneous gut reaction to an intolerable situation.
Suddenly countless c/o fans found themselves up a tree. (sorry)
Every aficionado has had own intimate relationship with place. Unorganized de facto boycott obviously has no leader...least of all some doofus like me. Watchwords of Nobel laureate: "Don't follow leaders / watch the parking meters."
An acquaintance once called me, not unkindly, "the Ghost of Stewart Springs". My influence is of course nonexistent now, beyond serving as historian, chronicler, and analyst...and perhaps haunting ownership's conscience for turning backs on place's time-honored ways. BOO!!!
Fact: Creek's coldplunge temperature varies widely over year from too-chilly-for-words 30 degrees F. during major winter cold snaps (flowing water freezing at lower temp.) to pleasant, linger-able 70 degrees F. during summer heat waves.
Long released from day to day operational cares, writer offers perspective integrating 16 years volunteering, 30 months living on grounds while working, and weekly or better use for over quarter century, along with diligent research of past, now-sketchy acquaintance with present, and elusive glimpses of possible, unborn future.
Never being dependent on place for income has always kept perspective clear, free of any monetized interest whatsoever.
Main story thread continues after long rambling related sidebar
Take this job...
on employee burnout
Sadly, no more than few of countless former employees -- it seems everyone and their uncle has worked at Stewart Springs some time or another -- still visited before December 2017 sea change. More than once in a blue moon, anyhow. (Which, being second full moon of any month having two, averages every 33 months.)
Some got so involved hustling for paltry paycheck, they forgot to enjoy amenities and refresh spirit, place becoming just another time-punching gig until something better came along...or work pressures got so gnarly they ran off screaming.
In happy contrast, during Goodpasture stewards' more leisurely reign in 1970s -- simpler times and more modest visitor flow, for sure -- everyone, owners and employees alike, did daily bath and sweat, thus keeping in resonance with spirit of place and reason for being. Work burnout could easily take its toll, in time creating pronounced disenchantment with place. Especially if strapped for cash and feeling disheartened busting a gut at twenty-five cents over minimum wage on undersized staff. Wages were reportedly raised first thing by new 2016 owners, given reason for prices going up, covering more decent worker pay, at least for upper-level positions...serving perhaps as incentive to follow strict orders...work becoming more strictly for pay than for any abiding affection for place and desire to turn others onto it.
That said, former two-bits-over-minimum-wage reality could make it all but impossible for those hoping to cover rent or mortgage to experience anything remotely approaching that ennobling feeling of toiling in the vineyards.
ESPECIALLY if being forced to work off the clock and not always getting work breaks. About 2005, writer was
approached and invited to join group of livid ex-employees filing grievance claims with State labor board over such former, shady owner practices.
Opted not to, though claimants were well compensated in owner fines. Reason: others, spitting-nails mad, burned bridges with place -- hadn't seen one there in decade -- whereas writer, again, never dependent on place for income, had time of life playing working class hero and wanted to stay welcome, not become persona non grata for joining whistle-blowing on then-managers' owner-father. Not so much noble as practical.
Place could be one super-demanding juggernaut of operation, regardless of pay -- especially during (at least former) peak season and any holiday weekend. Any employee aware and hoping to last learned in a hurry to work double-time when need be, sometimes even triple-time -- hopefully while keeping positive attitude locked in service mode. Only alternative was being left wanting number of truck.
Writer was spared such burnout or getting thrown under bus (all these vehicle analogies) only for being volunteer work-trader first and foremost, and able to mobilize energies whenever needed. It was only way could keep enjoyment and veneration of place alive. (One exception: things got so gnarly at front desk in summer 2015 with over-her-head, control-freak employee that I had to detach from place, taking then tribute-only site offline a year and staying away four months until hearing person was gone. Turns out it was during stressful period of property-transfer negotiations wrapping up, PLUS final throes of co-manager Ted's terminal illness, dying two months later. see Management in More Rants & Raves) It was disheartening seeing dedicated workers giving their all only later to quit in disgust or be fired over petty internal politics -- conflicts created by former contentious work climate, in turn product of over-focus on profits by last absentee owner, with on-site salaried managers doing bidding. Resulting often-graceless exploitation of overworked, underpaid workers could all too easily quash any effort to offer genuine, relaxed healing service as so behooves such a place.
Examples: one office worker got fired for being too friendly and personable with visitors, perhaps making others, especially managers, look too unfriendly in comparison. And a housekeeper, wanting to deep-clean cabin in desperate need of it, fell behind mad-scramble work pace disallowing any such diligence, and was also dismissed.
Tawdry but True Dept:
Own, second firing
While sauna-ing, hoping to unwind off-duty one night in 2005, writer spotted a roving young sexual predator who'd been banned for life years earlier. He'd boldly begun molesting fellow off-duty female employee alone in sauna at night, before someone came in and he aborted efforts. Ages had passed since incident. With all-new workers and managers, no one recognized him...except me. I shifted gears in a heartbeat. Managers were gone for day, so, only recourse was to alert office.
Alas, at moment it was run by man with long history of sticky-finger proclivities and who would soon get caught and imprisoned for continuing to try plying shadowy trade at Stewart's. Earlier, I'd cautioned co-manager Astra from keeping him for this very reason after realizing he'd been hired, but to no avail. As scrambling newbie managers, they were hard-pressed for help -- any help -- at start of super-busy peak season.
Indifferent to what might prove another despicable incident, he acted as if there was no problem at all, saying dismissively, "Hey, he paid his admission." Then hatched a diabolically clever revenge plan on me, as earlier on he'd learned how I'd blown the whistle on him when manager confronted him with sticky-fingers allegation and they didn't see fit to protect my anonymity. He'd acted all chagrined, humbly professed to have mended his ways, become better person, ad naseum.
Now, totally ignoring red alert, he instead fabricated his OWN red alert, delivered to manager later that night after I'd gone, of receiving desk complaints of ME egregiously misbehaving in sauna.
Already out of management's good graces, having already almost been fired once for unrelated reasons and now looking for any excuse to be rid of me in their mad Trumpian revolving door of staff...which fact he knew and shamelessly exploited.
I was summarily fired next day on coming to work, psyched up for another busy service stint. I was also banned from grounds for six months. And never got an apology for their believing his lie and dismissing me, not even when, shortly after, he was caught pocketing restaurant receipts and sentenced to three years in state prison, and so obviously an egregious liar. That's how crazy and dispirited things could get there.
I received miserable bit of consolation later, when in town he gleefully bragged to a casual girlfriend of mine -- whom he also knew and who'd in fact alerted me of his past job thievery in first place -- how "I just got Stuart fired!" He had underestimated her regard for me and no doubt forgotten her part-Cherokee, hair-trigger temper. She up and punched him in the mouth.
Used to be fun raking
place over coals
Disillusionment and outrage over former, sometimes astonishingly gnarly energies had tarnished memory of many, as it easily might've done me had I been dependent on job for filling belly. It could ruin ability to ever enjoy place again short of letting go, forgiving, and pushing re-set button.
It seems some actually preferred staying mad at place, enjoying the piss-and-vinegar rush of righteous indignation in raking place over the coals. Before coronavirus, when new owners upped the ante to truly insufferable levels for many former fans, one could either give up on place in sad resignation, suffer changes and go into denial if still trying to cop another long-accustomed soak and sauna now and then, or shun place and spread word to join de facto boycott while envisioning positive change for place.
Since the plague hit and bathhouse operation closed down by state mandate (perhaps blessing in disguise in some weird way). While waiting for eventual resumption of some new normal to hopefully emerge, one can either visualize (unlikely) miracle of current owners' hearts melting...OR manifestation of new, appropriate stewardship redeeming scene in future.
Anyone the least bit aware soon learns to appreciate how the Springs, rare earth phenomenon that it is, is worlds more than any owner, manager, staff member, person, or operation overlay. It has a life of its own. One saddened by those who don't recognize or appreciate its extraordinary healing properties and gladdened by those who do...enough to want to work in harmony with its gifts and freely share place with as many others as possible in mindful service.
Given enlightened stewardship, everyone setting foot on land becomes a handmaiden, redeeming place from over-worldly focus and diversionary use, aiding the rebirthing of sacred healing grounds to benefit of greater humanity.
my story cont'd
time capsule project
Sporadic writing freak, had long felt pulled to cobble together some writing on place. Idea first took hold in 2000 at start of two-year groundskeeper stay in little abode above the Cottage and apartments.
It was then called the Shed; it's now called Henry's -- for good reason.
As some know, this modest structure, closest to creek of any, is believed first one on grounds. Its earliest form was built by none other than founder Henry Stewart (1827-1914) along with friends soon after start of last century. Hard to believe now, but it actually served as the first-generation bathhouse. It had long been relegated to musty storage and semi-feral cat hangout by time I set up makeshift
lodgings in it. Having electricity but no plumbing or kitchen, it held a rare treasure -- best river song in whole place, bar none. You swung open big window and sweet thundering creek music flooded the room, filling air with negative ions and white-noise supreme. Such meditation-inducing atmosphere, immersed in so long, no doubt sparked a deeper interest in place and where it was coming from.
I became the first of many resident workers staying there over years. (It's now plumbed and enlarged, served as extra office many years; then combination office/staff residence, as is next-door Cottage; now, no idea.) Wood floor planks beneath multiple layers of curling
linoleum were old. Official, yellowed county health department notice on wall, dated 1934, dourly warned of unlawfulness of more than 34 people cramming into tiny structure.
Being super-impressionable and, like Frasier's Daphne Moon, a bit psychic, felt I'd tuned into
Henry on some level. Sensed he'd maybe like his larger story told...especially in light of fact place still bears his name. Like many, wondered what his story actually was beyond the sketchy legend of being rescued by natives in 1850s when life was in peril and brought to waters to be healed, and decades later buying property to dedicate rest of his life turning others on to it. see History
Who needs a
Initial book enthusiasm evaporated after exhaustive research revealed that little written history seemed to exist. Daunted, abandoned project and went on to craft and self-publish two factional novels on body freedom and compassionate diet, thus sating writing lust for a while.
Concluded maybe place didn't need a book after all. Seemed everyone was all right without one...or it would've been already written. Anyhow, history accounts can be dry, so not here-and-now.
Last flash before abandoning project was to cobble together book of everyone's written experiences with place ala Studs Terkel's shared-bio collection approach on given subject. It also went nowhere. Perhaps it was my at times off-putting manic enthusiasm, leaving others little room to get excited themselves...or others' disinclination to write, seeing little value in such pursuit in our seemingly post-literary world (especially if not getting paid for effort, beyond possible cheap thrill seeing one's byline atop efforts). It was frustrating. Some have been made to feel they can't write, probably some long ago English teacher from hell convincing them. But it's said oftentimes the best writing is simply writing the same as you speak, and most everyone can speak.
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Anyhow, over time site has, by default of de writer, become too blogcentric (plus it not being capable of instant posting, ala Facebook and Instagram) to much attract others to contribute anymore, I suppose. But, as said, the original site vision had been of dedicated fans contributing own perspective and unique story, mingling with my own. Hope springs eternal another so-inclined reader might sometime surprise the heck out of me by emailing their own story and/or two-cents' worth on place, to add to site. (Stories would likely go to top of New Tales from Stewart Springs page.)
(click below to open blank email form)
One story heard in January 2020 by woman visiting for first and only time around 2012: Apparently some gay men's group had swooped in for a retreat, bacchanal or such, and had boldly taken over bathhouse, chasing each other about in naked glee. She assumed place was always that way!
Springs seems to be natural mystical realm everyone adopts as own medicine grounds. At it's best, deeply personal, inward -- sometimes even celestial -- experiences are had there, which elude ever being verbalized, let alone being put into print and read by parties unknown.
It's the kind of place that, alternately neglected and abused for so long, people build protective feelings about it...a mystical place where everyone effectively directs, scripts and stars in their own private super-natural movie, sometimes slipping out of rational temporal mind and into timeless realms, grounds serving as rarefied portal. "That's a wrap on eternal soul memory #7,472."
Stewart Mineral Springs is steeped inside a vanished past, convoluted mystery of man's light and dark impulses wrapped inside nature's dreamlike forces.
Words often fail to do justice in explaining the staggering, life-changing episodes some have experienced there over the years.
Also, some are naturally disinclined to share any more out-there tales, for fear of sounding too woo-woo-ka-choo. Long-ago veteran office manager CeeCi, for instance, was one day convinced a flying saucer had landed on grounds. (Who knows? Maybe scout ship actually did, though there's precious little landing room; maybe at favorite wedding-site clearing above Conference Hall and A-Frame?)
Trivia: Restaurant building in Mt. Shasta now known as Lalo's was built in 1970s by then Springs owners Carole and Winston Goodpasture and family. It briefly served as town compliment to thriving
natural food restaurant on grounds (which reportedly they also built), deemed by many best restaurant in county at time.
After dedicated resistance to pursuing any online creation -- being die-hard book lover preferring physicality of inked words immortalized on dead trees -- was finally won over. (Losing small fortune in self-publishing ventures no doubt helped.)
Electronic compilations like this are worlds easier to create, vastly cheaper ($22./month, my dime), and allow instant free global access. Plus, can change, re-arrange, add, or delete text and pix anytime. How spiffy is that?
Not least of all, they can be super green: having lived off-grid since 1978, 98% of time without generator -- sunshine or bust -- all site work is powered by bottled sunshine from modest solar array. (Teaches energy conservation and efficiency in a heartbeat).
To metaphysical thinking, earliest human imprints on any given land stay forever embedded in it. For sure, Springs still resonates with Stewart family's 78 years of dedicated service, from 1875 to 1953. see History...also, alas, with earlier tragic Native American massacre taking place about grounds before family purchase -- but, saving grace, before that with earliest, peaceful, harmonizing energies of indigenous peoples, revering land as sacred healing ground since time untold. That being the earliest imprint keeps it the dominant one, no matter what subsequent overlays obscured it.
THAT'S the deeper understanding lending hope that place could indeed be restored in future to nonprofit, community-active stewardship...resurrecting it as much as modern times allow -- with current, growing state-of-consciousness twist and teeming lifestyle diversity -- to its peaceful, pre-historic healing sanctuary lands vibration.
The Springs is like a giant onion, inviting one to peel away layer after layer and reveal ever deeper understandings -- of place, life and selves. The more one groks the essence of place the more it becomes a no-brainer to want to revive it to to some semblance of its original pure spirit.
Most Stewart Springs snapshots are mine. A few are re-posted from Internet. (Credit here to Minna C. of L.A. for nice close-up of now-gone gazebo altar.)
All, mostly vintage, nudist pictures are from site nudistfun.com (caution: non-secure site; now, sadly, apparently somehow connected to video marketeers catering to pedophiles).
Thanks to all who have contributed or given permission to re-post/reprint writings; they anchor site. Springs aficionados no doubt appreciate hearing diverse takes on place; perhaps the more unique takes are shared, the better the chance of building up a critical mass to manifest turnaround.
Though no formal network exists, together devotees of rarified realm constitute a protective loose-knit mystical lodge: a de facto Friends of Stewart Springs, as it were. Better yet, a Liberate Stewart Springs Collective, growing and fine-tuning within planetary oversoul.
For it's a fact: even if one last visited 20 or 30 years ago, precious memories of place stay locked in the gourd.
As writer keeps hammering and yammering, it's CRUCIAL since draconian changes that informal Friends visualize place gaining new stewardship and re-harmonized energies -- now more than ever, with virus concerns shifting global energies so radically -- and current ones realize they'd be happier doing their thing elsewhere, seeing the light and redeeming themselves by seeking out appropriate stewards, ones who'd be tickled pink seven ways to Sunday to meet creative challenge of re-imagining place to a legal nonprofit healing/cultural center. (Think mini-Breitenbush or Harbin.)
Don't assume it inevitable that once-treasured place is forever doomed to devolve into conventional watered-down resort -- or now, even worse, lodging only, bathhouse now seemingly destined to gather cobwebs, water pipes longing to have healing waters flow through them again.
Demand a miracle. Great spirit could have other plans IF hearing great enough chorus of heartsongs from all who have loved and cherished realm.
Of course, current owners' hearts could melt and place return to roots of serving as sacred healing ground for greater public. But barring such a miracle, if they've a modicum of consciousness they're getting a grand reality check and will in time resolve to redeem their legacy in Stewart Springs history by seeking new appropriate stewardship to turn place into dedicated healing and cultural center.
THEN fans near and far might again join in to help create a flourishing, affordable, culturally-diverse healing retreat center...
...more awesome than ever.
< A-Frame front door's stained glass inset, artisan unknown