Further excerpted reviews of Stewart Mineral Springs reposted from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google. Interspersed with rambling commentary by former 18-year SMS work-trader and volunteer assistant manager under Mary H., 1999-2002.
See here for Parts 1 & 2, including in-depth take on current dismal post-virus situation in new introduction. Bear in mind many reviews posted LONG before new ownership's sea-change in December 2017, with evicting sweat lodge, removing gazebo altar, and even earlier November 2016 clothing-optional ban -- as it turned out, only phase one of drastic cultural shift, now rendered fairly moot with pandemic scourge (ostensibly) prompting permanent shutting of bathhouse.
Suspect many rave posters, had they visited pre-virus, would've felt like deleting or reversing review sentiments in a heartbeat.
(Note: TripAdvisor in 8-2019 deleted all reviews going back more than a couple years, matching time of ownership change. Many older reviews, headlines, and excerpts are likely preserved here only now.
If on computer and page appears with spacey lining, you've accessed mobile version. To view computer version, re-enter at stewartsprings.org or delete 'm.' in web address and re-enter
"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 review under 'currently not recommended')
"This is such beautiful, sacred land and blessed, healing waters; I am so grateful for all the stewards, past and present. It is a place to come for retreat, introspection, contemplation, to enjoy the serenity and majesty of nature..."
(rory f. - L.A., CA Yelp review)
"These are the rudest people I have ever met." (unattributed Yelp review)
"Even though there where no people around, someone came out of an office to shout at us that nudity was prohibited. WHAT? What a strange place!" (Beth H., 8-1-20 TripAdvisor)
"...a magical piece of land full of life..."
(Dominique Habroucq, Google review)
"The people who run this place are clearly happy to ignore the fact that this place is a resource for all people..." (Drew S., Oakland, CA Yelp review)
"I hope one day someone takes over with the love and care [place] needs."
(unattributed Yelp review)
"So sad about the changes up there"
(Susan Shannon, SMS Facebook)
"...very disappointed that the staff was so strict and conservative..."
(Leigh Christie, Google review)
"If this is supposed to be a sacred place it doesn't really feel all that healing."
(Matthias D., S.F., Yelp under 'currently not recommended' at page bottom)
part 3: review headlines -- recent reviews -- restaurant -- classic reviews
part 4: dread management grumblings -- big picture overview -- calling future owner
Revealing Review Headlines
Oftentimes review headlines said it all. No surprise that TripAdvisor summaries spanning decades were all over the map:
"Peaceful, Perfect Stewart Springs" (MGalli, Chico, CA)
"I wouldn't stay here again." (unclebennie, Oregon)
"Amazing Experience" (Portland, OR)
"Gritty!" (Laura708, Redding, CA)
"Rustic and wonderful" (sofiska, Bend, OR)
"Great Place, Very Poor Management" (Sydney, Australia)
"Sacred Site, Sacred Bathing" (Arnhem, the Netherlands)
"Beautiful Area - Not Too Friendly"
"Yelled at for going in the door! (Javacat_California)
"Tops for Mother Nature's healing properties at their best" (Brookings, OR)
"Lost weekend" (Tbannikova, Tripadvisor)
"If you like funky hot springs, this one's for you!" (Ceetay 60-27, Aromas, CA)
"Fall in love" (SubjectTravel, Baton Rouge, LA)
"Freezing cold and rude staff" (Monterey, CA)
"A Wonderful Place to Relax" (mrsmueller, Halifax, Canada)
"Would NOT go back, would NOT recommend" (bistra, Florance, OR)
"Fabulous healing waters and spiritual atmosphere!" (Carl M. Ashland, OR)
"Rustic but perfect at the same time" (Port Alberni)
"Wish I Had Never Gone There..." (1happyclam [?])
"Simplicity at its best" (Kae L., Chico, CA)
"Not what it used to be" (John T, Carpenteria, U.S.)
"...I'm not spiritual, but the place changes you" (Irishwannabe, Portland, OR)
"Not for a party, even for mellow folks" (Sunrae54, Redding, CA)
"Why, when things change, it never seems for the better anymore" (Shastadaisy, Martinez, CA)
"Very bad new ownership" (Andy G.)
"A Gem Nestled in the Woods" (Michelle M. - San Diego)
"Funky but Relaxing Stay" (Kellismom, S.F.)
"Lovely atmosphere" (Persephone2010, Northern CA)
"Confusing" (Kirstine 2013, S.F. California)
"I floated away from here on Cloud 9" (rther, Berkeley, CA_
"Felt Ripped Off" (Laurie497, Benicia, CA)
"Amazing Experience" (WillPDX, Portland, OR)
"Great place for a retreat" (Boston, Mass.)
"Retreat from What?" (Victrola78, Santa Rosa, CA)
"Unfair policies - don't reserve here!" (goggirose, Pacific Northwest)
"Mediocre experience" (Audrey, San Francisco)
"...Mother Nature's Healing Properties at Their Best" (Brookings, OR)
"Better than I expected!!" (LIBLK5, Paso Robles, CA)
"Horrible customer service, horrible accommodations and horrible experience" (KnitVallejo, Vallejo, CA)
"...Little gem" (Nearyme, Juneau, Alaska)
"Worst night of my trip" (bomshellbaby, Seattle, WA)
"One of my favorite places on the planet" (Ori977, Ashland, OR)
Such varied reactions, beyond changing times and management/staff, showed in part how everyone had different headspaces, expectations, and opinions on what constitutes a good mineral springs resort. And how willing or able one was to let place's energy heal and transform, letting go of petty worldly concerns in process.
Alas, they also showed how place in recent decades harbored callous, profit-driven jack-in-the-box energies (and with owner change, heedless, diversionary, conventionalizing intent to boot), which could spring out of nowhere, shocking and disillusioning unsuspecting visitors to hell and gone.
More recent reviews
To wit... Late 2017 posting on Online Instagram Posts by Michele Feasby reflects many people's deeply conflicted feelings over changes under new ownership:
"Visited one of my most favorite spaces up in Shasta, Stewart Mineral Springs. I hadn’t been in a few years. The second I started walking the grounds and headed towards the head springs, I couldn’t help but notice it didn’t feel the same. There used to be angelic statues, altars, all over the grounds, ALL GONE! I arrived to the head waters of the springs where this gorgeous altar used to be, guests would leave offerings, all gone. I couldn’t help but feel sad, I had left gifts there.
"What did it for me though was that I went in to get my bath and sauna, expecting to pay $15 [early 2000s price on locals day - Ed.]. They now charged $35. I get the business incentive to this, repairs, employees la de da, but Siskiyou county is one of the poorer counties in California. This place has been a local spot for as long as I can remember. The old Italians would say they would come to this spot for healing in the winter, when their bones would hurt from the cold.
"Apparently the new owners have a different idea of what this place should be. I feel conflicted. Change in one hand is good, being accepting of how others practice their spirituality. Then on the other hand respecting the history and tradition of these grounds. There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that has been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased [emphasis added]. The new owners, from what I heard, want to make it more 'mainstream'. I wish places like this could be protected..."
Also from 2017:
"I have been treated very rudely by the management and staff here several times. The place itself is exquisite but it unfortunately appears to be managed by people who seem to be exploiting this place of natural beauty for their own greed and profit. A one hour bath now is costing up to $35.00! That is quite unrealistic and exploitative and way more than any other hot spring I have ever been to.
"The staff could use some hospitality training and are lacking in graciousness. Nor do they appear to have any sense about making guests feel welcome. They are very into rigid rules [emphasis added] that they aggressively and with even hostility impose upon the guests. I am looking forward to a change in their management and I hear so is much of the local community. Hopefully they will get much more gracious staff as well as management that respects the integrity of the environment as well as the guests that come there. What a shame!"
-- Sue M., Los Angeles, Yelp review, in 'Currently Not Recommended' section (just above bottom of page. Click link to scope deep-sixed, often more-critical, reviews -- also loads of shill postings Yelp apparently saw through)
Alas, staff and management are usually a reflection of ownership. "They" would have to sell place to get more gracious management.
"We feel that the prayers of respect and
gratitude have been felt by the land"
-- former-management website statement
Neon-bright sign of how disconnected and asleep-at-wheel things became: for nearly a year after gazebo's prayer altar was taken down and initially replaced with not quite so inviting "No Trespassing, Violators prosecuted" sign, official website still had the following up on its Mineral Waters page, holdover from previous management under old ownership:
Over the years, many of our guests have taken a stroll over the wooden bridge to what we call the Source House (sometimes known as The Gazebo). Once inside they gazed through the glass floor to watch the mineral water gently seep out of the rocks and into the creek. When we designed the small, wooden building , we included a small shelf on one side. Little did we realize what we began. [Royal 'we'; craftsmen likely built gazebo before manager even born - Ed.]
"The simple shelf is now an altar filled with candles, dried flowers, stones, crystals, notes, and so much more. We love our guests! We feel that the prayers of respect and gratitude have been felt by the land and have truly made the water sacred."
If having left this bit of kind insightful sentiment (one showing that Rowena could indeed have heart) up on site so long after sale and ensuing shocking changes didn't tell you something about new owners' apparent indifference to communicating with general public, don't know what could. Sentiment, finally removed, had become a glaringly outrageous smiley-face fiction, reflecting ownership's seeming disinclination to provide even one dollop of real, honest communication to place's once-loyal visitorship or public at large.
Perhaps they knew there was nothing they could say...to assuage shock and heartbreak felt by so many now-former supporters, those who'd held the place's energy for decades...perhaps no real concern either, seeming content to indifferently let chips fall where they may.
Material wealth, with all its attendant rigid structuring needs to preserve and grow it, along with power, seems all too easily to callous one IF becoming so preoccupied with ever-greater accumulation and control that it crowds out greater treasures of spiritual awareness and compassion for humanity.
Obviously, seemingly all but forgotten was intent to run Stewart Springs in cheerful, dedicated service -- no untoward, compulsive bottom-line watching or half-baked diversionary fantasies -- desire being to foster relaxation and help heal in unassuming, affordable manner, as did founders and a select few stewards since. Barring any stray manager responses posted to try neutralizing negative online reviews or defend/explain policy, most everyone involved seemed to give appearance of trading on threadbare illusions and shallow-water courtesies. Meanwhile, they leisurely spun web of diversionary intent: creating and perpetuating more wound-up, bourgeois-friendly atmosphere, reflecting ownership's semi-private shtick, while gearing up plans for own specialized classes, workshops, and events.
Outfit's own Pneuma website showed by referring to place as Pneuma Retreat Center that it was no longer Stewart Springs in their minds.
With truth-in-advertising transparency, they might as well have posted:
Shameless rebranding and
reckless repurposing in progress
Please accept our rigidity...or not
(We should care?)
Granted, it seems that spirit could move them at times, judging by blissful group photos of private Pneuma-affiliated group happenings posted on site and waxing-poetic postings by affiliated visitors...and FINALLY some transparency to public on site 5-1-20 with announced decision to permanently close bathhouse operation and massage services rather than try to wait out pandemic (or possibly planning to do so all along, then pandemic provided the perfect excuse?)
Alas, too late to make any difference to untold hundreds, more likely thousands, of former loyal visitors who suffered extreme alienation of affection and lifestyle disruption over callous changes made in running place late 2016 through early 2018.
rants and raves cont'd
Following is first Tripadvisor review on place in half year, posted by DannieJ_13 of Montreal, Canada on May 1, 2018, confirming how place was going down the tubes:
"New owners --- not as nice as it used to be
Unfortunately this place is not what it once was...The pool in the river now has fewer rocks and the river flows right over them: it has been neglected. The cool animal cards and Native American cards (with interesting books) which used to grace the seating area have been thrown away. Why? They are missed.
"The outside shower has been shut down and the path to the gazebo/meditation area on the river has been blocked off. Why? The whole place reeks of neglect/laziness in what was once an amazing place..."
In fairness, mentioned path was crudely blocked off many years earlier, apparently something about steep regulation by government agency regulating private land near public waterways making rebuilding severely eroded, unsafe hillside trail difficult to impossible. But it did seem wrong to take away showers (originally installed for sweat lodge participants), as campers could then only shower in bathhouse during limited open hours; brave a (hopefully soapless) dunk in cold creek; or stay grungy -- even if its coin-metered operation -- something like 50 cents per 30 seconds -- itself seemed pretty outrageous.
Late June 2018 Yelp posting by Vladimir V., of San Bruno, CA, socked it to recent operations. [Parts of it, and others following, emphasized by editor with italics or underlining]:
"Apparently, change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places - but is there even such a thing as 'ownership' in that regard? Shouldn't it be a stewardship? ...
"I used to stop by Stewart every time I would go to my property in Siskiyou county, for some years at least seven or more... the area is magnificent, water is as powerful as the nature there, and sauna is (still) one of the best around. I feel that I'm more local to that place than its current owners. Unfortunately, things have changed dramatically couple years ago, apparently with arrival of new owners. Prices basically doubled during that period - and yes, of course I understand need for improvements and can see some work done - not that I like much of it, like bath 'improvements'... but why does it have to come at the expense of basic services and normal human treatment (see more below)?
"Clothing is no more optional in sauna, on the deck and in the creek, and I feel that this really detracts from previous powerful cleansing experience that I had there...
"My most recent and most unfortunate experience is this: I stopped there on a Sunday to have a tub, paid cash and enjoyed the time and space. Later, I decided to stay there overnight in a tipi ... Long story short: the fact that I couldn't stay in the tipi as I didn't feel OK there and left the same evening doesn't count, sure, maybe - however, to add insult to an injury, few days later I found that I was not given promised discount...
"I promptly called the front desk, but poor girl couldn't reasonably address my concerns, so she promised to readdress them to the manager...
A week later - still, no refund. I call back that guy's phone - and he just hangs up on me... needless to say, I'll never go back to Stewart as long as these people are in charge there.
"...you may already know from other posts here that current management pushed local native Karuk people's sweat lodge off the premises. I've been to the lodge and enjoyed the ceremony, incredible stories and soulful singing, and observed guests from all over the world attending - large delegations from Italy and Japan, for instance... well, how stupid [does] one [have] to be in order to cut that off?
"It is very unfortunate that I have to advise everyone to boycott Stewart Mineral Springs at this point - the water is still there, as powerful as always - however, in the end it's the people who make all the difference."
Late July 2018 Yelp posting by Leo H, of Los Gatos, CA, essentially echoed shifting sentiment:
"This year we gave the baths another try after coming here for 10+ years when visiting the area and climbing Shasta. Unfortunately, the bath house last year started to cater to the "mainstream" tourists after the new ownership made major adjustments to policies.
"Obviously, the new rules posted all over the facility weren't welcomed by their regulars. But even with some improvements, it's clearly not the serene, quiet, and beautiful place it used to be. The love seems missing from the place - it has a more clinical feel to it. It's just another business now ... The native Indians who have run a regular sweat lodge as well as ceremonies on their premises have left. [like they had any choice - Ed.]
"Catering to conservative clients, clothing is required in sauna and creek dip, which is really awkward for someone who knows sauna culture and wants to let everything go during the cold plunge in the creek.
"Well, I can just hope that, one day, their management opens up again to the spiritual culture, kindness, and openness that is present in the Mt Shasta area."
Same with mid-August 2018 Yelp posting by Beth C of Oakland, CA:
"What a disappointment. We have been coming to Stewart Mineral Springs for 15 years on stopovers between Oakland, Ca and Central Oregon. We usually just soak but I have also stayed in teepees. This trip we decided to get a cabin. We noticed a change in vibe as soon as we opened the door to the office. Gone we're all the beautiful pictures of Shasta and crystals as well any ambiance at all.
"We were informed that the bathing suit optional was no longer an option. Now nudity was strictly forbidden! I had a hard time imagining taking a cold plunge after sauna wearing a sheet, as why would I put on a bathing suit to take a mineral bath? The new regulations of no nudity...seem rather disrespectful to those people who have been coming to the springs for many many years before new ownership.
"When we went from the office to the bath house it looked run down. There were no longer foot baths to clean your feet after coming up from the river, so your bath filled with dirty feet... I had a hard time relaxing with a group of kids splashing in the creek. It no longer had that spa feel.
"After, we went to our cabin. For $120 a night it was a broken spring bed with rocky wood bed frame... Also, given the outdoor nature of the resort, we were surprised by the lack of outdoor eating options...the deck to the closed cafe seemed off limits and uninviting..."
Ditto late November 2018 post on Yelp by Sarah B., of Ashland, OR:
"I have had many healing moments at this hot springs but will likely not be returning due to the changes with new ownership... The establishment is no longer welcoming the first peoples of the area to hold their sweat lodges on the land. The 'locals' prices have gone up and the clothing optional policies have changed. Very unfortunate."
Also, from Brian E. in S.F., CA Yelp review, buried at bottom of page within "Currently not recommended" link:
"Amenities severely degraded since early 2017. Reviews before this point are not indicative of what to expect..." [More precisely, since 11-1-16, day one of controversial clothing-optional ban - Ed.]
One posted on Google review January 2018, a year after sea change:
"I used to visit these springs regularly from Ashland. The only way I could afford to go was on half price day since they charge an arm and leg to soak there. That was when the cost was $25 and there were two days to get half price, one for locals which they even allowed Ashland people to do.
"Now the price is $35 with only one half price day for only locals of Siskiyou county. By the time I pay for gas and lunch away from home for the day, it's going to be a good $50 just to sit in one of their tubs for a whole hour and a half. Whoopee. There are too many other choices around here and after seeing they closed the sweat lodge... Wow. WHO are they catering to? The old management was bad enough, the new management sounds even WORSE. I don't ever see myself going back there. Sad to say. The water is nice but not ALL THAT." -- Zp Zap
One last 2018 Google Review, from Juliane G.:
"Niche community and unique - could be awesome if they were not so uppity. Most hippie communities are very friendly, helping and welcoming. I suggest they revisit that philosophy."
Lest situation seem too discouraging, here's a neutral rave from Instagram post by one Luizasso, offering timely reminder and prayer:
"I hope that the place I have frequented for decades will be protected and preserved and that its purpose will continue to be that of Retreats Spiritual. This place is a blessed piece of Mother Earth."
And now a word from our shills...
The following December 18, 2018 Google review from one Dominique Flores Habroucq is strikingly similar in tone to another review day before, and yet another few days after. All positively glowed about place. Writer lays ten to one odds she was involved with Pneuma group somehow and that they sometimes fancied doing shill postings in clusters.
It's so glowing, writer could've done ads for place -- wait, she already was:
"Awesome sacred place that invites you to forget about everyday worries and delve into your heart just by the mere contact with nature. Waking up at dawn definitely is an exquisite mystical experience and at night looking at the intensity of the stars that glow in the dark makes you feel loved and brings deep longing to be in peace. Stewart Mineral Springs is a magical piece of land full of life that is perfect for retreats, yoga, meditation or personal and family holidays. I have been coming for over a decade now and I just love it more and more.
"The new owners are very friendly and trying hard to make the place more beautiful and comfortable [hah! they're hired management, paid to be cordial; one can only wonder how friendly actual, absentee 'owners' are -- Ed.]. I can see all the improvements they have done, like the treatment and care of the forest around the property, so needed. They truly love the land and think of it as a sacred living being [right, like clear-cutting an acre of mature pines and cedars]. The cleanliness of the rooms has improved tremendously since I started to come, and the food at the café when I have done catered retreats has been amazing...
"The bath house is what made Stuart [sic] Mineral Springs famous for the healing properties of the water, a true gift from Mother Earth. People with sensitive skin must take care but even to soak for a few minutes will make a difference on your health...There are some aesthetic elements that could be improved upon but it doesn't take away from the sanctuary that Stewart Mineral Springs has become for me and my family. I highly recommend enjoying a getaway weekend, a family vacation or partake in a group retreat... I've done them all and loved them!!! I just booked a family trip for this coming spring and I cannot wait to see all the new things that I will find all over the property."
Of course Pneuma members, family, friends, and sundry connections love their new acquisition, wrested away from the people. On some level they doubtless do honor it as sacred, for it is indeed a rare and awe-inspiring place. But do they love and honor it -- and, more importantly, their fellow man -- enough to want to share it with everyone, both rich and poor, young and old, bohemian and conservative, in joy of service and open-minded (vs. clothes-minded), happy-to-serve ways, as place did for so long (if fitfully) before they grabbed it away?
Methinks not. Yet they waxed eloquent, members shamelessly shilling online reviews, wily posing as general everyday public, hoping to entice readers to visit and part with hard-earned money and unwittingly support place's tragic departure from treasured, time-honored ways.
Again, they appeared to be trying to counteract the flood of negative reviews, siren-singing to woo less discriminating, no better informed travelers into supporting inappropriate detouring -- from place's former dedication to providing simple profound spa experience and basic lodging -- into some blase, slick, freebody-hostile, rural-escape experience...and, for own groups to flirt with private-peace, transcendent consciousness workshops and celebrations. Often, it seemed the former were those who enjoyed bragging online about how they were taking the waters in fabulous country spa more than the actual experience, as if to arouse envy to stuck-at-home friends similarly caught up in often reality-warping and here-and-now diverting cyberspace -- which can, if not present, get one caught up in fuzzy astral planes...
...also, catering to unaffiliated groups hosting events/workshops/retreats who didn't seem to mind a bit that place had issued death warrant to former bohemian culture...at least not enough to quit supporting it, even if only grudgingly, out of desire to try getting another long accustomed fix on place despite new, tight-wound, convention-championing milieu severely crimping former more laid-back experiences.
The way writer sees it, no matter how many viewed-as-positive changes were made on grounds, on crucial level they were ALL irrelevant.
Present, absentee owners' indifferent suppression of long-accustomed freedom to pursue mindful clothing-optional, have prayer and love offering altar in spring gazebo, and participate in weekly sacred sweat lodge utterly neutralized any and all changes' worth in eyes of myriad once-devoted aficionados...those who resonated with founder Stewart's service-minded dedication to offering affordable purification in down-home, nonprofit-in-spirit operation.
How long before it's rescued and saved from recent abysmal plunge, attempting to become yet either another watered-down, rural springs resort locked into conventional, bland lifestyle values, blinded to super-natural ways beyond mere dabbling, heedlessly abandoning place's time-honored roots dedicated to providing simple, affordable purifying and healing service?
Hopefully not too. It might be a silver lining of dread coronavirus outbreak. Along with racial injustice time of reckoning, it's jolting people out of asleep-at-wheel, bourgeois mindstates and into fresh awareness of what's really important, what's fair and what's not. Crises ultimately might make for future resurrection of mindful operation dedicated to true, open to all, healing and grounded, centered service...either with current ones or, more likely, new ones.
Excerpts from first real online review of 2019:
"The place changed hands and became pricey...it was a blunder...they are making renovations but so far I liked the old one better." (Tbannikova, TripAdvisor)
Here's an April 2019 posting that was either another artful shill write-up or actual independent reviewer pleased with changes...one which might've given some quasi boycotters pause for thought:
"The reason I love SMS is because of what it offers. I have been coming for eight years as a guest and workshop participant. I loved it eight years ago and love it even more today! The place has always had a beautiful rustic charm to it, but it was starting to need upgrades and repairs. I am so thankful that the new ownership, which seems to be a group, has taken on such a big project to bring it into a new era. It needed new energy to stimulate the true potential of this place.
"I can honestly say this place has a very bright future because of this effort. So, I am happy to let go of what used to be so I can embrace what is. SMS is a beautiful sacred place that I hope you get to visit. Spend time in the forest, the sauna, in the baths, by the river, or sharing peace with the people you love the most. I also highly recommend the entire surrounding area of Weed and Mount Shasta to explore too. We, my wife and I, have had many interactions with locals and have found our favourite restaurants as a result. The last time I was there, I got a ride from SMS to the Medford airport, only 75 minutes away. The retired local driver also shared her new excitement for the changes at SMS. It seems that many are seeing the beauty that is growing and embracing a new era on the land. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself."
-- Kreel H., S.F. CA Yelp review
Whether or not a genuine and earnest independent review and not merely latest Pneuma-affiliated spin-controlling, fake-review spiel, it might've swayed some review-site readers to give place another try.
But not spring purists. Die-hard Stewart Springs fans could NEVER resonate and relax in operation that suppressed former open-minded bohemian spirit that made place so extraordinary and wildly popular...light years beyond what any mere upgrades or new amenities could have ever hoped to achieve.
Such remain adamant in refusal to ever spend another blessed cent there as things stand after owners' so callously overturned, mangled, and straitjacketed former beautiful, wild and free spirit of realm only to fit own private interests.
Another reviewer from Canada on 2-11-19 Yelp mirrored dismay of many:
"It is not what it once was...they have taken away the clothing-optional bathing in the creek...the amazing sweat-lodge...has been taken away -- why? -- and so local American Indian tribe is no longer honored...the place has lost some of its magic."
-- Troy A, QC Canada
Late July 2019 Google reviewer appeared even more aggrieved:
"New ownership. I used to LOVE this place. No longer clothing optional, which took away from the experience for me. Sadly I won't be going back." -- Kaiya Hatcher
From August 2019 Google review:
"We were delighted by the creek, the nature and the sauna. But we were very disappointed that the staff was so strict and conservative about the rules. They were not rude or anything like that. In fact they were very polite. You'd think because of the [former] hippie vibes, the books on Buddhism, the Tarot cards in the waiting area, and the hippie origins of the spa [actually only first mixed-sex clothing-optional in 1970s a hundred years after founding, and then again from 2000-2016] that they would be pretty relaxed about women going topless in the creek.
"However, they were very strict and conservative. You must cover up if you are a woman. But men are allowed to go topless. Simply unacceptable in the 21st century in California IMO. The owners need to change this policy before they find themselves in a discrimination lawsuit."
-- Leigh Christie
Few might realize it, but until 1930s in America men were also required to cover upper body at public bathing places, or could be arrested or at the least hassled and shamed. Some more progressive-minded states like New York now allow women to be topfree anywhere a man is permitted to be.
Some, rightfully, take gender discrimination in body-freedom rights seriously.
A November 3, 2019 posting brought up something writer hadn't ever really thought
Key West, FL public
Fantasy Fest participant
about (or did, but then tuned it out): apartment-row access to creek to better enjoy:
"I've been there twice, about 8 years ago and again last week. Nothing has improved. I guess it's okay if you don't have great expectations about the accommodations. It is a one-star place, more like a hostel than a motel...
"Behind the "cottages" [apartments #1-6] is the lovely creek, but there is no access, no back door. [except apt. 1 - Ed.] Your chairs are set by the front door so you can look at the dirt parking lot..."
-- Miranda N., Klamath Falls, OR, Yelp, under "Currently not recommended"
Here's first 2020 review worthy of reposting. Not many relevant ones anymore; perhaps it's all been said by now.
"I enjoyed Stewart for at least 25 years, and sent dozens of friends there as well. Visited soon after it changed ownership and very disappointed about the clothing optional ban. It would have been acceptable had the owner just explained the cultural shift, however he actually told me, "we had a lot of perverts here". I was too stunned to question his definition but assume he meant homosexual (gay). I told him I would never return.
"It's been awhile and we are going up I-5 near Stewart so thought I would check the reviews. Terrible, with many " rude, angry owners" comments. And now they didn't survive the virus and have closed the baths. A long- standing, respected and beloved space destroyed."
-- Laurie L., Middletown, CA Yelp 6-23-20 review
Whoops, spoke too soon. Here's another, a TripAdvisor review by Beth H., posted 8-1-20:
"Experienced hot springs person is
disappointed and ripped off here...
I came here with my adult daughter on our way home to SF Bay Area from a visit to Bend. It was my first time and I was recommended by a fellow yoga teacher. I've been a long time member of Harbin, Sierraville and often go to Wilbur.
We arrived at 5:30 pm for a two night reservation and there was no one to meet us, and no instructions. A cell phone number was there but no cell service. We wandered around looking for someone and when we found her, she was rude and unwelcoming and was not wearing a mask (we were). I asked to stay for just one night, which we ended up doing, but I was forced to pay for both nights even though I gave her 24 hours notice. Also, they wouldn't allow us to use the common kitchen, which I've never run into before. [actually, there IS no common kitchen -- Ed.]
My daughter and I used the creek to do a little dip and even though there were no people around, someone came out of an office to shout at us that nudity was prohibited. WHAT? What a strange place!
Made only stranger by the fact that the fuse box was located about 1 foot from the shower in the bathroom. That struck me as extremely unsafe. Also the hot plate unit in the kitchen had no place to plug in, so we had to move it to the table to actually use it.
PS: I am not one to write reviews, but I had quite a bad experience with this place."
see Grumblings on Management, ways below in Part 4, for more concerned pre-owner-change comments, barbs, and scathing rebukes.
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 token focus on healthy natural foods -- raw, veggie and vegan foods sometimes weren't even listed on menu -- that befit any true health-minded resort. Unless catering mostly-veggie retreat group, when place might or might not be open to general public as well.
Anyhow, he notes:
"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 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 visitor volume can'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 scarce committed work-trader to oversee things, lest 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 fancy commercial range, burn themselves, and sue.
To successfully serve with longer hours, among other things there's tricky feng shui to remedy split-level layout, for sunken kitchen area can make serving masses a constant uphill effort without 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 place in early 1990s. It's amazing to reflect that such an unassuming restaurant building tucked away in the woods could become 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 to try emulating big city dining establishments: Operators putting 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 way meant), along with beer and wine offerings to wash it all down ...and perhaps dull one's senses to ouchy tab.
That 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 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 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 try to appear snooty upscale eatery to have any chance of succeeding.
Maybe it was inability to find -- or even bother looking for -- talented and ambitious veggie chef eager to run a 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 many years.
Suspect 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, more happily, doing.
If so, this 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 friends or new acquaintances were parked on 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 busy going around grounds putting up unapproved signs to try shaking off slow spell...and managers coming along soon after, tearing signs down and tossing them in trash.
Another involved 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 a spiderweb, idle proprietor patiently waiting to snag fresh victim, the 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 hungry; or Bianca's down-home spicy offerings, or colorful prayer flags festooning deck more recently with Gia's relaxed operation.
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...) 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, apart from original healing focus of place, is deemed laudable pursuit, which spa purists might well say it isn't). 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, could run restaurant longer hours and always include staple plant-based offerings like hearty bowls of brown rice, oatmeal, couscous, quinoa, and chili at affordable prices, ready to serve at buffet stand, with condiment island for doctoring to taste. It would pull in more day-visitors with hearty appetites, soakers who'd later happily stroll across covered bridge to scarf meals and stretch enjoyment of realm.
Inertia and tradition are strong at Springs. Might never happen, but it's fun imagining place finally breaking through into mellow, full-tilt scene in some post-virus time.
Perhaps if enough people imagine and desire such things for place, in time they WILL happen.
More rants and raves, cont'd
Following are three noteworthy posts from long ago under bygone Stewart Springs stewardship.
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..."
management -- big picture overview -- universe paging new stewardship
From highest praise to more 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, specialized leanings.
Without understanding where place is coming from, breaking through into robust, here-and-now, can-do operation becomes well-nigh impossible -- and now most likely undesirable anyhow, what with 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...voice of the people.
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 explained my conversation the previous day and she again rudely stated she didn't know who that could've been and I'd be charged if I wanted to check in early... She kept saying the "policy this...and that"...The ridiculous conversation was so upsetting I totally broke down and started crying. I said I had food in the car that needed to be refrigerated and she still insisted it couldn't be done. After another woman came up and kindly offered to let me use the refrigerator in the bathhouse, the rude one said the earliest she could let me check in would be 2:30! What? So I went and sat in my car and cried for 35 minutes. When I went back to the office I was going to cancel the whole thing and she said there'd be a cancellation charge.
"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 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 real service mode with guests 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 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 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, real break from unconscious scrambling tedium of everyday, often-shallow world...rather than sorry-ass continuation of it.
Such climate -- in contrast to earlier 1970s down-home, centered, upbeat service under Goodpastures -- too often prevailed...despite valiant efforts of more aware, conscientious, heart-centered workers over years to make difference and resisting dominant undercurrent with its hard profit-driven focus and epidemics of in-house service disconnects.
In more recent times it was often result of freaked mindsets of management couple, under relentless pressure to max profits while also having medical death sentence hanging over head of one. Such downer strains combined to crush spirits and, as a reviewer noted above, adversely affected vibration of entire place. (One can't help wonder if they took the job mostly so Ted, knowing he was terminal with stage-4 liver disease 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 with dealing with public as price to pay and seldom loathe to show displeasure over trying circumstances, nor his wife.)
Springred's story was, of course, far from an isolated incident.
Another classic tale of woe:
"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 former general manager, a tad difficult to fire with ten year contract and former distant owner seldom wanting to talk to customers, unless maybe 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 rolled with many punches over the years. Used to peculiar contentious climate of operation, thought could weather most anything, but in 2015 found energy at front desk so intolerable that felt 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 site offline a year as well, as it was then less critical, more a tribute site to Springs; the way things were going, zero tribute was felt merited.)
Later realized it was same time co-manager Ted D. was in 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 also took long time due to legal complexities of ownership being in part foreign -- Mexican and Chilean.) Pure pity there wasn't 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 aplomb...but then, such gnarly chaos perfectly reflected what was going on behind the scene: part of management was dying while other half selling place out to parties with wildly inappropriate (but at first carefully concealed) intent. No Band-aids could begin to cover such grievous wounds.
End of online review excerpts.
For further possible insight as to why management has been so dysfunctional in recent decades and continues on in sad variation today, consider following op-ed. Also, 12-part editorial "What Happened to Stewart Springs?" on home page - scroll down past visitor rants on sweat lodge ban.
Towards better grokking Springs
Gracious healing resort
or over-milked cash cow?
Will Stewart Springs ever rediscover its simple, altruistic calling of offering affordable purification, healing, and rejuvenation that 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 (now with lodging only) and/or eclipse former modest public-minded spirit of purpose of place with semi-private shtick and the heck with everything else?
With game-changing agenda of new owners, will it eventually attempt to totally strip out 144 years of unassuming healing service and repurpose place to exclusively serve as conservative Pneuma headquarters, classrooms, and retreat for own functions and enjoyment...welcoming kindred bourgeois-minded, suffering former free-spirited support base remnant that still straggled in, seemingly only to help defray purchase and ongoing costs? ($2.6 million purchase price, plus ongoing $28,000/year, or $77./day in property taxes alone.)
Or, with upshot of virus prompting closing down bathhouse permanently, possibly unable to make viable financial go by renting lodgings alone, might current owners decide to throw in towel and put place up for sale...creating new opportunity for hopefully more appropriate steward(s) to at long last redeem place for benefit of greater humanity?
Understanding Big Picture
Through metaphysics one can possibly gain a bigger-picture understanding of often baffling puzzle that is Stewart Springs. Why have such unlikely, untoward energies sporadically cropped up here over decades, since founder's daughter Katy essentially gave place away in early 1950s after dedicated 39-year run that followed her dad's own 39-year run? (see history)
There's a tragic secret buried at Springs...one some have no idea of and others, alas, know about all too well.
"Only good injun..."
In 1870s, racial intolerance of over-civilized whites towards First Nation people reached a blood-thirsty frenzy. So when a stray renegade or two attacked and killed some settlers, others, possibly riled up by hired railroad guns, became bound and determined to exterminate ALL 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 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 given land stay embedded in its vibrational makeup throughout all time no matter how many changes happen in following centuries. If true, 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.
The former, being earliest and spanning centuries, is strongest. But latter, being so unspeakably tragic, became unmoored in time stream -- like Titanic sinking, 9-11, and 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 with ALL.
Skeptical readers 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 can call back chaotic violent embedded energies of land in a heartbeat.
Only through dedicated service and respect for descendants of original persecuted peoples who 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 original inhabitants 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 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 place to affordably purify, heal and rejuvenate in free and light original spirit in realm...one untainted by any untoward commercial and/or private-minded intent. 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 is only token few dollars and then only for Siskiyou County residents.)
To further understand profit drive and other inappropriate energies crimping place in recent decades, it might help to realize that earlier owner of 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 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's the point, otherwise? Towards that end, workers, including writer when briefly on payroll, were paid token 25 cents over state minimum wage and for years often forced to work off the clock and/or not get work breaks when place got busy, all for undersized staff. Smoldering resentment, bickering among selves, and burnout were inevitable result. Workers felt exploited. Those refusing to work off-clock or through lunch break at such times were summarily 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 more cheery ones. (And, now, going beyond even bothering to post rants, the ever-expanding de facto boycott of place and positive visualization of place's future stewardship.) They could leave bleak overall impression that things at 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 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 mellow 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.
Infinite possibilities with perfect future stewardship -- paging
Universe to manifest new owner to activate realm's higher destiny
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 (i.e. kept in dark and fed crap).
Despite current dismal dilemma of yet again inappropriate ownership essentially holding healing place hostage by clipping its wings, infinite new possibilities loom on the
Venerable Karuk sweat lodge, effectively kicked off land after generations >
horizon. With current owners apparently determined to play out wonky fantasy and run place into ground short-term as far as fans concerned -- as last happened with ill-fated, short-lived efforts of Whitneys in early -'80s -- it appears matter of time before they realize they royally blew it...and any possible pre-virus planned mainstreaming or upscaling or closing to public will now never gain needed traction to succeed. They'll likely eventually realize the horrible karma they created for themselves...and that only way they can redeem things is to let go of place at fair price and relocate headquarters elsewhere.
As of May, 2020, they've whittled down operations to only offering lodging, hoping to stanch flood of lost revenue. But how long can that go on, with bathhouse, former center attraction and heart and soul of property, gathering cobwebs and plumbing going bad, before they conclude they'd be better off letting go of place entirely.
They'll let go and sign over to new, ideally blissfully appropriate new legal steward...given current owners are gracious and awake enough to seek out right person or group to transfer to, and thus redeem their honor and salvage legacy in place's historic evolution...plus assure their own continued enjoyment of it in future.
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 spiritually aware person who's ever known and loved it in earlier renaissance times would love to see it become. Making operation a legal, well thought out, nonprofit healing retreat in perpetuity would -- barring chronic virus situation -- all but guarantee it.
With new stewardship following 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 and regain rightful place in peoples' hearts around the world.
Quote from Emile Frank's 1984 article, endorsement as it turned out not really too ell 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."
Rants on kicking out sweat lodge here Rants on banning clothing-optional here (scroll down). To magically transform place to way it's supposed to be, click here (link might not work until thousandth monkey visualizes transformation) Writer Stu Ward was involved with Springs for much of 20 years, including work-trade assist to late manager Mary Hildebrand, building and maintaining bathhouse coldplunge, and rallying for clothing-optional in 1999