News & Op-Eds
(For article on ownership change
scroll 3/4 down past lengthy editorial)
Banning Clothing-Optional Seriously Compromised Springs's
Brought Body Acceptance,
Body Freedom Issues to Fore
by Stuart Ward
First posted August 20, 2016
Updated now and then, though some thoughts, like appeal for owners to reinstate clothing-optional, long since abandoned, are left as skeletons of former hope
Honeymoon period with new Stewart Springs owners -- first in 34 years -- ended light years ago for countless of place's most ardent fans with game-changing decision to nix bathhouse nudity beyond private tubroom and shower 17 years after having established appropriate, long-accepted clothing-optional zones.
Change became effective November 1, 2016...in doleful synchronicity of societal energies going uber-weird exactly one week before t-rex snagged election.
Some were glad -- those not in any fuller alignment with dedicated purpose of any rural mineral springs resort worth its salt: profound spa purification, healing, and rejuvenation amid natural elements -- unhampered by interfering man-made cloth if one so chooses.
Also those who might've enjoyed mindful nudity in chill environment but found Stewart's scene so sketchy at times -- in free fall for being unsupported by profit preoccupied and health plagued management that effectively let untoward behavior creep in -- that they actually welcomed the policy change.
Stunned Springs aficionados were sure there was a critical need to re-think body-oppressive policy to one of newly focused intent to foster more workable, all-inclusive approach if hoping to accommodate fullest diversity of visitor lifestyles.
Shades of last century's ban on nudity revisited. >
Springs signs rescued from trash in 2000 echo newly recycled body oppression
That is, if owners wanted to avoid further alienating not-insubstantial portion of once-loyal Stewart Spring visitors over having banned place's key magical element long enjoyed by so many in course of spa visits: mindful, simple body freedom, which distinguished place from your dime-a-dozen, clothes-minded spring resorts effectively marching in lock-step with society's deep-entrenched, schizophrenic body alienation.
For 17 years sauna outer deck, and cold-plunge area were all merrily clothing-optional. One had the freedom to be mindfully nude if preferred. But both uncovered and wrapped were fine.
Countless appreciated the option...not only to better physically benefit by deeper contact with natural elements and thereby enhancing spa experience, but also to have opportunity to cultivate greater body acceptance and savor the liberating exhilaration that radical body freedom so easily sparks...able to test waters of public nudity after a lifetime of spirit-crushing, body-discomforting, mandatory public cover-up, amid Stewart's sheltered natural environment. Others, long embracing simple nudity in appropriate places and weather conditions, reinforced chosen lifestyle while coursing through Springs' spa sequences, most of time unencumbered by unneeded cover.
Yet others, though taking pass on option, tacitly approved of it being available for those who DID value the freedom to be au natural...just so long as the social climate remained respectful. Though there were times when a dense, sensory-deadening textile vibe dominated and any clothes-free viewed as kinky and shameless (in negative sense of word) -- and there were other times when indeed some went on bold body-objectifying voyeuristic or woo-hoo-look-at-me-I'm-starkers, exhibitionistic route -- as often as not, and despite lack of management support, the nude and covered got along just fine in mutually tolerant, if sometimes a tad awkward, co-existence.
So it came as an incredible shock for countless when Springs's generation-long policy of selective body freedom, so profoundly conducive to enhanced relaxation and healing, was unceremoniously pushed off a cliff.
While half-year advance notice was given by word of mouth and via tiny-print notices taped to doors, it all seemed too unreal to really be true.
Who would possibly want to cram the magic genie back in the bottle? And why?
They never bothered to seek informed feedback from longtime patrons, either local and regional travelers, together backbone supporters of establishment.
It was clearly a case of 'Whoever has the gold makes the rules; deal with it.'
Trey oppressive mandatory cover policy was, as it turned out, only early-warning harbinger of greater seismic shift to come a year later with eviction of sacred sweat lodge of some 45 years standing, plus taking down love and prayer alter in old spring-source gazebo.
Banning c/o -- paradise lost, or heaven to hell in three seconds flat -- was done ostensibly to make place "more comfortable for all." Right. All body-alienated and bourgeois-minded on automatic pilot, unthinkingly locked into personal freedom-curtailing conventions, not wanting to be uncomfortably reminded of body-oppressed prison cell they've become so at home in that they've forgotten -- or don't care -- they hold the key to get free of it...dully preferring being institutionalized, needlessly living in prison of cloth, even when going bare made WORLDS more sense both for greater comfort and sense of well being and, in case of Springs visit, dramatically enhanced purification and healing potential.
Age-old habit hard-wired in humanity
Alas, it seems people over long millennium have gotten so used to mandatory body covering, becoming in effect planet's only oddly perma-dressed species, finding accustomed security and comfort in it, that fear of losing it -- even when not needed for protection from elements or dealing with oftentimes still strange and hostile world -- totally eclipsed pronounced discomfort and restriction it created, muting body's keen, fine-tuned sensory awareness...even when in supportive environment that, especially in nice weather, invited shedding needless cover...needless but for intolerant attitudes and dull body alienation of clothing-numbed majority thinking.
Something else to ponder, what with raging virus: While mandatory public dress no doubt had countless contributing reasons for evolving over long millennia -- modesty, protection from elements, unfriendly others, TOO friendly others, vanity, playing dress-up, work safety, ad infinitum -- it perhaps is also in part a holdover effect of periodic pandemics raging throughout history and pre-history.
Seeking an extra layer of hygienic protection through covering up in public over time -- especially for contagions spread by touch -- possibly segued into mandatory cover-up, like masks are fitfully becoming, to point people began to "feel naked" , too vulnerable without clothes 'protecting' their bods. Such once-valid protection concern over time then became locked into humanity's DNA and collective subconsciousness, plague or no plague, along with countless other contributing factors to today's locked-in, age-old tradition of compulsive/compulsive dress. For many reasons, some valid, while others irrational or arbitrary, mandatory public dress became the iron-clad law of the land.
People refusing to wear a mask as an infringement of personal freedom rights might well consider how restrictive and oppressive mandatory public dress can be taken by any and all embracing a more freebody lifestyle.
Most didn't bother to ask why. It was simply the way it was and always had been. For a multitude of reasons, we seem to have become a perma-dressed species.
But more and more believe it's all nonsense. Not to enjoy being bare in nature in nice weather seems nuts...anti-life, even. And so, since advent of modern body freedom movement beginning at start of last century in Europe, many have opted to rebel against the slowly fading paradigm equating mandatory public cover-up with socially acceptable and moral behavior. And for 17 years Stewart's became a freebody-friendly oasis for open-minded locals and travelers alike.
"Owners can do whatever they want"
Eighty-something, longtime visitor Tom opined in somber resignation after c/o ban that, "The new owners can do whatever they want."
In most any other business operation, sure. But place is so exceptional with its dedicated, nonprofit-in-spirit, greater-good history of bohemian-leaning, genuinely health-minded culture, that 'owners' can realistically only be wise stewards and honor place's sacred healing nature by supporting culture of longtime supporters, the same as every authentic rural healing spa with an abiding embracing of clothing-optional tradition.
Anything else is foolish-steward fantasyland, indifferent betrayal to legions of devastated former supporters and beneficiaries, turning backs on place's legacy of providing down-to-earth purification, healing, and ultra-relaxation for collective public's greater wellbeing.
Yes, it's way complicated
No argument, public nudity is a profoundly complex, controversial and convoluted subject. Deep societal conditioning from infancy on teaches the bare physical body indecent, offensive, unhygienic, and/or too arousing to be revealed in everyday public. This ingrained mindset in turn affects respective comfort zones in mutually adverse ways whenever nude and clothed share space...if group energies aren't open-minded and positive and, in case of Springs, supported by mindful, progressive-thinking management.
"Being naked with others in a safe non-sexual environment provides a rare opportunity to quiet the negative voice about our bodies and stand simultaneously in our vulnerability and in our power, reclaiming for ourselves our own unique beauty and clarity that we are lovable exactly as we are...
...this nakedness, this baring of one's insides...this seeing into hearts of history...this risk calls us into ourselves, perhaps like never before."
-- Human Awareness Institute
Lose your clothes &
lose your woes
Apparent conclusion by new owners, as given purported feedback from various visitors via old management -- one apparently never really comfortable with body freedom, even place's modest, low-key kind -- was that FAR more visitors than not were also uncomfortable with it.
It's true that certain people, often out of simple, socially ingrained body modesty of long standing (in naturist circles sometimes called textiles or, less charitably, clothes-minded), didn't visit more often or at all because of it.
And the way things had gotten a bit seedy at times -- again, due to dismaying absence of pro-active management to assure a safe and mindful c/o environment, one minimizing idle, lower-chakra lusting that could otherwise all too easily dominate atmosphere -- one really couldn't blame them.
Many camps on subject
But was it really a majority? Not just an influential vocal minority, including those reacting to egregiously-lax scene essentially in free-fall for want of mindful management support? Were writer -- formerly part of the furniture -- to hazard a rough guesstimate on breakdown of visitors' various camps on Stewart's former low-key nudity over years -- it'd be:
5-10% serious freebodies
25% casual/sometime nudists
30% neutral; usually covered but okay with simple nudity (i.e. non-sexual)
25% vaguely uncomfortable with it
5-10% oh my God! (obviously some perma-dressed deity)
If this was anywhere near actual situation as writer believes it to be, then by adding neutrals to naturist camp given scene isn't abused, those uncomfortable were indeed only a over-influential vocal minority.
Maybe such clothes-minded visitors made enticing, vague, soon forgotten promises of booking big long retreats, workshops, and events if outrageous body-freedom practice were duly quashed.
Though some truly love place's atmosphere and amenities, they've apparently lost touch with inner bohemian and are no more than remotely aware of core intent of place's founding 145 years ago in nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service dedication to simple and affordable radical cleansing, purification, and rejuvenation in arms of nature.
Though it's safe to say founder Henry was no proponent of public nudity, at least mixed-sex sort -- nudist movement having only come to America from Europe 15 years after his passing -- one might argue that in time it became a perfect fit with devotion he held to further natural purifying, healing, and rejuvenation process, working in close harmony with nature.
For even as bathing with clothes on interferes with thorough washing, so mandatory spa cover-up interferes with maximum purifying, relaxing, and healing -- a fact crystal clear to any who seriously pursue spa regimen...in contrast to mere tub soakers and those wanting to try something different, maybe cop casual decadent delight of "taking the waters", age-old leisurely pastime of coddled European royalty. (Some, it seemed, almost got more benefit by going on Instagram to show envious stuck-in-city friends how they were luxuriating at a quasi-fabled rural spa.) Or could it have been result of effort by outgoing manager projecting druthers, hoping to amp up lucrative longterm large-group stays by wooing upscale, perma-dressed clientele? Those coming more for long stays and retreat workshops in Conference Hall and A-Frame, but liking option to take mineral bath and sauna -- in conventional public-pool atmosphere, without shocking riff-raff lollygagging about in their birthday suits, thank you very much.
Or perhaps new owner intent was simply to purge place of bohemian-leaning energies altogether and overhaul operation climate to make a better fit for its narrow-focused Pneuma Foundation's psychological shtick, with its depressingly un-northern California lifestyle and mindset flirting with new-age awareness, effectively serving as new template for desired petit-bourgeois-and-proud, conventional-minded visitorship to support and subsidize semi-private-minded, organized doings.
"It's a Cover-Up!"
Some, brought up to be over-modest about body, haven't ever felt pulled to experiment and liberate selves from shackles of mandatory wraps through visiting places like free beaches and select rural mineral springs (either developed or primitive).
So of course they tend to be uncomfortable around real-world, participatory, freebody environment vs. commercial, body-exploitative, passive spectator entertainment kind the world's flooded with. One had to go through reality-shock portal and get beyond body commodifying, spectacle-spectator, objectifying and alienating conditioning, before reaching new comfort zone and rediscovering bliss of un-selfconscious, innocent body freedom long ago purely experienced as infants and toddlers.
It clearly brings home uneasy feelings of acquiesced-to body suppression to see others no longer buying into age-old, culturally programmed body-shame and false-modesty, those liberating selves while they sheepishly remain shackled to cloth, slaves to body discomfort... acquiescing to one of biggest cover-ups -- both literal and figurative -- in history.
Few would argue that nudity and sex can ever be separated in the real world. The nude body is naturally, well, sexy. But by making the obsessive, iron-linked equation of nudity = sex reinforced at every turn by manipulative advertisers and oppressive purveyors of morality, though beginning to flirt with healthier lifestyle such persons have yet to understand notion that with more enlightened view towards sexuality, simple mindful nudity, far from creating any orgiastic conditions can offer profound healing and rejuvenation when in appropriate, relaxed places by breaking through negative body conditioning.
see great Youtube on nudity
As sad result of marching in lockstep with society's forever-entrenched mandatory-cover edict, they'll read voyeuristic and exhibitionist intent into anyone hoping to enjoy communing with nature unwrapped.
Wild in wilds
It merits repeating: with maximum purification and profound relaxation -- deeper intent and focus of any mineral springs spa retreat or resort worth its salt -- mandatory cover all too easily interferes with or even defeats process.
Anything compromising aim is like offering bread that's, say, 50% organic. It's like saying in effect, "Indulge your soul, let the sacred waters, pure mountain air, radiant sunshine, and sauna heat cleanse, purify, and rejuvenate you -- but keep your bod covered 'cause it's offensive, or way too distracting. Naughty abbreviated outfits perfectly okay, though -- just some bits of cloth to keep from, well, being without any."
for what ails you
One of most glaring disconnects in Pneuma's thinking in purported overarching goal to raise global consciousness is how it dully ignored the way full skin exposure to sunshine (and judicious -- early morning and late afternoon sun being gentlest) produces vitamin D promoting production of serotonin that magically lifts one's mood with a flood of feel-good endorphins...worlds easier and faster to effect positive change than anything else...er, under the sun.
By instead catering to those having conventional mindsets but flirt with new-age change and still seemingly clueless about radical cleansing regimen with its profound body-spirit-mind reintegration focus through immersion in a body-positive culture, they short-circuited deeper purpose of Springs... and left those most dedicated to optimal purifying and healing out in the cold.
Place became just another bathhouse, albeit a quaint, charming one...a quasi-healing resort ironically flirting with idea of healthy lifestyle and singing praises of place's healing benefits yet forbidding visitors to fully avail themselves of them!
It stopped short of full-tilt purification and rejuvenation, giving into society's entrenched body shame and/or overreacting to those few misbehaving -- again, happening only for want of any more aware and progressive-minded management -- instead place seemingly hoped to attract those merely toying with healthier lifestyles. They'd sing praises of place's healing power, but then not allow visitors to fully avail -- it was one stuck record...
... an unfathomable, enforced masquerade, self-defeating for any and all who sought optimal deep-cleansing, healing, and rejuvenating at Stewarts. One was left choking in all-too-familiar dust of antiquated morality and spirit-deadening conventionality, dumbfounded and brokenhearted over what had befallen a once-beloved almost-paradise.
No Nudes Good News?
In times past there were indeed your occasional flagrant or low-key voyeur and exhibitionist -- many, including writer, were guilty of such, having less conscious mindstates then. There was possibly even a dread public masturbater or two.
The last report of such, though, was such an isolated incident, if indeed it ever really happened, that regular goers, including writer, were totally unaware of it. But whether actual or wily management fabrication, it served as dandy excuse to make draconian policy change a slam dunk.
No nudity, no problem.
While the kinky as well as freedom-loving will always be attracted to places allowing public nudity, indulging prurient mindsets that repulse and discomfort others, there's a simple yet effective way to keep such egregious behavior at bay: management gaining firm, focused handle on policy, as do sister northwestern mineral spring resorts Jackson Wellsprings, Wilbur, Orr, Harbin, Sierra, and Brietenbush.
The more everyone -- management, staff and repeat visitors alike -- work to establish and reinforce a positive and aware climate of acceptable c/o behavior, the more an honorable air of mutually respectful, elevated energy emerges. Thus prevented are most untoward, sundry voyeurism and exhibitionism from ever gaining tawdry foothold.
Over time, clothing-optional becomes relative non-issue it deserves to be.
Positive pro-active efforts are so much easier and more effective than negative reactive ones. Alas, it's latter that Springs has leaned towards in times past, having no better mandate from former absentee owner...and little to no progressive-thinking management or empowered staff. Without developing firm focus on reason for allowing such modest simple nudity in first place and deciding what constitutes appropriate behavior, exhibitionism and voyeurism, even if only low-key, can indeed all too easily take over, filling vacuum created by absence of more mindful management. How wonky, reactionary, and authoritarian was the years ago posted sign on door, "No yoga in sauna"?
If some did what could be viewed as suggestive yoga postures nude in sauna, it was probably mostly, if not entirely, in reaction to management, perpetuating illusion of separatism and never establishing any conscious nude ethics that encouraged becoming mindfully one with nature and one another...rather than any indulgence in base desires by playing the tiresome object-objectifier game.
People being people, sometimes idly amused selves by going for diversionary cheap thrills, perhaps in part to idly arouse opposite sex but perhaps just as likely to shock various fully-wrapped patrons, who, one could tell by storm clouds over their heads, clearly disapproved of such public nudity. On one level, such dubious behavior was a bit like dancers flaunting graceful mobility in front of (self-)crippled others. So scene could at times become a low-key civil war between those openly embracing humankind's biologic reality and those determined to forever remain in denial of it, at least while in public.
So scene at times indeed became one of new-age cheese-cake posing, as it were...women perhaps idly enjoying rush of ever-ready-to-oblige riveted male attention in lieu of any cooler scene that encouraged transcendence...along with men striking own calculated beef-cake poses and movements to arouse captive female or gay interest...all overly self-conscious, sexualized, objectified nudity, all due to clueless management endlessly preoccupied with maxing profits and dealing with serious health problem, rather than championing natural-lifestyle ideals like other, more progressive-minded, rural healing resorts of wider region.
Shades of future days past
Perhaps there was never any more fine-tuned clothing-optional policy intent in year 2000, when introduced most recently, because of sudden dying of late, then-manager Mary H.'s mother, Pat. She'd worked the front desk a dozen years, alternating with Pat's sister CeeCee. (read their story in Something about Mary) Her sudden passing left Mary too devastated to be concerned about much of anything. She had kept no-nudity policy enforced mostly in deference to her mom, who was uncomfortable with notion. It almost seemed decision to finally liberalize policy was more like, "Oh hell, get starkers if you want; I don't care. Happy now?" There wasn't much, if any, focused positive intent, with carefully spelled-out policy or signs, anchoring scene on any aware level. There was one admittedly lame sign on passage from inner to outer sundeck advising "Caution: you may encounter nudity beyond this point", that writer ordered from The Naturist Society, along with a routed, rainbow-painted wood "Clothing Optional" sign for sauna door. But that was all.
Springs literature never spelled things out beyond blanket statement on website how Springs was "a clothing-optional facility." Exact policy with okay c/o zones was always left to be verbally relayed by bath attendant's often-rushed spiel to newcomers. Many attendants, abysmally unfamiliar with freebody lifestyle, seemed either embarrassed, reluctant, or titillated to be relaying info on where one could get nekkid.
So what evolved was essentially a nude quasi anarchy that, depending on times and group energy de jour, could make for anything from magical Garden of Eden innocence to overly self-conscious, tiresome, neurotic woo-hoo-look-at-me-I'm-starkers-baby-feast-your-eyes!" and "Oh, mama!" tripping out.
Again, too often there seemed to be a battle for dominance between freebodies and textiles for proper dress/undress code that was too weird for words. A dressed group having lunch on sundeck, proud in their decency uniforms, would make those nearby, nude and coursing through spa cycle, feel...well, NAKED. It would've been funny if it weren't so pitiful.
Stewart Springs, again, never developed focused mindful policy of other springs, crucial for any successful, safe-atmosphere clothing-optional operation.
Result was so sketchy at times that perhaps new ownership -- on advise of profit-obsessed old management that seemed to always hope we'd either self-regulate or self-destruct -- didn't get connection (or didn't want to) between simple nudity and greatly enhanced spa benefit.
New ownership would've then concluded there was dire need to push re-set button and ban nudity outright...they totally agreed with vision: rid place of kinky, modest-spending countercultural riff-raff -- including sweat lodge -- clear the way for attracting either more upscale, clothes-minded crowd or viable-culture challenged mainstream...either target group better suiting control-minded, button-downed druthers of Pneuma Foundation and helping set proper tone for informally-renamed Pneuma Retreat Centre and outfit's ostensible world headquarters.
"There are few nudities as
objectionable as the naked truth" --Agnes Repplier
Simple nudity as a profound tool for aiding reintegration of body-mind-spirit on higher levels was rejected out of hand. It lent serious doubts as to true intent of outfit.
Was biggest concern indeed offering genuine healing -- profound reintegration of body-mind-spirit through mindful spa experience -- or merely perpetuating organization's quasi-new-age psychological shtick and providing a bit of decadent "taking the waters" on the side to paying public in order to defray ownership costs along with lodgings?
Regressive clothing-optional ban was like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. It couldn't be done...not without putting severe damper on magical healing spirit of Stewart Springs that thousands of awakened and awakening came to know and cherish over the decades.
If over-reaction to unsupported scene, which could indeed get tawdry around the edges, was what actually caused drastic about-face, it punished the multitudes for trespasses of the few (again, assuming incident even DID occur and wasn't just product of management's Machiavellian imagination). And new owners were dully unaware of need for mindful energies and progressive intent by management to keep scene together. Earlier manager team, daughters of former absentee owner, seemed likewise unfamiliar with basic c/o ethos, unable to elevate and fine-tune policy to reflect authentic mineral spring culture, but they at least had a more live-and-let-live attitude.
After they had sauna rebuilt and enlarged in 2005, the 'Clothing Optional' sign that had long hung over door of old sauna mysteriously disappeared, eventually resurfacing on wall of employee break room, good for idle laugh.
Sign put out of service without a thought was itself sign of times: place, in seeming ignorance, had zero interest in ever building any solid, intention-backed, enlightened c/o policy.
Management seemed to simply blindly hope for the best, leaving things to own devices...enduring scene until able at long last to 'refine the culture'... as it turned out, by selling to parties sharing similar distaste for any such freebody nonsense.
So result at times was something akin to chaotic nude anarchy, a situation perhaps ultimately responsible for its banishment by new ownership...who very possibly thought it was natural result whenever people got together naked in public, regardless. Again, new management, like old, seemed either ignorant of or indifferent to c/o ethics, its adherence naturally elevating scene to socially responsible, mutually comfortable one, whether one opts to be bare or not. Right intent and mindful focus make it work. Lack thereof and it can get messy...fast.
As said, it was long hoped that new owners, on studying situation more carefully, would realize this simple fact...that, rather than retreating into former ways of mandated body shame and enforced discomfort, they would embrace opportunity to finally hammer out and fine-tune a fair-minded body-friendly policy...
...one focused with on-the-ball determination to forge an equitable policy and create a safe, respectable c/o environment...thus ending ridiculous sometime civil war between freebodies and bare-notters. Such hope was nurtured before realizing they seemed on same page as old manager in lack of appreciation and understanding -- if not indifference, fear, and outright moral condemnation -- of bohemian lifestyle and free-spirited ways of place's now-disenfranchised one-time solid supporters.
Nude, not Crude
Stating obvious, any who experience c/o relaxation, getting instantly hooked on heady sense of freedom and enhanced body comfort that it fosters, know it's impossible to get truly comfortable and sweat freely in sauna when made to stay wrapped in cumbersome, sensory-deadening, bacteria-breeding cloth...or receive fullest dose of beneficial solar rays while sunbathing...or enjoy most effective hydrotherapy with clean, liberating sense of letting it all go in coldplunge.
To freethinkers and any least bit bohemian-friendly, what was REALLY crude and shameful was having to block therapeutic potential of elements by being forced to wear man-made cloth only to appease those hung up in spirit-stifling, false-modesty mindset -- or were so offended by any abusing former policy that they dismissed any effort to cultivate respectful and appropriate clothing-optional climate as an impossible dream. Why even try? Thinking went that the essential body had been too suppressed over the ages to EVER normalize everyday public nudity -- beyond, perhaps, dedicated naturist resorts (aka nudist camps) -- even in the peaceful natural environs Stewart's provides to enable re-harmonizing ourselves.
Might decision involve something more? Perhaps belief nudity detracts from disciplined spiritual practice -- similar to it being verboten in former grounds sweat lodge, for instance. In contrast, in Wiccan spiritual practice group lightwork is sometimes done skyclad, or nude, allowing body to get in closer harmony with elements and gain optimal physical comfort, thus increasing potential for enhanced attunement, with resulting amped-up mind-body-spirit integration.
So that argument's a relative wash.
Can it perhaps be due to religious upbringing, teaching body is indecent for power to incite either lustful thoughts and behavior or repulsion, and thus detract from spiritual focus and good behavior? This can indeed be the case so long as society continues age-old, un-bareable mindset, with blackout of non-commercial public nudity and pro-active efforts to foster mindful nudity in appropriate places...like select waterfronts and rural mineral springs, creating peaceful dolphin islands of paradise amid sea of sharkskin suits (for a surreal analogy).
The phenomenal growth of events like Burning Man, San Francisco's Bare-to-Breakers stroll, World Naked Bike Day -- plus dawning popularity of thong swimsuits, legitimizing at least more semi-nudity -- show society's fears on matter have been fitfully easing. By making more places like Stewart's progressive exceptions to still-dominant perma-dress conditioning, then personal, age-old physical oppression will fade away that much sooner.
For, though no doubt hard for many to realize with such historic disruptions going on everywhere now, Garden of Eden consciousness is fitfully re-emerging on planet. And Stewart's was until recently helping show the way, even with intent no better fine-tuned than it was.
Can Body Freedom Bell Be Unrung?
Time will tell how freebody ban will fly, especially during nicest weather begging to be enjoyed au naturel.
Can Stewart Springs's body-freedom bell be un-rung without dire consequence?
It had been chiming merrily since start of new millennium. Can place really go back to former over-modest, body-phobic ways of last century and still continue doing brisk business as ostensibly serious rural healing resort in long run?
Maybe. (With bathhouse permanently shuttered, perhaps we'll never know, though signs seemed iffy.)
But in so trying it was at serious risk of becoming yet another muted, self-defeating, commonplace, commercialized spring tourist trap...albeit still, inherently, a charming one.
It had callously betrayed once-loyal customer base without blinking an eye. One visitor from Harbin before its fire said if such a policy change were to happen there, visitor volume would've dropped in half overnight.
Indeed, former locals day at Stewart's -- often bursting the seams with regional visitors -- turned into instant ghost town after loopy policy change. Writer's convinced that local's day after 17 years was changed from Thursday to Monday as calculated first step to disenfranchise and discombobulate bohemian-friendly locals...and to remind them that a new sheriff was in town: "Check any nude attitude at office (or else) to help make things more comfortable for everyone. Your cooperation is appreciated -- tell your friends!"
True, compared to other popular clothing-optional rural Northwest mineral spring resorts, like Breitenbush or Orr, on radical body freedom scale Stewart Springs was always rather tenuous and tame. Barring mentioned nude down-dog yoga posturing in sauna or rare ecstatic nude dancing on sundeck, nudity was mostly limited to still sauna perching, sunbathing, and low-key skinnydipping.
But many long visited in no small part for place being one of select few on West Coast allowing any measure of body freedom. It's where many, including writer, made dramatic breakthroughs in personal body acceptance and liberation and overcoming any neurotic objectifying habits.
We've since lost heart in droves.
Many regional residents who did so much over decades to support place have thrown in now-required towel (or sheet, sarong or swimsuit -- at least one still had that choice) -- and given up on place. One might go elsewhere, like nearby Ashland's Jackson Wellsprings (clothing-optional after 8 p.m. or nightfall, whichever comes first; adults only), even though longer drive and happening only after nightfall precludes getting any all-over tan. see springs comparison
Others, pre-pandemic, might've continued coming and conforming, never having been too concerned about clothing-optional one way or another. Or mourn body freedom lost while suffering mandatory cover-up, perhaps having adopted a patient, "This too shall pass" frame of mind...or quietly staged rebellion to test policy resolve whenever possible, seeing it as too oppressive and silly to be taken seriously, willing to court reprimand or expulsion if caught.
Yet others, finding erstwhile scene intolerable but unable to easily get to other springs and having no heart for rebelling and losing peaceful center in process, sadly resigned selves to suddenly going without.
As result of recent inappropriate ownership focus, health and freedom-minded lifestyles of untold hundreds of locals and regionals -- thousands more on national and global level -- has been seriously compromised.
Many repeat visitors from far beyond area and overseas only familiar with Stewart's -- this website's viewed by Chinese, Czechs, Spaniards, Japanese, Canadians, Russians, Germans, British and French -- were no doubt also stunned, some thinking they'd nowhere to go to enjoy accustomed free-spirited, Euro-style spa resort experience while touring U.S.'s West Coast. (Harbin re-opened, but some always preferred Stewart's more intimate scale, natural setting, and lack of former's Bay-Area influenced, sometimes bold and lascivious air.)
Of course, permitted body freedom was only one component of Stewart Springs experience. But it was a vital one, linchpin that for all open-minded visitors enhanced all others -- place's spectacular depth in nature, rare vortex energy, and historic rustic ambiance -- to profound, almost supernatural levels.
One would've thought owners would naturally want to keep loyal long-term support base intact.
Policy change struck legion of bohemian-friendly as unpleasantly surreal, a roundly undesirable alternate reality too restrictive to want to even TRY to conform to.
On off-chance new owners were not intentionally trying to alienate customer base, perhaps they were simply unaware how such action would create firestorm of adverse reaction from so many former faithfuls during dubious course of management trying to convert place to suit super-structured, buttoned-down, quasi-new-age shtick. Thinking might've been that in seller's market that it is, business would naturally continue to thrive by tapping boundless mainstream/upscale market and grow despite -- or perhaps because of -- radical shift in operation, which, after all, was only upsetting a few low-spending, local kinky malcontents that they didn't really want as patrons in first place, right?
But, even if so, at what cost to former profound quality of overall visitor experience?
If more upscale or mainstream client base never manifests -- as seems dicey, given current global crisis and probable long aftermath -- new owners might find selves between a rock and hard place. They'd have gotten rid place of once-loyal bohemian support base but not attracted enough more mainstream or upscale visitors who could ever feel comfortable packed with sweating strangers in hot dark room...maybe not even enough clients gung-ho on Pneuma's convoluted formula for achieving enlightenment through long pricey workshops, retreats, and two-year certification programs.
And even if they DO gain viable traction at some distant new-reality date despite shuttering bathhouse and closing down historic heart and soul of place, one salient fact will forever dog outfit: a new customer base built on destruction of long-established, free-spirited culture will forever brand operation as spirit-crushing, rank commercial sell-out, self-defeating in long run to purported overarching aim of raising global consciousness.
Ownership's board of directors reportedly had wanted to make c/o policy change a half year sooner, in summer of 2016. According to outgoing manager (veracity at times more than a bit suspect), they were persuaded to hold off until November. If true, maybe it was only in consideration of long-standing bookings placed before owner change, wanting to avoid massive cancellations and livid bohemian-minded bookers showing up unaware of drastic policy change.
Maybe, too, thinking was there'd be a riot of protest if day visitors, long accustomed to nudity option, one sultry 90-degree summer days were suddenly told, "Sorry, but you've got to cover up now; no more nudity for you. Please understand and cooperate with us." Yeah, that would've worked. Easier to spring it when too cold for going bare outdoors for any but bravehearts making accustomed heroic icy plunge in 30 degree F. creek.
They reportedly couldn't be persuaded to allow even one clothing-optional day a week to accommodate legion of more freespirited, those long-term fans -- local, national, and international -- who had so long supported and esteemed place and definitely preferred enjoying it au natural.
Again, new policy was supposedly triggered over shock of doubtful story of some visitor playing with self on deck in 2016. On off-chance that it actually was true, outgoing manager no doubt saw golden opportunity to sound red alert to new absentee owners, prompting fast draconian ban. An alternate explanation circulating among staff was that new ownership group itself -- or wives -- who had frequented place for retreats over the years, had always been put off by place's public nudity. And so maybe manager fabricated story out of whole cloth on the fly, just to make getting rid of naked people an absolute slam dunk.
However it came down, it's truly sad...and more than tad ironic, in light of how Pneuma's transpersonal psychology branch having historic roots in human potential movement that included successful guided nude group-therapy workshops in late 1960s, held in such places as Esalan at Big Sur, CA (feature story famously made in Life magazine).
Getting renewed in
Stewart Springs has had a long history of flip-flopping on policy over the decades. Verboten until Goodpastures took helm in '70s, it was again banned during first half of Foggy's ownership in 1980s and 1990s except option for brief, chaste nude dip in water with immediate re-wrap on emerging. Then mandatory cover-up policy magically vanished in 2000...almost as if to celebrate new millennium with new-found enlightened transparency and boldness of spirit (see When Body Freedom returned to Stewart Springs), and wouldn't make unwelcome reappearance until late 2016. It allowed nudity in sauna, outer deck and creek cold plunge area, while requiring covering in halls, lobby, and front sundeck. It was a compromise, hammered out to try accommodating everyone's lifestyle as best possible. Though at times unwieldy, it worked, more-or-less, making place all-inclusive of varying visitor backgrounds and, many would agree, overall place became a far more healing and rejuvenating resort for it. see History To bare or not to bare...
Granted, c/o or not c/o is ticklish call for any rural mineral springs resort.
Does one provide place where people in perma-dressed world have rare option to at last get free of unnecessary coverings in natural sheltered environment and enjoy enhanced state of being among kindred spirits while more effectively cleansing and purifying, in process regaining/reinforcing positive body acceptance, lost as toddlers? But at the risk of such radical departure from deep-entrenched social norm potentially causing unsavory scenes and misbehavior if not keeping judicious and forthright handle on it?
Or does one try to avoid ever causing discomfort by the many either in denial of human biologic reality or who simply prefer to keep covered out of modesty and/or to avoid unwanted attention and insist it's not unreasonable to demand that EVERYONE else keep covered too -- even during much of spa regimen, even in bohemian stronghold of northern California out in middle of nature, on 90 degree days begging to be enjoyed with skinnydipping and nude sun bathing?
It can be a thorny call either way if not handled sensitively with open-mind.
If opting for latter and banning nudity, obviously ignored is extreme discomfort it causes would-be freebodies, those almost always more sensorily in tune with bodies than numbed-out perma-dressed and foot-shod, suddenly forced to keep wrapped in constrictive, man-made, sensory-dampening cloth that prevents fullest attunement to natural elements, expediting and enhancing spa regimen's purification and rejuvenation process.
Of course, Stewart Springs was on one level neither fish nor fowl. Though it was c/o many years, it never became a full-fledged c/o resort that merrily joined others in regional sisterhood of rural springs. This was at least in part due to lack of any planned freebody zone, as place had long tradition of perma-wrapped mindset, clothed visitors and workers walking by tubrooms and into sauna and out onto deck, and clueless bath attendants lacking informed support by management, when c/o WAS tenuously allowed.
That said, for what it's worth, naturist philosophy holds that the right of those to be mindfully nude in appropriate environments outweighs the right of those made uncomfortable being around such nudity.
While no rational thinker can credibly deny the healing process in spa resort -- upscale or rustic -- unfolds more easily when partakers are free of textile restraint (after all, again, who bathes with their clothes on?), such places can still feel the need to ban nudity and kow-tow to prevailing age-old body alienation. They cling to threadbare cultural or religious beliefs, clueless how to allow such body freedom in enlightened, fair-minded way, possibly fearful that business volume would drop off cliff if allowing it, plus be condemned by community's morality police, maybe even ownership's associates, family and friends.
Again, ever since 2000 Stewart Springs has wobbled between two camps. Effort was to try accommodating everyone -- Sunday nudists, dyed-in-the-wool freebodies, textile junkies, and nude-phobics alike -- as fairly as possible. Both would-be nudists and bare-notters were often left grumbling around edges over awkward checkerboard of "Okay here, not okay there" zones.
But it seemed most doable compromise, given layout of bathhouse and diversity of visitor lifestyles. And would've worked better with active mindful support of management rather than hands-off, indifferent passive suffering of distasteful policy they were feeling saddled with, natural result for Springs never having been any more a full-on clothing-optional resort, like wider region's (estranged) sister springs.
Going to extreme of No Nudity PERIOD created a torrent of adverse reaction by what owners may not realize (or perhaps do, but don't give a flying leap) was significant portion of place's devotees and its off-season backbone support...
...one, again, that included many comfortable with clothing-option, even though passing on option themselves. They no doubt sensed that body freedom, besides creating far more relaxed atmosphere conducive to deep purification, letting go, and rejuvenation, enabled individuals to develop more positive body acceptance and experience physical liberation after lifetime of society's mandated body oppression, thereby enabling fast-tracking re-integration of body, mind and spirit on profoundly higher levels.
No longer accommodating far-flung base of nude-opting visitors marked a dumbfoundingly lamentable turn of events, worst since Stewart Springs closed gates to general public for years in mid 1980s for want of business and right management.
Its former policy, though at times awkward and seemingly arbitrary, again, enabled untold thousands the world over to maximize healing benefits of spa regimen, while gaining/reinforcing measure of positive body acceptance and liberation. No one was left out...except perhaps duly freaking champions of false modesty, dues-paying members of Keep It All Hid Society, and in extreme cases your gymnophobiac who inordinately fears nudity...their own and others.
It can't be stressed enough: having option to be mindfully clothesfree, alone or among others, amid harmony of nature during relaxing spa regimen was a rare, therapeutic, often liberating experience that set Stewart's apart...
...a policy eminently support-worthy in our neurotically perma-dressed world. Besides resulting in life-changing liberation from body shame and thus enabling better integrating of one's spiritual path, it also allowed those long into bodyfreedom to pursue their higher spiritual focus blissfully one with healing elements.
Changing Room Chaos?
One wrinkle in changing policy maybe not considered was place's ridiculously tiny changing room. It had long served as co-ed -- not well, but served. -- changing spot. It's an impossibly small and narrow space, with side bank of cubbies and two curtained nooks in back.
On busy days there could be over half dozen visitors wanting to change at once plus others wanting to access stashed belongings. No practical places for separate men's and women's changing rooms existed in bathhouse, short of sacrificing employee break room, unused deck juice bar, or a current tubroom. As things stood, chaos and frustration, making for unsettling energy -- decidedly un-conducive to meditative calm desired in place ostensibly dedicated to purifying, healing and relaxing -- would result if owners didn't relent and work out more reasonable, realistic, doable c/o compromise. (But hey, with coronavirus prompting supposed permanent bathhouse closure, no problema.)
Before policy liberalized, two current tub rooms, #2 and 3, were changing rooms -- no tubs then -- spaces with actual doors, far better accommodating changers while preserving privacy by gender.
Would You Bathe
with Your Clothes On?
Another matter: dress code at creek's cold plunge. Unless people were, at very least, allowed to uncover and briefly skinnydip, as they did formerly, even during otherwise no-nudity years, pure misery is result. It was too weird expecting visitors to awkwardly keep on wet sheet, towel, or sarong and walk around in drenched cloth, crimping ability to cleanse, heal and rejuvenate. In colder weather it was torture.
Then there was the safety concern. One's coming out of coldplunge in winter with sheet on and navigating often slippery stone steps was made more difficult and accident-prone, encumbered with suddenly heavy, more binding, drenched cloth that one suddenly became preoccupied with lest some dread wardrobe malfunction occur. It detracted crucial focus from avoiding missteps or losing traction on rocks and suffering real mishap.
Even though nudity was banned before 2000 under Foggy, exception was made for plunging, making now-moot policy most restrictive one in almost half a century.
Tyranny of Cloth
What better way was there to integrate physical, psychological and spiritual sides of individual on higher level -- one of supposed primary aims of new owners' affiliate, Inkarri -- than by experiencing precious mindful body freedom during spa therapy in delightfully natural environs?
Again, in our depressingly overdressed world, being even briefly liberated from mandatory cover-up and tyranny of cloth at places like mineral springs could work wonders. It allowed easy potential for dramatic breakthroughs in positive body acceptance and physical liberation, enabling advancing one's spiritual journey to higher levels by feeling happier in one's skin.
Because we are still in such a dominant, cover-up-obsessed world, many felt that the only realistic and fair solution to avoid excluding anyone's druthers would've been to strike viable compromise...
...a fair balance for visitors of either inclination. Such thinking, of course, assumed, perhaps erroneously, that owners hoped to broaden diversity of customer base, rather than narrow it to more conventional-minded mainstream, or possibly even privatize grounds.
Granted, checkerboard of clothing optional zones could be cumbersome and confusing and appear totally arbitrary. It was trey weird, having to wrap up to go few feet from tub to sauna lest one appear to be streaking in between points. It distracted from easy flow. But, given condensed bathhouse set-up and diverse visitorship, it was possibly the best possible compromise, and may yet remain so under new owners should they miraculously have change of heart...or, under future appropriate new owners, arriving like cavalry to Fort Stewart to rescue place from fiery perdition of hide-bound morality and inappropriate use of long-time simple, bohemian-friendly, egalitarian-minded retreat.
Launch Clothing Optional Days?
Sister mineral springs Jackson Wellsprings, outside Ashland, OR, faced same issue. They resolved it by making hours from evening on clothing-optional and adults only, and one evening a week women only. This works well for them since they're open til midnight to serve much larger nearby population.
Had current owners grasped merit in establishing more inclusive and enlightened policy rather than trying to make place over to lah-de-dah, upscale hideaway for own bourgeois-new-age-y shtick, pricing out and lifestyling out most fans, Stewart's might've finally integrated
and fine-tuned its
policy and at last joined sister springs, making mindful-nudity option relative non-issue.
But perhaps they have zero intention in truly serving the public, but some 5-year plan to transition to exclusive compound.
In any event, fans have been boycotting en mass, spreading word how owners either willfully or ignorantly destroyed decades-old progressive culture, long serving general public, with their misguided intent to make place over to suit own private-minded schemes and buttoned-down, conventional to new-age-tinged lifestyles.
Owners will either have miraculous change of heart or, more likely, if having been dependent on patrons who now stay away, ultimately give up and put place back on market.
And even if they DO manage to build up some solid new customer base -- or are in fact hell-bent on trying to privatize place -- they in time will be made keenly aware of Mount Everest of bad karma they've created. Are they conscious enough to eventually want to redeem themselves chalk it up to experience and let go of place and seek out more appropriate stewards...thus assuring ultimate positive place in realm's legacy? That's the real question.
If every true fan of place visualizes them waking up to the nightmare they've created, and to make up for it find some progressive-minded steward to shepherd the Springs, place becoming at long last a nonprofit healing and rejuvenating retreat for progressive-minded, wellness-seeking, nature-loving peoples everywhere...
...then Stewart Springs MIGHT regain and build on former global reputation as rare, quirky, bohemian healing spa resort open to general public in wilds at top of Golden State, resonating with Mount Shasta with timeless river flowing through it.
Writer Ward served as SMS volunteer assistant manager 2000-2002 under Mary H.; also maintained cold plunge 14 years. He's self-published works covering body acceptance and body freedom inspired by own experiences of Springs' low-key positive body culture
First in 34 Years
by Stu Ward
August 1, 2016
December 2017 note: Eighteen months after penning this writer realized had wool pulled over eyes. Naively hoped new ownership was going to make everything right once 12-year old manager Rowena P., lingering vestige of 34-year profit-driven Foggy ownership reign, was at last out of picture.
Didn't realize they were apparently on same page in many ways. They seemed to resonate with her vision of "Refining the Culture" by working to 'upgrade' visitor base to build more "respectable" clientele reflecting own buttoned-down lifestyles, while supporting place's doubling as far-flung outfit's headquarters...maybe, as some suspect, even privatizing it outright in time for groups' own exclusive use.
In any event, they made it clear they'd no longer want to deal with bohemian-minded and alternative-culture energies that -- duh -- ALWAYS gravitate to alternative-healing spas like Stewart's.
Rather than try to update article, writer let it stand with only a few changes like clothing-optional ban that took effect three months after first posting. Consider it a testament to how easily one can get snookered if taking people's intentions at face value, via their posted literature.
Some 34 years after last owner, John Foggy, essentially inherited springs from previous owner, after investment loan default, and did best he could with healing retreat with which he at times seemed to have little resonance beyond it being offbeat income generator, Stewart Mineral Springs sold to new owners January 19, 2016. In happy contrast, new ownership, though also absentee, is at least semi-involved in spiritual field. Members of Inkarri Cultural Association, affiliated with Pneuma Foundation turned onto place years ago during repeat workshop retreats. They'd stayed at various mineral spring resorts in wider region, always looking for one to call home base.
Among other things, they're into Inca shamanism and providing support to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Q'ero Nation in Peru. Their Pneuma System "seeks to integrate spiritual, psychological, and physical aspects of the individual" and "centers on transpersonal experience as a powerful method leading to inner transformation." Aim: "...to deepen our experience of the Sacred, both within and without of ourselves and thus learn to live our life with increasingly deeper awareness and clarity."
Sounds like a good fit. To further quote site:
"Inkarri is a Quechua word that means morning sun, a symbol of spiritual awakening at the dawn of a new era. The word Inkarri also alludes to an Incan myth, where the son of the Sun, an enlightened being, will come in the future to assist humanity and restore harmony on the planet. This correlates with other mythologies and prophesies within many cultures, such as the Tibetan culture, which makes reference to the Buddha Maitreya as the Buddha of the Future."
Founder of California's popular Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain, Mathew Engelhart, was briefly new co-owner, but since sold interest. (One can only wonder why...) Owner formed corporation with board of directors, each member having financial stake.
(On weird side note, for legal purposes Stewart Mineral Springs is now on record as Golden Eagle Resort. Last owner didn't legally register name Stewart Mineral Springs in time and someone else snagged it and has been holding name ransom ever since. Was easier re-naming place if only for legal purposes than pay extortionate fee to buy it back. Apparently some concern in Bay Area weirdly touted itself as Stewart Mineral Springs; hopefully few were mislead into thinking place had actually branched or changed locations -- as if it could.)
While living even more distant -- as far away as L.A., Mexico, even South America (and one thought former owner location in S.F. was a far piece) -- new ownership will no doubt over time work to prioritize projects and shape policies for management to fulfill that reflect evolving hopes and aspirations for place, once they become better acquainted with its history and traditions.
One of Inkarri's stated goals is "To promote profound personal transformation". Since recently banned optional mindful nudity during spa regimen can so easily and dramatically promote this, it's hoped that any day new owners will connect dots, reconsider, and let management bring Springs back into resonance with former glory as down-home, spiritually-grounded rustic healing retreat...one liberal-minded enough to permit modest measure of mindful nudity...one that the dedicated Stewart family manifested and ran for nearly 80 years, from 1876 to 1954, though not clothing-optional; and Goodpasture family ownership through 1970s and Foggy ownership's last 16 years, from 2000 through 2016, when happily it was. see history
Co-manager couple Ted and Rowena held ten-year contract with former owner Foggy that expired at end of 2016. New, younger management was groomed by outgoing general manager Rowena and have now nominally taken helm. [later note: She decided to stay on to work in background management capacity, coordinating visitor groups and in fact remained senior business manager; her lingering involvement continued to shape and enforce new policies as directed by new ownership, almost entirely by remote, through November 2017].
On sad note, husband and co-manager Ted passed away late October 2015 at age 65. Obit He'd been diagnosed with late-stage liver disease around beginning of tenure in 2006. He dedicated remaining years to evolving Springs infrastructure, initiating many notable improvements and repairs visible throughout grounds. Firm believer in Spring water's healing properties, regular soakings very likely extended his life many years before liver failure finally claimed him.
To former owner John Foggy's everlasting credit, he saw the wisdom in keeping rustic charm of place intact, thus keeping it unique among northwest mineral springs resorts, delighting visitors with its quaint summer camp feeling...and was liberal-minded enough to allow clothing-optional in second half of ownership.That he sometimes let place's upkeep slide distressingly is now ancient history, forgiven especially since he plowed so much back in during final years.
Fly in Ointment
Word from old manager is new owners are basically happy with the way place is. They're reportedly open to fine-tuning operation through management and staff directives based on popular visitor feedback.
Alas, this included many supposedly complaining to outgoing manager about how much they were turned off by since-scrapped clothing-optional policy. Based on what's suspected an exaggerated, or even outright fabricated, report of isolated incident of some old man publicly jacking off on sundeck in 2016, owners decided to end 16-year tradition of body freedom at Springs. Cover-up is now required everywhere outside tubroom and shower stalls. (see above editorial; also home-page story, editorial sidebar and SMS Facebook feedback in Rants & Raves) Barring this one not-so-little wrinkle for everyone treasuring place's Euro-style tradition of permitting simple nudity in appropriate areas for maximum spa benefit and enjoyment, Stewart Springs, after one long, uber-strange trip now hopefully appears in more appropriate hands.
Two indications: First thing owners did was raise everyone's wages (albeit raising admission to cover). And they committed to pouring every cent of profit during first two years back into place. Among other things, this enabled new manager Josh W. to get a decent heavy-duty work truck for place.
If new ownership in time relents, appreciating how clothing-optional ban holds back place's deeper transformative potential for visitors, then new management, with support of staff and so-minded regulars, can work to elevate c/o policy to more conscious, respectable one prompting dutiful compliance by visitors. In time c/o could become the relative non-issue that it is at other popular regional rural spring resorts.
Then Springs might at long last be freed to soar like an eagle to lofty new heights as extraordinary healing and rejuvenation center and workshop retreat.
Whatever side of c/o issue visitors fall in on, all who revere place no doubt wish ownership well in new stewardship.
March 20, 2015
With sporadic on-going work-trade efforts, creek coldplunge, new tarp liner installed, gaining needed depth - now up to four feet or so off stone steps in.
Just in time for spring equinox.
March 8, 2015
New Clawfoot Tub
Bathtub room 7 next to sauna, offline for month or two, now back online with new clawfoot.
March 1, 2015
Sauna Wood Refinished
During annual work session last Monday thru Thursday, caretaker Russell sanded off old finish of sauna's floor, benches, wall and ceiling and re-coated with linseed oil, made from flax seed. While oil coating is natural, it still makes for fumes that any chemically sensitive (like writer, who it made nauseous after while) might react to until it's finished outgassing.
Original coating, applied when new sauna built, used woefully inappropriate, toxic outdoor deck coating, which noxious outgassing left anyone at all sensitive gagging. Some were unable to use sauna for over month or two without getting headaches or becoming nauseous.
New finish makes wood bit darker, lending more womb-like atmosphere to sauna. Can't resist: new finish makes sauna more...Finnish.
February 21, 2015
New cold plunge maintainer
Frequent visitor Mario of Lake Shastina has taken on chilly job of rebuilding Springs' cold plunge from moi. Plunge is distressed since big rainstorm created creek rampage that severely damaged it. Breached rock wall is once again repaired -- challenging six hour labor -- making it once again safe to dip in the creek. Mario wears wet suit to stay relatively warm in 43 degree waters.
Work-trader, he could always use help. Challenge now, as always, is to deepen creek floor by removing rock and gravel, slow process, as well as heighten rock wall, to try to bring plunge back to at least waist depth, rather than current knee depth that can make easy plunging a bit iffy.
The deal for workers: one free bath for every earnest hour of work. See operations manager Josh if interested.
Writer had to step down after over-ambitious rock moving resulted in hernia. started first, recent cold plunge pool in 1999 and built it up and maintained it 14 years as labor of love.
December 17, 2014
Work Traders Needed to Repair Cold Plunge
Heavy rains and resulting flooding of creek last week threatened to destroy the cold-plunge dam. Water level was almost up to base of angel on the island. While dam managed to hold, it did wash away top layer of rocks that covered now exposed brown and blue tarps and, worse, filled up so much of plunge with rocks and gravel depth is under knee height, making immersing a bit more laborious.
Once writer's longtime bailiwick, health issues no longer permit lifting heavy rocks. New work traders with strong backs -- and maybe wetsuits, including booties and gloves, for working in 46 degree water -- are needed to repair plunge to former depth.
Deal: one free bath/two saunas for every hour of work. if you know of someone that might be, spread the word. Contact Josh for details.
Sept. 21, 2014
Weed Fire Aid
The Springs, along with other local motels, helped ease a tragic situation created by the nearby Weed's fire disaster by comping all its unrented accommodations for Weed's suddenly homeless.
The office desk accepted donations to help one single mom of four who lost her home in the hard-hit Angel Valley neighborhood on north side of town.
Mendera, indefatigable builder, crosses over
who dedicated last two years of his life making substantial improvements to Springs he loved, left us April 2nd, 2013. Work was inspired by belief region was possibly site of original garden of Eden.
many accomplishments, usually done along with dedicated Mexican work crew led by foreman Jesus, were
re-building car bridge, building new twin bathhouse showers, replacing
bathhouse floor, enlarging conference hall deck, replacing A-frame upper
deck, zenning out landscape all around bathhouse, building new foot
bridge across creek below conference hall...
last -- and in some ways greatest -- service was saving the day when late 2012 deluge's aftermath (see below), changed creek flow and threatened bathhouse
and stairway. He directed earth-moving equipment to shore up banks plus had placed huge foundation boulders for new cold plunge.
Such ceaseless work efforts built up improvement momentum that continues apace with current groundskeepers.
His presence is missed.
Old Creek Plunge
A late autumn rainstorm sent a raging torrent down the creek and wiped out old cold plunge of 14 years, threatening to take bathhouse stairway as well but for emergency efforts.
Creek island accessed by plank bridge was partly washed away as well. Its angel statue, however, weathered deluge unscathed. The walking plank itself was retrieved far downstream by four workers hoisting and toting heavy sodden timber a hundred yards and wrestling back into place working in near-freezing waters.
New plunge was hastily built by work traders and help of Jesus's crew the following spring and summer. Unfortunately, rooted rocks on plunge bottom couldn't be budged, making for trickier footing once in water. On plus side, it's just as deep as old one, and steps leading in built by Kierra have never been so zen.