"Oats were great...until feedbag taken away. Felt horses no longer welcome. And made to wear a blanket on 90 degree days? Neigh, I say! Socks are enough."
-- Gallumpher, Globetrotter Quarterly
All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
~ Independent tribute & watchdog site ~
Stewart Mineral Springs Review Rants & Raves
Trying to Make Sense of
Dizzying Disparity in
Travel Site Reviews
(Scroll down 3/5 for pushback on late 2016
nudity ban; late 2017 sweat lodge ban reactions on home page)
"It's a shame what has happened
to the once-wonderful establishment"
-- Michael B., Santa Fe, N.M., Yelp review
"...this place is a blessed piece of Mother Earth"
-- Luizasso - Instagram
"I am deeply saddened... I will not be back... I pray for the land and the new owners."
-- Carla C., Weed, CA Yelp review
"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."
-- Michele Feasby, Instagram
"The current owners and management have sucked the beauty, joy, innocence and purity from this sacred place... changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades." -- Anu Honey, Nevada City, CA Yelp review
"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift..."
-- Jill B, San Luis Obispo, CA Yelp review
"I love...the shift in energy that the new owners have brought..." -- Beth W., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review
"I have had many healing moments at this hot springs but will likely not be returning due to the changes with new ownership ..."
-- Sarah B., Ashland, OR, Yelp review
"...WHO are they catering to? The old management was bad enough, the new management sounds even WORSE..."
-- Zp Zap, Google review
"It's sacred land and you really feel that as soon as you arrive."
-- Caroline H., Ojai, CA Yelp review
"...the best we can hope for is the new owners fail in their attempt to pimp this place for the big money..."
-- Todd C., Mt.Shasta, CA
Note: if on desktop and lines are weirdly stretched out, you've accessed mobile-device version. For desktop format, click here to reach home page, then click Rants & Raves in side menu
by Stu Ward
Volunteer Stewart Springs assistant to manager Mary H. 1999-2002; work-trade cold-plunge creator/maintainer 1999-2014; withdrew all support December 2017
Two Intros - first, pre-new-owner times; second, post-new-owner meltdown
Part I - rustic nature - former friendly staff - soak limits - water quality - nominal countercultural flavor - laid-back or not?
Part 2 - hours - signs - creek music - body freedom
Part 3 (click) - online review headlines - more recent reviews - grounds restaurant - select classic reviews Part 4 (click) - dire grumblings on management - big-picture overview - calling new stewardship
Analysis freak at heart, started page in 2013 to try making sense of polarized online travel reviews of Stewart Springs posted over years. Soon branched to address frequent visitor concerns, and page grew like Topsy (whoever Topsy is). Then added SMS Facebook reactions to 11-1-16 nudity ban. Then got so long after sweat lodge furor, had to split it into two pages.
Bouncing off select thumbs-up and -down excerpts are in-depth takes -- some speculative, others well-informed -- rambling asides on such things as soak limits, restaurant, open hours, clothing-optional, and management. It attempts, finally, to demystify place a bit more by offering a Big Picture metaphysical overview.
Revised October 2019
If not die-hard fan and not too concerned about or unaware of what many perceive as grave peril facing Springs, you might want to scroll past this long introductory rant.
Then again, maybe you shouldn't. Your call. If wanting to just scope the hundreds of excerpted online reviews on place over decades, interspersed with writer comments, scroll down about 2/5.
Is there hope
or are we screwed?
Unimaginable disaster has befallen the once-magical, culturally-diverse, fitfully open-minded healing spa refuge of Stewart Mineral Springs.
Anyone with least bit of bohemian leaning who's visited since November 2017, when clothing-optional policy of 17 years was scrapped, or especially since sea change of December 2017, with kicking out 45-year sacred sweat lodge, is all too aware how dispirited things have gotten.
Many posters of ecstatic raves below, should they visit today, would no doubt feel like rescinding them in heartbeat, loathe to encourage any patronage whatsoever as things stand.
"The illuminati have taken over the Springs!," wailed one. Don't know about that exactly, but doesn't take too big a stretch of imagination to sense that Springs operation seems somehow to have gone over to the dark side, new conservative ownership appearing to be manipulating and intellectualizing spirit for semi-private-minded ends, setting up rigid rules to assure keeping tight handle on general public so no one can enjoy place too much...
...in process, making place a better fit to perpetuate its Pneuma Institute -- a peculiar international amalgam of quasi-new-age/conventional-religion/psychoanalytical shtick wrapped up in smiley face.
Actions erased place's former fitfully free-spirited, progressive-minded culture -- one they apparently couldn't understand, appreciate or respect -- an open-minded, bohemian air that managed to evolve and thrive in leaps and bonds for decades despite last, longtime S.F.-based owner's relentless profit focus and consequent over-wound management seemingly clueless to ways of genuine mineral springs culture with simple, unassuming focus on down-to-earth purification, healing, and rejuvenation. New, buttoned-down, seemingly tone-deaf ownership mindset and policies appear utterly divorced from cooperative spirit embraced by most every popular rural mineral spring resort in northwestern U.S.
Indeed, while grimly enduring light countercultural foothold on place in decade-long tenure, former head manager always envisioned 'Refining the Culture' -- her pet phrase. No surprise she, serving as broker for land sale (reportedly pocketing over quarter million dollars on it in what some might call ultimate Springs sellout), attracted energies sharing similar bland bourgeois ambitions for place.
One of their Facebook Pneuma website statements perhaps gives a clue to where they're at: "Formation of Spiritual discernment is a great need for our present time! Pneuma offers such formation programs..."
Yes folks, buy your way into enlightenment, we know the way! Special discount on three-day class intensive, this week only.
Formerly, self-empowered and spiritually-disciplined visitors gained such discernment on their own, thank you very much. No need to pay one blessed cent past bathhouse admission or lodging rental, staggering healing and transformative power of realm's special energies being greatest teacher of all for free.
Sometimes-naive, former deep-insider writer's own previous copious rants on former inappropriate ownership focus, interspersed among posted rants and raves of others, were hoped to be ancient history by now and long ago deleted. New absentee ownership -- again, peripherally involved in spirituality via its Pneuma Institute -- was given every possible benefit of doubt for nearly two interminable years...despite absurdly oppressive clothing-optional ban that instantly threw place into mourning over lost body freedom, with its uncanny ability when pursued mindfully to almost magically foster body-mind-spirit reintegration on profoundly higher levels.
Thinking was they'd been sadly misinformed, taken in by Machiavellian wiles and wonky upscale visions of longtime former manager. Can practically hear her having pitched, "The upside potential's enormous!"and "Everyone hates clothing-optional except a few wild, low-spending locals; it's killing business, I tell ya!"
Now-abandoned hope: they'd naturally come around once realizing wool was pulled over their eyes. They'd be chagrined to realize they'd been unwittingly destroying much of place's culture and long-term support base -- those seriously into genuine rural healing and rejuvenating spas -- plus droves of others, primed to give time-honored clothing-optional regimen earnest try, shaking free of lifetime of body suppression while experiencing profound body-mind-spirit re-integration such body freedom can spark. Nope. Turned out wool was over writer's eyes. Current owners appeared sold on her "Project Refine/Homogenize Culture"...but then, fatally, added their own public-unfriendly twist -- one they waited a good while to spring: intent to indeed 'cultivate' place's culture (i.e. turn more upscale and bourgeois-friendly) and devolve former quasi-bohemian almost-paradise into yet another conventional, lah-de-dah, "Your water's drawn, ma'am", retreat, yes; but also, critically, to change place to suit own headspaces and have it double as Pneuma Institute's international headquarters, workshop and classroom space, while also serving as own retreat centre.
It would almost seem general public is now invited there more to subsidize Pneuma operation and ownership costs than from any real dedication to affordable purification and healing of visitors as heart-felt altruistic service, as had so long been tradition.
Their own website quickly dispelled any such wistful hopes once they began referring to Stewart's as Pneuma Retreat Center on Pneuma site...keeping founder's name in business title merely for illusion of continuity, perhaps? (Imagine how pioneer founder Stewart might react if time-traveling to now.)
Elsewhere it's been variously listed as Golden Eagle resort, Kairos Inc., and Logos, Inc. Wouldn't be surprised if there isn't another name or two floating about, obfuscating ownership and accountability for what's now going on...a debacle viewed as an outright travesty by legions of place's now-estranged fans.
Stewart Springs is no longer Stewart Springs in ownership's eyes.
Not only does former rigid all-business focus appear live and well -- now with an added narrow organizational interest divorced from former simple, down-home, non-profit in spirit service offered for generations -- but is ramping up a full magnitude.
And maybe something worse. For, as one deeply unsettling rumor has it, future plans might include closing place outright to public.
rumors running wild - what's the truth?
At first blush it appeared new operators had maybe only inadvertently, ingloriously shot selves in collective foot...that they'd doomed viable operation for cavalierly disregarding place's once (tenuously) open-minded, diverse culture, grievously alienating countless longtime supporters, obliterating former loyal-customer base to point of ruin.
And maybe that actually is the case.
Far more likely, though, is they just don't care. And have the bucks to give myriad long-established customers the bum's rush, while leisurely changing tone of place to suit own conservative lifestyle and that of new, hoped-for visitorship, to effectively subsidize ownership costs. Perhaps take tax write-off if running place at loss. And, though keeping bathhouse open, concentrate on pursuing own gig, using place for outfit's international headquarters, classroom, retreat, and bureaucratic center, showcasing clinical, super-structured Pneuma teaching and practicing model of transpersonal psychotherapy...all to detriment of general public's ability to continue affordably benefit and freely enjoy powerful healing realm.
For now at least they seem willing to take money of any who can stomach disheartening changes. Especially that of newbies knowing no different -- perhaps most especially upscale, "cultivated" visitors, those into charming exclusive resorts with over-solicitous, no-nonsense service...rather than any trey distasteful, hippie-ish, help-yourself-and-welcome, clothing-optional spa purification and rejuvenation scene, thank you very much.
This, again, to offset not-insubstantial operating expenses and purchase investment. Some $77. each day of year is needed now JUST to cover annual county property taxes. (One wonders if they haven't perhaps finagled tax write-off somehow against another, successful, branch of international outfit or that of one of co-owners', thus having no worries about losing patronage of once-dedicated visitors hand over fist, as they did for a while until reportedly more conventional base appeared to start fitfully growing.)
In any event... misguided changes have tragically erased former wild, beautiful -- often free-flowing, at times holy-stoned -- energy of place that over decades made it a favorite place on earth for countless sojourners on nature-friendly, life-affirming paths and lured to the magic mountain's region.
Despite group's own attraction to place, having done many workshops in years past there, outfit's specialized exclusive focus and conservative lifestyle appears at extraordinarily depressing odds with its former, traditional open spirit absent any doctrinaire mindset whatsoever...one that cynical might view as trying to cram wild, infinite God force into box for three-dimensional clinical analysis and packaged, commercialized promulgation.
Yet their site proclaims, "Our intention is the Spirit to be always present in each of our actions."
Right. Talk about a serious spiritual-reality disconnect. Why does saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", so readily come to mind?
Pumping hot air
Pneuma's hybrid system, as noted, incorporates psychology's fourth branch, transpersonal psychology.
It grew out of humanistic psychology and human potential movements of mid-'60s to early-'70s...not surprisingly coinciding with countercultural revolution.
Sometimes referred to as 'spiritual psychology', branch discipline seeks to formally study, promote and train transcendence of personal being through such things as mystical trances, peak experiences and other altered states -- enhanced spiritual awareness in general, aided by focused deep breathing...integrating resulting methodology into fostering transcendent mindstates within formalized, gazillion-dollars-an-hour psychotherapy profession.
Like Spock, they apparently distrust emotions as irrational. And sadly, parted ways with one of branch's human-potential movement/humanistic roots that had successfully incorporated mindful nudity into select group-therapy workshops.
Promising therapeutic breakthroughs were made upon realizing the profound mind-body-spirit re-integration simple mindful nudity, in appropriate environment and under mindful direction, so easily fostered, enabling people to become more fully present. (Famously at Big Sur, in California's Esalan Institute, as featured in Life magazine.)
They'd have none of that. Not in "their" Springs, no sir-ee; don't even think about it; outa be ashamed; shades of Sodom and Gomorrah; nude's rude and crude and oughta be eschewed, dude...
But, along with conscious breathwork, they also throw into mix Judaeo-Christian tenets with its baked-in body guilt and shame of original sin, putting decided damper on anyone wanting to be mindfully nude in natural environment, whether soloing, as couple, family, or socially.
A peculiar amalgam indeed, one foot seems firmly planted on solid ground of innovative, growth-minded psychotherapy, the other in sinking quicksand of outmoded, guilt-based moral values.
More impressionable might imagine a therapy session going something like following:
"All right, lie down on the couch and get fully comfortable; now breathe deep and -- no, not that comfortable, please leave your clothes on!...[later] Well, praise the Lord! Now, how does this enhanced mindstate make you feel? Be specific and -- oh, darn, time's up; hold that thought til next session. By the way, your last check bounced; we'll need to take a card this time."
Okay...in fairness, system might well prove excellent therapy for any so inclined who can afford it, and is probably worthy of being cultivated -- at appropriate places.
But diverting age-old prime focus Stewart Springs in order to facilitate it? A place so accessible and rich with healing energies that it naturally fosters, often with boost of radical body freedom, such altered consciousness, peak experiences, transcendent awareness, and thus, profound body-mind-spirit healing?
...without any help from dry, super-structured workshop intensives and long-term instruction on how to get yourself and others enlightened: This week only, $2,000 off two-year credential program. Become certified graduate of Institute and start making big bucks doing same thing teaching and enlightening others!
Enlightening wallets at least.
No need to put God in a box...leastwise, not at expense of countless longtime Springs fans and sea of others now deprived of discovering its magic in anything approaching place's former, fitfully open-circuit atmosphere.
Again, no doubt it might work fine in more consciousness-starved areas and professional-rich, neurosis-inducing urban scenes, but is mind-mindbogglingly poor fit in northern bohemian wilds of Future State of California, denizens already soaring through the cosmos.
No coals needed in Newcastle, thank you.
One can perhaps blame Mt. Shasta's chamber of commerce for long ago coming up with classic slogan, still posted on Interstate 5' southbound's vintage billboard: "Mt. Shasta -- More than a Peak Experience". Term 'peak experience' was, of course, coined by Abraham Maslow of earlier humanistic movement, which focused on fostering positive, transcendent wellbeing over seeking neuroses under every rock. Possibly at some point sign caught eye of one of travelling psychology-enamored group -- "Wow, region's psych-savvy!" -- thus planting seed for recent snapping up of beloved Springs that had for so long cried out for APPROPRIATE stewardship to rescue it...
...and current abysmal overhaul attempt by new, woefully mismatched ownership: Too much nudity, too many trees, too much drumming, too many pagan cards, too much...aggrh, I need my shrink!
pick a rumor, any rumor...
Various overarching owner intents, according to various rumors, include transforming what was until recently incredibly popular rural spa retreat into:
1. Bland, culture-deprived place suitable for non-discriminating mainstream consumerist traveling hordes, better to fund Pneuma Institute's doings and cover ownership costs
2. Sterile posh resort serving as backdrop for Pneuma headquarters and transpersonal training classes, workshops, and related retreats. Suffering general public to help fund Institute and cover ownership costs
3. Private domain; at some point slamming gates shut to general public, privatizing Stewart Springs outright for exclusive use of Pneuma Institute, and perhaps select groups that can stomach (or even embrace) dreary changes...to help fund Institute and cover ownership costs
All disheartening prospects, last rumor might especially fill with dread any who have treasured realm, making one pray it isn't true -- or if true, will fail miserably.
Whatever the case, in all three scenarios the remedial first step in revamping operation is, naturally, to get rid of riff-raff: everyday alternative-culture friendly, free-spirited visitors who had heavily supported and championed place ever since renaissance Goodpasture-ownership era of 1970s.
Such visitors easily locked into healing spirit of land's powerful mineral waters and operation's (fitful) tradition of calm mindful service, with open, unassuming spirit. This in turn fostered tenuously progressive social climate conducive for people from all walks of life to let go and tune into deeper self while nurturing down-to-earth inner bohemian...again, despite recent decades of profit-driven ownership intent and resulting control-freak management often crimping scene on subtle (and often not-so-subtle) levels.
New owners either can't connect dots or simply don't care to, having dandy dot matrix of own: diluting focus and effectiveness of affordable body-mind-spirit therapy of time-honored spa regimen into sideline money maker to subsidize ownership cost while focusing on own pricey, clinical psychotherapy healing approach...
...and use place as international headquarters, running formal indoctrination workshops and enjoying it for themselves...all the while thanking the Lord for being rich enough to rescue place from the countercultural ilk who were clearly ruining it for more deserving bourgeois to enjoy in atmosphere befitting dignity of more elevated station in life. "Taupe...the walls must be taupe!"
It would seem now the fox is guarding hen house: Again, re-purposing traditional spa therapy retreat to take out of circulation unfair, cheap, more expedient competition in lucrative healing market and diverting focus to own pricey, over-intellectualized therapy regimen while upgrading lodgings to lure visitors and groups that will embrace (or at least tolerate) changes to support cost of using place for headquarters. Sounds like a plan.
Cynically inclined might view seeming stony attitude as, "Hey, we stole the Springs from you fair and square with our hard-earned cash. We're pursuing our own gig now, and whether you like it or not doesn't really concern us. It's our baby now. Accept the changes or go elsewhere; we don't much care either way. Have a nice day... [aside:] or not. Damn hippies, shameless nudists, pitiful pagans; 'public service'? gimme a break, mumble grumble..."
If indeed they haven't substantial upscaling or privatizing intent, but are merely proving extraordinarily inept in trying to go more mainstream -- as one might, perversely, hope is case -- it's possibly simple matter of time before business terminally hemorrhages red ink.
As word saturates planet how new owners destroyed place's fragile, tenuously-progressive spa culture and traditions, they possibly won't be able to entice enough undiscriminating, bland mainstream hordes -- or workshop/retreat/concert event organizers -- to fill gaping void, not in long run. Or keep any more-awakened staff on board, willing to enforce and endure muted, tightly-controlled scene at minimum wage and not run off screaming half way through second day.
With pneumatic tires of Pneuma's wilderness outpost vehicle thus springing serious leaks, they'd be prompted to either radically change tune, or, if remaining unyielding in hopes of transforming place to suit semi-private-minded agenda, concede defeat and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...putting place back on market for new, more appropriate ownership to rescue and set up as legal non-profit healing and cultural center...
...if any justice in world, at discount for mountain of destroyed good will, that intangible and priceless business asset they tossed off wholesale to accommodate interest's lamentably un-northern Californian lifestyle and mindset.
If empathic and aware enough to at last feel duly chagrined, they can salvage good bit of now-tattered integrity and credibility by seeking out a new steward (that dyed-in-wool fans of place have always envisioned), thereby ultimately gaining a positive place in historic legacy of Stewart Springs, while finding more suitable headquarters to stand them in far better stead.
In meantime...if trying to go all posh -- once-humble bathhouse is now grandly referred to as "Wellness Center" and A-frame's pedigree was upped to "the Chalet" -- but still remain open to public, effectively excluding all without money to burn and/or disinclination to stay imprisoned in sensory-deadening cloth during much of spa regimen, then it's steeper challenge to rescue...but still doable.
For even among would-be higher-end clientele, enough actually do have social conscience to recognize when something's out of whack and will refuse to support it. Maybe try it once, but not wowed enough for return visit, instead traveling to Orr, Brietenbush, Harbin, Wilbur, Sierra, Jackson Wellsprings...
As word keeps spreading how new owners -- whether willfully or unwittingly seems almost moot point now -- alienated thousands of former faithful fans and longtime supporters, poisoning place's free-spirited vibe and creating veritable Matterhorn of bad karma for selves and their causes, then owners might, again, never gain desired sustainable clientele to make viable go in long haul.
If intent is indeed on privatizing and they've the bucks and wherewithal to run at loss, and actually do manage to build viable new visitor base, and/or have finagled some legal tax write-off, on surface at least it looks as if fans are screwed. As others have pointed out, assuming privatizing is case, then boycotting and badmouthing would only help drastic transition process...
It would enable swinging fortress gates shut to public that much sooner, with minimal howling from disenfranchised. 2-15-18 Yelp review by Reality Check Z, of Napa, CA would be music to their ears: "Very poorly run operation. Stay away". Hee-hee, please stay away. Also, 2-22-18 Yelp from Share S., of Seattle. WA: "Worst place i have ever stayed. No heat i frooze to death awful management who does not care." Heh-heh, glad you got the message; keep those rants coming!
With fans thus giving up on once-magical, universal-spirited, affordable healing refuge (in mid 1990s on locals day saunas were $5, bath $10), and aware newcomers duly repulsed, present detached absentee "owners" of new acquisition and affiliated groups would finally be left alone to enjoy legally-stolen paradise...but with what could only be hopelessly contentious un-peace of mind. In any event, with no bothersome demanding riff-raff blocking midnight sun, the'd be free to enjoy place all to themselves, pursuing own particular money-making quasi-spiritual teaching model amid the rustic refuge, safe from distasteful, teeming hordes of everyday people so clueless and unsympathetic to crushing burdens of having wealth. We'd then at least more fully appreciate how original First Nations soakers felt when sacred medicine grounds were devastated in 1870s massacre by intolerant settlers stirred to murderous frenzy. see history Perhaps best hope -- should this actually be intent and not simply unfounded, assuming worst, sky-is-falling rumor -- is, while visualizing a positive future for place under new stewardship, to continue shaming through social media, as many have already done. (see sweat lodge removal outrage re-posts; also clothing-optional-ban re-posted rants later this page.)
Offer grand reality check of consequences IF misguided enough to actually even think of pursuing any such ill-suited plan for the long-time service-minded place, having done too dastardly a deed to ever experience one shred of peace of mind or abiding enjoyment of place, having created giant boatload of gnarly, stinking-to-high-heaven karma by closing to public one of planet's treasured natural healing realms.
Assuming they do realize this in time (again, IF indeed there is in fact any such long-range plan and it's not just cynics assuming worst), they'd either come around and change course or, if feeling they'd blown it too royally to even try redeeming scene -- or perhaps lacked any inclination to begin with, having minds set only on doing own thing all along and general public be damned -- give up, re-sell, and look for more suitable headquarters elsewhere...guaranteed a more peaceful and fruitful one, with no more outraged public diverting focus to put out constant brush fires of negative publicity...
...again, redeeming themselves by making time and effort to seek out and transfer to appropriate new stewardship at fair price, allowing for mountain of good will destroyed, one psyched at idea of transforming Stewart's into legal non-profit, place at last getting back to genuine love-of-service spirit that founded operation long ago.
Maybe some reader knows of possible someone(s) and can connect them at future time -- or IS that someone or group. Ideally a small contingent of so-inclined Springs fans might, early on, work with buyer(s), brainstorming ways to set place up and develop committed, robust community with work-trade support, establishing informed, fully staffed, dedicated and transparent operation from very get-go.
Stating the obvious: the more fans intently visualize making place fine-tuned, legally-chartered non-profit mineral springs retreat/resort, the sooner such a vision can actually manifest.
Owner change at first seemed so promising
Despite initial promise of what at first appeared enlightened intent by new ownership as of 1-19-16 -- first in 34 years despite wild epidemic of false rumors to contrary circulating for decades, and place having enough charm to spare for first-timers to enjoy, blissfully ignorant of relative shangri-la place once was -- things are now unspeakably dispirited to anyone who ever relished it in mellower times.
...to point myriad, including writer, vow never to set foot in place again until owners' hearts miraculously melt or they give up misguided plans and sell to new, progressive-minded ownership. Or, if indeed hellbent on eventually privatizing and shutting fortress gates and actually succeed (though hard to imagine a just universe allowing it), perhaps never.
What's most galling is how, in name of proclaimed pursuit of inner peace and world enlightenment, they could mindlessly erase rich quasi-bohemian culture that place's myriad fans so lovingly built up over time.
Again, it was a people's culture that evolved despite profit-minded focus of absentee owner of previous 34 years...but one who, saving grace, was liberal-minded enough to let late local manager Mary H. run place to suit local/regional preferences, which eventually included clothing-optional, which, as it turned out, droves of open-circuit, free-spirited and growth-minded travelers the world over resonated with.
Former atmosphere embraced simple wisdom of mother earth's healing power by becoming one with elements to more easily purify, heal and rejuvenate.
There was zero need to dryly analyze spiritual influences on psyche or pursue any particular approach to enlightenment or salvation, to exclusion of others' own unique awareness, lifestyle, and belief systems as now seems underway...all in name of unwieldy, often impersonal scientific discipline...so oddly overlaid and entangled in this case with apparent claptrap of organized religion.
Altering grounds to mirror ownership's more conservative ways obviously precludes letting visitors enjoy place too much for having option to sauna nude, skinnydip in creek, or sunbathe au natural -- even if receiving profoundly more benefits in process...healing benefits long accustomed to and embraced by countless visitors.
Or visit mineral water source gazebo to center and reflect and maybe leave prayer and love offerings, building momentum of realm's healing medicine wheel, merrily spinning 'round. Or be inspired by enchanted divining cards during purification in bathhouse, helping activate and reinforce higher consciousness in moment, not years later during $200+/hour shrink session in some obscure urban outpost. Or experience life-changing miracle in sacred traditional sweat lodge, connecting participants with deeper-most, prehistoric roots of America.
Not that they're actually thinking this, but it can seem their overarching attitude and strategy might essentially boils down to something like:
"Hey, if everyday visitors have illuminating and liberating experiences on their own through freedom to gallivant about in their birthday suits, it'll make our own vested formalized method on how to cure what ails you look pretty lame in comparison.
"Can't have that; we'd appear irrelevant, maybe even stodgy. Would-be enrollees to classes wouldn't be anywhere nearly as attracted and so support operation costs. Gotta oppress scene to make our own shtick, with goal of 'profoundly reintegrat[ing] body-mind-soul on higher level' actually look liberating in contrast...or were sunk."
How does that make you feel?
As said, traditional psychoanalysis all too commonly discovers festering neuroses under every rock, maladies needing slow curing through long, pricey analytical sessions. Even though new approach focuses more on positive-awareness growth, it's still locked into longterm, dry, controlled procedure that can all too easily straitjacket Divine Spirit's wild infinite nature and rapid transformative healing ability.
What appears to have created current spa-culture-destroying dilemma is owners being so smitten by and vested in scientific methodology that they seem to have lost touch with their own inner child, that freedom-loving-being with innate, all-inclusive compassion, quality essential to running any heart-centered purifying and healing service like Stewarts...rather than, sadly, become control-freaks with mandatory cover-up, turning place into watered-down resort, merely toying with radical purification and healing and transformation, gingerly testing waters rather than jumping in with both feet.
It might seem to some new outfit has so intellectualized and bureaucratized process of achieving enlightened state of mind that it's lost sight of (or hasn't learned yet) the spiritual law that the end can never justify the means...that in the process any would-be integrity and lofty intent is voided.
Verdict in court of public opinion
In court of public opinion, overwhelming evidence supports verdict of new ownership being found guilty of betraying place's spirit -- again, no matter if in ignorance of divine law or willful rebellion to re-purpose place -- while imposing hard-nosed, worldly edict of 'Whoever has the gold makes the rules -- deal with it'.
Exhibit A: scrapping super-therapeutic 17-year clothing-optional offering
Exhibit B: ridding springs gazebo of love and prayer offerings altar
Exhibit C: ending 45-year weekly sacred sweat lodge ceremony
Exhibit D: slashing take of masseuses and increasing take on consigned gift shop items
Exhibit E: no longer offering employees free monthly bath, decades-old tradition
Exhibit F: clear-cutting acre of mature trees on grounds above main road below cabins for new septic system leach field for bathhouse greywater pumped across creek. (surely better solution was out there)
Exhibit G: abrupt removal of rich assortment of inspiring divining cards from bathhouse lobby table
One shudders to think what exhibit H might be... Up baths to $50, only available with $200 massage by appointment? Fine any reckless enough to move deck lounges one inch from strictly appointed placements? Crowd covered bridge with junk-food vending machines and ATM? Build dank dungeon in bathhouse basement to hold any bold would-be skinnydippers til nude police can come to haul them away for indecent exposure?
If ultimate plan is to privatize and close place outright to great unwashed masses, again, perhaps they're trying to piss everyone off. That way, nobody'd much mind if gates slam shut and suddenly new signs greet trekkers, saying in effect: Go Away - Private Property - Trespassers prosecuted - No Bliss for You - Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Selves Elsewhere
Over-commercial, conventional-minded ways of recent decades, so rife with bold, authoritarian stances it seldom even bothered to mask milking place blind, has long interfered with earnest original focus of place's pioneer namesake founder: relaxed purification, healing, and rejuvenation in tranquil arms of nature...simply and affordably, with simple, basic lodgings to support longer purification and healing regimens. And before that, centuries of peaceful, reverent sharing of healing land among first nations people.
Fans of place, including writer, tried making best of bad situation, and for long while were fitfully successful, as nature's wild and free spirit prevailed and former absentee San Franciscan owner, John Foggy, beyond relentless profit focus, appeared something of easy-going, liberal-minded Libran who let many things be.
Since recent intolerable developments, former 34 year regime, flawed as it was, looks pretty damn good now. Can just hear Foggy -- again, open-minded enough to accept place's bohemian base so long as money kept pouring in -- chuckling, "Betcha miss me now, huh?"
Since dumbfounding sea change in operations, writer's obviously changed tone and focus of much of this page, along with rest of site. Sweat lodge ban flood of spitting-nails-mad, reposted rants, most of which had ephemeral original-site life, soon disappearing, are plunked on home page rather than risk getting buried here, as they perhaps constitute strongest collective voice ever expressed of feelings towards treasured Springs as public-friendly retreat. Re-posted clothing-optional rants and raves still reside below; older slams over management have moved to more rants and raves, along with sampling of latest reviews, page also exploring plight of under-utilized restaurant and offering metaphysical take on place's checkered history of pronounced light and dark energies.
~ Despite all, dream of peace on earth persists.
2018 Note: most of re-posted reviews below and on More Rants & Raves page originally posted long before most recent sea change in operation, many even before fair-warning harbinger of clothing-optional ban that took effect 11-1-16, going back to different times indeed.
Again, many such posters would no doubt feel like retracting or reversing full-tilt raves in heartbeat if visiting now (and some indeed have) -- which is not recommended...unless in denial, think plight is exaggerated, or morbid curiosity compels witnessing and verifying heartbreaking changes firsthand.
Glowing posts are left up both to remind people of what we once had and to
spark imagination on what we COULD have again and better...
...IF enough fans insist on it through both total boycott of current misguided operation AND positive visualization of future, perfect stewardship rescuing realm once current owners realize they'd be happier elsewhere...
...again, redeeming honor and building ultimate positive Springs legacy by seeking appropriate stewardship to carry on operation on profoundly higher, non-profit level, enabling far greater benefit to humanity as a whole.
* * *
Rants & Raves
Rustic nature - Soak limits - Water Quality - (Former) Friendly Staff - Countercultural Flavor - Laid Back or Not?
Surf through various trip review sites like yelp and tripadvisor and you'll read wildly opposing Stewart Springs takes. Everything from "Heaven on earth" to "I'll never go there again!" Understandably it makes for one roller coaster of a ride, leaving one to wonder how everybody could possibly be talking about the same place.
Of course, one bears in mind some reviews were posted ages ago. Different times, different managements -- even, now, different owners. Stewart Springs, like people and planet as whole, is always changing. It has its good moments and bad moments; good days and bad days; good years and bad years. Plus everyone brings own unique awareness into mix -- often with expectations, reasonable or not, happily fulfilled, wildly exceeded, or utterly crushed.
Is 'Rustic' Bad Word?
That said, it might still seem odd how two people visiting same day might be 180 degrees apart in experiences and estimations. This could lead one to conclude some reviewers are perhaps a tad snooty, not in touch with inner bohemian, holding up unreasonable expectations and irrelevant comparisons to more upscale spas and amenities impossible to provide -- many roundly undesired anyhow (at least formerly) -- while others were more easy going, nature-attuned and rural friendly, open to embracing rustic environs and focused on enjoying having a therapeutic spa and retreat amid glad tidings of nature.
WorkshopAttie of Monterey, CA bemoaned how, "For $130 a day, we had to build a fire in the woodstove as there was NO HEATING..." (Venerable wood heat doesn't seem to count.)
Connie Carbarry was "...appalled by the accommodations...perhaps this is a fun place to spend the day but not the night."
And Google reviewer Christian George, in glorious contradiction, groused, "I'm all for rustic, but no phones, no TV, and NO WIFI! Did I fall off the face of the earth?" [Yes, and many fans relished break from such omnipresent 21st century complexities.]
Also: "We had planned to have a wonderful experience and really start our vacation with a relaxing trip to the mineral baths, get massages and stay in the woods. Our experience was to the contrary..." (KnitVallejo, Vallejo)
50-50 review: "The hot springs is magical if you come just for the hot spring and meditate on the forest and creek side. But the accommodation is terrible." (Unattributed Yelp review)
In contrast, myriad happier campers raved endlessly:
"The place has an amazing rustic charm, and is the real deal as a mineral springs." (1Shastagirl Redding)
"Funky and perfectly rustic and remote. We love everything about the experience. Reminds us of a more authentic, down to earth time. Absolutely healing..." (Nina Hyatt, Google review)
"I must say, I wanted rustic and boy, did I ever get it!" (Alexia J., Montreal, Canada)
"Extremely relaxing. Nice people, they're not crazy, they're just not from a city." (S.F., CA)
"The place is absolutely the most magical..." (John R., Clay, MO)
"I absolutely love the peaceful tranquility of this special place..." (Crystal Dawn)
"I don't go through Northern California without a stop here. A magical place... If I could live just up the road, I would." (Psychedelic_, Bloomington, Indiana)
"...loved every minute of it. Very tranquil forest, a cleansing mountain creek, and quiet atmosphere for healing in a rustic, earthy way. If you want to REALLY connect with nature without all the frills of a resort, this is the place for you." (Emily C., Moss Beach, CA)
"My favorite retreat spot!" (Ronit Ashkenazi)
"...a little run down and shabby. But this is the charm of it. Makes me feel more relaxed than somewhere fancy." (Cyndi Johnston)
"This place attracts people from all walks of life, all with the same intention -- to heal." (A Google User)
"If you're someone like me for whom periods of 'unplugging' are both feasible and valuable, you will definitely appreciate this setting..." (WaterViolet)
"One of the coolest mineral springs I've ever been to!!" (Kiki S., Los Osos, CA)
"The place is a rustic gem, beloved by many, with countercultural overtones." (Anonymous, hotspringsdirectory.blogspot.com)
"There is nowhere in the world that is like it, I have been to countless spas, banyas and sanctuaries and this is my absolute favorite..." (Jasmine, Sebastopol, CA)
"We are glad that they have not caved to any pressure to install TV, Internet and telephones in any rooms. It is really wonderful to UNPLUG and enjoy the nature..." (naz s., Redwood City, US)
"...although it was a short two night stay, it was very profound. I can still feel the 'high' from this place." (Rose R., Willows US)
"What an excellent spring!...the grounds are amazing...and the stream that runs through it is absolutely joyful." (Miranda D., Santa Fe, NM)
"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift. I was enchanted by my time here."
(Jill B - San Louis Obispo, CA)
"Rustic but perfect at same time. For those of you sensitive to beautiful healing energy you are going to love it. For those of you expecting a four star resort you will not be getting that! For myself, I would go back in a heartbeat." (thefunns)
"This is a relaxing rustic retreat from the rest of the world...if you want to recharge your batteries then you have found the right oasis. "
(John 434 on YellowBot)
"It's a place I return to over and over..."
"I was completely charmed by this simple and relaxing gem of a place..."
(Jamie H., Alamo, CA Yelp review)
"The actual spring house (up the creek) completely stoned me out -- great energy there." (Cee Jay 60-27, Aromas, CA)
"...never tire of it. I love going on a beautiful drive past the horses and the cows, up a mountain in the forest to a beautiful secluded rustic mineral spa. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes wonderfully blustery. When the weather is cold, it's lovely to sit by the fire. When it is sunny, it's exhilarating to jump in the creek. I love the ritual of going from a mineral bath, sauna and then the creek.
< Former office manager Danielle with long-time bathhouse mascot, Mr. Beechum. "My grandmother always told me, 'Love what you do and you'll never work another day in your life.'" "Meow"
"Yes it is 'funky' not your upscale experience, but it is way nice and all the other guests seemed 'chill'...if you are sensitive to nudity go someplace else." (WanderlustSal)
"If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people." (BoyneDefender)
"Pretty and unpretentious" (SubjectTravel)
"A magical place, really. The accommodations are simple and rustic and the mineral baths are out of this world." (Psychedelic-Doughboy)
"An awesome retreat that was so good for this soul." (Darla M., Bend, OR)
"This is one of the most magical places I have ever been to. Last time I went I had a hard time leaving because I felt so good being held in this sacred land. " (Dr. Alexina M., Vancouver, Canada, Yelp, under "not currently recommended" link box at bottom of page)
Conclusion: Some relish being immersed in rustic simplicity of nature and seriously unwinding, perhaps building fire in cabin's wood stove to keep cozy on snowy night. But others took uber-urbanized umbrage for having to resort to such primitive labor-intensive heating methods, expecting conventional amenities and solicitous pampering, even in middle of woods, and lived to gripe about no hair dryer or wi-fi -- or hordes of shameless naked people despoiling otherwise charming landscape.
(feel free to skip)
Split-focus makes operation challenging
-- schitzy too
Diverse visitor expectations bring to fore split focus and constant challenge of even the most dedicated mineral springs resort. It terminally over-complicates things when owner directive causes over-wound preoccupation maximizing profit, making for seriously off-putting schitzy management energies that, naturally, adversely affect any fuller enjoyment of one's stay.
Again, even if latter isn't case, running both healing day mineral springs scene and comfortable overnight lodgings can be trey tricky. Unless stay intent includes relaxing into focused spa and/or meditative communing with nature and/or mindful workshops/retreats as visitors to dedicated mineral spring resorts lean towards, resulting disconnected visitor energy all too easily muddles management team focus. It pulls it in two directions at once: Healing place, Motel 6; healing place, Motel 6... Would-be flowing organic scene can turn hopelessly disjointed and watered down by drive to generate profit at every turn, totally eclipsing original, focused, purifying and healing intent of place.
Visitors expecting typical amenity-loaded lodgings, with spa perhaps offbeat bonus -- or, especially, if coming for lodgings alone -- are bound to be disappointed at basic accommodations.
In happy contrast, visitors intent on purifying, healing, rejuvenating and enjoying immersing in nature -- age-old vision of place and, lest one forget, original reason for operation after eons of prehistoric healing use, lodgings developed solely to support purifying spa treatments and unwinding in woods -- are more than willing to take break from TV, phone, wi-fi, etc. and embrace lodgings, no matter how bare-bones, so long as basic creature comforts and amenities are covered, as part and parcel of backwoods healing retreat experience.
Can place's original
intent be re-activated?
Original dedicated purpose of Stewart's - - offering healing waters and restful rustic retreat as affordable, non-profit-in-spirit service to public -- has been gradually fading, due to no more of six post-Stewart ownerships resonating any better with founding vision since pioneering Stewart family's dedicated 78-year reign ended in early 1950's...to point place seems to have segued into more of quirky, relatively cheap, fashionably off-beat, rustic quasi-resort, with extra-pay option to take the waters.
More's the pity. Writer had fervently hoped newest absentee ownership, together with fresh dedicated management, would at last put cart to back of horse...reclaiming vision of namesake, wife and daughter, who between them ran a rare oasis of down-home, essentially non-profit, service operation for four generations.
Hope was new stewards would emulate their profound reverence for special realm, one echoing that of natives before them for time untold, by re-energizing altruistic, service-first focus as honored by Masons in 1950's and 1960's, and last by Goodpastures in 1970's (see History)...one that enables visitors to partake of realm's sacred healing and grounding power without off-putting over-commercial headwinds or serious re-purposing intent putting damper on potential for profound healing and life-changing experiences by diverse visitorship.
Obviously, writer's no longer holding breath. Drastic changes made, maddeningly unmindful of down-home, service-loving tradition of place -- same as, in varying degrees, most other post-Stewart "owners" -- have all but disconnected its very heart and soul.
Paging lucky seventh. We know you're out there. Destiny's calling.
Even a conscious, for-profit ownership instinctively realizes that there must be a critical balance running Stewart's, one seeking that elusive sweet spot between making reasonable return on tied-up capital and visitors most fully benefiting from place. If lacking, if inappropriate monetary and/or narrowed focus and privatizing intent dominate, taking away from place's ability to affordably and freely purify, heal, and rejuvenate its visitors, chaotic and sorrowful karma of place's tragic massacre of original soakers in 1870s re-surfaces as sure as night follows day.
Better than a far-profit model, place would blossom if liberated from such depressing material gains focus, which can so easily become anti-life. (Telling: some Natives called paper money dead frog skins; western settlers nick-named dollars bucks, after skins of slain deer used as unit of trade.)
Urge the universe to manifest an awakened wealthy soul or group of souls, happy to rescue place from jaws of disaster and legally establish realm as a forever non-profit operation pursuing dedication to purifying, healing and rejuvenating with psyched support and input of community and every aware and awakening visitor making happy pilgrimage up the hill.
Odds are in our favor it's not too late. Of 143 years of Springs stewards, 54% were dedicated efforts of founder and daughter and another 17% under earnest stewardship of masonic lodge and Goodpastures, for total of some 70%...versus mere 30% for recent profit-driven and/or private-shtick-minded focus.
Greater long-term momentum of place overwhelmingly remains towards re-energizing dedication to non-profit purification, healing and rejuvenation!
This amazing free-flowing energy can be re-activated IF enough fans of place INSIST on it, collectively visualizing it happening with stone-pure intent, being liberated by dedicated and awakened new FUTURE ownership.
That's the dream.
Do enough Springs fans want it?
Yet more raves:
"I love Stewart Mineral Springs [not for lodgings but]...for the spiritual power of the place and the healing properties of the land and mineral waters." (Diane Elliot)
"...absolutely the most magical place. I stayed here last night in this really cool, rustic cabin. The staff is amazing and friendly. If you want fancy and frilly, this place isn't for you but if u want pure and simple natural beauty, come here. It will blow your mind." (John R., Clay, US)
Reviewer Boyne Defender of Detroit, MI summed up place so neatly, reprising it here: "If you are looking for a pampered spa, this is not for you. If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people. I have had a great time each and every time I have been there."
Another qualified rave: "I love this place! It is not fancy, schmanzy but a great woodsy, spiritual place...the moment you come in to the grounds you feel yourself relax." (Carla C., Weed, CA.)
< Amazing gravity-defying rock sculpture by cold plunge, summer 2012, builder unknown. Like to think it was playful earth spirits, creating it overnight to blow minds of mortals on arriving next day
And: "Once I got snowed in here for a few days right after Christmas. Not a bad place to be stuck!" (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)
"Truly sacred land." (A Groggel, S.F., CA)
"The whole scene imparts an incredible sense of relaxation and rebirth." (Kitty Case)
"...sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta ..." (Doug. S., Pacifica, US)
"Wonderful rustic resort. Totally off the beaten path...place has a magical feel to it..." (Crystal S., Davis, CA)
"It is not your 'upscale' Napa-type hot springs and I love that!" (Unattributed 'not recommended' Yelp review)
vs. more rants
Others were not so charitable. One felt rich barbarian spa freaks had stormed the gates, crowding out everyday people. From Martinez, CA, old post by shastadaisey:
"The earth goddesses have now been replaced by rude people in BMWs who leave you standing while they lay in the sauna. The sage weavers [smudge bundlers] have been replaced by signs with rules. It used to be a wonderful relaxing experience, but... truly peaceful earth-loving folks can't afford to participate anymore..."
Also: "I've loved this place for 20 years, but am disappointed in the recent changes. " (Benicia B., S.F.)
If indeed place is energy vortex many believe it to be, amplifying whatever vibrations are brought into realm, it's no wonder such diverse reactions occur. People from all walks of life have been attracted to place. Each day is unique blend of energies: expectations and head spaces, mood of times, day's staff, owner support and involvement or lack thereof, manager mindfulness, energy flow de jour, weather, shifting mass consciousness, world events, one's financial means, economy in general, Mercury retrograde,water heater going on strike, moon void-of-course, bad hair day...
You call this a campground?
Some campers were disappointed at lack of amenities and rightly so, often no handy drinking/washing water, shower, or facility better than porta-potty anywhere close:
"Camp sites are not much more than a parking spot for $35 a nite." (Juliane, Google review)
"Quite uninviting...no drinking or washing water anywhere near the campsites." (Bistra, tripadvisor review)
Place Better or Worse?
One said they were "...pleased to discover that it was so much nicer than it was a few years ago" and that "...the resort is managed by caring people who are restoring it with ecological consciousness." "[M]anagers have made some much needed and lovely improvements". (Betsy46, Sacramento, CA).
Another: "One of my favorite places on the entire West Coast."
(Travis P., Ashland, OR)
"Simply put, this is the BEST place on Earth. If you are looking for a sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta with the astounding, and in fact miraculous, addition of a twin (female/male) underground spring of healing mineral waters all offered to you in a rustic, laid back and very affordable way, with much love, then this IS the place for you. The bathhouse experience is incredibly healing and rejuvenating, the grounds are gorgeous and the accommodations are comfortable and cozy. We love the cabins. I cannot recommend Stewart Mineral Springs highly enough..." (Doug S., Pacifica, CA - obvious pre-sea-change review)
For every rave a rant
"I was met cordially with the information that things were 'much better than they used to be.' I had used the baths about 5 years before and thought they were great", going on to say not so now.
Or, "...in spite of lovely renovations to both the bathhouse and the sauna, the service has sadly declined."
One really discouraging pan: "Overpriced, disgusting place. I didn't sleep a wink..." (Emma L., Lechtenberg)
2017 visitor balthazer b, S.F., gave mixed review, put off by A-frame accommodations, sauna not hot enough, mineral water irritating skin, but enjoyed plunge, left to muse, "Odd that the best part about the place was running out to jump in a creek."
While one enthused about how "mineral baths, sauna and river cold plunge were all fantastic, the best of that kind of thing I've ever experienced anywhere," another griped about jagged rocks at "outright dangerous" creek plunge, along with stains in tubs.
And limited soaking time and open hours:
"I spent my time worrying about how much time I had left, rather than relaxing into the experience." (Benicia B., S.F., CA)
"Extremely limited bathhouse hours..." (Michael B., Santa Fe, NM)
"We checked in at 5:45 and were disappointed to find out that the bathhouse closed at 4:30 pm and didn't open until 12:00 pm the next day. That meant that we wouldn't be able to soak the main reason that we chose this resort." (unattributed Yelp review "not currently recommended" at bottom of page - might have to click a few times to bring up)
One especially poignant more recent post reflects how Springs's limited mineral water supply and tubs keep more visitors from enjoying therapeutic soaks:
"I reserved a place to sleep here after climbing Mt. Shasta knowing that our group of 5 would be exhausted and need recovery in the baths. We arrived and were surprised with the information that there were not enough baths for us and that they were closing them down two hours early. We decided against staying because there was really no point if we were not able to use the facilities to recover our bodies. I was charged the full rate for the few minutes we spent in the office before leaving.
"I guess this is their policy but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up an hour away from Stewart Mineral Springs and have always been really curious to go, which makes this experience devastatingly disappointing.
"I walked away with tears of disappointment and a much lighter wallet."
-- April L., San Diego
another inevitable sidebar
(feel free to skip)
Limited, Powerful Mineral Water
On surface, time limit on soaks might appear understandable concern. Especially considering most rural mineral spring resorts of Northwest allow unlimited soaking, albeit mostly in self-serve, communal pools.
Many Eastern spring resorts with private tubs have similar time limits -- some for only 30 minutes and more coin than Stewart's more leisurely 75 minutes. But any limit can be off-putting if tub enthusiast hoping to relax and totally forget about time.
But springs with communal mineral pools have far greater replenishment rates. Ashland, OR's Jackson Wellsprings, for example, changes water in Olympic-sized pool each week (reportedly -- and understandably -- mixed with fresh) and full-strength hot mineral pool twice a week; even showers are mineral water. They likely have thousands times more mineral water to play with, as probably do most others in wider region. If we did too there'd maybe be less time restriction and more tubs. (But probably not, for reason soon to follow.)
As many spring enthusiasts, given choice, far prefer communal soak experience in sunshiny out-of-doors over any private indoor private bathtub inside open-topped, low-ceiling-ed, noise-echoing hallway stall, Stewart's might've long ago developed mineral water pool too had it water to play with. (Though, being cold water, ambient-temp pool might not have been popular except in hot weather.)
But magic elixir wells up at super modest clip, sometimes only gallon or two a minute, requiring close rationing. And it must be propane heated at no small expense to boot (yes, it is a cold mineral spring), making each drop even more precious.
To main point of time limit: Springs' mineral water can be powerful -- sometimes almost industrial strength. (Potency varies throughout year for reasons uncertain.) Well-traveled soakers report it's strongest mineral water they've ever experienced. Tall claim posted on sign inside entrance is perhaps less than your typical mineral springs hyperbole.
Some people perhaps haven't learned to appreciate how various mineral springs' waters can differ. The unaware, especially bathtub enthusiasts addicted to soaking for hours and merrily scrubbing away at will, can easily overdo, losing benefit and gaining skin irritation lasting days, if not weeks:
"I did not hear that I should soak only a limited time in that water, so I stayed 50 minutes. I have been itchy and miserable for 10 days. Please put those signs someplace where no one will miss them..." -- Bets S., Talent, OR Yelp
More than 30 minutes total soak time can be pushing luck unless well-attuned to water properties, proper way to soak, and listening to body.
It might help to think of Stewart's silica-rich water as liquid glass crystal, scouring off dead skin, opening pores to enable beneficial minerals to soak in and freer sweating out of toxins in sauna. (See list of minerals from analysis in Emile Frank's article, Part 2.) Also, while not justifying reason in itself, setting time limit does allow more people to enjoy soak when things get mega-busy (one formerly could count on it middle of any three-day holiday weekend year-round), there being only dozen tubs. Plus it serves as way to track hygienic cleanliness of tubs between use. (In other, self-serve, no-time-limit springs like Orr, Sierra, and Mercy, tubs are user-cleaned before and after each use.)
Oldtimers remember slow days with time-stopping luxury of claiming tub for four to six hours -- real oldtimers, for entire day -- leisurely stretching out mini-soaks, slowly acclimating to water's power and proper soaking method. (Or soaked for hours on end, having hide of rhino or wisdom to stay absolutely still.)
There's a rural legend that an outdoor communal mineral soak once existed on grounds. For sure, there was indeed over-sized indoor tub in '70s -- now tub rooms 3 and 4, for a while two dressing rooms -- big enough for three or four. Rumor has it in its heyday more than a few doobies and vino jugs were merrily passed around.
It's the Water!
Many note quality of mineral water:
"It felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to. It is slippery and a little gritty. Odd, but blissful.
"I felt no need for a massage after that......felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to. " (Deborah D., Redwood City, CA)
"The mineral baths are the best around (I've been to other places) VERY rejuvenating." (Steve B., Richmond, CA)
< Dr. Emoto team photo of spring water's molecular structure. Some think it looks like circle of little blissed Buddhas
"The water made my skin really soft (also it really improved the condition of my stubborn psoriasis)." (Natalie L., Redding, CA)
"They claim it has the highest quality mineral water in the world! [Just all of America actually.] I must agree in some ways...I am very fair skinned, so I have to be careful. Sometimes the minerals are so strong it almost feels like I'm sunburned afterwards..." (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)
"The mineral waters are amazing!" (Isabel Martinez)
"Water is the strongest I've ever been in [emphasis added]. If you stay in too long, your skin begins to peel off. At its worst, it can be like soaking in bleach." (Tim Wu, author and well-soaked traveler, from his site exploring global hot springs)
"...the mineral baths are out of this world. I love the way my body buzzes after a soak..." (Psychedelic_Dou)
"...Mother Nature's healing properties at their best." (Brookings,OR)
"The experience was amazing. I didn't want to leave!!!" (LIBLKS, Paso Robles, CA)
One, while enjoying water, took exception to bathhouse setup:
"When you go for a mineral bath you get your own bath tub in a private room. The water is amazing, but honestly, I didn't like the isolation within a small room [open-topped stall, actually]....while still being able to hear people in the other rooms." (Angela F., Berkeley.)
During former, pre-sea-change ownership, many visitors raved about place's now-bygone staff:
"We have very nice young people caring for us..." (1shastagirl)
"The office staff was EXCELLENT! They were kind and helpful...all the kind people who work there...made...trip PERFECT." (DarlaM)
"For all of the years that I have been coming, the staff has always been friendly and kind. I bring friends and family. They love it, too!"
-- S.S., San Diego, CA yelp review
"Staff was extremely helpful" (Persephone2010)
< Former bath attendant Ally's 5-year-old twin girls would trail close behind like ducklings in pond as she made rounds
"Staff is made up of dedicated and friendly people" (Ori977)
"Staff seems to genuinely honor the spirituality of the place and the peace experienced there is pervasive." (Nearyme, TripAdvisor)
"Respectful staff who make it clear their goal is to facilitate each guest's peaceful and restful stay. I think SMS is awesome!" (Kae L)
"The staff were very friendly and helpful" (Lizypeterson, TripAdvisor)
Former longtime bathhouse attendant Lara >
"Compassionate friendly staff." (Celinda Carlisle Cheskawich)
"...exceptional customer service...accommodating, friendly, professional..." (Mrsmueller)
"...helpful and friendly" (Margain)
"...front desk staff were pleasant and efficient. Never came across a person who didn't gave a certain joy about working at the SMS." (Brookings Oregonian)
"The vibe of the staff was a welcome balance of attentive and unassuming." (Waterviolet)
"I can't speak warmly enough about the land and the people who watch over it." (Andy G)
"...resort is managed by caring people who are restoring it to ecological consciousness. This is not a deluxe modern destination resort, but it is a place to enjoy nature and relax." (Betsey46)
"...the tender loving care of the Goddesses in the Bath House are something beyond words." (Shasta Visitor, from Netherlands)
another longwinded aside
Some might not realize that the Sixties countercultural movement, with its radical lifestyle changes of untold millions creating global cultural impact, was in fact exponential expansion of an earlier, turn of 20th century movement begun in Germany known as the Natural Man movement.
Earlier movement was, in turn, itself a popular protest over massive disruption created by industrial revolution, which suddenly prevented people from living in close, long-accustomed proximity and harmony with nature.
Situation had become intolerable. Movement included celebrating seriously getting back to nature, radical body freedom, saunas and mineral baths, massage (until recently all features of Stewart's), communalism, raw food diet, feminism, loose fitting clothes, and resisting draft and public schooling. (Sounds like late '60s/early '70s, no?) Including such luminaries as Herman Hesse and Isadora Duncan, it laid energetic groundwork for later back-to-nature countercultural movement that, despite gross media distortions and dismissal as flaky, ephemeral social phenomenon, helped spread nature-attuned, liberated mindset to global level. (Check out well-illustrated book Children of the Sun, by Gordon Kennedy, out-of-print but around.)
Big duh: mindful mineral soaking and sauna-ing with clothing optional are essential parts of alternative natural-healing and so naturally attract nature-loving alternative-minded culture.
But what IS alternative" culture anymore?
Fifty years ago, trying to discourage Spring visits by rebellious wild hippie-types due to low spending habits; deeply polarized, smash-the-system attitudes; and then shockingly free ways might have seemed valid effort to ensure making business operation inviting and safe to more respectable and solvent mainstream visitors.
But no longer. Since then, essence of harbinger countercultural influence has gone viral, spreading like wildfire to fringes of mainstream consciousness.
Witness soaring interest in yoga, transcendental meditation, conscious diet, cannabis and hemp healing, recycling, pre-cycling, alternate energy, appropriate livelihood, simpler living, tiny houses -- ALL championed ages ago by hippie culture...along with unabashed delight in getting nekkid in nature.
Flash: Over last half century countercultural influence has been transforming mainstream culture -- the ever-expanding life-affirming part of it -- as if awakening from long sleep and witnessing unfolding miracle.
Radical body freedom is obviously no longer sole domain of so-called hippies, naturists, and stereotypical gated volleyball-ing nudists. Not so subtly proving point, shown here is Spencer Tunick's art installation with some of 6,000 naked people in Mexico City, around 2006.
Body freedom is one of many emerging lifestyle preferences (or high on one's check-out list) of myriad health and freedom minded humans of all walks of life, cultures and incomes around the world.
Hence Stewart became such an incredibly popular go-to spot at dawn of new millennium. Besides being set in charming region rich in history and possessing special water and amazing vortex energy, it was one of select few spas open-minded and enlightened enough to permit visitors to experience simple yet profound joy of getting unabashedly bare in nature. It enabled taking mini-vacation from depressingly perma-dressed society, regaining simple childlike innocence and becoming one with healing elements among kindred nature lovers. It amped palliative benefits of mind-body-spirit reintegration and enhanced experience for all open-minded, even if passing on option.
rants and raves cont'd
"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." - Van Gogh
"If you live in a van and love Burning Man, this place may not be right for you..." -- online review
S.F. reviewer Byron Gordon groused, "Beware. This place operates on limited hours..." He and his arrived at four on day bathhouse closed at five and didn't re-open til noon next day, too late for them so they never got looked forward to bath. (He claimed he wasn't told of open hours on making reservations.)
His verdict: "This place lacks budget and it shows... Restricting hours during the summer months during the longest days of the year is ridiculous..."
yet another rambling aside...
On former limited water, hours, & staff
Place in 1990's hobbled along for years on water-heating system so anemic it often only supplied three tubs' worth at a time. This was due largely to owner finding damaged heater at 90% off and trying to save money, hoping it would work, which, alas, it often didn't. Countless would-be soakers were kept on hold in sauna so long while more water slowly heated they'd finally give up and demand refunds.
Manager wisely saved refund receipts and presented double fistful to owner during annual visit to show it might be good business to spring for system upgrade -- at which point he went whole hog and had late, great plumbing ace Matt Reed custom design and build grand heating system enjoyed today. Certain special-made plumbing components were imported from Europe that wouldn't be affected by water's mineral content.
Thank goodness such disconnects appeared only sporadically. Rest of time place could run like clockwork. Among other operational refinements, bathhouse (and office) since 2000 began staying open evenings on Thursday thru Saturday during peak season. (Roughly May thru October)
Of course, crucially, it also used to get far fewer visitors. Place wasn't on map, receiving merest trickle of present visitor volume that can sorely tax mineral water supply.
Again, Stewart's mineral water is far more limited than places like Orr, Harbin, Breitenbush, and Jackson Wellsprings. Reducing operational hours help stretch supply so expectant visitors all day on road are less likely to be told, "Sorry, just ran out." (But, alas, sometimes instead finding place closing at seemingly ridiculous early hour.)
A former, trey dubious, way to stretch mineral water briefly done years ago -- much to writer's shock -- was to dilute it with fresh. Rationale was water was getting too strong. Maybe a few times it was; water at times seemed almost industrial strength -- but veterans realize potency fluctuates and adjust soaks accordingly, and newbies could be strongly cautioned. Couldn't help but be reminded of shady dives watering down pricey drinks. Full-strength mineral water is what people paid good chunk of change for.
Shorter hours and closed days off-season were cutbacks started during fun-filled Great Recession. Fewer visitors came, though conserving water supply was no doubt one reason for continuing shorter open time since so-called jobless recovery, there were other possible factors. Perhaps owner liked reduced labor overhead it allowed and/or management got used to luxury of sleeping in now and then, enjoying morning mini-respite from operation pressures. In any event, varied hours and closed-days off-season, for better or worse became new standard long after economy rebounded.
Skeleton staff abused by bone-headed management
At times it seemed any higher standard of operational integrity was deemed optional, for chumps. Place as directed appeared to pursue old-school hardball business model, forever preoccupied with milking most revenue for least outlay, bending labor laws when possible, and breaking them if thinking could get away with it.
One might've thought such bold operation practices would cause bottom line to suffer, but it didn't seem to, not unduly. But only for being well-positioned and renowned mineral springs, able to coast on historic reputation and, again, being in seller's market. Unfair and dispiriting practice ended only after owner at last got busted and fined good pile of cash by state labor board around 2006 once furious group of ex-employees filed complaints for being forced to work off-clock and not always getting work breaks if things busy.
rants and raves cont'd
One first-time walk-in visitor, Javacat of S.F., arrived before open hours, but didn't realize it. She was misled by 'Office' sign posted on wall few feet from sauna maintenance door, no arrow indicating that office was actually around corner. She was about to have a crazy Alice in Wonderland experience, meeting up with stand-in for testy Mad Hatter who'd breathed in too many mercury fumes (but who this time was in fact Ted, late operations manager, dying of liver failure and no doubt just wanting to cop precious alone time to cope):
"I opened the door next to the office sign, walked in a very dark room [sauna]...and navigated my way through the dark room towards light at the back of the building.
"Just then, a man bustled out a door with an armload of supplies, looked up at me, and YELLED, "What're you doing in here? How did you GET IN HERE??!! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!"
(will they ever cease?)
On lack of critical signs...
and blizzard of others
Tho told she was first person to do such a dumb thing, it was in fact once not too uncommon an occurrence. Back door was kept unlocked during open hours for emergency exit.
A group might be sweating away in still near-darkness and -- suddenly! -- backdoor, one many didn't know existed, flung open wide with blinding flood of daylight. Confused reaction of inadvertent intruder was usually good for chuckle once startled reaction subsided, appearing as visitor from another dimension: sudden flash, chagrined mumble of "Oh..sorry, thought this was the office," door shutting just as fast and returning room to dark silence. One's imagination reeled at notion of dim roomful of often-nude people sweating away actually being the office: "No, but it is the Springs think tank. Hey, we've been waiting for you. 'Bout time you made it. Take a load off and give us your take on chem trails."
For some reason getting all grounds signage logical and clear has often proved either elusive goal or little cause for concern. Perhaps result of former untoward profit focus to obvious detriment of any more relaxed interaction with visitors, along with periodic labor shortages and log-jam of daily chores and maintenance tasks, contributing to ungracious treatment reviewer experienced. (Also, again, manager was facing decade-long terminal disease, something that could understandably make anyone who'd really rather not check out more than bit testy or indifferent to any and all beyond small trusted circle.)
Needless unfortunate energy wedgies could make for spacing out such directional details. Springs, in believed energy vortex, could well have swirling forces encouraging non-rational spirit state that at times wreck havoc on such mundane matters. It might throw off ability to get any better handle on small but critical matters like creating accurate and pleasing guiding signs (that grounds manager Josh W. began remedying nicely).
Maybe it's just human nature. Writer at Oregon's vast Britenbush grounds once got lost in snowy cold on returning from distant parking lot -- even with their far more generous placement of refreshingly artistic signage -- and started freaking until finally finding way back. Management and seasoned staff members of any place might think, "Well, I know where things are -- heck, everybody does. Why do some people seem to have such trouble? Are they directionally challenged or something?"
Case in point: missing "Apts. 1-6" sign on post at turn into parking area went unreplaced for years. Post sign of course pointed way to the one unrentable place, The Cottage. (Manager abode/office space since 2005, chef's residence earlier; rented before that, hence lingering sign.)
Another example: For decades, large historic routed wood sign inside entrance at road fork pointed former route to bathhouse, straight ahead uphill, rather than turning down right and crossing creek bridge. It was quaint outdated relic from days before car bridge was even built, changing approach. Its arrow guided people up to restaurant area with covered walking bridge over to bathhouse. Route still works and is pleasant sheltered walk over creek, even if limited roadside parking. After years of unintended but uncorrected misdirection, one day the owner of large camper possibly did place inadvertent favor backing into sign and demolishing it.
Then there have been other kinds of signs, No-this, No-that, and Don't-even-think-about-it signs found in plenitude, posted around bathhouse, at gates, gazebo and in lodgings. These would seem unfortunate result of decades of mostly green, flying-by-seat-of-pants management -- all former owner could get for low salary and wages offered. It seemed they could never get any solid, assured handle on operation that might allow more nuanced, artistic signage reasonable in tone and pleasing to eye instead of unfortunate reactionary authoritarian edicts.
"...found the signage...unfriendly", said Kirstine 2013, Albuquerque, NM, tripadvisor)
at2522 of Eugene, OR, keenly noted how scene seemed lacking in "...abundance of 'yes we can' energy" successful operations thrive in, doubtless spoke for many when saying:
"The place has a lot of negative messaging which led us to believe they've had some problems in the past. Around every corner are signs telling us what not to do and how we may be fined and prosecuted (even above the sink in our room!). This is not what you expect to see in a 'healing' place such as SMS..."
rants and raves cont'd
A Creek Runs Through it
One thing everyone agrees on: the beauty of land and the creek running through it:
"The resort is on incredibly beautiful land, and you can hear the rushing of the spectacular creek from the lodging, a great sound to sleep to." (Salem. OR)
"We especially loved sitting by the creek and drinking in the sound of the water and the silence of the trees." (Henderson, NV)
"...at the top of the scale for the natural beauty, the setting, the rushing creek..." (S.F.)
"The grounds are very nice. There is a creek that runs through the resort and it is very peaceful listening to it rush through..."
(A. Applebee, San Jose, CA)
"I arrived after a long day and was lulled to sleep by the sound of a running stream." (Anne D., S.F., CA)
"I loved sitting by the river and having time to heal my inner spirit...I truly appreciate listening to river while laying in bed..." (Kady Cherry)
"The cabins and motels are very basic but the sound of the creek rushing by makes up for it!" [forgot to get handle]
"The river draws you in." (Irishwannabe, Portland, OR)
"...definitely a hidden gem. The location and setting are beautiful." (Los Angeles, CA)
"The mineral baths, sauna and river cold plunge were all fantastic, the best of that kind of thing I've ever experienced anywhere...I liked being able to hear the relaxing river sounds anywhere on the property." (Waterviolet, Boston, MA)
"You can hear the rushing of the spectacular creek from the lodging, a great sound to sleep to." (Enjoying Oregon, Salem, OR)
"Fabulous healing waters and spiritual atmosphere!!" (Carl M., Ashland, OR)
"I feel like I enter heaven each time I have been blessed to come here! The springs are filled with negative ions and you can feel your vibration lifting the longer you stay close to the running water. It's magical!" (Jasmine H., Sebastopol, CA)
"...The brook is stunning and runs through the beautiful land with chairs for sitting and chilling out..." (Layla K., Oakland, CA)
One thoughtful criticism of former sweat lodge ceremony
"each year i gather with family and friends for memorial gathering to honor our veterans. i decided last year to go to the sweat lodge. it was not a positive experience. the person leading the ceremony appeared focused on what some of his students weren't doing and sounded rather angry and forgot about others who were there, some for their first experience with "the sweat lodge".
"i am hopeful they will find a traditional sweat one which honors our ancestors, our gratitude or love for mother earth. there was not one mention of our warriors who gave so much.
"i am hopeful he will be able to step out of self and remember the true ceremony."
-- Karen D., 2013 Yelp review (in "not currently recommended" link at bottom of page)
On Body Freedom
Or Lack Thereof
(Scroll bit further for feedback since nudity ban took affect)
Reviewers often commented on former checkerboard zones of permitted and verboten nudity in effect between 2000 and late 2016. Before acclimating it could create schitzy feeling: okay in sauna, tubroom, outer deck, and around coldplunge; but "Uh, you need to cover up" reminder elsewhere...or realizing from stares one was inadvertently streaking between okay zones. Persons were left with feeling it was okay to get buff -- kinda, sorta, but just a little, so be ready to cover up anytime lest the nude police cometh...
"I found it odd that they would want you clothed just walking in between the bath, sauna and cold plunge though nude once you got to any of those places." (Echosaisis C., Sacramento, CA)
"I was told...the bathhouse is a
clothing optional facility [Indeed, website claimed this without specifying okay zones,
implying no limits: Hey, arrive naked if you want, we don't care!]. However,
when I was going from my tub room to the sauna and I had a sheet around
my waist, I was discreetly shown by one of the attendants to cover my
breasts. So obviously, they don't mean the whole bathhouse is
clothing-optional..." (Florence, OR)
"For reasons not known to us, bathers
are required to 'cover up' in the short hallway leading from the sauna
and baths to the sundeck."
(Camilla & Bill Pennington, Arizona
naturist [nudist] resort owners, coiners of phrase "clothes-minded"; colleagues of late founder of The Naturist Society, Lee Baxendall, who in turn coined term "clothing optional".)
< Think place was always clothing-optional? Old signs rescued from trash tell a different story. They were posted around bathhouse until 2000, when things liberalized.
Checkerboard policy of allowable zones was progressive minded Euro-style compromise to try accommodating both those wanting to enjoy body freedom during spa regimen and those who weren't sure or for sure didn't want to, thank you very much...with predictably mixed results, given bathhouse having non-optimal set-up for creating chill freebody environ like other c/o resorts
"A little cliquey, with a big divide between the naked and the clothed." (Mark G., Oakland)
"I just love this place...I can get my nude on." (Chelle B, Sacramento, CA)
"The back deck and creek are great for nude sunning and swimming." (Carl M., Ashland, OR, TripAdvisor)
TripAdvisor posting from Randyfish of Eureka, CA struck balanced viewpoint: "Nudity is not flaunted as it can be at some other 'clothing optional' spas, so wearing a bathing suit...or not...is not really a concern." [But now, alas, is]
"If you have problems with nudity or a laid back atmosphere this might not be the place for you." (Sofista, Bend,Or Tripadvisor)
"Be prepared for NUDITY, no, and I am not talking in a good way, I am talking OLD and disgusting..." (Unattributed Yelp review from 2010)
"...if you are sensitive to nudity go someplace else." (WanderlustSal, Portland, OR Tripadvisor)
"Get ready to see some naked folk - the steam room and stream are clothing optional." (Laura908, TripAdvisor)
"I'd estimate that 80% of the patrons chose to be nude in the allowed areas. If you have issues with this, then this is not your place. This is not your mainstream 'spa' [emphasis added] so expect to see all kinds of unusual and interesting folks!" (Alverda3, TripAdvisor)
Actually, percentage choosing option over long-term varied from indeed practically everyone (whether out of genuine preference or feeling need to conform was another matter) to almost no one.
"I find it weird that I have to drape myself with a sheet for the 50 feet between the tub/sauna and creek...I wish people were comfortable in their bodies enough to be naked.. I admit, being a nudist and going to this place was a bit of a turn-off... but for some of you, that might be a grand ole time." (Angela C., Oakland, CA)...
...versus "...[W]e headed to the sauna where clothing was clearly not abundant. There were about 15 naked 30- something men and women looking at each other and sweating..." (KnitVallejo, Vallejo)
Evan Halper, in 2006 L.A. Times review, offered own initial perspective on clothing-optional policy, reflecting conventional mainstream attitudes:
"Still relatively new to California, Erin and I were unaware that here the words 'hot springs' were synonymous with 'naked people.'...We strolled...down to the creek. A few yards off stood a large woman, buck naked, her tattooed back to us. Erin put her hand over her mouth to muffle a gasp.
"The next morning, we headed down to the springs with every intention of soaking in one of the 15 private bathing rooms and making a quick, fully clothed escape. But once in the steaming hot tub, the draw of the creek became irresistible. Soon, we too were skinny-dipping in the freezing waters."
Similar warming up to skinnydipping option was shared by Ronet G of Novato,CA., who went from initial "...shock of seeing naked people strewn about...river cold plunge area" to joining in and enthusing how "...being nude in a river in nature on a warm day is a fabulous experience!"
2017 Nudity Ban Rants
Seventeen-year clothing-optional policy evaporated into thin air at stroke of midnight on Halloween in 2016 (in synchronicity of bummers, exactly one week before T-rex snagged election). Former royal carriage of body freedom turned into lowly pumpkin -- ironically signalling time to don costumes. Many assumed we'd established a permanent beachhead away from masquerade of life that forever demanded keeping souls' physical temples covered in public, no matter how appropriately natural the setting and innocent the intent.
Many voiced stunned concern, heartbreak and sputtering outrage on SMS's Facebook review page -- entire page long since removed:
"...I am SUPER bummed about your recent "no more clothing optional" policy...you might be the only hot spring 'resort' in California with this stupid new policy...who exactly are you trying to appeal to? Most of us locals go naked. Maybe you could release that silly concept on local days, at least? I am really not inclined to return." - Alexa Ninal
"Was surprised by the new policy of clothing only, did not feel the same."
"The sacred nature will be lost as people no doubt will start to talk more and be less respectful of the land ...there is a magick in the vulnerability the option to be naked offers and it is a level of healing that has been central to Stewart Minerals Springs [emphasis added]. -- Anu Honey
"Dear Management: These springs have been a longtime gem in this area...a healing and rejuvenating place for so many of us, locals and tourists. The recent new ownership has made big changes without properly understanding the local clientele and it will likely be detrimental to keeping the springs running, especially in the off seasons.
"Changing from clothing optional to not clothing optional makes this a much less desirable place for me to soak. Being in a 170-200 degree sauna with a bathing suit or sheet on...no thank you. Jumping in a freezing river with a bathing suit or sheet on...brrr! It's not like people were just waltzing around naked...it was a quick dip and back to the sauna or bath. How about a compromise...have a few days that are open for clothing optional and other days not?"
-- Jacqueline Sidra Hertzog
"I have been enjoying Stewart Springs for almost 20 years. It's always been a favorite place. However, what makes it awesome is its purity and how freeing it is to jump in the creek naked & sauna naked...Don't ruin something that has always been sacred with your dumb new rules."
-- Annoy Fusso
"No more clothing optional? What puritanical nonsense! This sounds like a corporate mindset overtaking the beauty of the tradition. What's next - mandatory burkas?
"...I can understand not wanting anyone to feel uncomfortable, but jumping in the creek with clothes on or the sheet wrapped around you is not the same experience as being naked. Sitting naked in the sun after coming out of the creek is far nicer than sitting with a freezing sheet wrapped around you.
"Changing the tradition to accommodate some people misbehaving is usually the easy way out - with more restrictions you don't have to deal with unwanted behavior, but eventually our traditions become watered down from our submission to fear or conformity.
"Maybe you should have considered just ejecting those misbehaving rather than throwing out the traditions. Why not put up a few signs - 'Anyone acting like Donald Trump will be asked to leave.' "
"I love this place with all my heart. I healed so much here and have grown so very much from my experiences here, but since the new owners have come in and instated new policies that inhibit the free expression on ones self, then things have really changed. It went from full transparency to having to cover up (clothing optional was one of the most potent aspects of SMS healing qualities in my opinion).
"In this covering up of one's own "shame" I believe Stewart lost not only many long time customers but also the magical feeling of free expression... Yes these new rules have allowed shy newcomers to enter but at what cost?... -- Merau Daan
And from TripAdvisor and Yelp:
"During my recent (and likely final) visit to Stewart Mineral Springs, I was very sad to discover the new owners have banned the clothing optional policy..."
"New owners want clothes/sheets on sauna users; this is dangerous and a mistake! When you cover your skin with clothes, your sweat can’t help cool you down by evaporating on your skin. You will quickly overheat and also lose the benefits... When you wipe away the toxin-filled sweat, the toxins don’t sit in contact with your skin to possibly be reabsorbed."
"My former favorite place on earth, I used to always make a special effort to get to the mineral baths when I passed through the area a couple times a year. I just went for the first time since (unbeknownst to me) they stopped the clothing optional policy. They say they did it because it made some people uncomfortable, but it fit so well into the nature of the experience that I am really saddened to see that go.
"The new policy actually makes me feel less comfortable and more self-conscious now that societal inhibitions have crept into the experience, and I have to be more careful of how I'm looking [emphasis added]. If I hadn't been here before to know what it was like, I'd probably be giving a 4 or 5 star review as the baths are still healing, but not as much as before. 'Another one bites the dust' in the name of lowest common denominator, mediocrity..."
-- Leo H., Los Gatos, CA
One of few early posted votes of approval for change, until 2018 brought out more perma-dress minded and Pneuma shills (as poster likely is):
""I appreciate the new no nudity policy, as it is more family friendly and you can bring your kids." -- Caroline H., Ojai, CA Yelp review
If saturated with my spouting -- I do go on -- and wanting to skip following rant on nudity ban, or for some unfathomable reason aren't unduly bummed by nudity ban, get to Parts 3 and 4, with more re-posted online review rants & raves excerpts by
Need to rethink nudity ban for good of all
Making place un-barable
made place unbearable
"And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Further rant and analysis on hot button issue, take formed by writer's 20 years of weekly visits or more until December 2017, having low-keyly rallied for clothing-optional in late '90s before it existed.
It would almost appear some bizarro alternate reality has befallen Stewart Mineral Springs.
In draconian over-reaction to supposed isolated incident of some idiot mindlessly jacking off on sundeck, using event as handy excuse -- or, more likely, boldly inventing incident out of whole cloth -- a plague of de facto enforced body shame swept over grounds. Banning clothing-optional after 17 years of body freedom has completely discombobulated realm's once-magical air.
It was an enchanted atmosphere largely made manifest by chance to experience low-key social and solitary nudity amid nature during spa regimen -- or not, everyone's choice -- experiencing liberating break from depressingly perma-dressed world at large, often regaining sense of simple, unashamed childhood innocence and fostering getting closer to nature spirits and amazing feeling of oneness with creation.
It has distressed and dumbfounded countless now-alienated fans of place for new stewards to have abandoned longtime policy, which emulated popular open-minded European spas. Though for sure with more fine-tuned layout, they, along with select U.S. mineral springs resorts, have long offered clothing-optional areas to boost potential for purifying, healing, TOTAL relaxing and rejuvenating. (Sometimes, especially in Germany, birth land of modern freebody movement, in nude-mandatory areas like saunas one can get in trouble for wearing anything, even footwear, inside.)
Not only are myriad stateside visitors staggered, but, as can be imagined, also many would-be European and other international visitors, who have come to Stewart's because they preferred familiar enlightened spa option of getting free of unnecessary cover and enjoying profound relaxation and palliative effect popular open-minded policy fostered.
As shown by some of above quoted comments, posted before what many feel is stunningly repressive change, even some first-time visitors initially put off by public nudity came around and enjoyed opportunity to skinnydip and sunbathe au naturel, some no doubt for first time ever. Others didn't -- though, tellingly, few online rants against former allowed nudity posted over years, perhaps from concern they'd appear prudish or uptight. One suspects some took out displeasure over modest but, for them, disconcerting freebody scene by ranting instead about not enough towel changes or toilet paper in cabins.
Visualizing Future Enlightened Ownership and Management
Body acceptance and radical body freedom have made giant strides in recent decades, albeit at times progress seemed three steps forward to two back. (Obviously, Springs just took giant two steps back.)
Growing numbers think it a good thing -- even crucial -- that various appropriate natural public and select private settings be clothing-optional... especially rural mineral springs...most especially those in free-spirited northern California's nature-rich environ...if not availing for selves, then for others, for whom it's either integral part of chosen lifestyle or chance to experiment and reclaim body acceptance after lifetime of socially ingrained suppression, false modesty, and guilt trips over one's biologic reality.
But the way things stand, Stewart Springs, though deep in nature, perhaps has only provided half-way optimal conditions for visitors making peace with earthly temples and furthering personal spiritual evolution through more relaxed spa regimen such simple conscious nudity so easily fosters.
Bathhouse layout part of problem
Nudity often felt tenuous around the edges at Stewart's during last c/o run. Last management, not attuned to rich benefits of mindful radical body freedom, most probably dismissed it as hopeless, distasteful situation they were stuck with. She likely leaped at excuse of rare incident (or shamelessly made it up of whole cloth) and new un-informed, mandatory-cover leaning ownership to paint alarming picture of massive visitor disapproval of scene, naturally making new ownership want to scrap it post-haste, hee-hee.
Whatever in fact prompted sorry change, bathhouse layout is a culprit in situation. Every other rural mineral springs resort in northwest allowing some measure of clothing optional has dedicated zone in which to enjoy liberated and blissful freebody state while purifying and rejuvenating...if one so chooses.
Not Stewarts. All under same roof: bathing and sauna, employee break room, office, laundry room, housekeeping supply... So much going on it was constant uphill battle to get in -- and stay in -- any comfortable zen state nude OR wrapped. Add employees coming in to pour tea in hallway and massage meets, along with bathhouse attendant constantly scurrying about, clothed visitors picnicking on sundeck, separated c/o zones between mandatory wrap-up, etc. and textile vibes dominated bathhouse.
It could leave those trying to enjoy a bit of super-relaxing body freedom in course of spa treatment feeling frustrated -- even made to feel like exhibitionists by sometimes smug and judgmental textile chauvinists remaining sensorily muted, bods armored in cloth, feet shod.
Whether or not lamentable bare-not policy is rethought, re-energized, and fine-tuned to re-accommodate former dedicated visitor base, no doubt there will likely always be those discontent with any situation hoping to accommodate different mindsets on issue, striking newcomers as either oppressively conventional or utterly shameless.
Some will always want freedom to be nude without restriction in bathhouse compound or at least have option available for self and others. They will forever grumble about enforced body shame if made to cover anywhere in bathing area -- especially on cold wintry days in toasty 180 degree F. sauna, and warm sunshiny days perfect for skinnydipping and sunbathing and enjoying nature au naturel.
Motto: "Lose your clothes and lose your woes."
Others, not yet rediscovering joyful inner nudist of un-self-conscious infant and toddler years -- before socially programmed body shame eclipsed it, locking it up and throwing away key -- will remain forever intolerably uncomfortable, or at least severely awkward, around any everyday nudity. Especially if rude behavior like mindless gawking and idle-amusement cheesecake/beefcake posing is tolerated, as sadly was under past managements...but was perhaps inevitable result for their not being at all pro-active and building positive, conscious c/o climate to prevent non-centered, over self-conscious behavior.
At worst, one could feel forced to endure being around naughty people, if not out-and-out deviants. Even with together c/o scene, same perma-threaders, though far fewer, would always balk at those with temerity of being out of uniform, as it were, boldly disobeying conventional regime's dominant, cover-thy-shame edict, making seeming bold exhibitions of essential physical beings. It served as uncomfortable reminder how much one's bought into society's systemic body alienation and shame.
Then again, how many such would bother to visit? People going to Harbin or Breitenbush know full-well before arriving how mindful nudity is fully sanctioned and the practice well established there. Stewart seems to have only flirted with such bohemian atmosphere, sitting on the fence, as result often having had ongoing civil war between freebodies and perma-dressers, all loving place but at perpetual odds over proper way to enjoy it. Place was forever neither fish nor fowl.
Latter sub-group might as well have had bumper sticker reading:
"Cover-up junkie and proud; you should be, too -- in fact I insist."
It's said Americans often appear simultaneously sex-obsessed and Puritanical towards nudity. There seems precious little room for socially normalizing it except at places like public free beaches, naturist resorts -- and enlightened rural mineral spring resorts, as Stewart's had been, of sorts.
Breakdown on attitudes towards social nudity
Were writer to hazard educated guess on breakdown of Stewart visitors' attitudes towards social nudity, one based on 20 years of weekly visits, it'd be:
5-10% serious freebodies
35% casual/first-time/Sunday nudists
40-50% neutral; stay covered but ok with it IF scene's respectful
5-10% "oh my God!" (obviously perma-dressed deity)
Again, writer attributes rash decision to possibly absentee owner being fed exaggerations and misinformation by lingering manager. Never resonating with legion of freer spirits who championed progressive clothing-optional set-up, she pounced on sorry isolated incident -- or, again, shamelessly manufactured it -- to convince new owner to junk policy post haste. Clearly a misguided effort to try to make place more attractive to adamantly clothes-minded, more culturally refined (that is, deeper-pocketed) visitors. Mo money, mo bettah. Plus for those, both local and travelling, who, though perhaps actually enjoy select nudity in better manager-supported environments, could find Stewart's latter-day c/o scene way too sketchy and so grudgingly approved of nudity ban.
The Naked Truth: for some, place is viewed as gold mine to be exploited rather than healing place to be cherished as public-minded service.
Possible positive side to
Playing devil's advocate now, taking wild card of nudity out of situation could possibly even out social-energy field some -- if only on dampened, comfort-constricting, spirit-stifling, level.
More visitors, at least those used to always keeping covered in public and expecting others to as well, thank you very much, might feel more inclined to visit. Also, well-meaning parents no longer having to feel concerned about children -- naturally biggest nudists of all -- being thrown off cultural brainwashing regimen for witnessing public nudity of grown-ups who should know better, and possibly become interest of stray pedophiles possibly attracted to place for want of positive intent overseeing by management. (To solve last concern and keep clientele diversified, hour-away Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings has cover-required during daytime for family enjoyment, and becomes c/o (and adults only) after nightfall/ 8 p.m., whichever comes first.)
Granted, with textile modesty barriers in place, it slows or stops any possible over-excited pheromones from dancing mad fandangos that being publicly nude sometimes causes for sheer liberating feelgoodness of it all after lifetime of body suppression and prevailing hard-wired equation of nudity = sex. So it might discourage idle lustful fantasies and mindless objectification with resulting unease (vs. unease having to keep covered).
Also a few unfortunate and isolated incidents like, again, some old dufus reportedly jacking off on deck in 2016 that was supposedly last straw (if, again, it ever actually happened rather than being invented by manager's wily imagination), sparking draconian ban. (Altho, as one male pointed out, women's abbreviated outfits like thong bottoms can distract and idly arouse more than outright nudity.)
At risk of repeating point (okay, that ship's sailed), such incidents can in no small part be attributed to former management seeming only to tolerate c/o rather than work to build more conscious climate. No signage on former policy, either friendly or serious, was ever posted by them.
Ephemeral explanation of okay areas was always verbal by attendant and front desk -- as if putting anything in print would legitimize it too much as real and solidly-backed policy. Barring any more focused effort to elevate and reinforce awareness and enlightened nude etiquette, place was left wide-open for potential untoward behavior to creep in. This included, most commonly, open mindless bold gawking, some from distance using binoculars. Stewart Springs as peep show village: "low admission; come one, come all, just not on our deck, please.)"
While some might at last feel free to give place a try with ban, they could just as well do so with owner establishing cover-up and clothing-optional days. There would remain potential awkwardness of clothed employees threading through re-established c/o zones of sauna, deck and plunge area, but that can be lived with like it had been last 16 years, perhaps this time lessened with more mindful intent infused in renewed policy (no pun intended but fitting word).
Even if renovating and moving office, laundry room, etc. elsewhere, there's further snag to making place fully self-serve compound like other c/o rural springs in wider area, one conducive to more chill freebody environ: place's powerful but limited supply of mineral water.
Without attendant monitoring limited mineral water use, place could run out in no time. Some, left to own devices, might mindlessly drain and refill tub between rounds. Short of, say, installing some kind of meter with automatic shut-off to ration dispensing once given limit reached, sign coming on saying, "No more water for you!", bath attendant serves vital function.
One's also needed to tend sauna's wood stove. (Alas, missed golden opportunity when building new sauna in 2006 to change stove to special in-wall kind fed from outside, eliminating need for attendant to enter sauna except perhaps to announce ready bath.)
Possibly now-quaint, century-long tradition at place of visitors being waited on can't easily change to soakers cooperatively helping selves, as all other popular regional rural springs have done. Especially with new no-nudity policy encouraging even more visits by those who aren't serious about intensive cleansing but like idea of hot bath with personal attentive fussing, just like at similarly-compromised, lah-de-dah city spas. Serious inertia prevails at place always having provided staff assistance and not being any more "hey, help yourself, lazy gat and keep prices down."
Many have treasured place over time who, for sundry reasons, were not into going au naturel. For them, radical policy change itself is no problem (though it being reflection of more buttoned-down scene might be). Others who were initially put off by change, either grudgingly or gracefully accept more restrained body freedom -- as, indeed, most did last cover-up period, which started roughly 1980 after Goodpastures left, and lasted until place went clothing-optional in 2000.
One becomes philosophical about it, as in "This too shall pass." Some are stone certain nude-adverse are minority and convinced former faithful visitors -- both locals and travelers -- will deem new policy deal breaker and stay away in such numbers business volume will suffer.
That, or business volume remain up but place suffer sudden ignominy by former fans for having become yet another paradise lost by caving to negative, guilt-based morality rather than taking simple, effective positive pro-active stance. As it is, while place might still be good for bath, sauna and plunge (and affordable lodging on the road), it's on such a more muted, restrained level now that often all but vanished is former indefinable super-natural magickal healing air countless people treasured.
In time --especially if bathhouse changes made with future, appropriate stewards -- new more workable and all-inclusive compromise can be fine-tuned like at other places. In meantime, place could still transform -- lifting energies up to former transcendent levels -- simply by making certain days clothing-optional. (But realize now that's not going to happen.)
With policy well-advertised and well-posted, including prominent "Today is Clothing Optional Day" sign both outside and inside office, place could accommodate broadest Springs' visitor base. It'd let visitors know exact policy upfront rather than attendants wasting time and breath explaining to each newcomer "Ya can be naked here and here, but don't even think about it there." Likely, with current reality of so many clothed employees around and office being right there with clothed visitors entering lobby all the time, only formerly allowable zones -- sauna, outer deck and plunge area -- could again be c/o again.
Such compromise -- say, offering four clothing-optional days and three bare-not days, during peak season, if not instead returning to former policy of everyday nudity in such designated areas -- would prevent excluding any Springs fans from enjoying place according to druthers (so long as it fits schedule). For those who don't care one way or other, likely greatest number, they'd merrily continue visiting any day, no problema.
Even without changing layout, renewed accommodation of those valuing nude option by having clothing-optional days makes sense business-wise. And like Wilfred Brimley said, "It's the right thing to do."
As it now stands one's left with muffled feeling if one doesn't coldplunge duly wrapped, or wear cloth preventing sun's healing rays from energizing entire body, or, for some weird reason, just can't enjoy sweating in 180 degree sauna covered in clammy, constrictive, bacteria-breeding cloth... that if, instead, one longs to embrace nature's elements free of supplied man-made, pesticided cotton and polyester cloth or even own natural covering... well, sorry, it's simply unacceptable now; indecent; hope you understand our cover-up crusade. Please bear with us...no, wait, don't!
Stewart's has been rare environ which for first 16 years of new millennium distinguished itself from dominant body-phobic world at large, including majority of nation's mineral spring resorts. While pity policy was no better embraced by former owner and management, no better focused, energized, and gently but firmly enforced, even such as it was Stewart's became low-key clothing-optional oasis for untold thousands -- locally, nationally, and internationally. Visitors could more thoroughly enjoy therapeutic benefits of place, nude if they chose, embracing positive body acceptance and liberation amid tranquility of nature and kindred nature-loving spirits.
It's the hope and prayer of countless that clothing-optional returns before long to Stewart Springs...under new, future enlightened stewards.
More re-posted online review rants & raves here