the Missing Book
A sideways look at
by Stuart R. Ward
volunteer Stewart Springs assistant manager 2000-2002; work/trade bathhouse plunge-keeper 1999-2014; withdrew all support late 2017
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"If you would understand anything, observe its
beginning and its development." -- Aristotle
Ever wonder why there's never been a book written about so rare a realm as Stewart Springs? On hearing snippets of its colorful history, you'd think surely there must be one out there...but no.
After fair amount of sleuthing and deduction, many likely reasons surfaced. In course of telling, scraps of history that were unearthed at regional museums and libraries are shared here, for a crazy-quilt journey through Stewart Springs's elusive past -- a most singular, circuitous, sometimes tragic, sometimes glorious one -- that's brought it to be the way it is now.
Writer can't claim total objectivity; it's said by some such a thing is impossible anyhow. Though trying not to over-color facts with personal opinion and former deep-insider perspective, sometimes found the effort a losing battle. So attempted to corral most subjective writing in editorial sidebars that readers who only want to glean factual history of place can simply scroll past. Either way, hope is to help one gain a more profound understanding of one of nature's more extraordinary realms.
Few Written Records
For starters, region was so rural there weren't people around in pioneer days to document its evolution, as in more populous regions or areas that later became populous. There's a pronounced lack of published source material from which to cobble together even a half-way thorough history.
Many invaluable historic records, writings and photos that almost certainly did exist no doubt perished in fire of July 4, 1948 that destroyed on-grounds home of founder Henry Stewart's daughter, Katy Stewart Lloyd, and late husband, former Weed barber and British immigrant Edward Lloyd. They'd been managing operation since father Henry's passing in 1914. (His story later.)
Fire may well have devastated her so much she lost heart to continue operations much longer. She'd lost her only offspring, Stewart Lloyd, a year after husband in 1941, likely a war casualty. Maybe she'd been thinking of retiring anyhow. In any event, she'd divest of place a few years later.
Born in 1880 a few years after her father bought Springs land, bespectacled Mrs. Lloyd was 68 at time of fire -- age her Jersey-born mom, Julia Newman Stewart, died in 1911. She herself would live past 90, possibly learning through channels how Goodpasture family in early 1970s rescued place from what fans regarded as woefully inappropriate use once assuming 11-year stewardship. (Their story to come)
After grounds fire, dedicated operations momentum was likely lost and dashed any possible plans to pen account of her California pioneer father's colorful life and rarified healing springs, to which he devoted his last 39 years.
Factual Side Story
One Vexed Vanderbilt
George Vanderbilt, son of robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, was interested in spas and living in area. After fire, he offered Katy pots of gold for place. He felt every respectable gazillionaire should have his own rustic mineral spring, then-fashionable bauble among uber-wealthy. He no doubt thought it a fire-sale offer she couldn't refuse.
She knew he'd close the place down to public and turn it into private playground retreat for the rich and famous -- as his opulent estate on second-choice site a half-mile down road, built in 1949, indeed became.
In 1950s and 1960s he hosted such notables as Harry S Truman, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne, one imagines at least some of them must've taken the waters, maybe at special off-hours time, grounds being only short ways uphill. (If known for sure, one could post signs like "Audrey Hepburn Soaked Here" outside various tubrooms.) Van Heflin's daughter Katy visited with dad as girl and reported finding Vanderbilt a disagreeable man.
Mansion burned down night of January 3rd, 2012 on wings of current owner's restoration work, old faulty electrical wiring deemed likely culprit.
Wagonloads of shame
There are even fewer records than one might expect due to settlers' and descendants' calloused feelings and likely shame over hell-bent campaign, during 1870's peak of racial/cultural intolerance, to wipe out region's First Nations people. The latter heard white man's war drums, being accused of widespread violence, when likely it was only stray renegade or two involved in isolated tragic incident that sparked primitive blood lust and resolve to be rid of them all.
Tribal members sought refuge by fleeing to hallowed medicine grounds, place of peace and healing for time untold, sacred land where even warring tribal members would leave weapons on hillside and soak under truce. Those unable to get away from outnumbered, out-armed forces that quickly found them there or chased them down as far away as Castle Lake (bodies thrown into water), were duly massacred. Such a despicable legacy didn't exactly lend place subject to wax nostalgic over in any regional-history annual like Siskiyou Pioneer.
It's likely Henry got wind of extermination plan and, while naturally refusing to have anything to do with it, was powerless to stop it. One story has it secret advance warning of imminent attack was leaked out, at least enabling warriors to steel themselves (or hoping there was no need to, being on sanctuary land) and reportedly spirit women and children to safety across valley to near present-day Carrick Addition off Highway 97 north of town of Weed. If true, possibly it was Stewart who got word to peoples who a generation earlier had very possibly saved his life. In any event, ensuing horrific slaughter around current resort grounds cast a long and deep shadow over the once peaceful, sacred place. Metaphysical thinking holds that tragic energies of massacre linger on spot to this very day on the subtle, giving place its at times eerie, mournful vibe, thus crimping fuller healing potential and having various stewards over time get completely off track from furthering realm's sacred healing power by pursuing commercial exploitation and private-minded use of it. (More on this below. Also Co-manager's exorcism story [top article], and towards end of More rants & Raves page.)
It's just water,
and the long and winding road
Natural healing methods like taking the waters fell out of fashion during 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. With advent of materialistic reductionist thinking, to medical science divorced from holistic awareness of nature's curative powers, water was just water. Any claims of health benefits by soaking and steaming and drinking mineral water were pure poppycock, shameless attempts to fleece gullible public and divert dollars from their own magic pills and eager blades.
Who'd want to read about such an obscure place, anyhow? There was only two-lane State Highway 99 until advent of 1950s' grand interstate highway system. Unpaved before 1960s, Stewart Springs Road's dirt surface no doubt discouraged all but more determined souls. It was only paved when it was due to a county supervisor's efforts once an ailing son appeared helped by visits to the waters; he felt the place worthy of easier access.
Historic phone number trivia: while well known that Native Americans called gold yellow stone, perhaps unknown is that in 1950s the Springs's phone number prefix was YEllowstone (YEllowstone 8-7955). YE converts to 93 in current Weed, California 938- prefix
Dizzying ownership turnover
Once property left dedicated Stewart family hands of 78 years, from 1876 to 1954, there was frequent turnover of Springs owners, four up to 1982:
- Sacramento Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge (15 years) - c. 1954-1969
- Group of three Weed, CA businessmen - (brief) c. 1969 - 1971
- Goodpasture family (11 years) - c.1971 - 1981
- Whitney couple (brief) c. 1981 - 1982
Before long holding by fifth post-Stewart owner, San Franciscan John Foggy -- from early 1982 through January 2016, some 34 years, over twice as long as any other post-Stewart holder -- either none of various owners were around long enough or had inclination to absorb saga and pen chronicle. Fragments of history were all we had...and appears all we still have...that is, beyond oral histories passed down by tribes and possibly some elusive treasure-trove of diary journals buried and forgotten in bottom of attic trunk in Eerie, Pennsylvania, or gathering inertia in Smithsonian storage catacombs.
Masons - first
A few years after refusing Vanderbilt's offer, Stewart's daughter Katy, in astonishing move, essentially gave the place away. In 1954 the Sacramento (CA) Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge, recipient of her largess, took over, thus ending long dedicated Stewart family service run. She'd receive a modest $100/month stipend* from Lodge and reportedly extracted solemn promise from new stewards to keep place forever simple and affordable for all who sought its curative waters.
* Siskiyou County Historical Society in May 2012 newsletter's Sacramento Bee reprint, stated that "The Scottish Rite paid approximately $40,000 for the property." However since Rite's own newsletter says the land was a gift grant to them, writer tends to believe their version, since a gift is only a gift if one doesn't pay for it. Maybe figure was new assessment value, made whenever property changes hands, and reporter assumed they'd paid that for it, masons having kept secret terms of transfer, figuring it was nobody's business, and reporter never considering someone might've actually given away property. (That, or could masons themselves have created price tag to obscure having been gifted land as solemn trust in perpetuity and then later reneged?)
She, like her father, believed it essential for the custodian of one of earth's powerful healing spots for operations to be kept simple, affordable and service-oriented, for the good of the public welfare. No room for get-rich schemes, unseemly preoccupation ramping up revenue with lure of fancy lodging and upscale restaurant, or subsidizing cost of re-purposed, semi-private use of place by suffering the paying public. Only enough to cover everyday costs, maintenance, live-on-grounds manager's living expenses...maybe a modest improvement now and then. Operations under Stewarts, and later Masons, seemed often to run at break-even or at modest loss, apparently more or less acceptable to all concerned.
For the place was never about making money. It was dedicated to providing genuine, affordable purifying, healing and rejuvenation to the public at large. It was a love of service, non-profit-in-spirit enterprise...one altruistically devoted to allowing city-choked travelers to re-set in easily-accessable wild nature, roughing it with only basic amenities provided while focusing on detoxing, unwinding, and healing the age-old way.
"It's a 24-hour day. It's like a child - you're always caring for it, nurturing it, trying to make it better." -- Crystal Foggy, co-manager with sister Astra 2004-5, daughters of former owner John Foggy
With Sacramento masons running the retreat from 1954 to 1969, lodge member couples drawn to place, themselves benefited from water treatment while living on grounds and managing seven-month season, April Fools Day through Halloween. Beyond hosting visitors at then still uber-rustic retreat and providing bath and sauna treatments, they busied selves with constructing new lodgings like the row of present day apartments #1 - 6, next to the Cottage. (Uncertain who built latter, or dorm units #7 - 10 either, but had to be either masons, following Weed investors, or Goodpastures.) Such lodging expansions enabled more to enjoy extended benefits of waters. At the time a series of 21 daily baths was recommended to turn around more troubling maladies. see Masonic bulletin excerpts
Synchronicity? Henry Stewart and daughter each successively devoted 39 years of service to place. Stairway up to dorm rooms 7-10 above bathhouse, built by others long after their reigns, excluding later-added cement landing pad has...39 steps.
Weed Consortium Followed Masons
In 1969, after some 15 years' operation, Masons sold place for reasons unknown. Maybe they got tired of place not paying for
< A-frame group lodging
built with NFL earnings
itself better with only fitful visitorship, and/or managers got cabin fever and wanted out and no replacements could be found. In any event it was soon sold for unknown price to a consortium of three local Weed, CA businessmen: Joe Aquila and Fred Pillon (both of whom died around 2011), and head, former NFL football player Aaron Thomas, Jr. (still kicking in Grants Pass, OR as of mid-2018). He played tight end for S.F. 49ers and New York Giants 1961-1970.
While it might just be coincidence, Thomas was himself a mason. Possibly it was token gesture by Sacramento lodge to keep place in the family, so to speak, with clutching-at-straws rationale that by finding fellow mason to take over lodge they would have somehow kept word given to founder's daughter Katy to keep place a simple, affordable retreat dedicated to healing, forever under their protection and guidance. And if new stewards didn't, well, it was on them.
If so, fat lot of good it did. Besides immediately carving up acreage for own private vacation-home fiefdoms, there was talk by owners -- no doubt among other fantasies -- of turning place into football training camp. As not too far away, recently-resurrected Harbin Hot Springs was long ago a boxers' retreat, stranger things have happened. Farmers downstream who diverted water from creek might've earned extra money fishing out and returning errant throws bobbing their way into their onion fields.
After 78 years of earnest straightforward dedication to healing under the Stewarts plus another 15 of what might be called dedication-lite by Masons, things got sketchy...fast.
While triumvirate indeed made some improvements that would aid enjoyment of public visits during tenure of 19 months, including building current cabins #13 - 17 (unplumbed until later owner), they also began subdividing land...legally lopping off top and bottom quarters of former circa 40-acre parcel between themselves.
A-frame house (shown two pictures up) -- was built to serve as Thomas's vacation home on topmost land separated out. To this day it remains legally separated from main 20+ acre parcel, though has always been tacked on to larger parcel in Springs ownership transfer sales.
And what's known as Green Springs House just outside entrance gate, almost appearing protectively as Springs caretaker's or manager's residence, was built as vacation home for another of three. It too was legally separated out, becoming its own narrow ten acre slice of former Springs property. In contrast, it wasn't tacked onto rest of Springs property in future transfers but kept under different ownership. Massive gated wood fence built between it and rest of property -- and, much later, unsightly wire spanning across creek itself with No Trespassing sign weirdly swinging out over waters -- underscored fact in no uncertain terms. In time, house would become longtime home of 1970's co-owner Carol Goodpasture's sister, renowned polarity massage therapist Elizabeth Wagner (crossed over 2012). In early 1980s, it was briefly leased residence of Findhorn's Peter Caddy
Possibly what's now known as the Cottage, above apartments 1-6. was built by third member and kept within main parcel, person willing to serve as caretaker for guests between privately enjoying one of best sites, right over thundering creek.
In any event, on subtle planes such divisive subdividing of land might be viewed as further handicapping spirit of oneness in operation and any more holistic enjoyment of realm.
Again, Stewart family's intent to keep place simple, essentially non-profit and dedicated to affordable healing and rejuvenation -- focus apparently more or less honored by Masons as long as they ran it -- faded like a rose cut, from life-giving roots, the second latter abdicated stewardship trust.
If only Masons had taken time to find suitable buyers, ones who'd want to keep alive the essential, historically-dedicated focus of honoring land as sacred and healing visitors, affordably, as good-karma benevolent service...rather than ones going off on inappropriate trips with mundane, detached attitudes of "Well, it's our property now; we can do whatever the hell we want with it."
Possibly owner triumvirate, like other owners, considered Stewarts fools for never exploiting place for profit. That, or assumed -- as some people have over time -- that they were just bumbling operators with no head for business, and so never got ahead to become financially successful...when in fact, as noted, Stewart was already a successful businessman from several other ventures and bought and started Springs as a relaxing service, a retirement gig...a way of giving back after all his good fortune -- in process acknowledging and honoring the earth wisdom and land reverence of native culture that long ago had likely saved his life. His daughter and her husband appear to have followed in the same attitude of gratitude.
Maybe over time masons came to resent being saddled with such a remote operation. It had maybe become a Trojan Horse of sorts, sapping lodge's energy, focus, and funds. They simply wanted to be shut of it after latest caretakers/operators burned out on uber-rural scene. Maybe actual members who'd made the solemn vow to Stewart's daughter Katy to preserve focused mission had died or retired, and current heads didn't feel same solemn responsibility to forever honor commitment. (Or, for all anyone knows, maybe she told them to simply do the best they could for as long as they could, hopeful it would thus be protected in perpetuity. One wonders if she and husband ever considered making place a legal non-profit or had encouraged masons to pursue possibility, or felt that such legal moves were unneeded in day when one's word was their bond.)
It's likewise unknown exactly why the three Weed businessmen didn't make a longer go than 19 months. Maybe they'd snapped up place cheap at bargain price they couldn't resist....then played it by ear, never quite sure what to do with it beyond making improvements and enjoying for themselves awhile in new vacation homes before flipping at profit.
It's fairly safe to assume most or all were never keen on running any bathhouse. Maybe in agreement on short-term investment,they hoped to get place to pay for itself by becoming more of a rustic resort than mineral spa retreat, per se, lodging becoming central attraction through building five hillside rental cabins and A-frame, adding to Mason's existing five apartment units. Maybe, though, one or more felt a tad guilty for breaking up the tea set, as it were, realizing place had been a historic operation and after all deserved to be kept going by someone who could really get into running a rural healing spa retreat in similar manner as had founding pioneer family.
Or, again, being businessmen, maybe they'd simply agreed beforehand to make improvements, then flip it for profit, all too willing to part with now-segmented lands to first comers down the pike plunking cash on the barrel head.
In any event, as fate would have it they sold land to a party that to date would come closest to resurrecting original love-of-service spirit and healing vision of realm.
Grand Goodpasture Era
Far and away, the most colorful and thriving post-Stewart ownership reign unfolded when Carol and Winston Goodpasture's family arrived to take the helm in early 1970s.
They'd moved up from South Pasadena in Southern California on tidal wave of late 60's-early 70's rebirth in natural healing ways and popular resistance to oppressive forces wherever they lurked. It was a season of miracles. Visionary thinking held that those rarefied times were no less than Infinite Spirit giving all receptive lucid, super-technicolor preview of coming attractions of a planet transformed. Carol said she'd felt guided to the place. They called the A-frame home. (Unknown if they felt any unaccountable urges to watch NFL games.)
During those purple haze days, Stewart Springs enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, becoming something of an earthly paradise by most accounts of longtime locals. Upbeat owner-resident family graciously hosted visitors to immaculate grounds, zenned-out bathhouse operation, and plentiful natural food in grounds restaurant at friendly prices...doing the same with latter in City of Mt. Shasta after building new restaurant building that eventually became present-day Lalo's.
Revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom was invited to do regular full-moon sacred sweat lodge ceremonies on grounds, thus beginning tradition that lasted some 45 years until December 2017, when present ownership effectively told them to leave, claiming otherwise prohibitive fire/liability rider would be tacked onto new insurance policy that lodge couldn't even begin to cover.*
* Likely it was tragedy in ersatz non-native 'sweat lodge' outside Sedona, Arizona some years ago that led insurance companies to skyrocket coverage for any business operation that included a sweat lodge ceremony open to public.
There wasn't a car bridge much (any?) of time. Everyone parked on upper road and approached bathhouse across covered foot bridge spanning Parks Creek, once called Angels Bridge. Carol sometimes greeted newcomers there with cup of cold mineral water to drink and start healing regimen -- if one could accept mild sulfur taste. Drinking mineral water was traditionally deemed as important as immersing in and breathing steam from waters.
What was until about 2014 main bathhouse parking area back then offered inviting soft grass for clothing-optional sunbathing and picnicking.*
* Unknown if any low-key body freedom was afoot there earlier, especially in years following late 1929, when nudism as part of radical lifestyle movement first reached American shores from Germany. Called the Natural Man movement and predecessor to late 1960's advent of global counterculture, it began at start of last century. Besides radical body freedom, it promoted mineral water soaking, sauna-ing and steaming, hiking in wilds, rural living, raw food diet, draft and public school resistance, loose-fitting clothes, communalism and feminism, all of which '60s countercultural movement would resurrect with a passion.
further decline & fall of
The Goodpastures' divorce -- there was trouble in paradise after all -- prompted hasty selling of place in 1980. They obviously were in no mood to write any book (or "How my Husband Merrily Blew My Fortune" might've been title). Springs had the misfortune of being sold to a couple, the Whitneys, who either didn't appreciate treasure, know how to care for it, and/or seriously lacked means to. They weren't good for $300,000. balance due soon after initial $30,000. down apparently exhausted their resources.
Was Whitney related to S.F.'s
Sutro Baths owner George Whitney?
Pure speculation here, but... wonder if ephemeral Springs owner Robert Whitney was any relation to San Francisco brothers Robert and Leo Whitney, who at various times owned and ran The City's Ocean Beach Playland-at-the-Beach, the Cliff House...and famous Sutro Baths.
Whitney, The City's "Barnum of the West," purchased place and attempted rescue of renowned but perennially money-losing Sutro Baths operation after Sutro's death, keeping it going a few decades more (enabling writer to enjoy fanciful sprawling realm during youth), before throwing in one of ten thousand towels stocked for masses who never came.
Later-day Robert Whitney connected with Foggy in San Francisco, where Foggy was based.
Combine these facts and curiosity's aroused. Granted, Whitney's not that uncommon a name, but can't help wondering if perhaps Springs's defaulting Whitney owner was grandson or some such to regionally renowned Whitney family. If so and in the genes as it were, he'd perhaps become irresistibly drawn to rescue yet another historically famous, financially-indifferent bathhouse operation, this time one at top of state and tucked in the woods, but lacked wherewithal to succeed.
If true, it would further solidify place's historic San Francisco connection, as back in the day visitors flocked to Stewart's from Bay Area, taking train up for grand outing in wilds of state's sparsely populated northern region. (If not, it's still a good story.)
San Francisco's Foggy
(well, of course it is)
It's rumored the floundering Whitney couple actually tried to get mafia financing at some point for looming hefty balance.They finally snagged last-minute investment loan from San Francisco entrepreneur John Foggy.
He no doubt sensed business opportunity if couple defaulted, as it must've seemed likely they would. In less than two years, during which time over-their-heads (and reportedly a bit whacked-out) couple let place go to wrack and ruin, they indeed gave up on misguided efforts, threw in towel, and place went into foreclosure.
Foggy promptly snapped up property at county auction for $20,000. He was basically buying the place from himself, not about to lose his investment. He thus became absentee owner for next 34 years, until early 2016. Hereby put to rest are rife rural legends how he picked place up for song on courthouse steps, or won it in some high-stakes poker game -- unless one considers original speculative investment a poker hand of sorts, and, as it turned out, an incredibly long one. (More on Foggy years later.)
Now, what about the man who started it all?
Pioneer Henry Stewart
According to 1890 census reports, founder Henry S. Stewart stood six feet tall and was a blue-eyed gent. He came out west in 1851 on wings of California gold rush in his early twenties, no doubt seeking fortune, fame, and adventure.
He'd trekked from northeastern Pennsylvania's coal-barging canal hometown of Honesdale, newly built to help sate New York City's voracious fuel appetite. For historical perspective, year he was born, 1827, was a mere year after July 4, 1826 deaths of U.S. founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, famously both on nation's 50th anniversary.
Arriving in California by oxen wagon via Salt Lake City, after possibly first giving gold panning a try he found himself exploring top of state. Story goes that natives secretly watched him exhaust himself futilely trying to get heavy-laden wagon unstuck from mud. They took pity on him after he
keeled over in total prostration and faced possible death (winter conditions?) if not rescued. They carried him up to their sacred mineral waters sanctuary to soak in healing waters, heating it by throwing in rocks super-heated in fire, similar to sweat lodge heating method still used today.
He credited the healing waters, along with their kind ministrations, for saving his life.
Stewart returned East during American Civil War years. (Undetermined whether or not he enlisted, so many Henry Stewarts of Pennsylvania did.) He came back in late 1860s, sailing around Horn this time, with new wife, Julia Newman, and milling equipment. He reportedly started first grain mill in Edgewood region and over time prospered through milling, farming, cattle ranching, and dairy.
Long after having been cured by mineral springs on first visit and becoming staunch believer in place's healing powers, after lengthy legal delays he purchased Springs from federal government in 1875. Apparently there'd been a dispute whether it was government land or land given away by government to Central Pacific Railroad as part of incentive to build line.
Such further contentious energies present around founding of charitable enterprise might linger on subtle as well to metaphysical thinking, further hobbling place's fuller potential as healing retreat until karma's fully erased by full-tilt dedication to purifying, healing, and rejuvenation in purely altruistic spirit.
Poster from unknown year.
Note exorbitant prices!
His was a labor of love, pure and simple. A fulfilling retirement gig, perhaps, at age 46. (While this doesn't sound old today, average lifespan then was, of course, considerably shorter.)
With no interest in making retreat any sort of cash cow, happy to break even and subsidize operations cost when need be, he and daughter between themselves dedicated 78 years to fostering affordable rural retreat for purifying, healing, and peaceful recreation (well, apart from possibly killing non-human residents for sport) amid wild alpine surroundings, with often-lively Parks Creek forever coursing its way through.
Trivia: Henry Stewart's middle name was Stella. Back then it wasn't uncommon to honor female family member by bestowing her name in male baby monikers.
Resourceful, self-made millionaire, John Foggy, fifth post-Stewart family steward, had likely never before dealt with such an operation, one whose bottom line -- very reason for existence, even -- was historically not to generate profit but instead selflessly offer affordable purifying and healing retreat as genuine public service. While profit-minded post-Stewart owners before Foggy tried to make a go of things, operation was still far from becoming commercially viable.
What to do with such a philanthropic oddity? Re-sell it? Or -- as he did after briefly putting it on market and intuiting from ready responses place was likely undervalued and perhaps worth building up as long-term investment -- figure a way to make it a going concern.
To his everlasting credit, while indeed aiming to build place up to be a profit-generating resort that would on many levels take it further away from original spirit of Stewart's good-karma, love-of-service enterprise -- one so strikingly non-profit in spirit, perceptive visitors can still feel family's forthright dedication to place -- he was at least open-minded enough to allow clothing-optional during last 16 years of ownership. Plus had the wisdom to keep place's historic and quaint rustic charm intact...even if dubiously adding to it in peculiar way with neo old-fort entrance. (see below) And, despite occasional grumbling, let by-then weekly Karuk sacred sweat lodge ceremonies continue doing their thing by bathhouse.
A future Frommers Guide would call place "...one of the most unusual health spas in California."
Of course, Foggy wasn't always an absentee owner. Early on he came up to stay in A-frame with family on working vacations. Future co-managing daughters Crystal and Astra reported having fond childhood memories of place. He tuned into grounds, sussing possibilities and brainstorming ways to upgrade it into more of an upscale rustic springs resort, hoping to attract broader variety of visitors beyond then-limited base of natural healing devotees and sometimes thin-spending countercultural trekkers.
Over time he'd produce radio and TV ads using management personnel. Manager Mary Hildebrand's front office manager mom, Pat, reportedly offered folksy pitches ala Motel 6 chain's Tom Bodet. And, also like Motel 6, management, had staff turn porch light on before clocking out if guests planned on arriving after nightfall.
Side Story: Iconic & Ironic Fort Entrance
One dramatic change: building wooden faux fort entrance that to this day greets visitors. Replete with massive gates, iron bracing and crenelated watch towers, impressionable might half-expect to see towers manned.
It possibly strikes some as misplaced movie set from a '50s western or bygone, bizarre attempt to create rural Frontierland amusement park in the boonies. One story has it that it was created to attract investment interest from Hollywood. Then, too, it's likely owner appreciated how John Wayne and other westerns film stars formerly visited a mile down hill at Vanderbilt mansion and thought it fitting symbolic tribute to frontier times of retreat founder Henry Stewart. Be that as it may, it did serve to help protect grounds from vandals, thieves, and would-be squatters, as place always closed for winter until late 1999.
Entrance stands as bitter irony on crucial level: Old West forts were built to protect white men from marauding red men who refused to abandon deep-rooted homelands, while natives ran to sacred springs seeking kings x's refuge from marauding white men determined to exterminate them. Some, especially Native Americans, might well view entrance note as more than tad historically insensitive -- if not plumb nuts -- appearing as it does to be symbolically protecting Native Americans' ancestral healing grounds from themselves. Say what?
In any event, entrance is mind-boggler for every first-timer:
"Now entering Fort Stewart. Safe at last! Let our cavalry help you find respite from slings and arrows of current times by enjoying refreshing spa. (Kindly check any attitudes in front office.)"
Managements under Foggy reign:
early 1980s thru 2016
larger businesses to run -- Foggy reportedly once held custodial contracts for every U.S. Air Force base west of the Rockies -- he switched operations to
macro-management, hoping to build it up as going concern by relying on modestly-paid, living-on-grounds managers' business acumen and creative innovations -- within his hardnosed guidelines, of course. He told them that since he lived so far away and would seldom visit they should act as if they owned the place in order to gain best sense of what needed to be done to increase visitors. Of course, illusion of owning it often clashed with reality as place straggled by under fitful, small staff on starvation budget.
He'd apparently often flirted with idea of selling it -- reportedly soliciting offers, then withdrawing from market once essentially getting real-life appraisals (and possibly having a few almost-sells). Hollywood action actor Steven Segal once made low counter-offer on place that was promptly rejected out of hand.
Again, this led to epidemic of false rumors of some mysterious new owner having snapped up place every time a new manager appeared in front office, displaying pronounced proprietary airs. (Absentee owners, it seems, all too easily cause such faulty assumptions. Over decades, reviewers frequently referred to place's hired managers as actual owners -- and still do -- when, of course, they're only salaried employees doing bidding of absent owner(s).)
He finally did let go of operation on January 19, 2016, after 34 years alternately sitting on place and building it up. (His daughter, two-year co-manager Crystal, had earlier passed on offer to eventually take over place as not her cup of tea.) For how much? Trip to county court house where it's public information revealed place went for princely sum of $2.6 million.
Foggy managers over years:
~ (Earliest managers unknown)
~ Couple: Susie Frank
and Joe Helweg, lived on grounds, 11 years, 1989-1999
~ Mary Hildebrand, Susie's cousin, five years, 1999-2004 (died 2004), lived 12 miles away, both tenures with Susie's and Mary's mothers, CeeCi and Pat, respectively, taking turns running front office
~ Foggy's daughters Crystal
and Astra (latter lived on grounds in Cottage), two years, 2004-2006
~ Couple: Ted Duncan, 2006-2015, ten years; (died late 2015); and wife Rowena Pantaleon, 12 years, 2006-2017; lived on grounds in Cottage much of time until Ted's passing, then mostly remote managing last two years for new ownership from distant Chico home
Long opinionated sidebar
New, still inappropriate ownership focus
Will place ever get it right again?
As most everyone knows by now, Springs has gotten its first new ownership in ages. Title transferred January 19, 2016. Individual names are unknown to writer (which fact speaks volumes).
As said, vague rumors of new ownership were rife over time, resulting every time some officious new front desk manager appeared. Many visitors apparently couldn't -- and often still can't -- distinguish between absentee owner and various managers hired by them, who must in absence of owner ACT as though they own the place. Perhaps notion of proprietor not being there or at least popping in now and then to mingle with guests, was -- and remains -- too weird and foreign a reality to wrap one's mind around.
Maybe such assumption has something to do with powerful dreamlike quality of realm...people embracing irrational notions of place, dreamstate making no distinction between rational and irrational, so comfortably clinging to various misconceptions of place's actual operational reality.
New Pneuma-Institute-involved owners live as far away as L.A., Mexico and South America -- making for way absentee ownership. (And one thought San Francisco was a far piece.) New grounds management only coalesced two years after sale, again, old manager Rowena P. having stayed in charge two years past ownership transfer, acting mostly by remote from hundreds of miles away, relaying new owners' policy changes for grounds' rubber-stamping staff to follow rigorously, no questions asked:
We have to cut down all those hillside trees... (?) well, okay. Tell people they can't skinnydip anymore... ya gotta be kidding! -- okay, okay, don't get your undies in a bunch... Sign this nondisclosure agreement if you want to keep your job... jeesh...okay (something's really fishy here, but hell, it's a paycheck...)
Long before sale to new owners, a hidden microphone was craftily planted in office by management. Apparently done among other reasons, like security, to nip in bud any staff member daring to grumble about sometimes-draconian marching orders, mic seems to continue serving same function now. It works to keep office staff from talking out of school, perhaps over-commiserating with dumbfounded longtime visitors without dire consequence, once drastic sea-level operational changes all but gutted spirit of the place.
At least one office worker has been fired as result.
Is that depressing or what? Writer suspected such a device existed long ago, before owner change, after a personal incident. One day, no sooner had I started voicing bit of constructive criticism in office, as of course was my wont, to front desk Linda Boyle's sympathetic ear*, than suddenly head manager Rowena rushed in out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, trying to act all nonchalant, just standing there looking about, the very picture of (feigned) innocence.
* Sad to report, Linda and husband Joe, vital SMS handyman for many years, lost everything but lives in tragic fire a few years after retiring to Paradise, California, site of state's devastating 2018 Camp Fire.
More sensitive visitors, especially those treasuring memories of mellower times, might've felt as though some surreal springs gestapo had abruptly taken over place. Same basic thing happened after Foggy bought place in early 1980s, before later mellowing, as related further on. see new owner article Owner change at first seemed pregnant with possibility. Writer had hoped it would prove golden opportunity to finally redeem legacy of pioneer founder and fully activate innate healing spirit of land. New ownership was, after all, involved in quasi-spiritual field, and before sale reportedly told manager they basically liked the place just the way it was. (see home page).
So owner change perhaps appeared perfect, a long overdo chance to re-dedicate place to fine-tuning operation for affordable, profound purifying, healing and rejuvenation, in process drawing in renewed involvement of wider community, with all its varied talents, skills, and resources, place becoming thriving cultural healing center.
Sadly, time has proven owners were not at ALL interested in keeping place just the way it was. They'd apparently only been patiently biding their time while spinning plans. In fact, they appeared adamantly intent on SERIOUSLY changing it, essentially re-purposing place to suit own organization's shtick and mindset. Aim: revamping visitor base to more upscale/mainstream traffic reflecting own lifestyle to better support focus of outfit's psychoanalytical shtick, with public effectively defray costs to have place serve as Pneuma world headquarters (they have branches in several countries). Plus, of course, enable its various groups to enjoy place for themselves as their own semi-private shangri-la.
Forget any earnest, unassuming effort to provide general public with 100%-dedicated, genuine and affordable healing spa, along with simple lodging for longer enjoyment and benefit of place and healing waters.
Gone with the wind.
Now spring-purist visitors, finding cornerstone of progressive spa atmosphere, clothing-optional, suddenly verboten, plus sacred sweat lodge kicked off land, see current offering as little more than an overpriced, ersatz, convention-bound, watered-down tourist trap with commercialized new-age overtones. Again, many, including writer, suspect new bathhouse and lodging operation appeal to more like-minded upscale and/or conventional visitors is simply means of subsidizing diverted focus of operation, now tellingly referred to among selves as "Pneuma retreat center" and world headquarters.
One would think that over $26,000 a year in property taxes to scrape together would provide good incentive to stay with proven, longtime customer base. But they seem to have made a gamble they could in time generate more (and be more comfortable) with different visitorship, blowing off huge bohemian-leaning base (whose support, again, was largely responsible for putting operation into black in recent times --possibly for first time ever). They reportedly met with some success as of late 2019, for whatever that's worth.
As related on home page, soon after new actual-on-grounds management arrived in December 2017 on wings of ownership board member's visit, place's sporadically powerful medicine wheel ground to screeching halt, having essentially kicked out sweat lodge and erased springs gazebo love and prayer offering altar on top of year earlier scrapping old-management unsupported but owner-okayed, 17-year clothing-optional policy.
No great surprise, visitor volume tanked overnight.
Misguided changes marked grievous crimp in place's healing energy and precipitous decline of place as at least tenuously open-minded, unassuming, service-focused healing refuge it had so long been.
Place has now lost every cultural touchstone that helped make it so extraordinarily popular in recent decades.
Actions have devastated myriad former supporters beyond measure.
Sweat lodge was deep tradition at springs, keeping alive spirit of thriving cultural diversity, including, critically, original pre-white-man descendants' tapping natural medicine of grounds in sacred ceremony, connecting participants with prehistoric roots of American culture and spiritual ways.
Gazebo altar reflected heartsong of grateful visitorship and enabled thoughtful, spontaneous sharing. And clothing-optional policy was crucial, to many people's way of thinking, to foster most profoundly relaxing purification regimen...lest spa experience feel like taking a bath with your clothes on. Besides allowing for more profound healing, it showed compassion for humanity by allowing one to experience deeper communion with nature and one another (who are, of course, and lest one forgets, as much a part of nature as trees and water and deer and bears).
Current woefully inappropriate intent, again, seems to be bound and determined to re-purpose place to serve, among other things, as academic teaching center for practicing therapy professionals to gain extra credentials, thereby enabling one to add transpersonal psychology methodology to tool chest and hang yet another framed certificate on wall to gather dust, while reassuring patients paying small fortunes for long-term psychotherapy that it's money well spent.
Stripping out former vibrant, free-spirited culture to accommodate visitors of own more buttoned-down mindset and super-structured, clinical approach to healing patients in distant cities, again, has deeply alienated myriad long-time Springs aficionados to point of de-facto boycotting place en masse.
Countless fans around the world refuse to support place as now run.
Prayers are for appropriate future ownership to rescue realm, after either abysmal failure or karma wake-up call over misguided effort to alter place to support psychology shtick...one that, in many ways, can't begin to hold a candle to mother nature's own simple, effective way, with its healing waters and transformative vortex energies, allowing becoming one with her via clothing-optional, dramatically uplifting and reintegrating body-mind-spirit. (One of ostensible central goals of Pneuma approach...ahem.)
Action's seen as too bizarre for words...a thoroughly unacceptable departure in light of how place served most of 145 years as affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating spa retreat. It's a sorry change indeed, one that time will almost certainly prove unsustainable and/or ethically untenable, if there's any justice in the world and ownership has an ounce of conscience.
In other countries (sometimes even in U.S, like Virginia's Berkeley Springs, nation's oldest mineral springs resort; Washington soaked there), such a rarity as Stewart Springs would've long ago become a protected public holding, something like a dedicated trust or working historic state park.
Not that that would necessarily be best idea. Perhaps better if future benefactor owner legally set up place as a charitable non-profit operation in perpetuity, as long ago nearby Jackson Wellsprings in Oregon reportedly did, and Harbin similarly did, creating non-profit Church of Heart Consciousness -- thus quashing any possible future inappropriate notions of would-be ownership ever again trying to co-opt place to run in variance from simple de-facto non-profit tradition: perennial public-minded dedication to providing affordable purifying, healing, and rejuvenating amid glad tidings of nature.
Any so inclined fans of place might think of working on finding possible new benefactor for place (writer already began to approach one)...one both conscious and affluent enough to afford to buy place once current owners throw in towel. Maybe current ownership is conscious enough that they can find totally appropriate buyer themselves, and thus redeem their honor and ultimately gaining positive place in Stewart Springs legacy, but the more people sussing possible new stewardship, the better.
Then Springs can become a good-karma operation once again, re-established as legal non-profit, perhaps eventually self-supporting -- thinking on ways regional community can plug into place, volunteering talents, ideas, and resources, and so, at long, LONG last, make place everybody's baby.
More synchronicity: indication universe is perhaps on our side is that said Harbin Hot Springs, one of the U.S. West Coast's most popular, free-spirited clothing-optional spa facilities, busy rebuilding after devastating fire, finally re-opened January 19, 2019...the same EXACT calendar date that three years earlier new Stewart owners took legal control. Could some kind of grand neutralization effect be in effect here?
(Stewart Springs History, cont'd)
Ball dropped in early '80s
As noted, Whitney owner couple before Foggy let place go to wrack and ruin over their short 20 month tenure -- a state it seemed to take decades to recover from. Some who remember halcyon Goodpasture days or momentous millennium-fever times might say it was still struggling to recover when latest ownership changed everything once again.
Of course, the former were euphoric times of massive first flushes of humanity's latest cycle of spiritual re-awakening, replete with giddy possibilities after slumbering through abysmally dark and violent times.
Far easier to build positive energy flows with spiritual bar ridiculously low. Some hold early '60s marked spiritual low point in grand 26,000 year spiritual cycle and, now, the only way was up, that all the over-the-top psychedelic hippie hoopla only reflected full-tilt celebration of historically staggering cosmic moment.
The latter turn of century period was a similarly euphoric time, one that fostered wildly liberating notions like enjoying spa non-encumbered by needless cloth if one so chose.
Place had earlier turned a hard 180 degrees from lighthearted bohemian oasis to murky wayward backwater -- even rednecky* -- leisure resort. No doubt nature spirits who'd once enchanted place fled in terror, no longer feeling lovingkindness of humans resonating with land.
*In writer's first time in bathhouse in 1980s, encountered a rough, unkempt man slouching in chair behind desk, obviously just hanging out, chewing the fat with another. Trying to get handle on new place, lost at sea and sensing chaos and confusion, for want of any better question I asked if he was the owner. "Wrong color," he snorted. (Absentee owner of time was black.)
Findhorn's Peter Caddy &
French Chef discover Springs
There were fitful spiritual retreats and workshops, aided by nearby Mount Shasta's powerful metaphysical energies, calling forth healing forces to reactivate and hold sanctuary's positive frequency -- notably in 1983-1984, when Peter Caddy of international Findhorn fame held workshops on grounds, while living at Green Springs house outside fortress gate, and sussed possibilities of buying place, then tenuously on market, and creating a "New Findhorn" teaching center. see Book Excerpts
Also in 1980s-early 1990s, an amazing dining addition to place unfolded. Certified French chef Serge Margot, wanting to simplify life after having run ritzy restaurant in Bay Area and earlier working in Paris, moved up to region. He'd discovered Springs restaurant building going begging, as if waiting for him to rescue it. He signed lease in heartbeat, to soon-delighted gourmets everywhere. Place became instant destination for fancy dining, sometimes serving over a hundred for Sunday brunch. (Writer was lucky enough to enjoy one of his delicious veggie sandwiches on very first visit to Springs.)
Unknown for how long it lasted or why such a solid addition to place ended (although it was far from plant-based focus, as befits any real healing place); possibly Foggy tried upping lease into stratosphere on wings of operation's roaring success. Anyway, operation folded and building soon reverted to accustomed forlornly empty and locked status. see Jenny Coyle's newspaper article.
Despite such extraordinary happenings at Springs, overall trajectory of place seemed decidedly downhill, as if there wasn't enough abiding positivity to keep negativity from eclipsing and dominating scene in long run. Too often visitors seemed more interested in hiding out in the country a spell and perhaps go on bender than focus on any silly purifying spa regimen.
For while some indeed did keep coming to soak and sauna, others simply liked to get drunk off their butts in cabins -- or maybe nurse bottle of Jack Daniel's and puff stogie in outdoor Jacuzzi gazebo outside office (converted later to massage studios), thereby neatly accomplishing both at once. Until year 2000, ashtrays were scattered throughout sundeck area -- even directly outside main massage room off deck, smoke drifting underneath door to make getting relaxing massage a bit problematic. It seemed all for smokers' convenience lest, perish the thought, one started feeling too healthy. Rumored reports of prostitution bust on grounds further scandalized place.
History trivia: word 'SPA' was born as acronym for Latin phrase Salus Per Aquas, meaning "Health through water". Who knew?
Local free spirits briefly claimed place a de facto free hippie summer camp after believed then-gateless business operations ceased and personnel vanished between owners Whitney and Foggy. They were finally ordered off grounds by unpleasant ex-Marine packing lethal sidearm who Foggy had brought in. It was felt by those who'd loved place for decades and remembered mellower times that once Goodpastures abandoned ship all the carefully built-up good will and loving care and open-minded, progressive spirit were being destroyed wholesale. (Not unlike now; Springs history indeed seems to be rhyming.)
Place went through scary times of lost vision -- sterling century-old track record tarnished like silver jewelry left on during mineral water soak. Things got so bad at one point that a hard-drinking custodian patrolled grounds at night with double-barreled shotgun. Seems place can be either heaven or hell, with precious little in between.
(see second Something about Mary story, in good part about dedicated 1989-2004 family management by cousins Suzy and Mary, mothers CeeCi and Pat, respectively, latter's sister Mary, plus longtime bath attendant in-law Linda.)
Managers under Foggy had work cut out for themselves. They dealt as best they could on over-tight budget. Managements over decades varied approaches from gracious benign neglect and micro-manged no-nonsense with spirited teamwork to chaotic macro management and near-anarchy with surreally casual hirings and capricious firings... each according to owner and management intent, awareness, lifestyle, budgetary support of owner, management skills or lack thereof, and, of course, major wild card, changing times.
Everyone pretty much flew by seat of their pants, trying to revive the patient and get new -- hopefully profitable -- handle on institution, one seemingly often ailing as grievously as young Henry had been.
editorial esoterica sidebar
In metaphysical teaching each calendar day has unique blend of subtle yet pronounced astrological influences. Property officially changed hands January 19 (2016), a powerful prosperity day -- on all levels, not just material, but spiritual and emotional as well. (As it turns out, it's birthday of no less than wild-child powerhouse singers Janice Joplin and Dolly Parton, and, in amazing synchronicity, January 19 (2019) was re-opening date of Harbin Hot Springs.) One might've hoped this would bode well for new, prosperous, feel-good Springs chapter.
Also though, Mercury was retrograde, which oddly enough can reportedly have positive effect on existing businesses, as truth is potentially brought to fore, giving chance to correct any wrong courses and refine and fine-tune operation.
As time's revealing, though, this is not always case, especially for what had long been, in spirit at least if not legally, a non-profit charitable operation. And if well-centered, forthright, integrated intent is lacking at get-go, then perhaps uncertain, potentially chaotic, mentally confusing energies are inevitable result...especially if harboring intentions at drastic odds with Stewart Mineral Springs's long-dedicated, altruistic reason for operation originally coming into being.
Planetary influences might thus ultimately serve to make current ownership a brief one indeed.
New, appropriate owner(s) could then rescue place and invite community to seriously plug in, sharing diverse talents, resources,and brainstorms, at LAST redeeming place's historic legacy for serving as down-home, ideally non-profit, affordable healing and rejuvenation mineral springs retreat every true-blue lover of place knows it's meant to be.
Stewart Springs History cont'd
It was steep and rocky climb getting even tenuous positive energies back after place's first unscheduled detour through hell. This in part due to putting off countless needed repairs and replacements until increased business volume could justify outlays -- or to avoid lawsuits over unsafe conditions. Example of latter: before car bridge was finally rebuilt, there were planks so rotten, a heavy person could've jumped down hard at one spot and crashed right through into creek. Situation was also in part due to elusive efforts to find fresh management, one not dragged down by inertia of place's sometimes-gnarly past, willing to work cheap, and roll with owner's sometimes hard-nosed directives.
Just smelly water, revisited
After Stewart family's 78-year tenure, spanning 1875 to 1954, each new owner scrambled to re-define place according to their lights. Even most earnest efforts could be hampered by a faster-paced materialistic world that no longer gave credence to clear water. So little, there wasn't time, interest, or inclination to write any history of place -- one, again, vested in such perceived quaint folk cure remedies, it was simply ignored, if not harshly discredited and ridiculed, by unenlightened minds.
Crystal Foggy, during brief general manager tenure along with older sister Astra before, again, deciding it wasn't her thing, had been interested in idea of writing some book on place. She'd recently graduated from San Francisco State University with master's in international business and had creative ideas kicking around. She implemented some during few-years tenure, including expanding office to include renovated gift shop, creating wellness cabin, adding custom tile design work to office and changing-room floor, building new, wider stairway from sundeck to creek -- and biggie, rebuilding sauna.
Rebirth of Sauna
Before Foggy sister managers Crystal and Astra flew off to Rio for Carnivale with brother in winter 2006, they told contractor John Monk to have venerable but badly-aging old sauna torn out and new, larger one up and running in its stead by time they got back one short week later. This involved among other things repurposing space of tub rooms 5 and 6 by tearing down walls and building new ones and lots of poured concrete.
Design spun on the fly, local crew of ten-- including carpenters Ohbe and Lewis, stone mason Tony, and electrician Andy -- miraculously manifested it on time, despite working with foot of fresh snow on ground. Crystal brought back large heart-shaped double crystal that was worked into stone wall and backlit for magical, slowly color-changing accent. (When daily programmed, that is; left to own devices it soon began to flash like over-caffeinated neon sign, driving sweaters nuts... and serving as dead-giveaway reminder of over-commercial focus of place).
Crystal had considered separating noisy laundry room from bathhouse, as it detracted from soakers achieving any more serene state. At one point, discouraged by ailing infrastructure needing so much money constantly poured into it to bring it back up to snuff, writer once heard her mutter, "Sometimes I think it'd be easier to just to tear the old place down and start over."
On wings of sudden demise of longtime manager Mary Hildebrand in 2005, things were in too much upheaval with struggle to get grip on basic everyday operation to even think of taking on any such nonessential project like writing a book. See something about Mary
Significantly, and closely related to earlier reason no book's been written, is apocryphal American Indian curse -- one apparently attributed to many native-revered mineral springs, and almost certainly to Stewart's -- that white men never profit from wrested sacred healing grounds.
As droll wits pointed out, curse wasn't all-inclusive enough, as former owner Mr. Foggy, African-American, indeed actually started making decent profits, perhaps for first time in Springs history. Towards end of tenure he reportedly cleared a quarter-million dollars a year. Of course, he'd sporadically plow loads of revenue back into improvements and upkeep like rebuilding car bridge, replacing bathhouse flooring, rebuilding stairways, installing new plumbing, creating new walking bridge below conference hall... Add to original white 'owners' the longtime black owner, former yellow manager, new brown co-owner, and, of course, sweat lodge's prehistoric red non-owners, and Springs might appear to be gaining powerful harmonizing cultural rainbow energy, enabling truly diverse, all-inclusive, future global culture to flourish. see New Day Dawning
Tragic Lore: Renaissance rock star David Crosby's brother, Ethan, also guitar musician, once worked at Stewart's and later took his life, as did at least two other then-current or recent Springs employees plus manager Mary H., all female. (None at property, small mercy.) Place's violent-legacy influence, perhaps?
Curse or no, Mother Nature's protective elemental forces no doubt rebelled whenever man's covetous hopes for bountiful investment return by trying to cash in on special waters and natural environ superseded desire to serve and heal. Maybe natives, rich in earth wisdom, didn't so much cast a curse as merely point out obvious. Narrow obsession with accumulating yellow rocks and dead frog skins had inevitable consequences.
However, since there was such a hellacious effort by intolerant settlers, likely stirred up and led by hired railroad guns, to wipe them out -- as fate would have it in and around long-established sacred healing ground -- there almost undoubtedly was one mighty curse cast. As mentioned elsewhere, many believe angry ghosts of slain warriors served as enforcers, haunting grounds beyond time, casting dark shadows over place and seriously crimping potential for any more healing energy to manifest.
Psychic visitors with ability to sense presence of earthbound discarnates reported tuning in to incredibly hostile energies. One such gifted woman, Sequoia, who earlier had to quit a hospital job for all the restless spirits she encountered there, related to often being screamed at to go away during her bathhouse work tenure. Understandably, she had trouble focusing on work.
Late revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom led exorcism of ancestral tribe's slain spirits from grounds, on request for help from late co-manager Ted Duncan, who was having violent nightmares. Charlie's grandfather and father, then a boy, were spared massacre only because they were camped further up snake canyon (as they called it) for season. They heard prolonged gunfire and came down later, witnessing massacre's unspeakable aftermath.
Fast forward and Charlie was considered too sickly a child to bother trying to brainwash in culture-destroying boarding schools. So he was left undisturbed at home to receive treasure trove of tribe's wisdom and ways. He would spend his life imparting special knowledge, spirit at one point telling him it was time to share sacred medicine with all respectfully interested. (Some tribal members disapproved; to this day there's a serious split in Karuk circles -- new casino in Yreka is product of those not approving of his open sharing, nor of Walking Eagle's sacred sweats that remain open to all earnest seekers.)
Time and effort helped place get back to semblance of healing grounds of wiser modern-day owners. But as it was long revered as sacred land, where even warring tribes laid down weapons on hillsides and soaked together peaceably, it remains to this day ambitious climb to regain anything even remotely approaching original prehistoric scene -- one purely dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation in profound respect for nature and in complete harmony with it -- before greed and intolerance, frequent ugly handmaidens of so-called civilization, came along.
There was only small, modestly paid staff to work through often gnarly winters. Complicating year-round operation were periodic disasters on grounds due to only partially winterized plumbing and daunting efforts to keep roads cleared and paths shoveled after periodic deep snowfalls. Also, serious lack of sunshine in steep alpine canyon after October could greatly lower staff's serotonin levels, further depressing work morale. It was as if land wanted to hibernate and humans were only meddling with plan.
It almost seemed that, at lowest moments, the violent vibration of grounds' tragic past re-surfaced. At such times an angry climate prevailed with hair-trigger tempers and attitudes of "Why do I even bother? Nobody appreciates my efforts", and "I'm not getting paid near enough for all this," among both staff and management. Whenever they fell down such black holes of despair, feeling overworked and underpaid, day visitors and, especially, overnight guests, who'd experience resulting indifferent to rough sketchy treatment, reacted variously with furious disdain, grave disappointment and stupefied disbelief.
Medicine Wheel Slows
Many deemed the tightrope act of management -- trying to balance place as healing ground while attempting to generate maximum profit -- an impossible one. It lent exquisite irony to old businessman quip, "I'm not in business for my health."
There were dark days, days anyone who experienced them tried to forget. Writer, for instance, was once threatened with being thrown off covered bridge for trying to quietly enforce new no smoking on bridge policy to Nam vet local with PTSD. Violent energy could all too easily prevail whenever too few people held intent to reactivate place's healing medicine wheel, potential majestic rotation hampered by over-worldly, covetous owner/management focus.
To degree owners, managers, workers -- visitors, too -- didn't attune to sacred power of land and waters, region's medicine wheel slowed too much for most to appreciate or even recognize its existence, with timeless potential for extraordinary healing. Or want to write about it. Not beyond occasional newspaper articles like thoughtful mid-1970s series by Emilie Frank for decades preserved on yellowed wall plaques on bathhouse lobby and restaurant walls. It paints vivid picture of place during renaissance Goodpasture years in 1970s for visitors, reminding locals of jewel -- diamond in rough -- place was and in essence remains.
Viva la Musica!
During more together times, place has hosted repeated popular gatherings, workshops and music events. A host of regional and visiting healing musicians, recording artists, and entertainers graced Springs over the years, Eric Bergland, Matisha, Kathy Zavada, Carolyn Hedger, and Anton Miserak among them. Some event organizers (not all musical) would go on to greater renown, like best-selling author Gary Zukav and peace troubadour/author/film producer James Twyman.
The region is so rich in musically transcendent talent and Stewart Springs such a natural locale for visitors to enjoy them in harmonious, healing atmosphere, that it seems a travesty how place's current ownership's apparent non-community-minded intent feels light years away from enabling any such culture-rich coming together of wider community...as is currently done regularly with wild success at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings in northern outskirts of Ashland, Oregon.
Yet another long editorial sidebar
plus current nudity Ban
Is for-profit operation self-defeating at healing resort?
Over-focus on turning profit obviously can all too easily erode any ostensible healing place's potential. In times past, management and staff's brisk cordial business surface could mask callous drive to feed ever-hungry maw more revenue, management possibly incentivized through profit-sharing bonuses if exceeding annual-set financial goal.
All involved could end up compromising finer natures and personal integrity for sake of job security, financial reward, free baths, and maybe the power trip of running a renowned institution. If so doing, they naturally became poorer for it. For they mortgaged chance of ever grokking what place was all about: healing body and spirit and coming into closer harmony with nature and other beings while receiving soul-enriching blessing from universe by performing dedicated service.
This is why so many of northwest's most popular mineral spring resorts are run non-profit, like Harbin and Ashland, Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings -- sometimes collectively owned and operated, like central Oregon's intentional community Breitenbush. Such setup potentially allows deeper focus, providing more-grounded and heart-centered service, unalloyed by any off-putting, growling profit hunger.
Of course, non-profit as business model can have their own problems -- like over time possibly experiencing disconnect between original intent and current operation, becoming a bureaucratic machine, or cliquish social scene more dedicated to perpetuating themselves than offer genuine service. Example: when Volunteers of America booked lavish party junket at Springs in 2001, writer was shocked at giddy spending from donated funds, including luxuriant terrycloth robe giveaways at blow-out cheese and wine tasting party in A-frame -- likely a corporate donor tax write-off or some such.
That said, the way non-profit springs keep revenues pegged to actual running costs and building improvement/replacement reserves rather than running place to generate wealth, it can tend to inspire and empower staff and management to create far more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere...one more dedicated to joy of service. Where is this more important than at place existing to purify and heal while offering retreat from stresses of everyday world? Barring such a set-up, only with enlightened compassionate capitalism, like Stewart's at first appeared to have with new 2016 ownership (scroll down past top editorial), can place excel and unfold greatest potential as healing retreat...one that keeps place from turning into yet another superficial spa for spiritually challenged and nature alienated seeking pampering to compensate for having let higher selves be compromised in mad scramble for mammon.
Though some, like writer, bemoaned fact operation wasn't nonprofit like Harbin or collective like Breitenbush, Stewart's came along nicely in some ways during last years under Foggy, who had by then unlimbered wallet and lavished many improvements; place made notable strides beautifying grounds and upgrading facilities.
Nicer grounds can of course foster greater peaceful relaxation and sense of well being. Even if perhaps more motivated by wanting to sell it faster and at better price, such improvements likely helped those pursuing lightwork to better tune out any untoward business energies floating about around the edges and tune in to place's original harmonious healing and purifying vibration. (And let better flourish infectious popularity among bohemian-friendly.)
Some no doubt feel last managers tried as best they could, given strictly-business directive within 10-year contract, to maximize revenue, even amid critically failing health, to build more healing-focused, albeit conventionally-leaning, operation. But, again, it was an impossible tightrope act of trying to serve two masters. Predictable mixed-bag result of miracles and disasters was inevitable result, as dramatically reflected in polarized reposted online rants and raves reviews.
Bottom line: Regardless of financial structure, intent is always crucial factor. Ironic case in point: new ownership's Pneuma Institute is a non-profit. See how much good that's doing for place, now being run as a for-profit adjunct acquisition by non-profit parent, as allowed by California law.
Clothing-optional: gone with the wind?
More than mild cause for concern among countless now-estranged friends of Stewart Springs is how new absentee ownership callously junked clothing-optional policy. Countless instantly found new mandatory cover-up laughable, depressing, and intolerable. It went into effect 11-1-16 after 17 years of bathhouse being selectively clothing-optional (in sauna, sundeck and creek area, wrapping up in between).
Ban possibly came about from erroneous perception bred of buttoned-down conservative lifestyle, aided and abetted by Machiavellian maneuvers by old manager, that opting freebodies were mostly low-spending wild local hippies, kinky voyeurs, shameless exhibitionists -- obviously bad for business -- rather than, in fact, representative of respectable broad cross-section of awakening global humanity that mindfully embraces radical body freedom in appropriate public places as basic human right, or is open to such a radical notion.
Truth is, Stewart Springs management never gained any real conscious handle on clothing-optional policy, in contrast to every other regional rural spring resort permitting simple nudity. (Current layout isn't optimal, besides.) As mentioned elsewhere, past manager Mary finally permitted it on approval by owner Foggy, but was so bummed over office-manager mother's sudden death, she never hammered out any solid policy (and possibly lacked crucial awareness on matter to have ever created one anyhow).
So, all along, scene was semi-anarchistic, allowing loads of wiggle room for abuse by any so inclined to ogle (including, mea culpa, writer, in less conscious times) and exhibit selves rather than lift up consciousness by attuning to higher body-mind-spirit re-integration that simple mindful nudity so easily fosters in properly set-up environment.
One would've hoped new management would resurrect policy once seeing the light, how such simple nudity works hand-in-glove with healing oasis Springs when pro-actively working to raise respectability of clothing-optional scene -- as, gain, have virtually every other more popular regional rural mineral springs resort in northwest US. (That is, unless to more cynical thinking new owners banned it along with sweat lodge to intentionally alienate old customer base and make self-interested designs on semi-privatizing/upscaling historic 145 year, public-minded place easier to suit own intent and taste, and public be damned.)
Some returning visitors, not knowing what triggered such drastic policy change, only being told lamely that it was to make things "more comfortable for everyone", understandably see it as surreal throwback to enforced body shame that so many came to Springs in part to get away from.
Prayer had been ownership would reconsider, before realizing they were adamantly against it.
Again, being involved with seeming spiritual organization Incarre, which claims dedication to "re-integrating body-mind-spirit on profoundly higher levels," one would think that present ownership would've realized how simple, mindful nudity is such an incredibly effective and easily implemented tool towards realizing said aim...there's a glaring, exasperating disconnect somewhere.
Maybe it's all talk, mere sizzle, calculated selling point for enrolling people in long pricey workshops. Why allow people opportunity to experience dramatic, affordable healing through simple, mindful nudity, so liberating and re-integrating of mind-body-spirit in course of bathhouse visit, and thus have no need for any pricey long-term psychotherapy?
That'd be bad business.
It'd make shtick look a tad superfluous. So get rid of unfair competition. It's perhaps essentially same self-interested energy that, as said on home page, refuses to recognize startling efficacy of medical cannabis in treating a host of diseases while so many respectable mad-scientist pharmaceuticals are on scene sucking up life savings, pushing sometimes truly dangerous drugs. (Ever notice how often products' endless legal disclaimers end with "May cause death"?)
In contrast, only real danger of nude sunbathing is, at worst, risking skin cancer later down the road if overdoing it. And admittedly it's easier to burn your butt on hot sauna bench. Can't think how skinnydipping can ever be dangerous, unless it's getting so used to it that one risks hassle at other public places if trying to further practice such easily accustomed-to body freedom.
(Springs history concluded)
No time to write
Finally, for some reason it appears few other historic Northwest mineral spring resorts have ever published their stories either. Harbin Hot Springs's in-depth book and Breitenbush's booklet are only known exceptions. To writer's knowledge, neither Orr, Wilbur, Jackson Wellsprings nor Sierra Hot Springs have ever written their histories in any published form. see Other Resorts This, though some are older than Stewart's and possibly even richer in lore (and, for sure, less tragic). Possibly both Orr and Wilbur were stagecoach rest stops in 1800s. One wonders if maybe Black Bart liked to unwind with good mineral soak amid redwoods at Orr after latest Wells Fargo stageline holdup.
Perhaps it's not so much a mystery after all that there's never been a book on Stewart Springs.
With ongoing operations in it for long haul, mineral spring resorts' focus is of necessity kept on present and future to stay on top of operations and plan fine-tuning of things. No time to divert limited energies trying to unearth and make sense of some elusive, vanished past.
More's the pity, though. As every conscious being knows (and writer reminds self), past, present and future are all one on spiritual plane -- each constantly influencing others in myriad ways.
Knowing place's past, its beginnings and evolution, can allow visitors fuller appreciation and keener enjoyment of Springs...and give any aware stewards more solid foundation of understanding for charting viable new projects to further place in ways allowing visitors to better experience healing affects of rare portal.
Beyond sometimes dreary human politics of place and current muted policies inhibiting becoming any more one with realm's wild healing beauty, if one listens closely one can hear the land's timeless history in the rushing of the creek and wind through the trees.
It's perfect after all
Seventy-eight years under the Stewarts' dedicated care and over 65 years under various other land stewards since --
Mendera and spirited Mexican crew's new bridge near A-frame >
each with different visions and intents creating varied land improvements, all overlays on original pre-historic use as sacred healing ground -- have made for super, grand crazy-quilt rustic springs operation we have today.
Disregarding unfortunate notions any new ownership might harbor to re-purpose or privatize place, no matter what man attempts to do to magical healing realm it remains perfect in its imperfection...an exquisite jewel of sacred ground and healing waters that have drawn people for centuries, formerly for free, now for coin of realm, to heal, rejuvenate, and, in past and hopefully once again in future, connect with kindred spirits amid glad tidings of nature in optimally relaxed way losing clothes so magically fosters.
Even when place loses its way and jumps down rabbit hole of inappropriate ventures that it becomes so gnarly a row to hoe for any with bohemian leanings they give up on place, on crucial level the mystic realm with its profound energy vortex properties always transcends any human operational intent.
With new ownership connected to apparent spiritual and quasi-spiritual organizations and earth's vibrational frequency increasing, one would've naturally hoped medicine wheel of sacred land would now be gathering serious new momentum by now.
That instead it appears to be regressing further away under self-interested, semi private-minded intent doesn't mean it can't bounce back in future.
Either new ownership's hearts will melt or, barring seeming unlikelihood, they run place into ground, as Infinite Spirit foils any wonky plans to co-opt healing lands longterm for any narrow-focused, non-public-minded use -- or they finally get a karmic wake-up call, regardless of becoming success or not. Then they'll throw in towel, ideally redeeming selves -- and their ultimate Springs legacy -- by finding and selling place at fair price to one or ones who will honor restoring land to former ways of culturally-diverse, affordable, open-minded, sacred purification, healing and rejuvenation.
One enjoyable by all on positive, growth-minded paths on mother earth.
The place deserves no less.