All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Further excerpted reviews of Stewart Mineral Springs reposted from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google, including most recent. Interspersed with rambling commentary by former 18-year SMS work-trader and volunteer assistant manager under Mary H., 1999-2002.
See here for Parts 1 & 2, including in-depth take on current dismal situation in new intro. Bear in mind many reviews were posted LONG before new 'ownership's' sea-level change in operations, including
December 2017 eviction of sweat lodge, removal of gazebo altar, earlier November 2016 clothing-optional ban (now rendered moot), and perhaps most shocking,, attempted repurposing of bathhouse.
Suspect that many rave posters, had they visited pre-virus shutdown, would've felt like deleting or reversing more glowing reviews in a Texas heartbeat.
Note: TripAdvisor in 8-2019 deleted all reviews going back more than a couple years, as legal ownership had changed. Many older reviews, headlines, and excerpts are likely preserved here only now.
"I have LOVED this place for over 50 years!....but last time we were there the head lady there gave a weird vibe. She was short & belittling to the help, and phony nice with customers..."
(Althea H., Park City, UT, Yelp review under 'currently not recommended')
"This is such beautiful, sacred land and blessed, healing waters; I am so grateful for all the stewards, past and present. It is a place to come for retreat, introspection, contemplation, to enjoy the serenity and majesty of nature..." (rory f. - L.A., CA Yelp review)
"These are the rudest people I have ever met."
(unattributed Yelp review)
"Even though there were no people around, someone came out of an office to shout at us that nudity was prohibited. WHAT?
What a strange place!"
(Beth H., 8-1-20 TripAdvisor)
"...a magical piece of land full of life..."
(Dominique Habroucq, Google review)
"The people who run this place are clearly happy to ignore the fact that this place is a resource for all people..."
(Drew S., Oakland, CA Yelp review)
"I hope one day someone takes over with the
love and care it needs."
(unattributed Yelp review)
"So sad about the changes up there"
(Susan Shannon, SMS Facebook)
"...very disappointed that the staff was so strict and conservative..." (Leigh Christie, Google review)
If this is supposed to be a sacred place it doesn't really
feel all that healing."
(Matthias D., S.F., Yelp under 'currently not recommended' at page bottom)
"This land will push them out if the owners don't change their habits and accept people in to enjoy this sacred area."
(Anders D., Yelp, 8-2020)
Part 3: review headlines -- most recent reviews -- restaurant -- classic reviews
Part 4 (click): restaurant -- management grumblings -- big picture overview -- calling forth new stewardship
Revealing Review Headlines
Oftentimes review headlines said it all. No surprise that TripAdvisor summaries spanning decades were all over the map:
"Peaceful, Perfect Stewart Springs" (MGalli, Chico, CA)
"I wouldn't stay here again." (unclebennie, Oregon)
"Amazing Experience" (Portland, OR)
"Gritty!" (Laura708, Redding, CA)
"Rustic and wonderful" (sofiska, Bend, OR)
"Great Place, Very Poor Management" (Sydney, Australia)
"Sacred Site, Sacred Bathing" (Arnhem, the Netherlands)
"Beautiful Area - Not Too Friendly"
"Yelled at for going in the door! (Javacat_California)
"Tops for Mother Nature's healing properties at their best" (Brookings, OR)
"Lost weekend" (Tbannikova, Tripadvisor)
"If you like funky hot springs, this one's for you!" (Ceetay 60-27, Aromas, CA)
"Fall in love" (SubjectTravel, Baton Rouge, LA)
"Freezing cold and rude staff" (Monterey, CA)
"A Wonderful Place to Relax" (mrsmueller, Halifax, Canada)
"Would NOT go back, would NOT recommend" (bistra, Florance, OR)
"Fabulous healing waters and spiritual atmosphere!" (Carl M. Ashland, OR)
"Rustic but perfect at the same time" (Port Alberni)
"Wish I Had Never Gone There..." (1happyclam [?])
"Simplicity at its best" (Kae L., Chico, CA)
"Not what it used to be" (John T, Carpenteria, U.S.)
"...I'm not spiritual, but the place changes you" (Irishwannabe, Portland, OR)
"Not for a party, even for mellow folks" (Sunrae54, Redding, CA)
"Why, when things change, it never seems for the better anymore" (Shastadaisy, Martinez, CA)
"Very bad new ownership" (Andy G.)
"A Gem Nestled in the Woods" (Michelle M. - San Diego)
"Funky but Relaxing Stay" (Kellismom, S.F.)
"Lovely atmosphere" (Persephone2010, Northern CA)
"Confusing" (Kirstine 2013, S.F. California)
"I floated away from here on Cloud 9" (rther, Berkeley, CA)
"Felt Ripped Off" (Laurie497, Benicia, CA)
"Amazing Experience" (WillPDX, Portland, OR)
"Great place for a retreat" (Boston, Mass.)
"Retreat from What?" (Victrola78, Santa Rosa, CA)
"Unfair policies - don't reserve here!" (goggirose, Pacific Northwest)
"Mediocre experience" (Audrey, San Francisco)
"...Mother Nature's Healing Properties at Their Best" (Brookings, OR)
"Better than I expected!!" (LIBLK5, Paso Robles, CA)
"Horrible customer service, horrible accommodations and horrible experience" (KnitVallejo, Vallejo, CA)
"...Little gem" (Nearyme, Juneau, Alaska)
"Worst night of my trip" (bomshellbaby, Seattle, WA)
"One of my favorite places on the planet" (Ori977, Ashland, OR)
Such varied reactions, beyond changing times and management/staff, showed in part how everyone has different headspaces, expectations, and opinions of what constitutes a good mineral springs resort. And how willing or able one is to let place's energy heal and transform by letting go of petty worldly concerns in process.
Alas, they also showed how the place in recent decades harbored callous, profit-driven, jack-in-the-box energies
(and with last 'owner' change, heedless private-minded diversionary intent to boot) that could spring out of nowhere, shocking and disillusioning unsuspecting hopeful visitors to hell and gone.
More (relatively) recent reviews
To wit... This late 2017 posting on Online Instagram Posts by Michele Feasby reflected many people's deeply conflicted feelings over the changes under new 'ownership':
"Visited one of my most favorite spaces up in Shasta, Stewart Mineral Springs. I hadn’t been in a few years. The second I started walking the grounds and headed towards the head springs, I couldn’t help but notice it didn’t feel the same. There used to be angelic statues, altars, all over the grounds, ALL GONE! I arrived to the head waters of the springs where this gorgeous altar used to be, guests would leave offerings, all gone. I couldn’t help but feel sad, I had left gifts there.
"What did it for me though was that I went in to get my bath and sauna, expecting to pay $15 [early 2000s price on locals day - Ed.]. They now charged $35. I get the business incentive to this, repairs, employees la de da, but Siskiyou county is one of the poorer counties in California. This place has been a local spot for as long as I can remember. The old Italians would say they would come to this spot for healing in the winter, when their bones would hurt from the cold.
"Apparently the new owners have a different idea of what this place should be. I feel conflicted. Change in one hand is good, being accepting of how others practice their spirituality. Then on the other hand respecting the history and tradition of these grounds. There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that has been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased [emphasis added]. The new owners, from what I heard, want to make it more 'mainstream'. I wish places like this could be protected..."
Also from 2017:
"I have been treated very rudely by the management and staff here several times. The place itself is exquisite but it unfortunately appears to be managed by people who seem to be exploiting this place of natural beauty for their own greed
and profit. A one hour bath now is costing up to $35.00! That is quite unrealistic and exploitative and way more than any other hot spring I have ever been to.
"The staff could use some hospitality training and are lacking in graciousness. Nor do they appear to have any sense about making guests feel welcome. They are very into rigid rules that they aggressively and with even hostility impose upon the guests. I am looking forward to a change in their management and I hear so is much of the local community. Hopefully they will get much more gracious staff as well as management that respects the integrity of the environment as well as the guests that come there. What a shame!"
-- Sue M., Los Angeles, Yelp review in 'Currently not recommended' section (just above bottom of page; click link to scope deep-sixed, often more critical reviews -- also loads of shill postings Yelp apparently saw through.)
One would've hoped. But alas, staff and management are only a reflection of current absentee stewards' mindset and intentions. At this point the well of public goodwill is so poisoned, they'd have to let go of place entirely for spring fans to have any chance under God's blue heaven to again experience a gracious and conscious management that so richly befits such a mystic healing realm.
"We feel that the prayers of respect and
gratitude have been felt by the land"
-- former management's website statement
Neon-bright sign of how disconnected and asleep-at-wheel things got: for nearly a year after the gazebo's prayer altar was torn down and initially replaced with a not quite so inviting "No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted" sign, the website still had the following up, a holdover from previous management under old 'ownership':
Over the years, many of our guests have taken a stroll over the wooden bridge to what we call the Source House (sometimes known as The Gazebo). Once inside they gazed through the glass floor to watch the mineral water gently seep out of the rocks and into the creek. When we designed the small, wooden building , we included a small shelf on one side. Little did we realize what we began [Ed. -- royal 'we'; craftsmen likely built gazebo before manager was even born].
"The simple shelf is now an altar filled with candles, dried flowers, stones, crystals, notes, and so much more. We love our guests! We feel that the prayers of respect and gratitude have been felt by the land and have truly made the water sacred."
If having left this bit of kind and insightful sentiment (at least showing Rowena could have heart) up on site so long after the legal steward change and ensuing shocking changes didn't tell you something about new absentee stewards' utter disconnect from communicating with the public, don't know what could. Sentiment, finally removed, had become a glaring smiley-face fiction reflecting 'ownership's' disinclination to provide even one dollop of real, honest communication to place's once-loyal visitorship and the general public.
Perhaps they knew there was nothing they could say at that point to assuage the utter shock and heartbreak...the overwhelming sense of betrayal felt by so many supporters who'd fondly held and honored the place's healing energy for decades...perhaps no real concern either, seemingly content to let the chips fall where they may.
Material wealth, with all its attendant rigid structuring needs to preserve and grow it along with greater power, seems all too easily to callous one IF becoming so preoccupied with ever-greater accumulation and control that it crowds out the greater treasures of spiritual awareness and compassion for fellow humanity.
Obviously, totally abandoned was the former time-honored intent to run Stewart Springs in cheerful dedicated service -- no untoward compulsive bottom-line watching or half-baked diversionary fantasies -- the desire being to foster relaxation and help people heal through spa service in unassuming, affordable manner as founders did, along with a select few stewards since.
Barring any stray manager responses posted to try neutralizing negative online reviews or defend/explain policy, most everyone involved seemed to give the appearance of merely trading on threadbare illusions and shallow-water courtesies. Meanwhile, they leisurely spun the now-gone Stewart website of egregious diversionary intent: getting rid of historic bathhouse service, creating and perpetuating a wound-up, bourgeois-friendly atmosphere reflecting a semi-private shtick, catering to groups-only visitors if only to chip away at high overhead, while gearing up plans for its own specialized classes, workshops, and private events sans spa, the very heart and soul of the place to myriad visitors over time.
Outfit's own Pneuma website early on, before officially changing name in 2021, showed by referring to place as Pneuma Retreat Center that it was obviously no longer Stewart Springs to their minds.
With truth-in-advertising transparency, they might just as well have posted:
Shameless rebranding and
reckless repurposing in progress
Please accept our rigidity...or not
(We should care?)
Granted, it seems spirit could move them at times, judging by the blissful group photos of private Pneuma-affiliated group happenings posted on site and waxing-poetic postings by affiliated visitors...and FINALLY some communication to public on 5-1-20, over four years in, if only for the site-announced decision to permanently close bathhouse operation and massage services (rather than, ostensibly, wait out pandemic)...but very likely having planned to repurpose building all along, never in the remotest keen on running any hippy-dippy healing spa and their initial effort to turn it into more conventional, clothing-compulsory one failed abysmally. Once the pandemic came along it provided a handy-dandy, quasi plausible excuse to simply abandon spa service altogether.
Alas, regardless of actual mindset, their seeming sincere words of regret -- striking some as crocodile tears -- were too late to make one bit of difference to untold legions of former loyal visitors who'd suffered extreme alienation of affection and severe lifestyle disruption over the devastating changes made from late 2016 through early 2018 -- made with ZERO input sought from the longtime visitor base.
Rants and raves, cont'd
The following was first Tripadvisor review on place in half a year, posted by DannieJ_13 of Montreal, Canada, exactly two years earlier, on May 1, 2018, confirming how place was going to hell in a hand basket:
"New owners --- not as nice as it used to be
"Unfortunately this place is not what it once was...The pool in the river now has fewer rocks and the river flows right over them: it has been neglected. The cool animal cards and Native American cards (with interesting books) which used to grace the seating area have been thrown away. Why? They are missed.
"The outside shower has been shut down and the path to the gazebo/meditation area on the river has been blocked off. Why? The whole place reeks of neglect/laziness in what was once an amazing place..."
In fairness, mentioned path had been crudely blocked off many years earlier under former 'remote stewardship', apparently something about steep regulation by a government agency regulating private land near public waterways making rebuilding the severely eroded, at spots unsafe hillside trail difficult to impossible within budget.
But it did seem wrong to take away showers, even if originally installed for sweat lodge participants, as campers who also came to use them could then only shower in bathhouse during limited open hours (even then only if coming before check-out time or having to pay extra); brave a (hopefully soapless) dunk in cold creek; or stay grungy -- even if its coin-metered operation, something like 50 cents per 30 seconds, itself seemed pretty outrageous.
Late June 2018 Yelp posting by Vladimir V., of San Bruno, CA, socked it to new operations. [Parts of it, and others following, are emphasized by editor with italics or underlining]:
"Apparently, change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places - but is there even such a thing as 'ownership' in that regard? Shouldn't it be a stewardship? ...
"I used to stop by Stewart every time I would go to my property in Siskiyou county, for some years at least seven or more... the area is magnificent, water is as powerful as the nature there, and sauna is (still) one of the best around. I feel that I'm more local to that place than its current owners. Unfortunately, things have changed dramatically a couple years ago, apparently with arrival of new owners. Prices basically doubled during that period - and yes, of course I understand the need for improvements and can see some
work done - not that I like much of it, like bath 'improvements'... but why does it have to come at the expense of basic services and normal human treatment (see more below)?
"Clothing is no more optional in sauna, on the deck and in the creek, and I feel that this really detracts from previous powerful cleansing experience that I had there...
"My most recent and most unfortunate experience is this: I stopped there on a Sunday to have a tub, paid cash and enjoyed the time and space. Later, I decided to stay there overnight in a tipi ... Long story short: the fact that I couldn't stay in the tipi as I didn't feel OK there and left the same evening doesn't count, sure, maybe - however, to add insult to an injury, few days later I found that I was not given promised discount...
"I promptly called the front desk, but poor girl couldn't reasonably address my concerns, so she promised to readdress them to the manager...
"A week later - still, no refund. I call back that guy's phone - and he just hangs up on me... needless to say, I'll never go back to Stewart as long as these people are in charge there.
"...you may already know from other posts here that current management pushed local native Karuk people's sweat lodge off the premises. I've been to the lodge and enjoyed
the ceremony, incredible stories and soulful singing, and observed guests from all over the world attending - large delegations from Italy and Japan, for instance... well, how stupid [does] one [have] to be in order to cut that off?
"It is very unfortunate that I have to advise everyone to boycott Stewart Mineral Springs at this point - the water is still there, as powerful as always - however, in the end it's the people who make all the difference."
Late July 2018 Yelp posting by one Leo H, of Los Gatos, CA, essentially echoed radically shifting sentiments:
"This year we gave the baths another try after coming here for 10+ years when visiting the area and climbing Shasta. Unfortunately, the bath house last year started to cater to the "mainstream" tourists after the new ownership made major adjustments to policies.
"Obviously, the new rules posted all over the facility weren't welcomed by their regulars. But even with some improvements, it's clearly not the serene, quiet, and beautiful place it used to be. The love seems missing from the place - it has a more clinical feel to it. It's just another business now ... The native Indians who have run a regular sweat lodge as well as ceremonies on their premises have left. [like they had any choice - Ed.]
"Catering to conservative clients, clothing is required in sauna and creek dip, which is really awkward for someone who knows sauna culture and wants to let everything go during the cold plunge in the creek.
"Well, I can just hope that, one day, their management opens up again to the spiritual culture, kindness, and openness that is present in the Mt Shasta area."
Same with mid-August 2018 Yelp posting by Beth C of Oakland, CA:
"What a disappointment. We have been coming to Stewart Mineral Springs for 15 years on stopovers between Oakland, Ca and Central Oregon. We usually just soak but I have also stayed in teepees. This trip we decided to get a cabin. We noticed a change in vibe as soon as we opened the door to the office. Gone we're all the beautiful pictures of Shasta and crystals as well any ambiance at all.
"We were informed that the bathing suit optional was no longer an option. Now nudity was strictly forbidden! I had a hard time imagining taking a cold plunge after sauna wearing a sheet, as why would I put on a bathing suit to take a mineral bath? The new regulations of no nudity...seem rather disrespectful to those people who have been coming to the springs for many many years before new ownership.
"When we went from the office to the bath house it looked run down. There were no longer foot baths to clean your feet after coming up from the river, so your bath filled with dirty feet... I had a hard time relaxing with a group of kids splashing in the creek. It no longer had that spa feel.
Not Stewart Springs, but it could have similar euphoric energy on magical summer days
"After, we went to our cabin. For $120 a night it was a broken spring bed with rocky wood bed frame... Also, given the outdoor nature of the resort, we were surprised by the lack of outdoor eating options...the deck to the closed cafe seemed off limits and uninviting..."
Ditto with late November 2018 post on Yelp by Sarah B., of Ashland, OR:
"I have had many healing moments at this hot springs but will likely not be returning due to the changes with new ownership... The establishment is no longer welcoming the first peoples of the area to hold their sweat lodges on the land. The 'locals' prices have gone up and the clothing optional policies have changed. Very unfortunate."
Also, from Brian E. in S.F., CA Yelp review, buried at bottom of page within "Currently not recommended" link:
"Amenities severely degraded since early 2017. Reviews before this point are not indicative of what to expect..." [More precisely, since 11-1-16, day one of clothing-optional ban, which started all the other dominoes falling- Ed.]
One review posted on Google January 2018, a year after initial sea change:
"I used to visit these springs regularly from Ashland. The only way I could afford to go was on half price day since they charge an arm and leg to soak there. That was when the cost was $25 and there were two days to get half price, one for locals which they even allowed Ashland people to do.
"Now the price is $35 with only one half price day for only locals of Siskiyou county. By the time I pay for gas and lunch away from home for the day, it's going to be a good $50 just to sit in one of their tubs for a whole hour and a half. Whoopee. There are too many other choices around here and after seeing they closed the sweat lodge... Wow. WHO are they catering to? The old management was bad enough, the new management sounds even WORSE. I don't ever see myself going back there. Sad to say. The water is nice but not ALL THAT." -- Zp Zap
One last 2018 Google Review, from Juliane G.:
"Niche community and unique - could be awesome if they were not so uppity. Most hippie communities are very friendly, helping and welcoming. I suggest they revisit that philosophy."
Lest situation seem too awful and terminally discouraging, here's a neutral rave, from Instagram post by one Luizasso, offering timely reminder and prayer:
"I hope that the place I have frequented for decades will be protected and preserved and that its purpose will continue to be that of Retreats Spiritual. This place is a blessed piece of Mother Earth."
And now a word
from our shills...
The following December 18, 2018 Google review, from one Dominique Flores Habroucq, is strikingly similar in tone to another review posted a day before, and another a few days after. All positively glowed about place. Writer lays ten to one odds she was involved with Pneuma group somehow and that they fancied doing shill postings in clusters to try to counteract intense informed-public condemnation of developments there.
It's so glowing, writer could've done ads for place -- wait, she already was:
"Awesome sacred place that invites you to forget about everyday worries and delve into your heart just by the mere contact with nature. Waking up at dawn definitely is an exquisite mystical experience and at night looking at the intensity of the stars that glow in the dark makes you feel loved and brings deep longing to be in peace. Stewart Mineral Springs is a magical piece of land full of life that is perfect for retreats, yoga, meditation or personal and family holidays. I have been coming for over a decade now and I just love it more and more.
"The new owners are very friendly and trying hard to make the place more beautiful and comfortable [hah! they're hired management, paid to be cordial; one can only wonder how public friendly the actual, most thousands-of-miles-distant, absentee 'owners' are -- Ed.]. I can see all the improvements they have done, like the treatment and care of the forest around the property, so needed. They truly love the land and think of it as a sacred living being [right, like clear-cutting an acre of mature pines and cedars]. The cleanliness of the rooms has improved tremendously since I started to come, and the food at the café when I have done catered retreats has been amazing...
"The bath house is what made Stuart [sic] Mineral Springs famous for the healing properties of the water, a true gift from Mother Earth. People with sensitive skin must take care but even to soak for a few minutes will make a difference on your health...There are some aesthetic elements that could be improved upon but it doesn't take away from the sanctuary that Stewart Mineral Springs has become for me and my family. I highly recommend enjoying a getaway weekend, a family vacation or partake in a group retreat... I've done them all and loved them!!! I just booked a family trip for this coming spring and I cannot wait to see all the new things that I will find all over the property."
Of course Pneuma members, family, friends, and sundry connections loved their new acquisition, wrested from the people. On some level they doubtless do honor it as sacred, for it is indeed an awe-inspiring place. But do they love and honor it -- and, more importantly, their fellow beings -- enough to want to share it with everyone, rich and poor, young and old, bohemian and conservative, straight and gay, nudists and perma-dressed, in joy of service and the open-minded, happy-to-serve way the place did for so long (if fitfully), before they snatched it away (through what many feel essentially amounts to legal thievery)?
Methinks not. Yet they waxed eloquent, members shamelessly shilling online reviews posing as general everyday public, hoping to entice readers to visit and part with their hard-earned money and unwittingly support the place's tragic departure from time-honored ways, in egregious violation of the sacred healing spirit of the land.
Again, they appeared to be trying to counteract the flood of negative reviews by siren-singing wooing less discriminating, no better informed travelers into supporting the inappropriate detouring. Departure from place's former dedication to providing often-profound spa experience and basic lodging -- into an utterly blase, slick, freebody-hostile, rural-escape experience...and a place for their own groups to flirt with private-peace transcendent consciousness in their own exclusive workshops, events, and celebrations.
Often it could appear that the former was something akin to former culture vultures who seemed to enjoy bragging online how they were taking the waters in the quasi renowned country-spa resort more than the experience itself, getting an idle rush arousing envy in stuck-at-home friends similarly caught
up in cyberspace, which if not present could easily get one hung up in fuzzy, not-here-and-now, diverting astral planes...
...also, catering to unaffiliated groups hosting events/workshops/retreats that didn't seem to mind a bit how the place had issued a virtual death warrant to its former bohemian culture and sterling hundred-and-forty-five year old healing spa tradition...at least not enough to quit supporting it, even if only grudgingly, out of desire to try getting another long accustomed fix at place despite new, tight-wound, convention-championing milieu mindlessly crimping former laid-back, live-and-let-live atmosphere.
The way writer sees it, no matter how many viewed-as-positive physical changes might've been made on grounds, on the most crucial level they were ALL irrelevant.
Present absentee stewards' suppression of long-accustomed freedom to pursue mindful clothing-optional, connect with prayer and love offering altar in spring gazebo and participate in weekly sacred sweat lodge neutralized any and all changes' worth, in the eyes of once-devoted aficionados...those who resonated with founder Stewart and wife's 39 years and, later, daughter's also 39 years of service-minded dedication to affordable purification in an unpretentious, down-home way that won fans the world over.
How long before it's rescued and saved from its abysmal situation, current paper holders abandoning place's time-honored roots dedicated to providing affordable purifying and healing to the masses, instead selfishly using it in mindbogglingly inappropriate pursuit of their own private shtick (and tough luck to the public)?
Hopefully not too long. It might be a silver lining of dread coronavirus outbreak that, along with racial injustice time of reckoning, it's jolting people out of asleep-at-wheel bourgeois mindstates into fresh awareness of what's important and fair-minded and what isn't...what serves mankind and what serves private interests. Crisis ultimately might make for future resurrection of mindful operation of the historic realm, re-dedicated to healing and grounded service for all comers.
Excerpts from first real online review of 2019:
"The place changed hands and became pricey...it was a blunder...they are making renovations but so far I liked the old one better." (Tbannikova, TripAdvisor)
Here's an April 2019 posting that was either yet another artful shill write-up or an actual independent reviewer pleased with changes...one which might've given some boycott fence-sitters pause for thought:
"The reason I love SMS is because of what it offers. I have been coming for eight years as a guest and workshop participant. I loved it eight years ago and love it even more today! The place has always had a beautiful rustic charm to it, but it was starting to need upgrades and repairs. I am so thankful that the new ownership, which seems to be a group, has taken on such a big project to bring it into a new era. It needed new energy to stimulate the true potential of this place.
"I can honestly say this place has a very bright future because of this effort. So, I am happy to let go of what used to be so I can embrace what is. SMS is a beautiful sacred place that I hope you get to visit. Spend time in the forest, the sauna, in the baths, by the river, or sharing peace with the people you love the most. I also highly recommend the entire surrounding area of Weed and Mount Shasta to explore too. We, my wife and I, have had many interactions with locals and have found our favourite restaurants as a result. The last time I was there, I got a ride from SMS to the Medford airport, only 75 minutes away. The retired local driver also shared her new excitement for the changes at SMS. It seems that many are seeing the beauty that is growing and embracing a new era on the land. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself."
-- Kreel H., S.F. CA Yelp review
Again, whether or not a genuine and earnest independent review and not merely another Pneuma-affiliated spin-controlling, fake-review spiel, it might've swayed some review-site readers to give the place benefit of the doubt and another try.
Not spring purists. Die-hard Stewart Springs fans could NEVER resonate and relax in operation that suppressed former open-minded bohemian spirit that had made place so extraordinary...light years beyond what any mere upgrades or new amenities alone could ever provide.
Such remain adamant in refusal to ever spend another blessed cent there as things stand. For legal-paper holders selfishly overturned, mangled, and straitjacketed the former beautiful, wild and free spirit of realm, all to fit own private interests and more insular lifestyles.
Another reviewer from Canada on 2-11-19 Yelp mirrored extreme dismay of place's countless now-estranged fans:
"It is not what it once was...they have taken away the clothing-optional bathing in the creek...the amazing sweat-lodge...has been taken away -- why? -- and so, local American Indian tribe is no longer honored...the place has lost some of its magic."
-- Troy A, QC Canada
Late July 2019 Google reviewer was even more aggrieved:
"New ownership. I used to LOVE this place. No longer clothing optional, which took away from the experience for me. Sadly I won't be going back."
-- Kaiya Hatcher
And from August 2019 Google review:
"We were delighted by the creek, the nature and the sauna. But we were very disappointed that the staff was so strict and conservative about the rules. They were not rude or anything like that. In fact they were very polite. You'd think because of the [former] hippie vibes, the books on Buddhism, the Tarot cards in the waiting area, and the hippie origins of the spa that they would be pretty relaxed about women going topless in the creek [actually, more bohemian vibe with permitted clothing-optional only evolved in the 1970s, under the Goodpastures, a hundred years after founding; then nudity was forbidden through the eighties and nineties and then again allowed from 2000-2016; Ed.].
"However, they were very strict and conservative. You must cover up if you are a woman. But men are allowed to go topless. Simply unacceptable in the 21st century in California IMO. The owners need to change this policy before they find themselves in a discrimination lawsuit."
-- Leigh Christie
Many might not realize that until the 1930s in America men were also required to cover their upper bodies at public bathing places or could be arrested or, at very least, hassled and made to feel shamelessly exhibitionistic. Some more progressive-minded states like New York now allow women the same personal freedom to go topfree anywhere a man can.
Some, rightfully, take gender discrimination in body-freedom rights seriously.
Fine view of dirt parking lot
A November 3, 2019 posting brought up something writer hadn't thought about, or did but had tuned it out: creek view and easy access.
"I've been there twice, about 8 years ago and again last week. Nothing has improved. I guess it's okay if you don't have great expectations about the accommodations. It is a one-star place, more like a hostel than a motel...
< Key West, FL public
Fantasy Fest participant
"Behind the 'cottages' [apartments #1-6] is the lovely creek, but there is no access, no back door. [except in apt. 1, Ed.]. Your chairs are set by the front door so you can look at the dirt parking lot..."
-- Miranda N., Klamath Falls, OR, Yelp, under "Currently not recommended"
Here's the first 2020 review found worthy of reposting. Not many relevant ones anymore (or even irrelevant ones, for that matter). Perhaps it's all pretty much been said by now.
"I enjoyed Stewart for at least 25 years, and sent dozens of friends there as well. Visited soon after it changed ownership and very disappointed about the clothing optional ban. It would have been acceptable had the owner just explained the cultural shift, however he actually told me, "we had a lot of perverts here". I was too stunned to question his definition but assume he meant homosexual (gay). I told him I would never return.
"It's been awhile and we are going up I-5 near Stewart so thought I would check the reviews. Terrible, with many " rude, angry owners" comments. And now they didn't survive the virus and have closed the baths. A long- standing, respected and beloved space destroyed."
-- Laurie L., Middletown, CA Yelp 6-23-20 review
Spoke too soon. Here's another, a TripAdvisor review by Beth H., posted 8-1-20:
"Experienced hot springs person is
disappointed and ripped off here...
"I came here with my adult daughter on our way home to SF Bay Area from a visit to Bend. It was my first time and I was recommended by a fellow yoga teacher. I've been a long time member of Harbin, Sierraville and often go toWilbur.
"We arrived at 5:30 pm for a two night reservation and there was no one to meet us, and no instructions. A cell phone number was there but no cell service. We wandered around looking for someone and when we found her, she was rude and unwelcoming and was not wearing a mask (we were). I asked to stay for just one night, which we ended up doing, but I was forced to pay for both nights even though I gave her 24 hours notice. Also, they wouldn't allow us to use the common kitchen, which I've never run into before.
[Ed. note: actually in recent times there never WAS a communal kitchen. But the place always seemed to have a vibe that there was one somewhere -- no doubt the persistent echo from olden days of down-home, open sharing Stewart family management of almost 80 years, when there most definitely WAS one.]
"My daughter and I used the creek to do a little dip and even though there were no people around, someone came out of an office to shout at us that nudity was prohibited. WHAT? What a strange place!
"Made only stranger by the fact that the fuse box was located about 1 foot from the shower in the bathroom. That struck me as extremely unsafe. Also the hot plate unit in the kitchen had no place to plug in, so we had to move it to the table to actually use it."
And another, posted 8-11-20 on Yelp by Benicia B, S.F., alerting public that -- shocking beyond belief -- they actually removed the bathhouse's tubs. (This is a worthy reprise from the top of the home page):
"I'm writing to express deep sadness and profound disappointment at the Pneuma group for dismantling the bathhouse - the bathtubs and rooms have been removed, and the place renovated to be a "retreat space". The springs are a sacred place offering healing waters to people who came from around the world for decades.
"I've been going there for more than 30 years. This is not a place 'owned' by anyone - it is meant to be stewarded by whoever manages the land.
"Now, the Pneuma group, a non-US organization in a quest for money, has taken out the baths and the bathhouse. There are no more springs for anyone to benefit from. Pneuma has violated a sacred trust and duty to preserve an ancient, unique resource and sacred site. Ironically, they now hold 'chakra and mantra' workshops in the space previously provided for people to explore the inner realms on their own. They are capitalizing on the destruction of a place they clearly don't understand and should not have been in control of. There are no words for the violation of their responsibility to steward this sacred place.
"Shame on you, Pneuma."
And, possibly to catch more yet uninformed of current travesty, or remind informed of situation, she posted on Yelp again:
"The Pneuma group, which took over the springs a couple years ago [six, in fact, as of 2022; Ed.] have destroyed Stewart Springs. They ripped out the entire bath house - so there are no springs to bathe in anymore - and they kicked off the native Americans doing the sweat lodge ceremonies. This non-US group has completely erased a site long considered a sacred healing site through generations. Now, they host silly retreats about faux shamanism and hock their pseudo spirituality. Where before this was a place of refuge, it is now an empty shell. Avoid this place and the indelible grief that permeates it."
Finally, here is a confirming March 11, 2022 Yelp-posted summation:
"This used to be a California gem before management change. I had been coming here for 15 years. The baths are gone as is the sauna. Its become a half-assed new age center selling dubious breath work retreats. Breaks my heart, the new owners ruined this spot and made it inaccessible as a day destination."
-- Jeff L., Mill Valley, CA
How long will we be deprived of one of our favorite places on earth? Time will tell.
see Grumblings on Management in Yet More Rants & Raves, Part 4, for more concerned PRE-owner-change, reposted online comments, barbs, scathing rebukes...and an in-depth rambling on grounds restaurant and metaphysical overview take on springs's incredibly checkered history.