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"Oats were great, but I got the feeling horses were no longer welcome. And made to wear a blanket on a hot summer day? Neigh, I say."

-- Gallumpher,  Globetrotter Quarterly

Stewart Mineral Springs 

Review Rants & Raves

Trying to Make Sense of

Dizzying Disparity in

Travel Site Reviews

"I AM LIVID!!!!!!!!!!! They hide behind their computers...I'm not sure they even respect the sacred land upon which it sits...Do NOT have an event here...It's void of spirit...I only pray the Spirit of the Ancestors opens their hearts..."

-- S.L, Los Angeles, CA 4-12-22 Yelp review

"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift..."

-- Jill B, San Luis Obispo, CA  older Yelp review

"...this place is a blessed piece of Mother Earth"

-- Luizasso - older Instagram post

"Some of the most healing mineralized high vibe waters on earth!  Such an amazing place, like another dimension, beyond words."

   -- Kelly Lynn Anderson, older Twitter review

"It's a shame what has happened

to the once-wonderful establishment"

-- Michael B., Santa Fe, N.M., Yelp review

"A long-standing, respected and beloved space destroyed." 

 -- Laurie L., Middletown, CA, Yelp review

"I am deeply saddened... I will not be back... I pray for the land and the new owners."

-- Carla C., Weed, CA Yelp review

"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."

-- Michele Feasby, Instagram

"the Pneuma group...bought -- and then erased -- the Stewart Springs bathhouse and legacy. Don't be fooled by the name - there are no mineral springs here anymore. ...[They] ripped out the bathhouse and the sauna, which has been a place of healing and restoration for ​generations... I've been struggling the find words for how wrong and tragic this is..."

--Benicia B, December 2022 Yelp review

"The current owners and management have sucked the beauty, joy, innocence and purity from this sacred place... changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades." 

-- Anu Honey, Nevada City, CA Yelp review

"I love...the shift in energy that the new owners have brought..." 

-- Beth W., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review

"I have had many healing moments at this hot springs but will likely not be returning due to the changes with new ownership ..."

-- Sarah B., Ashland, OR, Yelp review

"...WHO are they catering to? The old management was bad enough, the new management sounds even WORSE..."

-- Zp Zap, Google review

"It's sacred land and you really feel that as soon as you arrive."  

-- Caroline H., Ojai, CA Yelp review

"...the best we can hope for is the new owners fail in their attempt

 to pimp this place for the big money..."

-- Todd C., Mt.Shasta, CA, email

"This used to be a California gem...The baths are gone, as is the sauna. It's become a half-assed new age center selling dubious breath work retreats. Breaks my heart...."

               -- Jeff L., Mill Valley,Yelp review 3-11-22

Hundreds of re-posted reviews  and review excerpts are here, most from Yelp and TripAdvisor, sprinkled here amid commentaries by a former deep insider. They've been curated over the course of a decade; most no longer exist online anywhere else. The compiler and commentator withdrew all support December 2017, after new 'owners' evicted the 45-year grounds sweatlodge, last straw for countless now long-estranged fans of the realm.

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~ Contents ~

Intro - pre-new-owner times

Part I - Rants & Raves -- rustic nature - former friendly staff - soak limits - water quality - nominal countercultural flavor - laid-back or not?

 

Part 2 - Rants & Raves, cont'd - hours - signs - creek music - body freedom or lack thereof

 

Part 3 (click) - More Rants & Raves online review headlines - most recent reviews - select classic reviews

 

Part 4 (click) - Yet  More Rants & Raves - grounds restaurant - dire grumblings on management - big-picture overview - grand call for a new stewardship

 
 

Original 2013 intro, updated

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Analysis freak at heart, I started this page in 2013 to try making sense of polarized online travel reviews of Stewart Springs posted over the years. Soon branched to address frequent visitor concerns, and the page grew like Topsy (whoever Topsy is). Then added SMS Facebook reactions to the 11-1-16 clothing-optional ban. Then it grew so long after sweat lodge ban, I split it into three pages.

 

Bouncing off select reviewer thumbs-up and -down excerpts are in depth takes -- some speculative, others informed -- rambling asides on such things as soak limits, grounds restaurant, open hours, clothing-optional and current, abysmally inappropriate 'ownership.'

 

It attempts, finally, to demystify the place by offering a Big Picture metaphysical overview.

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* * *

Rants & Raves

Part I

Rustic nature - Soak limits - Water Quality - Former Friendly Staff - 

Countercultural Flavor - Laid Back or Not?

Surf through various trip review sites like yelp and tripadvisor in pre-covid times and you read wildly opposing Stewart Springs takes. Everything from "Heaven on earth" to "I'll never go there again!" Understandably, it made for one roller coaster of a ride, leaving one to wonder if everybody could possibly be talking about the same place.

 

Of course one bore in mind that some reviews were posted ages ago. Different times, different managements -- even, now, different 'owners'. Stewart Springs, like people and planet as whole, is always changing. It's had its good moments and bad moments; good days and bad days; good years and bad years. Plus, everyone brought own unique awareness into mix -- often with expectations, reasonable or not, happily fulfilled, wildly exceeded, or utterly crushed.

Even so, it might still seem odd how two people visiting the same day might've been 180 degrees apart in their experiences and estimations. This could lead one to conclude some reviewers were perhaps tad snooty, not in touch with inner bohemian, holding up unreasonable expectations and irrelevant comparisons to more upscale spas and amenities impossible to provide -- many roundly undesired anyhow -- while others were more easy going, nature-attuned and rural friendly free spirits, open to embracing rustic environs and focused on enjoying having a therapeutic spa and retreat amid the glad tidings of nature.

Is 'rustic' a bad word?

WorkshopAttie of Monterey, CA bemoaned how, "For $130 a day, we had to build a fire in the woodstove as there was NO HEATING..." (Venerable wood heat didn't seem to count.)

 

 

And Google reviewer Christian George, in glorious contradiction, groused, "I'm all for rustic, but no phones, no TV, and NO WIFI! Did I fall off the face of the earth?" [yes, and many relished the feeling]

 

Also: "We had planned to have a wonderful experience and really start our vacation with a relaxing trip to the mineral baths, get massages and stay in the woods. Our experience was to the contrary..." (KnitVallejo, Vallejo)

 

50-50 review: "The hot springs is magical if you come just for the hot spring and meditate on the forest and creek side. But the accommodation is terrible." (Unattributed Yelp review)

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In contrast, countless happier campers raved:

"The place has an amazing rustic charm, and is the real deal as a mineral springs." (1Shastagirl Redding)

"Funky and perfectly rustic and remote. We love everything about the experience. Reminds us of a more authentic, down to earth time. Absolutely healing..." (Nina Hyatt, Google review)

"Extremely relaxing. Nice people, they're not crazy, they're just not from a city." (S.F., CA)

"I absolutely love the peaceful tranquility of this special place..." (Crystal Dawn)

"I don't go through Northern California without a stop here. A magical place... If I could live just up the road, I would." (Psychedelic_, Bloomington, Indiana)

"I must say, I wanted rustic and boy, did I ever get it!" (Alexia J., Montreal, Canada)

 

"The place is absolutely the most magical..." 

John R., Clay, MO)

"...a little run down and shabby. But this is the charm of it. Makes me feel more relaxed than somewhere fancy." (Cyndi Johnston)

"This place attracts people from all walks of life, all with the same intention -- to heal." (A Google User)

"If you're someone like me for whom periods of 'unplugging' are both feasible and valuable, you will definitely appreciate this setting..." (WaterViolet)

"One of the coolest mineral springs I've ever been to!!" (Kiki S., Los Osos, CA)

And:

"There is nowhere in the world that is like it, I have been to countless spas, banyas and sanctuaries and this is my absolute favorite..." (Jasmine, Sebastopol, CA)

"We are glad that they have not caved to any pressure to install TV, Internet and telephones in any rooms. It is really wonderful to UNPLUG and enjoy the nature..." (naz s., Redwood City, US)

"...although it was a short two night stay, it was very profound. I can still feel the 'high' from this place." (Rose R., Willows US)

"What an excellent spring!...the grounds are amazing...and the stream that runs through it is absolutely joyful." (Miranda D., Santa Fe, NM)
 

"Something old world and mysterious lurks about here, setting the imagination adrift. I was enchanted by my time here."

(Jill B - San Louis Obispo, CA)
 

"Rustic but perfect at same time. For those of you sensitive to beautiful healing energy you are going to love it. For those of you expecting a four star resort you will not be getting that! For myself, I would go back in a heartbeat." (thefunns)
 

"This is a relaxing rustic retreat from the rest of the world...if you want to recharge your batteries then you have found the right oasis. "

(John 434 on YellowBot)
 

"It's a place I return to over and over..."

(Dianne Elliot)
 

"I was completely charmed by this simple and relaxing gem of a place..."

(Jamie H., Alamo, CA Yelp review)
 

"The actual spring house (up the creek) completely stoned me out -- great energy there." (Cee Jay 60-27, Aromas, CA) 

"...never tire of it. I love going on a beautiful drive past the horses and the cows, up a mountain in the forest to a beautiful secluded rustic mineral spa. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes wonderfully blustery. When the weather is cold, it's lovely to sit by the fire. When it is sunny, it's exhilarating to jump in the creek. I love the ritual of going from a mineral bath, sauna and then the creek...

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(photo) Former office manager Danielle with long-time bathhouse mascot, Mr. Beechum (reportedly 'broomstick' in Welch). "My grandmother always told me, 'Love what you do and you'll never work another day in your life."  "Meow."

"...Yes it is 'funky' not your upscale experience, but it is way nice and all the other guests seemed 'chill'...if you are sensitive to nudity, go someplace else." (WanderlustSal)

"If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people." (BoyneDefender)

"Pretty and unpretentious" (SubjectTravel)

"A magical place, really. The accommodations are simple and rustic and the mineral baths are out of this world." (Psychedelic-Doughboy)

"An awesome retreat that was so good for this soul." (Darla M., Bend, OR)

Conclusion: some relish being immersed in the rustic simplicity of the place and seriously unwinding, perhaps adventurously building a fire in a simple cabin's wood stove to stay cozy warm on a cold snowy night. But others took uber-urbanized umbrage in having to resort to such primitive labor intensive heating methods, expecting conventional amenities and constant pampering, even in the middle of the woods, and lived to gripe about no hair dryer or wi-fi or hordes of shameless naked people despoiling an otherwise charming landscape.

long op/ed aside

(feel free to skip)

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Split-focus made operation challenging;

skitzy too

Diverse visitor expectations brought to the fore the split focus and constant challenge that even the most dedicated mineral springs resort often faces. So it could vastly over-complicate things if an owner directive caused over-wound preoccupation in maximizing profit, making for seriously off-putting skitzy management energies, to the detriment of any fuller enjoyment and benefit of one's stay.

But even if latter wasn't the case, running both a healing day mineral springs scene and comfortable overnight lodgings together can be trey tricky. Unless stay intent includes relaxing into a focused spa and/or meditative communing with nature and/or mindful workshops/retreats, the resulting disconnected visitor energy can all too easily muddle management team's focus. It pulls it in two directions at once: Healing retreat, Motel 6; healing retreat, Motel 6...

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At Stewarts, a would-be flowing organic scene could turn hopelessly disjointed and watered down whenever the drive to generate maximum profit at every turn eclipsed the place's original public-spirited, focused healing intent. 

 

Visitors expecting typical amenity-loaded lodgings, with the spa perhaps an offbeat bonus -- or, especially, if coming for lodgings alone -- were bound to be disappointed at the basic, sometimes threadbare accommodations.

In happy contrast, for visitors intent on purifying, healing, rejuvenating while enjoying immersing in nature -- the age-old vision of place and, lest one forget, the original reason for the operation's very existence (after eons of prehistoric use) -- the lodgings existed developed solely to support purifying spa treatments and 'back to basics' unwinding in the woods. They were more than willing to take a break from TV, phone, wi-fi, etc. and embrace the lodgings no matter how bare-bones, just so long as basic creature comforts and amenities were covered.

 

It was part and parcel of the backwoods healing retreat experience.

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Can the place's original intent

be re-activated?

As said elsewhere, the original dedicated purpose of Stewart's - - offering healing waters and a restful rustic respite from the cares of the world  -- had been gradually fading due to no more of six post-Stewart stewardships resonating  better with the founding vision since the pioneering reign of Stewart family's dedicated 78-years  ended in the early 1950's. To the point that the place had seemed segue into more of a quirky, relatively cheap, fashionably off-beat, rustic quasi-resort with an extra-pay option to take the waters.

More's the pity. Again, this writer had once naively hoped the newest 'absentee ownership', together with fresh dedicated management, would at last return the cart to the back of the horse and reclaim the vision of the place's namesake, wife and daughter and husband, who between them had run a down-home, essentially non-profit healing and hospitality service for four generations.

The hope was that they'd emulate their reverence for the special realm, echoing that of the natives's profound level before them for untold ages, and re-energize the non-profit in spirit, service focus that was likewise observed, in varying degree, by the Masons in the 1950's and 1960's and the Goodpastures in the 1970's (see History). One that enabled visitors to partake of the realm's sacred healing and grounding power without any off-putting over-commercial headwinds or serious re-purposing schemes putting a damper on the potential for profound healing and life-changing experiences by a diverse visitorship.

Obviously, writer's no longer holding his breath in light of the drastic and mindnumbingly wonky actions dictated by absentee 'stewards' that have effectively disconnected the very heart and soul of the place.

Paging the lucky seventh. We know you're out there. Destiny's calling. 

Even a conscious for-profit ownership instinctively realizes there must be a critical balance at such spring resorts, seeking the elusive sweet spot between making a reasonable return on tied-up capital and visitors most fully benefiting from the place. If lacking, if excessive monetary and/or narrowed focus and privatizing intent dominate, then the chaotic and sorrowful karma of the place's tragic massacre of the original soakers in the 1870s re-surfaces...as surely as night follows day.  Any well-meaning but clueless 'stewards' are ultimately left in the lurch with a sinking, 'Wha' happened?' feeling.

Better than any for-profit model...as a nonprofit, the place could again blossom in profusion, once and for all liberated from any depressing non-public-spirited focus...which can, if consciousness is sketchy enough, all to easily become an anti-life force. (Telling: some Natives called paper money dead frog skins; western settlers nick-named dollars bucks after the hides of slain deer once used as a unit of trade value.)

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Devotees are  now urging the universe to manifest an awakened, wealthy soul (not necessarily an oxymoron), couple or group. One(s) happy to rescue the place from the jaws of disaster and legally establish it as a nonprofit operation dedicated to purfying, healing and rejuvenating a greater humanity. One with the psyched support and input of the wider community and every aware and awakening visitor ever making a pilgrimage up the hill.

The odds are in our favor that it's not too late.

Of the 145 years of combined wise and foolish stewards, 54% formed the dedicated efforts of the founder and his daughter, and another 17% were under the earnest stewardship of the masonic lodge and the Goodpasture family. That's a total of some 70%...versus only 30% for more recent, profit-driven and/or semi-private, shtick-minded focus.

The greater long-term momentum overwhelmingly remains in favor of it once again serving the public in time.

Again, that amazing free-flowing energy can be re-activated IF enough fans of place INSIST on it, collectively visualizing it happening with stone-pure intent.

That's the vision.
 

Do enough people who have cherished the realm want it enough to actually manifest it?  That's the only real question about the Springs worth asking now.

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reviews, cont'd

Yet more endless raves:

 

"I love Stewart Mineral Springs [not for lodgings but]...for the spiritual power of the place and the healing properties of the land and mineral waters." (Diane Elliot)

"...absolutely the most magical place. I stayed here last night in this really cool, rustic cabin. The staff is amazing and friendly. If you want fancy and frilly, this place isn't for you but if u want pure and simple natural beauty, come here. It will blow your mind." (John R., Clay, US)

Reviewer Boyne Defender of Detroit, MI summed up the place so neatly, reprising it here: "If you are looking for a pampered spa, this is not for you. If you want to escape pressure, pretense and pomposity, you will love this place. This is a rustic resort for real people. I have had a great time each and every time I have been there." 

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Another qualified rave: "I love this place! It is not fancy, schmanzy but a great woodsy, spiritual place...the moment you come in to the grounds you feel yourself relax." (Carla C., Weed, CA.) 

 (image) Amazing gravity-defying rock sculpture by cold plunge, summer 2012, builder unknown. Like to think it was maybe playful earth spirits who created it overnight to blow the minds of mortals on arriving the next day 

And: "Once I got snowed in here for a few days right after Christmas. Not a bad place to be stuck!" (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)

"Truly sacred land." (A Groggel, S.F., CA)

"The whole scene imparts an incredible sense of relaxation and rebirth." (Kitty Case)

 "...sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta ..." (Doug. S., Pacifica, US)

 "Wonderful rustic resort. Totally off the beaten path...place has a magical feel to it..." (Crystal S., Davis, CA)

"It is not your 'upscale' Napa-type hot springs and I love that!" (Unattributed, 'not recommended' Yelp review)

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vs. more rants

Others have not been so charitable. One felt rich barbarian spa freaks had stormed the gates, crowding out everyday people. From Martinez, CA, an old post by shastadaisey:

 

"The earth goddesses have now been replaced by rude people in BMWs who leave you standing while they lay in the sauna. The sage weavers [smudge stick bundlers] have been replaced by signs with rules. It used to be a wonderful relaxing experience, but... truly peaceful earth-loving folks can't afford to participate anymore..."

Also: "I've loved this place for 20 years, but am disappointed in the recent changes. " (Benicia B., S.F.)

If indeed place is the energy vortex many believe it to be, amplifying whatever vibrations are brought to the realm, it's no wonder such diverse reactions could occur. People from all walks of life have been attracted to the place and each day was a unique blend of energies: expectations and head spaces, mood of the times, day's staff, 'owner' support and involvement or lack thereof, manager mindfulness, energy flow de jour, weather, shifting mass consciousness, world events, one's financial means, economy in general, Mercury retrograde,water heater going on strike, moon void-of-course, bad hair day... 

You call this a friggin' campground?

Some campers were sorely disappointed at the lack of camping amenities...and rightly so, often there being no handy drinking/washing water, shower, or bathroom better than porta-potty anywhere by:

 "Camp sites are not much more than a parking spot for $35 a nite." (Juliane, Google review)

"Quite uninviting...no drinking or washing water anywhere near the campsites." (Bistra, tripadvisor review)

Camp/picnic tables by the teepees were only added around 2001, about the same time their fire pits were removed as a fire-safety precaution. For a while, sleeping cots were provided, then it was back to dealing with the hard, cold ground.

Place Better or Worse?

One said she was "...pleased to discover that it was so much nicer than it was a few years ago" and that "...the resort is managed by caring people who are restoring it with ecological consciousness." "[M]anagers have made some much needed and lovely improvements". (Betsy46, Sacramento, CA).

Another: "One of my favorite places on the entire West Coast."

(Travis P., Ashland, OR)

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And:

"Simply put, this is the BEST place on Earth. If you are looking for a sacred, revered, carefully loved and cared for magical forest with a beautiful, clear cold stream coming from the waters of Mount Shasta with the astounding, and in fact miraculous, addition of a twin (female/male) underground spring of healing mineral waters all offered to you in a rustic, laid back and very affordable way, with much love, then this IS the place for you. The bathhouse experience is incredibly healing and rejuvenating, the grounds are gorgeous and the accommodations are comfortable and cozy. We love the cabins. I cannot recommend Stewart Mineral Springs highly enough..." (Doug S., Pacifica, CA)

For every rave, a rant

"I was met cordially with the information that things were 'much better than they used to be.' I had used the baths about 5 years before and thought they were great", going on to say not so now.

Or: "...in spite of lovely renovations to both the bathhouse and the sauna, the service has sadly declined."

One really discouraging pan: "Overpriced, disgusting place. I didn't sleep a wink..." (Emma L., Lechtenberg)

2017 visitor balthazer b, S.F., gave a mixed review, put off by the A-frame accommodations, the sauna not hot enough, the mineral water irritating skin, but enjoying the plunge, was left to muse, "Odd that the best part about the place was running out to jump in a creek."

While one enthused about how "mineral baths, sauna and river cold plunge were all fantastic, the best of that kind of thing I've ever experienced anywhere," another griped about jagged rocks at "outright dangerous" creek plunge, along with stains in the tubs.

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And bemoaned the limited soaking time and open hours:

"I spent my time worrying about how much time I had left, rather than relaxing into the experience." (Benicia B., S.F., CA)

"Extremely limited bathhouse hours..." (Michael B., Santa Fe, NM)

"We checked in at 5:45 and were disappointed to find out that the bathhouse closed at 4:30 pm and didn't open until 12:00 pm the next day. That meant that we wouldn't be able to soak, the main reason that we chose this resort." (unattributed Yelp review "not currently recommended" at bottom of page - might have to click a few times to bring up)

One especially poignant post reflected how Springs's limited mineral water supply and tubs had kept more visitors from enjoying therapeutic soaks:

"I reserved a place to sleep here after climbing Mt. Shasta knowing that our group of 5 would be exhausted and need recovery in the baths. We arrived and were surprised with the information that there were not enough baths [Ed. water running short] for us and that they were closing them down two hours early. We decided against staying because there was really no point if we were not able to use the facilities to recover our bodies. I was charged the full rate for the few minutes we spent in the office before leaving. 

"I guess this is their policy but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up an hour away from Stewart Mineral Springs and have always been really curious to go, which makes this experience devastatingly disappointing.

"I walked away with tears of disappointment and a much lighter wallet."

   -- April L., San Diego  

Yet another inevitable sidebar

(again, feel free to skip)

Limited but Powerful

Mineral Water

On the surface, a time limit on soaks might appear an understandable concern. Especially considering that most rural mineral spring resorts of Northwest allow unlimited soaking, albeit mostly in self-serve, communal pools.

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Many Eastern spring resorts with private tubs have similar time limits -- some for only 30 minutes and for more coin than Stewart's more leisurely 75 minutes. But any limit can be off-putting if the tub enthusiast is hoping to relax and totally forget about time for a while.

But developed springs with communal mineral pools have far greater replenishment rates. Ashland, OR's Jackson Wellsprings, for example, changes water in Olympic-sized pool each week (reportedly diluted with fresh) and its full-strength hot mineral pool twice a week; even showers are mineral water. They likely have thousands of times more mineral water to play with, as probably do most others in the wider region. If we had too, there'd maybe be less time restriction and more tubs. (But probably not, for the reason soon to follow.)

As many spring enthusiasts, given the choice, far prefer communal soak experience in the sunshiny out-of-doors over any private indoor private bathtub inside an open-topped, low-ceiling-ed, noise-echoing hallway stall. Stewart's might've long ago developed a mineral water pool too, had it the water to play with. (Though, being cold water, ambient-temp pool might not have been popular except in hottest weather.)

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But the magic elixir wells up at super modest clip, sometimes only a gallon or two a minute, requiring close rationing. And it must be propane heated, at no small expense, to boot (yes, it's a cold mineral spring), making each drop even more precious.

To the main point of a time limit: The Springs' mineral water can be powerful -- sometimes almost industrial strength. (Potency varies throughout year for reasons uncertain.) Well-traveled soakers report it's the strongest mineral water they ever experienced. The tall claim posted on sign inside the entrance is perhaps less than your typical mineral springs hyperbole.

Some people perhaps hadn't learned to appreciate how various mineral springs' waters could differ, sometimes greatly. The unaware, especially mere bathtub enthusiasts, addicted to soaking for hours and merrily scrubbing at will, could easily overdo, losing benefit and gaining skin irritations that could last for days if not weeks:

"I did not hear that I should soak only a limited time in that water, so I stayed 50 minutes. I have been itchy and miserable for 10 days. Please put those signs someplace where no one will miss them..." -- Bets S., Talent, OR Yelp

More than 30 minutes total soak time could be pushing one's luck unless well-attuned to water properties, the proper way to soak and listening to one's body.

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It perhaps helped to think of Stewart's silica-rich water as liquid glass crystal, scouring off the dead skin, opening pores to enable beneficial minerals to soak in and freer sweating out of toxins in sauna. (See list of minerals from analysis in ​Emile Frank's article, Part 2.)

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Also, while no justifying reason in itself, setting a time limit did allow more people to enjoy a soak when things got mega-busy (one could count on it middle of any three-day holiday weekend year-round), there being only dozen tubs. Plus, it served as way to track hygienic cleanliness of tubs between use. (In other, self-serve, no-time-limit springs like Orr, Sierra, and Mercy, tubs are user cleaned before and after each use.)

Oldtimers remember slower days with the time-stopping luxury of claiming one's  tub for four to six hours -- real oldtimers for the entire day -- leisurely stretching out mini-soaks, gradually acclimating to the water's power and learning the proper soaking method, maybe having lunch or taking a leisurely hike between immersions. (Or soaked for hours on end, having either the hide of a rhino or the wisdom to stay absolutely still.)

There was a rural legend that, beyond one-time outdoor Jacuzzi, an outdoor communal mineral soak once existed on the grounds. For sure there was once an over-sized indoor tub in the 1970s -- former tub rooms 3 and 4, which for a while later became two dressing rooms -- big enough for three or four to immerse frames in. Rumor has it that during its lingering purple-haze heyday more than a few doobies and vino jugs were passed around.

____________________________

______________________

Reviews cont'd

It's the Water!

 

Many note the quality of mineral water:

"It felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to. It is slippery and a little gritty. Odd, but blissful.

"I felt no need for a massage after that......felt more amazing than any hot spring I've been to.(Deborah D., Redwood City, CA)

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Dr. Emoto team photo of spring water's molecular structure. Some think it looks like a circle of little blissed Buddhas

"The water made my skin really soft (also it really improved the condition of my stubborn psoriasis)." (Natalie L., Redding, CA)

"They claim it has the highest quality mineral water in the world! [Just in America, actually.] I must agree in some ways...I am very fair skinned, so I have to be careful. Sometimes the minerals are so strong it almost feels like I'm sunburned afterwards..." (Mojorayjones, Northern CA)

"The mineral waters are amazing!" (Isabel Martinez)

"Water is the strongest I've ever been in [emphasis added]. If you stay in too long, your skin begins to peel off. At its worst, it can be like soaking in bleach."

(Tim Wu, author and well-soaked traveler, from his site exploring global hot springs)

"...the mineral baths are out of this world. I love the way my body buzzes after a soak..." (Psychedelic_Doughboy)

"...Mother Nature's healing properties at their best." (Brookings,OR)

"The experience was amazing. I didn't want to leave!!!" (LIBLKS, Paso Robles, CA)

One, while enjoying water, took exception to bathhouse setup:

"When you go for a mineral bath you get your own bath tub in a private room. The water is amazing, but honestly, I didn't like the isolation within a small room [open-topped stall, actually]....while still being able to hear people in the other rooms." (Angela F., Berkeley.)

Friendly Staff

Many visitors raved about the place's dedicated staff:

"We have very nice young people caring for us..." (1shastagirl)

"The office staff was EXCELLENT! They were kind and helpful...all the kind people who work there...made...trip PERFECT." (DarlaM)

"For all of the years that I have been coming, the staff has always been friendly and kind. I bring friends and family. They love it, too!"

-- S.S., San Diego, CA yelp review

"Staff was extremely helpful" (Persephone2010)

<  Former bath attendant Ally's 5-year-old twin girls trailed her close behind like ducklings in a pond as she made her rounds

"Staff is made up of dedicated and friendly people" (Ori977)

"Staff seems to genuinely honor the spirituality of the place and the peace experienced there is pervasive." (Nearyme, TripAdvisor)

"The staff were very friendly and helpful" (Lizypeterson, TripAdvisor)

"Respectful staff who make it clear their goal is to facilitate each guest's peaceful and restful stay. I think SMS is awesome!" (Kae L)

"Compassionate friendly staff." (Celinda Carlisle Cheskawich)

"...exceptional customer service...accommodating, friendly, professional..." (Mrsmueller)

"...helpful and friendly" (Margain)

"...front desk staff were pleasant and efficient. Never came across a person who didn't gave a certain joy about working at the SMS." (Brookings Oregonian)

"The vibe of the staff was a welcome balance of attentive and unassuming." (Waterviolet)

"I can't speak warmly enough about the land and the people who watch over it." (Andy G)

"...the tender loving care of the Goddesses in the Bath House are something beyond words." (Shasta Visitor) (from Netherlands)

yet another rambling aside

Countercultural values

going mainstream

Some might not realize that the Sixties countercultural movement, with its radical lifestyle changes by untold millions creating a global cultural impact, was in fact the exponential expansion of an earlier turn of 20th century movement begun in Germany known as the Natural Man movement.

And THAT earlier movement was, in turn, a widespread protest over the massive disruption created by the industrial revolution which had uprooted an increasingly city-bound humanity from living in long-accustomed proximity and relative harmony with nature. The situation over time had become intolerable.

The movement included celebrating getting back to nature, radical body freedom, saunas and mineral baths, massage (until recently all features of Stewart's), communalism, raw food diet, feminism, loose fitting clothes and resisting draft and public schooling. (Sounds a lot like late '60s/early '70s, no?) Including such luminaries as Herman Hesse and Isadora Duncan, it laid a solid energetic groundwork  for the later back-to-nature countercultural

Former longtime

bathhouse attendant Lara >

movement, which, despite gross media distortions and snarky dismissal as some flaky, ephemeral social trend, succeeding in spreading a more natural, holistic, liberated mindset onto the global level. (Check out the well-illustrated book "Children of the Sun", by Gordon Kennedy, out-of-print but around.)

Big duh: mindful mineral soaking and sauna-ing with clothing optional are essential parts of alternative natural healing and so naturally attracted nature-loving, alternative-culture minded people.

But, again, what IS "alternative  culture" anymore?

Fifty years ago, trying to discourage Spring visits from rebellious wild hippie-types, -- due to their often low spending habits, smash-the-system attitudes and (then) shockingly free ways -- might have seemed a valid effort to ensure making the Springs operation inviting and safe to more respectable and solvent mainstream visitors.

No longer. Since then, the essence of the harbinger countercultural influence has gone viral, spreading like wildfire to the fringes of mainstream consciousness, the diversified lifestyles of growth-minded people everywhere en masse seeking more mindful, holistic ways of living.

Witness the soaring interest in yoga, transcendental meditation, conscious, plant-based diet; cannabis and hemp healing, recycling, pre-cycling, alternate energy, appropriate livelihood, simpler living, tiny houses -- ALL championed ages ago by the hippie counterculture... along with an unabashed delight in getting nekkid in nature on sunshiny days.

Flash: Over the last half century, such countercultural influences have been transforming mainstream culture -- the ever-expanding life-affirming part of it -- as if awakening from  a long sleep.

Radical body freedom is obviously no longer the sole domain of so-called hippies, naturists, and stereotypical gated volleyball-ing nudists. Not so subtly proving the point, shown here is Spencer Tunick's art installation, with some of 6,000 naked people in Mexico City, happening around 2006.

Body freedom is one of many emerging lifestyle preferences (or high on one's check-out list) of myriad health and freedom minded humans of all walks of life, cultures and incomes throughout the world.

Hence Stewart became such an incredibly popular go-to spot at the dawn of the new millennium. Besides being set in such a charming region rich in history and possessing extraordinary mineral water and vortex energy, it was one of a select few spas open-minded and enlightened enough to permit visitors to experience the simple yet profound joy of getting unabashedly bare in nature, enabling taking a mini-vacation from depressingly perma-dressed society... regaining simple childlike innocence and becoming one with healing elements among kindred spirits...amping palliative benefits of mind-body-spirit reintegration. Even if one opted to keep covered, the liberated air itself was a healing force.

 

rants and raves cont'd

"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." - Van Gogh

"If you live in a van and love Burning Man, this place may not be right for you..."

-- online review

San Francisco reviewer Byron Gordon groused, "Beware. This place operates on limited hours..." He and his arrived at four on a day the bathhouse closed at five and didn't re-open til noon next day, too late for them so they never got looked forward to bath. (He claimed he wasn't told of open hours on making reservations.)

His verdict: "This place lacks budget and it shows... Restricting hours during the summer months during the longest days of the year is ridiculous..."

yet another interminable aside ("Make them stop")...

On the former limited water,

hours, & staff

The place in the 1990's hobbled along for a seeming eternity on a water-heating system so anemic, it often only supplied three tubs' worth at a time. This was due largely to owner reportedly buying a damaged heater at 90% off, trying to save money, and hoping it would work. Alas, it often didn't. Countless would-be soakers were kept on hold in the sauna so long, while more water slowly heated, that they finally gave up and demanded refunds.

Manager Mary wisely saved all the refund receipts and presented double fistfuls to Foggy during his annual visit to show it might be good business to spring for a system upgrade -- at which point he went whole hog and had the late, great plumbing ace Matt Reed custom design and build a grand heating system, one enjoyed until the present occupational force ceased spa service. Certain special-made plumbing components had been imported from Germany that wouldn't be affected by water's mineral content. 

Thank goodness such disconnects appeared only sporadically. The rest of the time the place could run like clockwork. Among other operational refinements, the bathhouse (and office) since 2000 began staying open evenings on Thursday through Saturday during peak season. (Roughly May thru October)

Of course, for a long time it used to get far fewer visitors. The place wasn't on the map, receiving the merest trickle of the later visitor volume that could sorely tax mineral water supply.

Again, Stewart's mineral water was far more limited than places like Orr, Harbin, Breitenbush, and Jackson Wellsprings. Reducing operational hours helped stretch the water supply, so expectant visitors all day on the road were less likely to be told, "Sorry, we just ran out." (But, alas, sometimes instead finding the place closing at a seemingly ridiculous early hour.) 

A former, trey dubious, way to stretch the mineral water briefly done years ago -- much to writer's shock -- was to dilute it with fresh. Rationale was that the water often too strong anyhow. Maybe a few times it actually was -- the water at times could seem almost industrial strength -- but veterans realized the potency fluctuated and adjusted their soak accordingly, and newbies would be strongly cautioned. Couldn't help but be reminded of shady dives watering down their pricey drinks. Full-strength mineral water is what people paid a chunk of change for and so should get.

Shorter hours and closed days off-season were cutbacks started during the fun-filled Great Recession of 2008-2009. Fewer visitors came, though conserving water supply was no doubt one reason for continuing shorter open time since the so-called jobless recovery. There were other possible factors. Perhaps the owner liked the reduced labor overhead it allowed and/or management got used to the luxury of sleeping in now and then, enjoying morning mini-respite from operation pressures. In any event, varied hours and closed-days off-season, for better or worse, became the new standard long after the economy rebounded and visitors had returned.

Skeleton staff abused by bone-headed management

At times it seemed any higher standard of operational integrity was deemed purely optional, for chumps. The place as directed appeared to pursue the old-school hardball business model of always milking the most revenue from a thing for the least outlay, bending labor laws whenever possible and breaking them if one thought they could get away with it.

One might've concluded that such bold operation practices would cause the bottom line to suffer, but it didn't seem to, not unduly, for developed mineral springs were a seller's market, as it were. But only for being a well-positioned and renowned mineral one, able to coast on a historic reputation.

 

The unfair and dispiriting practice ended only after the owner finally got busted and fined a good chunk of change by the state labor board around 2006. A furious group of ex-employees filed complaints for being forced to work off-clock and have to slave through work breaks when things got busy, the undersized staff not allowing for relief workers.

rants and raves cont'd

 

One first-time walk-in visitor, Javacat of S.F., arrived before open hours but didn't realize it. She was misled by the 'Office' sign posted on the wall a few feet from the sauna maintenance door, no arrow indicating that the office was actually around the corner. She was about to have a crazy Alice in Wonderland experience as she met up with a withstand-in for the testy Mad Hatter who'd breathed in too many mercury fumes. It was Ted, the late operations manager, dying of liver failure and no doubt wanting to cop all the alone time he could in order to cope:

 "I opened the door next to the office sign, walked in a very dark room [sauna]...and navigated my way through the dark room towards light at the back of the building.

"Just then, a man bustled out a door with an armload of supplies, looked up at me, and YELLED, "What're you doing in here? How did you GET IN HERE??!! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!""

not another one...

 

On the lack of critical signs...

and a blizzard of others

Tho told she was first person to do such a dumb thing, it was in fact once not too uncommon an occurrence. The back door was kept unlocked during open hours for an emergency exit.

A group might be sweating away in still near-darkness and -- suddenly! -- the backdoor, one many didn't know existed, flung open wide with a blinding flood of daylight. Confused reactions of inadvertent intruder was usually good for chuckle once startled reaction subsided, appearing as visitor from another dimension: sudden flash, 

mumble of "Oh..sorry, I thought this was the office," door shutting and returning room to dark silence, all in a matter of seconds. One's imagination reeled at notion of the dim roomful of often-nude people sweating away actually being the office: "No, but it is the Springs think tank and social salon. We've been waiting for you. Take a load off and give us your take on chem trails."

For some reason, getting all the grounds signage logical and clear often proved a hopelessly elusive goal or little cause for concern. Perhaps it was the result of the former unbridled profit focus to the detriment of any more relaxed interaction with visitors, along with periodic labor shortages and log-jams of daily chores and maintenance tasks, all contributing to the ungracious treatment the reviewer experienced.

 

Also, again, the manager was facing a decade-long terminal disease, dire straits that could make anyone who'd really rather not check out more than a bit testy or indifferent to all but a small trusted circle.

Needless unfortunate energy wedgies could make for spacing out the need to supply any such thoughtful directional details. The Springs, again, being in the believed energy vortex it is, could well have swirling forces stimulating a non-rational spirit state that at times could wreck havoc on such mundane matters. It might've thrown off the ability to get any better handle on small but critical matters like creating the accurate and pleasant guiding signs that grounds manager Josh W. began remedying nicely a bit later.

Maybe it's just human nature. Writer at Oregon's vast Britenbush grounds once got lost on a snowy cold day on returning from the distant parking lot -- even with their far more generous placement of refreshingly artistic signage -- and started freaking, until finally finding my way back. Management and seasoned staff members of any such resort place might think, "Well, I know where things are -- heck, everybody does. Why do some people seem to have such trouble? Are they directionally challenged?" 

Case in point: the missing "Apts. 1-6" sign on the post at the turn into the parking area went unreplaced for years. Post sign, of course, pointed the way to the one unrentable place, The Cottage. (A manager abode/office space after 2005, chef's residence earlier; rented before that, hence a lingering sign.)

Another example: For decades, a large historic routed wood sign inside entrance at a road fork pointed the former route to the bathhouse, straight ahead uphill, rather than turning down right and crossing the creek bridge. It was a quaint outdated relic from days before the car bridge was built, changing approach. 


Its arrow guided people up to the restaurant area and a covered walking bridge over to the bathhouse. The route still works and is a pleasant sheltered walk over the creek, even if there's limited roadside parking. After years of unintended but uncorrected misdirection, one day the owner of large camper possibly did place an unintended favor by backing into the sign and demolishing it.

Then there have been other kinds of signs, the No-this, No-that, and Don't-even-think-about-it variety, found in plenitude posted around bathhouse, at gates, gazebo, in lodgings, you name it.

These would seem unfortunate result of decades of mostly green, flying-by-seat-of-pants management (the very reason your writer ever got to assume so much responsibility) -- all perhaps former owner could get for low salary and wages offered. It seemed they could never get any solid, assured handle on the operation that might allow a more nuanced, artistic signage, reasonable in tone and pleasing to eye, instead of unfortunate reactionary growls.

___________________

 

rants and raves, cont'd

 

"...found the signage...unfriendly", said Kirstine 2013, Albuquerque, NM, tripadvisor)

 

Reviewer at2522 of Eugene, OR, noted how the scene seemed lacking in the "...abundance of 'yes we can' energy" successful operations thrive on; he doubtless spoke for many on when saying:

"The place has a lot of negative messaging which led us to believe they've had some problems in the past. Around every corner are signs telling us what not to do and how we may be fined and prosecuted (even above the sink in our room!). This is not what you expect to see in a 'healing' place such as SMS..."

A Creek Runs Through it

One thing everyone agreed on: the serenity of the land and the creek running through it:

"The resort is on incredibly beautiful land, and you can hear the rushing of the spectacular creek from the lodging, a great sound to sleep to." (Salem. OR)

"We especially loved sitting by the creek and drinking in the sound of the water and the silence of the trees." (Henderson, NV)

"...at the top of the scale for the natural beauty, the setting, the rushing creek..." (S.F.)​

"The grounds are very nice. There is a creek that runs through the resort. It is very peaceful listening to it rush through..."

(A. Applebee, San Jose, CA)

"I arrived after a long day and was lulled to sleep by the sound of a running stream." (Anne D., S.F., CA)

"I loved sitting by the river and having time to heal my inner spirit...I truly appreciate listening to river while laying in bed..." (Kady Cherry)

"The cabins and motels are very basic but the sound of the creek rushing by makes up for it!" [forgot to get handle]

"The river draws you in." (Irishwannabe, Portland, OR)

"...definitely a hidden gem. The location and setting are beautiful." (Los Angeles, CA)

"The mineral baths, sauna and river cold plunge were all fantastic, the best of that kind of thing I've ever experienced anywhere...I liked being able to hear the relaxing river sounds anywhere on the property." 

(Waterviolet, Boston, MA)

"You can hear the rushing of the spectacular creek from the lodging, a great sound to sleep to." (Enjoying Oregon, Salem, OR)

"Fabulous healing waters and spiritual atmosphere!!" (Carl M., Ashland, OR)

"I feel like I enter heaven each time I have been blessed to come here! The springs are filled with negative ions and you can feel your vibration lifting the longer you stay close to the running water. It's magical!" (Jasmine H., Sebastopol, CA)

"...The brook is stunning and runs through the beautiful land with chairs for sitting and chilling out..." (Layla K., Oakland, CA)

 

On Body Freedom,

Or the Lack Thereof 

(Scroll bit further for feedback once nudity ban took effect)

Reviewers often commented on the former checkerboard zones of permitted and verboten nudity in effect between 2000 and late 2016. Before acclimating it could create schitzy feeling indeed: while okay in sauna, tubroom, outer deck, and around coldplunge, it was "Uh, you need to cover up" from the attendant elsewhere...or realizing from stares that one was inadvertently streaking between okay zones. Persons were left with the feeling it was okay to get buff -- kinda, sorta, but just a little, so better be ready to cover up anytime, lest the nude police cometh.(as they finally dideth)

"I found it odd that they would want you clothed just walking in between the bath, sauna and cold plunge though nude once you got to any of those places." (Echosaisis C., Sacramento, CA)

"I was told...the bathhouse is a clothing optional facility [Indeed, the website claimed this without specifying the okay zones, implying no limits: Hey, arrive naked if you want, we don't care!]. However, when I was going from my tub room to the sauna and I had a sheet around my waist, I was discreetly shown by one of the attendants to cover my breasts. So obviously, they don't mean the whole bathhouse is clothing-optional..." (Florence, OR)

"For reasons not known to us, bathers are required to 'cover up' in the short hallway leading from the sauna and baths to the sundeck."

(Camilla & Bill Pennington, Arizona naturist [nudist] resort owners, coiners of phrase "clothes-minded"; colleagues of the late founder of The Naturist Society, Lee Baxendall, who in turn had coined the very term "clothing optional.")

< Think place was always clothing-optional? Old signs rescued from trash tell a different story. They were posted around the bathhouse until 2000, when things finally liberalized.

Checkerboard policy of allowable zones was a progressive minded Euro-style compromise to try accommodating both those wanting to enjoy body freedom during their spa regimen and those who weren't sure, or for sure didn't want to, thank you very much...with predictably mixed results, given  thebathhouse having non-optimal set-up for creating chill freebody environs as did other c/o resorts

"A little cliquey, with a big divide between the naked and the clothed." (Mark G., Oakland)

"I just love this place...I can get my nude on." (Chelle B, Sacramento, CA)

"The back deck and creek are great for nude sunning and swimming." (Carl M., Ashland, OR, TripAdvisor)

A TripAdvisor posting from Randyfish of Eureka, CA struck balanced viewpoint: "Nudity is not flaunted as it can be at some other 'clothing optional' spas, so wearing a bathing suit...or not...is not really a concern." 

"If you have problems with nudity or a laid back atmosphere this might not be the place for you." (Sofista, Bend,Or Tripadvisor)

"Be prepared for NUDITY, no, and I am not talking in a good way, I am talking OLD and disgusting..." (Unattributed Yelp review from 2010)

"...if you are sensitive to nudity go someplace else." (WanderlustSal, Portland, OR Tripadvisor)

"Get ready to see some naked folk - the steam room [sic] and stream are clothing optional." (Laura908, TripAdvisor)

 

"I'd estimate that 80% of the patrons chose to be nude in the allowed areas. If you have issues with this, then this is not your place. This is not your mainstream 'spa' [emphasis added] so expect to see all kinds of unusual and interesting folks!" (Alverda3, TripAdvisor)

Actually, the percentage choosing the option over the long-term varied from day to day and time of year, from practically everyone being nude (whether out of genuine preference or feeling the need to conform was another matter) to almost no one.

Opposite viewpoints:

"I find it weird that I have to drape myself with a sheet for the 50 feet between the tub/sauna and creek...I wish people were comfortable in their bodies enough to be naked.. I admit, being a nudist and going to this place was a bit of a turn-off... but for some of you, that might be a grand ole time." (Angela C., Oakland, CA)... 

...versus "...[W]e headed to the sauna where clothing was clearly not abundant. There were about 15 naked 30- something men and women looking at each other and sweating..." (KnitVallejo, Vallejo)

Evan Halper, in his 2006 L.A. Times review, offered own initial perspective on clothing-optional policy, reflecting conventional mainstream attitudes:

"Still relatively new to California, Erin and I were unaware that here the words 'hot springs' were synonymous with 'naked people.'...We strolled...down to the creek. A few yards off stood a large woman, buck naked, her tattooed back to us. Erin put her hand over her mouth to muffle a gasp.

"The next morning, we headed down to the springs with every intention of soaking in one of the 15 private bathing rooms and making a quick, fully clothed escape. But once in the steaming hot tub, the draw of the creek became irresistible. Soon, we too were skinny-dipping in the freezing waters."

A similar warming up to skinnydipping was shared by Ronet G of Novato,CA., who went from an initial "...shock of seeing naked people strewn about...the river cold plunge area" to joining in and later enthusing how "...being nude in a river in nature on a warm day is a fabulous experience!"

2017 Nudity

Ban Rants

The seventeen-year clothing-optional policy evaporated into thin air at the stroke of midnight on Halloween 2016 (in synchronicity of bummers, exactly one week before t-rex snagged the national election). The former royal carriage of body freedom suddenly turned into lowly pumpkin -- ironically signalling it was time to don costumes. Many assumed we'd established a permanent beachhead far away from the masquerade of society that forever demanded keeping a soul's physical temple covered in public no matter how natural the setting or innocent the intent leading to shedding unneeded apparel.

Many voiced their stunned concern, heartbreak and livid, sputtering outrage on SMS's Facebook review page -- the entire page long since removed:

"...I am SUPER bummed about your recent "no more clothing optional" policy...you might be the only hot spring 'resort' in California with this stupid new policy...who exactly are you trying to appeal to? Most of us locals go naked. Maybe you could release that silly concept on local days, at least? I am really not inclined to return." 

 -- Alexa Ninal

"Was surprised by the new policy of clothing only, did not feel the same."

   (lost attribution, sorry) 

"So sad they dropped the clothes optional -- the dip in the river after the sauna doesn't work with a wet sheet clinging to you. Changed the wonderful feel of the place."

   -- Didi Balboa

"The sacred nature will be lost as people no doubt will start to talk more and be less respectful of the land ...there is a magick in the vulnerability the option to be naked offers and it is a level of healing that has been central to Stewart Minerals Springs.  [emphasis added]

   -- Anu Honey

"Dear Management: These springs have been a longtime gem in this area...a healing and rejuvenating place for so many of us, locals and tourists. The recent new ownership has made big changes without properly understanding the local clientele and it will likely be detrimental to keeping the springs running, especially in the off seasons.

"Changing from clothing optional to not clothing optional makes this a much less desirable place for me to soak. Being in a 170-200 degree F. sauna with a bathing suit or sheet on...no thank you. Jumping in a freezing river with a bathing suit or sheet on...brrr! It's not like people were just waltzing around naked...it was a quick dip and back to the sauna or bath. How about a compromise...have a few days that are open for clothing optional?..."

-- Jacqueline Sidra Hertzog

"I have been enjoying Stewart Springs for almost 20 years. It's always been a favorite place. However, what makes it awesome is its purity and how freeing it is to jump in the creek naked & sauna naked...Don't ruin something that has always been sacred with your dumb new rules."

  -- Annoy Fusso

"No more clothing optional? What puritanical nonsense! This sounds like a corporate mindset overtaking the beauty of the tradition. What's next - mandatory burkas?

"...I can understand not wanting anyone to feel uncomfortable, but jumping in the creek with clothes on or the sheet wrapped around you is not the same experience as being naked. Sitting naked in the sun after coming out of the creek is far nicer than sitting with a freezing sheet wrapped around you.

"Changing the tradition to accommodate some people misbehaving is usually the easy way out - with more restrictions you don't have to deal with unwanted behavior, but eventually our traditions become watered down from our submission to fear or conformity.

"Maybe you should have considered just ejecting those misbehaving rather than throwing out the traditions. Why not put up a few signs - 'Anyone acting like Donald Trump will be asked to leave.' "

   -- Rasa

"I love this place with all my heart. I healed so much here and have grown so very much from my experiences here, but since the new owners have come in and instated new policies that inhibit the free expression on ones self, then things have really changed. It went from full transparency to having to cover up (clothing optional was one of the most potent aspects of SMS healing qualities in my opinion).

"In this covering up of one's own "shame" I believe Stewart lost not only many long time customers but also the magical feeling of free expression... Yes these new rules have allowed shy newcomers to enter but at what cost?...

  -- Merau Daan

"Can't believe I'm only giving place one star - really can't. It was a cherished destination for ages. Tucked deep in nature near Mt. Shasta, magical healing mineral water, creek rushing through grounds, huge wood-fired sauna...

 

So what's not to like? Place went mandatory cover-up. If there's a better way to experience the healing power of place than by getting free of cumbersome clothes and enjoying the experience with others, I don't know of it...

 

It's just not the same anymore. If new rule doesn't bother you, don't get me wrong; it's a great place to experience. But if it does bother you and you prefer clothing-optional mineral springs, chances are good it will REALLY bother you."

   ---alas, lost attribution and source  :-(

And from TripAdvisor and Yelp:

"During my recent (and likely final) visit to Stewart Mineral Springs, I was very sad to discover the new owners have banned the clothing optional policy..."

"New owners want clothes/sheets on sauna users; this is dangerous and a mistake! When you cover your skin with clothes, your sweat can’t help cool you down by evaporating on your skin. You will quickly overheat and also lose the benefits... When you wipe away the toxin-filled sweat, the toxins don’t sit in contact with your skin to possibly be reabsorbed."

"My former favorite place on earth, I used to always make a special effort to get to the mineral baths when I passed through the area a couple times a year. I just went for the first time since (unbeknownst to me) they stopped

the clothing optional policy. They say they did it because it made some people uncomfortable, but it fit so well into the nature of the experience that I am really saddened to see that go.

"The new policy actually makes me feel less comfortable and more self-conscious now that societal inhibitions have crept into the experience, and I have to be more careful of how I'm looking [emphasis added]. If I hadn't been here before to know what it was like, I'd probably be giving a 4 or 5 star review as the baths are still healing, but not as much as before. 'Another one bites the dust' in the name of lowest common denominator, mediocrity..."

   -- Leo H., Los Gatos, CA

A couple of the very few early posted votes of approval for the change brought out your more perma-dress minded and Pneuma shills:

"I appreciate the new no nudity policy, as it is more family friendly and you can bring your kids." 

    -- Caroline H., Ojai, CA Yelp review


"I'm happy it's no longer clothing optional. That wouldn't be my thing..."

    -- Karen R., San Jose Yelp review


If wanting to skip the writer's following (now obviously dated) mega rant on the nudity ban

and get to Parts 3 and 4 of more re-posted reviews and excerpts, click here

Editorial

A need to rethink the nudity ban

for the good of all

Making the place un-barable

made the place unbearable

"And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."

     -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

 

Further rant and analysis on a perennially hot button issue, a take formed by writer's 20 years of weekly visits or more until December 2017, plus having low-keyly rallied for clothing-optional in the late '90s before it existed. (Some writing reflects a time when the bathhouse was still open; most of the skeletons were left intact, so make due allowances. (One can only keep updating so much without going nuts.) 

 

It distressed and dumbfounded countless, now-alienated fans of the place for it to have abandoned the longtime policy that emulated popular open-minded European spas. Though for sure with a more fine-tuned layout, they, along with select U.S. mineral springs resorts, have long offered clothing-optional areas to boost the spa potential for purifying, healing, and rejuvenating. (Sometimes, especially in Germany, birth land of modern freebody movement, in nude-mandatory areas like saunas one could sometime get in trouble for wearing anything inside, even footwear.)

Not only were stateside visitors staggered, but, as can be imagined, also many would-be European and other international visitors who came to Stewart's because they preferred the familiar, enlightened spa option of getting free of unnecessary cover and enjoying the more profound relaxation and palliative effect popular which open-minded policy allowed.

As shown by some quoted comments posted before what countless people felt was a stunningly repressive change, even various first-time visitors initially put off by public nudity soon came around and enjoyed the rare opportunity to skinnydip and sunbathe and sauna au naturel with kindred spirits. Others didn't -- though, tellingly, few online rants against former allowed nudity were ever posted over years, perhaps from concern they'd appear prudish or uptight. One suspects some took out their displeasure over the modest but, for them, devastatingly disconcerting freebody scene by ranting instead about not enough towels in cabins or a lack of toilet paper.

Visualizing Future Enlightened Ownership

and Management

It would almost appear some bizarro alternate reality has befallen Stewart Mineral Springs under the new 'absentee' stewardship' that took over in 2016, the draconian over-reaction to a supposed isolated incident of some idiot mindlessly jacking off on sundeck. The event was used as a handy excuse -- if not invented it out of whole cloth -- for a plague of de facto enforced body shame to sweep over the once quasi-bohemian grounds. Banning clothing-optional after 17 years of body freedom completely discombobulated the realm's once magical air beyond all imagining.

It was an enchanted atmosphere largely made manifest by the chance to experience low-key social and solitary nudity amid nature during one's spa regimen -- or not, everyone's choice -- experiencing a liberating break from the depressingly perma-dressed world at large, often regaining a sense of simple, unashamed childhood innocence, while fostering getting closer to nature spirits and feeling a closer connection with all creation.

Body acceptance and radical body freedom made giant strides in recent decades, albeit at times progress seemed three steps forward and two back. (Obviously, the Springs in late 2016 took a hundred GIANT steps back.)

But the way things stood, Stewart Springs, though deep in nature, perhaps only provided the half-way optimal conditions for visitors to make better peace with their earthly temples and further their personal spiritual evolution through the more relaxed spa regimen that simple, conscious nudity so easily fostered.

Bathhouse layout was

part of the problem

Growing numbers think it's a good thing -- even crucial -- that various appropriate natural public and select private settings be designated clothing-optional -- especially rural mineral springs, most especially those in free-spirited northern California's nature-rich environ.

 

If not availing for themselves, then for others for whom it's either an integral part of a chosen lifestyle or the chance to experiment and reclaim body acceptance after a lifetime of body suppression, false modesty, and other trips over one's biologic reality.

Nudity often felt tenuous around the edges at Stewart's during its last c/o run. The manager, not attuned to the benefits of mindful radical body freedom, most probably dismissed it as a hopeless, distasteful situation that she was saddled with. She likely leaped at the excuse of some rare incident -- or, again, shamelessly made it up out of whole cloth -- to paint an alarming picture of massive visitor disapproval of some over-radical scene, naturally making the new misinformed 'ownership' want to scrap such a decadent, indecent policy post-haste.

Not Stewarts. All under the same roof: bathing and sauna, employee break room, busy office, laundry room, housekeeping supply... So much going on, it was a constant uphill battle to get in -- and stay in -- any comfortable zen state nude OR wrapped. Add wound-up employees coming in to pour tea in the hallway and massage meets, along with the bathhouse attendant constantly scurrying about with their armloads of modesty-preserving sheets and towels, clothed visitors picnicking on the sundeck,  c/o zones isolated between mandatory cover-up ones, etc. and textile vibes always dominated the bathhouse.

It could leave those trying to enjoy a bit of super-relaxing body freedom over the course of their spa experience feeling frustrated -- sometimes made to feel like exhibitionists by smug and judgmental 'textile chauvinists' remaining sensorily muted, bods armored in cloth, feet shod.

Whatever in fact prompted the sorry change (before junking the spa altogether), the bathhouse layout was a major culprit in the situation. Every other rural mineral springs resort in the northwest allowing some measure of clothing optional had dedicated zone in which to enjoy a liberated, often blissful freebody state while purifying and rejuvenatin...if one so chose.

Whether or not lamentable bare-not policy is ever rethought, re-energized, and fine-tuned to re-accommodate much of the former dedicated visitor base under a future, more enlightened stewardship, no doubt there will likely always be those discontent with such a situation,  with efforts to accommodate different mindsets on issue striking newcomers as either oppressively restrictive or completely shameless.

For some will always want the freedom to be nude without restriction in a bathhouse compound, or at least have option available for self and others. They will forever grumble about enforced body shame if made to cover anywhere in a spa compound -- especially on cold wintry days while in toasty 180 degree F. sauna, and on warm sunshiny days perfect for skinnydipping and sunbathing, and, regardless of season, having to cover up going from the sauna to their tub or out to the sundeck and river.

Motto: "Lose your clothes and lose your woes."

Others, not yet having rediscovered their inner nudist of un-self-conscious infant and toddler years before socially programmed body shame eclipsed it, locking it up and seemingly throwing away the key, will remain forever uncomfortable or at least severely awkward, around any simple everyday nudity. Especially if rude behavior like mindless gawking and idle-amusement, cheesecake/beefcake posing goes on for lack of any pro-active, chill management building a positive, conscious c/o climate to prevent or at least minimize such untoward behavior.

At worst, one could feel forced to endure forever being around shamelessly naughty people, if not out-and-out perverts. Even with a together c/o scene, same perma-threaders, though far fewer, would still balk at those with the temerity of being out of uniform, as it were, so boldly disobeying conventional regime's dominant cover-thy-shame edict, making such shameless exhibitions of their essential physical beings. Undoubtedly it served as an uncomfortable reminder of how much one had bought into society's systemic body alienation and shame.

Then again, how many such would bother to visit? People going to Harbin or Breitenbush know full-well before arriving how mindful nudity is sanctioned, the open-minded practice well established. Stewart seemed to have only flirted with creating a bohemian atmosphere and as a result had an ongoing civil war between the freebodies and perma-dressers, all loving the place but at perpetual odds over the proper way to enjoy it: in or out of uniform.

The latter sub-group might as well have a bumper sticker saying:

"Cover-up junkie and proud; you should be, too -- in fact, I insist."

It's said Americans often appear simultaneously sex-obsessed and Puritanical towards nudity. There seems precious little room for socially normalizing it except at places like public free beaches, naturist resorts -- and enlightened rural mineral spring resorts like Stewart's had been, at least kinda sorta.

Breakdown on attitudes towards social nudity

Were writer to hazard an educated guess on the breakdown of Stewart visitors' attitudes towards social nudity, one based on 20 years of weekly+ visits, it'd be:

5-10% serious freebodies

10-35% casual, Sunday nudists

35-50% okay with simple nudity for others, at least

5-10% "Oh, my God!"

Again, writer attributes the decision to effectively ban the body to the absentee owner possibly being fed exaggerations and misinformation by the lingering manager. Never resonating with legion of freer spirits who championed progressive clothing-optional set-up, she pounced on a sorry isolated incident -- or, again, shamelessly manufactured it -- to convince new owners (if they needed it) to junk the dubious policy.

 

Clearly a misguided effort to try to make place more attractive to the adamantly clothes-minded, the more culturally refined (that is, deeper-pocketed) visitors. Mo money, mo bettah. Plus, for those, both local and travelling, who though perhaps actually enjoy select nudity in better manager-supported environments, could find Stewart's latter-day c/o scene far too sketchy at times and so grudgingly approved of the nudity ban.

The Naked Truth: for some the place is a gold mine to be exploited, necessarily catering to the more body phobic, or used as their own private shangri-la, rather than an invaluable healing realm to be cherished by all.

Possible positive side

to (a now-moot) sorry situation?

Playing devil's advocate now, taking the wild card of nudity out of situation could've possibly evened out the social-energy field some -- if only on a dampened, comfort-constricting, spirit-stifling, level.

More visitors, at least those used to always keeping covered in public and expecting others to as well, thank you very much, might've felt more inclined to visit. Also, well-meaning parents no longer having to feel concerned about their children -- naturally, the biggest nudists of all -- being thrown off the cultural brainwashing regimen for witnessing public nudity of grown-ups who  should know better, and possibly become the interest of

stray pedophiles possibly attracted to the place for want of any more positive intent by management and visitors. (To solve the last concern and keep clientele diversified, hour-away Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings, before Covid, required at least minimal cover-up during daytime for family enjoyment, and became c/o (and adults only) after nightfall/ 8 p.m., whichever came first.)

Granted, with textile modesty barriers in place, it slows or stops any possible over-excited pheromones from dancing mad fandangos that being publicly nude sometimes causes for sheer liberating feelgoodness of it all after lifetime of body suppression, plus prevailing hard-wired equation of nudity = sex. So it might've discouraged idle lustful fantasies and mindless objectification with resulting unease (vs. unease having to keep covered).

Also a few unfortunate and isolated incidents like, again, some old dufus reportedly jacking off on deck in 2016 that was supposedly the last straw, sparking the draconian ban. (Altho, as one male pointed out, women's abbreviated outfits, like thong bottoms, could actually distract and idly arouse more than outright simple nudity.)

At the risk of repeating the point (okay, that ship's sailed), such incidents could in no small part be attributed to former management seeming only to tolerate c/o rather than work to build more conscious climate. No signage on former policy, either friendly or serious, was ever posted.

The ephemeral explanation of okay areas was always verbal by the bath attendant and front desk -- as if putting anything in print would legitimize it too much as an actual real, solidly-backed policy. Barring any more focused effort to elevate and reinforce awareness and enlightened nude etiquette, the place was left wide-open for potential untoward behavior to creep in. This included, most commonly, mindless bold gawking, some from a distance using binoculars. Stewart Springs as peep show village: "low admission; come one, come all. (Just not on our decks, please.)"

While some might've at last felt free to give the place a try with the ban, they could've just as well done so with the owner establishing cover-up and clothing-optional days. There would remain potential awkwardness of clothed employees threading through the re-established c/o zones of sauna, deck and plunge area, but that could be lived with like it had been for the last 16 years.

Even if renovating and moving office, laundry room, etc. elsewhere, there's a further snag to making the place fully self-serve compound like other c/o rural springs in the wider area, one conducive to more chill freebody environ: the place's powerful but limited supply of mineral water.

Without an attendant monitoring the limited mineral water use, the place could run out in no time. Some, left to own devices, might mindlessly drain and refill tub between rounds. Short of, say, installing some kind of meter with automatic shut-off to ration dispensing once given limit reached,the sign coming on and saying, "No more water for YOU!",

the bath attendant serves vital function. One's also needed to tend sauna's wood stove. (Alas, the place missed a golden opportunity when building the new sauna in 2006 to change the stove to a special in-wall kind fed from outside, eliminating need for attendant to enter sauna, except perhaps to announce a ready bath.)

Possibly the now-quaint, century-long tradition at place of visitors being waited on can't easily change to soakers cooperatively helping selves as all other popular regional rural springs have done. Especially with the new no-nudity policy

encouraging even more visits by those who weren't serious about intensive cleansing but liked the idea of hot bath with personal attentive fussing, just like at similarly-compromised, lah-de-dah city spas. Serious inertia prevailed at the place always having provided staff assistance and not being any more, "Hey, help yourself, ya lazy gat, and keep prices down."

Clothing-Optional Days? (now-moot suggestion)

Many have treasured place over time who, for sundry reasons, were simple not into going au naturel or being around those who did. For them, radical policy change itself is no problem (though it being reflection of more buttoned-down scene might've been). Others who were initially put off by change, either grudgingly or gracefully accept more restrained body freedom -- as, indeed, most did with the last cover-up period, which started roughly 1980 after Goodpastures left and lasted until  theplace went clothing-optional in early 2000.

One becomes philosophical about it all, as in "This too shall pass." 

In time --especially if bathhouse changes made with future, appropriate steward(s) -- new more workable and all-inclusive compromise could be fine-tuned, like at other places. Some had suggested having clothing-optional days.

With policy well-advertised and well-posted, including prominent "Today is  a Clothing Optional Day" sign both outside and inside office and online, place could accommodate broadest Springs' visitor base. It'd let visitors know exact policy upfront rather than attendants wasting time and breath explaining to each newcomer "Ya can be naked here and here, but don't even think about it there." Likely, with current reality of so many clothed employees around and office being right there with clothed visitors entering lobby all the time, only formerly allowable zones -- sauna, outer deck and plunge area -- could again be c/o again.

Such compromise -- say, offering four clothing-optional days and three bare-not days, during peak season, if not instead returning to former policy of everyday nudity in such designated areas -- would prevent excluding any Springs fans from enjoying place according to druthers (so long as it fits schedule). For those who don't care one way or other, likely greatest number, they'd merrily continue visiting any day, no problema.

 

Even without changing layout, renewed accommodation of those valuing nude option by having clothing-optional days makes sense business-wise. And like Wilfred Brimley said, "It's the right thing to do."

As it stood, one was left with muffled feeling if one didn't coldplunge duly wrapped, or wear cloth preventing sun's healing rays from energizing entire body or, for some weird reason, just couldn't enjoy sweating in 180 degree sauna covered in clammy, constrictive, bacteria-breeding cloth... that if, instead, one longed to embrace nature's elements free of supplied man-made, pesticided cotton and coal-oil-based polyester cloth, or even own natural covering... well, sorry, it was simply unacceptable; indecent.

 

"Hope you understand our cover-up policy. Please bear with us...no, wait, don't."

Stewart's has been that rare environ which for the first 16 years of new millennium it distinguished itself from the dominant body-phobic world at large, including majority of nation's mineral spring resorts. While a pity that policy was no better embraced by former owner and management, no better focused, energized, and gently but firmly enforced, even such as it was, Stewart's became low-key clothing-

optional oasis for untold thousands -- locally, nationally, and globally. Visitors could more thoroughly enjoy therapeutic benefits of place nude if they chose, embracing positive body acceptance and liberation amid tranquility of nature and kindred nature-loving spirits.


It's the hope and prayer of countless that under new future enlightened stewardship a profoundly healing, clothing-optional spa, one dedicated to serving the greater good, returns to the realm long known as Stewart Springs.

 

Ghost dancing? Dreaming the impossible dream? Waiting for Godot? Maybe. Maybe not.

It's up to enough Stewart Springs fans to insist on it through energized group visualization.

See Part 3  and Part 4 for more re-posted online review rants & raves plus rambling insider commentary. They remind fans of -- and show newbies -- the former, long abiding spirit of the extraordinary rural spa retreat...one richly deserving to be resurrected.

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