Yet More Rants
(To peruse the rest of vintage review excerpts,
scroll down about one-third, beyond the restaurant aside)
Part Three, continued
One thoughtful San Francisco reviewer, CM Zinger, commented long ago on 'ownership' not making better use of ground's charming old restaurant building, bullt by the Goodpasture stewards in the 1970s.
Located over covered walking bridge from bathhouse and below cabins, it was long open only half the year; then often only for three days a week and sometimes only for evening meals. In past, it often put little more than a token focus on healthy, plant-based foods -- raw, veggie and vegan foods sometimes weren't even listed on the menu -- that befit any true, health-minded resort
...unless catering a mostly-veggie retreat group, when the place might or might not have been open to general public.
Anyhow, he noted:
"The restaurant is like a ghost house. No one uses it, yet it's one of the nicest spaces in the whole complex. Make this into a common space, put a store selling some health food items and other necessities, and let the guests enjoy this beautiful space or really invest in a place the people would want to eat like at Harbin or Sierra Hot Springs."
(skip if of little interest)
The once and future restaurant
It's a lamentable situation all right. In times past the building was shuttered for years on end, giving it time indeed to accumulate a motley crew of earthbound spirits seeking peaceful haunting ground away from noisy mortals.
It was likely thought historic visitor volume couldn't justify budgeting enough to pursue such laudable ideas. Even having it as simple common space for congregating -- in contrast to encouraged silence in the bathhouse -- would require a new staff position or committed work-trader to oversee things, lest some guest break into the beer stash or assume it's a common kitchen, like Orr, Wilber, or Harbin -- and try frying up a platter of
portabella burgers on the fancy commercial range, burn themselves, and then sue the place.
To successfully serve with longer hours, among other things there's some tricky feng shui needed to remedy the split-level layout, for the sunken kitchen area could make serving the masses a constant uphill effort.
That said, old-time irregulars remember the great restaurant success the Goodpasture family had in '70s with Greg's tasty, nutritious, stick-to-the-ribs food at friendly prices in a down-home atmosphere. For a while it was actually considered the best restaurant in county; people drove up just to dine in a time when inspired food offerings were scarce to nonexistent in the region. (See tribute to its chef by sister on New Talespage. Also their menu wrap newsletter. Also Part II of Emile Frank's article series on springs.
Or the phenomenal -- if brief -- success of certified French chef Serge Margot running the place in the early 1990s.
It's amazing to reflect that such an unassuming restaurant building, tucked away in the woods, could become the phenomenon it was, blessed with such a talented gourmet chef. (see Jenny Coyle's newsarticle) It seemed only fitting that such a miracle followed on the wings of Greg Goodpasture's earlier inspired devotion to dining pleasure that had energized the new structure.
In more recent times, some might remember Julie's spirited running of place as Springs-employed chef 2000-2001. She had a sweet deal, living on grounds in the Cottage as part of incentives, as the operation was then funded by and integrated with Springs management rather than leased out, as it was for a long time since.
Living on the grounds can make a big difference in attitude and dedication. When it's your home and not just a job to commute to, you naturally resonate with the place more and invest the operation with more heart...except perhaps if a living-on-grounds manager who is privacy-starved and creating defensive, divisive attitude, never good for creating and maintaining any relaxed, flowing atmosphere for the realm.
Julie, a seasoned quick-order chef, was happy to call the place home and play queen of the range. And it showed. In even more recent times, lessee Bianca, living within walking distance, lent the place a warm down-home ambiance in which to enjoy her inspired Cuban influenced offerings. More recently, Gia helmed the place and, though a daily commuter, restored the place's former down-home glory with fine veggie offerings and cheery spirit.
More than a few were convinced the restaurant could be popular again... IF offering same healthy delicious foods as it did with the Goodpastures, which also included down-home, informal service and people's prices.
They're convinced this is the restaurant's true niche, matching the rustic nature of resort and healing focus -- vs. in times past futilely trying to cater to upscale tastes with fancy, often cruelty-based and/or eco-intensive foodstuffs. Maybe encourage easing off animal-based foods the same way the place encouraged purifying and healing through soaks and saunas, and making the grounds smoke-free and alcohol free. It could also offer delicious healthy take-out for picnics, eating in lodging, road trips and hikes.
Lamentably, the wayward tendency in recent decades had been one of trying to emulate big city dining establishments. Operators put on the dog with starched tablecloths; impressive uniforms, the head honcho's replete with trey fancy chef's hat, making one resist urge to either salute or laugh out loud; hovering, "Can I refill your coffee?" service (often alternating with long disconnects and seeming week-long waits for food); and fancy, haughty cuisine, along with beer and wine offerings to wash it all down and dull one's senses to the tab.
That the Springs 'owner' held a beer and wine license no doubt worked to keep the operation in a traditional upscale restaurant mode, seeming to lean on alcohol to lift spirits rather the spa experience combined after with tasty, nutrient-dense food prepared with heart. An alcohol-serving establishment was just as unlikely to offer natural food as natural food place was to serve alcohol.
In times past it was no doubt a delightful experience for a handful of well-healed omnivores and splurgers, wanting to indulge and be pampered and re-challenge their liver after having relieved it some in the spa, as a scattering of old positive reviews indicated. And a pleasant and novel change of workplace for the presiding chefs and staff, even if surreally keeping intact city-operation attitudes and expectations, seemingly -- and weirdly -- disconnected from the rustic surroundings and the special, relaxed focus of the place. And at prices that moved former stalwart office staffer Linda B. to sniff, "The food sounds great; I wish I could afford to eat there."
Witnessed around 2012: a young, immaculately uniformed waiter delivering a meal to bathhouse visitor who was lounging by creek below the bathhouse. While such service was touching on one level, on another it struck viewer as a time-warped throwback to a ritzy east coast 1930s' resort catering to the idle wealthy.
Over-rich, animal-based foods of course neutralize any healing benefit that the mineral soak and sauna regimen might foster, leaning the more thoughtful to conclude that the resort had been only idly flirting with being a rejuvenating retreat, rather than simply plunging in full tilt, as do the more popular mineral spring resorts.
Contrast this with Oregon's Breitenbush, where the price of a stay (until more recent years) included three scrumptious all-you-can-eat veggie/vegan buffet meals.
Unknown whether such focus was the last owner's or managers' possible aversion to perceived hippie crunchy-granola-tofu fare and light-spending pursuers of such, projecting their own dietary preferences, and/or most restaurant leasers' belief that the place must cater to the more solvent mainstream members' omnivorous druthers...and so had to try to appear a snooty upscale eatery to have any chance of succeeding.
Maybe it was the inability to find -- or even bother looking for -- a talented and ambitious veggie chef, eager to run the seasonal rustic-set restaurant in simpler, just-folks way in keeping with relaxed spirit of bathhouse and earlier successful operations.
One suspected, again, that the beer and wine license served to keep the operation locked into a dismally conventional mode. While at most all other regional rural springs alcohol is outright banned (Orr is an exception), Stewart's had a sodden tradition during the resort's days of yore, of rednecky visitors getting drunk off their butts in their cabins on hard liquor, having a lost weekend in the woods as it were, utterly disconnected from the bathhouse scene...except as a place to maybe nurse a hangover and litter the scene like so many beer can empties. Later, getting an alcohol license only perpetuated the sorry legacy and/or peculiar disconnect from the ostensible healing focus of the place.
"And in this ring..."
During peak season in the 2000s Stewart Springs could be a dizzying five-ring circus: walk-in bathhouse guests, reservation and walk-in overnighters, extended stays of special workshop groups, sweat lodge (independently run), plus restaurant operation. 'Owner' or management, liking to be freed of the extra direct load of operating a restaurant, on top of everything else, had been leasing out the place for years.
Suspect that the annual lease cost plus overhead might've been such that, again, lessees felt they had no choice but to go for big-ticket meals to make the nut rather than offer cheaper, more basic meals, in greater volume, to avoid losing their shirts, like those across the creek were far more happily.
If so, it would go a long ways to explain the occasional tense vibes some posters reported, the diner volume far below the optimistic projections to be successful or even break-even. Who knows? Maybe the lessee took out a bank loan, remortgaged home, dipped into life savings, or blew a dream-vacation fund to finance their grand new venture. Then the rosy dreams of building up a thriving eatery soon freaked out on the reality of slack to nonexistent diners.
The latter could've been partly caused, again, by management's chronic disconnect from larger grounds operation, would-be dining establishment becoming a stilted, isolated world apart in their eyes. In earlier years when Springs management actually ran it, the two places were seamlessly integrated: menu on the bathhouse lobby table and tempting evening specials posted outside the office.
Occasional teaser freebie samples were also sometimes set out on bathhouse's lobby table to entice visits, and the desk manager often had a quick meal delivered to her post, eagerly wolfed down while giving raves when asked how it was. "Great! Better hurry if you want some, it's going fast!" Traffic flow between the two places was phenomenal for a while. One seldom did the bathhouse regimen without at least scoping restaurant's special to see it it could excite the taste buds, or decide to partake when finding friends or new acquaintances parked on the eatery's pleasant front deck or inside.
Later leasees often got into loggerheads with management over sundry miscommunications and unreasonable expectations and demands of one or the other or both. One tragi-comic incident: chef was busy going around the grounds putting up unapproved signs, trying to shake off a slow spell and drum up business...and managers came along minutes after, tearing down the signs and tossing them in the trash.
Another involved a disgruntled chef. His contract was terminated and he was paid off a bundle after a long cold war with management. Feeling supreme spite, he actually sicked the county fire marshal on the place. In 2005 it apparently had numerous fire-safety-code violations festering. Result: soon after, managers themselves joined with the staff in hasty efforts to get back into compliance and so avoid steep daily fines that would kick in remedied before the short deadline.
Such strains naturally worked against fostering any more relaxed place, one with feel-good energies and affordable healthy food, to complement the grounds' soak, sauna and coldplunge/cold shower (traditionally in that order).
Instead, in worst moments the restaurant appeared like a spiderweb, idle proprietor patiently awaiting to snag a fresh victim, the building filled with leaden silence actually repelling prospects... rather than, say, merry Billie Holiday tunes pouring out the door and kitchen window, as with the down-home management of Julie in 2000-1, pulling in a steady stream of the pleasantly famished; or Bianca's down-home service and spicy offerings, or colorful prayer flags festooning the deck with Gia's relaxed operation (the last one under the old 'ownership'; also the first with the new).
Food, Glorious Food...
Whether the former upscale dining focus struck one as incongruous or not, the reviewer's main issue was over making better use of the venerable structure. Lodgers were understandably loathe to drive down the hill to town when the restaurant was closed, which was most of the time ("The drive to Weed for a mediocre dinner is a drag..." said Subject Travel), and they didn't rent room with kitchenette or bring food, and don't fancy fasting. ("Oh, good, it's got a restaurant!" some no doubt enthused on gleaning the official website, thinking maybe it was open every day, year-round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
Especially since after a good long soak and sauna one could hove one exquisitely honed appetite. And, a concern for any with picky palettes and/or dietary regimens, regional veggie restaurants were few and far between (and still are). There was only Deli in Mt. Shasta's Berryvale and Andaman Healthy Thai Restaurant and Yreka's Nature's Kitchen, all a 15-20-mile, windy drive away and with their own limited serving hours.
It's perhaps the downside of being in such a rural area that it seemed there weren't enough visitors to support a full-time eatery on the grounds. One happy solution might be, as the reviewer suggested, opening it as common kitchen for guests at certain times. Orr Springs, which is FAR more rural, has (last known) a smooth-running communal kitchen/dining hall (albeit in the same building as the office and manager's lodging, enabling easy overseeing, but still...) To work it would require a new staff position or committed work trader to keep things running smoothly.
A mountain of work and long-term investment, but it would almost guaranteed over time attract more overnight visitors for longer stays. (Assuming, of course, trying to increase business was deemed a laudable pursuit, which spa purists, placing maximum value of uber-relaxed grounds, might say it's not). Of course, all lodgings except dorms #7-10 already have kitchenettes of some stripe (if only electric hot plate and mini-frig in some, last known), but it'd be popular for these exceptions -- plus any not wanting to cook and dine in private, but prefer mingling with fellow visitors -- including campers and day trippers who were otherwise without access to any food prep set-up.
Alternately, one could run the restaurant longer hours and always include staple plant-based offerings like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and chili, at affordable prices, ready to serve at a buffet table, with condiment island for doctoring to taste. It would pull in more day-visitors with keen appetites, stimulated by the alpine air, and soakers who'd afterwards happily stroll across the covered bridge to scarf meals and stretch enjoyment time in the oft-charmed realm.
Though inertia and tradition have both been incredibly strong at the Springs, slowing any potentially popular major changes, it's fun imagining the place, including the restaurant facility, finally breaking through into a mellower, full-tilt scene.
Many now-frustrated fans would agree it richly deserves to be one.
Yet more rants and raves, cont'd
Following are three noteworthy posts from long ago, under former Stewart Springs management.
TripAdvisor review posted ages ago by Christopher M., of Somerville, MA, is reprinted here mostly in its entirety.
"I spent two months recording my album in Weed. By week 4, I wanted a nice message. By week 7 I was ready to kill for one, so I asked the Radiostar staff [former local recording studio in Weed's old theater, which hosted town's Blackbird Festival] where to get the best massage and they pointed me here.
"Alright, I'm used to urban trendy spas, or massage therapy businesses that are decorated like aforementioned spas, so you can imagine my shock when I arrived here to crunchy granola get-in-touch-with-your-inner-goddess hippie heaven. This place is in the woods. Not a wooded area set up for tourists, this is the middle of the woods... wild animals and all.
"Upon my entry to the main building to check in I was forced to wait behind a woman and her daughter, who were checking out, or rather trying to check out without paying because 'someone had stolen her cat.'
"The idiocy of and behind that sentence made me more tense than when I walked in, but I soon realized just how calm every employee here is with the conversation that ensued:
"Manager: 'I highly doubt anyone here would steal your cat. Did you keep her inside or outside of your cabin?'
"Her: 'she's an outdoor cat!'
"Manager: 'Well, ma'am, we are in the middle of the woods. Wild predatory animals have been seen around here. My guess is that your cat is simply gone. That is the reason for our no outdoor pets policy. Had you informed us of your cat upon check-in, we would have explained that to you. I'm very sorry for your loss.'
"Woman: *jaw on ground*
"Alright, so with that settled, I got checked in and taken to a little hut with sister moonbeam (I seriously think her name was something very similar) who proceeded to give me the greatest hot stone massage of my life..."
Another classic, this 2012 TripAdvisor review, by PilgrimOnEarth of Pleasanton, CA, perhaps gave the place the most rarefied kudos ever put to pen or pixels:
"Having spent forty of my sixty years of life outside of the USA and having stayed in countless hotels and resorts and inns on six continents, I submit with all sincerity that my five days at Stewart Mineral Springs Retreat afforded me as much well-being of soul and body as I have ever found in the most remote and undeveloped corners of this planet, which well-being at Stewart Mineral Springs derived not only from the retreat's pristine natural setting, but also from the management and staff's palpable desire to provide their guests with a genuinely rejuvenating experience..."
"Why I like Stewart Mineral Springs"
Carlflygt of S.F. also lavished praise:
"I've been using this resort regularly for about ten years, driving from the San Francisco Bay Area or Reno, Nevada sometimes on a weekly basis. The appeal and usefulness of the facility are several-fold:
1. Powerful mineral water, easily the best I have experienced anywhere in California with comfortable, private tubs;
2. An aromatic, wood-fired sauna maintained at temperatures that facilitate sweating and inner cleansing;
3. A magnificent, high-volume creek cascading out of the Siskiyou mountains, very cold in the winter and spring and pleasantly warm during the summer;
4. A sun deck in mountain air that affords healthy dosing of sunlight;
5. A beautiful drive into the aura of Mount Shasta, the sight of which "turned John Muir's blood into wine;"
6. A friendly and accommodating staff, attuned to the mystical qualities of the resort and the mountain and to the native traditions that are maintained here;
7. Good amenities in the neighboring cities, in particular the Andaman Healthy Thai restaurant and the Berryvale Natural Foods Grocery in Mount Shasta City.
"My inner practices are a combination of Chinese chi kung and the anthroposphical ideas of Rudolf Steiner. I am particularly enthusiastic about working with the extremes of cosmic heat and cosmic cold, fundamental to the evolution of living systems and to the ranks of spiritual beings that are said to stand behind these systems. In the context of deep relaxation, these extremes can be tested at the resort, and I find myself continually intrigued by what they can do. The context of nature, including pine and aspen, wildflowers, birds, clouds, dragonflies, sunlight and billions of stars and galaxies on clear nights, only adds to the mystery of existence that one experiences here..."
management -- big picture overview --
universe paging new stewardship
From highest praise to most discouraging words...
For what it's worth, most of the following reviews were aimed at past management under previous Foggy absentee 'ownership.' However, past energies tend to remain present without positive, conscious, open-minded ownership/management to banish old ones -- obsessive profit focus replaced with fresh awareness and altruistic intent -- not simply coasting on the former...or for appearance sake making nice on a superficial level while brazenly trying to re-purpose the place just to suit and support highly inappropriate private-minded leanings, thereby derailing the venerable realm's historic spa dedication.
Without understanding where the place is coming from, breaking through into any robust, here-and-now, can-do operation is impossible. Of course that's assuming stewards are wanting to perpetuate the grand tradition. The new outfit's buttoned-down, diversion-intent mindset obviously is grandly indifferent to any such a noble notion as actually running the place for ailing humanity's benefit. ("Gimme a break.")
Alas, unkind comments abound over the place's former management, 'rude' being an all-too-frequent summation:
"extremely rude and condescending" (Shastadaisey, Martinez, CA)
"These are the rudest people I have ever met." (Unattributed Yelp review)
"I hope one day someone takes over with the love and care [place] needs." (Unattributed Yelp review)
"Completely hostile and rude" (Javacat_Calif, S.F.)
"Rude, short and simply unyielding" (497Laurie497, Benecia, CA)
"Lady in the office was not friendly..." ( EvaKing, Bangkok, Thailand, TripAdvisor)
"...very unprofessional" (Kris Silva, May 2018 Google Review)
"Incredible rudeness..." (Chris Robideaux, Google review)
"Management here is not friendly" (Mathias D., S.F. TripAdvisor)
"Extremely rude... (Andy G., TripAdvisor)
"Shockingly rude..." (Tim K., Woodstock, IL, TripAdvisor)
Longer vintage rants
"Great Place Very Poor Management
"This is a fantastic place. However I think that all the staff have taken a course in how to be extremely unfriendly. The receptionist was rude. [In] the dining room 'if you can call it that' the staff were so rude I got a fright and as for the manager of the place she is pretty damn scary. There is a list of rules and regulations with fines attached which is hilarious... This is a deeply spiritual place which I thought was just gorgeous. Its just such a damn shame that the management are so horrible..."
-- Steven M., Sydney, Australia, TripAdvisor review
Post from 2013:
"This management husband/wife are extremely angry [under pressure to max profits while desperately dealing with one's terminal prognosis, yet refusing to step down -- Ed.], so while the mineral springs and baths may be really nice on a lot of different levels, if a guest has any one-on-one with either managers, the overall experience will end up lessened. these two managers...are angry and whether you are working at the springs or a guest, i can just say from experience that you want to stay as far away from these two people as possible. they promote themselves as being healers and or shamans, and they are really just the exact opposite... if you actually have to come in contact with them, just remember that the truth isn't always spoken by them, and that the bottom line is, all they want is your money. they are rude, and talk about the guests, which in their line of work should, quite honestly, NEVER happen!!!
"The turnover of employees/staff is incredibly high, that speaks volumes.... so, even though it is an amazing place/space, it could be incredible and awesome without the current management, bringing their negativity to every part of the property..."
-- Jessica B., Dixon, N.M., Yelp review
Springred of Redding, CA in 2015 related a very stressful experience at the front desk:
"Great place, horrid desk clerk
...I called a day before and lucked into a cabin due to a cancellation. The woman on the phone was delightful and friendly - I was told check-in was 4:00 pm but since no-one was in the cabin I could check in anytime in the afternoon...Next day, I packed up and bought food and drove for an hour and a half arriving about 1:45. I happily walked in to the office and told the woman I was here to check in. She rudely announced that check in wasn't until 4:00.
"I don't know what her problem was and don't really care... She has no business being behind a reservation desk. She ruined my first day, although the other staff were incredibly kind and professional during the remainder of my stay. I've never had anyone treat me so horribly..."
Such a thing obviously should've never happened. The fact that the over-her-head, new clerk wasn't summarily given notice or switched back to housekeeping -- especially in light of the shameful review that instantly went out around the world, giving place a black eye -- bespoke management's former, incredibly chaotic, under-siege mentality...one all but incapable of being gracious and geared to offering the thoughtful service that befits any ostensible healing establishment.
It also reflected the place's unruly past, with crude unapologetic focus on profit over service and unseasoned management and cheaply hired help's negative reactionary effort to try keeping a handle on things on a poverty budget. The resulting, sometimes uber-sketchy, service made for epidemics of unhappy overnighters like Springred.
The episode was symptomatic of a chronic, serious disconnect from any more solid staff communication, essential for running a tight ship. Plus the inability to find the right employee for the position who was willing to work for peanuts.
It's a perfect example of what happened when management's over-focus on maxing profit eclipsed any real desire to serve and work together to make the place a genuine refuge, a welcome break from the unconscious scrambling tedium of the everyday world rather than a pitiful extension of it -- sometimes on steroids, no less.
In more recent times it was, again, often the result of the freaked mindsets of the management couple, under relentless pressure to max profits while a medical death sentence hung over the husband. Such downer strains combined to crush work morale and, as the other aggrieved reviewer noted, adversely affected the vibration of the whole place.
As said elsewhere, one can't help wonder if they took the job mostly so Ted, knowing he was terminal with stage-4 liver failure, could essentially have his own hospice, and by taking frequent mineral soaks during closed hours perhaps could confound the medical establishment's dire prognosis and affecting a miraculous cure -- or at least slow the inevitable.
It appeared he suffered having to deal with a demanding public as the price he had to pay...but seldom was he loathe to show his displeasure over the frequently trying circumstances...nor his wife, bent out of shape both for dealing with him and enduring the pressures running the Springs entailed, at times a juggernaut with ceaseless comings and goings of often demanding visitors -- plus, again, the constant push from the absentee 'owner' to generate larger profit.
Alas, Springred's story was far from an isolated incident.
Another classic tale of woe hit the nail on the head with a dollop of wry humor:
"Beware the staff...was met with a shockingly rude woman at the front desk...rather than being helpful - or even neutral! - she was confrontational and downright poisonous. At a 'place of healing'! Ruined my bath experience...she should be fired. Terrible to go to a place for peace and end up more stressed than you were before you arrived!"
-- Tim K., Woodstock, IL, TripAdvisor
Writer's not positive (not overly negative, either), but this might well have been none other than the former general manager herself, difficult to fire with a ten year contract and the former 'owner' reportedly not wanting to talk to customers...unless sued, and even then his people would talk to their people.
Also from 2015, a page headline worthy of reprise:
"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, under 'Not currently recommended'
Writer himself rolled with many punches over the years. Used to the peculiar, often-contentious climate of operation, one seemingly often a whisper away from derailing, I thought I could weather anything. But in 2015 I found the energy at the front desk so intolerable I had to unplug from place. I quit visiting and working on the plunge for months, until hearing things had chilled again, relatively speaking, and the culprit fired. (I took this site offline for a year as well then; at the time it was less critical and transparent and more of a tribute site; the way things were going, zero tribute was felt merited.)
Later I realized it was the same time that co-manager Ted D. was in the final throes of liver failure, passing away two months later...PLUS it was during the final phase of a years-long negotiations for sale of the place to Pneuma. (Beyond having to agree on purchase price, reportedly it also took a long time due to legal complexities of the joint 'ownership' being mostly foreign -- Mexican and Chilean -- plus one American.) Pure pity there wasn't any well-seasoned, cheerful office presence then, like former troupers Danielle, Linda or Allison, ones willing and able to carry on through even trying periods unsupervised with diligence, aplomb, and keen understanding...
...but then, such gnarly chaos only reflected what was going on behind closed doors: half of management was busy dying while the other half was busy selling the place down the river.
No Band-aids could even begin to cover such grievous wounds.
End of online review re-posts
For possibly further insight as to why management had been so dysfunctional in recent decades and continues on in sad variation today under extreme diversionary intent, consider the following op-ed. (Also 12-part editorial "What Happened to Stewart Springs?" on home page- scroll way down, to below visitor rants on momentous sweat lodge ban.)
Towards better grokking the Springs
From gracious healing resort
to over-milked cash cow,
to kidnapped realm
Will Stewart Springs ever rediscover its simple yet profound calling of offering affordable purification, healing, and rejuvenation that the place was founded on, echoing the reverential and timeless spirit of its first nations visitors?
Or will it further degenerate into callous, rigid, detoured operation, either trying to max greenbacks at every turn or, worse, totally eclipse the former the public-minded spirit of the place with a totally private-minded shtick, chillingly copping the seeming attitude of "It's OUR place now and we'll do whatever the hell we want with it; tough if you don't like it."
With the game-changing agenda of the new 'owners', can it successfully strip out 144 years of healing service and re-purpose place to exclusively serve as conservative Pneuma's headquarters, class space, and retreat for its own functions, fully turning its back on its historic dedication to serving the public?
With spa operation shut permanently, will they be able to make a go of things by renting out lodgings and event space for outside groups to defray the hefty $2.6 million purchase price, plus the ongoing $28,000 a year -- $77 a day -- in county property taxes? Or gain sufficient financial support from its own affiliated groups and those interested in its academic offerings and watered-down, new-agey workshops and the almost grudging rental of grounds to a select few not realizing (or perhaps caring) what the place has become?
If not, then the current 'absentee stewards' might at last read the writing on the wall, receive the wake-up call of a humongous reality check...and throw in the towel on the money pit, putting the place back on the market...thereby creating the opportunity for an appropriate steward(s), which true-blue fans of the place visualize to manifest in due season, to come forward and at last redeem the place as a nonprofit natural healing retreat dedicated to the greater good.
Time will tell.
In the meantime...
the Bigger Picture
Through metaphysics, one can gain a greater understanding of that grand, often baffling puzzle that is Stewart Springs.
Why have such unlikely, untoward energies sporadically cropped up here since the founder's daughter, Katy, essentially gave the place away in the early 1950s, after the dedicated 39-year run following her dad's own 39-year run? (see history)
"the only good injun..."
There's a tragic secret buried at Springs...one some have no idea of and others know about all too well.
In the 1870s, racial intolerance of 'civiized' whites towards First Nation people had reached a blood-thirsty frenzy on wings of the 1876 Little Bighorn comeuppance of genocidal U.S. troops.
So when a stray renegade attacked and killed some local settlers, others, possibly riled up by hired railroad guns, became bound and determined to exterminate ALL local natives. Getting apparent warning of the imminent hell-bent campaign, natives fled to their ancestral safe place of healing waters -- traditionally a protective place of peace where even warring tribes laid down their weapons on hillside and soaked together in temporary truce.
Most were no doubt massacred in short order. Late medicine man Charlie Thom's father, then a boy, along with his grandfather, were spared only for being camped further upstream at the time, trying to cop cooler weather during a hot summer. Some who had fled clear to Castle Lake were caught and killed, bodies thrown into the lake.
The horrific legacy of the land now known as Stewart Mineral Springs remains to this day, a grievous wound perpetually in need of healing.
Metaphysics holds that earliest energy imprints by people on any given land stay embedded in its vibrational makeup throughout all time...no matter how many changes happen in following centuries.
If true, then both earliest imprint -- peaceful sacred prehistoric use of land -- and to significant degree later hideous massacre energies, because they were so tragically momentous -- still resonate on the place long known as Stewart Mineral Springs.
On the land today there's essentially an ongoing civil war between peaceful and hostile energies. One that's forever seeking resolution.
The former, being earliest and spanning centuries, is naturally stronger. But the latter, again, for being so unspeakably violent that it became unmoored from the time stream -- not unlike the Titanic sinking, 9-11, or San Francisco's 1906 quake and fire -- will crop up to eclipse former energy imprint to this very day. Whenever unpeaceful, exploitative, or selfish use of the grounds is attempted, instead of heart-centered, open sharing of one of earth's rare healing gifts, one is courting sure disaster.
Skeptics might say, "Oh, come on, that was over 140 years ago; get real." But a thousand years is but a day in the Lord...in divine time that tragedy happened just hours ago. Any activity on the land not centered in purifying and healing and peaceful harmonizing of all feeling pulled to the place for purification, healing and rejuvenation calls back the mournful, chaotic, violent, site-embedded energies in a heartbeat.
Only through dedicated service and respect for descendants of the original persecuted peoples who so deeply revered the land can mindful Springs management ever make things right, erasing old karma and restoring the realm's original peaceful healing spirit.
That's why kicking out sacred sweatlodge marked an unspeakably shameful regression.
Anything short of dedicated service inevitably results in chaos and discord, a resurrection of the violent karma of the place's original visitors being slaughtered on and around sanctuary land in that sorry time when, as the ugly saying of the time went, the only good injun was a dead injun.
It can't be stressed enough:
The land will only heal from its tragic karma by present-day stewards devoting ALL efforts to genuine purification, healing and hospitality...with no thought of trying to exploit place by unduly profiting from sacred waters OR co-opting the spa and lodging operation in ways keeping general public from availing themselves to purify, heal and rejuvenate in the simple, free and light, original spirit of the realm...one untainted by any untoward commercial or private-minded preoccupation whatsoever.
All else is guaranteed to end badly.
(To the last absentee steward's credit, one way the operation worked towards this end was by offering a free mineral bath to any Native American showing tribal membership ID. Also, locals eligible for a discount extended clear to Ashland, Oregon and down to Redding. With new 'owner', discount was only a token dollar or two, and then only for Siskiyou County residents, and employees' once-a-month freebee bath evaporated.)
Days of Future Past
To further understand the unbridled profit drive and other inappropriate energies crimping place in recent decades, it might help to realize that the earlier 'owner' of some 36 years, John Foggy, was a fairly hard-nosed businessman. He just wasn't all that into new-age stuff (or altruistic old-timey service gig, as founder), and offering mineral-water healing and access to the land's purported vortex energies as an altruistic service.
Though in a way the place became his good karma business of sorts, in as much as he'd allowed management to toy with rekindling something of the original healing spirit of the place, still, the waters and land had to be commodified for maximum gain and the would-be healing atmosphere often suffered for the obvious, enforced focus on profits.
He couldn't see the percentage running a business if not trying to make the biggest bundle possible off it. What was the point otherwise? Towards that end, workers, including writer when briefly on the payroll, were paid a token 25 cents over the state minimum wage and for years forced to work off the clock and/or not get work breaks whenever the place got busy...all for being part of an undersized staff. Smoldering resentment, bickering among selves and burnout were the inevitable result. Workers often felt blatantly exploited. Those refusing to work off-clock or through lunch breaks were fired.
No bones about it: a skeletal staff sweating at bare-bones wages under sometimes numb-skull management could make for one sketchy spa.
If not locked into true service mode backed by legal stewards and on-grounds management, a staff's ability to keep even a semblance of a gracious hold on the place for any length of time was -- and continues to be -- doomed. Snappish behavior and dispirited chaos were the inevitable result.
Too often it seemed rudeness ruled the day. It was as if the classic business motto "The customer is always right" had somehow been replaced with "Hey bub, you don't like how we run things here, go somewhere else; plenty more coming down the line. Next."
Hence bushelfuls of unhappy online reviews over the years competed with cheerier ones, some from those who knew that management was under the gun, and appreciated the things that were right. (And, now, going beyond even bothering to post rants, an ever-expanding, de facto boycott of the place.) The former could leave a bleak overall impression that things at the supposed healing place were hopelessly out of wack. It naturally (unnaturally?) defeated the original dedicated purpose...as if some virulent cancer had set in and was eating away at the retreat's once rock-solid integrity and dedicated healing service mission.
Such a contentious environment could naturally make any positive, fair-minded, easy-flowing operation impossible.
Flare-ups created by less than noble and earnest designs snowballed soon after the Stewart family had divested of the place and the transitional masonic stewards bowed out after 16 years. The once-dedicated intent seemed to fade more and more with every 'ownership' change -- with two notable exceptions -- six times now, since the early 1950s' Stewart family divestiture. seehistory
Weird vibes could infect management and staff alike. No surprise then that various visitors unlucky enough to visit during a high-tide operational freak-out and ensuing melt-down (or rank indifference and neglect) were stunned by the malaise... and so dispensed uncharitable review headlines like "Retreat from What?", "Rude Staff", "Felt Ripped Off", and "Wish I had Never Gone There."
While stepped-up visitor volume (which, mea culpa, writer aided and abetted during the relatively mellow and liberated early 2000s) let more people enjoy the place, renewed focus on healing and service needed to be stepped up as well, keeping pace, or the spirit of the place got buried.
As mentioned elsewhere, in future times what might greatly help is moving the laundry/housekeeping away and building a bigger, separate front office (charming as the current one was). The latter space could be repurposed as a steam-room, say, with the side office serving as the new-old entrance (it was the original office entrance before the add-on office was built -- that's why there was a window on wall between the two), doubling as a perfect spot for shoe removal like at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings. It would thus better accommodate staff and visitors without cramping energies -- and offer a comfortable buffer from the bathhouse, where the most relaxed atmosphere is essential to gaining fullest spa benefit.
Anyone visiting pre-fire Harbin Hot Springs might remember its uber-relaxed, 33-1/3 rpm grounded energy at the front gate booth, where arrivals were leisurely mustered in. Workers refused to get pulled out of their diligent but relaxed comfort zone to process any faster. Those waiting learned to appreciate this fact as the wound-up road energies dissipated: it sank in how they were entering not some fast-food joint, but a special healing and awareness-awakening zone dedicated to profound body-mind-spirit reintegration and rejuvenation.
Newly resurrected Harbin was, as some well know, long ago set up as the nonprofit Church of Heart Consciousness. So people gladly slowed down to await their turn, attuning to here-and-now while building anticipation of entering the free-spirited, grounded-culture paradise, far from the so-called real world. (More like reel world, running illusory films nonstop on how life is supposed to be lived in order to not upset one-percenter apple cart, dependent on keeping everyone down and in their place, scrambling to get just enough crumbs to not want to revolt.)
It dawned on the writer how, unlike at Harbin, where one stepped UP to the office window to check in, at Stewarts both paths leading to the main office sloped DOWN. Any familiar with precepts of feng shui know how invisible chi energy forces build up, becoming stronger, faster, and more turbulent when flowing downward, as at the bottom of a stairway. While the path inclines are slight, they did generate faster chi for approachers often walking faster along them, which could make graciously dealing with visitors sweeping down into the office problematic.
Before changing the former low sit-down desk to a tall, protective, practical counter for standing staff, the effect of the faster chi bombarding seated workers with arrivals standing over them could be overwhelming. Poor Pat, CeeCee and countless others; they dealt with visitors that way for ages. But on the positive side, it did make the place endearingly "just folks."
Infinite possibilities under perfect stewardship -- paging the universe for new champions of the public good
Every mineral springs resort routinely deals with trying pressures that a flood of visitors can create. Orr Springs and Breitenbush eased the problem by setting limits on number of day visitors allowed in, all by call-ahead process -- no walk ins. Stewart's in times past ineffectively tried getting handle on occasional flood of locals-day visitors by limiting number in group without zapping surcharge (with predictably unfavorable response; it was like saying, "Okay, we'll let you crowd in, but it'll cost ya extra.").
Better to set limits, be fully transparent, give people credit for intelligence to understand the situation, rather than furtively keeping the inner workings and limited-water reality of the place on some secretive need-to-know basis and treating visitors like mushrooms (i.e., kept in the dark and fed crap).
Despite the current tragic dilemma of yet again inappropriate 'ownership' holding the place hostage and seriously clipping its wings, infinite new possibilities might loom on the horizon.
Venerable Karuk sweatlodge, effectively
kicked off land after generations >
While current 'owners' seem obtusely determined to keep playing out their wonky, tone-deaf fantasy diversion from a place long serving the public as a welcome retreat, you never know what the future might bring.
As most surely know by now, as of May, 2020 they whittled down operations to lodging and workshops and events only, entirely scrapping spa operation, no doubt hoping through the former to replace the flood of lost spa revenue.
But how long will this scene limp on before they conclude they'd be far better off letting go of the place?
They'll divest, signing over to a new, blissfully appropriate new legal steward(s), those interested in once again making place a lighthearted healing refuge...given the current stewards are gracious and mindful enough to seek out the right person or group to transfer to, thereby redeeming their now-tattered integrity and ultimately carving out an offhandedly positive legacy in the place's evolution...plus assuring their own continued enjoyment of it in the future, should they choose to and assuming they can grow to accept simple nudity in appropriate places as maybe a good thing.
With Springs aficionados visualizing such a positive future transformation of the place with well-matched future stewardship, management and staff, we can manifest a springs the way every aware and mindful person who's ever known and loved it in earlier times wants to see it return to being. Making the operation a well thought out, legally nonprofit healing retreat in perpetuity would guarantee it.
With such a new stewardship, dedicated to healing and enlightenment and keeping that green energy known as money working intentionally and plowed back locally, the place would thrive once again, at long last regaining its rightful place in peoples' hearts around the world.
The all's-well quote that ended Emile Frank's 1984 article, as it turned out not really deserved then and definitely still premature, is perhaps as good a way as any to end this rambling. It might strengthen the collective vision of an enlightened future stewardship once again shepherding the beloved place:
"Henry Stewart, whose lifetime wish was that the mineral springs could forever continue to heal his fellowman, probably turned over in his grave a couple of times during the evolution of the Springs, but it's pretty safe to say that Stewart Mineral Springs is finally in good hands and that Henry is resting easy these days."
Writer Stuart Ward was involved with Springs for the better part of 20 years, including as volunteer work-trade assistant to the late manager Mary Hildebrand while living on grounds, building up and maintaining the bathhouse cold-plunge 16 years, and successfully rallying for a clothing-optional policy starting in 1999.
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