Monday, October 6, 2014

Mud Slinging in Calistoga

Calistoga in the California Napa Valley is full of mud spas where you can get down and dirty while soaking your troubles away and I couldn't wait to test the troughs at the posh Indian Springs resort.

But first, a little history. Wappo Indians, the original inhabitants of the Napa Valley, were the first to discover the natural hot mineral springs and geysers in what is now Calistoga. Recognizing the healing properties of the water, they built three sweat lodges (Native American day spas?) in the area. Rich in magnesium and calcium, the thermal mineral waters were created when Mt. Konocti erupted millions of years ago. This volcanic eruption created fissures in the earth where layers of volcanic ash were deposited, now residing about 4 feet beneath the earth’s surface.

The mineral water rises through ancient sea beds, absorbing rich minerals and salt traces, and is then mixed with hand-sifted ash to create the warm black ooze used in Indian Springs' famed mud baths. After each mud bath, the mud is sterilized with geyser water which is constantly replenished. Phew.

At the spa, I was given a locker, told to strip down and wrap in the towel provided. In the mud room, a warm mineral shower was first on the agenda. This routine is not for the modest. Although the treatment areas are segregated boy/girl, there are no shower curtains or partitions between mud troughs or soaking tubs. Yup, lotsa naked ladies running around in a fashion that reminded me of a Loehmann’s dressing room. (Oh, how I miss Loehmann's…)

The mud tub is about 5 feet long by 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep. I sat on the side, grabbed the opposite wall, and lowered myself ass backward/legs up into the goop. Despite my expectations, I did not sink and actually floated in the mud. Sort of. The goop was coal black with the gritty consistency of a good quality facial mask. Or maybe quicksand.

The attendant then scooped up the mud and covered me, neck to toes. If you want mud on your face, just say so. The goop was the temperature of a hot bath- claustrophobics may need a few minutes to adjust. Then I just settled in for about ten minutes and let go of it all. Goodbye real world.

To get out of that stuff, I lifted one leg at a time (when did they add the weights?) As I lifted, the attendant scraped off the mud. Again, not for the modest! Once outta there, I headed to another warm shower, followed by a soak in an old fashioned claw footed tub with plenty of citrus cucumber water to drink. Then it’s steam room time. The final segment was naptime in a private room, wrapped in towels with cucumber eye compresses. 
After the cat nap, I headed to the big olympic size mineral pool where the water temp hovers around 95 degrees. 

Goodbye toxic waste. Hello ooze and aahs.

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