is not known for its volcanoes. In fact, I'm not sure that
California has any active volcanoes, but it did at one time.
Those volcanoes spat their ash and dust into the air and
it settled onto the ground, only to be mixed with mud and
mineral water much, much later.
north of Napa Valley lies the city of Calistoga. The name
was coined by a New York businessman who combined the words
"California" and "Saratoga." (Saratoga
is a city north of New York known for its spring waters.)
is home to a number of mineral springs. It's the mineral
water from these springs that is mixed with local volcanic
ash and mud to create Calistoga's famous mud treatments.
There are lots of mineral spas in and around Calistoga,
ranging from rustic to posh. Charlotte and I chose the spa/hotel
Nance's Hot Springs, which came to us well recommended.
both opted for "the works" at Nance's, which included
a mud bath, mineral bath, mineral steam, blanket wrap, and
massage. Charlotte opted for the one hour massage, while
I took the half-hour one. Nance's also has a hot mineral
pool, open to all staying overnight at the hotel or just
for the day.
of us had ever had any experience close to a spa mud bath
treatment and we walked through the shuttered white door
not knowing what to expect except something wonderful.
were greeted by an old woman who told us to take our clothes
off and wrap ourselves in big white flannel sheets. After
donning these togas, we wandered down a hall with old hospital
beds on either side. In some of the beds women were wrapped
up in blankets with their eyes closed. At the end of the
hall we saw a room. Inside was a row of bathtubs. This was
the mudroom, the location of the majority of our treatments.
liked Nance's rustic atmosphere. It wasn't like the Roman
bathhouse one might imagine. It was very backwoods, all
open with nothing to hide. On one side was a row of huge,
old-fashioned porcelain bathtubs. Two women were bubbling
away inside them. On the other side were three huge vats
of mud. This was our first stop.
into the mud was not very easy. The mud was hot, especially
at the bottom, and we had to slide into it. The bath attendants
had us sit on a wooden board and they slid us into the mud.
We had to lie as flat as possible so that we didn't stick
our feet in too deep. Then we got covered from toe to neck
with a mixture of volcanic ash and mud. Warm bubbles rose
from the hot mud below.
was kind of nervous in the mud. Sure, I played in mud as
a child, but I wasn't supposed to do that. Having a mud
bath was completely natural and relaxing, but I still felt
nervous. The mud bubbled slowly and smells of sulphur rose.
It truly did feel like I was in a volcano.
and I were covered with a second layer of mud and with this
my fear started to dissipate. I sank deeper into the vat
and my body started to relax. The bath attendants brought
a cool cloth and put it over my face and I disappeared into
the warm mixture.
soon it was time to move on. Getting out of the mud was
much easier than getting in; we just sat up and slid out
on the plank. After taking a rinsing shower we entered the
mineral bath. These tubs were huge too, and the water flowed
over the sides as we each got into our own bubbling bath.
I was completely submerged. The fluidity of the water was
welcome after the thick mud and I was becoming more relaxed
by the minute.
another cool shower our treatment continued with mineral
steam. I went into a small, tiled, steamy room that smelled
faintly of sulpher. I wondered if this was really good for
my skin or not. After being thoroughly steamed, Charlotte
and I moved on to the blanket wrap. We each got our own
bed and were wrapped in a blanket. We proceeded to sweat
for the next half hour. It was at this time I began hallucinating
as if I was having a successful sit in a sweat lodge. I
was sweating like a pig and wsn't having fun at all. I couldn't
wait to get out. The blanket wrap seemed horrible, but one
never feels great when sweating, only afterward.
bliss, like all good things, comes to those who wait. One
more shower and it was time for my massage. My skin was
soft and smooth. I was relaxed and I felt energized. Lying
on the massage table, I knew I had found bliss and it was
well worth the wait.
Home Spa Companion