Is that manure?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had booked us a couple’s mud bath and massage at Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort while in Calistoga, California. Neither of us had had a mud bath experience so hey, why not do it together?

Before I go any further I first want to say it was quite the experience and you should “do” the hot springs and a mud bath while in Calistoga!! It was a fun bonding experience, for sure! As a matter of fact, if you think there is any remote possibility of you being in Calistoga STOP READING NOW. Just go experience this yourself. I don’t want my post to color your possible decision as to whether or not to splurge on this unique spa adventure. However, if there is no way you’re ever getting to that part of the country, don’t like spa treatments in general or are just dying to read about our hilarious encounter… READ ON!

I don’t have any other Calistoga spas to compare to but the Golden Haven staff was great! We got there a little early so we could enjoy their mineral water pool and whirlpools before our mud bath began. We put our clothes in a little locker and donned our bathing suits and the robes they lend you and headed into the water. It’s billed as “pure, natural, mineral water…from the geothermal hot springs that run underneath” their spa. Ok, neat. But to me it was just a pool and a hot tub. Maybe with an unusual smell. (But not as unusual as Grandma’s sulphur-y smelling well water in West Virginia when I was growing up.)

When it was time for our appointment we were escorted to a couples mud room by our spa attendant, Bianca. In the mud room was an L shaped concrete tub filled with mud, a huge double shower and a double jacuzzi.

I know your first question, and yes, you get into the mud completely naked. Bianca assured us they filter out the mud and heat it to 160 degrees to “clean” it between each guest. But I’m not sure I buy it. Oh, I’m sure they do something to try and sterilize it between guests… But guys! It’s MUD! How clean can it be to start with???

Our instructions to get in the mud: strip, sit on the side of the tub and sling our legs over. It’s really thick, so once you’re on top of the mud you have to shimmy to submerge yourself completely.

I’ll admit I was envisioning “mud” like a smooth mud clay facial mask. This was not that. It was thick and lumpy with an interesting smell. Reminiscent of manure. Cow manure, to be exact – not to be confused with horse manure…. And it pretty much looked similar in consistency too. Once Bianca was out of the room Mike and I looked at each other then started laughing. Yes, we were going to strip naked and go for dunk in poo. To be fair, it was actually peat moss mixed with mineral water and some other things to be therapeutic. But it’s really hard to wrap your head around climbing into a steaming tub of liquid dung.

I sat on the edge, as instructed, swung my legs over and literally sat on top of the mud. It was that thick. I shimmied and shook, but I really had a hard time getting my boobies and shoulders covered! At some point you just give up and start slopping the mud over top of yourself to cover up. I was interested in being covered before Bianca came back in to further our “spa treatment”.

The spa has this down pat because no sooner had Michael and I giggled and wiggled our way into the mud, Bianca was back. She adjusted our back supports (aka, kickboards from your childhood swimming lessons) to make sure we were comfy and then painted a clay mask (yes, a smooth clay that I would have expected) over our lower faces and an ice cold compress on our forehead to keep us from overheating. We have 10-12 minutes to marinate and ruminate over our current situation.

Mike and I were laying foot-to-foot in this L-shaped tub-o-moss. (C’mon, let’s call it what it really is!) Eyes closed, I was quiet. Presumably because I was trying to relax since me and “quiet” don’t go hand-in-hand. Actually my mind was going a hundred miles and hour, wiggle your feet down in Julie, they’re floating up. Ooh, not too far! That’s HOT! Remember Bianca said there are heaters at the bottom of this thing. Don’t touch the heaters! But where are the heaters? She said they were too deep to actually touch? So why in the heck did she warn us about them? My boobs are cold. Is there still mud on my boobs? I peek an eye open to see I’m I’m still completely covered. Yep, I’m covered. But I smoodge a few handfuls of warm mud over my chest to keep it warm. My shoulders don’t seem deep enough. What in the hell is this supposed to be doing, again? 

I try wiggling my shoulders down deeper. I slowly roll the peat through my fingers. It’s slightly lumpy. Has very small bits of twigs in it. Yep, stills smells like manure. I try to relax and remove the notion of me and Mike sitting in big, hot tubs of poop.

Then I really get distracted and all I could think of for a few minutes was how I was sitting in a big, hot tub of poop, naked!!!

I try and clear my mind, a kind of meditation, if you will, to push out all thoughts of mud, poo, any lingering questions. And I just listen to the sound of the bubbling jacuzzi behind my head.

This whole time Mike has not made a peep. Finally he mutters, “I’m sweating balls over here. How much longer?”

Apparently that was our 10-12 minutes because Bianca reentered, brightly asking us how it was. We giggle. We admit we felt like we were sitting in steaming pile-o-crap. Seems we’re not the first to have that thought.

We thought getting in the mud was interesting…. Getting out…. Bianca instructed the easiest thing to do is rake the mud off your arms and chest then sling a leg over the side or just roll out. Then go ahead and get in the shower and rinse off. I’ll be back in in a few minutes to clean up the tub while you’re showering.

There is no dainty way to get out of a tub-o-poop. It’s heavy! I tried raking it off my arms and chest like she said but my legs seemed trapped by bags of quicksand. I opted for the lose-all-self-respect-and-roll-out-like-a-beached-whale technique. Although, I’m sure there wasn’t any technique involved. I was trying not to slop mud all over the floor but it’s impossible. She said she was coming back to clean up, right?!

I really have no idea how Mike fared with his extraction process. By the time I finally got up off the floor, yes, the floor – I sort of just plopped out – he was already standing, slinging the extra mud off himself.

Have I mentioned how much laughter was involved through this whole process so far? Really, if you can’t laugh at yourself or can’t stand to be laughed at, DON’T DO THIS! All it really is is a fully engaged comedy hour.

We got into the showers and we each had our own humongous 18″ diameter rain shower head. Interestingly, we each also had a hose with a garden sprayer on the end! This one:

41HzDyulbbL

Yes folks, you do get mud in all your crevices…. Mike was facing away from me so I started rinsing off his back except I forgot to check the setting on the nozzle, and almost water blasted a layer of his skin off. He was trying to help me reach my butt crack but all I could get out was “Spray down honey, not up! SPRAY DOWN honey, not up!!!” He thought I was clean but when I raised my arm to rinse the sweat out of my hair he had to spray off a giant goop of mud that had hidden in my armpit. (How does one even hide mud in their armpit?!)

Were were laughing so hard it’s any wonder we got clean at all. Somewhere in the middle of this Bianca did come back in to clean up. I hope that’s not the first hootin’ and hollerin’ she’s heard from the behind the shower curtain! Although for her sake, I hope anything she has heard from other clients has from light hearted giggling and fun… not a couple trying to squeeze in a quicky, because, ew! MUD!

We still had TWO more steps to our mud bath. From the shower we got into the incredibly hot jacuzzi. They did provide ice water. And although a nice relief, I had to get out of the water after about 10 minutes. It was just too intense for me. Mike followed suit. We had about a 5 minute wait in our robes before Bianca was back for us again.

The last step of the mud bath is to take you to a small, dark room with two massage tables laid with blankets. This would be a familiar environment for any of you who frequent spas. It’s this step where the room has soft music playing, low lights and aromatherapy fragrances filling the air. We got all tucked up in the blankets by Bianca with a cold compress on our foreheads to allow us to slowly cool down.

Annnd, they leave you there for about 30 minutes.

They expect some, or most, customers to fall asleep. Neither of us did, but we were quiet. Bianca came back in to “wake us up” for our scheduled massage we had afterwards. Which was totally awesome!!!  But like a massage most of you have probably encountered before.

After our massage we were able to take a shower and then walk the quarter mile, in the starlight, back to our RV. That’s the best nights’ sleep I’ve gotten in a loooong time.

Mike and I did agree that, although we can’t see ourselves doing it again, we’re glad we did “do the mud bath” while in Calistoga. It’s a bucket list check off.

– Sat in poop….. check
– Blasted each other’s private parts with a hose nozzle….. check
– Damn near died of jacuzzi heat stroke….. check
– Paid to sleep in a strangers’ blankets….. check
– Laughed so hard through the process I *may or *may not have peed myself…. PRICELESS!

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