San Francisco Stories and Tips

Serenity In The Hills: A Hot Springs Getaway

The Mineral Pools Photo, San Francisco, California

We toil all year, meeting deadlines, achieving business goals, and generally heaping an undo amount of stress on ourselves, just for a bit of free time. Unfortunately, when we finally earn our much-needed respite, we find today’s concept of a vacation something that has been canned, labeled, or wrapped in cookie-cutter ways for purchase.

Buy a cruise and you know what to expect for the amount you pay. Go to New York, LA, San Francisco, or any major city for that matter and you know which shows and what restaurants are definitely "not to be missed." There is always Las Vegas, where you can experience the above—Paris included—in a 3-block walk, all for one airfare. Just budget how much money you are willing to part with on the roll of the dice. The frenetic pace of "Your Vacation" doesn’t change if you leave the country either. Take a guided tour through Europe, rushing through a multitude of museums, castles, and battlefields, making certain not to miss your bus, plane, or train—the schedules tighter than the deadlines you raced against all year. "I need a vacation from my vacation." Sound familiar?

We were looking for a place where the world of deadlines and schedules melt away into quiet serenity and found it. The burgeoning resort industry has been spending hundreds of millions on in-resort spas so that we can experience mind and body revitalization, even if we have to squeeze it between all the must-sees and must-dos. Travelers and weekend vacationers are taking notice, making this segment of resort amenities one of the fastest growing in the leisure industry. There was a time when the spa environment was reserved by its pricing structure alone as a pearl for society’s gilt-edged class. But even the resort hotel spa experience can get costly and there is another way to do this—all without breaking the bank. It is the world of hot springs and spas. One such place to mark in the day-planner, if you have the yearning to "head west and seek your solitude", is Wilbur Hot Springs and Spa. We did and will return again and again.

Wilbur Hot Springs was an unforgettable, impressive, and affordable destination, and only a 2-hour drive northeast out of San Francisco in Williams, California. Piercing through a significant part of wine country and then a petrified forest as well, we found that this idyllic vestige of a true hippie commune comes of baby-boomer age nestled amongst the hills on a couple of 1,000 acres in the middle of practically nowhere. Wilbur turned out to be a perfect blend of retreat and resort, where we incorporated a holistic approach to our vacation. Soothing mineral waters, a rustic yet charming Victorian hotel, a place to truly connect with nature, along with yoga classes, massage, and other activities, defined Wilbur Hot Springs as the unique retreat we sought but didn’t realize it until we found it. Summer season at Wilbur delivers Northern California’s ideal weather—heat and low humidity in daytime and the cool evening nights. Soaking away stress and rediscovering the meaning of solitude and serenity, while the hectic pace of day-job life melts away, comes very easily here.

The understanding we have today of proper dietary and nutritional intake, aerobic awareness, and the embracing of exercise as daily life rituals continues to lend to extended longevity. We all want to capture and accumulate more of the most valuable asset we have: time. Can it be done? If it can, then add waters like Wilbur’s to the above prescription, and here is why:

A healing lithium content in hot springs waters may be considered at about three parts per million. Wilbur has, at its latest testing, recorded approximately eight parts per million. Studies conducted by Dr. Jonathan V. Wright of the Tahoma Clinic, recently published in "Nutrition and Healing" magazine, have linked lithium water and anti-aging. Simply put, Lithium may be useful in preventing Alzheimer’s, senility, dementia, and possibly Parkinson’s. Lithium protects brain cells against otherwise normal wear and tear and also offers protection against a vast array of toxic molecules, including patent medications. Lithium can promote brain cell regeneration and increase the cell’s mass. In essence, the research is suggesting that Lithium is an anti-aging nutrient.

It is for good reason signs around the grounds are brushed with the motto, "In all the world no waters like these." Wilbur's natural mineral springs have been sought throughout the centuries. Whether by settlers and weary travelers of the mid 1800s or Native Americans for centuries prior, the powerful healing properties found here beckon the modern traveler, too. We just seem to have left feeling better than when we arrived. Once we passed through her gates, we found dramatic paradigm shifts geared to eliminate the familiar catalysts of stress in our lives. Reality at Wilbur Hot Springs became redefined.

Japanese bath traditions prevailed with clothing is optional in the bathing area, but required everywhere else at the resort. The mineral waters are found under an A-Framed bathhouse, which flow into three long channels with temperatures ranging from 98°F to 108°F. This three-walled bathhouse is completely private and stays open all night as well. Below the steaming baths, along the expansive multi-leveled deck, is a cool-water mineral pool flanked by an outdoor hot mineral sitting pool, dry sauna, showers, and plenty of lounge chairs.

Turn-of-the-century origins of the hotel are reflected in a dozen and half-unique guest rooms. There is a spacious apartment suite with a private bath, kitchen, living and dining room, and up to three adjacent bedrooms. An 11-bed bunk room is also available for the modest budget. Private showers are adjacent to the bathhouse. During spring, summer, and early fall, campsites are available on the hills overlooking the main house and property, if tenting under the stars is your thing.

Meals at Wilbur Hot Springs are unique. We brought our own groceries and prepared our meals in a huge professional kitchen well equipped with all necessary pots, pans, utensils, and dishes. We received refrigerator, freezer, and storage space for our fare. Though not present when we were there, well-known chefs host "Guest Chef Weekends," where they prepare five gourmet meals for a modest price addition.

Everyone enjoys the fruits of their culinary labors in several dining areas. Tables are found inside and on a covered outside porch. A large dining room, part of what is known as the Great Room, is also filled with tables and chairs. A pool table hugs one corner, while couches and reading chairs are set sitting room style near an upright piano in another. Several guitars, recorders, and bongos are found here, and impromptu jam sessions seemed to erupt every now and then among our fellow guests.

Wilbur relies on propane powered generators and solar panel-generated electricity, so forget about your electric razors or blow dryers. The ever-present smell of sulfur water on your clothes and in your hair should be something you need to be aware of as well. It is an ecologically-friendly setting where bird-, deer-, and animal-watching and hiking though wildflowers will draw the tree-hugger out of us all. A weekend, or even a night, at Wilbur hot springs illustrates what reality truly should be for all of us, even if for a short while.

Reservations: Call 530/473-2306 between 10am and 8pm daily.

Driving is as easy as clicking here for directions!

More Wilbur Hot Springs Information is on the Web. Just tell them Wayne Mason, TravelChannel.Igougo reviewer sent you! Enjoy!

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