The smell was the first thing that hit me...it was a stinky dirt, slightly manure-like odor. Then the bath lady rather quickly stripped me of my robe, tossed me under the shower and ushered me into the tiled tub full of deep brown, oozing mud that was made of peat moss, volcanic ash and god knows what else. I was instructed to lay on top and then she began, with her hands, shoveling the ..."mud" on top of me. It was very warm, quite supportive and once I got past wondering what the heck was in the mix, soothing. She asked if I would like a mask on my face and I squeaked in alarm "of MUD???" "No, green clay" she reassured me as she added cucumber slices to my eyes and sprayed grapefruit scent to cover the other odor.
It was our 5th day in wine country, the third in Napa Valley and the women were ready to detox (or as one of the husbands said, “the ladies were getting mulched!”) so we headed to Calistoga for mud baths, mineral water soaks, blanket wraps and massages…we had a LOT of detoxing to do! Calistoga is known for their mud baths and ever since I'd visited this area in the '80s with college friends, I've wanted to try them. After sitting in mud for 10 minutes, we (there were three of us sharing this experience)were instructed to slowly stand and slough off as much of the mud as we could. We rose, looking like creatures from the black lagoon, or as one of our party said, “I look like Medusa but I feel fabulous!"and wiped ourselves off. Then we were directed to the showers, where we vigorously rinsed. It was somewhat disconcerting to see the volume of brown goo coming off my body…particularly from my nether regions. I took the handheld shower off the wall and and aimed it strategically. Picture rivers of muddy gunk, flowing down your legs, splattering the walls in a Jackson Pollock pattern…not a pretty picture! The mineral water soak was next, and we lay in our own claw tubs filled with the water, moved about by a bubbling apparatus that seemed destined to provide a happy ending. From the bath followed the steam room, a small tiled, cave-like room into which they had tiny pass-throughs, to hand you your water. When the water magically appeared through the cubby, my friend yelled, "yeah! Dairy Queen” as that is what it felt like. The “wet” treatments concluded, we were taken to our individual cubicles for the blanket wrap where we were literally swaddled in heavy cotton muslin sheets for 20 minutes. A note here about the atmosphere of this place. It was built in the late 50s/60s and still retains the flavor of that age, a little kitschy but great. I had trouble remembering to be quiet in the common spaces as it didn't have so much a spa feel as a summer camp ambiance with concrete block walls and wall art of ladies swimming in bathing suits and caps which I could see as I was laying in my swaddled cocoon, peering under my cucumber slices. A persistent thought kept me from completely relaxing: had I gotten all that peat moss out of ALL my nooks and crannies? We all ended our treatments with fabulous massages. Mine was with Jeremy, a shorter version of Mr. Clean. He beat and smoothed every knot out of me. We emerged onto Lincoln Street, skin soft and free of toxins, muscles relaxed, and hopefully cleansed of volcanic ash and peat from all areas of our body. As we described our experience to our husbands, there were a lot of creative suggestions for this blog title including: Mud Flaps, Triplets of Mudville, and Holy S#%t