Captivating Calistoga

By Charlene Mixa

“The wine country’s historic hot springs resort destination.”

A historic small town.

A historic small town.

Calistoga, named a Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offers the healing benefits of its restorative spa treatments. Nestled at the top of the beautiful and serene northern tip of Napa Valley, Calistoga is a perfect destination for wine country travelers. The downtown offers unique shops, galleries, and several fine restaurants all within walking distance of hotels and inns. Relaxation and convenience are primary in this beautiful mountainous countryside town. Wineries are close by not only in Calistoga itself but the three major wine areas of Napa Valley, Sonoma County with the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys plus Lake County.

The Mount View Hotel in downtown Calistoga

The Mount View Hotel in downtown Calistoga

Our hotel, The Mount View Hotel and Spa is terrific! A 1917 hotel updated to a now European Chic decor, surpassed our expectations. The room is delightful with a separate sitting area for relaxing. Each room in our suite was welcoming and spacious. The sitting area had a chaise lounge, wet bar and HD wall mounted to TV and the comfy bedroom had its own HD TV. Plus we loved their pillows!

In its recent renovation the Mount View went the extra mile in partnering with local wineries. Rooms are designated a local winery name and the story of the winery is shared in a scrape book. What a terrific idea to connect guests to the Calistoga’s wineries. Our room is the “Storybook Vineyard”. Looking through the Storybook Scrape Book, we learn that the Grimm brothers (not the brothers Grimm) started planting vineyards including Zinfandel in the early 1880’s. They dug three large tunnels 100 feet into the volcanic rock for aging and storing the wine. Grimm’s Vineyards and Wine Vaults continued to produce wines for many years but eventually were abandoned. In the mid 1970’s Jerry and Segrid Seps purchased the 90 acres of the “ghost winery”. Paying tribute to the original owners, they named it Storybook Mountain Vineyard. Their Zinfandel quickly won gold medals and consistently ranks in the 100 best of the best wines.

It is all about the mud! Having heard about the famous Calistoga mud baths, we are ready for this experience. In the beginning Calistoga was known for its fresh mountain air and the area’s natural hot springs. Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort is an icon in Calistoga and the wine country. Started in 1952 by Dr. John and Edy Wilkinson, the “Doc” created the mud baths. Their children, Carolynne and Mark have continued the management of the Resort and Spa for over 25 years. Even better in this small town, Dr. Wilkinson’s is on the next block from the Mount View Hotel.

A different kind of "bath".

A different kind of “bath”.

Arriving at Dr. Wilkinson’s we are warmly greeted and welcomed. A bath assistant escorts us to our respective spa areas since there are no couple’s baths. We are getting the Bath House Treatment called “The Works”. My escort Trina, leads me to the locker area, explaining to take off all my clothes, store them in a locker and put on the bathrobe. She then walks me to the open area with two large tubs filled with mud. The mud baths are in a central area surrounded by showers and private bathing areas. Taking off the bathrobe I sit on the edge of the mud bath and slowly lower myself into the tub.

A different kind of "bath".

A different kind of “bath”.

The mud bath consists of volcanic ash, mineralized hot springs water and Canadian peat. It is designed for maximum heat penetration and buoyancy. The ash cleanses and smoothes the skin, the peat keeps you afloat and the mineral waters provide soothing, penetrating heat.

Since the mud bath keeps me buoyant, I wiggle to get all the way in. The warm mud feels great and relaxing. It is like floating, all of my body is fully supported by the mud, creating a true tranquil affect. Trina gives me chilled mineral “spring water” to drink assuring I stay hydrated. She gently rubs the facial mask on, covers my eyes with cool cucumbers and places an ice cold towel on my forehead. Ahhh! This is wonderful!

After 15 minutes it is time to get out. Of course it is important to scrape off as much mud as possible before exiting the mud bath. I step in to a shower adjacent to the mud bath to wash away all the mud. Next I slide into the aromatic mineral whirlpool bath for ten minutes. Relaxing in the whirlpool, I close my eyes at the verge of dozing off. I remember to drink the iced mineral water provided. There is still more to come as I am escorted to the steam room. I love steam rooms and have the option for how long to stay. The full ten minutes works for me. Putting on my bath robe again, I am taken to a private room for the blanket wrap. With all the heat from the mud bath, whirlpool and steam room, it is necessary to lower my body temperature. Wrapped snuggly in the blankets, now, I am truly ready for a nap and do snooze part of the ten minutes. Back in the bathrobe and down the hall for the final part of this treatment, a one hour massage. Already totally relaxed, Veronica works magic with her fingers to remove any stress or ache that could possibly be left in my body. I am curious how Richard is doing with his spa treatment. Fully refreshed and rejuvenated, I take a final shower, wash my hair and get dressed. Hairdryers, combs, etc. are provided in the dressing area. Stepping into the lobby, I find that Richard is still finishing up. He steps out soon, all smiles. We notice some of those “stress wrinkles” are washed away. The mud baths were wonderful, fun and totally relaxing, yet refreshing. Other times I have had massages or treatment I was always tired afterward. Today I feel re-energized and recharged!

After the treatment, we stroll the main street in Calistoga which is primarily four blocks. There are a variety of shops from antiques to specialty shops and several options of eateries. While Calistoga may initially give a western style appearance, it is trendy with a relaxed elegance. The town offers a lot of choices for restaurants from those specializing in steaks, and several bistros’ and pubs. We opt for the Jole at the Mount View Hotel. An organic restaurant promotes a “from farm to table” menu. The tapas style menu fit us and we order several plates to share. A light dinner and wine are an excellent way to end our relaxing day in Calistoga. Cheers!

This entry was posted in USA - The West and tagged , , on by .

About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.