At the end of a long afternoon of wine tasting in Napa Valley, I feel as light headed as a hot air balloon riding on the warm currents. As much as I love a good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, I think I overdid it: all I want to do now is rest and detox. So it’s prefect timing that my next stop is Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort in the charming town of Calistoga, California.
For over a half a century, people have come to Dr. Wilkinson’s for detoxification, renewal, and rejuvenation. Just as we at Tango Diva are mavericks of solo travel, so “Doc” (as the chiropractor was affectionately known) was a harbinger in health. When the resort first opened in 1952, this type of spa was practically unheard of: why anyone would want to bathe in mineral water and volcanic ash mud?
Yet little by little, Wilkinson’s crazy idea began to attract an ever-growing clientele, eventually proving instrumental in establishing the tiny town of Calistoga as more than just a sleepy wine country getaway but a spa destination.
Today, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs is a wine country icon. Wilkinson’s son and daughter carry on the family tradition by maintaining the same high standards and low-key friendliness as their father. There’s no pretension at this spa: just great people who want to provide you with a wonderful experience.
When I enter the resort, I’m greeted by the cheerful staff (they must love working here!), who direct me to the changing room. Along the way, I catch a glimpse of the famous mud. It’s not the most inviting sight—but I trust the spa’s five decades of service.
Once naked—yes, naked—I rinse off in a mineral shower and shuffle over to the mud bath, where I slowly sink deep into a rich, dark mud. “What a feeling!” I whisper as my body disappears into the goop. My eyes are covered with refreshing cucumbers and my head is crowned with a cool towel; an attendant spritzes me with lavender water.
The bath whisks me away to a world of peace and calm. Because the mud is so thick, it’s difficult to move. I have no choice but to relax and daydream.
Ten minutes later, I’m brought back to the earth by an attendant gingerly trying to wake me. I rinse off and soak in a tub of pure mineral water. Someone brings me a fresh glass of cool water. I feel like the queen of Egypt. My body floats in the warm water and I’m completely relaxed. My skin is soft; my mind, clear.
Throughout my treatment, the spa’s wonderful attendants have catered to my every wish: more water, a spritz of lavender, a cool towel, more steam—anything I want. After a visit to the steam room, where the last shards of stress melt away and toxins sweat out of my body, one of the guides gently leads me to a small room where I’m wrapped in a warm layer of heavy blankets; a cool towel is placed on my head. I feel like I’ve returned to the womb. I don’t want to leave—but I’m scheduled for an hour-long massage.
Throughout my blissful treatment, the real world dissolves into nothingness. No thoughts of bills, traffic, deadlines, clients, or tragedies enter my mind. After my womb wrap, one of the friendly staff members walks me to the massage table. (I need support because my muscles are so relaxed—it has nothing to do with the wine, I’m sure!) She shares that she’s been working at the spa for nine years and has no plans to leave. I can see why!
I drift off during my massage and wake up slowly. I have lost track of time: it feels like I just arrived, but as I walk back to my locker, I see that I’ve been at Dr. Wilkinson’s for almost three hours.
I slowly dress and touch my skin: it hasn’t felt this soft in years. No wonder this resort has been in business for the past half century—they certainly know what they’re doing. All I want to do now is crawl into bed and keep this peaceful feeling flowing through my body.
Thank goodness they have rooms.
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Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort
1507 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, t 707.942.4102
Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Spring Resort in Calistoga is centrally located in Northern California’s wine country. Easy day trips include Napa Valley and Carneros to the south, Sonoma’s many regions to the west, and Mendocino’s Anderson Valley to the north.