After reading Don Davis' recent article in the U-B which included an excursion to Ladd Marsh in the Grande Ronde Valley near La Grande, Jerry and I decided to trek the 80 miles to have a look for ourselves. Ladd Marsh was abuzz with our feathered friends and a treat to visit. As we travelled the suggested route and neared Union, here sits Hot Lake Springs, which in the early 1900s was a destination location for those seeking a cure for their ailments in the mineral waters of the springs. We decided we should take a look at the baths.
Hot Lake Springs, over the years, had deteriorated to a shell of its past. A "ruin" would have been its description. However, in the past decade David Manuel (a 1960 graduate of Walla Walla High School and self-taught artist of international fame), his wife, Lee, and their family have invested countless hours in the restoration of this magnificent, historic property.
As we entered the former sanatorium, we were greeted by a friendly, enthusiastic staff and invited to look at the common areas filled with Mr. Manuel's works. We also discovered the Manuels have created a two-floor superb museum under Mr. Manuel's artistic guidance and also invited to view on our own the restored rooms of the building. Each room was furnished with period decor for a night's stay. We also enjoyed a home-style lunch, which is served daily, with a view of the valley.
As we were about to leave, Lee Manuel invited us to meet David in his studio. What a surprise that was. Mr. Manuel now completes only one sculpture a year and was working on that sculpture as we entered his studio. He stopped his work and after a few moments of getting acquainted, Mr. Manuel spoke about his youth on their family garden farm in Walla Walla and about his mother's encouragement to refine and continue his God-given artistic skills. He said he has limited his efforts to one piece a year so as to have time for his greatest enjoyment - playing with his grandchildren.
As we were about to leave Hot Lake Springs, we finally took a look at what we originally came to see - the hot baths. They were nice, but there was so much more than we had expected. This is a true treasurer in our back yard.
We appreciate Don (no relation) for getting us off the couch. We liked the birds, too.