Natural Selection

Ascent’s indigenous service menu rotates with the seasons.

Today I am experiencing Ascent’s Custom Massage ($95), a 60-minute treatment that features a locally formulated USDA organic oil line. (The spa’s 90-minute Signature Relaxation Massage [$175] includes an herb-infused foot soak and finishes with seasonally inspired refreshments, served in the relaxation lounge.)

Ascent worked closely with Kimberly Parry, formulator of the organic line, to develop the spa’s signature treatments. “When the adventure of building a spa menu began, Tenaya wanted to incorporate its surrounding environment,” Parry explains. “It’s in a beautiful location—but how do you bring the spa into that?”

The organic beauty entrepreneur found the solution in foraging through local meadows and mountains, unearthing such natural healers as wild rose, evening primrose, verbena, comfrey and pine; and was thus inspired to craft products and treatments from such indigenous bounty. (Because Yosemite is a protected parkland, however, Parry formulates with herbs and flora harvested from other locations.) “I put myself in the client’s position—if I choose a wild rose and verbena body scrub and then go hiking and see both plants growing along the mountainside, I feel as though I’ve made a connection to the environment,” Parry explains. “I may have spent the last hour on the massage table but the experience made me feel as though I was walking through Yosemite, too.”

Indeed, when Melissa places a drop of the essential oil into her hands, rubs them together and holds them up to my nose, my senses recollect the sage and wild rose I sniffed on yesterday’s hike.

Trained at a massage school about 90 minutes down the mountain road, Melissa performs a sublime deep-tissue rubdown that employs hot towels for my back and wrapped around my feet, and comfrey rubbed into my embarrassingly rough feet. “These products are wonderful for your hair and skin,” she says, cautioning me not to rush into the shower and rinse them off.