Over the 2010 Labor Day Weekend, Portland mom Jennifer and her husband Tony (ownersÂ of Portlandâ€™s Milagros Boutique) took their two children to BreitenbushÂ Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Oregon. ThisÂ resort, founded in 1977, is old-school crunchy Oregon, through andÂ through. Itâ€™s a worker-owned cooperative featuring geothermal heating,Â eco-conscious structures and an off-the-grid lifestyle (no phone, noÂ TV, no wi-fi).
The laid-back attitude extends toward clothing, which is optional inÂ the tub areas. â€œA family uncomfortable with nudity would not feelÂ comfortable in the bathing areas of Breitenbush,â€ Jennifer says. â€œTheÂ majority of folks in the bathing areas are naked.â€ So this may not beÂ a resort for everyone â€“ it depends on whether youâ€™re OK with the poolÂ aspect. As you can see from the photo at right, the kids are wearing swimsuits — it’s up to you how to dress.
For many families, the real draw of Breitenbush Hot Springs is theÂ secluded, peaceful atmosphere. To get a better understanding of thisÂ Oregon institution, letâ€™s find out more from Jennifer and Tony.
Q: What did your family like about Breitenbush Hot Springs?
Breitenbush is a unique experience, it is a opportunity to step awayÂ from the busy day-to-day and reconnect with our individual selves and,Â in our case, together as a family. There is no cell phone coverage, noÂ internet, no electronic media of any kind so the typical distractionsÂ and attention-pulling activities in our regular lives are just notÂ available.
The setting is bucolic and welcoming. Â We spent our days soaking inÂ the hot springs, exploring the scenery, reading together, eatingÂ together, and relaxing.
The kids enjoy soaking in the springs, walking in the woods, climbingÂ trees, playing instruments in the Sanctuary, connecting with newÂ friends (kids are great at connecting with other kids), and lettingÂ their imaginations fly free.
Q: Describe the pools for us, please? Were they really hot? Were theyÂ fine for little kids or babies?
There are two sets of pools. All the pools are outside with views ofÂ the surrounding woods, hills and nearby river. The sacred pools areÂ more natural in their design and setting. The spiral pools areÂ more traditional tiled pools.
In each area, there is a progression in the heat of the water and eachÂ has a pool that is set at a temperature that works well for kids (atÂ or below 100 degrees). And if you want it really hot, they have thatÂ too!
Parents need to actively supervise their kids in the pools. MakingÂ sure they are not getting over heated, keeping them hydrated, andÂ having them by stepping out of the pool to cool off from time to time.
Q: How about the Breitenbush resort itself? Is it actually resort-like or moreÂ camp-like? Is there good food at the resort or did you bring your own?
Breitenbush is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience butÂ Breitenbush isnâ€™t for everyone. It is rustic and simple. Â The settingÂ is a lovely wooded preserve with a river running through it. Â When weÂ are there, most our time beyond eating and sleeping, is spent outside.Â They have a number of free programs and classes happening everyday forÂ folks on personal retreats. In addition, body work (suchÂ as massage) may be scheduled for an additional cost.Â The cabins are basic but comfortable, some have bathrooms others areÂ shared. Â During the summer, tent camping is also available.Â Organic, vegetarian meals are served three times a day in theÂ cafeteria. It is a self-serve buffet and the selection is alwaysÂ tasty. Â They also offer alternatives for folks who are vegan or glutenÂ intolerant.
We did pack some snacks to have on hand between meal times and a fewÂ other food items just in case our picky little eater didnâ€™t findÂ something he liked in the buffet.
Q. What else can you enjoy at the resort?
There are trails nearby for exploring. On this last trip, Tony walkedÂ a five mile loop through ancient trees and over rivers. Â The kidsÂ joined him on a number of shorter jaunts into the woods.Â The lodge itself has an expansive deck and library for reading,Â visiting, and quiet contemplation. Â Other facilities on theÂ property include a sanctuary for making music and theÂ labyrinth for a unique meditative walk.
The retreat is near Detroit Lake and other outdoor attractions but weÂ never felt bored. As odd as it sounds, soaking, eating, sleeping, andÂ exploring the grounds was more than enough on the to do list for bothÂ parents and kids during the five days we were there.
Q. Did you enjoy any of the classes/workshops/spa treatments at Breitenbush?
We havenâ€™t taken in any of the many free classes and workshops andÂ they always sound intriguing. Jennifer did enjoy a wonderful massageÂ (the massages are 90 minutes!) during our first visit. Â One challengeÂ for our active participation in many of the classes (although some areÂ family welcoming) is that there is no childcare available at theÂ retreat center. Active supervision of the wee ones is expected, soÂ itâ€™s not easy to peel away for a class.
For us, a big attraction is the time together away from all otherÂ distractions in a natural environment. It is a rejuvenating experienceÂ physically and spiritually and it is one of the reasons we made aÂ return trip and hope to go again sometime.
Thanks for telling us your story, Jennifer.