FOLLOW WILLY COSMO AS HE EXPLORES THE HEALING WATERS OF THE WORLD
RACH: so, originally we had planned this trip to be Willy Cosmo's first hot springs. i had a crazy idea that it would even be the first place he would ever travel outside the house (i stayed in the house with him for 40 days after he was born), but he still would have been too little at six weeks old. breitenbush is a very peaceful sanctuary, and while there are kids there, it is a mostly quite environment and by the time that the trip arrived, we were confident that we had a pretty chill, warm water loving customer.
JOE: There are few places in Oregon where you can get more bang for your buck. That is, if you don't mind either being buck naked yourself, or being in the presence of those who are. Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center outside of Detroit, Oregon is easily one of our favorite destinations in all of Oregon and we do our best to visit this special place as often as we can. Rain or shine (or snow for that matter!), this is a place you can come to where you are truly in as cozy and secluded of a place as one could hope for, there is no wifi or cell phone reception so when you are at Breitenbush, it's time to relax, leave your worries behind, and commune with the natural world that surrounds you.
RACH: it's about a two hour and change drive from portland, and as you enter the forest, you start to feel everything drop away. we stopped along the road on the breitenbush river for a hike and lunch and willy cosmo was immediately affected by the medicine of the woods. we all felt so joyful taking deeper breathes with brighter eyes, gazing at the crystal clear water of the river. i do believe our baby was absolutely amazed.
JOE: Before arriving at the resort we stopped to have lunch, we decided to check out an abandoned old hot springs with some camping spots along the trail. We came across a young couple in their late teens I'd guess and they told us about where to find the soaking area up ahead on the trail. They informed us they were camping there and hoped they'd find a good spot. It is a first come-first serve camping area but it was a Sunday afternoon so their chances were good. They passed us on the trail and when we got down to where they were setting up camp we were a bit saddened to see that some careless human's had decided to leave many traces behind and display their disrespect for nature in grand form. Trash and empty beer cans and bottles were strewn all over the camp site. Amazingly, this young couple were making short work of cleaning up the mess! They planned ahead for cleaning up others messes (this apparently wasn't their first rodeo) and had brought trash bags along with them, there still is hope for humanity! After wiping the tears of joy from my eyes at that sight, we ventured down to the waters edge and where the abandoned hot springs were located and ate our lunch. There were a handful of others down there with their dogs and a couple of them were getting in the old concrete tubs. We then hiked back up to our car and made our way to our final destination.
our hike and lunch spot to the abandoned hot springs on the Breitenbush River
JOE: Our timing with lunch and our little hike was pretty ideal. When you stay at Breitenbush they ask that you arrive at 3:00 or later. We finished lunch and got there just after 3:00 which was perfect. The staff checking us in were sweet and kind as usual. Because we've been there so often it was a quick and smooth operation and so we went and parked, and grabbed our robes and Willy Cosmo's rabbit towel and made a beeline for the soaking pools!
As mentioned above, you can check in as early as 3:00pm but the platform tents, the cabins, and the lodge are not ready to be moved into until 4:00 which made the decision to go soak it up for an hour an easy one. We had elected to stay in the platform tent this visit because it was the only space available for an overnight stay when we booked it. We've tent camped, stayed in the cabins, and in the lodge on previous visits as well.
As you could likely guess, Willy Cosmo couldn't wait to get in those glorious waters and get to soaking. We settled in to a fantastic post lunch soak and ended up soaking with a woman who happened to live just two blocks away from us in Portland. It is a small world after all, isn't it? After awhile Rachel and Willy Cosmo stayed soaking it up and I popped over to the holiest place I know, the wooden sauna that is fed by a capped geyser. To date, I have yet to meet it's equal. The hydro therapy sessions I get from this and the cold plunge tub outside of it are a spiritual experience for me. After that I went to get our camping stuff and set up our space while the missus and Willy Cosmo continued soaking, which turned out to be something of an unexpected adventure as I will get to shortly...
RACH: so, if you know me you may know that i have a strong aversion to bathing suits, especially wet ones. the truth is, i feel better about my body and the world when i am naked. i credit two of my girlfriends for encouraging me to strip down in my twenties and get over myself - one of my best college friends diana whose east hampton pool was always au natural those summers, and my friend amanda, who grew up frequenting tassajara with her family (a spot that is on WC's list!) and a major hot springs junkie. i came to realize that once you are in an environment where everyone is naked, then it's like no one is naked. we are all people. i have now ridden in portland's naked bike ride twice, where over 10,000 people ride bare-ass through the city, and i remember commenting that it's just like a bunch of naked babies on bikes! the folks who wear thongs or pasties actually look more sexualized than the completely naked ones. so, as the years went by, i became the one who was always naked at friends' pools, and i think i can now take credit for some other people's newfound comfort with their plain bodies. i feel good about that. i bring it up because breitenbush is one of those glorious places that creates the perfect low-key environment for getting naked. and the community and clientele are pretty much all on there same page... and it's also totally cool to wear a suit if you don't share my feelings - it is an atmosphere of quiet acceptance. clothing optional. i option out. have i mentioned the food? joe probably did. it has been exceptionally good this year.
JOE: I second these feelings about naked soaking and swimming and have had the exhilarating pleasure of riding 6 miles through Portland for the naked bike ride (that year we also got free admission into the Portland Art Museum before the ride if we were in the buff, so, yeah we got to walk through the art museum naked...). And in my opinion, what has happened with the sexualization of our bodies and the taboos that surround it is damaging to our lives on many levels. For one, the body issues that males (and especially females) experience in our current society is pretty messed up. Being naked is wonderful. Wearing clothing is in its most basic form, a way to protect our bodies from the elements and beyond that, it is a costume that is often dictated by the culture we live in and of course by the amount of money we have to spend on said costumes. So then it becomes a status costume and/or an expression of our individuality or what group of humans we associate with. These things are innocent enough on one level though they also have become a part of the detriment of respectable human to human relations. I could write more about this but I'll stop. In essence what Rach and I are writing about is that we both love the freedom, vulnerability, and innocence of being naked in nature or in a setting such as a hot springs where all humans are equal and equally taking care of themselves by soaking in healing waters (and at Breitenbush much like other hot springs resorts also embracing many other self care tactics such as: relaxation, walking a labyrinth, massage, yoga, etc). If you can remove the sexualized component of being naked and just surrender into the serenity and pure beauty of being at peace in nature in this way I think you can begin to appreciate what we are talking about. The image below is an example of that serenity and what I mean by this, here's Sweethome Teacup, owner of Teacup Yoga, who, along with being an instructor of yoga, is also a teacher of healing and magical ways, she's also an animal rights activist, and a lovely, kind human being who in the early morning light of June 13th 2016 was also soaking as peacefully and content as any of us could hope to be.
That same morning I awoke before the sun was fully peaking it's head up to greet us with the new day and on my way to soak I decided to record the sounds of nature and my footsteps as I made my way to the silent pool. Here, have a listen...
And when I got to the Silent Pool I couldn't resist making a little time lapse of my soak and the sunrise for a few minutes as well.
There are so many wonderful things to mention about the grounds of Breitenbush that it is hard to narrow it down and figure out what to describe next. I'll try though. Oh, I know! Part of the incredible value of staying overnight at Breitenbush is that you get three wholesome, delicious, organic, vegetarian meals served in addition to the 24 hour access to the waters and grounds at large. These meals are served buffet style and quite frankly make the cost of admission basically free if you consider the amount you'd spend on each of these three meals if you went out to a restaurant to order them. The meals are served in the main lodge which also has a few rooms that you can rent and a super cozy two room library that is also part of the 24 hour access which is fantastic. There are tons of books, a few board games and puzzles, and a bunch of couches that you can melt into for a good reading session and/or nap if you feel so inclined. Another really awesome part of what makes this place so special is that it is basically a fully off-grid resort. The geothermal heats the main lodge and all the cabins and the hydro power of the Breitenbush River provides all the additional electrical power to run all of the facilities on the grounds. They have back up generators and use them from time to time in rare circumstances, but this place is essentially self sufficient. Sweet, huh?
JOE: So going back to what happened with check-in. I had gone up to our car and put all of our camping supplies in the cart that they provide at the edge of the parking lot and then strolled down to the platform tents where we were staying. We had been assigned to Rabbit Tent and when I got to it there were shoes outside the front and I could hear someone in there. I said "Hello?" and sure enough, this woman was in there and came out and I asked if she had been assigned to Rabbit and if, unbeknownst to me, we were supposed to be sharing the tent. She had no idea about that and did not think she was sharing the tent with anyone (I sure hadn't intended for that to be the case, either!). So I left our gear in the cart by the Rabbit Tent and headed back up to the office to figure out what was going on. It turned out that they had accidentally double booked the tent! They were very sorry and incidentally, there were no available platform tents, or any cabins, or spots available because of the conference that was also being held there that week. So, the ladies - kind and quick on their feet - came up with the idea for us to stay in Buddha's Playhouse. They radioed to some of the staff and asked if they could bring a couple mattresses into there for us and sure enough, that is exactly what they did. That was a pleasant "mistake" if there ever was one. Buddha's Playhouse is a cob structure that is usually an open space for anyone to enjoy and sometimes they have workshops or meditations in there from time to time. For our night there though, it became our sleeping quarters which was pretty awesome! (There's a couple pictures of Buddha's Playhouse in the slideshow near the bottom of the post). When I told Rachel what happened she was stoked and said she had always wanted to sleep in Buddha's Playhouse. It's great when things like this happen...
JOE: So, in writing this I've come to realize there is so much to mention that it is kind of amazing to step back and realize what the folks at Breienbush have accomplished over these past 30 years or so. The 24 hour access to the waters and all the many wonderful amenities of the grounds is top notch accommodations any way you slice or dice it. With 3 wonderful soaking pools in the meadow, the best sauna I've personally been in in all of the world, the healthy and delicious food served 3 times a day, the cozy library, the massage rooms, the many wonderful hikes in the area, the year round conferences and events that are hosted here, and there are so many more things! I haven't even mentioned the spiral tubs yet! These are down by the labyrinth and the river, it is 4 soaking pools that get progressively hotter until you get to the fourth one which is hot to trot, then just beyond that is the cold plunge. This happens to be my second (or third) favorite activity at breitenbush, I dunk fully under water in the hottest tub, holding my breath for as long as I can endure and then immediately I go into the cold plunge and do the very same thing. I try and repeat this process no less than three rounds. It is exhilarating and is glorious hydrotherapy at its finest.
For about 8 years now, both Rachel and I have been visiting this special place and I just can't speak highly enough about the resort itself, and the natural area that surrounds it. I think for now, we'll leave you with what we've shared above and the slideshow gives you a look at many of the other parts of Breitenbush that we may have touched on above, or perhaps we forgot to mention. Essentially, we (and of course Willy Cosmo) thoroughly approve of Breitenbush and rank it among the top soaking destinations in the Pacific Northwest. If you are ever anywhere even remotely close to this place, please do yourself a solid and go there! You won't regret it...
Directions via Breitenbush's Website:
Coming To Breitenbush ...
By Air: The nearest large airport is Portland International. Rent a car at the airport.
By Car: (IMPORTANT: Alternate route, Highway 224 (US Forest Service Route 46) from Estacada to Breitenbush is IMPASSABLE FROM EARLY FALL TO LATE SPRING. Every year people get stranded on this road.)
From the West: (Interstate 5 at Salem), take exit 253 and go east on OR-22 toward Stayton/Detroit for approximately 49 miles to Detroit, OR. (See At Detroit below.)
From the East: (Redmond, Bend, Sisters) Take OR-20/126 west from Sisters for 25.5 miles and turn right onto OR-22W for 31 miles to Detroit, OR. (See At Detroit below.)
At Detroit: Turn from OR-22 onto Highway 46 at the only gas station in Detroit. Drive 9.1 miles and just past Cleator Bend Campground take a right onto the single lane bridge crossing the Breitenbush River. The road is gravel after the bridge and has three forks in its 1.2 mile course. Take a left at every fork and you will end up in our parking lot. You’re home! DO NOT FOLLOW MAPQUEST, GOOGLE MAPS or GPS DIRECTIONS PAST DETROIT!
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