When I first moved to the lost tip of this lost corner of Washington, it was a deliberate exit from all that was the madness, I tell you, of Los Angeles.
I needed escape and I needed healing, and this finger of wilderness seemed the perfect place for both. Until I wanted to find a yoga class.
In the city, I sought out yoga, therapy, meditation and massage to heal a body and mind that had been shot to hell and back again.
And while I found it almost impossible to develop healthy habits in a place that was inherently unhealthy for my soul, there was certainly no lack of yoga classes (Hot! Vinyasa flow! On a paddle board!), and the luxe retreats of Burke Williams or the Four Seasons were just a freeway hop away.
But I’d chosen to find myself by getting lost hundreds of miles from a major metropolitan area (Seattle and Portland both being several hours away). Where was I gonna Om?
Because srsly, who could relax HERE?
Little did I know, just a few miles south of me in the historic beach town of Seaview, Wa., is an enclave where I can unwind my stiff, desk-bound self, and take advantage of the incredible energy flow of the wild ocean, ancient trees, and artistic spirits.
The Sou’wester Lodge is, at first glance, the coolest lodge and vintage trailer park in the West.
Trailer park joy!
Centered around a historic lodge built in the late 1800’s, a collection of sweet cabins, and a stable of funky-chic restored vintage trailers, the Sou’wester is a unique weekend getaway from Portland or Seattle, or a destination for anyone seeking access to Washington’s most uninterrupted strand of shoreline.
Just like the sign says.
If there’s anything more romantic than cozying up to your sweetheart in a vintage Spartan Aero, listening to Patsy Cline on an old turntable while the rain dances on the aluminum roof, I haven’t yet done it.
Sou’wester’s proprietor, Thandi Rosenbaum, has created a magnet for artists, musicians, and creative types seeking connection with their inner voices and outside spaces.
With an Artist Residency program, and regular showcases by local, Portland and Seattle musicians, writers, poets and performance artists, the Sou’wester has already developed a reputation as a place to feed your creative soul.
The way-back machine.
Offerings by local artists in the main lodge.
And now, the Sou’wester is helping its guests and locals to refill the well, as they launch their Wellness Program and Retreats.
Bike to the beach, anyone?
2015 saw the opening of the outdoor spa garden and sauna, a dreamy, private open-air sanctuary with a cedar Finnish sauna, outdoor shower and plunge tub, and benches for relaxing and cooling off under towering, old-growth trees.
Earlier this year, the lodge opened its doors to local Yogini Lee Knott, who leads twice-weekly gentle yoga classes in the lodge’s warm, sunlit lobby.
And now, the Sou’wester is offering massage, reflexology and meditation instruction with Vetiver Therapies‘ Jackson Tschimperle.
Rosenbaum understands that her beachy bohemian enclave is a magical place, and wants to share it with the community at large. “It feels so far away from the normal world, it’s sort of ripe for transformation on a creative or more personal, visceral level,” she told me when I asked about the expansion into the wellness field.
“The proximity to the ocean and the abundance of nature that the Peninsula has offers time away from everyday life. It’s naturally rejuvenating.”
While I’ve been attending the regular Thursday yoga class for months, I decided to immerse myself in a day of healing with a massage with Jackson, a purifying sauna, then a relaxing yoga class in the last rays of the setting sun.
The Wellness Trailer and Outdoor Spa Garden/Sauna.
The new Wellness Trailer is a vintage Boles Aero, a warm, wood-clad room that makes you feel as though you’re inside a tree. Inside, instead of the usual canned spa music was the sound of Chinese gongs, punctuated by the occasional calls from jays and a hawk outside, layered with the sighing of ages-old trees and the distant roar of the ocean.
I was definitely “under” good hands with Jackson, who’s been practicing massage for over 15 years. He chose the name “Vetiver” for his company to symbolize calm and grounding. Vetiver is a native grass from Sri Lanka used to stabilize earth, and is also used as a calming nerve tonic.
I chose the signature Sou’wester massage, a medium-pressure Swedish massage that Tschimperle combines with acupressure and Marma therapy — an ancient ayurvedic technique that releases pressure points slowly, giving the nervous system time to react and relax (so there’s no ouching and wincing, unlike some deep tissue techniques).
He concluded the 60 minute treatment by wrapping my feet in hot towels and treating them with some gentle reflexology, then spending a good 15 minutes on a head and scalp massage, by which point I had drifted off into a state of seriously released euphoria.
I was hoping he’d forget about his next appointment, but eventually I had to drip myself off the table — I had a sauna to catch.
The outdoor spa garden and sauna is a private, “clothing optional” space, which I was able to take advantage of on a lazy Thursday afternoon. After a quick rinse in the indoor shower room, I took a 10 minute sauna, followed by a blissfully refreshing outdoor shower, another 10 minutes of heat, then a relaxing cool-down nap on a garden bench.
Again, it was hard to leave what felt like my own private forest retreat, but it was time for yoga with Lee. This gentle practice (at 6:30 PM on Thursdays and also Mondays at noon) is by donation, benefitting the local Sea School Cooperative.
Yoga instructor Lee Knott gets her natarajasana on.
Lee leads a mindful, meditative practice in the lodge’s cozy lobby, (in the cooler weather in front of a toasty fire). Perhaps it’s the teachings, the space, or the combination, but after this practice, I have never failed to leave my body and come back into the world again feeling blissed and blessed.
This weekend, April 29th & 30th, the Sou’wester will be celebrating its collaboration with Vetiver Therapies and the launch of its Wellness Retreats Program, offering 20-minute head & neck massages with Jackson, community acupuncture with local Tom Geha, and a performance Friday night with the Portland band Lenore.
If you’re a local, try a day of wellness once a month (that’s what I’ll be doing!). And if you’re planning a visit to the coast, I encourage you to temper your hiking, biking, fishing and clam-digging with some well-deserved wellness. Take a brisk walk on the beach, work out the knots, and listen to some unique and beautiful music (some of it may even be coming from you).
Who needs the Four Seasons when you can have a Sou’wester experience in the great Northwest?