Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center (503/854-3320, www.breitenbush.com ) offers natural hot springs, trails forested with old growth, as well as a wide variety of programs aimed at healing body, mind, and spirit. Set in the Cascade foothills, this onetime Native American encampment’s artesian-flow hot springs have attracted people for healing throughout the ages.
The hot springs pools, set variously in forest and meadow, contain 30 freely occurring minerals, including lithium. Music, storytelling, yoga, and superb vegetarian cuisine are also part of the Breitenbush experience. Although many visitors come to Breitenbush to take part in an organized workshop (such as yoga, meditation, or spirituality), it’s also possible to come on your own for a personal retreat. Know before you go that most hot-springs bathers forgo the option of clothing.
The retreat cabins are Spartan but sufficient. All have electricity and heat, and some have indoor plumbing. Rates are $97 (weekend rates; weekdays are a few dollars cheaper) per person for a cabin without a bathroom (there are a couple of bathhouses) or about $115 for a cabin with a bath (bring your own bedding or pay $16 extra), including three sumptuous vegetarian meals and use of the facilities and waters. Single visitors may sometimes be assigned a cabin-mate unless they specify otherwise (and pay extra).
Large tents on platforms are also available June–October for $72 per person, or you can camp in your own tent for $61. Day-use fees for hot springs and other facilities are $13–26; call ahead to make sure there’s room for a day-use visitor. Individual all-you-can-eat lunches or dinners for daytime visitors cost $11. Be sure to bring your own caffeine if that’s something that you require. Do not bring alcoholic beverages.
Near Breitenbush are such remarkable natural areas as Breitenbush Gorge, Opal Creek , Bull of the Woods, and Jefferson Park; for more information contact the Detroit Ranger Station at 503/854-3366.
On-site you’ll find the Spotted Owl Trail near the entrance of the Breitenbush parking lot. In addition to this and other trails (get maps at the reception desk), sacred sweat-lodge ceremonies conducted by Native Americans are offered once a month.
To get to Breitenbush from Salem , take Route 22 to the town of Detroit. Turn at the gas station—the only one in town—onto Forest Service Road 46. Drive 10 miles to Cleator Bend Campground. (See details below.) Go 100 feet past the campground and take a right over the bridge across Breitenbush River. Follow the signs, taking every left turn after the bridge, to the Breitenbush parking lot.
If Breitenbush is full, All Seasons Motel (130 Breitenbush Rd., 503/854-3421 or 877/505-8879, www.allseasonsmotel.net , $49 and up), at Route 22 and Forest Service Road 46, is clean and comfy. The ecumenical spirit is on display in the rooms with Eastern holy books alongside Gideon Bibles. It’s not at all inconvenient to drive 15 minutes from here to the retreat center.
On the way up Route 22 to Breitenbush Hot Springs, Cleator Bend (Rte. 22, Detroit, 503/854-3366, www.fs.fed.us/r6/Willamette , May–Sept., $12) offers a campground close enough to the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat Center and facilities to permit day use there. Nearby, the Breitenbush River has good fishing. There are nine sites for trailers or motor homes up to 16 feet long, as well as picnic tables and fire grills. On Forest Service Road 46, you’ll pass several other campgrounds between Route 22 and Breitenbush.