By Andrew Marton
Photos courtesy of Salishan Resort
Chill out at the Oregon coast’s Salishan Resort, where forest bathing and sunset watching are must-dos.
If Salishan Resort had a motto, it might be “Refined rusticity.” Located on Gleneden Beach along Oregon’s craggy central coast and surrounded by great stands of spruce and fir trees, the historic getaway melds the natural with the manmade.
On this late summer’s day, Texas’ sweltering heat is a distant memory as I take in the endless quilt of vineyards along the sloping hills of the Willamette Valley. This geographic prologue is my formal introduction to Oregon’s famed winemaking countryside as I arrive at one of its most famous vineyards, the Stoller Family Estate, before checking into the resort.
With a panorama of the furrowed vineyards at my feet, I sample a locally grown 2015 pinot grigio and take in the view. Fortified with a little grape juice, I check into the 54-year-old Salishan Resort, which I soon discover is all but inseparable from its surrounding dense forest. Because Salishan melts into its sylvan surroundings, it ends up being a hybrid of a high-end lodge, honed from local woods and stone, and a park-based nature retreat with classic Pacific Northwest architecture.
Long a fixture on the Oregon coast, Salishan boasts numerous upgrades and improvements after its most recent change in ownership. It has already earned its way back onto several travel magazine lists of top Pacific Northwest destinations.
But some things didn’t need to change. The raw beauty of the Oregon coast is delivered directly into the guest rooms thanks to private balconies overlooking neighboring Siletz Bay or the Pacific Ocean. Stone fireplaces figure prominently in many of the rooms, although fire gazing waits when outdoor adventures call. Marine Discovery Tours provides expert guidance as we ply a 65-foot craft through the Pacific waters. The sky fills with diving cormorants and gulls, and the ocean brims with salmon, squid, rockfish, Dungeness crab. And, of course, the Pacific gray whale becomes the superstar of my three-hour excursion.
As we pass under the Yaquina Bay Bridge, I am helming the boat, given the task by Captain Kevin. With the huge, circular steering wheel in my hands, I settle my nerves and learn to spot sea lions lolling on the grassy buoys. I strain my eyes before spying the first gray whales, whose exhaling breath spray is their initial calling card — get close enough and you can smell it. Suddenly, I spot a half-dozen huge tails, curving off the water as arched backs break the surface.
Back on land, I set out on a nature walk, one of the resort’s most understated pleasures. Low tide has left the nearby bay exposed to a fierce ocean surf. As I come across one of the widest expanses of ocean beach I’ve ever encountered, the Pacific is all rumble and roar, its swells crashing like deafening thunderclaps.
But the most intangibly uplifting experience I have at Salishan is one of its hallmarks: forest bathing. Yes, it takes place in a forest. But, no, it has nothing to do with getting wet. The actual “bathing” is about immersing oneself in the enzymes naturally generated by the evergreen needles. It also involves spending two hours in nature, reveling in it without worrying about any prescribed goal.
The natural world cathedral around me boasts flying buttresses formed from overhanging branches, moss hanging from them like chandeliers. As buds and pine needles confetti down on me, I see five trees sprouting from one on the ground. One spent tree has spawned five new ones.
And it is here, in the heart of a once unfamiliar forest, that my forest bathing mentor (Erin Bowman) presents me with the movingly simple poem Trees, by Joyce Kilmer, with its poignant opening: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” I am even more touched by its closing: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”