Wellness in the wild

Wellness in the wild

"Every once in a while, I need the charge that you get by being in a very calming and soothing place," says Laura Bajkowski. When a recharge is in order, this New York City-based, globe-trotting marketing consultant books a cabin at WildSpring Guest Habitat in Port Orford.

Founded and designed by Michelle and Dean Duarte, WildSpring offers a dramatic setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Second-growth trees whoosh and sway above five custom-built, luxuriantly appointed, eco-friendly cabins, a guest hall and a cliff-hugging slate spa.

"There's a real energy there that lets you de-stress and get re-grounded," says Bajkowski, who relishes the discovery of a serene meditation spot under a tree. "What I really love is that the cabin isn't on top of another room, so you don't hear anybody else and, if you want, you don't even have to see anybody else."

Each spacious bungalow features top-quality mattresses, linens, plush robes, lounging furniture, a mini fridge stocked with complimentary bottled water and fancy eco-amenities such as recyclable glasses and high-end, all-natural bath products. Fragrance-free, nontoxic cleaning agents make the inn a safe choice for those with allergies and chemical sensitivities.

Guests are encouraged to explore WildSpring's walking labyrinth and world-class art garden. View beautiful and profound sculptures, such as the "Shaman of the Benediction" by Texan artist Bill Worrell, "Mary of the Open Heart and Mind" by local marble sculptor Eric Johnson, an arching dolphin by Seaworld artist S. Coop and two totems carved from dead trees by local artist Boomer Dormody.

Open 24 hours a day, the guest hall offers a commercial kitchen for use during appointed times, complimentary beverages, popcorn, fruit, chocolate and a library of 400 DVDs for watching on each cabin's LED television/DVD player.

Upon request, Dean Duarte will lead tai chi sessions, and Michelle Duarte offers guided meditations before breakfast. Gourmet breakfasts — included with each stay — can be ordered to suit any dietary need.

Also in the guest hall is a selection of handcrafted artisan gifts. Guest bikes, guided hikes and in-room wine service, manicures, pedicures and massages can be arranged for additional fees.

"We live in boxes, we get in boxes on wheels to go to work and then we work in another box where the windows don't open," says Michelle Duarte, a former Madison Avenue marketing executive. "Here you have canopies of trees instead of corridors, and being in this spectacular natural environment where all the details are taken care of increases people's sense of well-being."

Duarte likes to quote a 2007 review by the American Psychological Association: It found that when people walk outside rather than inside, even for just 15 minutes, they tend to feel happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment.

"That was basically our concept when we were planning WildSpring," she says. "If you allow people to be aware of our beautiful planet, they feel part of something greater than themselves and, on a deep level, this helps everything."

Bettering the environment doesn't stop at WildSpring's wooded entry. To further her positive impact on the green economy, Duarte developed WinterGreen Vacations, the first program under which independent, eco-conscious inns are partners with a nationally recognized conservancy organization.

"The program is really simple," she explains. "From January through March each year, we donate 2 percent of your stay of two nights or more to The Wilderness Society in your name. There are no exclusions whatsoever."

Seventeen inns from 11 states are now participating in the strategic partnership program.

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