John D. Ivanko
July 10, 2013

While originally drawn to the pristine hot springs and ancient old-growth forest of Breitenbush Hot Springs, located about 1.5 hours outside Portland, Ore., we savored every last morsel of their vegetarian and mostly organic meals. Three meals a day were included in the price of our cozy private cabin, and the kitchen staff and lead cooks surprised daily with amazing, delicious takes on vegetarian cuisine, from kale soup (check back in a few weeks for a recipe) and “meatless balls,” shared below. Take a look at our visit to this retreat, which provided nourishment for our minds, bodies and spirits.

 Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Masterfully crafted from the Douglas Fir and other trees that tower over the community’s symbiotic existence, the Lodge at Breitenbush Hot Springs manifests our human ability to live in simple harmony with nature. Nearly all of the community’s power is drawn from the Breitenbush River through a hydro-electric plant on site; heat for the lodge, cabins and other facilities come from the hot springs.

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 Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Listen for the bell. Three times a day, rings from a bell signal the preparation and later serving of breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
While meals can be taken inside the dining hall, on pleasant and dry days most visitors and community members choose to sit outside on picnic tables or on one of the many Adirondack chairs scattered on the lawn in front of the Lodge.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
The towering forest offers natural corridors between the facilities and across the grounds so that a sense of personal retreat and peace prevail. At night, modestly lit gravel pathways and hot spring pools add to a feeling of being in nature, tamed just enough to be both comfortable and safe, though a flashlight can be helpful. In additional to the private cabins, there are platform tents and several campsite options.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Breitenbush is itself a community of about 75 year-round residents who have dedicated themselves to caring for the land and their namesake hot springs, for each other, and for the thousands of workshop attendees and personal-retreat seekers that show up in their wilderness sanctuary every year. Operated as a cooperative, Brietenbush Hot Springs has 40 member-owners who dedicate themselves to caring for the more than 20,000 visitors every year.


 Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Every meal features regular staples, such as yogurt and fresh fruit and nuts for breakfast or a salad with fresh fixings for dinner, plus a unique main entrée—perhaps spaghetti with meatless balls. Most of the ingredients are from sustainable or organic sources, including from a couple regional farms and a natural-foods distributor. Because of their short growing season and need to accommodate as many as 130 guests every night in the summer, on-site food production is not possible other than for the community itself from their community gardens.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Every meal is prepared from scratch by a lead cook and staff of thirteen who make up the kitchen team. Fair and egalitarian, everyone is offered the same compensation and rotates through all aspects of food service—including being a dishwasher.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Salad wraps—fresh and mostly organic—were a huge hit.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
We went back for seconds of glass noodle salad with peanuts, red bell peppers, cucumbers and leeks.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Everyone, no matter whether on a personal retreat, with a workshop or a member of the community, takes a restorative soak in one of the seven hot spring-fed community tubs, each able to accommodate from four to eight soakers.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
The three hot springs in the meadow offer a spectacular vista of the Cascades and the roaring river below—and a starry show on clear nights. We counted more than eight shooting stars and lost track of the satellites streaming across the sky. Hitting the sack in our cabin never felt to good after a relaxing evening soak.            


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Many guests also enjoy a natural steam sauna—perhaps the only one of its kind in the world—with moist heat rising up through the floor boards of a Nordic-looking structure. Gurgling with steam, Middle Earth never felt so great. A cold plunge tub and shower are just outside the sauna to cool down and wash off.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Cell phone and Internet connections aren’t the only thing lost in this mountain community. Most guests choose to drop their clothes, as well, when going for a soak or sauna. It’s as natural as taking a drink of the ice-cold mountain water from numerous drinking fountains. (Alcohol, drugs and even caffeine are likewise absent on premise; coffee is permitted, but you must bring your own.)


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Friends of Breitenbush Cascades help maintain a series of hiking trails that depart from the retreat and conference center. Don’t miss a hike on the 1-mile-long Emerald Forest trail section, originally preserved and protected by the community years ago when it was threatened by logging.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
Some guests also walk the labyrinth, meditate in some of the many community structures available on site or have a message at the Vista Building.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
The Breitenbush guest areas are separated by the roaring Breitenbush River, connected by a foot bridge. But this convivial community is eager to share their hot springs with others, so you’ll meet them in the lodge or at their gift shop or tubs.


Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko (
It’s all about maintaining a natural balance at Breitenbush Hot Springs: delicious meals, hot springs, fresh air and a welcoming community.

Recipe: Breitenbush Hot Spring’s Meatless Balls
by Noah Wood

Breitenbush Hot Springs - Photo by John D. Ivanko ( meatless balls are a great alternative to the meat-filled variety, especially if you have fresh produce you need to put to use. Although it’s not included in the recipe, you can add a cup of leftover grain to your mix. “Quinoa or brown rice work very well, but any grain is fine,” says Noah Wood, a Breitenbush resident. “Just add a small amount of oil until your mixture makes tight balls. You can also get creative with them and add some sun-dried tomatoes that you have soaked in warm water until soft. Or add some fresh basil cut into small fine strips.”

Yield: 4 servings


  • 10 crimini mushrooms, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, chopped
  • 1 cup refried black beans
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds soaked in warm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a large pan.

In frying pan over low heat, sauté onion and bell pepper until most of moisture is removed.

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in large bowl, including the sautéed onion and bell pepper.

To make each meatless ball, scoop out mixture with medium-sized ice cream scoop then roll into a tight ball.

Place each ball on oil pan and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce over fresh pasta.

Savoring the good life,

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