Earlier this month, The Coloradoan featured this great review of one family’s visit with the Saratoga Resort And Spa. The article may be found below.
Being a parent can be very tiring.
The level of fatigue fluctuates from day to day, but mostly I sit somewhere between slightly sleepy and weary.
As I drive with my family along Wyoming Highway 130 toward the town of Saratoga, Wyo., I’m totally exhausted. It’s been one of those weeks. My 5-year-old had the flu, I lost my keys and my toddler is potty training. It took all of my remaining energy to pack for this weekend adventure, wildly throwing snowshoes and puffy coats in the trunk.
Our destination is the Saratoga Resort, which sits in the Platte Valley, surrounded by the Snowy Range and Sierra Madre mountains. It’s a prime outdoor playground. In winter, there are myriad opportunities to snowmobile, cross country ski, ice fish and more. We’re not sure exactly what we’ll do, but we’re prepared with everything from sleds to backpacks.
Out the car window, the landscape is wide open, dotted with ranches, brush and cattle. It’s mesmerizing. I could drive this forever, lost on the map, off the grid. But in the backseat, my kids are getting antsy. We’ve been in the car for two hours. Patience is beginning to wear thin.
My husband suggests we play “I Spy,” and I’m grateful. Whoever spots a wild animal gets a quarter. We all scan the plains for deer, coyotes or pronghorn antelope. My husband and I ooh and ah, trying to build excitement, and I’m thrilled that my kids are this interested in wildlife.
Suddenly, my son shouts, “Ducks!” I look to the left. A flock of mallards are gathered on a small pond. He cheers wildly. I toss back a quarter. You’d think he won the lottery.
Twenty minutes later when we pull into the driveway of the resort, I’m the one who feels like I won a jackpot. Deer wander, the North Platte River rushes in the distance and a smattering of pines dot the property. The sweeping lodge porch is lined with Adirondack chairs and wooden swings. It oozes old-fashioned warmth and my shoulders relax in response. I imagine grabbing a blanket and snuggling up in a chair with a book and hot chocolate.
Things get even better when the woman at the front desk gives me the lay of the land. Twenty steps to the right are the grill and microbrewery. Straight ahead are the hot springs pools and spa. Down the left hallway, there’s a common area with two wood-burning fireplaces, one indoor, one outdoor. The logs have been placed in neat piles with newspaper and matches. A wood hutch contains books, games and puzzles.
I think of an article I recently read in Outside magazine about a Japanese form of preventive medicine called Shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.” Very simply, the ritual emphasizes experiencing nature in a nonathletic way. Participants sit or wander, focusing on their five senses. It resonated with me, because my outdoor experiences almost always involve a cardiovascular activity — hiking, cycling, skiing.
Multitasking is the story of my life. But research shows that doing nothing in nature can result in great benefits, including improved well-being, creativity and decreased stress. It occurs to me maybe this weekend could be our own family-style form of Shinrin-yoku. The Saratoga Resort could be just the place to accomplish it.
Our room is poolside, and as the kids run around touching everything new and exciting — notepads, Styrofoam coffee cups and a land line — I gaze out the window. There’s a large swimming pool and a series of smaller pools covered in tepees. Tiny lights line the wood railings. A few patrons squeak along the plank decks in white robes. My dry skin tingles with anticipation and I feel my breath slowing. I turn to my family and suggest we go swimming. We leave everything in a pile and change into our swimsuits.
Surprisingly, the large pool is not chlorinated. It’s one of the natural springs, and the temperature is warm enough to stay awhile. This is perfect for kids. My daughter sits on the rock steps splashing around, while my son, husband and I toss a ball, diving and laughing.
My son notices bits of nature everywhere — moss on the rocks, a hawk soaring in the air, the moon peeking up in the sky. Because he notices, I do. I run my fingers along the edge of the pool, feeling the smoothness. The water soothes my sore muscles.
Every now and then, I float on my back into a quiet corner, my limbs weightless as I stare up at the sky, watching the shapes of the clouds or the shadows moving along the patio. I begin to feel like an integral part of the natural world, and my mind quiets. Maybe there really is something to this idea of doing nothing in nature.
That evening, we huddle around the outdoor fire, read books and stare at the flames. My daughter melts into my arms, relaxed from the warm water and fresh air. The kids go to sleep without a sound.
Because our room borders the pools, my husband and I sneak out for a late-night soak, placing a baby monitor nearby in case one of our kids wakes. I welcome the opportunity to get out into the fresh air again — this time as a couple — our time outdoors expanded because of the warm water. We find our own secluded tepee and stay for an hour.
A day later, our gear in the trunk is still untouched. In fact, we barely leave the property the entire weekend. Our one excursion involves a walk across the street to check out the river. We toss rocks, visit a crumbling stone house and read a sign about a habitat revitalization project that’s happening.
It’s slow and quiet, “forest bathing” at its best, a perfect way to revitalize our entire family.
Source: www.thecoloradoan.com; Carrie Visintainer; January 9, 2013.