March 2005 Issue
Find Your Solitude
Retreat from the rest of the world in one of Ohio's secluded spots.
<>When You Go ...
Rothenbuhler's Guest House, 310 Walnut Ave., Lakeside, 419/798-5656. Winter rates $39.98 per night, includes breakfast.
Harmony Farm, 5578 St. Rte. 202, Tipp City, 937/667-8311, www.HarmonyFarmoh.com. Massages start at $65 and herbal wraps at $80, while the lomi-lomi massage, at the hands of two therapists, is $190. A half-day retreat includes a massage, a hot tub or steam-room session, catered lunch and use of grounds for $120; an overnight retreat is $230. Harmony Farm can accommodate up to 10 overnight guests.
Salt Fork Resort and Conference Center, U.S. Rte. 22 E., Cambridge, 740/439-2751, www.saltforkresort.com. Rates: $74-$124.
The poet T.S. Eliot called April "the cruelest month." Obviously, he never visited Ohio in March. It's a crummy time of year when all that's left of the holidays are credit-card statements, and the brass ring of spring is barely up for grabs. Sunshine is in short supply; gray days are spent sidestepping around slush, keeping an eye out for ice, and looking forward to nothing more than heading home and hunkering down for the latest episode of "The West Wing" or "Law & Order."
Fortunately, the Buckeye state offers a host of attractive alternatives that provide a refreshing change of scenery in March or any other month, whether you want to dig into that pile of best-sellers that's been teetering on your nightstand for months, dip into those oil paints you put away after college, or discover a creative wellspring that's yet to be tapped.
Azure skies and balmy gulf breezes. At this time of year, Ft. Myers, Florida, sounds mighty inviting. But Martha Cook Klingel, who's lived in the Sunshine State for 25 years, is looking forward to her annual summer sojourn to Rothenbuhler's Guest House at Lakeside.
"You couldn't have better weather anywhere in the world than right here," Klingel says. "But Lakeside and Rothenbuhler's is my piece of heaven on earth."
Klingel, 89, discovered the northwest Ohio town more than 60 years ago when she and her family lived in Marion and vacationed here with members of their Methodist church. She returns every year, drawing inspiration for the hollyhocks, roses and dogwoods she paints on porcelain teacups, vases and plates from the vista that's visible from her room at Rothenbuhler's and from the scenery she spies while strolling down Lakeside's quaint streets.
A summer resort town known for its Chautauquaesque blend of religious observance and educational, cultural and recreational activities, Lakeside battens down the hatches in the winter, when only the hardy souls who own year-round homes stay to battle the winds whipping off Lake Erie. Marvin and Edith Rothenbuhler are such a duo.
Originally from Maumee, they vacationed here together for the first time in 1978. Three years later, the couple made Lakeside their residence and opened their home to visitors. The house, which dates to 1883, contains five guest rooms, four with private baths. Television sets and telephones, however, are conspicuously absent. Instead, guests congregate on the inviting glassed-in sunporch, watching the world go by from the wicker swing or an Adirondack chair, talking, playing cards or board games that the Rothenbuhlers keep close at hand, organizing impromptu sing-alongs at the white Yamaha baby grand in the adjoining music room, and lavishing attention on Lady Tess, the resident 10-year-old yellow lab.
"The nicest compliment we ever had came from a new guest who said that they wanted to stay here because whenever they walked by outside, everybody on the porch always seems to be laughing and having a good time," says Edith.
"It's a little like coming to grandmother's house," adds Marvin.
At this time of year tourists are scarce, so it's a pretty good bet you'll have the porch to yourself. ("We like to say the snow never gets dirty here because there is no traffic," Marvin jokes.)
Which makes it an ideal spot for savoring the sound of silence and Edith's melt-in-your-mouth sticky buns and apple bundt cake.
Salt Fork Resort and Conference Center
When Kirk Gable needs a little divine inspiration, he heads to the spot he calls "one of the most unspoiled places on God's earth" â€” Salt Fork State Park. Gable, the minister of Southern Hills Baptist Fellowship in Cambridge, makes a pilgrimage to the 21,000-acre park three or four times a week to write and think and pray.
"You can't help but glean perspective and inspiration," Gable explains. "Perspective from the standpoint that you can look around at all that is untouched, and easily imagine what life was like in another time."
And inspiration that resounds in Sunday sermons like this one for his flock of 85 parishioners, which Gable wrote on his laptop computer from a folding chair along Salt Fork Lake's 74-mile shoreline: "Didn't God create the deer and the fish and the birds of the air. And if we matter because God created us, do they not also matter since God created them? And wouldn't the same be true for trees and flowers and plants? And of course the answer is yes."
Gable, 46, discovered the wonders of Salt Fork when he was a teen-ager. Through the years, he's savored the illusion the park evokes of being miles away from civilization.
"When you need to be creative, I think you have to have a quiet place to go to recharge. This is it for me," he says.
The journey into tranquility begins as the highway is left behind and the seven-mile drive from the park's entrance to the Salt Fork State Park Lodge commences. Even the most frenetic Type A is forced to slow down along the winding road, where the landscape is filled with families of deer camped out on hillsides replete with stands of sassafras, oak and ash.
The only sounds you'll hear at this time of year, when the 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and marina are not in season, are the calls of bald eagles and osprey taking flight.
Salt Fork and its environs are steeped in history. The stone house that Guernsey County resident David Kennedy built in 1837 is a stately reminder of the pioneering spirit of Ohio's formative years. During the Civil War, Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan and a small group of Confederate soldiers, known as Morgan's Raiders, passed through here, seizing personal property as they blurred battle lines and caused confusion in the Union ranks.
Ohio's largest state park is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise year-round with 14 miles of hiking trails, 63 miles of bridle trails and plenty of fishing spots brimming with bass and walleye. The rural charms of southeastern Ohio are especially evident in the pine-beam-and-stone lodge. Each of the 148 comfortably appointed guest rooms features reclining chairs and ottomans and private balconies. (Be sure to request a room overlooking the 3,000-acre Salt Fork Lake.)
Pull up a rocking chair in front of the stone fireplace that's a focal point in the lobby and settle in with a good book, or just contemplate the panoramic view outside from the giant picture windows, an integral part of the lodge's dÃ©cor. Or discover your own niche in one of the overstuffed couches that can be found in cozy nooks and crannies throughout the lodge's three floors.
The lodge gift shop offers an array of diversions to please every interest. Recapture lost childhood with the Authentic American Toys series of dominoes, jacks, wooden pick-up sticks and playing cards. The store also carries a selection of Buckeye books, including field guides to birds, wildflowers and bike routes along Ohio's rail-trails. Still feeling stressed? Pick out a soothing CD from the Solitudes series, with its catalogue of titles including "Natural Stress Relief" and "Lakeside Retreat."
When it's time to stretch, take a dip in the indoor pool, or visit the Nautilus and StairMaster in the fitness center. Kids of all ages will enjoy the lodge's activities room with its four pool tables, arcade games and juke box.
The ambiance may be rustic, but the repast offered in Timbers Restaurant is far from it. Breakfast choices range from "healthy hiker" fare of a yogurt and granola parfait served with fresh fruit, to pancakes and omelets. For lunch, try the Ohio Heartland salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cheeses and fried chicken tenders, or one of a smorgasbord of sandwiches, including a blackened salmon wrap or triple-decker club. San Marco crab cakes and Thai Duck are popular dinner choices.
Through April 30, Salt Fork Resort and Conference Center is offering several packages guaranteed to cure cabin fever. "The Buckeye Package" ($309 per couple Sunday through Thursday, $349 Friday and Saturday) includes two nights' lodging, two breakfasts for two, dinner for two and a certificate to the gift shop. "An Evening of Romance" ($199 per couple Sunday through Thursday) includes one night's lodging, a bottle of champagne, two souvenir champagne flutes, a cheese and fruit plate, dinner for two and a certificate to the gift shop. The "Bed & Breakfast Package" ($114 per couple Sunday through Thursday, $124 per couple Friday and Saturday) includes one night's lodging and breakfast for two.
She's safaried to Kenya and experienced a "Rocky Mountain High" on Canada's Yoco Island. But when Marilee Pallant, a watercolorist and photographer who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, wants to get in touch with her artistic muse she travels north to Harmony Farm in Tipp City.
During the colder months of the year, Pallant marvels, the 120-acre wellness retreat center 16 miles north of Dayton is particularly picturesque, the Miami County countryside cloaked in pristine whiteness, fir trees sparkling like diamonds in the dazzling winter sunlight. Often she pitches a tent and spends the day or a week sketching the familiar landscape of her second home.
"It's a healing place like no other," Pallant, 61, says. "When you turn onto the farm lane, you enter another world. It's like the veils have parted and you've gone to Avalon."
Pallant discovered the wonders of Harmony Farm by word of mouth 10 years ago. At the time, she lived in Tipp City, teaching English and creative writing at the high school. Pallant had never thought about venturing down the farm lane until a friend gave her a gift certificate for a massage, one of the relaxation treatments the center is known for.
"I trusted my friend, but I kept thinking, 'Where am I going? What am I doing?" Pallant recalls. "I turned down St. Rte. 202 and found the farm lane. It was April and it was green, green, green and it looked like an oasis. I connected instantly with the land and with Barbara and her work there."
Barbara Brewer and her husband Bill opened their Santa Fe-style center overlooking the Great Miami River in 1990. Barbara, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist, is a devout believer in the health benefits afforded by massage therapy and wanted others to reap the soothing rewards as well.
"You can see immediate relief in people," Brewer explains. "They would come to me overstressed with daily living or suffering from particular aches and pains in their body. We'd go right into those areas and work with them, and you could see people relax as the pain went away."
Brewer and her staff of 23 therapists provide the ultimate recipe for stress relief in the form of body wraps, yoga and t'ai chi classes and spiritual retreats.
"People are discovering that it's so much better to approach their life in a preventive way, instead of waiting until they are ill to visit a doctor and take medicine and get over the acute stage," Brewer says. "Instead, they're looking ahead and saying, 'I'm getting to a certain age and I think it's time that I really begin to honor my body.' "
This holistic approach to wellness is everywhere, from pampering aromatherapy treatments incorporating the heady scents of eucalyptus, lavender and rose to light, healthy meals of salad with cucumber dill dressing and quiche garnished with fresh fruit catered by Coldwater CafÃ© in Tipp City. Time spent in the outdoor hot-tub grotto listening to flute melodies is guaranteed to rejuvenate both body and soul. Indoors, in themed massage spaces with ethereal names ranging from Angel to Yearning, which Brewer says "reflect healing energy," visitors can custom-design their own stone therapy or herbal-wrap treatment. One of Harmony Farm's most requested, and Pallant's favorite, is the lomi-lomi steam bath-massage, which the Brewers discovered on a trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Too relaxed to lift a finger, much less your body? Don't bother. A Murphy-style folding bed is at hand, ready and waiting to send you off to Dreamland.