In Seattle, when people say “the mountain is out” they’re telling you that skies in the Pacific Northwest are clear and Mt. Rainier is in view. This past weekend, Big Papa and I spent three glorious days relaxing, chilling out in a bar none amazing cabin and gazing at all 14,411 feet of the mountain. We were in Paradise. Paradise, Washington.
Paradise lies on the south slope of the mountain, and is famous for its glorious vistas and wildflower meadows. Its name came from Martha, the daughter-in-law of James Longmire who, upon first visiting Rainier, exclaimed “Oh, what a paradise!” (James Longmire was one of the first to climb Mt. Rainier.)
We were there to celebrate Big Papa’s birthday over the long holiday weekend. Being born on the Fourth of July means sharing your day with the entire U.S. of A. Big Papa, being the low key kind of guy that he is, prefers quiet when it comes to celebrating another year, and that is a tall order. Between the fireworks and festivities, traffic is snarled, restaurants are full and a good night’s sleep is hard to come by.
That’s why, for most of the six years we’ve been a couple, we’ve hit the road and headed to Canada…but not this year. This year we remained stateside when I heard about Deep Forest Cabins, barely a minute from the gate to Mt. Rainier National Park.
We booked a couple nights in the Salal Cabin, though I confess calling Salal a cabin in the roughing it, rustic sense of the word is a misnomer. Salal is paradise translated into a cabin. If Frank Lloyd Wright wanted a smaller home away from Falling Water in the Pacific Northwest, that’s Salal. Built by Alan Liddle (1922-2009), a Tacoma architect, in 1950, Salal was featured on the cover of Sunset Magazine in 1953. It’s easy to see why since it’s probably one of the dreamiest accommodations we’ve ever stayed in. As I remarked on the guest book: “We only found one problem with Salal…we can’t take it with us.”
Salal is one of several cabins, each with their own unique charm, that lie scattered through a pristine stretch of forest. It’s no stretch to say that Salal is the crown jewel. Light-filled and perched on a rock, this spectacular cabin is a marriage of wood beams, exposed stone walls, sleek minimalist décor and woodsy views from every angle of every room (and I do mean every room). We really did not want to leave, even to explore the paradise that lay waiting right outside our cabin door.
Our own home in Seattle, which we affectionately call The Urban Cabin, is just a little bigger than Salal, maybe 1000 square feet. The Urban Cabin is very old and very quaint. We love it, but it’s definitely more Country Home than Architectural Digest. While I’ve often imagined living in a home just like Salal I believe—for it to work—we’d have to be much more minimalist than we are. Meaning: less junk, less clutter. The Zen peacefulness that is Salal is achieved through pure simplicity: both in design and connectedness to nature. Spending time in a place like Salal, in a space like Salal, is incredible, transformative even. The design is stripped of anything excessive: where goes excess, so go your worries. The warm hues of red and orange throw pillows here and deep brown wood floors there, the filtered light through the trees and green through every window, make you feel like you’re one with nature. And you are, but you’re still sleeping in a comfortable bed, warming yourself by a gas fireplace, gazing at the stars from a private hot tub and dining on food you’ve cooked in your fully decked out kitchen.
Salal is a splurge, no doubt about that. But it was worth it—we were worth it. And yes, over the course of our three days spent getting away from it all, Big Papa and I did manage to drag ourselves out of our cabin and into the pristine wilderness that surrounds Mt. Rainier. We took a few short hikes, communed with old growth forests, and gawked at the mountain from stem to stern, north to south.
Our sublime cabin, Mt. Rainier, a few days together, time just to be, was dreamy, simply dreamy. Paradise for sure.