“Don’t believe the lies you tell yourself — we’re here to disengage with a lot of beliefs,” Jess, the tanned, wise yoga instructor at Salish Lodge & Spa reminds us to be present and let our egos go. I am stretching my body in a Vinyasa Flow morning class as I look out over a 268-foot drop known as the famous Snoqualmie Falls. Perhaps the most magnificent view from any yoga studio in the world, my mind finds peace in the harmony of the open-air glass windows.
Jess is my chosen guru for the day. Trained in the Baptiste style of Vinyasa Yoga, he guides us to the pursuit of self-actualization through moving meditation at Salish.
This Yoga by the Falls program is new to Salish Lodge & Spa; the director, John Jessum, who likes to be called Jess, smiles with his eyes and prompts us to assume the child’s pose. “If you have to rest, it’s not defeat. It’s a victory because you are taking care of yourself,” he says. Yoga is not a workout, but a work in. We are asked to look inside ourselves for the strength and power to rest in the space between our own thoughts.
Vinyasa Flow and Gentle Yoga classes are taught in the lodge’s beautiful Hidden Terrace with its remarkable view of Snoqualmie Falls – the perfect setting for achieving true inner peace. As I move into Shavasana, my mind drifts back in time to twenty-four hours ago, when I arrived at this magical healing center.
I have a secret philosophy: The same way you can tell if a Mexican restaurant will have good food by the taste of the chips and salsa or you can judge a breakfast restaurant by the quality of the coffee, I’ve learned the same principles apply to spas. You can always tell how good a treatment will be based on the spa water and the “relaxing room” chairs. At Salish, I have just slid into heaven. Citrus-soaked water with grapefruit, lemon, and lime refreshes my dry mouth as I sink deeper into the most cushioned armchair in all of the Pacific Northwest.
I am at the award-winning Spa at Salish Lodge, only thirty minutes east of Seattle, Washington, yet an entire world away from rushed civilization. Sitting proudly atop Snoqualmie Falls and surrounded by emerald-green fir trees, this property is a retreat for the mind, body, and soul.
The natural surroundings reflect the calm, contemplative environment of the Pacific Northwest, The Spa at Salish Lodge has a variety of treatments inspired by locally sourced ingredients. Condé Nast Traveler’s awarded this divine destination “Top 50 Hotel Spas in the United States.”
I’ve just soaked my body in the therapeutic pools after a steam room and sauna visit. The air is lavishly coated with soothing aromas of cedar and eucalyptus. There is something different here—I’ve visited spas all around the world, but at Salish Lodge & Spa there is a shift that happens as soon as you step foot on the property. A healing takes place within. You know you are about to embark on a true adventure for your soul as you are greeted with attention, focused love, and appreciation.
This same energy is in my treatment room. As I enter into the cedar room, I sit down to soak my feet in warm, silky water. I am getting ready for the Honey from Heaven treatment for the hands and feet, which is part of the Straight from the Hive specialty spa menu.
This revitalizing treatment pampers my skin with the richness of honey and lemon. It is smooth and silky as the massage melts away stress with a softening foot soak, accompanied by nourishing honey drizzled straight from their hives to soothe my skin. It’s followed by a luxurious hand and foot exfoliation using a blend of sugar, honey, and pure essential oil of lemon, lemon verbena, and orange. As a writer, my hands don’t seem to get enough attention (they work all day), so this treatment is a wonderful way to say, “Thank you hands for working so hard. I appreciate you—for today, just relax and enjoy the extra care.”
My feet are massaged with a custom, whipped Shea butter, the ultimate moisturizer, to re-hydrate and soothe my dry, summer skin. The entire treatment lasts fifty minutes, and I leave with extra healthy hands and feet.
Now that my body is attended to, it’s time to nourish my belly. I head to The Attic, a casual and comfortable nook atop the guest rooms, featuring a stone hearth pizza oven, relaxing furniture, and friendly Pacific Northwest smiles from guests, waterfall visitors, and staff alike.
I order the Washington pear and prosciutto pizza. It includes Salish’s honey fig spread, caramelized onions, arugula, and bleu cheese. It’s the best pizza I’ve ever had. As I sit and take in the view, I think about the uniqueness felt throughout every experience so far.
Salish Lodge & Spa is special. Rare. Unobtrusive. Yet inviting. It’s in the energy that vibrates gracefully through the air. Every employee has welcomed me as if I am family, but the specialness that pulsates throughout the property is more than just outstanding customer service. It is in the details.
At Salish Lodge & Spa, seemingly small touches normally excused by the regular eye, are cared for with acute focus. For example, the staff opens doors before you even realize they need to be open; employees look you in the eye with warm, energetic smiles; the morning coffee and tea in the library, which is beautifully set up to showcase the locally sourced products, includes their own honey; and twenty-seven Salish Lodge & Spa-branded products are on display with other wonderful products to aid in healing and relaxation in the gift shop. Or there’s the dining room, where the popular brunch is served, like the morning coffee which is accompanied with a create your own morning mocha, including thick chunks of white and dark chocolate, fresh whipped cream, sugar, and fresh cream.
After The Attic, I head to my guest room, where there is hand-whipped rosemary and mint body cream, sugar scrub, and lotion balanced beautifully with red rose pedals. My door opens to the balcony where I gaze down to see an expansive view of Mother Nature accompanied by the sound of a real waterfall. I see birds fly above, as the waterfall is a protected area for the wild falcon, where its nest sits proudly.
My room comes with its very own fireplace and gigantic Jacuzzi soaking tub. Although there is plenty to do on property, one could make an entire retreat in the guest room alone.
The details matter but so does nature. Everything is carefully placed in order to respect and help guests engage with Mother Nature. The delicate balance of peace and power focuses everything on the moment. Here I feel present, I feel loved, and I am quietly reminded that, just like nature, all is in right order.
There is common language at this luxury lodge: respect. Respect nature, respect one another, respect yourself. Everything works in cooperation with one another; it is a delicate ecosystem that proves Mother Nature has needs and desires as well. She has healing properties, and when we let her, she will help balance our souls. Salish Lodge & Spa aids in this healing ritual by inviting guests to enjoy the moment and seek peace within.
Despite the quality, there is no pretension here. There is an easygoing sophistication that only this cool, unassuming lodge nestled in the Pacific Northwest can master. As if Salish Lodge & Spa doesn’t have enough going for it already with the glorious Snoqualmie Falls, compassionate staff, fantastic locally sourced food, unique spa treatments, and immaculate guest rooms and property grounds, they have bees. Yes, bumblebees.
But the only thing these bees sting is your taste buds with a sense of wonder and a pleasant selection of signature Salish honey, infused into food items on the menus in The Attic, the dining room, and in the spa. Just look for the cute little illustration of the bee to denote special items using Salish honey.
The honey is sourced from the property’s own hives, a 120,000 honeybee apiary that was installed on the hillside overlooking the lodge in the spring of 2011. Yes, the honey is for the guests, but what’s more unique is the dedication to maintaining a healthy habitat for planet earth. Salish Lodge & Spa feels strongly about maintaining the apiary as a protected habitat for these important agents, which pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops that produce a substantial percentage of the food we depend on. It was in this spirit that they decided to triple the hives to produce 2,400 pounds of honey per year.
Furthermore, the herb garden provides sustainable and organic herbs for the dining room and the spa. In addition, an 800-square-foot organic vegetable garden provides the dining room and The Attic with unique culinary opportunities. Inspired by the need to provide the bees a sustainable environment in which to thrive, they planted a hillside of wildflowers along with blueberry and huckleberry plants that lead up to the apiary and gardens. Beekeeper Daniel Sullivan, proprietor of Shipwreck Honey in West Seattle, is their apiary expert and has guided the expansion. It doesn’t get more local or sustainable than this.
In the evening I make my way to the dining room to enjoy a specific Northwest cuisine with flavors that sing the virtues of local and homegrown, using fresh ingredients and refined cooking techniques. Executive Chef Steven Snook brings his passion for food and culinary excellence to every dish. He trained under famous chef Gordon Ramsay. Each plate is an art piece unto itself. The seasoning is just as important as the plating.
Continuing my honey theme, I order the pistachio-crusted scallops* and Angus beef tenderloin. With poached rhubarb, avocado purée, brioche chips, Salish Honey and 8 oz. certified angus beef tenderloin with asparagus tips, carrot & cardamom purée, and steak fries.
For dessert I celebrate more honey with a milk chocolate peanut butter tart. It has toasted meringue, Salish Lodge & Spa honey, caramel popcorn custard, and peanut brittle. Each dish has spatters of sauce oriented in a careful execution reflecting inspiration from Jackson Pollock.
With a satisfied stomach, I make my way back to my guest room to settle in for the evening. My experience at Salish Lodge & Spa is sacred; it feels ritualistic and the energy on property is protected.
Perhaps this is because The Muckleshoot Tribe owns the property. Built in 1919, the lodge is a destination for more than 1.5 million people each year, most during the peak summer season. It houses 84 guest rooms, four suites, and the spa.
Once noted for enormous weekend breakfasts that featured honey poured from about ceiling height, the restaurant turned into a destination resort, which now shows up regularly on various lists of top lodges, spas, and dining locations in the world. That includes being ranked number 31 among U.S. and Canadian hotels by Travel + Leisure.
I return to the present, laying in Shavasana on my yoga mat. The gentle roar of the waterfall drapes below. The sunshine peeks in and warms my face through the open- air window. My retreat at Salish Lodge & Spa has taught me to be more present and honor the balance of nature and her healing properties. I promise myself that when I return to the city, I will keep this new approach to life.
Jess closes our yoga practice with a passage from “The Issue at Hand” from Essays on Buddhism and Mindfulness by Gil Fronsdal.
“With great appreciation for the present. This includes the recognition that the most wonderful things that we have in life happen only if we are in the present moment. For friendship, joy, generosity, compassion, and appreciation of beauty to arise, we have to allow ourselves the time and the presence to be aware.”
Appreciating the present moment involves appreciating and caring for yourself, respecting others, and honoring nature. Lesson learned—I’ve just experienced the most miraculous adventure for my soul.
Thank you, Salish Lodge & Spa.
The Attic: The view and the pizza
Brunch in the dining room.
The Spa: Soaking Pools and Honey from Heaven for the Hands and Feet treatment
The staff at Salish, who I had the pleasure of meeting and working with: Patrick, Katie, Rob, Marco, Matt, Katherine, Jess, Rod Andrew, Rachel, Ethan, and Zack.
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