Marie asked in the comments of my last posting whether the Manucha retreat center was close to either Vista House or Stonehenge. The Stonehenge monument is across the river on the Washington side and down the road a piece near Maryhill.
However, Vista House is just a few miles down the road - walking distance really if you are up for a hike.
Having traveled all over the United States and in a few other countries, I've seen my share of "comfort stations". One of my strongest memories of a trip from Ohio to Georgia and back with a passel of squirmy kids was my 10 year old step daughter's absolute refusal to enter the county outhouses along the way yet tearful pleas that she had to go potty NOW in a real potty. It was a horrendous battle.
When I used to travel regularly from Cleveland to Washington DC I could name every rest stop along the way through Pennsylvania and tell you which ones were good and which ones to avoid.
Vista House, however, is in a class by itself. The gift shop, the historic displays, and of course the loo were all much appreciated. But it's VIEWS that make it worth going to.
I could easily relate to Marie's comment that she'd have difficulty concentrating on workshops in such a beautiful place as Manucha. The Columbia Gorge region is truly an amazing place.
One of things I enjoyed about the Pacific Northwest Great Teacher's Seminar that I attended at Manucha was they deliberately planned lots of free time throughout the week so I had opportunities to go hiking, exploring, and lay around reading/pondering/napping. The meeting times were vital and productive. But oh, some of those free time afternoons were absolutely delicious!
A couple of the other teachers and I did the waterfall loop one afternoon and that was very fun. The majesty of Multnomah is impressive, no doubt. But the trails and overlooks around some of the smaller falls away from all the gawking tourists are what ring my chimes.
Exploring scenic views was definitely a high point of the week I spent at Manucha. But connecting with the other teachers ranks right up there as well.
I remember one night a bunch of us sat up till about 2 AM swapping stories. I was the designated driver of the back porch while my compatriots sampled some local wines. (Normally Manucha bans alcohol but they made an exception for this particular conference.) Throughout the course of the evening things got sillier and sillier. I may have been sober, but it didn't matter. We all laughed so hard our sides ached, our jaws hurt and we could barely breathe. It was a hilarious time.
Yet perhaps the parts that were most meaningful to me were the very early mornings when I would get up to see the sunrise and hike alone around the 100 acre grounds of lush trees, flowers, shrubs before the conference events would begin. The earth was still wet with dew, somehow seeming fresh born each day. I'd quietly wander around, musing at scampering squirrels and chattering birds as I found new hiding spots for scribbling in my journal every morning. BLISS!
I don't know if I'll ever follow up on my dreamed up writer's workshop. But I do know I WILL go back to spend some time at Manucha. It truly is sacred ground.