Weary of city buzz? Eager to get outdoors and reconnect? Me too, which is why I'm heading back to Awakening Garden for the second time in one month. Owned by Carin and Mark DeNat, this densely vegetated 98-acre woodland six miles from Saugerties, New York is populated with a handful of tiny rustic cabins, a teepee, trails, and the sweetest outdoor shower you've ever used. Carin had long hoped to have a place in the woods - she loves walking, sitting quietly, and just being - so when the opportunity arose to buy this land on the edge of Palenville, about a two-hour drive from the big city, she leapt at the chance. And everything fell into place from there. Flip through our gallery to see images of Thoreau Cabin, where I stayed, along with the Buddha teepee, a peek at Twin Oaks cabin, and a striking new aqua-colored cabin built for handicapped people by the good folks at Blissful Bedrooms.
Carin tells Inhabitat how she and her husband collected old treasures for many years before they bought the land that Awakening Garden has grown out of, including old timber tables, windows, chairs, and random knick knacks that give her cabins so much charm. She even has an impressive stained glass collection that she scooped up before the colorful panels became prohibitively expensive. She was thrilled to finally haul this priceless collection out of storage and put it to good use as building materials and furnishings for a hyper low-impact retreat. It’s almost as though the DeNats were destined to create a refuge, not only for their own children and family, but to share with single nomadic wanderers like me, couples, or even large families who want to escape for a weekend.
I’ve been renting a car to get to Awakening Garden, but if you’re in the city, it’s possible to take a bus for less money (the DeNats’ neighbor also runs a car service). Plan well and you could spend an entire weekend cooking humble meals and walking through the forest without ever needing to go into town. And there’s plenty of wildlife too. On my first visit, I saw a bear! Be warned though – this is not a glamping experience. No white-coated chefs are going to burst from the bushes to serve you. Thoreau cabin is a lofted A-framed space equipped with a wood-fired stove, chairs, some rudimentary cooking utensils, rope lights, a couple of lamps and candles, and not a lot more than that. You’ll want to bring your own sleeping bags and mattresses and a good supply of healthy food, since there’s not much civilization within a walkable distance, but this is part of what makes the experience so refreshing.
The DeNats included a quote from Henry David Thoreau in the website description of their cabin by the same name, and it really rang true for me. “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensible, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” Remember this when you initially panic that there’s no bed, no hairdryer, and no running water inside. It’s not just fine. It’s liberating. The peace and quiet make the lack of certain conveniences completely worthwhile.
There are a couple of composting toilets on the property, which are perfectly sanitary and so much healthier for the environment than conventional crappers, and then there is the outdoor shower. Completely nurtured by the surrounding trees, the shower reminds me of a small Japanese garden with its lovely stone floors and minimalist aesthetic. The water comes out hot, which was such a delightful extravagance, and the music of the forest is complemented by the sound of water. I do love an outdoor shower! Every visitor is cherished and welcome, which makes it even easier to completely shake off worldly woes and embrace this gift of a sanctuary. Even 30 minutes will do. If you’re anywhere even close to New York, I highly recommend this grounding, inspiring experience.
Images by Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat