Up into the mountainside surrounding Willits, California, down a winding dirt road, and past a skinny wooden welcome sign, sits a trio of charming cabins amid a veritable slice of American wilderness.
Welcome to Still Mountain Retreat.
But I digress.
During my trip across America with Niko, we stopped in my old California stomping grounds in San Jose to visit a few climbing buddies. We only planned to stay a day or two, but after being invited to join our cohorts for a weekend escape up into the mountains, we quickly agreed to alter our agenda.
Our evening drive up to the cabins took us past throngs of bay area traffic, up beyond the wine-laden land of Sonoma, and into the most wonderful nook of paradise. The Still Mountain Retreat property is an expansive sprawl of thick trees, mossy rocks, and grassy fields – all of which are intersected by a gushing river. I can’t say I know too many people who can boast having a waterfall on their property.
Immediately upon arrival, we were treated with two creature encounters. Despite misting rain, we explored the area a bit, and quickly found ourselves gazing upon a young doe resting alone in the grass along the muddy path we were walking. No more than a few weeks old, this infant deer made my heart flutter with adoration. Not wanting to disturb her, we carried on and were soon enthralled by the sight of a fuzzy little vole. I instantly knew that this mountainous retreat was the place for me.
Aside from our many hours spent traversing the length of the property in search of bright-bellied newts and freshly-sprouted fungi, we spent a great deal of time avoiding the rainfall while playing board games and cooking in the main cabin. I discovered my knack for rolling Yahtzees, and put my English degree to good use while whooping everyone during rounds of Scrabble. Moments of sunshine drew us towards the crumbling shuffleboard deck – a sport I had never before appreciated. We also scampered down to the property’s koi pond to feed the greedy fish.
But the real attraction of our weekend retreat was the food.
Throughout our six-week adventure across America, Niko and I will both attest that our bellies were best fed during this weekend in Willits. We stopped at a Trader Joe’s in San Jose to stock up on snacks and libations, but were promptly outdone by the heaps of food brought by the rest of our companions. The boys busied themselves with cooking duties throughout the entire weekend, serving up fantastic meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even simple sandwiches turned into decadent productions with earthy mushrooms, ripe avocados, and more toppings than two slices of bread could ever accommodate.
I’m talking plump steaks, perfectly roasted corn on the cob, juicy asparagus cooked on the grill, and salmon filets topped with a pesto pistachio crust – oh, that salmon.
There are hardly enough words to properly describe my experience at Still Mountain Retreat. From the creaky metal platform hoisted high above a rabid river that led us along slippery trails to the just-our-size Treehouse cabin that Niko and I were blessed to have all to ourselves, it was like escaping to my ultimate haven.
The Treehouse cabin we stayed in enchanted Niko and I with notions of simplified living spaces. The downstairs area held a small kitchen, just big enough for one or two to get by, and a quaint little table with two chairs. Up a steep metal staircase was an attic-style pull-down door, which opened up to the sleeping area. Hardly tall enough to stand in, it was a perfect nook with a bed and beautiful windows to watch the rain from.
Not to mention the steaming hot tub with views of the rolling hillside and friendly little tree frogs who kindly posed for photos, or the lush vegetable and flower garden sitting behind the trio of cabins.
I could go on for days.
While we were only able to enjoy this unbelievable bit of Californian glory for a handful of days, I still long to return to it’s simple clutches. I wistfully dream of spending weeks of solitude in the Treehouse cabin, pent up with my writing tools as I spew out tales of my travels.
I’ve visited a great many places, but none were as naturally appealing and outwardly addictive as my time spent basking in the experience of being removed from civilization in this small cluster of minimalistic cabins. I savored every moment, and can’t wait until I can make a return visit. Here are a handful of extra photos for your viewing pleasure – as if mere photos could ever properly express the experience.
I am forever grateful to my gracious hosts for sharing their beautiful property with me. (Thank you, again and again.)