Work, work, work. Modern humans have made tremendous strides in advancing our society. We have built bridges that span vast waterways, created air travel that jets us from one continent to another in record time — all in the name of progress.

When do we rest? Surely not on Sunday; technology has globalized our work environment to fit 24-hour availability.

No “closed” sign ever hangs in the window of today’s international marketplace.

The forward movement of a progressive American society has not come without cost. In the past decade, many full-time workers have increased their work week from a little over 40 hours to nearly 50 hours a week, a figure that does not include, for some, considerable commute time. Statistics show that employees are experiencing symptoms of stress and job burnout from long hours and the near extinction of the traditional 9-to-5 routine.

As employers demand more from this driven workforce, vacations are becoming a thing of the past. Researchers found in a recent study of heart disease that men who take vacations every year reduce their overall risk of death by about 20 percent, and their risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30 percent.

If that bit of news has caught your attention, you might be wondering first, where your luggage is buried; and secondly, where to find the perfect getaway to recharge your sagging batteries.

One option is Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center, a rustic, backcountry jewel located 35 miles east of Salem and 3,000 feet up in an old-growth forest of the central Cascades. Breitenbush offers more than relaxation. It offers renewal.

“We host about 20,000 guests annually,” says Tom Robinson, events and marketing director. “The vast majority of our guests come from the Northwest, but we also have guests from around the world.”

At Breitenbush, the year-round epicenter of activity is the Historic Lodge where visitors gather for entertainment, meals and workshops, or to read quietly in the library. Overnight guests can stay in the lodge, or in cozy, rustic cabins that are heated in winter by water from the hot springs. Campsites and tents are available on a seasonal basis.

The main attraction at Breitenbush is the springs, which burst from the ground at near-boiling temperatures and are channeled throughout the grounds in an ingenious system of trenches and flues.

Native American tribes considered the area sacred, using the waters for bathing, healing and ritual purification. Modern health-seekers can bathe in the waters at several stone-lined or tiled soaking tubs scattered strategically throughout the grounds. Some overlook the Breitenbush River, others occupy a deck behind the lodge. A sauna, perched above a steaming chasm of water, offers another healthful touch.

In keeping with its theme of natural good health, Breitenbush offers a rotating menu of organic, vegetarian meals and allows for substitutions of wheat, egg and dairy alternatives. Hikers can request a sack lunch to take on one of the many hiking trails that radiate from the grounds.

“Guests can participate in a variety of activities through daily well-being programs such as yoga, guided hikes, meditation classes, concerts, dances, local history lessons or singing,” says Robinson.
The retreat also employs a staff of massage therapists who offer acupressure, polarity therapy, Reiki and injury-specific treatments.

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