Out In Style: Most Comfortable Wilderness Retreats Near Philadelphia

April 20, 2013 7:00 AM

Since ancient times, people have touted the health benefits derived from peaceful retreats situated amidst nature’s splendor. Writer, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau extolled the virtues of nature in his most famous work, “Walden,” about his experiences living on Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts.

“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her,” Thoreau advised.

But experiencing nature does not require such rustic accommodations — on the contrary. Within a two-hour drive of Philadelphia, there are many retreats and out-of-the-way locations that offer both nature and comfort.

IAM Counseling and Retreat Center
1621 Sayman Road
New Albany, PA 18833
(570) 363-2808

Stay in a private room inside of an 1840 farmhouse located in the Endless Mountains at this lovely retreat. IAM Counseling and Retreat Center offers a number of excellent retreat experiences. In addition to a room, guests have access to a modern, fully equipped kitchen where they can prepare their own meals, and there is a large dining room that provides an excellent view of the scenery. In addition to the farmhouse, there are a few rooms available at the Upper House. The Granary provides art studios and a rain forest garden greenhouse, and the Workshop serves as a group counseling and activities space. The center offers artistic/creative retreats for artists, writers, musicians and other creative activities; nature/outdoor retreats for those who wish to experience nature first hand; gardening/farming retreat for guests who enjoy plants and birds; quiet/reflective retreat for spiritual exploration; and the counseling retreat that includes pastoral psychotherapy.

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St. Raphaela Center
616 Coopertown Road
Haverford, PA 19041
(610) 642-5715

If peace and spiritual growth is just what the doctor ordered, the St. Raphaela Center, which is located on nine acres of natural beauty, is operated by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The center offers a variety of retreats and a respite from the hectic pace of modern society to individuals and groups. As expected, there is a beautiful chapel on the grounds that is used for prayer, worship, sacred music concerts and conference presentations. The center itself is a three-story stone mansion that had at one time been a private residence. The mansion has accommodations for a maximum of 56 people. Buffet-style meals are served in a large dining room. Single, double and triple guest bedrooms offer simple but comfortable quarters featuring beds, nightstands, a writing table and bureaus. Perhaps best of all, there are no in-room telephones, TVs, alarm clocks or radios.

Temenos Retreat
685 Broad Run Road
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 696-8145

Temenos, Greek for “sacred place,” is operated by the Temenos Church, which practices the Swedenborgian Tradition. Offering an interfaith community, the retreat is open to all faiths. Programs include nature walks and meditation, yoga, sound meditation, a caregivers’ support group, an interfaith choir, animal blessings, book discussion, group zen in nature and more. On-campus facilities include a chapel, a full kitchen, a living/dining room combination that’s equipped with a gas fireplace and more. The farmhouse is available for rent. The Retreat Center, designed by Eric Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, features a large open conference room, a wrap-around deck and many floor-to-ceiling windows that allow guests to view the surrounding forest and meadows. Accommodations in the Retreat Center include eight bedrooms with private baths. Each room has twin- and queen-size beds to provide overnight lodging for 18 people.

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Circle of Trees Retreat
391 Schocopee Road
Milford, PA 18337
(484) 347-7489

Circle of Trees Retreat is a non-faith-based non-profit organization that offers day and weekend retreats. The retreat programs offer exploration, wellness, nature and education. Guests are encouraged to explore the natural surroundings, make new connections with others, hike and enjoy a campfire in the evenings. Comfortable overnight lodging is available. Cold breakfasts, served with coffee and tea, are also provided, along with vegetarian lunches. An annual Holistic Metaphysical Expo/Vendor Day will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 1. The event will include hooping and drums, yoga, jewelry, art, crystals, Tai Chi healing, clothing, books and more. There will be free workshops available throughout the day.

Spoutwood Farm
4255 Pierceville Road
Glen Rock, PA 17327
(717) 235-6610

Don’t miss the 22nd annual May Day Fairie Festival, May 3-5, at Spoutwood Farm Center in rural York County. The event is at the 26-acre farm located in rolling hills, woodlands and farm fields, and it draws thousands each year, many dressed in fantasy-themed clothing. Each fall, a Mother Earth Harvest Festival is held. The grounds include the Spoutwood Observatory, and various educational programs are offered throughout the year. In the summer, the fertile farmland is home to a community-supported organic garden. While camping on-site is restricted to volunteers with the various events, there are a number of bed and breakfasts, inns and camping sites nearby. The American Vintage Bed & Breakfast, for example, features comfortable accommodations in its 1780 farmhouse and is located in nearby Stewartstown.

Jeffrey B. Roth, has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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