After years of living in the Southwest, it took a small island in the Pacific Northwest to find myself inside a tipi. Although there was that tent pitched unwisely on a mountainside, where clinging to the ground during a rainstorm made fond memories later, The Sweetlife Tipi is the way to camp now.
Nestled in the woods on the grounds of Bainbridge Island’s Sweetlife Farm, the tipi opened its canvas door last summer as a unique and peaceful “glamping” retreat. This authentic 20-foot-high tipi includes a queen size memory foam bed, rustic rockers, mini fridge, Wi-Fi, terry robes and more, making that soggy tent less than a fond memory.
Ambient wonders of nature surrounded me inside the tipi as I snuggled in bed under a thick comforter and Pendleton blankets – the bed pre-warmed with hot water bottles. My eco-friendly bathroom en plein air was just a few steps outside the oval doorway.
Partially open to the forest ferns and wild raspberry bushes, the bathroom is complete with composting toilet, on-demand hot water in the shower and sink, and soaps handcrafted by Sweetlife Farms’ proprietors, Nancy and Bob Fortner. I can do it all while still hearing (and possibly seeing) a chorus of crickets and frogs.
The Fortners began Sweetlife Farm in 1999 and have grown it into a thriving cottage business, offering natural soaps and skincare, jams, condiments, “Dr. Bob’s Bitters,” and other treasures culled from their gardens. Bob’s lifelong interest in Native American cultures, particularly the Nez Perce tribe, inspired the addition of the tipi. “What’s engaged me the most is how Native Americans treated the land and each other,” says Bob. “The peace and tranquility here are part of the mystery that guests experience, which makes their visit to the tipi unique. The only sounds are what nature provides.”
One night in The Sweetlife Tipi turned into an island safari of our own. As the sun spread a warm glow over the pines the next morning, I fired up (aka flipped the switch on) the hot water kettle for a nice cup of oolong paired with Sweetlife Farm’s granola, yogurt and strawberry rhubarb jam. French press coffee and juice were also included in the continental breakfast. Sleeping in to the hum of forest sounds carried us onward.
For many of us, a weekend getaway means slipping into books waiting to be read, enjoying a glass of wine, strolling without a plan and unplugging from our endless email scroll. The best kinds of getaways put our daily reality on hold, shifting us into a space of suspended relaxation. A space where the hustle of parking lots and guests at the check-in counter do not exist. A space where “checking out” is a way of being.
At The Sweetlife Tipi, town is just a few miles beyond the tree tops. A short walk from the tipi also offers an entrance to the Grand Forest, more than 200 acres of lush woodland preserve and a six-mile trail system across the heart of Bainbridge Island. You can hike, get lost inside your canvas space, or gaze at the reeds and cattails in the pond by the fire pit, all while knowing that shops and hot water are nearby, if you need them. A night in the tipi is just enough out of one’s comfort zone, while still delivering all of the best creature comforts.