Vermont's Gay Oasis :: Frog Meadow
Vermont's Frog Meadow is billed as "A country bed & breakfast and massage oasis for men." Having been there myself, this EDGE correspondent can say that it's all that, and more.
Situated on 63 acres of rolling, scenic landscape, Frog Meadow is both home and business for Scott Heller and Dave King, a couple of 23 years. Their dedication to serving the gay community by making Frog Meadow a place of respite and connection is borne in part out of a wish to share the natural beauty of their home and the warmth of their hospitality, Scott told EDGE in a recent interview.
"We built Frog Meadow as our home in 1995," said Scott, a solidly muscular man with an infectious smile and a demeanor that inspires immediate confidence. "And when we first decided to open our home to guests seven years ago, our intent was to share with others this tranquil oasis we had lovingly created. We want men to find with us a place without judgments, where they can divest themselves of their inhibitions -- and their clothes, if they so wish -- and the opportunity to just regain their equilibrium and re-connect with themselves."
It's a perfectly situated, perfectly proportioned retreat for such re-connection. Frog Meadow can accommodate 12 - 14 men, with an emphasis on community. Each day starts with a home-cooked breakfast prepared by Dave, who is a professional chef and massage therapist. Dave uses local ingredients including freshly baked breads, just-picked berries, and honey harvested from Frog Meadow's own beehives.
"Frog Meadow is an escape from the daily grind, that ticking clock of deadlines, work, and obligations," Dave noted. "Once you get here and you look out at the spectacular vista, you will realize you've left all that behind for a little while. We provide a welcoming, nurturing space to relax, restore and rediscover yourself whether in quiet solitude or in the warm camaraderie of other gay men."
In other words: There's plenty to do, including the option of doing nothing but relaxing. Either way, you'll come home refreshed.
In case that all sounds a little too peaceful, don't worry: Frog Meadow hosts a variety of activities and workshops, as well as a quarterly potluck dinner that draws around 55 attendees, a combination of locals and house guests.
Frog Meadow also hosts a spring and fall Work Camp that the web site describes as "The all-boys sleep-away camp you wished your parents had sent you to!" Work Camp participants help Scott and Dave maintain the grounds and structures for $25 per day and in return receive lodging, three meals a day, and the company of other work campers. Frog Meadow also offers a Work in Kind Fellowship program throughout the year, for ongoing projects.
One of this summer's events is a four-day Summer Camp, a "Body/Mind/Spirit Experience for Men," scheduled for July 11 - 15.
Come late summer, a weekend getaway will offer self-care buffs a Yoga, Massage & Wellness Weekend, Sept. 13-14. (A complete list of activities for the remainder of 2014 is available here.)
Workshop participants can partake in massage weekends or nude yoga retreats. Other guests book their stays precisely because they want peace and quiet, and the resort's location is conducive to deep relaxation -- as is the on-site wood fired hot tub, which is available to all guests, as are the five miles of nature trails and, in summer, the spring-fed swimming pond.
One frequent workshop facilitator at Frog Meadow is Adam Brown, who leads "Energetics of Touch" massage workshops. (The next one is slated for Oct. 24 - 26.)
"A student of mine from workshops I led in Boston suggested I get in touch with Frog Meadow as a possible place to hold my workshops," Brown told EDGE. "I went to visit Scott and Dave a couple of summers ago and we hit it off right away. Now, my work is an integral part of their programming every year."
"The main goals of my workshops are to provide a space for men to be authentic, to learn and grow both emotionally and spiritually and to transmit some of the life-changing teachings I have had in the areas of Taoism and Tantra," said Brown. "Gay or bisexual men very much need nurturing environments in which to explore the emotional, sexual and spiritual aspects of their lives. It is a great gift to be nourished in non-judgmental community as we evolve."
Yoga instructor Jon Poupore, who leads several workshops throughout the year and will be back in the autumn, similarly shared his story.
"I first came as a guest, and then led some informal yoga sessions," Poupore told EDGE. "Scott and Dave, being who they are, saw yoga and wellness as a way to attract men to Vermont. I think this [upcoming fall] wellness retreat, as it's conceived, will go a long way to make Frog Meadow better known as a place for gay naturists."
Why nude yoga?
"For a lot of men, this answers itself," Poupore replied. "Who wouldn't want to hang out with a bunch of gay men in a safe, friendly setting in the nude? Well, I certainly know that this does not appeal to everyone. But everyone I talk to about it is at least intrigued. For many it's an 'in' to nudism. It's an activity that isn't necessarily centered around nudism, but more around camaraderie and community.
"Even with (or especially because) of the Internet, men seek connection," Poupore explained. "Naked yoga is that chance to be with other gay men where you can explore your own body (and certainly the bodies of others) in a setting that is less judgmental than a pickup app or a bar."
Poupore went on to add, "I often add partner poses. These allow for greater opening and also are a lot of fun. There's a fair amount of laughing for some of them. But then we bring it back, and focus on the work at hand.
"Sure, there's some sexual energy present when you get a group of naked men together, but it usually turns into a gentle camaraderie," Poupore noted.
This ties in with Brown's observations about the massage workshops. "Men are so in need of conscious touch!" Brown said. "Most of us do not get nearly enough. Some men do not get any touch in their lives. Men are also in need of bonding and community in a supportive and honest setting.
"Men need to be heard and realize that our feelings matter," Brown went on to observe. "One of the sexiest and most fulfilling things in life is to be paid attention to, no matter what baggage one is carrying. My hope is that they take away all or some of these things and, as well as a commitment to fulfilling their needs in their own environments when they go home."
You can still enjoy attentive therapeutic touch even if you can't attend a formal workshop. Dave is a longtime professional massage therapist, and he and Scott have built a dedicated massage studio in a separate building overlooking the apple orchard, a setting that ensures quiet tranquility and privacy.
"Male touch is a powerful and healing gift," said Dave, a native Vermonter with a palpably caring presence. Dave explained that his philosophy of massage "is that the body, mind, and spirit are intricately intertwined components of the whole being. If any one part is out of alignment, all three suffer.
"By assisting in bringing the body into balance, the mind and spirit benefit as well." Dave takes pride in the fact that he custom designs each session for the individual client.
Whatever might be going on, relaxation is a watchword. Frog Meadow is situated a short drive away from Rock River, which offers a clothing-optional naturist area for sunbathing, swimming, and socializing. Partially in support of this favorite spot of naturists, Scott and Dave host an Annual Garden Party Benefit for AIDS Project of Southern Vermont and Rock River Preservation, scheduled this year for July 19.
The resort has also entered the same-sex wedding arena. And there's no need to send out for a priest, parson, or other officiant: Scott is a Universal Life Minister. "I can officiate!" he told EDGE.
"Like everyone else in the gay community, we're just so thrilled about the progress in our struggle for marriage equality across the country," Scott added. "We were very active in that struggle here in Vermont, and we were honored to be asked to represent the business community and submit testimony in support to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. And since Vermont was among the very first states to honor our right to marry, we wanted to offer Frog Meadow as an ideal setting for a romantic and unforgettable wedding.
"We've had several really great weddings here for men from across the country," Scott added. "And we're even currently creating an event for someone who wants to pop the question right here very soon."
"We focus on more intimate gatherings," Dave told EDGE. "Ceremonies typically include flowers from our gardens, cider from our orchard, champagne, cake and hors d'oeuvres from a local artisan bakery, and wedding party gifts baskets that include our specialty foods and body care products."
Frog Meadow has its own line of skin care and other products, ranging from hair and body shampoo to moisturizer to massage gel. Scott and Dave also offer a line of specialty food items and Frog Meadow apparel.
Given all that Frog Meadow offers, you might expect some sort of expansive facility that intrudes on the landscape; but the opposite is true. In keeping with the personal, intimate, and quiet character of the surrounding landscape, the 63-acre resort consists of a comfortable main house with several outbuildings, including a barn, where additional lodgings are located, and a relaxing network of four-season private recreation trails.
And while "rustic" may be a good word to describe the place, that doesn't mean "old," "creaky," or "in poor repair." The property is thoroughly modern (the wood-fired hot tub notwithstanding), offering all the amenities, including an on-site gym. The rooms are charming and comfortable, right down to the king-sized beds in the Main House's two standard rooms and its deluxe junior suite. The other accommodations have queen-sized beds, as well as other pluses: The Deluxe Barn suite has its own kitchenette, while the Frog Meadow Suite boasts a "two-man jacuzzi."
More unique still is the Brook Cottage, a small free-standing structure with four walls of windows "nestled down by the brook that feeds the swimming pond," as the website describes it. "You'll be lulled to sleep by the sound of gently running water and crickets."
Frog Meadow isn't a chain or corporate conglomerate. The emphasis on authentic community and hospitality is a major factor in Scott and Dave's main marketing strategy: Word of mouth from happy guests willing to let their friends in on the secret.
"We have a very loyal clientele who come here," Scott noted, "some on specific seasons and others who come at different times of the year. And, as a small business that cannot afford million dollar advertising budgets, we are happy to say that most of the guests discover us from others who've stayed with us before. About 50 percent of our business is from repeat guests."
The website's Guest Reviews section bolsters Scott's claim, with testimonials that make free use of words like "magical," "calm," and "beautiful." One guest wrote: "The owners, Scott and Dave, have created a property for gay men that perfectly balances rustic simplicity with high-end accommodations." Another gratefully acknowledged, "The fact that there were no screaming kids doubled the peacefulness." Wrote still another, "The clothing optional surroundings turned out to be no big deal and was actually quite liberating!"
Guest book comments are one thing, but I don't mind telling you this from experience: Once you go, you'll want to go back.