Chico Canyon Retreat offers top-notch pampering and relaxation in a pristine natural environment
Just a 30-minute drive from Chico—the last three miles of it down scenic, unpaved Harris Wagon Road to the bottom of Big Chico Creek Canyon—lies Chico Canyon Retreat, a peaceful treat of a resort on 287 bucolic acres alongside the rushing waters of Big Chico Creek.
“We built it from scratch,” offered Dulcy Schroeder, as she entered the spacious, wood-dominated Forest Ranch resort. “We just used all natural materials and made it ‘lodgy.’”
In addition to owning and operating Chico Canyon Retreat for the past year (and living on the property for the past 15), Schroeder is also founder and active member of Forest Ranch’s Broom Education and Eradication Program (BEEP), now in its sixth year of removing invasive French, Scotch and Spanish broom plants.
Schroeder led a tour of the 3,600-square-foot building and its serene, green environs, stopping first to take a peek inside the impressive 1,000-square-foot “movie room” for overnight guests.
“We use passive solar,” said Schroeder, as she next headed toward two cozy bedrooms at the rear of the building, built into the hillside to reduce heat loss and help maintain a constant, comfortable indoor temperature. Each rustic room features a window looking onto rocks and plants directly outside, a sleeping loft in addition to a double bed at ground level and a skylight. A black-and-white Ansel Adams photograph of Yosemite’s Half Dome in one room and a quilt featuring a series of black bears in the other help to reinforce the pleasant, national-park-lodging feel of the place.
“I am designing portable cabins that leave no footprint,” offered the warm 67-year-old as she continued down a long hallway featuring Mexican-made metal wall-hangings of hummingbirds and a real bird’s nest on a branch, toward the facility’s many-windowed, plant-filled kitchen/dining area, also known as the “atrium room.” The cabins, she said, will have composting toilets and solar-heated water.
Currently, overnight guests—including people attending conferences, retreats and special events, as well as those looking for an intimate bed-and-breakfast-type experience—stay in one of the two inviting rooms or pitch tents outside on the scenic property, which also offers picnic areas and groomed hiking trails. In addition to overnight guests, Chico Canyon Retreat also hosts day-long events such as weddings and meetings, as well as provides spa treatments, including aromatherapy and massage services in a special room designed specifically for that purpose. Three professional bodyworkers are part of Schroeder’s small staff.
Ever the invasive-plant remover, Schroeder noted that she has so far cleared 10 acres of starthistle, and added native and other drought-resistant plants to the stunning, relaxing landscape. “Once the starthistle is gone, wildflowers spring up everywhere,” she added happily, gesturing outside while standing before one of numerous huge dining-room windows.
Schroeder entered one of the building’s lovely cedar and slate-tiled bathrooms (she did the impressive tile work herself). Towels in the bathroom were hanging on whimsical towel racks made from “old roots I found down by the creek.”
Back in the hallway once again, Schroeder pointed out large recycled-wood supporting posts: “Some go back to the Presidio [in San Francisco], from the 1920s, and some of them go back to the Port of Portland, in the late 1800s.” All of Chico Canyon Retreat’s flooring is concrete with radiant heat coming up from beneath.
Heading toward the massage room that faces the creek, Schroeder looked through a window, up toward the rim of the canyon. “I love looking out when we have storms here,” she said. “I’ve actually seen waterfalls go straight up instead of sideways from the wind blowing through the canyon.”
A cozy library/fireplace room offers guests a secluded, warm place to sip tea and chat. An outdoor hot tub offers another kind of warmth and coziness.
Schroeder, an experienced and health-oriented cook, will whip up delightful meals for guests in the retreat’s wood-centric kitchen, which features lovely, polished-concrete countertops. Two large white-oak tables made from wood salvaged from a dead tree on the property beckon diners to sit and enjoy their made-to-order meals. Schroeder discusses meals ahead of time with guests, making whatever it is that they desire during their stay: “Breakfast, lunch and dinner are customized according to people’s needs, including special diets.”
A couple looking to spend a peaceful, pampered weekend at Chico Canyon Retreat should expect to spend from $150 per night including breakfast, to $299 per night, including breakfast, lunch and dinner and some spa services.
“It’s quiet here,” smiled Schroeder, watching a flock of finches gently twittering, looping and diving around a bird feeder hanging from a tree outside. “It’s like having a live-in shrink.”