Yurts, slugs, and life in a temperate rainforest

May 1 |

We've talked about Sacred Groves before — it's Ariel's mama's land in Western Washington that used to be an intentional community. But it's worth revisiting, since I just got back from the Offbeat Retreat with fresh photos and new stories. Sit back and dream your way through this quickie home tour.


The road leading to Sacred Groves is very blink-and-you-miss it. It's tucked behind a row of country mail boxes — AFTER you take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and drive through a bit of town.

But when you find it, you know it.

There's a clearing in roadside trees and space to park a couple of cars in front of a handbuilt fence twirled with ribbons, baubles, and flowers.

Beyond the gate is the main round house.

To the left, you can see the MOON YURT! It's the baby round house where Caroline and I bunked. Go team Moon Yurt!

If you follow the path beyond the gate and behind the houses, you'll reach the inner courtyard of the main Sacred Groves complex — equipped with garden plots, another yurt (Sun Yurt!), a cozy cabin, and several utility sheds.

But let's step inside the house for a bit! The outside environment at Sacred Groves is AMAZING — but it's huge and hard to represent on the Internet. The round house is just as magical — and way easier to photograph.

So, I'm a full round-house convert! The bulk of the household exists in the center of structure, in communal space, and there are a few more-private spaces surrounding the main room.

The communal space is so very re-configurable. For us it was a dining room, office, conference room, dance hall, lounge…

There were only a few pieces of furniture we didn't move in that room during our stay — and it was so impressive because the space didn't feel like it was in flux. The communal space of a round house is a transformer.

And oh, these windows. One big view of a very green forest.

Bonus bathroom photo!

Of course we traipsed through the woods, too. Sacred Groves would be an offbeat home even if it WASN'T an intentional community full of people exploring self-improvement and compassion — even if it wasn't a series of highly unusual living structures — simply because of the temperate rainforest where it's situated.

Ariel gives great tours, did you know that? Here, we learn all about Sacred Groves' composting system, in between visiting other homes within the 10 acre community (like the log cabin and other structures.)

Anyone else have a labyrinth in their backyard?

OR A SLUG??

Sacred Groves

The verdict on Sacred Groves: 100% awesome. Completely offbeat, tuned to its inhabitants' needs, and wholly welcoming.

Sacred Groves has transitioned from an intentional community to a full time B&B/retreat space. You can book a night in Moon Yurt through AirBNB yourself!

  1. When I think about the future, I often see myself raising a big family somewhere like this… mind you when I say family, I mean any random collection of progeny, oddball friends and relatives, and anyone else who cares to join. So how does one go about setting up something like Sacred Groves? I hate to define my idea because language is so limited, but I;m searching for a scheme to set up a more sustainable, group-ish, rural living situation, like a commune.

    Can we get an interview or something from Ariel's mom about running something like this or about the journey to set it up?

    1 agrees
    • As noted in the post, my mom and her partner are actually no longer running the Groves as a commune — but I'll pass along your question and see if my mom would want to write something about how they set it up!

      I can say that the biggest issue they had was transiency. As my mom said:

      Over the past 6 years 30 adults and 12 children have moved in (and out) of Sacred Groves. It's been a rich and wonderful experience, many sweet moments of living with an 'extended family' of sorts. But the transiency was unsettling.

      0 agree
      • Thanks! I can imagine that the transiency would be troubling, like living in a constant state of saying goodbye to close friends… Which is why I'm so curious about the nuts and bolts of set up as it exists now and the transition from commune to retreat and the kinds of considerations that go into running your home as a business and vice-versa. My interest is that as the home ownership part of the American dream continues to fail for some and change for all, exploration of other living arrangements, like pulling together into a sort of rural collective condo (in the legal sense) situation, where everybody chips into the whole cost of living, is a necessary and healthy consideration for those of us living on –or close to– the fringes. So kudos to you mom and her partner for being able to adapt her strategy over time to meet their needs! Such an inspiration!!

        0 agree
  2. I think my mum has a labyrinth in her back garden. She has one tattoo'd on her wrist.

    And this post finally reminded me to email her about Sacred Groves. It sounds like the sort of place she'd LOVE. Just the other day she was saying she wants to visit Portland too.

    (If she does visit then I apologise in advance if she won't stop saying "Yurts!" She has a thing for yurts.)

    0 agree
  3. I was there for only one day in 2007, but I learned about nettles, sawdust toilets, and yurts! That place will teach you a lot of stuff.

    0 agree
  4. Ok, I have to admit, I never really understood why a yurt was… special, at all? It's a round house. I didn't get it. But NOW I think I get it! The large community-feeling of the main room, I think that is the biggest draw for me, and now I do want that. Thanks for explaining it in a way that I understood! :)

    0 agree
  5. Hey, does this mean that we'll finally gt a post from Ariel (or her mom) on their humanure setup?

    0 agree

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.