BY: CLAIRE SIERRA It’s busy harvest time in the rolling wheat fields around Dufur. But for many of us, this season is all about relaxation or exploration. Or both! You probably noticed your vacation planning is kind of wonky this year. Things you anticipated doing….not. (cue sad music) While others—unexpectedly—rise to the top. Folks are traveling and we’ve been seeing some strong trends. Here are the top 9 travel trends that you can map onto right away—so you can travel, relax, and explore safely. 1. Staycation on Steroids. This isn’t the year for the Euro Tour, or Alaska Cruise is it? But staying home, after months in quarantine doesn’t cut it either, huh? Instead, most folks are doing road trips that are closer to home. Most travelers seem comfortable being 4-5 hours from home, or less. A majority of guests are even closer: under two hours. There’s still a wealth of culture, nature, and history to explore in the Pacific Northwest, isn’t there? 2. Quirky Theme Trips. Maybe you love art, or textiles, antiques, beer, or neon signs. Travel to spots that are off the beaten track, like Fort Dalles Museum or the Neon Museum or Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Or check out other things to do here. 3. Space Out. Places that are open, airy, and spacious (like our patio and back lawns) are popular, but not crowded. Don’t go places where you’re nose to nose—even when wearing a mask. Out of the way boutique wineries are happy to see you, while being uber safe with distancing and pouring changes. (Hint: call ahead, you might need a reservation now!) 4. Forest Bathing, Away From the Hoards. If you’re hungry for more adventurous nature-time, get out and hike. Skip the parking lot that Multnomah Falls is from Spring through Fall. (We know, it’s a Gorge icon, but seriously!) Instead find the out of the way gems. We can point you to the best spots with empty trailheads nearby, when you get here. We have plenty of ideas that we keep secret for guests, so ask and we’ll point you to some under visited places. We keep it quiet, so you get a specially curated experience from us. 5. Bike it! There are hundreds (If not thousands) of open empty roads—gravel and paved) in the Gorge and around Dufur, Oregon. Guests love to drive here and park the car for the weekend, while pedaling all around. Though it’s hot right now, the weather has been spectacular here for biking and motorcycling. We’ll even store your bike-baby in a safe, protected spot. For free. (Car clubs seem magnetically attracted here, too. ) If you want the details all sorted for you, here’s one fun option. 6. Small is Beautiful. Events are changing. Gone are the mega sized wine dinners or tours. Instead look for weekend events featuring 8-10 guests. Wine or other theme dinners that are elegant and spacious without being uber-crowded or expensive. (With that in mind, it’s not too soon to think about our Fall events below. 7. Artist Dates. Write, paint, or craft to your heart’s content. Give yourself the time away to focus on that creative project that just keeps dropping to the bottom of your list. Visit a local art gallery for inspiration or instruction. Bring unfinished work and give yourself the artist retreat or writer’s getaway that you’ve been craving. 8. Chillax Al Fresco. Let’s face it, sweaty, heavy-breathing, indoor experiences just don’t cut it right now. Play a mellow game of all-terrain croquet or bocce on the back lawn. Grab a book from our library or journal and lounge around. Sip a local wine, beer or kombucha chilled to perfection. Chillax as you dine on the patio—the warm breeze and umbrellas shading you just right—or indoors in the cool bliss of A/C. 9. Trips with Fido. In times of stress, we need all the creature comforts we can get. For many that means traveling with your furry family member to help you relax and rebalance. (Did you know? We’ve added a pet friendly room so now you can bring your 4-legged friend along. Call to book, not available on-line.) Keep In Touch! You can always see our specials events and other fun video clips, lives and more on Facebook, so be sure to “like” our page. If you prefer Instagram, we’d love you to follow us here, too. Remember we’re here and ready to welcome you with our quirky charm, rural elegance, and world class hospitality that you’ve come to expect. Many of you started as guests and became friends…we really do look forward to seeing you soon. (We like it so much better when you’re here.) Claire & Josiah, co-owners, Balch Hotel The magic is (STILL) closer than you think! P.S. Dog Parents: Good news! If you have a furry traveling companion, you might be pleased to know… We have added 2 pet friendly rooms! Experience the ease, grace, and relaxation of the Balch with your 4-legged family member! But you must reserve in advance (please don’t just show up with Fido without our notice…) We’ve chosen 2 rooms with limited common area access, yet ample ease to exit outdoors (with firm guidelines to protect those with allergies). We think it’s a great compromise! Call to discuss room options, fee and agreement. (Not available on-line, yet.) P.S.S. As many spas choose not to reopen, Bliss at the Balch is open Sanctuary to rebalance and rejuvenate. Our airy, single treatment room offers individualized service, with no other guest contact. Perfect for the new state guidelines. We’ve refined our wellness services to accommodate new safety precautions. Spa wellness services are customized to your need, following the most stringent sanitation protocols while still transporting you to bliss. (That’s where the healing happens. 😉) The Spa Sanctuary also offers coaching, therapy and several unique virtual and in person experiences that clients are reporting as enormously helpful. (Before co-owning the Balch, Claire had a treehouse spa and a therapeutic healing practice for decades.) We know that in challenging times like these that care, connection, tranquility, and wide-open nature—the essence of the Balch experience—are needed more than ever. Gift yourself an experience of replenishment, virtually or in person, now. Events & News Perseid Meteor Shower Right now, being outside is the best place to be! Dufur’s dark night sky and low light pollution make for great meteor viewing from July 23 to August 22. Spread a blanket and set your alarm for the wee hours to watch the night sky explode in stars. Dream and make wishes. Visit the Goldendale Observatory in nearby Washington. (Check their calendar for programs.) Peak Viewing: August 11, 12 and 13. Book 2 nights and get a fleece Balch blanket to gaze at the stars. Book online or call 541.467.2277 to reserve room. NEW! Discover the Gorge Explore the hidden & iconic destinations of the Gorge with an insider! Join Mike and Kristy Westby, authors of nine Oregon guidebooks, including the popular Columbia River Gorge – An Explorer’s Guide, (bonus with your registration!) They’ll take you on an informative tour (by caravan for safety) revealing many of the over 150 things to see, do and explore within the Columbia River Gorge! Join a small group to explore iconic and lesser known spots spanning the Gorge. (You’ll be maintaining distancing, masks, etc. to travel safely.) Everything included: from Friday night reception & presentation, Saturday Dinner, and lunches. For details and registration go here. October 2-4 RESCHEDULED! Dufur Poetry Workshop 2020 Join noted Oregon Poet, Penelope Schott of her 14th annual poet’s gathering. Theme: Checklist of Practical Techniques for Effective Writing & Revision. Get some new ideas or input for sharpening your poems. Work the checklist. You’ll discuss, critique, and revise old poems, and begin new ones. $155 plus lodging and meals. (Breakfast included.) 15% discount upon request. Limited to 10 experienced writers, so you’ll have space and get personal attention. Please apply: email@example.com or 503-819-0975. Once registered, reserve your room. October 15 & 16 NEW! Fall Foliage & Fermented Frolic Did you know the Gorge is rated Top 10 for Foliage Viewing? Get off the beaten track with easy short hikes in (hopefully) peak color. Stop to taste seasonal fermented beverages at local small boutique Wineries & Breweries, sample seasonal fruit and other fun TBD. Join a small group to explore iconic and lesser known vistas of the Gorge. (You’ll be maintaining distancing, masks, etc. to travel safely.) Everything included: from Friday night reception & presentation, Saturday Dinner, and lunches. See details here. October 16-18 RESCHEDULED! Pedaling In The Vines Is it a wine tour by bike, or a bike ride with wine tasting? Either way: incredibly fun! This weekend includes a day riding through vineyards, meandering on back roads with bikes or e-bikes—easy, breezy and distanced! (In case of rain, or fatigue, there’s a tour van to transport you.) Stop at wineries for tasting and seasonal U-pick fruit stands. Friday, enjoy a wine reception and Sunday “plan your own adventure” with yoga, hiking, waterfall viewing, spa treatment &/or wandering the village for ice cream and lattes. We’re partnering with Hood River’s premier wine country bike tour—for an exclusive way to experience the best of what the Gorge has to offer, like a local! With all your details handled, you just have to show up! Details are here October 23-26 Save The Date! NEW! Halloween Dress up (or come as you are) for an iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show movie viewing, or get creative through a Hallowe’en themed guided painting experience. Limited to 10. October 31 NEW! Mining Your Life for Laughter Humor writing workshop with noted humorist and author, Bob Balmer. Details and Register Here November 15-16 NEW! Healing Sanctuary Overnight retreat, full of quiet, carefully curated replenishment to provide optimal revitalization. Group guided and private experiences woven with spa treatments and optional upgrades. Limited to 10. November 20-21 NEW! Thanks Giving Always a luscious multi-course family style feast, featuring artisan upgrades to traditional holiday favorites. (Seat in family groups if preferred—friendly distancing is encouraged. 😊) Thursday November 26 NEW! Write Away From It All (In Person & Virtual) Small group writing retreat, with group support, limited structure, and ample writing time to really get that book, memoir or dissertation done! Limited to 8. December 3-6 NEW! Hometown Christmas Step back in time to a classic small-town celebration, featuring Lighted Tractor parade, live music and prime rib/salmon dinner at the Balch. Meander around the village’s various events. Always a hoot. December 11-12 NEW! Vintage Christmas Step away from the frenzy, to a simpler sweeter holiday. Quiet dinner, puzzles by the tree, mulled cider around the firepit, local wine-tasting, DIY gift-making, and board games make simple fun. December 24- 26 NEW! New Year, New You Gather for an intimate New Year Visioning party to discover your dreams and desires for 2021. Evening weaves together guided visioning practice, journaling, vision-map making, plus scrumptious 4 course meal with wine pairings, capped off with late-night celebratory sparkling wine, and dessert. December 31 Are you interested? Please let us know what sparks your fancy! We love feedback and input as we’re creating these events! UPDATE! Balch Bistro: Hours & Menu In Oregon, we are still open for indoor dining in air-conditioned comfort. Seating on the patio is a cool commodity so reservations are requested. Enjoy dinner with an updated menu for Summer, with more robust options on weekends. Dine inside, on the patio, or takeaway. We’ve added an authentic Tamale & Tecate Special—includes local, handmade tamales, rice, beans and beer for $10—what a deal! Balch Bistro is open for dinner 5-7 pm every night by reservation. With limited times & quantities, service & spacing, please reserve a spot. Email us or call: 541.467.2277. UPDATE! Bliss at the Balch ~ Spa Sanctuary Ready for rejuvenation? Sessions in our petite spa are solitary and customized. With revised menu & treatment room to meet updated sanitation standards. Menu: AromaTouch Light Touch Essential Oil Treatment to back and feet. CBD Back Treatment adds Organic CBD Oil, enjoyed face-down. Reflex Feet foot soak, buff and EO treatment. Reiki Energy Therapy & Gem Chakra Balancing are offered face down, hands off and fully clothed. See the menu here and Book a session today! Email Claire OR call/text 541. 659.7284 to discuss options and availability. Virtual Spa! Your Bliss Breakthrough If you’re not ready or able to travel, you can still enjoy a spa experience. If you’re navigating transition or facing big challenges (and who isn’t these days?!), Feminine Soul Clarity guides you to soul-aligned clarity & direction. Includes soul coaching, energy healing, oracle reading, and meditation ritual. 90-minute session: $222. Book this session & receive a complimentary 20 minute follow up session. Enjoy from the comfort of your home, virtually using Zoom, (or in person at the Balch Hotel.) Schedule an Appointment or call/text 541.659.7284 or email Claire (weekdays) Please Note: These sessions are not a substitute for medical or psychiatric treatment—please consult your healthcare provider. Think Way Ahead: 2021 Vintage Dufur Days – August 6-8 2021 Pencil this in to reconnect with a slice of country life that is more precious than ever.