Happy hour (and every hour) at Minam River Lodge has a casual dress code.

In travel, artifice is key. It’s in beachfront resorts where the brochure photo crops out the discount motel next door, or strategic hedges that make the few square feet of lawn outside the luxury suite feel like a private garden. We don’t expect to actually be removed from the real world as long as we feel like it.

Which explains why Minam River Lodge is so disconcerting. The inholding deep in the Eagle Cap Wilderness doesn’t deliver the illusion of remoteness, but rather the real thing. Many guests arrive via its grassy airstrip, but the cheapest way in doubles as its best—an 8.5-mile hike along the woods that line Little Minam River and through wildflower meadows. You’d be closer to a car at most backcountry campsites.

Portland investor Barnes Ellis reconstructed the property using logs from aging hunting cabins. His family pitched in with the construction and with years of carting sustainable building materials to the remote spot, wedged between two towering ridges in Oregon’s eastern half. Cabins are small by necessity—Ellis used the old footprints—but the close quarters nudge guests to the central lodge, the riverside wood-fired sauna, or the forest wood-fired hot tub. The total lack of Wi-Fi helps too.

Minam’s only off-key note is that group meals are basically compulsory—staff discourage personal food at the risk of attracting critters, and cabins lack kitchens—but billed separately, at least $100 per person per day, more during periodic winemaker dinners. If meals fall a bit short of that sum (though the kitchen is stocked by an impressive greenhouse that abuts the horse corral), their value comes in the easy camaraderie of communal tables.

They’re a respite from the overwhelming, dirt-thick quiet of the place, from how the sheer size of the forest that surrounds Minam River Lodge acts as a dampening, psychic balm. Why do the many miles of isolation feel so different from, say, the few thousand yards you can get anywhere else? Somehow, you feel the difference in your soul—and, hopefully, your feet. 

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