Feature image photo by Jecapix via Getty Images
Amid pandemic cabin fever — which has been especially intense for me as a high-risk person who needs to be more careful — my partner and I took a trip to an actual mini cabin called Getaway House. The initial appeal of the tiny cabin was that you didn’t need to interact with any other people if you didn’t want to. Check-in was remote, and the cabins had keyless entry, your closest neighbor was probably at minimum 30 yards away, often more, and though the cabins had instituted extra cleaning, it was small enough that we could bring our own disinfecting wipes and open all the windows to circulate fresh air. Importantly, they’re also dog friendly. It felt like a respite from the world and COVID when we needed it most. It also turned out to be an ideal travel option as a queer couple, and we’ve gone back several times.
Often when my partner and I travel together, we take extra precautions around gender expression, PDA, and public safety. We might book a room with two beds instead of one to avoid any awkward questions from the hotel staff. We try to be careful about the words we use for each other in public, saying something like “my friend” instead of partner or spouse and trying to avoid any cutesy nicknames. The virtual check-in and private nature of the mini cabins was an ideal situation for reducing our anxieties about safety as an LGBT couple because we didn’t need to interact with other people unless we chose to venture out into the world. There are no thin, shared hotel room walls, no check-in desk, and no cleaning staff entering the room daily.
Getaway House combines the minimalist appeal of the tiny house trend with glamping to give you everything you need to feel comfortable without feeling too removed from nature. They’re essentially spaced out on a campground, but they’re still fairly undeveloped. Aside from the campsite, which includes a spot to park, a picnic table, a fire pit, two Adirondack chairs, and an outdoor leash for a dog, the area surrounding the cabins is largely in woods with dirt or gravel paths and very little lighting. There’s a comfy bed surrounded by huge windows that always face away from your nearest neighbor, so if you want to keep the windows open and make coffee in your underwear — or whatever else comes to mind with a bed overlooking a forest — you can. There’s a small dining table, an adorable retro mini fridge, a small stovetop, a sink, and a few sets of dishes and cooking supplies. There’s a bathroom with running water and a shower.
The cabins can sleep two to four people — though the four-person option is a bunk bed over the main bed, so that it might be best for two children or one adult. If you bring your dog, they provide two bowls, poop bags, and a bag of treats. Getaway also has multiple accessible cabins at each campsite with a ramp entry and a space that’s easier for a wheelchair to navigate. I don’t use a wheelchair, but I am disabled and tend to book these cabins because steps can be hard for me, and there are a few large steps inside the regular cabins too that I struggled to navigate the first time I stayed at Getaway. Though these cabins are more accessible, I will note that it seems like the interior was planned by an able-bodied person, because some things like the towel rack and dish rack would be impossible to reach without additional help if you are not ambulatory or if you are a person of short stature.
When I first stayed at Getaway House near Shenandoah National Park, there were only a few locations, but lately, they’ve expanded across the country with locations across the continental U.S. (though they lack options in Mountain Time, they always seem to be growing). They’re generally located one to two hours outside a city and often close to a national park like Big Bear, Shenandoah, and the Adirondacks. It’s a great place for a very gay weekend of hiking and building campfires if that’s your thing. If not, there are probably local wineries, breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, lakes, or farms to check out, and Getaway usually has some recommendations for local businesses to visit. For the Shenandoah location, their website recommended an amazing ice cream place made with all local, fresh ingredients. It was delicious, and my dog loved that they offered pup cups. You can also fully unplug and do nothing; the cabin offers a “lock box” (it doesn’t lock) to put your cell phone if you need encouragement to disconnect.
Getaway can be expensive if you book individually, but they offer various discount options. Students, healthcare workers, and veterans get discounts, and there’s a loyalty program where you earn free nights. They also sell different “packs” that make it much cheaper, and you don’t have to use them all at once. So you could, for example, purchase a three-night pack and use it to stay for one night three times for $150 a night. My partner and I used a 3-night pack to stay on July 4 weekend without paying holiday rates. Getaway has also done some cool partnership programs. Artists can apply for a free stay to use the cabin as a space to unplug and create. They also partner with Rachel Cargle to provide free stays for Black activists in a program called A Year of Rest (we nominated a bunch of Autostraddle staff, so fingers crossed).
Over the last few years, my partner, our dog, and I have used these reduced-price packs and taken several trips to the Getaway near Shenandoah and got to explore new places, develop favorites, and see the mountains and the campsite in different seasons. In the fall, it’s nice to wake up to all of the changing leaves outside of your window and to spend the evening making s’mores around a campfire. We tried different trails, visited Charlottesville, and regularly went to the local dog-friendly Early Mountain Winery, which has beautiful views and COVID-friendly outside seating. We even learned that Shenandoah is famous for berry ice cream at one of the lodge restaurants and enjoyed it while overlooking an amazing view. Visiting Getaway has been a fantastic way to destress and spend time in nature in a way that feels safe and accessible.