When it comes to plans for their wedding anniversary, Jen Gilhoi, owner of Sparktrack Consulting, usually defers to her husband, Chad. Not for their 20th, though. Since meeting Heidi Zimmer in 2019, and marveling at the former Artspace executive’s plans to transform the former Wild Rice Restaurant in Bayfield, Wisconsin, into a “center for arts and wellbeing,” Gilhoi had been ready to go. Their special day was the perfect excuse.
During the pandemic, Zimmer hadn’t been idle. That’s when the bulk of the transformation occurred. Duluth architect David Salmela, who had designed Wild Rice Restaurant and the first on-site accommodations at the wellness center, the Rice Pod, was fully on board. During 2020, all of Salmela-designed accommodations were constructed and furnished.
Along with the Rice Pod, which sleeps two and has a porch, the accommodations now include the Treehaus, which has four private suites and common areas, and the Nest, which has a king-size bed and separate sitting area with sleeper sofa and kitchenette. That’s where the Gilhoi’s stayed, opting for a weekend “personal retreat.” (Also available at Wild Rice is a full, enticing roster of “guided retreats” led by noted instructors from around the globe who share their expertise in yoga, writing, photography, painting, movement, music, jewelry-making, fiber arts, and more throughout the year.)
The real draw, at least for design enthusiasts needing time away in nature, is the Salmela-designed cabins with their bright, blonde-wood, Scandinavian-inspired architecture and large windows with stunning views of the woods. “The perfect siting in nature, with a very modern feel and a tiny house kind of experience, works so well,” Gilhoi says. “We had a ton of privacy. And the beautiful wood grain of the walls and ceilings, and the windows framing the views into the woods, was so relaxing.”
The couple’s two-night stay included an ample provisions basket with local fare for breakfast and lunch. As sauna enthusiasts, they had a birds-eye view of the new sauna and were ready to hop right in when it was vacant. Gilhoi took advantage of Zimmer’s morning yoga classes, and the couple also delighted in a nonalcoholic craft cocktail mixology session and dinner Wild Rice’s new restaurant, NOVO.
A total immersive experience, Gilhoi says, “We felt as if all of our senses were engaged, and we were very well taken care of. It was so spiritual being in such a quiet, contemplative place in nature, right next to Lake Superior, to decompress and get away from it all.”