Vermont’s Gay Oasis :: Frog Meadow

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jul 10, 2014

Frog Meadow: A welcoming, non-judgmental place for men of all backgrounds to unwind and shed the trappings of busy modern life

Frog Meadow: A welcoming, non-judgmental
place for men of all backgrounds to unwind
and shed the trappings of busy modern life.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

Vermont’s Frog Meadow is billed as “A country bed & breakfast and massage oasis for men.” Having been there myself, this EDGE correspondent can say that it’s all that, and more.

Situated on 63 acres of rolling, scenic landscape, Frog Meadow is both home and business for Scott Heller and Dave King, a couple of 23 years. Their dedication to serving the gay community by making Frog Meadow a place of respite and connection is borne in part out of a wish to share the natural beauty of their home and the warmth of their hospitality, Scott told EDGE in a recent interview.

“We built Frog Meadow as our home in 1995,” said Scott, a solidly muscular, fiftyish man with an infectious smile and a demeanor that inspires immediate confidence. “And when we first decided to open our home to guests seven years ago, our intent was to share with others this tranquil oasis we had lovingly created. We want men to find with us a place without judgments, where they can divest themselves of their inhibitions — and their clothes, if they so wish — and the opportunity to just regain their equilibrium and re-connect with themselves.”

It’s a perfectly situated, perfectly proportioned retreat for such re-connection. Frog Meadow can accommodate 12 – 14 men, with an emphasis on community. Each day starts with a home-cooked breakfast prepared by Dave, who is a professional chef and massage therapist. Dave uses local ingredients including freshly baked breads, just-picked berries, and honey harvested from Frog Meadow’s own beehives.

Scott & Dave

Frog Meadow’s hosts Dave & Scott are

committed to providing a welcoming,

environment to re-connect with nature
and yourself.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

“Frog Meadow is an escape from the daily grind, that ticking clock of deadlines, work, and obligations,” Dave noted. “Once you get here and you look out at the spectacular vista, you will realize you’ve left all that behind for a little while. We provide a welcoming, nurturing space to relax, restore and rediscover yourself whether in quiet solitude or in the warm camaraderie of other gay men.”

In other words: There’s plenty to do, including the option of doing nothing but relaxing. Either way, you’ll come home refreshed.

In case that all sounds a little too peaceful, don’t worry: Frog Meadow hosts a variety of activities, and workshops, as well as a quarterly potluck dinner that draws around 55 attendees, a combination of locals and house guests.

Frog Meadow also hosts a spring and fall Work Camp that the web site describes as “The all-boys sleep-away camp you wished your parents had sent you to!” Work Camp participants help Scott and Dave maintain the grounds and structures for $25 per day and in return receive lodging, three meals a day, and the company of other work campers. Frog Meadow also offers a Work in Kind Fellowship Program throughout the year, for ongoing projects.

One of this summer’s events is a four-day Men’s Summer Gathering, a “Body/Mind/Spirit Experience for Men,” scheduled for July 11 – 15.

Come late summer, a weekend getaway will offer self-care buffs a Yoga, Massage & Wellness Weekend, Sept. 13-14. (A complete list of activities for the remainder of 2014 is available here.)

Workshop participants can partake in massage weekends or nude yoga retreats. Other guests book their stays precisely because they want peace and quiet, and the resort’s location is conducive to deep relaxation — as is the on-site wood fired hot tub, which is available to all guests, as are the five miles of nature trails and, in summer, the spring-fed swimming pond.

One frequent workshop facilitator at Frog Meadow is Adam Brown, who leads “Heart-Centered Touch” massage workshops.

“A student of mine from workshops I led in Boston suggested I get in touch with Frog Meadow as a possible place to hold my workshops,” Brown told EDGE. “I went to visit Scott and Dave a couple of summers ago and we hit it off right away. Now, my work is an integral part of their programming every year.”

naked_yoga3

Stretch yourself: Nude yoga takes place

next to Frog Meadow’s spring-fed
swimming pond during summer months.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

Asked what his workshops consist of and what their focus is, Brown said, “The main goals of my workshops are to provide a space for men to be authentic, to learn and grow both emotionally and spiritually and to transmit some of the life-changing teachings I have had in the areas of Taoism and Tantra. Gay or bisexual men very much need nurturing environments in which to explore the emotional, sexual and spiritual aspects of their lives It is a great gift to be nourished in non-judgmental community as we evolve.”

Yoga instructor Jon Poupore, who leads several workshops throughout the year and will be back in the autumn, similarly shared his story.

“I first came as a guest, and then led some informal yoga sessions,” Poupore told EDGE. “Scott and Dave, being who they are, saw yoga and wellness as a way to attract men to Vermont. I think this [upcoming fall] wellness retreat, as it’s conceived, will go a long way to make Frog Meadow better known as a place for gay naturists.”

Why nude yoga?

“For a lot of men, this answers itself,” Poupore replied. “Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a bunch of gay men in a safe, friendly setting in the nude? Well, I certainly know that this does not appeal to everyone. But everyone I talk to about it is at least intrigued. For many it’s an ’in’ to nudism. It’s an activity that isn’t necessarily centered around nudism, but more around camaraderie and community.

“Even with (or especially because) of the internet, men seek connection,” Poupore explained. “Naked yoga is that chance to be with other gay men where you can explore your own body (and certainly the bodies of others) in a setting that is less judgmental than a pickup app or a bar.”

Frog Meadow Hot Tub

Fire it up: Frog Meadow’s hot tub is heated

by logs from the surrounding woods. It’s
open 7 days a week, 12 month a year.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

Poupore went on to add, “I often add partner poses. These allow for greater opening and also are a lot of fun. There’s a fair amount of laughing for some of them. But then we bring it back, and focus on the work at hand.

“Sure, there’s some sexual energy present when you get a group of naked men together, but it usually turns into a gentle camaraderie,” Poupore noted.

This ties in with Brown’s observations about the massage workshops. “Men are so in need of conscious touch!” Brown said. “Most of us do not get nearly enough. Some men do not get any touch in their lives. Men are also in need of bonding and community in a supportive and honest setting.

“Men need to be heard and realize that our feelings matter,” Brown went on to observe. “One of the sexiest and most fulfilling things in life is to be paid attention to, no matter what baggage one is carrying. My hope is that they take away all or some of these things and, as well as a commitment to fulfilling their needs in their own environments when they go home.”

Not going to be at Frog Meadow when Brown’s “Energetics of Touch” workshops are in session? You can still enjoy attentive therapeutic touch. Dave is a longtime professional massage therapist, and he and Scott have built a dedicated massage studio in a separate building overlooking the apple orchard, a setting that ensures quiet tranquility and privacy.

“Male touch is a powerful and healing gift,” said Dave, a native Vermonter with a palpably caring presence. Dave explained that his philosophy of massage “is that the body, mind, and spirit are intricately intertwined components of the whole being. If any one part is out of alignment, all three suffer.

“By assisting in bringing the body into balance, the mind and spirit benefit as well.” Dave takes pride in the fact that he custom designs each session for the individual client.

 

Frog Meadow is the ideal place for your wedding! With Vermont’s marriage equality law anyone from any state or country can be married here.

Frog Meadow’s gardens are an idyllic

setting for weddings and Scott is a

registered Vermont Marriage Officiant.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

Whatever might be going on, relaxation is a watchword. Frog Meadow is situated a short drive away from Rock River, which offers a clothing-optional naturist area for sunbathing, swimming, and socializing. Partially in support of this favorite spot of naturists, Scott and Dave host an Annual Garden Party Benefit for AIDS Project of Southern Vermont and Rock River Preservation, scheduled this year for July 19.

The resort has also entered the same-sex wedding arena. And there’s no need to send out for a priest, parson, or other officiant: Scott is a Universal Life Minister. “I can officiate!” he told EDGE.

“Like everyone else in the gay community, we’re just so thrilled about the progress in our struggle for marriage equality across the country,” Scott added. “We were very active in that struggle here in Vermont, and we were honored to be asked to represent the business community and submit testimony in support to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. And since Vermont was among the very first states to honor our right to marry, we wanted to offer Frog Meadow as an ideal setting for a romantic and unforgettable wedding.

“We’ve had several really great weddings here for men from across the country,” Scott added. “And we’re even currently creating an event for someone who wants to pop the question right here very soon.”

“We focus on more intimate gatherings,” Dave told EDGE. “Ceremonies typically include flowers from our gardens, cider from our orchard, champagne, cake and hors d’oeuvres from a local artisan bakery, and wedding party gifts baskets that include our specialty foods and body care products.”

Massage Studio Exterior

 Dave’s massage studio is in a separate
building which ensures quiet tranquility
and privacy.  
Source: Courtesy Frog Meadow

 

Body care products? That’s right: Frog Meadow has its own line of skin care and other products, ranging from hair and body shampoo to moisturizer to massage gel. Scott and Dave also offer a line of specialty food items and Frog Meadow apparel.

Given all that Frog Meadow offers, you might expect some sort of expansive facility that intrudes on the landscape; but the opposite is true. In keeping with the personal, intimate, and quiet character of the surrounding landscape, the 63-acre resort consists of a comfortable main house with several outbuildings, including a barn, where additional lodgings are located, and a relaxing network of four-season private recreation trails.

And while “rustic” may be a good word to describe the place, that doesn’t mean “old,” “creaky,” or “in poor repair.” The property is thoroughly modern (the wood-fired hot tub notwithstanding), offering all the amenities, including an on-site gym. The rooms are charming and comfortable, right down to the king-sized beds in the Main House’s two standard rooms and its deluxe junior suite. The other accommodations have queen-sized beds, as well as other pluses: The Deluxe Barn suite has its own kitchenette, while the Frog Meadow Suite boasts a “two-man jacuzzi.”

More unique still is the Brook Cottage, a small free-standing structure with four walls of windows “nestled down by the brook that feeds the swimming pond,” as the website describes it. “You’ll be lulled to sleep by the sound of gently running water and crickets.”

Frog Meadow isn’t a chain or corporate conglomerate. The emphasis on authentic community and hospitality is a major factor in Scott and Dave’s main marketing strategy: Word of mouth from happy guests willing to let their friends in on the secret.

“We have a very loyal clientele who come here,” Scott noted, “some on specific seasons and others who come at different times of the year. And, as a small business that cannot afford million dollar advertising budgets, we are happy to say that most of the guests discover us from others who’ve stayed with us before. About fifty percent of our business is from repeat guests.”

The website’s Guest Reviews section bolsters Scott’s claim, with testimonials that make free use of words like “magical,” “calm,” and “beautiful.” One guest wrote: “The owners, Scott and Dave, have created a property for gay men that perfectly balances rustic simplicity with high-end accommodations.” Another gratefully acknowledged, “The fact that there were no screaming kids doubled the peacefulness.” Wrote still another, “The clothing optional surroundings turned out to be no big deal and was actually quite liberating!”

Guest book comments are one thing, but I don’t mind telling you this from experience: Once you go, you’ll want to go back.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

 

The Unique Allure of LGBT Vermont

BY JEFF HEILMAN

Vermont is quite the Siren call. Just ask Willie Docto and Greg Trulson, owners and innkeepers of Moose Meadow Lodge in centrally located Waterbury, 15 miles west of Montpelier, the state capital. Over cocktails on the front porch of their skillfully crafted rustic B&B, the married couple recalled their permanent move to the Green Mountain State nearly 20 years ago.

Both living in Washington, D.C. at the time, Docto, a professional violinist to this day, and Trulson, then a computer-systems architect with IBM, first met in 1992 while vacationing at a gay-owned log cabin B&B in West Virginia. The lodging would prove the very shape of their future together.

“It’s the style we love most,” informed Trulson, originally from Minnesota. “One place in particular, the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch in Stanley, Idaho, inspired our vision of someday establishing our own log cabin B&B,” he continued. “Soaking in the views of the surrounding wilderness and Sawtooth Mountains there, we saw the blueprint for the look and feel of what we wanted to achieve.”

Their opportunity came in 1996, when IBM offered Trulson a contract job in Essex Junction, Vermont. His partner balked at first. “Vermont, which I’d never visited, sounded cold and far away,” admitted Docto, originally from the Philippines, “but the chance to create our B&B proved irresistible.”

Finding their dream property did not take long. “Actually, it was the first listing the realtor showed us,” said Trulson, describing their 86acre hillside retreat just outside the village of Waterbury, 30 minutes east of Essex Junction. “There was the requisite cabin, but what sold us was the 12-sided, glass-walled gazebo at the property’s summit, with spectacular mountain views to the north,” he continued. “We then spent two years creating Moose Meadow.”

Opened in 1998, the lodge catches the eye with its debarked white cedar trees, branch stems preserved, vertically supporting the outdoor front deck and roof of the expanded original cabin.

“Inspired by Rocky Mountain Ranch’s red-cedar columns, we handpicked those from a forested area in Vermont near the Canadian border,” related Trulson, a talented woodworker who created the Lodge’s rustic furnishings and décor using local twigs, bark, and other tree parts. In the cozy living room, kitchen, and four guest sanctuaries, taxidermy, vintage skis, fishing tackle, snowshoes, and other touches create an Adirondack-style ambiance, with amenities including the fiveperson hot tub, trout pond, and hiking trails. The gazebo became the Sky Loft, where overnight guests can camp. Fantastical, too, were my overnight digs some 200 feet from the main house, the luxurious twostory Treehouse, added in 2013.

“The business that we are really in,” said Docto, “is about creating exceptional, unexpected experiences and memories for our guests that will make them want to come back.”

Still having fun meeting and entertaining their guests, many serial repeaters among them, the couple are consummate hosts indeed, including showing me charming Waterbury.

Crowned “the best beer town in New England” by the Boston Globe in 2012, Waterbury is a quintessential Vermont village renowned for its world-ranked craft beer scene and lively pub culture, with Prohibition Pig among the popular watering holes.

Along with the mandatory stop at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, we visited Cold Hollow Cider Mill for their insane cider donuts and the Cabot Cheese Annex.

Green Mountain Coffee (now Keurig Green Mountain) is headquartered here, with a café inside the beautifully restored 1875 Waterbury Train Station (served by Amtrak) by the village green. Housed in a historic grist mill by a waterfall, James Beard–nominated Hen of the Wood is among Vermont’s top restaurants.

Waterbury sits amid four world-class ski resorts, each some 30 minutes away. Along with Sugarbush, Bolton Valley, and Mad River Glen, these include Stowe, headquarters for long-running Winter Rendezvous, or Gay Ski Week, each January. Also in Stowe, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum showcases thousands of ski-related archives and artifacts, including a stirring section dedicated to Vermonters who served in the 10th Mountain Division during WWII.

Docto considers Waterbury to be “the most LGBT-friendly tourist town in Vermont,” explaining that, “we have several LGBT-owned businesses, such as John McConnell’s Vermont Liberty Tea Company and Pack & Send Plus, where Darren Pitstick and his partner Rick help travelers ship their local purchases home. Plus, LGBT residents are active in community efforts like planning the annual Waterbury Arts Fest and marketing the area through the Waterbury Tourism Council and other local organizations.”

The couple themselves are leaders in both the local and wider Vermont scenes. “Early on, we saw ourselves and other gay innkeepers and business owners as pioneering ambassadors and liaisons for their communities,” said Trulson. “Often, we are the first gay people that our straight customers meet, and that generally sparks awareness and positive, meaningful connections.”

Count matrimony in the mix, including the straight couple that came to Moose Meadow to break-up, only to recommit to each other after spending time with Docto and Trulson.

When Vermont passed the landmark Civil Union law in 2000, weddings became a Moose Meadow staple. “We hosted the nation’s first gay military wedding in 2011, immediately following the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy,” said Trulson, an elected justice of the peace who officiates weddings and civil marriages throughout Vermont, adding that, “marrying Willie in 2001 was pretty special too!”

For his part, Docto capitalized on the law to found the Vermont Gay Tourism Association (VGTA). “Here was this amazing window of opportunity…yet there was no state support for LGBT tourism marketing,” he recalled. “So I organized a dozen fellow innkeepers, pooled our money, and began promoting LGBT Vermont through regional advertising and trade shows.”

Under his leadership, VGTA, incorporated in 2003, gained recognition from the state, funding included (Vermont’s tourism board has no LGBT division) and counts some 80 members.

Through their efforts, gay travelers have learned about the abundant reasons to experience Vermont. “Beyond the headlines of our ski resorts, autumnal glories, farms, historic villages, and award-winning culinary and craft beer scenes, Vermont stands apart as a progressive, open destination,” said Docto. “Gay travelers are welcome here—our laws prove it.”

Open doors have always been my experience of Vermont, since first answering the call in the early 80s while schooling in the bordering Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. While each New England state has its charms, Vermont, in my view, stands apart. Its landscapes and namesake mountains forever protected by the landmark 1968 law prohibiting roadside billboards and other strict environmental statutes, the Green Mountain State possesses an authenticity and enchantment all its own. Vermonters are an appealing lot, too, occasionally gruff but with a proud Yankee sense of community, essential for survival in this largely rural state.

Bound by New York to the west, Canada to the north, New Hampshire to the east, and Massachusetts to the south, Vermont’s glory is fully revealed across its network of remote rural roads and ten designated scenic byways. I’ve chased many of the quintessential drives over time, save those in Vermont’s rugged northernmost reaches, which due to my shortened schedule, would have to await another time.

Next on my agenda was another distinctive gay-owned oasis, Frog Meadow Farm, in the tiny southeastern Vermont village of Newfane. Retracing my arrival route, via I-89 East and then down I-91 to Brattleboro, was the speedy way there, but with just enough time on hand, and the siren call impossible to ignore, I started out by heading 30 miles west to Burlington, the “Queen City” of New England.

Lapped by mighty Lake Champlain, Vermont’s most populous city was the nation’s third largest lumber port in the mid-1800s. Today, this festive destination brims with youthful energy (the University of Vermont is here, plus three colleges) and plentiful visitor draws.

Walkable from Burlington’s downtown (along with Waterbury’s, one of 24 state-designated historic districts), Lake Champlain, sixth-largest in the US, is for paddle boarding, kayaking, tours, and dinner cruises aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen. Currently being upgraded, the Burlington Bike Path, leading to the Lake Champlain Islands, is a must for wondrous lake and Adirondack Mountain views. To the east, distantly visible from the city, hikers have Camels Hump and Mt. Mansfield, two titans in Vermont’s collection of 52 state parks.

Inspired by an open-air pedestrian mall in Copenhagen and lined with restaurants, outdoor cafés, specialty and national retailers, and cultural venues, the brick-paved Church Street Marketplace District is Burlington’s main gathering spot.

Adjacent Pine Street has contemporary galleries and finds like Speaking Volumes for used books, vinyl records, stereo equipment, art, and other “ephemera.”

Burlington is home to the Pride Center of Vermont (PCVT). As the leading community and advocacy center for LGBTQ Vermonters, PCVT is also a dependable online and in-person resource for LGBT travelers. Now assuming day-to-day operations of the VGTA as Docto winds up his leadership, The Center also organizes the annual Pride Vermont parade and festival. Taking place each September in Burlington, Pride incorporates Northern Decadence, a food and beverage event founded by Docto in 2011.

Since the closing of gay landmark Pearl’s a decade ago, the city has not had an official gay bar. Locally called “Grrrlington” by some for its vibrant lesbian population, the city does not lack for queer-friendly watering holes and clubs, however.

“First Friday” dance parties at Higher Ground in South Burlington exemplify the active “pop-up” scene. Housed in a former cinema, this popular live music venue also hosts the annual Winter is a Drag Ball. Organized by Burlington-based drag performance group House of LeMay, this perennial smash sellout, launched in 1996, supports the Vermont People with AIDS Coalition.

With other signature events including the long-running Magic Hat Mardi Gras parade in March and Pop-Up! Queer Dance Party, Burlington-based Burly Bear Promotions regularly uses live music venue Red Square for leather, fetish, and other themed events benefitting Pride Vermont and other organizations. Other queer-friendly bars include The Three Needs and male-centric Half Lounge. Meanwhile, El Gato Cantina offers zesty Mexican-inspired food, while Leunig’s Bistro & Loungeevokes a bustling Parisian café.

Choice overnight options, each with lake views, include the boutique Hotel Vermont, featuring Juniper restaurant (and Hen of the Wood’s Burlington outpost next door); Hilton Burlington; and Courtyard Marriott Burlington Harbor. In nearby Essex, upscale The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa is a long-time VGTA member renowned for its onsite culinary programs.

Culture is served at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. With programming including music, Broadway, theater, and dance performances at the 1,411-seat MainStage, this revival of a magnificent 1930’s “entertainment palace” also includes cabaret space and gallery with rotating exhibits from area artists.

Seven miles south of Burlington lies scenic Shelburne, where gayfriendly Shelburne Vineyard is a beautiful year-round spot for sampling award-winning Vermont wines.

Along with tours of The Vermont Teddy Bear Company, two mustsees are the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms. Exhibited in 39 distinctive buildings on its verdant 45-acre campus that includes 25 relocated historic structures, the former’s 150,000-piece collection ranging from French Impressionist paintings to duck decoys is among the most diverse in the nation.

Set on 1,400 acres along Lake Champlain, the latter is a historic working farm offering tours, education, and overnight stays at the National Historic Landmark Inn at Shelburne Farms. This summer, the farm was one of eight Vermont agricultural sites hosting the second season of Farm to Ballet, a dance collaborative uniquely weaving together “the timeless arts” of farming and ballet, with some proceeds benefitting area farmers.

Unfolding as I motored south on Route 7, the Champlain Valley, Vermont’s leading agricultural region, is a hypnotic expanse of endless open fields and pastures. After passing through Vergennes, Vermont’s smallest and oldest (1788) chartered city, home of the 1897 Vergennes Opera House and lakeside Basin Harbor Club and Resort‚ and Middlebury, I turned east on Route 4, “the Crossroad of Vermont Byway,” in Rutland.

Side note: Route 4 West leads to Lake Bomoseen and its bordering state park. The largest lake entirely within Vermont’s borders, Bomoseen was once a glamorous resort destination where stars like Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong performed, and most famously, is home to Neshobe Island, summer retreat in the 1920s for Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, and other members of the Algonquin Round Table, or “Vicious Circle.”

Skirting the southern edge of the Green Mountain Forest, Route 4 passes by Pico Mountain and six-peak Killington Mountain, “The Beast of the East,” renowned for its double black-diamond runs. Housed in a renovated 1849 farmhouse, VGTA member Red Clover Inn & Restaurant in nearby Mendon is a stylish spot for gay weddings and escapes.

Route 4 continues east to Woodstock and Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s “Little Grand Canyon,” but here I veered south on Route 100 (briefly concurrent with 4) toward glorious Southeastern Vermont and Windham County.

Also known as “Vermont’s Main Street” and “The Skier’s Highway,” Route 100 connects most of Vermont’s major ski resorts along its 146mile length. Just below Killington is Ludlow, home of Okemo Mountain Resort. Chartered in 1761, this former mill town features a pretty historic district stop on the Green Mountain Railroad scenic tour route, and The Downtown Grocery, where Chef Rogan Lechthaler, from nearby Weston, hand crafts a winning seasonal menu from locally sourced fare.

Also chartered in 1761, Weston is home to the original Vermont Country Store, and Bobo’s Mountain Sugar for wood-fired Vermont maple sugar.

Crossing into Windham, my favorite Vermont county, is always like coming home. Outside of its ski resorts Mount Snow and Stratton, the area has gone largely untouched by tourism development until very recently, giving it pristine country character reminiscent of my upbringing in rural Sussex, England.

In Londonderry (1770), where three-time James Beard semi-finalist Wesley Genovart woos diners at SoLo Farm & Table, I chased Route 11 East to Chester (1754), boarding point for the Green Mountain Railroad and where Jersey Girls Farm Store sells great dairy products and prepared foods.

Fetching, too, is Route 35, which descends into Grafton (1754), home of hand-made Grafton cheese and The Grafton Inn (1801), one of America’s oldest operating inns. Chasing yet another spellbinder, Route 30, I passed through Townshend (1753), where draws include the 277-foot wooden Scott Covered Bridge from 1870, Townshend Dam recreational area, and 22-room Windham Hill Inn, one of Vermont’s three Relais & Chateaux properties.

Finally, nearly 200 meandering miles after leaving Waterbury, I rolled into Frog Meadow Farm and was greeted by quite the welcoming committee. Drawn up the driveway by the smell of campfire smoke, I encountered a wood-fired hot tub full of naked men, just as my hosts enveloped me in welcoming hugs. “That’s the ‘aloha spirit’ of Hawaii, inspiration for Frog Meadow,” said owners Scott Heller and Dave King as we settled outside and they shared the story of their frolicsome fraternal retreat.

The couple met over coffee, sort of. In 1991, Heller, a New Yorker who frequented Vermont for weekend skiing and other pursuits, pedaled into Mount Snow (in Dover, near Newfane) while training for a triathlon. Cold and tired, he encountered King, a Newfane native then directing the resort’s Mountain Bike School, and inquired about coffee.

“I was so taken by Dave that I never got the coffee,” said Heller. “We saw each other mostly on weekends over the next five years, until I said enough to the long-distance relationship and moved to Vermont.”

Initially, the home they built, on the site of a 1700’s hilltop dairy farm and apple orchard in Newfane, was their sanctuary and place to entertain friends. Following a life-changing visit to a rural gay-friendly escape in Hawaii, it became their place of transformation. “We swam with dolphins, strolled the black-and nude beach, and had Sacred Intimate massages (originated by the Body Electric School, focused on explorations of body, eros, emotion, and spirit) so powerful that I saw a new future,” related King, who subsequently enrolled in massage school as the couple set to creating their own clothing-optional retreat for men.

In every aspect—the setting, the vibe, the amenities, the on-site programs—Frog Meadow fulfills its “oasis” billing. For gay and bi men seeking to shed stress, responsibilities, and inhibitions for a spell, this is the place.

Three rooms in the main house include the Frog Meadow Suite, with two-man Jacuzzi, along with Brook Cottage, constructed from aromatic cedar wood, and the Deluxe Barn Suite, sleeping four. Guests can roam naked (except for the driveway) around the rambling 63-acre property, which includes gardens, trails, and springfed swimming pool. Mind, body, and soul engagements include customized treatments in the dedicated massage studio, and enrichment workshops and retreats in areas such as healing, sexuality, yoga, and meditation.

The community-focused couple, who just celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Vermont Civil Union in 2001 (they married in Massachusetts in 2003), also bring guests and locals together by hosting social gatherings, potluck dinners, outdoor activities, and fundraisers for local non-profits such as the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont.

Yet more brotherly bonds beckon at Rock River, about four miles from the property. Renowned for its deep, clear swimming holes, the river is a popular spot for nude bathing, or the “Indian Love Call,” a Vermont tradition. Past the family area, the crowd gets increasingly naked and mixed, until about 30 minutes in from the trailhead, where the “official” gay area awaits. According to Heller, the scene is very “social and relaxed,” with “very cruisy woods” for libidinous encounters.

Heller, who has worked and lived around the globe, says he feels most grounded in Vermont.

“With a strong “live and let live” ethos, Vermont is a socially progressive state that has long attracted people outside of the perceived ‘norm,’ including artists, writers, hippies, and gays,” he said. “Since moving here, Southeastern Vermont, with relative proximity to New York and Boston, affordable real estate, and room to breathe, has attracted a steady influx of creative and entrepreneurial people,” he continued. “The result is a developing creative economy, along with a continually growing LGBT community. It’s not unusual for us to host several guests in a given week who are looking at real estate.”

Exemplifying the trend is nearby Brattleboro, which Heller described as “a very liberal and assimilated town where [two men or two women] can walk hand-in-hand and display affection without undue negative repercussions.” Many of the historic, artsy river city’s visitor draws are listed in “Discover Gay Vermont,” a tourism microsite created by the couple on their webpage.

Formerly a chef (ski patroller and EMT too), King saw me off the next morning with a delicious breakfast of eggs, yogurt, and toast spread with honey from the couple’s three beehives. Like Docto and Trulson before them, the couple waved me off, with the invitation to return. My head swimming with Vermont memories, new and old, that’s an easy promise to keep.

Spirit and Body: Armin Heining on Gay-Tantra Massage Training

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jan 15, 2015
Armin C. Heining

Armin C. Heining

Early in an interview (available on YouTube) about his GAY-TANTRA™ workshops and his background, Armin Heining, a former Benedictine monk and the founder of the Berlin-based Institute for Meditation & Tantra, notes that even as a youth, “I knew I was going to be a holy person, or I was going to end up in the gutter.”

Prudes may have their opinions about where Heining has landed, but the longtime instructor of spiritual and sexual techniques for greater personal wholeness is, to those whose lives he has touched, more of a saint than a sinner.

Now Heining is slated to bring his GAY-TANTRA™ Massage Training Workshop to the U.S. for the first time, with a weeklong training retreat at Frog Meadow, an oasis of respite for gay men run in southern Vermont by married co-owners Scott Heller and Dave King. (Frog Meadow’s page about the event can be viewed here.)

“I am following the tradition of Margot Anand and Skydancing Tantra,” Heining told EDGE in a recent chat about his upcoming workshop. “Margot Anand is one of the mothers of the modern tantra in the Western world. She brought it in 1990 from India to the Western world and to Germany. I joined her after being a monk for 10 years because I wanted to connect sexuality to spirituality.”

After 18 years of working with Anan, Heining decided to strike off in his own gay-centric direction. “Until 2008 I was the gay tantra teacher in her tradition,” Heining recalled, “and then… I had the impression that I needed to get more into my homosexual identity. She said, ‘Okay, I understand that.’ We did an empowering ritual to send me out into the gay world and to teach others on the tantric path and my unique, GAY-TANTRA™ program is what has developed as a result. And now this path brings me to Frog Meadow.”

Online descriptions of the courses Heining teaches cite deeper connection as a goal, and a result. But connection to – or between – what? Sexuality and spirituality seems an obvious thought. “This happens on many levels, and everyone will have different results,” Heining said. “One will connect more on the body level. Others learn to connect to their emotions. Others learn to connect to the spiritual. All of this belongs together and everyone gets out of the training whatever it is he’s open to.”

“I feel that I have a gay identity and I am still growing into this gay identity,” Heining continued. “On the other hand, I connect with everyone – not only with gay people. In my seminars, I feel it makes sense to address the gay students because what brings up sexual energy for them are men, rather than women. It makes sense to have a men’s group for a homosexual. But in the ‘Schwule Super-Orgasmus’ [‘Gay Super Orgasm’], which was my last training, out of the thirteen participants we had three bisexual, or heterosexual, students.”

“Some people are more comfortable in today’s world assimilating, because they want to be part of a bigger whole,” Frog Meadow co-owner Scott Heller entered the conversation to say, “but some people are still on the search for what their identity is, and what feeds that identity. It’s nice that the gay community is less ghettoized, however there is still a very strong part of our identity that craves knowing what makes us special or different and celebrating that uniqueness. This [Gay-Tantra program] is nourishment for that need.”

Asked about description of the course as giving its participants the “tools that will enable you to heal yourself from life’s past traumas,” Heining told a story about a participant of a Berlin training who sought a massage session with Heining. “He wanted a multiple-orgasmic massage, but I said to him, ‘I don’t think that’s the best thing for you, you are already so aroused.’ So I did for him a tender gay tantra massage. This is very slow, very gentle, very focused on energy and emotion. It was a healing for him [to learn] that is not always [about] going to the excitement, but also going to stillness… being grounded… the nourishment of the soul, or however you call that.”

The GAY-TANTRA™ workshop & retreat will be held at Frog Meadow Farm in southern Vermont February 1-8, 2015. Participation is limited to twelve men and a few open spots remain. Following the enrollment, each participant receives three introductory DVDs from the GAY-TANTRA™ series as a preparation for the course. Completion of the course will earn each participant certification in GAY-TANTRA™ Massage. Visit www.frogmeadow.com for further details and enrollment.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

You’ve fallen in love, you’ve gotten hitched, and you’re ready for your honeymoon. But you don’t want to wander too far: what’s wrong with a getaway here at home in New England?

The region, after all, is flush with LGBT-friendly properties that range from ultra-luxurious beachfront resorts to quieter, rustic hideaways in the woods and mountains. Need help narrowing them down? Here’s where to start—whether you’re looking for a honeymoon, or just a romantic reason to escape the city.

Frog Meadow Farm | Newfane, Vermont

Want to get hitched and honeymoon in the same place? Hop over here. Frog Meadow Farm is a country bed & breakfast owned by husbands Dave King, an expert massage therapist, and Scott Heller, who happens to be a Universal Life Minister with plenty of experience officiating nuptials amid the pretty stone patios and vibrant flower gardens at their quaint home and inn. Wedding and honeymoon packages are available, inclusive of everything from cake and flowers to celebratory massages. And you can retire to rustic-contemporary, wooden beam-filled accommodations like the semi-secluded Brook Cottage or plush Frog Meadow Suite, with its two-person Jacuzzi. (The couple has even developed their own line of sumptuous bath, body and aromatherapy products.) The charming hideaway is frequent host to gay men’s gatherings, from Pride potluck dinners to yoga retreats, so you’ll feel at home whether you’re clinking champagne in the wood-fired hot tub, or taking a dip at the gay nude beach at nearby Rock River. It’s a perfect getaway for newlyweds looking to feel refreshed and re-centered. (frogmeadow.com)

 
 
 
 

Guest Reviews

Amazing B&B!

Thanks for your hospitality, massage and overall amazing Bed & Breakfast!

My stay has really meant so much to me – I hope to be able to return soon.

Michael G., Syracuse, NY
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