How an East Boston couple created a Nordic oasis within the White Mountains

The Boston Globe

Lumen Nature Retreat, an upscale campground on 20 acres, provides nature with panache.

The interior of a lykke-category cabin at Lumen Nature Retreat in Woodstock, N.H.
The inside of a lykke-category cabin at Lumen Nature Retreat in Woodstock, N.H. CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. — The rain stopped simply in time for sundown, and what a gloriously weird sundown it was.

I had been listening to raindrops loudly drum on the home windows of my 150-square-foot cabin on the Lumen Nature Retreat for an hour and assumed I’d be spending the rest of the night listening to David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and watching cat movies as a result of that’s just about my definition of an ideal wet evening.

However when the clouds broke, my definition shortly modified. The sky glowed orange, and because of this, the swiftly-moving brook that ran immediately behind my minimalist, Nordic-inspired cabin additionally glowed orange. I had by no means seen something prefer it. Though the skies had cleared, there have been nonetheless patches of fog that stubbornly clung to some bushes, giving the impression that monumental clouds of cotton sweet have been randomly positioned within the close by forest.

Earlier than you leap to conclusions, I used to be not below the affect of any illicit substances. The brook was orange, there have been cotton sweet bushes, and the Nordic-style cottage within the White Mountains was actual.

The story of how the Lumen Nature Retreat, an upscale campground (I’m stubbornly not a fan of the time period glampground) in North Woodstock, N.H., got here to exist is nearly as unlikely because the orange brook on the property. House owners Susan Zhao and Boris Bordkovich by no means camped till properly into maturity. Zhao, who grew up in China, stated tenting “wasn’t a factor” for her. Bordkovich, who grew up in Lithuania, had additionally by no means camped.

However in 2018, the couple determined to place their company jobs on maintain, purchased a 20-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser, and took an epic highway journey from Boston to Argentina. It was a final hurrah earlier than beginning a household and transferring into the subsequent stage of their lives. They slept in a tent on the roof of their SUV for seven months, with occasional breaks at resorts, as they drove south by the Americas.

“It was magical,” Bordkovich stated. “I believe the tenting experiences have been considerably extra memorable and story-worthy than typical resorts. We couldn’t shake the entire tenting thought after we got here again. It was caught in our minds.”

East Boston couple Boris Mordkovich and Susan Zhao have been impressed to start out Lumen Nature Retreat in New Hampshire after a seven-month highway journey. – CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

Even Zhao, who appeared a tad much less enthusiastic than her husband about roughing it, was enchanted by her experiences.

“Essentially the most memorable moments have been the nights we truly have been outdoor, generally simply by ourselves,” she stated. “We had an evening after we camped out in a bit of nationwide park in Peru and the complete Milky Approach was simply lit up in entrance of us. It’s simply so fascinating and also you simply keep in mind without end.”

However as soon as again in the actual world, immersed of their day jobs and now with a daughter, the pair nonetheless considered tenting and performed with the thought of opening a campground. It was extra of a unfastened idea than a plan, however after they noticed the previous Waterest Campground on the market in 2021, they shortly reached out to the house owners and bought the 20-acre campground, plus 50 adjoining acres. The property abuts the Pemigewasset River, has the Eastman Brook operating by it, and contains two ponds. For the second, they don’t have any plans to broaden past the 20 acres.

One among two saunas at Lumen Nature Retreat has views of the countryside. – CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

Their thought for the campground, which they renamed Lumen, was to create a spot the place individuals might go tenting with out bringing all of the bric-a-brac concerned with tenting. Bordkovich and Zhao needed to create a spot the place individuals might simply carry their toothbrushes and begin tenting. Spoiler alert: You want greater than a toothbrush.

There are 4 classes of lodging at Lumen (starting with least costly to most): A-frame tents, safari tents, lykke Nordic cabins, and hygge Nordic cabins. Charges vary from $100 to $400 an evening relying on which kind of dwelling you select and seasonal demand. Cabins include a kitchen with cookware, an induction cooktop, and fridge. They’ve Bluetooth audio system, leather-based couches, and, after all, beds, linens, and towels. All websites have Adirondack chairs, smokeless hearth pits, and beds, linens, and towels. Even the tents are outfitted with electrical energy and a few home equipment. Test-in is contactless and executed by your cellphone and e mail.

As an added bonus, there are two saunas. You’ll be able to e book a non-public session so that you don’t end up with towel-wearing strangers.

A safari tent at Lumen Nature Heart within the White Mountains. – HANDOUT

I’ve stayed at glampgrounds, campgrounds, Airstream resorts, and hipster tiny cabin getaways to various levels of success. All of them have their pluses and minuses. I discovered the largest plus of staying at Lumen to be the privateness and the environment. There are 35 tents and cabins on 20 acres. I wasn’t on high of my neighbors the way in which that I’ve been at different locations. (I’m taking a look at you, AutoCamp.)

A lykke cabin at Lumen Nature Retreat in Woodstock, N.H. – CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

I used to be additionally impressed that a lot of the cabins and tents have been both overlooking the brook or one of many ponds. I might see the brook from the again window of my cabin and felt like I used to be in nature.

The draw back is the bathhouse. Which means there are not any showers or bogs within the cabins. As a substitute, everybody makes use of a big, centrally positioned bathhouse. In the event you’ve ever gone tenting, you realize the sort that I imply. It’s a big constructing with bogs, showers, and a protracted counter with sinks. Within the case of Lumen, Zhao and Bordkovich have tried to make the bathhouse extra like the toilet in a boutique resort with nice lighting and posh soaps. However, the underside line is that when nature calls within the evening, you want to take the rechargeable lantern in your cabin or tent and make your method down the highway. It’s darkish, so don’t neglect that lantern. I additionally advocate a spritz of insect repellent.

The communal bathhouse at Lumen Nature Retreat is designed to be an upscale model of an ordinary campground bathhouse. – CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

Provided that I’ve a childhood background in tenting (and the scars to show it), I do know the routine. Whereas no services within the stylish, minimalist cabins means there’s extra room for stress-free, it additionally means there’s no operating water. So in the event you cook dinner, you’ll must do your dishes in a chosen space exterior of the bathhouse. Keep in mind, it’s tenting, in spite of everything.

Talking of roughing it, the opposite amenity lacking at Lumen is Wi-Fi. That is by design. It offers you the choice of actually escaping by turning off your laptop computer and as an alternative taking within the brook or mountain climbing within the close by White Mountains. However don’t fear, cellphones have reception right here. In the event you encounter a wet evening, you’ll nonetheless be capable of take heed to David Bowie and watch kitten movies within the consolation of your dry lodgings.

Sundown casts an eerie orange glow on the Eastman Brook on the Lumen Nature Retreat in North Woodstock, NH. – CHRISTOPHER MUTHER/GLOBE STAFF

11 Sugar Plum Lane, N. Woodstock, N.H., 603-764-7244. [email protected].