Tipi-cal Life in Oregon

“This is what we call the chicken tunnel,” Susanne said, pointing at a few plucky hens as they scuttled from their outdoor pen to their coop.

The "chunnel" (chicken tunnel) at the Tipi Village Resort.

“Two paths converged — the people one and the chicken one, so we figured we could have them go over or under.”

I laughed as I pictured a chicken bridge.

Susanne was giving me a tour of the grounds where she and her partner Ken run the Tipi Village Retreat in the verdant Marcola, Oregon, just a half hour northeast of Eugene (home to the University of Oregon).

This sort of ingenuity was evident throughout the property, with custom stonework and carpentry around every turn.

I arrived during the “golden hour,” when the light was filtering through the trees. I was instantly enchanted by the property. The stream that ran by their main home looked like it was on fire as dusk descended, with two tipis (more commonly spelled tepees) perched on its banks.

Chief Joseph Tipi, on the manicured side of the retreat.

But my favorite part of the grounds was the forest behind the main house, where five more traditional tipis sat. As we walked through the cedars, the tipis would appear and disappear behind the trees as if they were playing hide and seek.

I was the only guest for the evening, as their season was officially opening the next day. On the phone, Susanne had kindly agreed to let me stay, but warned me they were not quite in working order yet. I insisted it was no problem, and offered to help them get ready in any way I could.

After the tour was over and the sun had set, we cut lettuce from Susanne’s garden, and she whipped up a dinner of homemade lentil burgers, salad, and Kombucha.

“When guests are here we are usually outside grilling by the river or making pizza in our wood burning oven,” Ken said. “It’s a shame you’re missing out on that part of the experience. It’s really fun.”

I was thankful to be having dinner with these lovely people in their home — a nice change of pace from the solo dining I’d been getting used to since leaving my own.

Inside the Chief Seattle tipi, otherwise known as the "honeymoon tipi."

When I asked what had motivated them to open up their home as a tipi retreat, Susanne said that there was a moment she remembered when they had friends visiting with their kids and they were all taking a walk in the forest. It was after they’d removed large piles of junk that had accumulated on the property before purchasing it.

“The trees seemed to stand taller with the kids around. I saw it in their eyes, she said. “I knew I wanted to share this special place with people.”

“It was almost as if we had to,” Ken added. “Like we didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

The next morning I helped Susanne lay out the rugs in the tipis and sweep one of the pathways, and reluctantly packed my things from the tipi I’d stayed in, called the Calapooya Tipi, named after the group of Indians that had lived in the area.

After a breakfast of farm fresh eggs and toast, I hit the road and added the Tipi Village Retreat and its hosts to the growing list of places and people I know will be lasting friends.

Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer

Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.


  1. Nicole Murray
    Seattle, WA
    July 10, 2012, 7:22 pm

    How neat! My fiancee and I stayed in the Calapooya Tipi for a few nights only days after you left. We were visiting to see the grounds and meet Ken and Susanne as we are planning on getting married there next August. We are now more excited than ever. It’s beauty and relaxation everywhere you look.

    Thanks Kirby for posting those pics. I can’t wait to take a peek.

    Michael, a funny story about the Calapooya Tipi. When we went to get dressed on our last morning there we were quite shocked to find a family of 5 mice in our duffel bag!! When you are inside of the tipi you almost forget that you are sleeping in the middle of the forest and are sharing your tipi with the forest critters.

  2. Kirby
    Eugene, OR
    July 10, 2012, 5:34 am

    My then-fiance discovered this place when Ken set up a booth at a local wedding show (something he later admitted they usually don’t do). She setup an appointment to tour the grounds which was a dreary october evening. The tipis were nothing but skeletons as they’d been taken down for the winter. But even then we could tell that this could be a very special place, and Ken & Susanne were wonderful to work with.
    We reserved a date and almost a year later we had our wedding in a small grotto under “The Wedding Tree”. Our guests came and relaxed on a beautiful august day, the children played in the creek, the adults sat and visited, and we all ate-ate-ate all day long.
    Several people told us afterwards it was the most amazing wedding they had ever attended, and I wholeheartedly agree (but I’m biased because I was the groom :)

    We have a giant gallery of pictures from that day, which of course include dozens of the grounds. It can be seen here for anyone who is interested: http://nearlynomads.smugmug.com/Weddings/KirbyandRebecca

    • Shannon Switzer
      July 10, 2012, 2:46 pm

      Hi Kirby- thanks for your comment. They Susanne and Ken are both wonderful! The wedding tree area seemed like it would be the perfect spot to tie the knot. I’m happy to hear that was the case for you and your wife! Thanks for sharing the photos!

  3. Michael
    June 27, 2012, 3:48 pm

    Wow- your photos capture that “magical” quality you can feel when walking in the woods. Made me yearn for a few days up in the sequoias and redwoods.

    Tipi Village sounds like a wonderful place to relax for a few days. Did you see or hear any ‘critters’?


  4. Jamal Brown
    June 26, 2012, 9:26 pm

    Great photos. Great looking vacation.

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  6. Ben
    June 25, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Looks like a pretty awesome tipi, wouldn’t mind staying there!