Frog Meadow, Vermont's 'Gay Men's Oasis,' Ready to Re-Open, Re-Establish Healthful Connection

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 21, 2020

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 29 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 14 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 to 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.

"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, Men's Retreats and workshops, as well as social events like cycling, cross-country skiing, and apple picking, cider making and other cultural gatherings for men.

Workshop participants can partake in year-round men's massage weekends, tantra workshops, yoga retreats, breathwork & meditation workshops listed on a frequently updated "Calendar of Gatherings, Workshops & 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 several summers ago and we hit it off right away. Now, my work is an integral part of their programming every year."

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 the non-judgmental community as we evolve."

Armin Heining from Berlin, Germany also leads frequent workshops at Frog Meadow. Heining, a former Benedictine monk and the founder of GAY-TANTRA, has spent the past 30 years helping men realize that human sexuality is not just a drive, but also a gift: A joy to be cherished and explored.

Always effervescent and upbeat, Armin obviously takes real pleasure from the work he does in teaching others how to find pleasure and not just embrace it, but celebrate it. There's no place for shame or fear in Armin's workshops, and no time for it, either: Armin sets a brisk pace, pouring so much into each and every segment of his workshops that anxieties evaporate and rapport between participants quickly emerges. It's that sense of connection that sets Armin's workshops apart; whereas other retreats for men focusing on erotic subject matter tend to get caught up in technique, connection — with self as well as others — is the fundamental basis of Armin's instruction.

Adding to one's erotic toolkit is always an enriching experience, but techniques are not enough; they must be applied to a larger goal if they are going to contribute to the enrichment not only of one's sex life, but one's life overall. "I focus not so much on the tools," Armin says, "but on the inner process."

Yoga instructor Colby Smith, 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," Smith told EDGE. "Scott and Dave, being who they are, saw yoga and wellness as a way to attract men to Vermont.

Why nude yoga?

"For a lot of men, this answers itself," Smith 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," Smith 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."

Smith 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," Smith 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 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 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.

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, which has been a social destination for gay men to gather for over 50 years.

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."

Body care products? That's right: Frog Meadow has its own line of skincare 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 Frog Meadow Suite, which boasts a "two-man jacuzzi.". The other accommodations have queen-sized beds, as well as other pluses: The Deluxe Barn suite has its own kitchenette and private deck, while the Frog Meadow Suite boasts a "two-man jacuzzi."

More unique still are Frog Meadow's two stand-alone cottages; 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."

The recently added Bee Cottage rounds out the mix of six rooms, suites and cottages at Frog Meadow. "Tucked into the lower meadow beyond the orchard and apiary, the Bee Cottage feels like it is in a world of its own, nestled behind a double-Hawthorne tree and surrounded by meadow grasses, ferns and wildflowers," notes the website. The Bee Cottage is full of windows with peaceful views, has a king bed and you'll be lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of frogs and crickets!

Out of an abundance of caution Frog Meadow temporarily closed in early March due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and plans to reopen during the summer of 2020. Notes co-owner Scott Heller, "There's always been plenty of Purell available at all our workshops. However, when we re-open we will take every precaution for the safety and health of our lodging and workshop guests in this time of widespread health concerns."

In addition to social distancing protocols, Frog Meadow will follow strict state-directed health/cleaning protocols, including the removal of cloth hand towels in all bathrooms and replacing them with disposable paper hand towels; sanitizing wipes in all bathrooms to be used as needed on surfaces; extra cleaning and disinfecting on high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and kitchen work surfaces in addition to other areas; and advising employees to stay home if they are not feeling well.

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 were 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 Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.