Developmental History of the Olympic Foothills Lodge

Steve Kunkel has always enjoyed the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. In particular the forest has been a place of invigorating adventure and also a place of peace and rest. The idea for the creation of a retreat in the forest originated in 1973 when Steve bought 5 acres of forested land on San Juan Island. In 1983, Steve, with the help of a college friend, built a cabin retreat on another piece of property on the same island. These places served as weekend camp sites and personal retreats for Steve and his family for many years.

In 1988 Steve had a vision for building a holistic retreat center in the forest somewhere for people to come there and spend time improving themselves through exercise, diet and meditation. After raising two children with his wife Alice during the 1980’s and 90’s it seemed like the time was right for converting his “day dreaming” into some kind of reality.

In 1997 Steve’s daughter Samantha met a young Mexican man who would eventually become a son-in-law. Samantha and her new husband talked about living in Mexico someday. Now there seemed to be a purpose for building a retreat in Mexico. Samantha and her husband could live there and manage the retreat and Steve and Alice would have a place to stay when they visited. Things were beginning to come into focus. Between 2004 and 2006 Steve made three trips to the State of Oaxaca, in Mexico, two trips with Stefan, one of Steve’s employees who had lived and traveled there before and one trip with his daughter Samantha. The mountains of Oaxaca were so beautiful and inviting. But these trips to Oaxaca also revealed that it was going to be just too far away to manage such a venture. What now?

As a high school student Steve had spent two summers playing his cello at the Seattle Youth Symphony’s music camp at Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island (near Port Townsend) and did some hiking in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula nearby. Steve was familiar with this area and knew it had a lot of recreational opportunities. Most of the forest land on the Olympic Peninsula belongs to the Olympic National Park or is National Forest land but there were still places in the foothills of the Olympics that were forested, so that’s where the search began…in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains.

Steve contacted an old friend, Laurel DuFlon, who played violin with Steve when they were in the Seattle Youth Symphony together, years ago. She was now living in the Sequim area selling real estate. Laurel found a few forest properties for Steve to look at and in 2006 Steve purchased the land for the lodge.

With the land purchased Steve now began the task of designing the retreat. But would it still be a retreat? If so, what kind? In the almost 20 years since Steve’s original vision of a retreat for wholistic living many other places had been built along this theme. It also began to feel like a lot of work to set up all the programs. It would also be expensive to develop a building that could accommodate all the different services originally planned. What about just a place for people to meet and enjoy the forest? Like a lodge? After doing a little research on the internet, there seemed to be only a few places that could accommodate larger groups of people. So the lodge idea came into focus; “Olympic Foothills Lodge”: a place for people to rest, rejuvenate and recreate in and around the foothills of the Olympic Mountains.

The water well was drilled in August on 2006. Clearing the land for the building site took place in April 2007 and the construction started in August 2007. The Lodge was completed one year later in August of 2008. The Lodge is designed to accommodate up to 16 people.

Steve and his wife Alice live in Bellevue, Washington. They have two daughters, Samantha and Farrah. Alice has recently retired from teaching Special Education. Steve has been a residential design/build contractor since 1975. He has built over 30 homes and remodeled many others. Go to his web site