When Richard Downing was first diagnosed with cancer, he vowed to find out all he could about good health. After beating cancer not once, but twice, he decided to share what he had learned about getting and maintaining good health.
The result of his efforts is the Stepping Stone Spa and Wellness Center, a lovely building perched on a hill in Lyndonville, VT. But Stepping Stone is more than just a spa and inn. It is a gentle journey into relaxation and good health.
"Dick researched essential components of overall health, including nutrition and cooking techniques, physical fitness, pampering the body – all interconnected to form the mind, body and spirit connection," explained Director Jennifer Kirchoff.
A Stepping Stone you'll find a fitness center, with classes led by the energetic Jennifer. There’s a four-room inn that oozes tranquility. And a café that serves healthy food that actually tastes good. There's a steam room, hiking trails, and in the winter, cross-country skiing.
I happened to pick one of the hotter days in Vermont to visit. The temperature hit a steamy 97 degrees earlier that day. I took a shower (one of many to come) and dressed for dinner.
My room, Meadowview, actually did look out over a scenic meadow. The room was beautifully decorated in soothing tones of yellow and orange. A Jacuzzi in the corner beckoned. My favorite feature was a window seat. A healthy trail mix waited in a candy dish. The room was so cool and inviting that I hated to leave.
Jen and I walked up to the Wildflower Inn just up the road for a delicious dinner. It was still very humid, but it was worth it just to see the views. Darling Hill Road looks out across a valley to scenes of meadows, houses, and wooded areas. On this side, we could see Richard's Belted Galloway cattle grazing in the fields.
The next day was not much cooler. For breakfast, I enjoyed my first meal at the café. The offering was so appealing that I didn’t know where to start. There was granola with a choice of sliced almonds, candied walnuts, milk and yogurt. The best part was a blueberry-strawberry-banana smoothie.
Later, Jennifer gave me a tour of the facility.
"Here at Stepping Stone we have a different approach," said Jennifer as she showed me the fitness room. "We work one-on-one with our staff to develop a personalized program for each client, designed specifically for them."
Spa services include several types of massage and body work including Swedish, deep Tissue and Sports Massage, Shiatsu and Reflexology: Herbal Body Wraps, Body Scrubs and Polishes and Sauna Therapy. I enjoyed a relaxing massage from David Hammond, whose massage techniques felt like artist’s brush strokes.
That afternoon, Richard and Joan Downing joined us for lunch in the café. Several of their grandchildren trailed after them. This truly is a family operation – most of the people working here are related to the Downings in some way.
In fact, one of the chefs is grandaughter Rachel Downing, who prepared our meals to order. I had a cheeseburger with a wheat-sprout bun, another smoothie, and a side of vegetables. Who knew that eating healthy could be so tasty!
"My goal is to provide people with truly nutritious, satisfying, delicious food," Rachel told me. She highly recommended the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which I promptly bought when I got home.
I enjoyed my stay at the Stepping Stone, and took with me a whole new outlook about working towards good health. It doesn’t have to be restrictive or boring. Eating and living healthy can be fun – and tasty!
The Stepping Stone Spa and Wellness Center consists of a spa, inn, and café. The spa and café are open to the public – you do not have to stay at the inn to visit the café and spa. For more information, see Stepping Stone or call: 1-802.626.3104.
For more information about the book Nourishing Traditions, check out Nourishing Traditions.
Top photo: I loved the window seat in my room.
Second photo: The Meadowview Suite at the Stepping Stone.
All photos Copyright 2007 Brenda Potter Reynolds. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.