A Clearly Relaxing Cabin

A glass house in the Wisconsin woods invites visitors to unwind

Sometimes you don’t know how much you need a break until you take one. How badly you need to get away from it all until you find yourself in the middle of the woods, in a little cabin made of glass.

Susan and Norbert Calnin understand better than most. On an eighty-acre retired farm just south of Richland Center, they’ve built a trio of retreats called Candlewood Cabins. The newest structure—the Glass House, built in 2008—is the reason my husband and I found ourselves headed into the woods of southwestern Wisconsin on a summer afternoon.

It’s easy to miss the turn from Highway 80 onto the property; the stunning views of rolling hills and lush valleys are almost too distracting, and one could drive by without knowing the cabins are tucked back in the forest.

“No cell reception,” my husband mentioned as he slipped his iPhone back into his pocket, and I couldn’t tell if it was happiness or panic I heard in his voice. Perhaps unplugging would be more difficult than we anticipated.

After meeting the Calnins, we followed Norbert in his truck as he led the way to a parking spot for the Glass House. We loaded our bags onto a wagon and pulled it up a short path to the cabin, our getaway for the night.

Featuring walls made entirely of glass panels and wood beams, save for two doors, the neat, cozy cabin houses a queen-size bed, futon and small table and chairs. The Calnins added air-conditioning in 2011, while a wood stove is a nice touch for autumn visitors.

Out back, a deck and chairs lead to a wooden bridge that connects the cabin to the bathhouse, a space complete with a shower and sink as well as a microwave, small refrigerator, toaster, coffeemaker and dishes.

By the front door, we found chairs, a fire pit and a charcoal grill. Susan had recommended a few restaurants in town for dinner, but the firewood Norbert left us and the food we’d brought made a cabin-side cookout our plans for the evening. We started a fire and popped the top off a pair of local brews.

We marveled at the quiet, at how alone we were surrounded only by trees. As the sun began sinking, with golden light filtering through the leaves, we cooked dinner. Slowly, we figured out how to unwind, how to ease into a new pace of simply sitting and talking and watching the fireflies flicker. We swore grilled chicken and veggie burgers never tasted this good back home.

When we headed inside the cabin for the night, we could have closed the drapes; instead, we kept them tied back. Lying in the soft bed, with a bit of moonlight revealing the trees all around us, it was a unique pleasure to feel cocooned in the forest.

Just before sunrise, thunder rolled in, shaking the cabin. Soon rain started pelting the roof. So perhaps we wouldn’t spend the morning hiking the trail Norbert had pointed out the day before. Maybe we wouldn’t even venture in to Richland Center, over to Weggy Winery or out to Spring Green.

This morning, entirely too comfortable in bed to make a decision and the rain creating a rhythm that was lulling us back to sleep, we realized there was nothing we needed to do other than simply be right here, in this tiny glass house in the forest.

For more information on the Glass House, visit candlewoodcabins.com.

Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine.

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