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Portals to Tranquility
The outdoor kitchen area at Blue Doors at Tenkiller is an ideal place for informal gatherings, retreats, and workshops.
Photo by TOM LUKER
At one northeastern Oklahoma resort, vacationing is less about doing and more about being.
By Nathan Gunter
Published May/June 2016
Vacations so often whirl in the realm of the go-and-do: Fly (or drive) to said city or state, check boxes off of a preordained list of must-sees, eat from a list of local delicacies, fly (or drive) home. If travel is meant to rejuvenate, to take a person out of him- or herself, many are doing it wrong.
At Blue Doors at Tenkiller on State Highway 100 north of Gore, a getaway isn’t another achievement to be unlocked. Owner Jane Honiker has witnessed more than one group of guests pull up with a boat, intending to spend an active weekend on Lake Tenkiller, only to spend their entire time relaxing at the Santa Fe-inspired resort.
“We wanted to create a place where people leave their worries behind them,” Honiker says. “We wanted there to be a sense of community about this place.”
Community is sewn into the fabric of Blue Doors. The twelve peach-colored stucco cabins—each sporting an eponymous blue door—surround a courtyard with grills, smokers, picnic tables, fire pits, and even a brick pizza oven. In the evening, guests crowd around to cook or build pizzas with the fresh vegetables growing throughout the property.
“People come and use these cookers, and everybody’s kind of looking at each other,” Honiker says. “Then by the end of the night, everyone is talking, and everyone is good friends.”
With a nearly mile-long hiking trail, fishing pond, and stylish rooms with art that flows from canvas to mural and back again, Blue Doors is built to accommodate whatever level of activity a guest may want. In its twenty-six-foot teepee and across its twenty acres of forested Sequoyah County, the resort regularly hosts classes and retreats in subjects as varied as yoga, canning, art, gardening, and beekeeping.
Guests can rent one of several colorful kayaks to trek down the nearby Lower Illinois River, which also attracts fly fishers looking to take advantage of one of the state’s two year-round trout streams. When Oklahoma City resident Lesli Sperling won a trip to Blue Doors on Oklahoma City radio station KMGL, she and her boyfriend, Paul Hickman, found a new weekend destination.
“It’s a really peaceful, cute, quaint little place,” Sperling says. “The rooms were very nice, and we spent a lot of time in nature. There were so many flowers and butterflies. We can’t wait to go back.”
Blue Doors—the original location of the Shangri-La resort—was in disrepair the first time Honiker and her partner, Pat Carhart, drove past. Over several years, they stopped by, imagining possibilities. Then, in 2010, there was a For Sale sign on the property.
“It was like a ghost town,” Carhart says. “But we pulled in and started thinking about getting this place going.”
Now, where there were weeds, there is a garden. Where there was a ghost town, there is a spontaneous community. Where there were cinder block buildings, the bright stucco cabins welcome visitors to put down their planners, their itineraries, and their need to achieve and simply be in this peaceful place.
Get There: Blue Doors at Tenkiller is about four miles north of Gore on State Highway 100. (918) 489-2174 or bluedoorsattenkiller.com.