MOODUS, Conn. — My expectations were low. I’m talking lichen on a rock low.
When I arrived at my tiny Getaway house in a very rural stretch of Connecticut, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. My first thought upon seeing the 140-square-foot elfin cabin was that it looked like a sad little tool shed. The trailer hitch was still attached to the cabin, as if the truck that had dropped it off was in a rush to escape because the scene looked so cheerless.
Perhaps I was being too harsh? My impression was clearly not the same as thousands of others who have rushed to stay in these Lilliputian homes and raved about them. Getaway, the company that owns this recently-opened Connecticut forest full of tiny houses, has seen dramatic growth since its inception in 2015. What began as a few tiny houses in the wilds of New Hampshire will have grown to 20 locations by the end of 2022. The company has outposts across the country. Each location has about 40 tiny houses, give or take. They’re carefully arranged, like tiny neighborhoods, in large wooded areas to maximize privacy.
The setup was a relief. I was afraid that the cabins would be packed in too tightly. Last year, an Airstream hotel called AutoCamp opened on Cape Cod, and the trailers were so close you could hear someone in the neighboring trailer sneeze. I heard no sneezing here and didn’t feel as if I was on top of my neighbors.
The Getaway houses are meant to appeal to stressed-out city dwellers who want to get back to nature, but not sleep in a tent or swat away insects. Despite my snap judgment of the exterior, the interior felt like being inside a cool grown-up clubhouse.
Each cabin is equipped with a small kitchenette that has a two-burner cooktop, small refrigerator, cutlery, and a few essential kitchen utensils, plus pots, pans, plates, and bowls. There are a few basics, such as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate in the cabin (for a small fee, of course). But olive oil, salt, and pepper are provided for free.
The founders of Getaway encourage guests to drop out of the digital world during their stay. There’s no Wi-Fi and there’s a box where you can store your phone to resist the urge to constantly text. Each location is about two hours from a city to maximize the sense of escape.
These cabins might be the most COVID-19 safe accommodations in the country right now. You never come face-to-face with another human. Reservations are made online (www.getaway.house). Details of your stay are e-mailed and texted. A code to open the door of your Getaway house is texted to you an hour before you arrive. I rented the 140-square-foot house for two people, but a 200-square-foot version for four people is also available.
Because the Moodus location recently opened (it’s officially called Getaway Machimoodus), the company was running a promotion, renting the tiny houses for $119 a night. They were also offering an additional 20 percent off for those who stayed in January. But generally the size of the house does not correspond to the size of the price tag. At the New Hampshire location, prices range from $200 to $300 a night. Some nights the price goes over $300. That’s what you would pay for a decent (and larger) hotel room. Although a hotel doesn’t offer an outdoor area with a picnic table and a fireplace, and that’s a large part of the Getaway appeal.
When I arrived at the very blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location in Moodus, I stepped inside the cabin and dropped on the comfortable bed. The mattress abuts a massive picture window that looks out onto the woods. I felt as if I had plenty of privacy thanks to the trees. I imagine when the trees have leaves these cabins will feel even more secluded.
True confession: I was cranky when I arrived. I was sick (not COVID sick), tired from recent travels, and a little down in the dump truck because pop icon Ronnie Spector had just died. On top of it all, I was now in an elfin tool shed in the woods of Connecticut.
I texted my mom a photo of the interior and asked “Guess where I am?” Her response was “A pine coffin with a window?” After that I put my phone in the lock box (which has no lock), and decided I would work on relaxing. I started a campfire (wood bundles are $8). The moon was bright and beautiful. The light sparkled on the icy snow. But I quickly realized that the fire would not be enough to keep me warm for more than 15 minutes. So much for the s’mores and sparkling icy snow.
I was very tempted to grab my phone out of the non-locking lock box, but decided to abide by the unenforced rules and leave it. I had brought a portable record player with me, along with the Ronettes’ first album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica,” and played it while I prepared dinner on the tiny cooktop.
“I’m, I’m, I’m, so young,” I howled along with Ronnie Spector as chicken breasts sizzled in the frying pan “Yeah, yeah, yeah, so young.”
If anyone heard me, there would definitely be villagers arriving at the door with pitchforks and torches to force me to stop my “singing.” I looked out the window, and there were no villagers, so I’m assuming the cabin was relatively soundproof. Conversely, I never heard anything stirring in the woods. Although the aforementioned singing would have scared anything off for good.
Thanks to the quiet and the comfortable mattress, I drifted off to sleep easily. In the morning, the tiny shower had plenty of hot water. In case you were wondering, there is a full bathroom in the cabin.
Under normal circumstances (meaning good health and above freezing temperatures), I would have woken up the following morning and explored nearby Machimoodus State Park. But I was honestly fine to sit in bed, recuperate from my non-COVID cold, and listen to Ronnie Spector tell me that the best part of breaking up is when we’re making up.
Perhaps it helped that I wasn’t expecting much and the price was right, but Getaway was a pleasant surprise. This elfin tool shed was well appointed and certainly comfortable for one person. I may not have connected with nature the way Getaway’s founders intended, but my time in the box was a nice escape from reality.