I was looking to recharge and detox. After weeks of feeling sluggish, carrying extra winter weight and bouts of reflux, it was time for a jumpstart back to healthier ways and a cleaner diet. A few years back I had spent a week at California’s legendary Ashram where we hiked for miles through the canyons of Calabasas, ate simply, and did yoga each day, leaving lighter both in weight and mindset. When I heard through a friend that Yarrow, a beloved Ashram guide, had opened his own retreat with his wife Angela in San Francisco, it sounded just what the homeopath ordered. Even better, it was for only 4 days, 5 nights rather than a full week (Thursday-Monday), making it easier to get away. Here is why The Coast Ridge should be high on your list of wellness retreats.
Get Moving: Hiking is what the Coast Ridge is all about, all while reconnecting to nature. On the three full days of your stay expect to be on the trail for 4-5 hours, with half day hikes on the bookend days of Thursday and Monday. The hikes are hard, but glorious, building up in intensity each day. Be warned, day three and four are arduous treks—you cover lots of ground and considerable elevation–but the salvation is the scenery--inspiring, ever changing with expansive coastal views; just beautiful. How often can you say you hiked all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge starting at Muir Beach? Or climbed the 1,053-foot hilltop, Hill 88, in the Marin Headlands with picture postcard views in every direction. That you pushed yourself beyond what you thought capable? At the end of the day every muscle hurts but you’ll sleep well, after all you’ve earned it!
Team Leaders: Yarrow and our other amazing guides for the weekend, Dorian and JJ are the real deal helping our group of ten to find our groove on and off the trail. When the going got tough, and it did, Dorian lighted up our walkie-talkies with verse or jokes, JJ got us dancing, and Yarrow always reminded us to breathe. They are always there to encourage you, offer you snacks on the trail to keep you going (almonds, prunes, and sometimes fruit—no power bars or chocolates allowed!) and show you alternative routes if need be.
Stay: The setting, a rented house overlooking Stinson Beach, about a half hour drive from San Fran near Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais was very comfortable with lovely grounds. Day two’s hike ends just below the house with the last 4 miles on the beach. Yarrow and Angela purchased a home nearby and were in the process of converting it to The Coast Ridge’s future home while I was there.
Daily Activities: Each day is well designed with sunrise yoga to get your muscles warm and ready to hike. After breakfast, everyone gathers to fill up their camelbacks before heading to that days hike. After lunch, the afternoon is broken into three-hour time slots for massages, an exercise class such as interval training or core work, and water volleyball in the pool. The massages were excellent; Yarrow has assembled a team of well-sourced therapists that bring you back to life. After hiking for hours, a massage at the Coast Ridge is more a necessity than a luxury. Restorative yoga before dinner ends the day’s activities.
Detox Diet: Claudine, the chef for our stay, really cares about what she cooks and making guests feel satisfied while still cutting back on gluten, salt, sugar, and carbs. Meals change based on what she finds at the farmers market but are always organic, vegetarian and nutrient rich. Everything was delicious and surprisingly filling. Favorites included an excellent Buddha bowl using kelp noodles and a Thai squash soup. One night we did a cooking class where nothing had more than 4 ingredients—I’m still making the banana gluten-free pancakes and cacao acai drops months later. If only Claudine would tell me the recipe for her delicious green energy balls (they were a well-earned treat on the hikes) she would be my hero.
Decompress: Everyone can benefit from a detox these days, to just unplug for a few days. While the house does have WIFI, its discouraged, and you don’t really have much free time anyway. It’s a nice escape from your computer screen and your Instagram feed.
Group Bonding: Its fun to see what happens over the weekend—we started out as ten strangers on a Thursday night, but soon became a tight-knit group, bonding over how sore we were, how good a few slices of apple could be on the trail, and how much we missed our morning coffee. It’s a camaraderie that’s strong, even if you don’t keep in touch back home it’s still a powerful connection and reminder how different people can come together and support each other, even for just a short time.
Before You Go: It’s best to avoid caffeine and alcohol for a week prior to your stay, otherwise your detox will be that much harder—the last thing you need on a hike. Angela and Yarrow recommend cutting both out a week before your trip.
What to Bring: There’s a laundry service every day so you can pack light. The Coast Ridge will send you a full packing list; but the most important tip is to bring layers, as mornings can be cool till the sun comes up. This is Northern California so anything goes, so bring rain gear, mine luckily never got unpacked, but I was prepared. Comfort reigns over style, though I will say our group looked like an ad for Lululemon or North Face. And don't forget to update your playlist on Spotify--music definitely helped me on some of the harder hills.
Till Next Time: We all need to disconnect; to be still with ourselves for a few days, without our normal day-to-day distractions. The Coast Ridge reminds you to do that. To eat better, to move, to breathe. When you return home you’ll find you make better choices—at least for a while. You’ll feel leaner, and clearer too. Lately, I feel myself slipping back into my old habits and keep checking Coast Ridge’s schedule for next year. I guess enough time has gone by I’ve forgotten how hard the hikes are!