Hiking is a great way to improve your health, fitness and experience weight loss. Hiking can destress and detox you.

The Amalfi Coast’s 4 Best Hikes

First things first, when you’re hiking the Amalfi Coast, you’re not just putting one foot in front of the other on some variety of unpaved flooring. Rather, you’re hiking historic trails, some of which connect charming villages, a large number of which cling to the mountains above the deep blue Mediterranean, and all of which make you want to high-five every passerby.

Hiking the Amalfi Coast epitomizes living “la dolce vita,” and while we’ve got it going on here in British Columbia with our dramatic mountains and clear lakes, there’s something truly magical about exploring Italy by foot. With a few trips under our belt, and many exuberant Adventure Trekkers who attest to the Amalfi Coast’s spellbinding quality, we’re ready, nay incredibly excited, to share our favorite local hikes.

How does one even begin to whittle down the list of best hikes on the Amalfi Coast? The process was not easy–each trail deserves an honorable mention–but we managed to select just four stand-out hikes based on their views, starting and ending points, history, technicality and duration. We considered the whole gamut. Our list has strong legs.  

Straight from the mouths of those who have walked the walk, here are Mountain Trek’s 4 best hikes on the Amalfi Coast.         


Path of the Gods

In particular, hiking from Praiano to Nocelle, above Positano.  

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: Outstanding views of the Mediterranean and the two Amalfi Coast towns. The Path of the Gods is a hike that recalls the incredible landscapes of Greek mythology.

Note: Because of its popularity, it can be packed with tourists, at times making it seem somewhat dangerous. It’s technical, and has lots of exposure on cliffs.

Hike Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain/loss: -400m/-1200ft

Distance: 8 km/5 mi.

Path of the Gods is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


Il Vallone delle Ferriere

Also known as: Iron Foundry Valley or Paper Mills Valley hike.

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It starts in the quaint seaside town of Ravello, which was founded in the 5th century, and runs back into the mountains, descending to the coastal town of Amalfi. The hike follows a cascading creek, and is dotted with 12-14th century remains of iron factories and paper mills.

Note: Beautiful, tall chestnut trees and rare, long leaved ferns.

Hike Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain/loss: -400m/-1,200ft

Distance: 6 km/3.7 mi.

Valle delle Ferriere Papermill Iron Foundry Hike is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


The Path of the Two Provinces

Also known as: Santa Maria del Castello

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It’s the longest and steepest climb, but a favorite because it’s barely used, and has epic views of the azure blue sea far below the limestone cliffs it sits on. The trail climbs straight up the mountain above Positano for 1800’, and descends to the village of Arolla, above Sorrento.

The first section of this trail has an elevation gain of about 800 meters to get to the Hamlet of Santa Maria del Castello.

Note: Allow for 5-6 hours of walking, as the path is steep and rocky in places.

Hike Difficulty: Challenging

Elevation gain/loss: +900m/2,900ft

Distance: 13.5 km/8.4 mi.

The Path of the Two Provinces or Santa Maria del Castello hike above Positano Amalfi Coast is one of the best hikes on the Amalfi Coast as voted by Mountain Trek


The Path of the Sirens

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It climbs through traditional garden farms growing artichokes, broccolini and olives, to a peak that gives the area’s best vantage point of the Sirens, the Greek mythological islands that housed singing divas dangerous to sailors. It is a unique walk surrounded by the Mediterranean nature, rich of historical and mythological references and breathtaking views of the two gulfs (Gulf of Naples and Gulf of Salerno).

Note: The trail is a 4-hour hike that tops out in a pine forest before descending to the village of Torca.

Hike Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 300m/900ft

Distance: 8.5 km/5.2 mi.

Path of the Sirenuse / Path of the Sirens is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


Our final vote for “Bests of the Amalfi Coast” is for Lucy, the hiking guide who showed us the ropes. She is energetic, friendly, and eager to impart her knowledge of the Amalfi Coast. To add depth to your hiking experience, we recommend bringing her along for at least one of your hiking adventures.

 

Mountain Trek offers all-inclusive, culture-rich, luxury hiking vacations to some of the most exotic locations in the world. Be sure to join us on our next adventure as we hike to places like New Zealand, Bhutan, Japan, Patagonia, Spain, and more.

Contact us to learn more.

2019 Mountain Trek Schedule Updates

As Sir Isaac Newton taught us, a body in motion stays in motion. At Mountain Trek, we believe this not only applies to the human body, but our program as well. We must constantly seek novel methods to improve the offering—that’s the only way we will continue to help you improve your health. While this often means reading hours of scientific journals, attending conferences, or consulting with some of the best doctors and practitioners in health, this also means listening intently to our previous guests. And thanks to your feedback, we’re excited to announce that the award-winning Mountain Trek program is getting even better for 2019.

Introducing Restorative Wednesday

After three full days of the Mountain Trek program, you’ve earned some well-earned R&R. Wednesday’s schedule will focus on taking the necessary time to restore, both inside and out. With a newly built bridge by Program Director (and former Park Ranger), Kirk, we will hike a wonderful trail directly from the lodge, affording ample time the rest of the day to relax, recover, recalibrate, and reflect.

New Hiking Trail—Cedar Creek Historical Trail

Hiking British Columbia

Mountain Trek has built a new bridge, opening up the Cedar Creek Historical Trail

After a bridge replacement last autumn over the cascading waters of Cedar Creek, and a reopening of the original Miner’s Trail, we are happy to offer a commute-less fitness hike direct from the lodge. Some alumni may well remember the old trail, but an additional section has been added to offer stellar views of the Purcell Mountains and shimmering Kootenay Lake. Not only is it an excellent workout for cardio improvement and fat burn, but the mining relics and expansive views make it a new winner!

Mountain Trek Hikes British columbia Fitness Retreat

Hike directly from the lodge to this vista overlooking beautiful Kootenay Lake

Cooking Classes with Chef Simon

Healthy cooking chef

Learn to cook like Chef Simon Vine

Join Chef Simon to learn new culinary skills and Mountain Trek recipes. Growing up in a mainly vegetarian household in Vancouver, Simon was exposed to a wide range of cuisines and ingredients. At Mountain Trek, Chef Simon has developed a style of his own, blending different ethnic influences while maintaining a distinctively West Coast flavor. His food is at once balanced and bold, light and intensely flavourful.

 

Mindfulness Grass Walk

Mindfulness Grass Walk for Stress Reduction

Reduce stress and increase focus by doing a mindfulness grass walk at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia, Canada

Walking Meditation is a common tool in the Buddhist tradition, where practitioners walk barefoot on the grass, bringing the mind’s attention to the mechanical placement of the foot and the sensations felt by reawakening the millions of nerves on the bottom of the feet—which have been turned off by decades of imprisonment in shoes. Brain science has shown that going barefoot fires more neurons in the brain and this practice can even reverse early onset of dementia and improve libido…not to mention help us feel like a wild child again! Join Program Director Kirk for approximately 15 minutes to explore this optional exercise.

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) Session

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia, Canada

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) can reduce stress and increase happiness

Sensoral Integration is the practice of sitting in deep nature and bringing one’s mental focus to each of the 5 senses, noticing as much information as possible. For example, what do we see close, far, peripherally, in the shadows and shapes and the various hues?… then what do we smell? This ‘dropping’ deeply into our senses is an effective practice to control stress levels when we are over stimulated through constant bombardment in our urban setting. The result is the enrichment of the ‘feel good’ hormones and lowering of our stress hormones. Join Program Director Kirk for approximately 15 minutes to explore this optional exercise.

Experience the New Schedule

If you feel like it’s not only your body composition that you’re constantly battling, but your stress levels too, it’s time you experienced the updated Mountain Trek Program. Rediscover and redefine your health.

We’d love to have you join us this year. Email us (info@mountaintrek.com) to receive an updated program schedule or to start planning your visit.

What You’ll See Throughout The Seasons Hiking In British Columbia

Spring Hiking in British Columbia

At Mountain Trek, we spend the bulk of each day outside, immersing ourselves in the unbelievably pristine mountains and lakes, and reveling in Mother Nature’s seasonal splendor. Our British Columbia program runs late April through late October and depending on which season you choose to join us, you’ll see slightly different sides of our beloved Kootenay Mountains. The guide below describes what natural beauty you’ll encounter — from temperature and greenery to the different hikes we take depending on the season. From temperate rainforests in the spring to the alpine rainbow meadows in summer, there is something to love each month at Mountain Trek.

May through June: An Explosion of Spring

In spring and early summer, Nelson, BC is warm, and we bear witness to the first blossoms in the forest. During this time, we hike mostly along the lakeshore and deep river canyons, and marvel as the melting snow off the mountain rushes down the valley, filling all the creeks to the brim. Spring explodes around us; a cacophony of birdsong, willful flowers bursting through the ground, and the rushing water off the mountain jolts everything to life.

Hiking in British Columbia in spring

July to mid-August: High Summer and a Spring Redux

As we approach high summer, the receding snows beckon us to hike higher into the alpine. For those dying to explore an alpine meadow, now is your time to come to Mountain Trek. In the mountains, we aren’t beholden to one climate — the range of altitudes provides changes in temperature. So in high summer, while we have low-humidity heat down at the Lodge, we relive spring when we hike into the mountains: alpine meadows covered in wildflowers provide a vibrant rainbow of flora, and mild temperatures imbue the area with a sense of spring. Moving from lakeshore hikes to alpine hikes, we constantly experience a state of spring-like coolness — perfect for those looking to escape the oppressive heat of summer.

Summer hiking in British Columbia

Summe hiking in British Columbia

Mid-August to September: Golden Indian Summer

As summer gives way to fall, the days are warm but not hot. July through September, we hike past tarns — alpine lakes formed through the melting of glaciers — and revel in the glacial views, as we bear witness to the last remnants of the ice age. This time of year is when the foliage begins to come alive — the perfect time for avid leaf peepers to come to Mountain Trek! We hike in the high country, where the meadows are now dotted with gold and needled trees take prominence in the forests.

Autumn hiking in British Columbia

October: Autumnal Vibrance  

In October, the growing snows chase us out of the alpines, and in these weeks we watch the deciduous forests — maple, birch, aspen, cedar, hemlocks, and conifers — turn a vibrant, stunning gold, creating a glorious green- and gold quilted panorama. The shapes and smells of autumn take root, as the nights become cooler and fall mushrooms pop up on the forest floor.

Hiking in British Columbia in Autumn.

 

The all-encompassing beauty of the Kootenays makes for a truly sublime experience. Come bask in the natural glory, as you breathe in the aromatics of the seasons and revel in the natural world as it reinvigorates your sense of vitality, rebalances your hormones, and brings you total peace and gratitude. Come to Mountain Trek to detox, relax, and completely revive your spirit. Click here to view all available dates.

Happy Hikes: Choosing and fitting your backpack

Fitting the right backpack for youOne of the keys to a happy hike is a having a well-fitting backpack. Its hard to enjoy breath-taking views and outdoor activity if you feel like you’re hunched over giving a piggyback ride, or at all in pain. Storing your water, healthy snack, an extra layer or the room to store that extra layer, and maybe even a guide book of flora or bird life in the area, among other things, a good pack is absolutely essential hiking gear. And as the spring and summer season are gearing up, so should we be with all the right gear for our outdoor pursuits.

But the choices for this essential bit of kit can be absolutely overwhelming. How do we choose what size, design and suspension system of pack, and how do we ensure it fits correctly? In beginning this important deciding process, consider what terrain you’ll be visiting, your activity, the volume of what you’ll be carrying, and approximate weight. Here is a guide to help out when selecting your travel partner for the trails.

Sizes of Pack

Different volumes (measured in Litres) of pack are available for different activities and body sizes.

The day pack (15-35 Litres) as the name suggests, is perfect for the small outing or day hike. With little structure or frame if any, your load is supported by shoulder straps. A waist belt helps to keep everything centered. The alpine pack (35-55 Litres) is the perfect size for overnight jaunts, or day trips where you may need a little more equipment. Weight here is beared a little more on the hipbelt. A backpacking pack (55 – 75 Litres) is designed for multi-day trips, these packs have an internal structure to help with support, and do take some of the weight off the shoulders/back and onto the hips. The expedition packs (75 Litres +) are again, as the name suggests, designed for serious expeditions.

Pack Construction

Your backpacks take a lot of abuse on the trail, being thrown down, hoisted up, and possibly even being used as a seat. You need to make sure your pack will stand up to the stress and will last a long while. Check for durable material, especially in high use areas on the pack; chunky, good quality zippers; and tightly stitched seams that are bar-tacked at stress points.

Suspension

The purpose of pack suspension is to comfortably transfer weight to the hips, and is comprised of several aspects of the pack. Shoulder straps should be designed to bear around 30% of your pack weight, and should be relatively firm, yet padded. In no way should the shoulder straps pinch or chafe. Your hipbelt stabilizes the whole weight of your pack by keeping it in place, and for larger packs is the main weight bearing area. Adjusting the suspension system to your body is imperative for a good fit. So how to fit your pack?

How to fit your pack

The first step to fitting your pack is determining your back or torso length. The size of pack is based, on this, and not the overall size or height of the person. Find your c7 vertebra, or the bump at the top of the spine/back of the neck. Tilting your head forward will allow you to find your c7 more easily. This is the top point of your measurement. Next, place your hands on your hips, fingers forward and thumbs back. This is the shelf upon which your pack will rest. Measure between these two points for your torso length, thereby determining your pack size; XS, S, M, L, etc. Keep in mind that each manufacturer’s sizing is different, so you want to use your torso length, not pack size after one measurement.

After determining your size of pack, put a bit of weight in the pack for sizing, maybe 10 – 20 pounds. Putting the straps on, settle the pack on your back, then secure the hipbelt directly over your hip ‘shelf’. The hipbelt pads should be snug enough that they are secure over the hip bones. Next, adjust your shoulder straps so that they are not touching your armpits, and are not pinching your neck. Secure your sternum strap. Last, have a walk around with your pack and adjust anything that feels unbalanced. A well-fitted pack will feel simply like you are a little heavier, like an extension of your own body, rather than something ‘on’ you. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t feel good in the initial stages, it definitely won’t feel good after hours on the trail. If in doubt; feel free to use the help of the knowledgeable staff at your local outdoor store!

How to pack your pack

Where weight is distributed in your pack will be huge for your body’s overall comfort and ability to last on the trail. Heaviest items should be placed closest to the back, with bulkier, lighter items on the bottom, outside, and top of the pack. Having a bottom-heavy pack will make you feel like you’re being dragged down, and a top heavy pack may make you feel like you’re about to topple over. Having those heavier items the closest to you will feel the most natural for your centre of gravity. Distributing weight evenly over the right and left sides will help a lot with your comfort too.

With these tips in mind, we hope you’ve found it helpful and motivating to get out there and hit the trail with your most important piece of equipment. Happy fitting and happy packing!

Trekking Poles: How to choose the right poles for you

hiking pools

Days are getting longer, sunnier and warmer, buds are shooting up from the Earth, the smell of Spring is in the air – it’s time to dust off your day pack, get the bikes out of the garage, buy some sunscreen…and get ready for the warm weather activities that spring and summer bring!

As we enter the upcoming hiking season, it’s important to have all the right gear to support you in having the most fun, safe, and effective workout possible. At Mountain Trek, we include trekking poles in necessary hiking gear, as do many avid hikers around the world. But like any good gear, it is so important to find what works best for you. Here, we’ll help you to choose the best hiking pole for you, by covering what features to look for in a good hiking pole. But first; why bother using them?

 

Why use hiking poles?

Why use hiking poles?

Using walking/hiking poles offers several benefits:

  • Poles provide better balance and footing, especially over slippery or uneven terrain, like when crossing streams, over loose rocks, etc.
  • During ascent, poles can add thrust, while taking pressure off the lower body, and onto the shoulders and upper back.
  • During descent, poles can significantly reduce the amount of stress on legs, hips, and joints, and reduce the possibility of injury by adding stability. Although this is particularly beneficial to those with weaker or compromised knees/ankles, reducing stress and impact to the body is certainly beneficial for everyone.
  • Poles can be used to clear away loose hanging vegetation, or can be used to scope out swampy patches or possible holes before venturing forwards.
  • In the unlikely event of an injury, a pole can be used in wilderness first aid as a splint or crutch.
  • And last but not least, using hiking poles not only reduces your perceived exertion rate by taking strain off the legs and into the arms, but increases calories burned. In a study by the Cooper Institute of Dallas, they found that using trekking poles burned up to 20% more calories compared to the same walk or hike without poles.

What to look for in hiking poles?

What features should I look for in a hiking pole?

When shopping for a hiking pole, consider the kind of terrain you will be traversing, how much weight you will have in your pack, as well as the health of your knees, ankles, hips, and joints. With this determined, you can decide if you would like to get ‘regular’ or ‘anti-shock’ poles. Anti-shock poles have a shaft that contains an anti-shock spring mechanism, softening any impact while travelling downhill. Anti-shock technology is particularly beneficial for those with sensitive knees, ankles, joints, etc., and the anti-shock mechanism can be turned off when it is not needed (for example when traveling uphill). Regular or standard poles have a simple shaft, and are a little bit lighter than antishock poles since they do not contain that mechanism. They of course are unable to provide the same level of shock absorption as an anti-shock model, but do provide the same stability.

The parts of a pole include the tip, basket, shaft (which includes or does not include the anti-shock device), locking mechanism, grip, and wrist strap. When choosing a hiking pole, consider each of these components.

The shaft’s make up will likely be either high-grade aluminum or carbon fibre. A pair of high-grade aluminum poles will weigh around 20 ounces, and are very durable and flexible, only breaking very rarely. Carbon fibre poles will weigh less on average, about 15 ounces, and are also very durable, but when under extreme stress, can shatter. Keep in mind that both the length and the circumference of the shaft varies as well.

Pole tips are usually made out of carbide or steel, and additionally, one has the option of getting a rubber tip cover. These protect the life of the tips, as well as protecting your pack when the poles are stowed, and are better for harder surfaces, like pavement.

Locking mechanisms allow you to determine the length of your pole, whether you’re using them out on the trail, or have them stowed in your luggage en route to your hiking destination. Two or three interlocking sections make up your pole, and if you’re very tall or short, it’s important to check the full extension /compression length of the pole. Most poles have a ‘twist and lock’ system, like a form of clamp. Whatever the mechanism, ensure it’s durable and dependable – you’d hate to have this fail on you at a critical moment. Regular maintenance through cleaning and drying of the separate components of your hiking poles can help with your locking mechanism’s life span and reliability.

Both the grip shape and material vary, so this is a very important reason to test drive your poles before buying, and see what angle and density is most comfortable to you. Grips can be angled forward or completely upright, and some can even extend down the shaft, known as an ‘extended grip’, useful for brief uphill portions. Materials for the grip can include but are not limited to: cork (absorbs vibration well, doesn’t slip with sweat, conforms well to hand shape), foam (absorbs sweat, most malleable) and rubber (can chafe hands in warm weather but insulates from cold, good shock absorption).

Now that you’ve chosen your hiking poles, please ensure you have the correct technique to keep you safe and supported (or come to Mountain Trek and we’ll show you how! You’ll also get lots of practice!) Have fun out there on the trail – supported, less prone to injury, and burning more calories – with your new hiking poles!

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Q&A with Kirkland Shave, Program Director at Mountain Trek – Part II

Kirkland ShaveIn this sixth installment of our Q&A series we bring you part two of our interview with Kirkland Shave, Mountain Trek’s intrepid Program Director, hiking guide, and esteemed lecturer. In our last post, we left off with Kirkland discussing the reasons behind Mountain Trek’s high guest return rate (30-40%).

Kirkland: I had this expectation that once they (guests) come, they’ll get it and they’ll go home and they’ll change. I was so naïve. And then I realized we’re more like a trainer for an Olympic athlete, they still need tweaking and adjusting.

MT: And the tweaking and adjusting is better or easier done back at Mountain Trek?

It’s just so hard out there in a dominant work culture for people to be able to adjust their life to keep a regimen of fitness, nutrition and overall healthy living going all the time. People need to start by incorporating one thing and turn that one thing into a healthy habit. Through my research on will power and habit making I’ve come to realize that habits are formed and work better incrementally. Very few people are at that threshold where they’re ready to just grab onto new information, or habits, or lifestyle changes, and go.

The majority of guests will go home from Mountain Trek and change an eating habit – they’ll start eating breakfast every morning, for instance. And then they’ll return, maybe a year later and when they get back home they’ll start walking after dinner or join a yoga studio. And it’s these incremental habits that they weave into their lifestyle that then become a tipping point that changes their life.

It’s really easy for us to slip into old and sometimes unhealthy habits isn’t it?

It totally is. Up until the 1970s most of us still worked with our bodies. It’s only been a very short time that we’re not able to get our movement needs through work. And with expanded work hours and commute times, it’s almost impossible to find the time to exercise. In the meantime, Mountain Trek is here for people to come in, gain some insights learn about healthy choices.

And rebuild or reboot a healthy lifestyle from there?

Absolutely. Some returning guests come for a reboot and some come for a deeper immersion – a couple of weeks where they can really anchor certain patterns and help set up new habits.

Would you say most guests come to Mountain Trek for weight loss?

Hmm…you could say consciously most are but underneath that many guests are coming because they know that something in the big picture is not working. Weight gain is often a symptom of stress or chronic lack of movement and exercise. Everybody that’s come here has gained weight and lost weight at different times in their lives. People don’t come here and think, okay I’ve got to lose ten pounds just to fit into a wedding dress next week. It’s more to start to create a new, healthy direction for themselves, with the bonus or motivator of some significant change in their weight.

Is there an overall Mountain Trek experience, some special thing that sets you apart from other fitness and weight loss programs?

What I think sets us apart from all the other choices out there around health and weight loss retreats or spas, is our significant immersion in a complex natural world.

Kirkland Shave, Program DirectorWhat exactly do you mean by complex nature?

There’s a lot of research out there about what’s being coined, “the green brain.” This research states that when someone is out in nature there is a drop in the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in the feel-good hormones oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. They bathe the brain and help fight that edgy, depressive, vigilant state that cortisol puts us in. This happens by being in, or even just seeing nature. Even having a picture on your office wall of jungle or complex nature creates a sense of fascination, lowers cortisol and increases oxytocin.

Would you say complex nature is Mountain Trek’s secret ingredient?

Yes! At Mountain Trek we’re outside four hours a day in a complex, ever-changing natural environment. And then our gym and yoga studio and even the drives to the trailheads, all look out at beautiful, green, abundant nature. This is definitely our secret ingredient. Other retreats have gyms, they do yoga, they offer detox, calorie control or sleep health, but they don’t have as complex a natural environment that creates a high level of fascination and hormone adjustment as we do.

How many staff work at Mountain Trek and would you consider them top in their field?

We have about 30 staff and I’m definitely prejudiced when I say they’re top in their field for where we live. But the unique thing about our staff is that they’re not in their 20s or 30s and fresh out of a university health and fitness program. Our staff are mature mountain people.

What do you mean by ‘mountain people’?

People that have chosen to live in the Nelson area for long periods of time because of lifestyle. They ski, mountain bike, hike and climb. They live and breathe being in nature and living a healthy lifestyle. We all eat more plant foods than meat. Some of us are vegetarians. Some have their own yoga practices. So the staff that I’m able to pool here are all highly trained in their disciplines, they all have wilderness first aid certificates, and they all live the type of lifestyle that we try to infuse our guests with.

I know you’re a busy guy, Kirkland, so one last question. Are some guests unable to make it through the program and if so why?

No. There isn’t anybody who can’t make it through. I’ll be honest, there have been one or two that have left prematurely because they didn’t feel that they could make it through, as much as we tried. And they usually leave after the first day because it’s too much of a shock or they’re coming to stop smoking or something that they just weren’t ready to do. Why we have two staff to every one guest is to ensure that each individual person’s needs are met. Even if someone hasn’t exercised in eight years and they’re carrying an extra eighty pounds, we accommodate them.

Okay, great. Thanks for your time Kirkland and good luck with the rest of the season at Mountain Trek.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Q&A with Kirkland Shave, Program Director of Mountain Trek – Part I

Kirkland Shave Program Director Mountain TrekIn the fifth instalment of our Q&A series we veer slightly from the path and, instead of interviewing a Mountain Trek guest, we thought we’d give you a peek behind the curtain and sit down for a chat with our very own Kirkland Shave.

Kirkland is a Nelson, BC, resident and has been Program Director and Manager of Mountain Trek since 2004. Not only is he a hiker extraordinaire he also plays bass guitar in his son’s band and he’s one of Mountain Trek’s most popular, poignant and engaging lecturers.

Hi Kirkland. Thanks for taking time out of your busy Mountain Trek schedule to talk with us. Let’s start with your professional and personal background and what led you to Mountain Trek?

A culmination of a variety of work and life experiences led me here. Let me back up a bit though. As a teen I started looking at alternative ways of living. I started meditating, I became a vegetarian, and I started shifting away from team sports to outdoor recreation activities. I did martial arts, yoga, and later I became a yoga instructor. I have a teaching degree and a degree in Anthropology, and for a long time I was a local British Columbia Park Ranger. Following that I started running my own wilderness and primitive skills school. Then, about 11 years ago, the original owner at Mountain Trek hired me to come out and teach these wilderness skills one day a week for a few summers. From there, because of my ranger and yoga experience, I became a hiking guide and yoga instructor at Mountain Trek.

Soon thereafter, the owner asked a dietician, kinesiologist and myself to build a weight loss program. Back around 2000 the obesity epidemic was in the news a lot so we got rid of our recreation program at Mountain Trek and started this weight loss program. But through our own knowledge base we basically turned it into a metabolism-raising program with weight loss being a by-product. It became popular very quickly and just took off from there.

hike3

Would you say that your job with Mountain Trek has been your most fulfilling one?

Absolutely because I’ve always loved nature and working outside and now I get to take people into nature… and I get to introduce people to a healthy consciousness about their body and what it means to possess emotional well-being. I’m also trained as a life coach so this is where I can focus in on what’s stressing people and how this affects their well being.

You love working with people in the outdoors, and the Mountain Trek lodge is certainly surrounded by breath-taking nature. What would you say is the profile of the average Mountain Trek guest?

They are all primarily urban, corporate North Americans. About 75% women and 25% men. The average age for a woman would be 42 and for men about 50. Men tend to be a little bit slower in paying attention to their body or health concerns, whereas women are a bit more finely attuned that way.

Are the guests already familiar with the great outdoors?

Most of them have not hiked before. I would consider them hard working professionals and traditionalists. And by traditionalist I mean they don’t regularly eat tofu, for example, or practice yoga. In fact 90% of our guests have never done yoga before. So we’re taking these professionals and opening the door, so-to-speak, so they can see other ways of living that promote more health and longevity for them…ways of living that they can weave into their lifestyle.

Does this mean that relatively fit young men and women need not go to Mountain Trek?

Not necessarily. What happens is that through sendentarism, sitting at work, commuting in a car, etc, our bodies move into a catabolic state – we become slower and suffer chronic inflammation that affects our hormones. This domino effect on all aspects of our health starts to build as we age so that people in their 40s and 50s start to feel the cumulative effects of this sedentary work life more so.

People in their 20s and 30s still have an anabolic metabolism. But even with this age group we’re noticing that the catabolic shift is happening at a younger and younger age. People come out of university and get right into a job where they tend to sit all day. We gain weight, have chronic sleep issues, less energy and vitality and on and on to worse things like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid problems.

So, to answer your question, we could target younger people but they don’t quite see the need as acutely as someone who’s a little bit older. Nor do they typically have the money. You know, it’s a health investment and a lot of 20 or 30 year olds would rather go on a trip to Paris for a week or two…

Or Thailand…

Yeah, or Thailand.

A one or two week program at Mountain Trek is rewarding but it takes dedication. People seek out the program not only to lose weight and change their metabolism but also to kickstart an entire lifestyle makeover. That can be emotionally challenging. Do your guests ever come back, or is once enough for them?

Actually, we get a big return rate – 30% to 40% are returnees in any given week. Going back about six years though, I thought something about the program was failing. I wondered why our guests kept coming back. I had this expectation that once they came, they’ll get it and they’ll go home and they’ll change. But now I realize it’s important that people “check in” with us regularly, and get back on track. They need what I call “Mountain Trek’s magic ingredient.”

In part 2 of our Q&A with Kirkland Shave, we find out the reason for Mountain Trek’s high return rate, discover whether guests have ever left the retreat without completing the program and learn more about the retreat’s “magic ingredient.” 

Staff Picks: Mountain Trek’s Best Kootenay Hikes

Spring Hiking Health Program

One of the key features of the Mountain Trek experience is nature, pure and simple. Our beautiful lodge in Ainsworth, British Columbia, is surrounded by the the majestic, snow-capped peaks of the Purcell and Selkirk Mountain ranges replete with ghost towns, mossy trails and clear-flowing streams that feed the stunning, 100-kilometre-long Kootenay Lake.

When it comes to healthy living, our philosophies are rooted in nature as well – from our locally sourced, organic meals that nourish your body to the core content of our inspiring lectures, to the many stunning, butt-toning hikes we go on everyday.

So, as homage to the abundant nature that surrounds, inspires and feeds us, we offer up the favourite hikes that our expert, certified guides love taking you on. These hikes are meant to challenge and motivate you, get your heart rate up and set your spirit soaring.

Kirkland Shave @ mountain trekKirkland’s favourite: Monica Meadows

There are fewer trails in the world that offer such relatively easy access for such a great pay off. Monica Meadows, located in the Purcell Mountain Range, is one of the most stunning locations in southern British Columbia with its vast meadows, shallow lakes, vibrant larches, gorgeous alpine flowers and views of the surrounding peaks and ridges. It’s a haven of calm beauty encircled by rocky mountains and an eight-kilometre hike from the trailhead, through cool forests and along boulder-strewn pathways gets you there in no time so we can rest, enjoy the views and even go swimming before our return.

Jeannie Dwyer mountain trekJeanie’s pick: Idaho Peak

This is a moderate hike that takes you to some of the best views and most abundant wildflowers in southern British Columbia. We begin our hike at the old mining ghost town of Sandon, then wind our way up old mining trails and logging paths, before reaching the viewpoint. Once there you’ll enjoy gazing down at the town of New Denver on Slocan Lake below, as well as breathtaking views of the New Denver Glacier and the entire Valhalla Mountain range to the west, Kokanee Glacier to the southeast, and Mt. Cooper to the northeast.

Allen Rollin Mountain TrekAllen’s favourite: Evans Creek

From the trailhead at Slocan City (population 300) you’ll hike on the undulating, moss-lined trail along the shoreline of Slocan Lake, treating yourself to spectacular rocky vantage points, special pockets of flora, and prime swimming spots along the way. Round trip, the Evans hike is approximately 15 km (18 if we make it to Evans Lake) and includes a lot of Ponderosa pine, juniper, white cedar and fir trees befitting the drier climate zone. There are some fun rock ledges to clamber out onto and beautiful views up and down the lake. Knowing that the surrounding Valhalla Park and it’s majestic peaks were named after Norse Gods makes the Evans Creek hike that much more mythic.

Chris rodman @ mountain TrekChris’s choice: Galena Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Slocan Valley. Dating back to the glory days of the Silvery Slocan, the Galena Trail follows the route of a railway line that once connected the silver mines of Sandon with sternwheeler service from Nakusp to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline at Revelstoke. The rail beds were abandoned over 100 years ago and Mother Nature has reclaimed much of the existing corridors. This historic trail takes us along this old railway line, past the ruins of abandoned mines and ghost towns like Alamo and, occasionally, we’ll take the two-person cable car crossing over Carpenter Creek along the way.

Cathy Grierson Mountain Trek2Cathy’s best bet: Kokanee Glacier Park

Located just west of the Mountain Trek Lodge, the beautiful Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park offers an incredible alpine experience with very little effort. The park is one of the oldest in the province and boasts no less than three glaciers, including Kokanee, Caribou, and Woodbury, which feed over 30 lakes and are the headwaters of many creeks. On one of our typical hikes we’ll visit two of those lakes, Gibson and Kaslo, with water so clear you’ll be able to watch Rainbow and Cutthrout trout swimming by. The trail is, round trip, about 14 kilometres and guests will enjoy views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers, sub-alpine flower meadows and, depending on the season, we’ll see eagles, ptarmigan, pikas, marmots, mountain goats and feast on wild huckleberries.

KristaVanEe @mountain trekKrista’s Favourite: Pilot Peninsula

Pilot Peninsula Provincial Park is the safest harbour on Kootenay Lake and is perfect for swimming and hiking. The 12-kilometre trail we typically take skirts the shoreline of Kootenay Lake and offers multiple pebble beaches for relaxing and enjoying the views. In fact, Pilot Peninsula is a great start to our week as it’s very flat, with hardly any elevation gain or loss, and the woodland tracks are in excellent shape. We won’t bag any peaks on this trail but it’s still an incredible foray into some stunning BC wilderness that includes tall stands of aspen, colourful wildflowers, calm coves and, around every corner, views of the surrounding peaks.

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Your votes are in – we’re going to JAPAN!

Cherry Blossoms in JapanRecently Mountain Trek asked our alumni and Facebook fans to vote on where we should go for our overseas hiking adventure in 2014: Japan or Italy?

The voting was heated at times with people making great cases for both locations. “Japan? Seriously? How could I NOT do that? You got my vote,” wrote Gina. But Penny wasn’t convinced, saying: “Italia…naturalmente!” There were even a few comments, including one by Giorgio that said, “Just do both!” Ultimately, though, the numbers began favouring one destination over the other and, finally, with just a 7% lead in votes, Japan was chosen as the location of our Spring 2014 adventure.

Thank you to everyone who voted. We’ve now started looking into various possibilities for hiking adventures in the “land of the rising sun.” For more information, please visit our Japan 2014 page.

Incidentally, for those who may not know, every Spring Mountain Trek offers off-the-beaten-path adventure treks, rich in cultural and historical significance. These hiking vacations, although not part of our regular fitness and weight loss program, involve hiking every day which will always help to increase your fitness level and boost your metabolism. With three different sessions, suited to three different fitness levels, you’ll always trek at a pace that is comfortable and perfect for your ability. After you kickstart your fitness and weight loss at Mountain Trek, treat yourself to an adventure vacation and explore some of the most celebrated regions in the world: in 2011 we hiked up to Everest Base Camp in Nepal; in 2012 we hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain; and earlier this year we explored The Peruvian Andes. For 2014, join us in the fascinating and beautiful island nation of Japan.