Katie Arnoldi, a critically-acclaimed American author based in Southern California, experienced a week at Mountain Trek last July. She and I did the program together, and I was able to witness, first-hand, how much the program changed her. Almost a year later, I sat down with Katie to learn more about Mountain Trek’s effect on her daily outlook.
Mountain Trek attracts all sorts for all sorts of reason. I, for one, chose to do the program for hormonal imbalance reasons. What was your thought process in signing up for the retreat?
I signed up for Mountain Trek on a whim. I’d been in France for three weeks, eating and drinking everything in sight, and I came home feeling fat, unmotivated and unhealthy. Years ago, I’d been to the Ashram in California and I enjoyed my experience there. I found Mountain Trek on the internet and saw that they ran a similar program, and so I decided to head up to Canada to lose five pounds. That was my conscious motive for going. In retrospect, there was a much deeper reason for my need to take a week off and just focus on myself. 2017-18 was a very tough year, both professionally and personally, and I had kind of lost the beat. I was 59 and I really needed to get back in touch with my priorities and set some new goals.
From the airplane to arriving at the lodge, what was the story going through your head when you started your journey to the lodge?
It’s an easy flight from LA up to Spokane. The shuttle driver came and found me in the baggage claim area before I even had time to look for him. It was 100% stress-free. I expected a wide range of age and fitness levels, and that’s pretty much what I saw as I walked down the isle of the shuttle bus, sizing up my fellow campers. No problem, I thought. Piece of cake, I told myself. I was feeling pretty confident as I worked my way back, and maybe even smug, until I passed this glowing, uber-athletic, ultra-buff, couple in their 20s. What the heck were they doing here? They were perfectly fit and way, way too young. I looked at them and my heart sank. How on earth could I keep up with a couple of specimens like that? I found my seat at the back of the bus, looked out the window and tortured myself with worry on the entire beautiful drive to Mountain Trek. What had I gotten myself into? I was going to slow everybody down. I didn’t belong here. Maybe I should just head home now and save everyone a lot of trouble. Silly, silly me.
That “glowing” couple was my husband and me, which is ironic because I was a mess, hormonally, and my husband had recently come out of a 10-day stay in hospital after having surgery on his collapsed lung. I suppose this is a good reminder we all enter the Mountain Trek program for different reasons, and in different physical states. What was your experience during the program?
Mountain Trek is not a competitive program, and the instructors/guides are fabulous. They split everyone into four groups for the hikes, so you can choose how hard you want to work on any given day, and you can change your mind, mid hike! You can start out in a fast group and drop back to a slow group and no one cares. If you need to take a break or skip a class, go for it. You decide your own pace. It’s fantastic. Of course they push you, but only within your personal limitations. I never felt like I had to prove anything, and I was really grateful for that. My experience was based on my needs. The rooms are comfortable. The food was fantastic, and I didn’t feel deprived. I did get caffeine withdrawal headaches, so I plan to knock off the coffee a couple weeks prior to my next visit this summer, but that was my only negative.
I thought I entered the program for nutrition, but sleep ended up being the biggest game-changer for me. Which of Mountain Trek’s pillars of balanced living–sleep, detox, nutrition, fitness, destress–did you gain the most from?
I was the 1992 Southern California Bodybuilding Champion, and I thought I knew everything about nutrition, detox and fitness, but I went into the program with an open mind and was surprised by how much I didn’t know. I learned something important at every lecture. Mountain Trek teaches a very commonsense approach to living with practical tools that are easy to incorporate into everyday life. I came home with a new set of priorities about my sleep habits, and I started meditating as a way to destress. It’s subtle, but I made some significant changes to the way I approach my overall health, and I feel a lot better as a result of my time at the retreat. I’m happier. And those five pounds are still gone.
I still think about the fabulous post-hike foot soaks we all did while sitting in the living room. What’s your favorite memory of Mountain Trek?
I’m not going to lie: the massages are excellent and I loved the sauna, hot tub and cold plunge. It felt great to relax after working hard all day. The setting is beautiful and so peaceful. The staff is incredible—smart, funny, and inspirational. It’s all wonderful.
Has Mountain Trek changed the trajectory of your life?
I think that taking a week off to just focus on oneself—physical health, feelings, goals, relationships, expectations—is a great luxury. For me, that week was hugely productive and therapeutic. I plan to do an annual visit to Mountain Trek, and I’ve recommended the program to most of my friends.
Katie will be returning to Mountain Trek this summer to continue on her path to optimal health. If you see her around the lodge, say hi, and ask her about living in Malibu with a famous painter of a husband, Charles Arnoldi.