I Tried Nature Bathing in British Columbia for a Week — Here’s How Hiking Through the Mountains Helped Me Find Myself
This life-changing backcountry experience has guests hiking their way to wellness without caffeine, alcohol, or electronics.
I can’t pinpoint what it was exactly that made me do it. Was I overwhelmed by work? Burned out from the kids? Were my hormones out of balance, and eating too much processed food to compensate? Probably, yes — all of it. I just remember realizing, “I need a restart button.” I needed a place to get away from my day to day, to rebuild, refocus, and relocate the root of the person I had become. But I didn’t want a week of wine and lounging. I needed to clean my body; I needed to sweat, to strengthen, and I needed sleep – so much sleep.
All of this led me to the breathtaking Kootenay Mountains in British Columbia – a remote, pristine range of the Canadian Rockies, surrounding a 100-mile freshwater lake. And to the one-of-a-kind luxury fitness retreat called Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa – which is, to be crystal clear, not a spa, but dare I say, a compassionate backcountry boot camp.
Guiding about 12 to 16 clients per weeklong program, Mountain Trek differentiates itself by its deep dive into the wilderness that surrounds it. Every day guests spend three hours or more hiking mountain trails and learning how to control your breath, your steps, and how to feel powerful in your own skin.
Mornings begin at 6 a.m. with a soft knock on the bedroom door. The first day was hard to get out of bed without coffee (there is no caffeine or alcohol and digital detox is encouraged at Mountain Trek), but by day three I was up with the sun, looking out my window to watch as deer and a flock of wild turkeys passed quietly across the lawn of the lodge. After, I’d make my way downstairs to sunrise yoga, followed by a delicious breakfast prepared by chefs who specialize in local, organic, power foods.
After learning how to care for our feet, treating hot spots or problem areas, we set off. Broken into four groups, based on ability and pace preference, each traveled to five different trailheads over five days of hiking. We learned the unique elements of Alpine Fitness Trekking, a method Lead Guide and Program Director, Kirkland Shave, built the retreat around in 2000. It requires the use of Nordic trekking poles, an upright posture, and small steps.
I talked up a storm on that first hike. The next day, as we broke into groups again, a wonderful hiker from London suggested I move “up” to the next, faster-paced group. I realized then I had missed one of Mountain Trek’s tenants: on the uphill, hikers should be quiet in order to engage their natural breath, work on form, and notice when bald eagles catch thermals in the sky. The power of wilderness meditation is real at Mountain Trek, so much so, they’ve added a meditative walk on select days.
As the week progressed, the intensity of the hikes increased, but so did my strength. By the final day, I was able to tackle a high alpine trek that brought us above the treeline in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
It took a whole week in the British Columbia backcountry for me to get back in touch with nature — and back to my senses. But I did, and, as a result, I shaved a decade off my body and elevated my mind and spirit.
I also took home real tools, deep knowledge, and sensory memories of that week in the woods: the smell of damp earth beneath my feet, the sound of a river at its raging peak, dipping my sweat-soaked hat into its cold mountain runoff, and sitting next to a historic mountain graveyard for half a banana and some unsalted nuts. Turns out, these had been the luxuries I had been seeking all along.