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Freelance Travel Journalist | Travel Writing by Cynthia Dial

Mountain Trek Hiking Spa: Encore! Return to British Columbia

Oct. 12th, 2010 | Comments 0 | Make a Comment   
Luxury Resorts: A little backstory. I visited British Columbia's Mountain Trek Hiking Spa years ago, spent a week trekking the Canadian Rockies and left with enviable results. But when I recently slipped on an outfit, convinced my cleaners (yet again) was responsible for its ill fit, I knew it was time for a tune-up.

So, to Mountain Trek I returned.

With a six-year-older body and a metabolism 2,190 days closer to its expiration date (yes, I multiplied), I had doubts. Would a similar routine have similar results? Moreover, would this older version of me be physically amenable to the rigorous routine?

Thus, I decided to compare the visits - divulging the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Here goes:

Day 1 - Fall, 2004: I'm anxious. A mini body-check upon arrival, complete with weight, measurements, body composition and more, indicates elevated blood pressure. Typically my BP is low, so I know my nerves have gotten the best of me . . . because I'm no hiker. I'm a daily walker, whose closet is replete with stilettos (not hiking boots). My fear is simple: Am I out of my element?

Day 1 - Fall, 2010: I'm excited and ready to 'reform,' but a bit nervous about what awaits. Memory has a tendency to whitewash; yet I recall Mountain Trek as a significant challenge. "Tomorrow things start in earnest," says orientation guide Jonny. "When you're here, you're in. But I will tell you . . . everyone who walks through our doors loses weight." Let's just say, he had me at 'hello.'

The changes are impressive: the food is tastier (still 900-1,200 daily calories, but no longer predominately vegetarian); there's a new massage wing, enhanced by an infrared sauna and steam room (for detox) and the routine has been modified to guarantee long-term results and a greater fat loss. As before, days include morning yoga, four-hour hikes, lifestyle/fitness fireside chats and a generous smattering of therapeutic massages. But now there's more - cardio, strength-training and a detox regimen each evening.

Best description: a luxurious hiking-focused, boot-camp style of retreat designed for those ready to take fitness seriously.

Day 3 - Fall, 2004: As always, we review the day's hike, weather, how to dress, concerns and questions over breakfast. I like the intimacy of a small group (our co-ed gang of 16 hits the max). And the 1:4 guide-to-guest ratio translates to continual one-on-one opportunities; a guide is always with you on the trail and available off the trail.

I've never practiced yoga. In truth, I know very little about it; but find it a soothing morning wake-up. And my hiking concerns have vanished. The various groups (typically four) accommodate those with addictive energy, as well as fledgling trail-goers. My newly-developed secret: Put one foot in front of the other until the view is nothing but sky.


Day 3 - Fall, 2010: It's comforting that many of the well-credentialed Mountain Trek team remain - Kirk, Canadian park ranger and certified life coach; Jeff, registered dietitian; Cathy, avalanche/ski patroller and wilderness first aid instructor and Hélène, 10-plus-year trail guide. And adding to the team is JP, a veteran holistic practitioner.

Having practiced yoga since my last visit, I look forward to the 6:30 a.m. class. Today's extra bonus: taking the Kootenay Lake Ferry to our Pilot Point Peninsula hike.


The heart of the lodge is a sunken living area with a stone fireplace surrounded by couches that make you want to stay. It's where several of our group of 12 collect each evening drinking tea and forging friendships.

The setting is pristine: a luxury lodge tucked into the Purcell Mountains with an uninterrupted view of Kootenay Lake and a natural nature buzz (bears, deer, you name it). It's this serene scene/final results combo that triggers an impressive repeat factor, including a celeb clientele (typically in residence to shape up for an upcoming role).

Day 5 - Fall, 2004: This week dispels the belief that exercise is indulgent; I'm committed to stepping up my back-home exercise program. Downside: It's not that I'm hungry, but I'm not completely satisfied after meals. Only two days to go, yea!

Day 5 - Fall, 2010: The food is deliciously deceptive (and it's low-cal?). Example: cedar-plank grilled salmon with berry compote. I don't long for foods typically craved. In my venti, low-fat, decaf world, a surprising addiction has become a meal of fresh, organic ingredients.

I'm convinced I was helped with today's Lower Buchanan hike (a long, uphill trek of switchbacks) by my six-year-ago inclusion of elevated hikes into my daily routine. And the trail lunch was with purpose - eating in silence to better notice the taste, texture, everything about the meal. Two more days: I'm excited, but I'm going to miss it.


It's a low voltage atmosphere - one with no smoking, no alcohol, no caffeine, no television, no drama. And it's addictive. The private bedrooms/bathrooms are small, but all are comfy. And perks are plentiful: daily laundry service, boot dryers to keep boots toasty till you slip into them and a warm, bubbling outdoor Jacuzzi upon each return from the trails. Lori, a fellow guest with Four Seasons Hotels compares Mountain Trek's philosophy to the prestigious hotel group - best described as a sincere at-your-service attitude.

Day 8 - Fall, 2004: I feel great, and I'm proud of my hiking endeavors, though I'm in the last of four groups. Yesterday's final trek was Kokanee Glacier. What a beautiful treat - over streams, through meadows and around boulders. This morning's check-out/weigh-out was a treat as well - a five-pound weight loss.

Day 8 - Fall, 2010: A wonderful surprise was a repeat visit to Kokanee Glacier for yesterday's last hike. I remember it fondly and am thrilled that I've graduated to the second group - not bad for a six-year-later return. Today's results aren't bad either - three pounds, three inches and a greater percentage of body fat than my earlier visit. And as a 5-foot, previously 111-pound woman, color me 'happy.'

I'm not typically one for the melodramatic, but in this case I'll make an exception. Heed my advice and run for your life to Mountain Trek.




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