A New Year 2021 trip to The Ranch Malibu was much needed to recover from a most toxic year. I have visited the hiking, plant based, mind/body/spirit retreat once a year for the past three. My first visit was in 2018 – raw from the death of my husband. Then in 2019 I participated in The Ranch 4.0, The Ranch Malibu’s mini version based out of The Four Seasons Westlake Village, recuperating from foot surgery and the half year long staph infection and further surgeries that resulted from it. Now at the tail end of yet another torturous year, for everyone, of global pandemic and political and social upheaval, I’m back to detox from the repercussions… if that is even possible. Kicking off 2021 at The Ranch is the only way I knew I was guaranteed to bring my best self to what I could only pray would be a better future. On New Year’s Eve I didn’t order takeout food and watch TV like I had done the majority of 2020 already. Instead I engulfed myself in nature, mental discipline, physical endurance, and some major self-care.
The Ranch Malibu spans 200 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains and offers spacious grounds and open-air common areas that naturally lend themselves to new Covid-19 protocols. They re-opened in July 2020, after the initial closures in March, following social distancing rules and practicing enhanced health and safety precautions for their guests and staff. Ranch Protection Kits are provided for each guest that includes a travel mask, Ranch bandana and hand sanitizer. Guests and staff are expected to wear masks in interior common areas, yoga and during massages. During hikes and while outdoors, when properly distanced, masks are optional.
The Ranch believes that health is the ultimate luxury. Their program is dedicated to creating a safe and sacred place for personal awareness and life transformation. Through guided fitness, wellness support and plant based/gluten-free nutrition, their immersive programs allow guests to detoxify their bodies in a healthy, sustainable way while getting back to basics in nature. Guests unplug from their lives and recalibrate the mind and body through a weeklong results-oriented health program in Malibu, California with a strict, “no-options” philosophy.
Limited to 19 guests each session, their highly knowledgeable staff tends to your every need and is trained in all aspects of fitness and rehabilitation to support and nurture while guiding you to achieve personal goals. The Ranch Malibu, nestled in nature with no distractions in the Santa Monica Mountains, provides the perfect setting to calm the mind and focus on your mental and physical health. Set on a historic working ranch three miles above the Pacific Ocean, the sprawling grounds are designed to be rustic, yet refined, and features an open-air kitchen and great room, certified organic garden, pool and hot tub, Buddha Barn yoga, and massage “village”.
Whether you are a solo traveler, couple or group, The Ranch Malibu guests participate together in an active daily schedule consisting of 6 hours of low impact exercise. Following a varied 4-hour hiking excursion each morning, guests enjoy lunch, an afternoon fitness class, restorative yoga and a daily massage. To ensure proper distancing, hiking groups are staggered and all stretching, fitness and yoga classes are held in smaller numbers. The intense physical regimen is complemented by a 1,400 calorie-a-day organic, plant-based diet. The program also includes a mid-week 60-minute sound bath, a cooking class and tour of their onsite, certified organic garden. Bod-pod body fat analysis is included in the program and pre and post-program cholesterol testing and cryotherapy are offered at an additional fee.
To assist in calming the mind, their comfort-chic accommodations do not include televisions and they recommend disconnecting from your electronic devices to further benefit your mental health. For those that need to stay connected, they ask that you limit usage of your devices to your private room equipped with Wi-Fi. Following the daily fitness schedule, you retreat to one of 19 private cottages, each beautifully decorated with reclaimed wood floors, limestone bathrooms, and linen-covered queen and king-sized beds. The calming colors and beautiful aesthetic of your private room adds to your relaxation and supports a restful night’s sleep.
I had tried getting back in the habit of hiking my neighborhood hills and doing a little yoga since returning from shooting a movie in Malta, a group of islands in the central Mediterranean, between Sicily and the North African coast. It was an amazing experience making Love on the Rock due out in 2021. However, it was also a decadent trip of over indulgence in most everything you could think of including Mediterranean meat and cheese platter dinners, late night winding down with cast and crew, and extra espressos on set all day. My sleep was whacked from jet leg, travel anxiety, constant Covid-19 testing, and night shoots. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful to have been able to do what I love and work as an actress in a movie in these crazy times in a gorgeous place where Covid-19 had been under control. It was an absolute dream to explore the ancient cities and breathtaking islands on my days off. Malta is an amazing place with beautiful, kind people and an intoxicatingly vibrant energy. It was also it was exhausting.
After testing negative throughout the trip, shoot, and now back in the states, I was grateful to be able to do some social distance visiting with family for the holidays. Though the rush of it all, only to be put back on stay at home orders, left me depleted. After such a high of an adventure I was back to the low of lockdown. I started to fall into despair and did not have motivation to do much of anything except order copious amounts of Thai food and watch Netflix on the couch. I was still not back on a regular sleep schedule and workouts were sporadic at best. I knew I needed a re-set. I didn’t want to travel far after just returning from the ends of the earth. So a short drive to The Ranch Malibu was the perfect choice. I knew what I was getting myself into and it felt comfortably like heading back to my happy place. I was not going let 2020 beat me. It had been a roller coaster of a year and I didn’t want to go off the rails. I ached to stay on track for more than a few weeks at a time. A healthy lifestyle must become a habit, not a Kamikaze thrill ride of detox just to re-tox, even if the planet is spiraling out of control. I drove to Malibu from my Eastside L.A. bungalow where I had semi-prepped the week before doing a little hiking in the Hollywood Hills and dog walking around the block. I arrived to a welcome committee of staff that I knew by names and faces, even behind the masks, as it was my third time with many of them. I immediately warned them I had not properly prepared and would be easing my way into the program.
Day one was lovely with a welcome smoothie and tour of the lush grounds and organic garden. I settled into my calming cabin before a mild 4-mile, on property, warm up for the week hike. I strolled by where the fires ravaged the hills in late 2018 leaving charred trees as evidence of nature’s ferocity. The former gym was literally melted, kettle bells and all, by the firestorm. Gratefully the main house, cabins, yoga studio (temporarily doubling as a fitness room) was not touched. After the hike we had an early and later seating of a delicious introductory dinner. It was not all 19 of us at one table as it used to be. Now we sat spread out 6 feet a part at 2 different times. Communal has new rules in this day and age but the food was just as tasty as I remembered. Inspired by nature, The Ranch Malibu’s artfully prepared, organic plant-based cuisine is a key component of their results-driven approach to health and fitness. The Ranch team has been cooking with plant proteins for more than 20 years and is passionate about offering meals with an element of surprise. The nutrient rich food fuels your active days, promotes weight loss and builds a healthier mind and body. Using ingredients sourced from their onsite certified organic garden and local farms, their chefs are constantly adjusting the menu, based on what’s in season. Offering innovative, plant-based takes on classic comfort foods, favorite meals of guests include warm spinach and zucchini lasagna prepared with marinara sauce and nut-based ricotta cheese, gluten-free pizzas with an ever changing list of toppings and sauces, their signature Burrito Bowl, and a hearty Portobello steak.
I was exhausted and appreciative of some rest time before fitness. The workout space was airy and in small groups so we were able to social distance. I had not lifted a weight in months so the first days were challenging but doable with the very efficient, fun and fast paced trainer. Then, much to my delight, it was time for was a visit to massage village. Even masked up the deep tissue massage was one of the best I’ve ever had. A gentle yoga class rounded out my afternoon before dinner of vegan chili and a warm inviting bed. I was told that umbrellas wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the week. God I hoped so. I was ready for some Southern California sun. If it rained again I was sleeping in and getting a double massage.
I woke in the cold, dark, but not wet thank God, morning and mustered myself to breakfast with my gear. After a little breakfast of avocado toast and tomatoes we loaded into the vans free from the pesky rain. As the sun began to rise and the first song on the driver’s play list was:
I Can See Clearly Now
“I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna’ be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It’s gonna’ be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Bright, bright sunshiny day.”
It indeed it turned out to be a beautiful, brisk, sunshiny day perfect for hiking the Ray Miller Trail in the La Jolla Canyon section of Pt. Mugu State Park. The trail is named after Ray Miller, “Guardian of the Canyon,” who was the first official California State Park Camp Host, having volunteered from March 1, 1979 until his death on April 28, 1989. I had been on the trail on my last visit to The Ranch and remembered it was one of my favorite all time climbs. With the ocean on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other it was pristine vistas galore. The water was as blue as the sky and the fragrances of the sea and sagebrush more pronounced after the rains. All was well in my world and I was going to take my time soaking it all in. I let my group trod on ahead as I stopped at the first overlook to take photo. At the next vast view I made an insta video. At the next I stopped to meditate on the Ocean for a few minutes. Even if it was just metaphorically so, it felt as if the rain had washed away another layer of muck, that had been sticking to my skin, from a terrible year, and sun had come out as a ray of hope. I was not in a hurry to soldier on. I was going to enjoy the journey.
“I am open and receptive to all of the good and abundance of the universe,” I declared with arms stretched wide on the top of the world. “I am ready to release old habits that no longer serve me and replace them with new ones that do,” I exclaimed out loud to the Pacific below. “I am willing to take on 2021 as the best me I can be.” On the mountain, these intentions felt possible, real and energized. In the days, weeks and months ahead I will see how long these New Year’s resolutions last. At least I had a peaceful, easy feeling today. At the halfway point on this in and out trail we all stopped in our tracks to have our packed snack and then head back down. I jogged some of downslopes, full of vigor and in good spirits, carefree of the uncertain year ahead.
Before getting back to reality, I still had four more days of The Ranch Malibu bliss including challenging hikes, healthy food, nice people, yoga, fitness and recovery massage. As the full Cold Moon rose in the dark skies to light the way back to my cabin after dinner, I made a wish that I could sustain this feeling of contentment and accomplishment and not get sucked back into in despair upon my return to a looming safer at home order. In that moment I decided not to worry about the future but simply savor the rest of my stay.
After going gently into the first few hikes I felt eager and not too sore to push myself. The perfect place to take it up a notch was Serrano Canyon. It was a roller coaster of a trail beginning with a downhill into the valley. A magnificent moonset/sunrise start let me know it was going to be a magical day. The ground was nice and soft from the rains but not too muddy. The sun was just warm enough to not need gloves or that extra top layer. There were a lot of little hills and I love to jog the downs so I left my polls behind and did some trail running. Then there was a steady uphill climb to a vast view of the ocean and Catalina below.
There on the summit of the mountain was the landmark Chamberlin Rock. Split in two, it is said that Native Americans passed through the rock in a sacred cleansing ritual. I slid through the crack, hugging the stone walls as I went, thanking mother nature for her beauty and support and pledging that I would do my best to serve her better this coming year. Was I miraculously cleared of all things awful in 2020? I am not certain – but I am sure it didn’t hurt.
My knees started screaming on the way down and knew I still had to do the last miles uphill. However, if I had made it up the Bright Angel Trail of a Grand Canyon rim to rim trek, like I did on my last birthday, I knew I could handle a little up slope on the end of this mere 11 miler. So I did, with great pleasure and quite a bit of speed. I iced my knees and washed my feet with a lavender towel The Ranch provided and sat a few minutes to pat myself on the back and say, “Good job, you did it Kira,” before the rest of the group began to return.
The sun was out to stay for the remainder of my trip. I heeded The Ranch Malibu’s advice and left my phone in my cabin for most of the next several days to digitally detox if just for little while. After a few more days of hike, eat, workout, massage, sleep, repeat, I felt more ready for whatever the future held with much of the trauma of 2020 officially behind me. I did not miss having a toast at a New Year’s Eve gathering. It wasn’t allowed anyway. I’m glad I was surrounded by like-minded, health conscious people, pushing themselves to be better, as I stepped into the New Year not knowing what to expect. Upon my return to further Covid-19 stay at home orders, overrun hospitals in Los Angeles and the deadly insurrectionist attack on America’s capital, have 2021 off to a tumultuous start. I pray for my family, friends, our country, and our world. With so much out of control, now more than ever, it seems important to take care of what I can control – my body, my mental health, myself. All I know is that I am grateful to The Ranch Malibu for starting me off on the right foot. At least I will have a fighting chance.
To book your healthy hiking retreat visit: The Ranch Malibu