The Wolk Morais Diary: A Weekend at Canyon Ranch Woodside
Wolk Morais designers (and longtime Daily favorites) Brian Wolk and Claude Morais are on the road again! After a lengthy quarantine in Los Angeles, the boys treated themselves to a weekend of wellness in the forest at Canyon Ranch Woodside. Before they conquer their next collection, they write in with what they took away from a weekend recharge in paradise.
After a year of confinement, we knew it was time to reflect, reform, and to move forward. With the hope of spring blossoming, we began our northward journey up the coast in the direction of Woodside, California. Since 1979 Canyon Ranch has been a global leader in mind-body wellness. Perched atop a mountain, in mystical redwood forest, Canyon Ranch Woodside is a new concept retreat designed to be a safe place to reset, recharge and set real life intentions over the course of a long weekend.
As the wooden gates parted to reveal the magnificent property, we were greeted by the warm energy of the welcoming team. Our shoulders dropped, our bodies relaxed and our journey to wellness began. After checking in and reviewing our 4-day schedule we strolled over to our home for the weekend; a glass walled tree house. Minimal in decor, yet luxurious in its simplicity, our windows on the world for the next few days would be one of uninterrupted natural beauty.
After settling in our beautiful quarters we headed to our orientation, got to know our fellow ranchers and learned the lay of the land. At 5PM we jumped straight into our first session entitled Forgiveness from the Heart. Laurel, our group leader for the workshop, quickly became one of our favorite people in the world. Laurel is the kind of person you wish was your best friend, aunt, cosmic advisor, champion and life coach. Through her octagonal frames, her eyes lit up the room and instantly made us feel at ease to reveal our most inner truths. Laurel provided us real life tools for personal forgiveness and accepting imperfection in the moment. We set intentions to be kinder, more sensitive and realistic about the way we treat those who surround us and ourselves.
Between the self-work and the mountain air we managed to develop quite an appetite, and Canyon Ranch’s best kept secret is Chef Isabelle Jackson Nunes. Beginning her culinary career at the age of 16, Chef Isabelle’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and organic food has been a lifelong endeavor. Working with local regenerative farmers and ranchers, her holistic approach to cooking is not only good for the planet but was a highlight of our stay at Canyon Ranch.
After a Happy Hiker breakfast and a side of carrot cakes pancakes we set off on a van ride for an awe inspiring hike at Djerassi Residence Sculpture Park. Founded by Dr. Carl Djerassi, Stanford chemistry professor, playwright and father of the “Pill,” the 583-acre ranch is home to one of the largest artist residency programs in the United States. As we traversed the beautiful peaks and valleys of this majestic property with our fellow wellness seekers we were overwhelmed with its natural and artistic beauty.
After lunch on the terrace overlooking the redwoods we headed to our balance workshop. Balance training improves stability and requires great athletic acumen. In fact we learned the practice burns more calories and activates a wider range of muscles than many traditional exercises. After our sporty morning, we decided to keep the afternoon light and took a watercolor class, followed by a great fireside chat with the lovely Laurel on Mindfulness in the Modern World. During this workshop we learned techniques to act or not react to make those around us feel comfortable in the most uncomfortable circumstances. After an early dinner we headed for a private coaching session with Jillian. The theme of our session revolved around restoring and renewing relationships. As you can imagine after many years of our live/work/travel/create 24/7 relationship this was one of the more intense hours we spent at Canyon Ranch. But Jillian, in her sage splendor, was able to dial in and identify some behavioral patterns she felt could use a little rejiggering. The tools, strategy and exercises she thoughtfully prescribed are intended to allow us to co-habitat and collaborate in a more productive way. The evening closed with an 8PM workshop by visiting guest lecturer Sandy Abrams author of Breathe to Succeed. Sandy led the group in a series of breathing exercises designed specifically to counter anxiety, sleeplessness, and creative decision-making. As intuitive as breathing is, thoughtful breath is an art and practice. With the sound of windward breeze rustling the great redwoods as our soundtrack, we deeply inhaled, exhaled and lulled ourselves asleep from our treetop nest, grateful for all we had experienced in just one day.
With the shadow of the moon still present above us, at 7AM it was time for a power hike. Led once again by Tim, the senior Outdoor Sports Guide, we were in good hands for this challenging 7 Mile trail. The ascent up Windy Hill Spring Ridge was strenuous and steep, but when we arrived at the summit, the spectacular views of San Francisco and the bay made all the hard work worthwhile. From dry grasslands to moss covered Douglas firs, through fields of ferns, the spectacular visuals and convivial conversations made this one of our most cherished memories of the weekend. After a healthy and well-deserved lunch followed by a roll and release class to stretch out, we decided to spend our last afternoon indulging in self-care. Our first stop was a wade in the salt-water whirlpool; our second stop was the spa. Nothing compares to a custom Canyon Ranch facial to extract the bad and unearth the good after a year of seclusion. Also on the menu of delights was the Forest to Ocean Body treatment. Inspired by Northern California, fine sun-evaporated Pacific sea salt is used to exfoliate the body followed by a massage using locally harvested botanicals and olive oil. The results were glowing. That evening after our final dinner of Markegard pork, roasted cauliflower and strawberry shortcake we all convened in the loft to evaluate our weekend and create take home strategies to put our leanings to work. Using the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) system we created goals, then micro-goals, and wrote a letter on Canyon Ranch Stationery to be delivered to ourselves in a month via post. This one-month check in will be a great reminder of the work we did and insure we are still actively pursuing the landmarks we committed to.
The day of departure was one of satisfaction. After our final breakfast we walked on the property’s Inspiration Trail and set intentions for the exciting and better times to come. We were grateful for what we learned, experienced and felt. We were inspired to practice with the new tools we were given to live a fuller, richer, and more mindful life. As the gates to Canyon Ranch parted open we took a deep breath, exhaled, and collectively smiled.