Last weekend, I co-hosted a retreat for food creators/bloggers at Lost River Barn in West Virginia! Here’s a (long – settle in with a cup of something delicious!) recap.
The solo entrepreneur world can be a bit of a lonely one, so I’m always looking for creative ways to get together with others who “get it” in terms of the work that I do as a food blogger. I also find getting together with other bloggers always gives me a lot of energy and ideas for my own business, and helps to reinvigorate me in terms of excitement for the work.
Abbey was excited about the idea, and brought on board her executive life coach, Rachel Gainer, to lead us in the group coaching sessions while at the retreat.
We ended up having a fantastic group of women with us for the event. Here’s the whole gang!
We all arrived at Lost River Barn in time for dinner on Thursday evening and left right after breakfast on Sunday morning.
The food was one of the big highlights of the weekend – it was incredibly delicious and mostly locally sourced and organic which I loved. Having someone else cook for us was SUCH a treat!
Dessert was some AMAZING homemade lemon cookies that I neglected to get a picture of, plus s’mores at our sunset bonfire!
Once the sun went down it was crazy dark out there in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia!
Friday morning started with this view:
Plus a delicious breakfast of strawberry mint smoothies, a sweet potato black bean veggie hash (similar to this sweet potato hash I’ve made before but with black beans instead of peas), and some cheesy eggs with sautéed peppers.
Everything was incredibly delicious.
After breakfast, we got right into the morning work. I led the group in an icebreaker/getting-to-know-you session for the first hour, and then Rachel led a session on determining our core values, which would then guide some of our work in later sessions.
Lunch was ham, cheese, honey mustard, and local greens on homemade biscuits with a savory and nutrient-packed nettle, spinach, and mint soup.
After lunch, we had a break built into the calendar for anyone who wanted to go out on a hike at nearby Lost River State Park. It was a beautiful day to be out in nature!
Views like this never get old.
We did the Cranny Crow Overlook trail and were rewarded for our steep uphill walking efforts with a gorgeous view at the top:
There were tons of hawks flying around up there and it was so peaceful. All the trails close to DC get crowded on beautiful days but this one we practically had to ourselves! West Virginia win.
After our hike, we came back together at the house for another working session guided by Rachel – this time focused on refining our visions for our lives + businesses as related to our core values and whether we were feeling in alignment with them or not.
Our post-session dinner was amazing: Asian-themed pork and beef meatballs with a rice and quinoa blend and a simple vinegary cucumber salad.
The dessert was a flourless chocolate cake with strawberries! Mmmmm.
On Saturday morning, we kicked off our days with another delicious breakfast of coconut milk quinoa porridge with fruit, granola, and yogurt. It reminded me a bit of my Berry Lemon Bake with Quinoa recipe!
We dove back into the group work with Rachel after breakfast, this time focused on quieting the inner critic, and determining if we were making decisions based on our core values or based on fear/limiting beliefs.
Lunch featured one of my favorites: watermelon! My friends at the Watermelon Board sponsored the retreat and sent some cool swag for the attendees, and it was fun to work with V to incorporate some watermelon into the weekend menu.
We enjoyed a variation of my Watermelon Rind Salad with Feta & Arugula, which incorporates both the watermelon flesh as well as the rind (did you know you can eat the white part of a watermelon? It’s like cucumber but a little more crunchy!):
Plus homemade falafel, homemade bread with honey butter, and a savory root veggie mash that was good with the falafel!
After lunch, we took another break!
Some people wanted to stay at the house and relax; I could have gone either way but kind of wanted to go hiking again and was lucky 2 of the others also really wanted to hit the trails again, so off we went!
Kelly, Renee, and I went back to Lost River State Park and did a different loop involving a beautiful creek and another steep hike through the woods.
We had a great time and even managed to not get lost thanks to a paper map I brought with us (we had no cell service in the park area). We did slightly underestimate the length of the hike, but we made it back just as the afternoon session was about to start – whew!
As for the closing session of the weekend from Rachel, we focused on learning the power of no and setting boundaries in our businesses to avoid burning out. Great way to close out the working part of the retreat!
For our last dinner of the trip, we enjoyed another watermelon-infused dish: chicken enchiladas featuring a homemade watermelon salsa recipe from my blog, plus guacamole and roasted Brussels sprouts. I went back for seconds!
The dessert was homemade lemon cake with buttercream frosting and blueberries. It was so good!
Our final breakfast of the trip on Sunday morning before saying goodbye was some incredible homemade strawberry scones (similar to the vegan strawberry scones recipe on my site!) along with a veggie-packed frittata.
I was so sad to say goodbye to everyone after breakfast on Sunday morning! We had such a great group and I’m looking forward to staying in touch and seeing what changes everyone implements based on the work we did together.
A huge thank you to Abbey for partnering with me to host this event, V for the amazing food, and Rachel for leading us in such helpful working sessions.
I decided to pack myself a lunch with some of the leftovers we had on hand and stop at a trail for a quick hike at Wolf Gap Recreation Area (right on the WV/VA border) on the way home to break up the drive.
wwanted to do the Big Schloss Overlook hike, but it was going to take me a bit too long and I needed to get home, so I decided to just do a little bit of the Tibbet Knob hike instead. I had misread the info about the hike, though – I thought it was 1.6 miles round trip/total, but when I got to the trail I saw it was 1.6 miles one way out and back, so 3 miles total.
Darn – didn’t have enough time to do that. I decided I’d still just do a short hike on the trail, but knew I wouldn’t make it to the overlook. Oh well!
I did find a nice small offshoot from the trail that led to a beautiful overlook, though, and sat there while enjoying my packed ham, avocado, and mustard sandwich with some cucumber and orange slices.
On the hike back to the car after eating lunch, I had a super scary experience – I was walking along and thankfully was paying attention and watching my feet (the trail was a bit rocky and there were some roots, so I didn’t want to trip), when all of a sudden I screamed and jumped backward because I had come about 1 foot away from stepping on a massive snake.
I backed up until I was standing quite far away (the picture below is zoomed in a ton) and was trying to figure out what kind of snake it was/if I should completely or just kind of freak out because the snake was between me and my car (which was about a 15/20 minute walk) and I was alone and had no cell service when the snake lifted its head, looked at me, and rattled its tail and I was like OH SH!T it’s a rattlesnake!!!
Y’all, I was so incredibly lucky I did not accidentally step on it!
Timber rattlesnakes are endangered – lucky me?!
So, I grabbed an enormous stick just in case and took a route as far into the woods as I could go safely without basically being on the side of the mountain, and then as soon as I got back to the trail I ran like hell for good measure. Gah! Hoping that’s my first and last rattlesnake encounter…
And that’s that! Minus the rattlesnake situation, it was a nice weekend with some great people and delicious food. Until next time, friends!