The best part about NewTree Ranch is that you have all 120 acres of the farmstead to yourself, which is especially paramount during a pandemic. The ranch is located down a rural, one-lane road, but it’s a quick 10 minutes from Healdsburg Square just in case you feel the need to re-emerge, masked, into society. Personally, I had no desire to leave the NewTree bubble.
Upon my arrival, CEO and founder Edward Newell greeted me at the ranch house with hot tea sourced from the farm. In the fridge of what is one of the best home kitchens I’ve ever stepped foot in, was an abundance of produce and a container of fresh crudités with three dipping sauces. The house itself is quite sprawling with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, ample living space that includes a piano, a dining table, a lounge area, a fire pit outside, and a pool. It’s huge and, unsurprisingly, expensive (priced at $4,000 a night), so it’s probably best utilized by a household that’s been quarantining together, or perhaps a group of friends if you all quarantine and get tested first.
Newell said a lot of his guests have high-powered and high-stress corporate jobs—like the one he used to have before starting NewTree—and that they’ll often stay for a week or more, decompressing and reconnecting with themselves and their families.
On a tour of the property, I mingled with farm animals including a pair of friendly goats named John and Sally, chickens, and two Scottish Highlander cows. Just down from the house sits a luxury safari tent and a hot tub if you prefer to spend a night sleeping under the stars. The estate is extremely hike-able and includes lake for kayaking and paddle boarding.
Newell explained that there are tons of wellness activities available—some for free, others for an extra cost—though nothing is required. There’s no set schedule, not even with meals, and your retreat at NewTree is whatever you want to make of it. Guests can spend their whole stay just chilling, participate in classes related to cooking, art, tea-making, or flower arranging, or go on a restorative journey to heal one’s body, mind, and spirit. Feeling all-in, I went with the third option.
A Sound Journey at NewTree Ranch
(Courtesy of NewTree Ranch)
About an hour after my arrival, I experienced a lakeside sound journey, just before sundown. A sound journey, also known as a sound bath, creates waves of sounds and vibrations from Tibetan singing bowls to lull participants into a deep state of relaxation and meditation (some people even fall asleep). They’re also said to help balance your energy.
I’ve done many sound baths before, but none in such a serene setting, as the vibrations of the bowls were joined by a chorus of the birds around us. This was a great warm-up to my retreat and for a whole wonderful hour, I didn’t think about work or my phone or the forthcoming election.
NewTree Ranch’s Icy Wim Hof Experience
(Courtesy of NewTree Ranch)
The next morning, I was set for the Wim Hoff experience, which combines breathing techniques and meditation with—gulp—an ice bath. Founded by a Dutch extreme athlete, the Wim Hoff Method is globally recognized for its healing benefits. Chuck McGee, our Wim Hof Method instructor, said the practice has helped him manage his autoimmune disease and relieve chronic pain.
McGee also reassured me that the anxiety I was feeling leading up to the ice bath was normal, though it didn’t exactly make me any less anxious.
The experience took place in the backyard of the ranch house. After completing the initial breath work, where you’re breathing deeply in and out to guided timing (it reminded me a bit of Kundalini yoga), McGee asked if I wanted to go deeper, warning me that it may unlock some pretty serious emotions that sometimes cause people to cry or yell out. Since I had just gone through a major trauma recently, I decided to go for it. Admittedly, no tears were shed, but he said it can take time, and overall, I felt extremely relaxed afterward.
That is until I remembered the ice bath was next.
The point of the ice bath is to train yourself to breathe calmly through any stressful and challenging situations you encounter in daily life. The ice is a stressor (a safe one), and when under stress, McGee explained that brain acuity decreases by a third. Once in, you’re essentially telling your body to fight, not take flight. The key is controlled breathing and, as corny as it sounds, a positive attitude, which is easier said than done when soaking in a tub of ice water.
McGee said two minutes in the ice water was enough to make an impact. I wasn’t sure I would last 30 seconds, but to my surprise, was able to get my breathing under control and withstood a full three minutes. It was an exhilarating experience that left me feeling like I could conquer anything.
Eating off the Land at NewTree Ranch
(Courtesy of NewTree Ranch)
My host’s diets were entirely plant-based and vegan. They source their ingredients from their biodynamic farm, where they’re growing everything from veggies and herbs to edible flowers and even ferment the leftovers so as not to waste anything. It’s a way of life they’ve fully adopted, for Newell admits that he used to frequent steakhouses. This made me, a self-proclaimed carnivore, feel a little more at ease since he understood my reluctance to fully buy into it.
The farm is stunning, shaded by a grove of towering redwoods. There’s an outdoor kitchen, where we had a lovely, alfresco pizza party on our final evening, utilizing fresh-picked veggies for toppings—we even did a little bit of harvesting ourselves—and whole spelt pizza crust. Resident chef Matteo Silverman, who’s been vegan for over 25 years, prepared all the meals during my stay, all safely dropped off to the garage fridge with zero contact.
I have to admit wholeheartedly, that this was some of the best food I’ve had in recent months. I couldn’t get enough, but at the same time, my body felt nourished, energized, and full, without heaviness or bloat.
My absolute favorite dish during my stay was the magical pink ravioli, made from two slices of watermelon radish stuffed with thyme-scented cashew cheese and topped with a Thai basil puree. Other highlights were the chia seed pudding (which I plan to attempt at home); a savory autumn vegetable frittata; and quinoa-based sushi rolls. Each meal also came with a different juice or refresher and, for our Indian-themed dinner on the first night, Newell was kind enough to drop off a bottle of local wine to pair because yes, in case you were wondering, alcohol is allowed.
Again, it’s not your typical wellness retreat.
// 3600 Wallace Creek Road (Healdsburg), newtree.bluskyadmin.com