Jessica Zanotti | lake arrowhead retreat
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lake arrowhead retreat

07 Sep lake arrowhead retreat

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This past year of soul searching has really helped me to find my voice creatively. It has taken a lot of solitude, courage, saying no to money opportunities that don’t take me where I want to go, and a hell of a lot of trying new things. Within this searching process, I have stumbled upon an unexpected newfound love of health and wellness retreats. This discovery and desire to attend more retreats (see the two I have already attended), had me wondering if there was a way to meld this world with my creative world as it is still a huge part of me. When these thoughts started to surface, I began envisioning what my own retreat would look. I saw my aesthetic that has lived in my head for a long time now; dark, moody tones, beautiful antique and vintage decor, feminine touches, all in a setting surrounded by trees and nature. I then made a mood board on Pinterest and stared at it for months. Eventually I had had enough of thinking about it and decided to jump into action. I figured it was a great opportunity for me to test my creative abilities, planning skills, and share all that I have been learning about health and wellness with my girlfriends. But most importantly, it was a time to host a special weekend to thank these girls for lifting me up and holding my hand through a challenging year. My family’s cabin in Lake Arrowhead was the perfect setting for my vision, I sent out the feelers, and upon an overwhelming response of YES’s, I got to planning what turned out to be a magical weekend.


On the way up the mountain we stop off at a turnout and take in the view from above, overlooking the blanket of clouds and the city below us. Up here we are far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the roaring traffic, and the drama of LA. As I am taking in the scenery and breathing in the crisp air, a smile spreads across my face and a surge of excitement overwhelms my body; I am over the moon happy and ready to start this retreat I had worked hard on putting together for my girlfriends and I.

After taking some pictures and snapchats, we jump back onto Highway 189, and soon spot the sign for Lake Arrowhead, left turn here. Entering the small town off the highway, we are suddenly enveloped in a sea of trees where it’s impossible not to look up in awe of natures beauty. Continuing down the winding road, we roll down the windows and blast Taylor Swift’s, “State of Grace.” Nothing compares to inhaling the scent of lush pine trees, wild hair blowing in the fresh mountain air, and singing at the top of your lungs with a car full of giddy best friends. Smiles all around, my heart feels full already.

Arriving at the cabin, I do the rounds to open up the house and let the clean air in, while giving the newbies a tour of the digs. I take a moment to look around and remember how special this place is to me. Countless memories have been made here in my 29 years, and I am always grateful to have this cabin in the woods that’s been passed down generationally for the past 70+ years. After soaking it all in and unwinding a bit, we venture over to the only “fine dining” restaurant there is in this small town: Bin 189. Bin 189 screams mountain vibes but in the cutest and classiest of ways with it’s wood decor, antler chandeliers, and cozy fireplace. We feast and share what’s been going on in our worlds while listening to the live music by the crooning mountain man on the mike. Instead of dessert, we grab a bottle of Prosecco, post up on the outdoor deck and take in the star-filled night sky. It’s rare that we are all able to come together for a whole weekend these days, and catching up over bubbly while admiring the moon glistening on the lake was the perfect way to start the weekend.

Arriving back to the cabin, our woman tribe gathers in the living room to vision board as we continue chatting the night away; now sipping on tea to bring us down from all the Prosecco. After hours of vision boarding and serious, entertaining and interesting conversation, we retire to the dorm to snuggle up and dream away.

As the morning rolls in, I open my eyes and catch a glimpse of the sunshine and greenery behind the blinds, my ears pick up the sound of boats humming on the lake (who’s skiing at 7:00am?). I happily dance my way to the kitchen and start cooking a healthy breakfast for my ladies; quinoa and kale topped with poached eggs, avocado and sunflower seeds. Everyone rolls into the kitchen one by one and we eventually enjoy our breakfast together on the front patio, where I have shared many meals with friends and family over the years. In order to properly digest our food, I round up the crew and we head out for a mountainous walk on a trail beside the lake. Flower picking along the way, we grab fresh blooms in shades of purple, pink, and all different kinds of greenery to add to the decor I had envisioned for dinner. We spend the rest of the day lounging on the doc, kayaking in the lake and sun bathing in the 85 degrees of perfect lake weather. For about thirty minutes, I lay on my back and watch the trees blow back and forth in the breeze, day dreaming about what it would be like to live in a place like this; a thought that tends to pop up whenever I am here. The clock strikes 5:00 and I can tell my bests are getting hungry. I make the trek back up to the cabin and find my home in the vintage kitchen, using the antique stove to whip up some dinner. I find myself enjoying feeling all kinds of domestic and cooking for loved ones; a task I had never really flourished or tried my hand at, yet loving being the nurturer in this moment. Dinner is just about ready and I setup the table scape I had been envisioning using the florals and leaves from our morning hike, my moms old candle holders and the $2 vintage glassware I picked up from my go-to vintage shop for good, cheap housewares (maybe someday I’ll let you in on my little secret). Decorating a dinner party was another thing I had never really tried my hand at, and I was very pleased with how my vision came to life.

7:00pm rolls around and dinner is served outside, just as the sun is setting and the air is starting to feel brisk. We dine on salmon topped with avocado, parsley brown rice, asparagus and vegan lavender cookies for dessert. Chatting amongst the candlelight, despite the chill that is setting in, I experience a sudden rush of warmth envelop me; time stops and everything moves in slow motion. Mouths are moving but there is only silence and observation. Slow blinking, with a feeling of warmth in my heart; I feel deeply grateful for this moment. I realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by such beautiful souls; loving, kind and genuine people that I get to call my best friends. Friends that truly stepped up for me this year and showed me what real love and support feels like. Happy tears begin welling up inside me until I suddenly check back into reality by the shocking (yet not all that shocking if you knew us) conversation that has begun to take place. I enter in at the perfect moment when the dinner conversation turns very 50 Shades of Grey. “Have you ever dripped candle wax on your boyfriend?” “What does it feel like?” “Here try with this candle.” “OUCH.” “OOOoOoooH, AHHH.” Somehow dinner conversations with the bests always turns towards something dirty; another one of the reasons why I love my best friends. We hear something, or someone (eek) rustling in the pitch black distance, and decide that is our cue to wrap up this lovely evening and head back inside.

Another beautiful morning arrives and I awake with a smile. I listen to the birds chirping and marvel at the picturesque mountain sky before popping out of bed to make another healthy breakfast for my rosé recovering friends. Success yet again, our bodies feel full and nurtured.  10:00am rolls around and it’s time to head down to the dock; this time for a relaxing yoga session. My body recalls the content and grounding sensation I experienced in Tulum while doing yoga beside the ocean, where I had come to the conclusion that yoga by a body of water truly added another layer of peace to the practice for me. The session on the dock beside the lake further confirms this. After letting the practice sink in with shavasana, we move on to the next activity: sage bundling with the dried flowers we had picked the day before; an especially easy yet fun creative project. More dock lounging commences; reading, napping, instagramming… until the dreadful first mention of heading back home is brought up. We make the short hike back up to the cabin, pack up our things and and jump back on the highway towards reality.

Being the perfect head out the window, feel like you’re flying kind of song, I play The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition,” as I always do when I head down the mountain. I glance at my passengers and by the entranced look in their eyes I know they are on the same high as me. Next, I opt for Taylor Swift’s “Clean.” This song typically unlocks a vortex of emotions for me and I always experience some sort of cleansing upon its end. To my surprise it didn’t unlock any repressed feelings, it only added to the light aura that had already encapsulated my spirit. A little confused as to why there wasn’t a sudden rush of guttural tears, I realize that a significant amount of cleansing must have happened on the mountain already. I take this lightness all the way back home with me, and I feel nothing but clean.


Retreats have become so significant to me as they each serve as another opportunity to cleanse more unwanted emotional and physical debris that has piled up. Another chance to reset and recharge. I personally have obtained a lot throughout my 29 years as I had never really found a healthy form of release. I also find myself learning so many valuable lessons about myself, other people, and healthy lifestyle choices on retreats. This weekend was particularly special to me because it revealed that I do have the capability to push past creative blocks and the negative voices in my head that tell me I can’t do or accomplish whatever it is I am dreaming of at the time. I drove down the mountain proud of what I had put together, happy to have shared it with my friends, and with loads of love in my heart. And of course, a desire to plan the next cleansing adventure.

Thanks to my friends that have been my life savers this year for joining me on this special weekend.

<3 <3 <3 you to the moon and back.

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