A few weeks ago I flew from NYC – and the HP Designer Matchup reveal – to San Francisco for Mighty Summit. Midway across the country I had an allergic reaction to something in the plane’s air system and spent most of the time gathering tissues from the restroom and hoarding them like a small squirrel. I showed up at SFO to meet a few of my fellow summit goers with rubbed off makeup, a runny nose, and red eyes. HI, I’M KELLY.
Me showing up in dire need of antihistamines and the four of them immediately jumping into action let me know what an incredible group of carefully selected women I was about to spend the next few days with. Go-getters, helpers, doers, sympathizers. We stopped in downtown San Francisco at a Walgreens for tissues, allergy meds, and snacks and drove two hours north to a small town in the Russian River Valley called Guerneville and made our way to Boon Hotel + Spa.
We were the last car to arrive (thanks in part to me) and showed up to a bawdy group of ladies enjoying margaritas and a taco truck that had driven right up into the middle of the resort. Fiesta! Sombreros, handmade piñatas, and Mexican food is now in my Top 10 Welcomes for sure. We were even highly encouraged to grab a “room burrito” for a midnight snack. My kind of people.
Boon itself is gorgeous, tucked into the bottom of a hillside climbing with redwoods and palm trees. All of the rooms surround a common area with a pool, hot tub, and cabana. This is where the majority of time was spent talking, making plans, and wining. Tough to beat considering the always clean orange beach towels and stacks of magazines.
We were paired up in our rooms with someone who was most likely a stranger on Friday and a good friend come Monday. My roommate was Kristin Appenbrink of Real Simple, a girl with a plan that one.
Besides the hotel and spa, the owners of Boon are also proprietors of Boon Eat + Drink and Big Bottom Market. They provided almost all of our food and it was incredible. For real. As in there wasn’t one thing I shoved into my pie hole that wasn’t an A+++. Ask me about the yogurt that was more like custard some time. Or the curry chicken salad sandwich. Or the polenta lasagna. Or just visit and try it all yourself.
After a pajama-filled breakfast around the pool Saturday morning, we headed to Moshin Vineyards to get a little insight into winemaking and tasting. We saw the sorting process, tried the grapes (SUPER sweet), and witnessed some bottling in the works.
Then we stood outside on a gorgeous day trying about six different wines for ourselves. All before noon.
But everyone knows that one winery isn’t nearly enough, so we headed down the road to VML. To say the grounds were well manicured would be an understatement, there were flowers literally everywhere you turned. And lawn Jenga. We settled in at picnic tables mere feet from a lilypad-covered pond for lunch. And a little more wine tasting, naturally.
This is what I look like while listening. And this is what I look like with Rena Tom.
After some down time (or work time or nap time, depending on who you might ask), we gathered for a relaxed dinner.
Nights and mornings were downright cold, and a well-stoked fire was welcome. There were even s’mores, but I think everyone was too stuffed with food and alcohol to enjoy any.
Boon was actually named after the owners’ dog, a nine year old boxer/lab/pit bull mix who made his rounds daily to say hello to all of the ladies before retiring to the chaise of his choosing. A rough life by any standards.
Sunday was the big day, the punctuation mark on the trip. After walking the trails through Armstrong Redwoods we gathered for lunch and Life Lists. Before we ever made our way to Mighty Summit we were all tasked with creating our own list of goals, everything from the easily attainable (plant a lilac bush) to the extreme (hug Oprah). Now we were asked to choose five items off our list that we wanted to accomplish in the next 12 months, asking the group for help achieving one of them.
There’s a reason this is one of the last activities, after having a few days to get to know one another. I’d liken it to a verbal trust fall. You’re putting a lot on the table and it can get emotional. And afterwards? You feel drained and exhausted and awesome.
And a lot like you just entered the best club ever. And then you risk your lives climbing on a fallen centuries old redwood tree and you do evil laughs for the sake of photography.
Sunday night we all gathered for our celebratory farewell dinner in downtown Guerneville at Big Bottom Market. Our hosts, Maggie Mason and Laura Mayes , said a few words about Mighty Summit and why they put it on every year and then we each received a necklace with five small gold rings on it. One for each of our goals.
I left Might Summit with a better sense of self than I’ve had in quite some time. Goals clearly outlined, plans written down, proposals in the works. All thanks to Maggie and Laura who thought it would be a great idea to start an annual retreat for women in media, who might combine their awesome powers when together and create something bigger.
If all of this sounds amazing, you should definitely consider attending the on steroids version – Camp Mighty – that’s taking place November 15-17 in Palm Springs, CA.
Also? We took lots of good free stuff home, you can try your hand at winning a bag full of it too!
Attendees: Amber Doty – The Daily Doty | Anne Sage – The City Sage | Catie Nienaber – Cuffington | Christine Koh – Boston Mamas | Dana LaRue – The Broke-Ass Bride | Elizabeth Stark – Brooklyn Supper | Fiona Tang | Jessica Zollman | Jessie Char – Char* | Jordan Ferney – Oh Happy Day! | Kate Nicholson – Modern Baby | Katherine Stone – Postpartum Progress | Kathleen Shannon – Jeremy and Kathleen | Kristin Appenbrink – Real Simple | Lily Stockman – bigBANG Studio | Maggie Shipstead – author | Maile Wilson – Epiphanie Bags | Meg Biram – MIMI + MEG | Meredith Sinclair – HOO-DEE-HOO | Rena Tom | Sarah Bryden-Brown – blogstar | Sarah Lane | Sarah Urquhart - Alt Summit | Stephanie Brubaker – stephmodo | Tiffani Jones Brown
Photos by Kelly Beall: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
Photos by Maile Wilson: 10, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26