A Weekend to Remember: PrimalCon Lake Tahoe 2013

Today we take a small detour from the 21-Day Challenge programming. As many of you know, this last weekend marked the first ever PrimalCon – our Primal Blueprint health and wellness retreat – in Lake Tahoe, CA. I wrote about the Power of Community this last week, and then got to experience it along with over 100 other people firsthand. It was incredible.

Now it’s Sunday evening and it’s all over. I’m back home. A big white lab licks my feet. Everyone else sleeps. Yet the weekend lingers. The laughter, the smiling faces, the mutual exchange of knowledge and wisdom, the natural opulence of Lake Tahoe – it’s all there. Heck, I’m still full from the food! It’s all fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d give you a guys a little recap of what went down.

Just so you get a sense in case you’ve never been, there are a few awesome things about being in Lake Tahoe. The elevation is such that you’re close enough to the sky that you really feel the sun, even if it’s technically “cold” outside. That clean sunlight combines with the cool mountain crispness to create a climate that’s warm and refreshing all at once. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is. Kind of like salty and sweet; what are usually bitter opposites emerge complementary bedfellows.

Then there’s the sky itself. It looks… different. There’s just a quality to it that I’ve never seen elsewhere. The clouds are somehow more billowy. The blue is bluer that other skies, as if the blue sky overhead and blue lake below are playing a game of atmospheric color pingpong that compounds the brilliance of both.

Tahoe is BIG, too. I mean, the scale of everything is just huge. The lake is massive and impossibly deep. Everywhere you look pine trees tower over you. You’re surrounded on all sides by sheer rock faces and looming mountains. And at night? On a clear night? The infinite entirety of the cosmos are laid out for your perusal. If you live out in the country, stargazing might be old hat. But I live in Malibu, which is right next to one of the most teeming, sprawling metropolises in the world whose residual, perpetual glow makes stargazing frustrating.

So, when my pals Joe and Colleen, longtime PrimalCon veterans and North Lake Tahoe residents (and badass triathletes), suggested we hold the next PrimalCon in South Lake Tahoe, I leapt on it. What could be a better backdrop for a conference partially founded on the love  of nature than one of the most naturally beautiful spots in the world?

First thing I noticed on Thursday night at the dinner meet and greet: a lot of new faces. That was cool to see. PrimalCon Oxnard has grown into a community of repeat attendees that’s both tight-knit and welcoming to newcomers (that happens quite organically when everyone’s united under the big tent of ancestral health). PrimalCon Tahoe was an opportunity to make new friends and establish new connections.

Ten minutes into it, a community was forming. It was like watching time lapse photography of a growing sapling. What’s supposed to take several weeks to months unfolded in minutes before my eyes. Strangers, total strangers who’d never met before closed in on each other to form pockets of animated conversation. It was like people were bypassing that initial trepidation state where you’re kind of sizing people up, wrestling with personal hangups, trying to get comfortable in your own skin before you even think of engaging with another human being. They went straight to “Oh, hi, what’s your name?”

All this over great Primal food, with an incredible grass-fed wagyu beef meatloaf from famous PrimalCon chef David Aflalo as the centerpiece. Dessert soon followed – rich chocolate velvet (not sure how else to describe it) with real whipped cream courtesy of Brad Kearns.

Folks then headed off to sleep. It was a long day of travel and the next few days were packed.

Hot coffee and Primal Fuel smoothies in hand, attendees and presenters gathered at the Camp Richardson boathouse for opening ceremonies on Friday morning. A few lingered outside on the docks, taking in the brilliant sunrise peeking out over the mountains.

Then the fun began: PrimalCon Tahoe was on!

All throughout the weekend, attendees had many opportunities to hang out with our expert presenters, and that’s where PrimalCon really shines. Where else can people go from listening to an MD talk about using Primal principles to get patients completely off meds to pushing a car until your legs want to quit and your lungs burn?

Dr. Ron

Where else can you learn how to Olympic lift with impeccable from some of the world’s foremost experts and then sit down with those same experts to learn about converting your family to Primal living and eating?




Or have a heart to heart session with a Primal success story?

Tara Grant

Or how about learning how to do a parkour-style vault over a balcony from a movement coach, then heading on over to a roundtable discussion about ketosis and neurodegenerative diseases lead by her doctoral candidate husband?


Or having to choose between an Active Release Technique-employing doctor of chiropractic or a bodyworking healer who uses Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome as inspiration for his techniques?



Or getting tricked into the hardest workout of your life by a world-renowned master of play that you don’t even realize was a workout until you wake up sore all over the next day?


Or get coached by Sarah Fragoso and Chrissy Gower through portions of the fitness module and on how to integrate paleo practices into your daily life. (These women are certainly wearing many hats as wives, mothers, coaches, and paleo experts!)

Sarah Fragoso and Chrissy Gower Talk

Or getting live cooking lessons from a professional Primal chef and healthy cooking coach?

Or fixing your posture and promoting healthy movement patterns simply by tweaking how you think about your spine?


Speaking of cooking, how about the food?

Lunches were catered by Not So Fast!, the San Diego Primal food truck: grilled wagyu burgers, thick-cut bacon, several different salads, guacamole, and their famous house banana chips. Dinners were served up by famous PrimalCon chef David Aflalo: wagyu meatloaf, wild caught California salmon, crab salad, braised kale, sweet potato mash with coconut and pomegranate, pot roast with caramelized mushrooms, what tasted like beef confit (braised beef with a crispy exterior… the highlight of all the meals). Great food, Bob, June, and David! Everyone was raving all weekend.





The nature! Having sufficiently filled up on healthy Primal grub on Friday, people loaded up in the shuttles to head out to the Angora Lake hike. The brave ones took the long ascent up the ridge, climbing around 1200 feet in just over a mile to reach the final trail to the lake. It was tough and undoubtedly led to a sea of sore glutes and thighs the next morning, but it was worth it for the view – and the cliff diving.



Angora Lake

Saturday was stand-up paddle boarding, Ultimate Frisbee, gymnastics, and sprint training.



Back at Camp Richardson, Robb Wolf joined me in giving the keynote address. Well, really, it was more of a free-wheeling Q&A session where Robb and I got to geek out with everyone and have a few laughs and a lot of fun.

Mark and Robb

J. Stanton of gnolls.org even made an appearance, holding court on metabolic flexibility and other topics for an entranced audience before digging in on the chow with everyone else.


The crown jewel was the luxury wine cruise through Emerald Bay on Saturday as the sun went down.


Then the bonfire, lovingly hand-crafted by our resident Primal fireman and longtime (everytime) PrimalCon attendee, Chris Adams. Wine, music, chocolate, cheer, laughter, dance, love – it was all in the air. I wish we got some good photos, but it was that kind of vibe where you never even think to take one because it would only get in the way. You know? Plus, it was dark and they wouldn’t have come out anyway.

This is a global community with new outposts springing up with each successive PrimalCon. Primal representatives from Denmark, Ireland, England, Canada, Australia, Alaska (I know, it’s a US state, but c’mon, it’s a trek) and Germany all showed up to our little event. One guy drove over 20 hours from Vancouver! I mean, people traveling halfway across the world for PrimalCon? That’s the fuel that feeds my fire.

People talk about post-wedding blues, where you’re kind of sad that it’s all over. There’s none of that for me today, and the same goes for all the attendees I met. Sure, you want it to keep going if possible, but it’s not like PrimalCon ends and it’s all over. You’ve made friends. You’ve learned new things that you’re mulling over for weeks afterward. You’ve made business contacts. You’re left with a warm afterglow that lasts for a lifetime.

Live Long. Drop Dead.

If you couldn’t make it out to Lake Tahoe, consider joining us in Tulum, Mexico next year for an event that is shaping up to be the ancestral health event of the 2014. And check back this week for a sense of what the Mark’s Daily Apple community looks like across the globe. Readers will be running the show over the next few days as I publish their recipe, workout and Grokfeast contest video submissions.

Grok on!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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