Lewis & Clark

Prince Maximilian & Karl Bodmer

Lewis & Clark — Prince Maximilian & Karl Bodmer

Summer 2018 Cultural Tour & Adventure • July 20-29 • From Great Falls to Missoula, MT
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This is the trip that never gets old. It will be Clay's 13th time up the Wendover Death March (which proves that anyone can do it). We'll spend three days on the White Cliffs section of the Missouri River, then a night in a wonderful historic hotel in Fort Benton, then four days on the Lolo Trail in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark on the most pristine portion of the entire national Lewis & Clark Trail. The “camping” is courtesy of our excellent outfitter (they set up your tent, feed you at tables with cloths and napkins, strike the camp, and provide excellent wine and beer). We hike, canoe, stroll, sing, tell stories, gaze at historic sites, sit around bonfires, and learn just the right amount about the most important exploration in American history.

Some people come year after year. This trip has changed lives, renewed relationships, initiated romances, and formed friendships that appear to be lasting for a lifetime. Clay Jenkinson is one of the nation’s leading Lewis & Clark experts. He is on the trip from beginning to end. Becky invariably tries to drown him on the “mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri River,” but his enthusiasm remains undaunted.

The majority of our guests are Jefferson Hour listeners, but everyone is welcome. This is the signature trip of Odyssey Tours with Clay Jenkinson. This is the one you certainly don’t want to miss.

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Winter Retreats

Humanities at Lochsa Lodge

Winter 2018 Book Retreats

In January of 2018, join us for a peaceful humanities retreat in the heart of Lewis & Clark’s Bitterroot Mountains. Enjoy good food, fine wine, a magical landscape, snug cabins, great books, and the kinds of conversations you always dream about when you read. Clay S. Jenkinson is a master conversationalist, facilitator, and storyteller, and he looks forward to these days of playful but serious discussion for the full year.

Bring your friends. Make new ones. Rest, read, sip, meditate, converse, confess, and argue in the best sense of the term. Soak in the hot springs.

The purpose of these retreats is to explore Henry David Thoreau’s great challenge that the purpose of life is “to live deliberately.” We learn together the art of true conversation about books, ideas, books, history, current events, and the wayward progress of the American experiment. You do not have to be a scholar to participate. These are not academic discussions, much less lectures. Clay’s purpose is to provide a playful, safe, relaxed, and congenial atmosphere at one of the most beautiful resorts in the Rocky Mountain West for several days of satisfactions, including conversation.

We meet for conversation mid-morning, early afternoon, and occasionally in the evening, but there will be plenty of time each day for reading, writing, outdoor exploring, and an optional group activity. Lochsa Lodge offers you a beautiful setting near the magnificent Lochsa River; hearty, country meals; a daily outdoor campfire; and a crackling fire indoors. The lodge, rebuilt in 2001, is modern. The cabins are snug, some of them Spartan. Some cabins were built in 1929, others in 2002. They are precisely what you envision when you think of a winter retreat in the woods.

There will, of course, be some talk about the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

In 2018 we are offering two retreats. Come to one. Come to both. Come join our whimsical mix of laughter and delightful conversation and intellectual insight.


To Live Deliberately: Walden & Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

Winter 2018 Book Retreat • January 10-15 • Lochsa Lodge, ID
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Clay regards Walden as the American Book. You should read Walden, Desert Solitaire, and “Civil Disobedience” before you arrive. Clay's preferred edition of Thoreau will be mailed to you. Much of our conversation will involve a detailed examination of this great text, with a particular emphasis on the chapters “Economy,” “Reading,” and “Where I Lived and What I Lived For.” Lochsa Lodge is a great place to read books in mid-winter, but it is a perfect place to read Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau says you need to read books in the way the author wished you to come to terms with them. You have to read great books, as it were, on tiptoe. Clay believes you cannot give yourself generously to this seminal text without striving to live more deliberately. Edward Abbey was a kind of grumpier Thoreau (if that’s possible), and his classic Desert Solitaire bears chapter-by-chapter comparison with the themes of Walden.

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Shakespeare in the Wilderness

Winter 2018 Book Retreat • January 17-22 • Lochsa Lodge, ID
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Some of the best writing in the English language comes from the pen of poet, playwright, and actor William Shakespeare. Many people feel intimidated by Shakespeare, perhaps because of their high school encounters with Julius Caesar or Romeo and Juliet. Clay’s approach is to demystify Shakespeare, to teach participants how to read Shakespeare with joy, confidence, and discernment. Although Clay is often regarded as a historian, his actual training, at the University of Minnesota and Oxford, was in English Literature, the Renaissance, Shakespeare, John Donne, and John Milton. All of his degrees are in English. With the help of the best film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, Clay will guide us through two plays per day, plus some sonnets, and related poetry by his personal favorite John Donne. You will be amazed by the level of joy, laughter, and unpretentious literary satisfaction you experience in this humanities retreat. Clay has taught Shakespeare at Pomona College, the law school of the University of North Dakota, the University of Vermont, and Bismarck State College.

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Steinbeck's Caliornia

Steinbeck's California

Cultural Tour & Retreat

Steinbeck's California

Spring 2019 Tour & Retreat • March 2-8, 2019 • Pacific Grove, CA
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John Steinbeck is one of the greatest and most popular America writers. Some think Cannery Row is his greatest novel, others East of Eden. For Clay there is only one Steinbeck novel that the world could not live without: The Grapes of Wrath.

This week-long journey is a lovely mix of talk about Steinbeck’s books and exploration of the California that inspired some of his best work. Spirit of place mattered to Steinbeck. The Gabilan and St. Lucia Mountains, the Salinas River Valley, Salinas itself, Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Monterey are as important as the characters in his fiction. He often pauses to describe the landscape of his youth. And he had a love affair with the great row of canneries in Monterey that gave him his closest friendship in life—with Ed Ricketts—and the setting for some of his most enchanting fiction.

The Odyssey Tours adventure begins with an evening with Steinbeck himself, portrayed by our host and humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson. Because Steinbeck was a reluctant and often petulant interviewee, he’ll be presented to our guests by Russ Eagle of North Carolina, Clay’s dear friend and one of Steinbeck’s greatest fans.

Our days will begin with after-breakfast book discussions, because Clay believes you cannot come to terms with Steinbeck’s California landscapes without a significant encounter with Steinbeck’s prose—his powers of description, his imagination, his political and social concerns, his capacity to create narrative.

After our playful but searching discussions we’ll venture out to explore Steinbeck’s world. Your cottage is within walking distance of the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the Pacific tide pools where Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts worked and played, while developing their philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, the futility of trying to deny the dynamics of nature, including human nature, and the ways in which groups (the phalanx) have “purpose” that eludes the understanding of mere individuals, whether they are brine shrimp or Oklahoma preachers.

Come join the adventure as we explore great landscapes and great literature with old friends and new in Steinbeck Country.

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About Odyssey Tours With Clay Jenkinson

Becky Cawley and Clay Jenkinson met at a planning conference before the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial (2003-09). Plunked together at a banquet, they asked each other what they wanted to do for the Bicentennial. Both said immediately that they wanted to lead tours on the Lewis & Clark Trail.

That was almost 20 years ago.

Their tours are widely acclaimed for their sheer pleasure. Becky and Clay take their guests to some of the most beautiful and pristine places in the American West. There is always a great deal of learning, but the learning is lubricated with laughter, adventure, intellectual playfulness, and good wine.
The amenities are excellent without getting in the way of what Theodore Roosevelt called “the strenuous life.”

Learn more about Odyssey Tours and about Clay.