Shakespeare in the Wilderness

Winter 2018 Book Retreat • January 17-22 • Lochsa Lodge, ID
Make a Reservation

Contact Becky directly at (208) 791-8721 or with any questions at any time or to make your reservation.

Frame your mind to mirth and
merriment which bars a thousand harms
and lengthens life.
— Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare in the Wilderness

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 Flower portrait of William Shakespeare, c. 1820-40. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Below, you can find information for Shakespeare in the Wilderness. Our first retreat of the year, January 10-15, is To Live Deliberately: Walden & Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

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.

Clay’s Note:
A few people have said the reading list seems long or hard. But it isn’t. We’ll focus on just six plays in the course of our time. This is actually the shortest reading list of any retreat I have led. I promise that if you come to Lochsa for this adventure, I will teach you to feel confident reading Shakespeare, to get more out of Shakespeare than you could ever have reckoned, and that you will not find the reading onerous. I’ll be posting tips about preparing as we move forward. Look for the list of 25 sonnets in the next few weeks.
See you there! 
— csj


Day 1 • Wednesday, January 17

Welcome to the American West. We will pick you up at the Missoula International Airport and transport you to your cabin in the woods in the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains. After you settle in and enjoy dinner from the lodge menu at your convenience, we will gather for a welcome reception by your host and humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson. After a quick orientation, we’ll get right at Shakespeare, with a couple of passages from his greatest plays. Then, as Hamlet says, “rest, rest, perturbed spirit.”

Lodging: Lochsa Lodge

Day 2 • Thursday, January 18

It’s the heart of winter when, as John Donne says, “the whole world’s sap is sunk.” You awake inside the hush and comfort of your cabin, make your way over to the glow of the lodge fire, and take breakfast with your new friends. Our journey through the first of Shakespeare tragedies begins at 9:30 a.m. in the lodge. We will read passages together, and at times even “act out” key scenes, but it is essential that you have read the assigned plays before the retreat begins.

Our literary conversations continue after lunch. Today’s optional group activity is a short walk to the Lochsa River to explore Lewis and Clark’s “Kilt Colt Creek.” (Why come to Lochsa Lodge and not have at least a short discussion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?) We will break bread together family style, fill our glasses, and then watch one of the best Royal Shakespeare Company adaptations of a widescreen television.

Today’s Plays: As You Like It and Othello. Sonnet selections yet to come.

Day 3 • Friday, January 19

Two more plays today, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. In the morning, we will watch two key moments from Hamlet in four or five filmic treatments, to get a sense of how large a role directors play in the interpretation of Shakespeare’s language. In the afternoon we’ll look at two key scenes from King Lear in half a dozen film versions of the tragedy.

Today’s optional group activity is to prepare a hearty Dutch oven meal outdoors around the Lochsa Lodge fire circle. This has proved to be one of the most joyful events of these retreats. Dutch oven management is both a science and an art. Clay barks out orders to the briquette squad and at “Tong Boy,” and we prove over and over that too many cooks spoil the broth. Our menu includes two varieties of homemade bread; Clay’s secret Greek recipe for Spanakopita; Odyssey Tours’ famous marinated beef and vegetable kabobs, cooked to perfection in the manner of Homer’s Iliad; and the Lodge’s fourth generation blackberry cobbler recipe. Note: this year we will definitely be rationing the wine consumption! After supper, Clay will talk briefly about Shakespeare’s Roman plays: Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida (actually, this one is Greek).

Today’s Plays: Hamlet and Henry IV, Part 1. Sonnets to be assigned.

Day 4 • Saturday, January 20

We’ll do two more plays today, and watch Morning discussions begin after breakfast at 9:30 a.m. We make sure there is plenty of free time in these retreats, because they are as much about friendship, exploration, your own time for reading and writing, and making your resolutions to live more deliberately, as they are for the specific literary conversations that we schedule every day. It’s so important to go silent in the woods. The Lochsa River valley is invariably covered with snow at this time of the year, but it is almost never cold, so outdoor recreation (cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking the cleared trails in your winter boots, just sitting around the fire circle just south of the lodge) is never uncomfortable for those with proper gear.

In the evening, after our family style supper, we’ll watch Kenneth Branagh fabulous film adaptation of Henry V. It’s not on the reading list, but you’ll enjoy the film more if you read the play in advance.

Today’s Plays: King Lear and Twelfth Night.

Day 5 • Sunday, January 21

Today is our last opportunity to grabble with the greatest writer in the English language. Clay will have a few passages from other Shakespeare plays for us to explicate and explore in the morning, and we’ll find ways to synthesize our experience of Shakespeare in the wilderness.

After lunch, we’ll drive to a hot springs trailhead. This is an optional adventure, but you’d be what Shakespeare calls a miscreant, a base scurvy fellow, a starvelling, an elf-skin, a dried neat’s-tongue, a bull’s-pizzle, and a stock-fish to stay behind in the lodge.

A mile-long groomed path takes us to one of the area’s greatest hot springs terrains. To prepare for the hot springs you’ll need to dress in layers with your swim suit underneath your winter clothing. Towels and a nylon changing shelter will be provided. Moose, deer, elk, bear, lynx, geese, swans, eagles, osprey, and blue herons have been spotted in this area, but we’re more likely to encounter hipster undergraduates from the University of Montana at Missoula. The landscape at the hot springs—giant conifers covered with fresh snow, a chattering mountain creek, skies that change rapidly from gray to blue to white, the immense solitude of the Rocky Mountains, the sense of wonder that envelopes you as you soak in the perfect warmth of the three hot springs pools—it’s one of the greatest experiences the American West can provide.

And, back at the lodge, we’ll dress up for our farewell dinner, punctuated by Shakespearean toasts, and wild promises of reunions.  

Day 6 • Monday, January 22

Time to go home. Today is a travel day. After a final huckleberry-infused breakfast at Lochsa Lodge, a 45-minute drive delivers you to the Missoula International Airport. Enjoy a safe trip home, or wherever your journey continues to take you!

The Plays We Will Read Together:

Richard II
As You Like It
King Lear
Henry IV, part one
Twelfth Night
Measure for Measure

Clay recommends The Complete Pelican Shakespeare as the best one-volume edition, but any good edition is fine. (Some people prefer single editions of single plays.) If you love literature or Shakespeare, it is worth investing in a great edition of Shakespeare. The Pelican edition is not inexpensive, but it is magnificent.

We will also read approximately 25 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Clay will provide the list soon.

Those who wish may also read Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage.

  • In the evenings we will watch film versions of King Lear, Henry V, Richard II, and Twelfth Night. Clay will provide specifics well in advance for those who might wish to watch the films before coming to Lochsa Lodge.
  • We will look at clips from five or six film versions of Hamlet to explore how different directors in different eras handle the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • We probably will perform one of the plays (probably Twelfth Night). More on this as the retreat approaches.

The retreat will begin with a group analysis of five short passages from Shakespeare, so that we can all begin to feel comfortable with his language, and comfortable with prose paraphrase of poetic passages. Then we will begin the process or working our way through the plays in question, two (and in some cases three) per day.

Participants should memorize a favorite Shakespeare passage (5-30 lines) to perform for the group.

Clay will provide to participants a short handout (“How to read Shakespeare with pleasure”) well in advance of the retreat.

Tour Price & Information

July 17-22, 2018 • All-Inclusive • 5 Nights at $1,995

Your retreat begins and ends in Missoula, Montana. Your package includes a professional tour director, discussions led by humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson, recreation equipment if necessary, all activities, lodging, meals, transportation, journals, gifts, state and local taxes, USFS fees, and hotel and restaurant gratuities. Airfare is not included. A $400 non-refundable deposit will secure your reservation. Please read our Terms & Conditions carefully. Contact Becky with your questions. Price is per-person based on double occupancy. Traveling single? No problem. We can easily match you with a roommate. Please inquire about our single supplemental fee if you would prefer a cabin of your own.

Becky Cawley • telephone: (208) 791-8721 •

2018 Winter Retreat Terms and Conditions

Deposits and Payments

A deposit of $400 per person will reserve the tour of your choice. Full payment is due in our office at least 75 days prior to departure. Your $400 deposit is refundable untilOctober 1, 2017.

Refunds and Cancellation Policy

We highly recommend you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you if for some reason you must cancel your reservation. You will receive your full refund less your deposit up to 75 days prior to the tour, a 50% refund if you cancel within 75 days prior to the event, minus any additional hotel or supplier expenses, which cannot be recovered by Odyssey Tours. No refunds in the last 30 days prior to tour departure. Full refund is always available if you can find a replacement traveler.

Travel Insurance

Highly Recommended. If you are interested in purchasing this coverage, please notify the travel insurance company at the time of your initial payment. Insurance purchased at a later date excludes pre-existing conditions. Travel Insurance information can be obtained from your local travel agency or by contacting our office.

Tour Cancellation

ODYSSEY Tours does not like to cancel tours. In the event a tour must be canceled due to insufficient participation, or other circumstances, we will be to refund all monies paid to us.

Participation Courtesy

We ask there be no audio or video taping of presentations without the prior consent of the individual presenters. Participants are requested to refrain from smoking inside all modes of transportation, during group meals, and lectures or events.

Itinerary or Program Modifications

The itinerary, as contained in this packet of information, is subject to modifications and change by ODYSSEY Tours. Every effort will be made to carry out the program as planned, but alterations may still occur after the final itinerary is sent.


ODYSSEY Tours acts only as the agent in making arrangements for the owner or operators of such transportation, accommodations, services or facilities engaged in our tours. Our responsibility is limited to that of an agent. We accept no responsibility for accidents, injuries, property damage or personal loss to you or to those traveling with you in connection with any accommodations, transportation or other travel or outfitter and guide services, or resulting directly or indirectly from any occurrences or conditions beyond our control, including but not limited to acts of terrorism, defects in vehicles, breakdown in equipment, strikes or theft.

We reserve the right to make changes in the tour where deemed advisable and for the comfort and well-being of the participants. We reserve the right to foreclose your participation at any time if your actions impose upon or disturb the other members of the program.

Clay's Shakespeare Journal