To Live Deliberately

Winter 2018 Book Retreat • January 10-15 • Lochsa Lodge, ID
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Contact Becky directly at (208) 791-8721 or with any questions at any time or to make your reservation.

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

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.

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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.

Below, you can find information for To Live Deliberately: Walden & Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. Our second retreat, January 17-22, is Shakespeare in the Wilderness.

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. See your daily itinerary below.


Day 1 • Wednesday, January 10th

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 each talk about our own previous encounters with Thoreau, our attempts to “live deliberately,” and our goals for the weeks’ discussions.

Day 2 • Thursday, January 11th

After a hearty breakfast, we’ll gather in the reading lounge at Lochsa Lodge and start to come to terms with Walden. Although we will spend much of the morning taking Thoreau’s challenge to determine what are our “grossest groceries” seriously, we’ll start by discussing his famous chapter on “Reading.” It’s the best introduction to reading the classics ever written, and it will set the stage for our own examination of Thoreau and Edward Abbey.

 Daguerreotype of Thoreau by Benjamin D. Maxham. Public domain from  Wikimedia Commons .

Daguerreotype of Thoreau by Benjamin D. Maxham. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

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 a documentary film about Henry David Thoreau.

Day 3 • Friday, January 12th

Today we will examine parallel chapters by Thoreau and Edward Abbey, asking such questions as: Why were they so grumpy? What is their essential critique of their contemporary American civilization? Why did they seek solitude? What was their attitude toward nature? What did they learn from their experiments? What is the role of human companionship for these crusty old bachelors? What role does humor play in their books? How much was Abbey influenced by Thoreau? Etc.

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 Thoreau’s odd gastronomical habits and observations.

Day 4 • Saturday, January 13th

Today we will look at some of the greatest nature passages in Walden and Desert Solitaire. Clay will bring in additional passages from each man’s works that illustrate their great mastery of nature writing. In the afternoon, we’ll explore their political and environmental activism, with Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience as our text. Thoreau went to jail (for one night!) to express his contempt for America’s imperialist war against Mexico. Abbey was, on paper at least, a member of the Monkey Wrench Gang: environmental activists willing to damage the exploitative machinery of “industrial man.”

Turret Arch in Arches National Park. Photograph by Graham Thomas.

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.

Day 5 • Sunday, January 14th

Today is our last opportunity to grabble with two of America’s greatest writers (and characters), and to determine how we intend to proceed in our individual lives thanks to the challenges Thoreau and Abbey present to us. We will read the final chapter of Walden, “Conclusion,” together. And we’ll ask—of them, and of ourselves—what do you do when you leave the woods to move into the next “excursion” of your life?

After lunch, we’ll drive to a hot springs trailhead. This is an optional adventure, but you’ll be sorry if you linger behind in “civilization.”

 Thoreau's Cabin (Recreation) at Walden Pond by Sarah Nichols.  Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0  from  Flickr .

Thoreau's Cabin (Recreation) at Walden Pond by Sarah Nichols. Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 from Flickr.

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.

Day 6 • Monday, January 15th

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!

Tour Price & Information

July 10-15, 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 until October 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.