Each January I host humanities retreats at a wonderful retro style mountain lodge west of Missoula, Montana, just inside Idaho. It’s squarely on the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Bitterroot Mountains. It’s the slackest time of the year for the Lodge, which has 30 or so funky Spartan cabins, including my favorite, one of the least luxurious.
They are called “To Live Deliberately,” which is why Henry David Thoreau went to the woods: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach….”
Each year we do one on Walden and Thoreau (four days), and one on another topic. This last spring (2015) I chose John Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks and related works in American Indian studies. This coming year (2016) the second retreat will be on Books of the Road: the Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, Travels with Charley, and On the Road.
We spend about six hours a day in discussion of these books, in a very informal way, but always with some focus on public policy questions or discussion of the way America is tending. The rest of the time is free—some folks nap, others read, others write in their journals; some cross country ski, others lurch about on snowshoes, and some meet in smaller clusters to talk about books and life and travels.
There is always some talk about Lewis and Clark, since the Corps of Discovery passed by where the lodge now stands on both the outbound and return journeys through the Rocky Mountains.
The food is excellent. The atmosphere perfect. And the people who sign up are serious but not pretentious readers, seekers who want to have informed but playful and joyful conversations about books and ideas.
Our host is the excellent Becky Cawley of Lewiston, Idaho, my partner in cultural tours and retreats for many years.
How to reach us
Odyssey Tours with Clay Jenkinson – Becky Cawley at: