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  Moving Beyond Vacation into Who We Really Are -- And having a great time while we're doing it!!!!!!!


By Angela Earle

The root word of "vacation" is "vacate," which is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "to make void or vacant, empty.......blank."   The typical idea of the American vacation (so beautifully epitomized in the movie National Lampoons Vacation ) is just that- a getting or running away from it all.   To have fun.  

So often, we return from these sensory binges hung over, with less money and more pounds than we left with.    There is another way, and it doesn't necessarily involve exotic locations, gobs of money, and mountain top gurus - or pain, suffering, deprivation or unhappy kids.   What it does entail is a willingness to ask our selves the deeper question of what we really want to get out of our vacations, what we are truly seeking in our lives, and to open our hearts, to and be fully present for, the experiences we are in the middle of.   95% of our collective memory is about the relief, joy, and plenty of summer, being outside in the fields, hunting, gathering, and wandering.......we wander still.


When I began scratching the surface of Retreats & Getaways around Idaho, I was happy to see that this deeper nature of vacation was being explored in many ways. I am so honored and happy to present to you a sampling of the options for your summer travel (inside and outside) plans.*   There are people who are doing wonderful work, who have been called to use their skills and their frame of reference, to explore the deeper nature of being, whether that be roaring down the Payette on a river trip, sitting in a swing by magical Billingsley Creek, or stepping into the glorious Sawtooth mountains for the first or the 100 th time.   The really great news about all of this is that we don't have to give up the idea of a vacation being "getting away from it all" or having a good time or relaxing.   What we have the opportunity to do is to have all of that and more - more fun, a deeper sense of relaxation, the opportunity to commune with ourselves, nature and Spirit, and to rediscover everything around us.

So, for those of us living in the Wood River Valley and in Idaho, I invite you to open your eyes to the opportunities around you, and for those of you who are visiting or looking for different kind of experience, do read on.  



Two local outdoor adventure companies are happy to present new offerings for this summer season that include their traditional adventure fare combined with alternative, spiritual and deeper explorations of self and spirit.  




Michelle Factor, intuitive counselor and healer, has teamed up with Sun Valley Trekking this summer to offer full moon retreats in the Sawtooth and Smokey Mountains that will not only include a guided backcountry hiking and trekking experience, but also guided meditation, singing crystal bowls, and gourmet healthy catered food.  

While each full moon spiritual journey will be different based on time and individual group needs and energy, after hiking into the summer yurt or other locations she plans to have the group meet in a circle after dinner and begin a soaring guided meditation where anything and everything can happen.   An intuitive since her childhood days, Michelle has long channeled spirit guides and messages and believes that doing this outside in the mist of the beauty and energetic potential of nature, with no distractions and while eating "clean food" has the potential for people to have amazing experiences, learn more about themselves and the journey they are on, and to walk away refreshed, invigorated, rebalanced, or as she put it, "it allows you to fly, to see things at a much clearer intensity.....When we are free, we are not afraid."  

Michelle brings in the whole body and sensory experience in her spiritual journeys, as well as singing crystal bowls aligned to the chakras, and the idea that we can better channel the messages of the spirits by being unobstructed conduits, hence her idea of serving "clean" foods.   She says most people would not even know they are eating a special diet if she didn't tell them, and the foods while wholesome and made without dairy, wheat or meat (though she is happy to accommodate group needs) are delicious and very nurturing as well as nourishing.   Her philosophy is that "you will take a journey and experience being free and very light and it's clearer when you eat clean food."  

If there is interest there will also be treks between the full moons for groups of up to 12.   Price is $335 per person for 2 day one night adventures, including 3 meals and snacks, all transportation, guides, and use of accommodations. Retreat dates are as follows:   June 21, July 22, August 19, September 17, October 15.   For more information or to reserve space on an upcoming retreat, contact Michelle at 208-788-2510 or or visit her website at   ~





Steve Lentz and yoga instructor Jolinda Saindon met on a Far and Away Adventures river trip that owner Steve was guiding last summer and an idea for combining the magic of water with the essence of yoga was born.  

Steve has been a guide for over 30 years, and owner of Far & Away for the last 10, with river trips down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the South Fork of the Payette, and through the "Route of the Mayas" in Costa Rica.   Though he says he always felt that being on the water - particularly the pure water of that in the Frank Church Wilderness of No Return - held a deep place inside people, it was only after meeting Jolinda that he was able to see how to more fully explore not only the potential of the water, but also the land around the water.   Both Steve and Jolinda resonate with the idea of water healing and containing the primordial energy of love.

These retreats on the water will take place at the end part of the rafting season, in late August and September, when the river is lower, the energy is calm, and the focus can more easily turn from rapid running (though Steve assures me there will still be some of that!) to being carried away by the soothing nature of the water.   When Jolinda was on a trip last summer she said that as a yoga teacher she could see how the gently rocking of the raft by the water, while situated on ones sitting bones, was healing in a yogic way that allowed one to be more in tune with the flow and energy of the water, and to become more relaxed and open to the glorious nature the river winds through.   From this place, combined with the breathe, one connects with the prana of the water in one's deepest place.  

Trips planned for later this summer will certainly take you away from it all.   From Ketchum, participants will be driven and then airlifted into the Frank Church Wilderness Area and then spend 6 days on the water.   All lodging, guides, and catered organic meals are provided, as well as the opportunity to partake in on shore hiking, fly fishing and the like.   Days will begin with a session of soothing yoga to prepare for the day on the water, and children are invited to participate as much or as little as they want.   Those who are not able to participate for the entire 6 days, or have other special needs, can be

accommodated.   Cost of the full trip is $1825 per person, all inclusive.   All trips are non-invasive, non-polluting, and done in a manner to increase awareness and appreciation of our beloved wilderness areas.   For more information or to reserve a space contact Steve at 1-800-232-8588, 208-726-8888, or visit the website at:



If you still feel like you have to head out of town to get out of your head, here are some great opportunities around the great state of Idaho.   For other ideas on locations far and wide, see the special Retreats & Getaways directory, and other articles contained in this issue.



Wind your way through the canyons and country and enter a small town that urbanity has yet to get its hands on.   Hagerman reminds me a lot of the town of Lava Hot Springs in that it doesn't look like much when you first see it, but once you plant your feet on soil gently shaking with the rhythms of the nearby sacred waters you realize what a special place you've come to, and that you wouldn't have it any other way.  

At the Billingsley Creek Lodge and Retreat, nestled a few feet from Billingsley Creek, you are literally surrounded by the noise and energy of water, and witness to it's meandering relationship with the world around it.   The Lodge was on the market a little over 4 years ago as a rundown motel and RV park when Joan Dalton-Boyd and Patsy Keeney bought it to fulfill their vision of creating a healing place where people could come to get away from it all and regenerate.  

Patsy first met Joan while attending a grief workshop that Joan was fascilitating, which opened up a whole new spiritual world for her.   Joan began working in the field of grief work when her son died in the 1980's and her life was turned upside down.   She left her profession as a teacher to get a degree in Transpersonal Psychology in Boulder, Colorado.   She went on to practice in the Magic Valley area and do hospice work at her wellness center in Kimberley, Idaho.   When she and Patsy purchased Billingsley Creek Lodge, she moved her work and her home there.   Joan has a model for working through   grief of all kinds, and is available for groups or individuals to hold retreats at the Lodge, where there is a retreat center meeting room, and during ind. retreats meals are provided and fixed by Joan as part of her process.   Both Joan and Patsy describe the work that they do as liberating and also a lot of fun!  

The Lodge has been completely remodeled and redecorated and new cottages have been added from the existing holdings.   Each cottage, room, and cabin has a theme (including a Hemmingway cottage where Papa slept and wrote!) and offers something different.   Each room has been lovingly prepared with heart and intention by these women, and the resulting energy is a place where one feels welcome, nurtured, and cradled by the healing energy.  

Even if you're not interested in a retreat, we highly recommend this as a place to just relax and let the water carry you away.   At night the trees glow with subtle lighting, with the bridges leading the way into another world.   The sound of the rushing waters lulls you to sleep, clears your mind, and refreshes you at a soul level. Both Patsy and Joan consider themselves caretakers of the land and their labor of love echoes with their intentions.

Rates, pictures, and more information can be found at their website: or by called Joan or Patsy at 208-837-4822 or



When I first moved to Idaho I lived for a glorious summer in Stanley.   It was my introduction to Idaho and to the West and I have yet to visit a place that more truly captures both the magic of the mountains, and the feeling of awe that the first pioneers, and Natives before them, must have felt upon witnessing these rugged extremes.   One of the great things about this area is that it has so much to offer and yet due to its isolation and strict development policy, it has remained true to its nature as an outdoor wilderness Mecca, in which one only has to hike a few miles into the backcountry to feel all alone.  

Meadow Creek Inn is a great place to unwind after a long day hiking or fishing, or soaking in the nearby hot springs. Included in all of their spa getaway packages ($95+ per person) is a 15 minute steam sauna, choice of massage, facial or foot treatment, and nightly cocktails.   Six themed rooms are available (see for pictures) and the site is great for group retreats, solo getaways, and reunions.   Open May through October contact owners Bill Hart and Peggy Jurgens for more info or to reserve space.

If you're overwhelmed by the options in the Sawtooth Valley and don't know where to begin, I would like to suggest three one-day adventures that have had profound effects on me.   These are not for the weak of heart, small children, or for anyone that's scared of bugs....

~ Day Hike to Hell Roaring Lake:   There are a hundred lakes to choose from in the Sawtooth Wilderness and each is perfect in their own way.   Hell Roaring Lake is a favorite of mine due to its relative ease to reach (5 mile hike in with an elevation gain of only 800 feet), and is everything, absolutely everything, an alpine lake can be.   By horse or by foot the alternating views of the Hell Roaring Creek, the Sawtooth range, and the White Clouds across the valley are inspiring.   The waters are pure, the fishing is good, and there are plenty of secluded spaces to commune with nature.

~ Scenic Air Tour:   Seeing the Sawtooths from the air is really the only way to truly understand the depth and vastness of this area.   Stanley is a small dot surrounded on three sides by thousands of square miles of wilderness area.   It puts the entire area in perspective in every sense of the word.

~ Day or multi-day trip to Lookout Mountain - White Cloud Recreation Area- There's more than one way to get to the ranger house on Lookout Mountain (elevation almost 10,000 feet), the easiest by far being from [insert name].   The post is visible for the last two hours of the rugged, challenging hike, and you will be rewarded by a panoramic view of the entire Valley, Big Meadow, the Chinese Wall and the peaks of the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains.   Wake up in the middle of the night and watch the shooting stars and the universe unfold around you.   Leave your thoughts and insights as so many others have done before you.   I always bring a tent just in case the building is occupied by other travelers.  



If you're planning to go up North this summer, have the kids in tow, and want a place that has it all, Hidden Creek Ranch in Harrison, Idaho (about 10 miles south of Coeur D'Alene) might be just what you're looking for.   The Ranch prides itself as an eco-tourism, holistic oasis offering everything from traditional dude ranch activities to classes in "earth philosophy," rigorous adventure challenges, "Centered Riding®" and all of the amenities of a health spa.   If you're looking for a way to share a vacation with your kids that incorporates the outdoors with holistic ideas, this is definitely a great option.

Founded in 1992 by owners Iris Behr and John Muir, there are programs and events all year long.   The philosophy of the ranch is to engage ones entire body, mind, and spirit through traditional ranch activities such as riding and hiking, while also offering activities such as yoga, meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises, along with a complete fitness center and massage facilities.   In addition to this, there are sweat and pipe lodge ceremonies offered.   Children over 12 are free to take part in adult activities or the children's program available to kids aged 3 - teens, and the Ranch also offers special "adults only" night activities.   While there is a schedule of available programs, all guests are free to participate as little or as much as they would like.   Specially designed retreats are offered for groups.   Programs run on a 6 day schedule, but shorter stays are also possible.

Hidden Creek is an all-inclusive resort (with extra charges for such things as babysitting and special tour options), and rates include lodging, 3 gourmet healthy meals (special diets accommodated), and use of all amenities including hot tubs, a heated swimming pool, and evening campfire entertainment.

There is also a Healing Program through the owners Body, Mind & Spirit Foundation (a non-profit that was founded in response to 9/11), and special senior discount packages. For more information, visit and



10 years after moving to Hagerman, Missy Firth is completing her vision of a destination spa in the Hagerman Valley.   Located adjacent to the Billingsley Creek State Park at 18022 Highway 30 , the Haven offers an array of options for your getaway.

Missy opened the Haven four years ago with salon services, and has since expanded into many areas.   A stylist and body worker herself, she wanted to create a space that was peaceful, small, and welcoming, what she describes as "a petite retreat."   Walking into the garden she is working on behind the main building and one can see that she is pouring her love into this endeavor.  

Missy will continue with the full services of her salon, while also having spaces for body workers such as massage therapists and other modalities, a yoga room, and overnight accommodations for a small number of people, and groups of 6-8 for personalized workshops and retreats.  

Accommodation rates start at $50 a night for knotty pine cabins, and use of hot tub, with an array of expanding choices to pamper yourself with.   Pampering is an important concept to Missy, particularly for women.   Local caterers and private restaurant Ein Tishe are available to cater events and parties in their location in Hagerman or at the Haven, with choices ranging from simple fair, gourmet, special diets, and healthy eating.  

For more information, contact Missy or her staff at:   208- 837-4054.



Getting in the proper frame of mind for any adventure is key.   Here are some suggestions for psyching yourself up:


Seven Years in Tibet (also a great preparation for the Dalai Lama's visit in September!)

Thelma and Louise (it was really about finding yourself, not hating men)

Continental Divide (even John Belushi couldn't escape the magic of the Rockies)

Walkabout (in your foreign films section, Australian so no need for subtitles)

Wizard of Oz

The Lion King

The Earthling (1980, Ricky Schroder lost in the Australian outback - the wilderness is serious stuff)



The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred by Phil Cousineau

Road to Guadalupe : A Modern Pilgrimage to the Virgin of the Americas by Eryk Hanut

The Power of the Dark Feminine,  by China Galland   (Audio - to listen while you drive!)

The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy, by ROBERT D. KAPLAN

The Old Patagonian Express : By Train Through the Americas by Paul Theroux

A Walk in the Woods : Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson (No, you're not the only one afraid of bears!)

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King (for the retreat you didn't plan on or ask for!)

The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates and/or Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins



Your own personal retreat/travel journal.   This will mean so much to you in the years ahead when you look back on your adventure.

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (particularly the Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

Eyewitness to America, by David Colbert

The Gospel of Thomas

The Devi Gita

Freedom from Exile, HH Dalai Lama

Maps, maps and more maps!!!!!   If you don't have them, you can't deviate from your precious plans!!!!



*Spirit of the Valley, nor any of its contractors or friends, were paid to visit, write about, or include these particular businesses in this feature.   We went where the Spirit moved us, and if we like what we saw we included it.   This is by no means inclusive - and we hope to feature more and more opportunities in the Retreats & Getaways Issue - June/July 2006 issue.

** I'm going to use the word "magic" a lot in the coming pages - please know that I do not use this word lightly.......