The Exploring the Space Program winter retreat is booked to capacity. No additional reservations are being accepted.


Exploring the Space Program

The moon landing in July 1969 was one of the handful of greatest moments in the history of human civilization. And it was just the beginning.

“The Apollo 8 Saturn V builds thrust after ignition of the S-IC first stage F-1 engines on December 21, 1968.” From  Wikimedia Commons .

“The Apollo 8 Saturn V builds thrust after ignition of the S-IC first stage F-1 engines on December 21, 1968.” From Wikimedia Commons.

The literature of the US, Soviet, and now Chinese space programs (1957-2019) is outstanding. Clay is most interested in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, beginning with Alan Shepard’s 15-minute sub-orbital mission in May 1961, through Apollo 11, to the last moon landing in December 1972 (Apollo 17). We’ll pay particular attention to the breathtaking Apollo 8 mission (December 1968, culminating in the reading of the first eight verses of Genesis from lunar orbit), without neglecting humankind’s first step on the moon or Apollo 13’s heroics in April 1970. We’ll spend some time talking about Skylab, the Shuttle, the International Space Station, Mars landings, and probes to the edges of the solar system—and beyond.

We’ll read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (and analyze the film); Norman Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, Craig Nelson’s Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, Jeffrey Kluger’s Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon; and Robert Poole’s Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth. A list of films to watch and additional reading will be available to those who register.

We’ll fire off a few multi-stage rockets and celebrate around the outdoor fire pit with Clay’s trademarked Tang Space Punch.


January 12-17, 2020
Lochsa Lodge, Lolo, MT

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 deposit will secure your reservation. Please read our Terms & Conditions carefully. Contact us 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.

You can contact us here or email us at [email protected].


Q: How do I know I won’t feel intimidated by all those gathered intellectuals?

Clay: Most of the people who come to these retreats are Jefferson Hour listeners. The group conversations are informal, entertaining, playful, and serious without being pretentious. One of the things I do is pass out a “Conversation Bill of Rights” during the evening orientation. It specifies the “rules of engagement,” so that people listen carefully to each other, avoid trying to dominate, avoid showing off, etc. I like to keep the tone very informal. In 95% of the retreats I have hosted, everyone speaks.

Q: Do I really have to read all the books?


Clay: Well, there are no pop quizzes! Of course, I hope you will read everything and come eager to discuss these books. The more you read in advance the better you will enjoy the retreat. Most participants read everything or nearly so. Some read the bulk of it. A few (you know who you are!) read a bit. It’s like everything else: the more you give to it the more you will get from it.

Q: Are there any assignments?

Clay: Yes, Read the books! I often urge people to write poems, or paragraphs that they may or may not share with the rest of us. A couple of times per day I urge everyone to think about some idea or question or to reread a passage from one of the books during the down time. But once you are there, you are unlikely to be asked to do anything but take part in the discussions.

Q: Are there any security issues in staying in cabins?

Clay: None. It’s perfectly safe. The cabins are fairly closely clustered. We’ve never had an incident of any sort. The doors lock as they would in your house.

Q: How cold does it get?

Clay: Not cold. I’m from North Dakota. We know cold. I’m always so pleasantly surprised by how temperate it is at Lochsa Lodge. It often snows while we are there, but I don’t recall ever being there when there was wind or seriously cold. It feels like a winter paradise.

Q: Should I bring winter gear?

Clay: Yes, you should have gloves or mittens, a parka, a stocking cap, perhaps a scarf, and boots. Don’t rush to REI to get all sorts of new gear. We don’t spend that much time outdoors. But you will want to stay warm, especially if you are from a warm climate. Anyone from the Midwest will find it balmy. We will supply hiking sticks, and if you want to snowshoe, we have gear.

Q: How much time do we spend outdoors?


Clay: Well, you have to walk a short distance between your cabin and the lodge where all the activity is. On the first afternoon we walk about ¾ of a mile (one way) to visit an important Lewis and Clark site. We walk on a graded road, but it can sometimes be a bit icy. We often go to a hot springs during the course of the retreat. It’s entirely optional, of course, but people love it. From the parking lot on US12 we hike about ¾ of a mile to the hot pools. There is plenty of free time during the retreat. Some people hike every day or run. Others just relax in their cabins or in the lodge or in the bar. So, you can spend a good deal of time outdoors while you are there, or a relatively modest amount.

Q: What’s the rhythm of each day?

Clay: We like to be casual. We gather about 9:30 a.m. in the lodge. We talk until noon or 12:30 with a break in the middle. Then we eat. Afterwards we usually have some rest time. We talk for two or three more hours in the afternoon. Then people tend to regroup in their cabins or get a glass of wine. After dinner we sometimes watch a film (if there is a pertinent one), or we gather around a huge fire pit out overlooking the Lochsa River. It’s winter, but its magical. Sometimes I tell a story or two around the fire.

Q: Is there Internet at Lochsa Lodge?

Clay: Yes and mostly no. If you sit in the corner of the bar you may get Internet. You should really plan not to be online for the four days you are there. You can make calls out from the lodge phone if necessary. Most people are able to get online a couple of times during their time at the lodge, but you cannot absolutely count on it.

Q: Where is the nearest store?

Clay: Missoula. Once you get to Lochsa Lodge, you are really quite “off the grid” for a few days. If necessary, we can get you to Missoula. But this has in fact never happened. There is a limited lodge store with soda, beer, lip gloss, shampoo, etc., but it has a kind of retro feel.

Q: Can the lodge handle my unique dietary regimen?

Clay: Of course. Just let us know well in advance. We’ve had vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, paleo, you name it. Andrea and the Lochsa staff can accommodate whatever your particular needs are, but after you get to Missoula it will be too late to let us know.

Q: How do the meals work?

Clay: Order breakfasts off the menu, just charge to Jefferson Hour Tours. Same with lunch. The evening meals are set meals (so make sure we know your dietary restrictions): beef, chicken, pork, potatoes, vegetables, bread, corn bread, that sort of thing. Hearty. We eat at a large rectangular table family style. There is always a great plenty of food.

Q: What about alcohol?


Clay: We serve wine with the meals. The rest of your drinks you should charge to yourselves. Most people bring their own bottles of hard liquor, and some bring wine for after hours. But nobody ever feels they have not had enough access to alcohol.

Q: Do the cabins have central heat?

Clay: It varies. Most do. Some have wood stoves that you feed a couple of times per day. Make sure you let us know what your preferences are. Some people like to rough it a bit. Others seek the usual comforts.

Q: What about bathrooms?

Clay: Virtually all the cabins have full bathrooms.

Q: Is Clay there the whole time?

Clay: Yes. Alpha to Omega. There is no respite, no relief! One of my favorites once said, “That’s a lot of Clay.”

Q: How do I know I will enjoy this?

Clay: Think of it as the book club you have always wished existed. If you enjoy the Thomas Jefferson Hour and my approach to ideas, history, and literature, you are likely to enjoy this. We do a good deal of laughing. Friendships spring up at these retreats. Many people have come again and again. There is no source of tension. We have most of Lochsa Lodge to ourselves, though some locals come in to dine and some hunters usually come.

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.

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 TJ Hour 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

TJ Hour 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 TJ Hour Tours. Every effort will be made to carry out the program as planned, but alterations may still occur after the final itinerary is sent.


TJ Hour 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.

Apollo 8 images from Wikimedia Commons.