GET OUT: Poor Man’s Spa Retreat

By on July 20, 2016

Two days on the river to rejuvenate weary minds and bodies without draining wallets.

The author captured in two of his favorite poses during his ‘spa session’ on the Snake. (Photo: Adam Connor)

The author captured in two of his favorite poses during his ‘spa session’ on the Snake. (Photo: Adam Connor)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – If the traffic on town square has your anger button constantly illuminated or if your courtesy smile for tourists is starting to fade, then the poor man’s spa retreat might be right for you. All you need is a paddleboard, and relaxation waits just around the corner. The Four Seasons might have nicer towels, but the great outdoors is the only place that I know of with serenity on lock down. The “retreat package” that my “spa director,” Adam Connor, sold me on was a two-day overnight adventure that traversed the length of Jackson’s “Hole.” This “all inclusive” weekend launches from the Jackson Lake dam, traces the length of the Teton Range, and comes to a dramatic conclusion through the class 3 whitewater rapids of the Snake River Canyon.

Looking it up on TripAdvisor, the reviews made the decision to sign up a no brainer. One customer stated, “the mud facials seemed like I was actually in nature” and another boasted that the water massage at Big Kahuna rapid “was to die for!!” I was still unsure of what to expect, however, as this was my first overnight paddle boarding adventure and the spa director acted suspiciously vague when asked how many miles we would be traveling each day.

Pushing doubt aside, we shoved off on our tipsy vessels and attempted our best SUPvasana pose while breathing in the mountain air. I must say that any lingering doubts quickly disappeared as I lounged on the river banks during our first “tea time,” where the pointy bed of rocks surpassed the expertise of any acupuncturist.

With the constant pressure for each adventure to be bigger and loftier than the one before, Jackson locals face severe stress. So a weekend “away” may be the best solution to the gas pedal lifestyle of a summer in the Teton Range. Granted, a two-day trip means trying to paddle around 40 miles per day, but in comparison to the vertical world this trip will seem like a rest day. If the itinerary doesn’t seem intense enough, however, the whisky liver cleanse or giardia colonic are both options on the spa’s menu. But for most, sleeping under a starry canopy is enough to take melt away worries.

As we passed under the shadow of the Grand Teton, time seemed to slow and whether we made it another mile or 20 didn’t matter. Meandering down the river past Dornan’s and then into Wilson, we saw the sun suspended in the same spot as we hopped from one bliss bubble to the next. Silence then became the keynote speaker of the retreat, as we tied up our vessel next to cow patties and willow trees. Lying down on our five star water beds, we were reminded that camaraderie and nature are always the best remedy for stress, as we were rocked to sleep by the sound of the passing waves.

On the second day, the retreat really started to take shape as we put on our wetsuits and headed towards the whitewater. First, however, to prepare we lathered on some essential oils of sulfur and exfoliated our skin in the scalding water from the local thermal pools. Then we set up our wind chimes and loaded up the “sounds of nature” playlist as we took a deep vinyasa breathe in expectation of what was ahead. In our less than stable vessels, any ripple appeared to be a torrent of angry water plotting to ruin our restful zen. In addition, we wanted to see if our yoga skills would transfer over to white capped waves, so we attempted to run the rapids upright. This didn’t go as planned and we were forced to accept that a “dry run” was totally out of the picture. The moving water then became our playground as we met the water gods head on and let the negative ions wash over us.

After a few hours of scream therapy in the canyon, our retreat then came to a close at Sheep Gulch boat ramp. Pulling up to the edge, we both exchanged a look of appreciation, a silent eye movement that recognized the only guru you need is the river, and the price tag for any spa treatment should always be zero.

Content and decompressed, we packed up the car and returned to the hustle and bustle of a Jackson summer. However, after spending two days on the river, our vision of the future had changed and we came back to the same congested world with a different attitude.  PJH

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