Deep Work Boundary Waters Retreat

Saturday, January 4 – Wednesday, January 8, 2020
YMCA Camp Menogyn
Boundary Waters

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets … it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Join Us for Deep Work and Adventure

At our Deep Work Retreat, join fellow IonE Affiliates for mornings of solitude and deep concentrated work to finish that journal article, chapter or whatever deep work project that most requires your focused attention. Then in the afternoons, we’ll adventure out into the majestic Boundary Waters with your choice of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. And, if you find yourself in a state of flow, you can simply stay in and continue your work.

In the evenings, join us by the campfire in the lodge to discuss how we can collectively address our most pressing environmental challenges. You can also enjoy the sauna with an optional dip in the lake.

All meals will be prepared for you by the expert chefs at the YMCA Camp Menogyn. Menogyn is an Anishinaabe word which means “to grow more fully.”


8 a.m.—Breakfast
8:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.—Deep Work Intensives
12:30-1 p.m.—Lunch
1-4 p.m.—Outdoor recreation, team building and deep work time
6 p.m.—Dinner
7-10 p.m.—Campfire conversations on making progress on our greatest sustainability challenges

This retreat is open to IonE Affiliates (Associates, Educators and Fellows) and others by special invitation.

By registering for the retreat, 4 nights of lodging, activities, meals at Camp Menogyn and transportation from the Twin Cities and Duluth will be included.

Lunch in Duluth on the way to the Boundary Waters, and on the way back will be the only additional cost. It’s a pretty sweet deal!

While packing for winter outings- think in non-cotton layers– polyester, wool, fleece layers will keep you warm even when it gets damp/sweaty.

  • Long underwear (top and bottom) (non-cotton is best!)
  • 4 pairs of wool/fleece socks
  • Snow pants
  • Fleece/wool hat (1-2)
  • Balaclava/face mask
  • Neck warmer
  • Sunglasses/snow goggles
  • Mittens/gloves (1-2 pairs)
  • Snow boots (Sorels, mukluks, etc.)
  • Warm parka/winter jacket
  • Sleeping bag and pillow
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • Chapstick
  • Toiletries
  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Small daypack/backpack for day trips
  • Swimsuit and towel for sauna
  • Wool socks for sauna (so bare feet do not stick to ice)
  • X-country skis/snowshoes (Menogyn does have these to use)
  • Indoor shoes (ie slippers, tennis shoes, etc) to wear in dining hall and cabins
  • Small games (decks of cards, board games, etc)
  • Money for camp store items (Menogyn sells hats, tees, sweatshirts, water bottles for $10-$50)
  • Ice fishing gear (if you would like to fish, a fishing license is also required)

You will be staying in shared camp-style bunkhouses. There are no showers so be prepared to bring dry shampoo and deodorant.

Daniel’s Bluff: a short 45 minute round trip hike. Trail is located behind the dining hall and offers an overlook of Daniel’s Lake, which is in the BWCAW. The trail is steep at the end, but very manageable.

Caribou Rock: located off the Hungry Jack Road, it takes about 2 hours round trip from Menogyn. It’s about a 1.5 mile walk from the Menogyn landing. The overlook offers a beautiful view of West Bearskin Lake and is one of the most photographed spots in the BWCAW.

Rose Falls: about a 3-4 hour roundtrip adventure from camp, Rose Falls is a beautiful waterfall in-between Duncan and Rose Lakes. Rose Lake is on the border of Canada, so you also get views of our friendly northern neighbor.

Rose Falls and Bottlecap Overlook: 4-6 hour roundtrip adventure from camp, Bottlecap is a gorgeous overlook of the border lakes. It is well worth the work to get there. The spur trail to Bottlecap is located on the Duncan-Rose portage, so you also get to see Rose Falls.

Sig Olson Lake: a little lake tucked away off Bearskin- hike there in the winter.

Groomed Ski Trails at East Bearskin Lodge: hop in a vehicle and drive the 15 minutes south of camp to East Bearskin Lodge for some of the finest groomed ski trails in Minnesota. Trails are groomed for classic and skate. Day passes are $, but worth it. These trails are amazing! You can also grab an adult beverage or mug of cocoa in their lodge after your ski.

Menogyn has a traditional wood fired sauna. The staff will stoke the sauna and lifeguard the hole in the lake ice for participants “to dip” during the evenings.

Menogyn’s most popular activity is very dependent on the winter conditions. The two mushers will use their discretion to make sure humans and dogs alike have a safe and fun experience. Participants are encouraged to help with feeding and watering of dogs and meet the dogs in the dog yard!

Yes, there is excellent high-speed internet available should you need it. We encourage you take as many breaks as possible from being “connected” so that you can go deeper into your work, and to only check your email once a day if at all.

We will leave the St. Paul campus at 8 a.m. on Saturday, January 4th, have lunch in Duluth and pick up our colleagues there. We will return to the St. Paul campus in the late afternoon/early evening on Wednesday, January 8th. We will try to be back around 4 p.m. dependent upon weather and driving conditions.

It is a 6-hour drive. When we arrive and depart we will cross a lake by foot so be sure to wear warm clothes and good boots to and from the site.

It is critical to make the space for deep work in our work lives, however it is difficult to do so. The IonE Deep Work Retreat provided the needed impetus to dedicate the time, a structure that supported accomplishing Deep Work goals, and in a natural setting that was inspirational.

Kathryn Draeger, Statewide Director, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships

The beauty of the deep work retreat is its combination of concentrated personal time–to write and think–and to build community that stands the test of time.

Jessica Hellmann, Director of IonE

My book proposal had been languishing for two years, testing the patience of my editor. By being away from all distractions and having support to focus, I accomplished my goal.

Susan Thurston-Hamerski, CFANS Senior Communications Manager