Renewal in the Wilderness

"A huge thank you for such an enjoyable and refreshing experience. I loved every minute, have told everyone about it and would go again in a heartbeat."
~ Janine Prorok


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"I didn't want it to end. I mean, I knew the physical part of the trip had to stop, but what I particularly didn't want to end was the feeling of wholeness and connection. And so far it hasn't, even six months later."

~ Reverend Stephanie Perdew




"John, words cannot express how deeply I feel about our wilderness adventure. It was just amazing, fabulous, magnificent...I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you."

~ Geoff Gluck



"Renewal in the Wilderness led me into a place without distractions, where there was no escape from what I most fear and what I most deeply desire. It allowed me to acknowledge my limits and needs.

"For me, taking a trip with Renewal in the Wilderness was an act of resistance against the narcissistic values of our society. The world promotes limitless self-indulgence and consumption, but the RITW trip reminded me of how little we need to be profoundly happy. The world teaches us to be anxious and dissatisfied, but the RITW trip left my heart feeling peaceful and complete."

~ Reverend Julie R. Harley




"Physically, John is as fit and experienced with the outdoors/leadership as you can be. Intellectually and socially he's an intelligent, gifted facilitator with a wry sense of humor. He effortlessly led a group of middle-aged men (all men on this particular trip, some with very little outdoor experience) with minimal but focused input/teaching and maximum individual and solo time to process and truly reflect on the spiritual aspects of life.

"Spiritually, John has that rare balance between passionate personal faith/soul and the capacity to be open-handed with others in their own spiritual 'place': non-preachy, compassionate, patient, contemplative, joy-filled. His 'preaching' was simply his joy for life, and the wilderness, and the way the wilderness spiritually affects us all, regardless of whatever specific religion we may bring to the trip."

~ Jeff Nixa



"I'm still high from it! It exceeded all my expectations. I’m going to recommend your trips to everyone. (Well, not everyone, but to those who I think will groove on them.)"

~ Bill Sherman




"I just wanted to tell you thanks for doing what you do. We just got back from Maui [where] we went to see Wayne Dyer and Ram Das. It was wonderful. But it's people like you that keep the spirit going.
Thank you."

~ Dan and Sharon Morley




"As I sat in my study yesterday morning I heard birds singing, but their song was further away and more difficult to hear than I am used to. ...I thought to myself, 'If I was in our tent right now I could hear them very clearly.' I then remembered those mornings, waking up in our tent each day. The mornings were so innocent…so beautiful. Whether it was the sound of soft rain hitting the tent or watching the light come through the fabric, they were wonderful. Then I thought, "Holy moley, I am wishing I was in a tent and not in my house!!!" This is the fluff & puff queen wishing to be in the wilderness in a tent!!!!"

~ Carole Alm

Canoe and Kayak Trips, ...and now Backpacking!

Trips, by length of stay

Trips, by location

Paria Canyon Utah trips

Please note: Trip fees include boats, paddles, life vests, food, tents, eating and cooking gear, and your wonderful guides. Fees do not include any clothing, personal gear or transportation or lodging/meals to and from the outfitter from your home. We recommend week-long trips for the greatest impact, but the shorter trips are also very meaningful. For more information, check out Policies, FAQ and Safety, and the trip-by-trip information itself. See our Newsletter for the latest canoe trip updates.

Now accepting applications for Renewal in the Wilderness 2016 trips. Reserve your spot in the boat today! Call 847.869.5885.


backpacking in Paria Canyon


New for 2016!!
Backpacking Pilgrimage, Paria Canyon, UT
April 1-6, 2016
(6 days)
April 9-14, 2016
(6 days)
September 17-22, 2016
(6 days)
September 26-October 1, 2016
(6 days)

Wake up each day beside the Paria River as the sun creeps over the canyon walls. After breakfast we’ll drift naturally into a time of guided meditation. We’ll hike with fellow pilgrims through slot canyons, past stunning rock formations, within reach of riparian vegetation, and around river bends. We’ll share common meals carefully planned and cooked by your guides. In the evenings we’ll share stories and insights from our day in this stunning backcountry, before stretching out to sleep under shooting stars.

This 6-day experience begins with a whole day walking through the Buckskin Gulch—one of the longest slot canyons in the world—to where it meets the Paria River. Each day will be full of surprises as we meander on side trips, find the beautiful Wrather’s Arch, drink from natural desert springs, and watch the canyon unfold. And we will learn why the desert was so formative for three of the world’s major religions, and still forms us today.
Minimum participants = 5 people. Maximum participants = 10 people.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This Renewal in the Wilderness experience involves carrying food, water, personal and group gear in backpacks for 6-12 miles each day. The terrain is rugged but mostly flat. It’s necessary to be in good walking condition. It is NOT necessary to be an experienced backpacker. This trip will appeal to the seasoned and novice alike. In case any portion of the trail is deemed impassable by the Bureau of Land Management we will adjust our itinerary, but not our expectations for profound delight!

COST: $950 for clergy, $1100 for lay people (per person)
Trip cost includes:

  • Gear for camping and backpacking (as needed)
  • All meals on the trail
  • Backcountry permits
  • Shuttle from Lee’s Ferry, AZ to trailhead
  • Assistance preparing for the Pilgrimage
  • Experienced spiritual guide
  • Certified wilderness guide
  • Price does NOT include personal clothing, transportation (except for the outfitter shuttle), meals in transit or incidentals.

DEADLINE for registration: February 8 for April trips. August 8 for September trips.

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885

Alaska sea kayak trip

Sea Kayaking in the Kenai Fjords National Park, ALASKA
July 25–29, 2016 (5 days)
Remote, pristine and rarely visited, Northwestern Fjord in Kenai Fjords National Park is truly one of the world's most remarkable sea kayaking destinations, and it embodies all the deep and simple spiritual values that were so eloquently described in the PBS special on the national parks. Places like this make you feel … cleaner, simpler … and expand your soul, and deepen your connection to Life. We'll paddle amidst icebergs and seals; we’ll watch tidewater glaciers calve into protected waters. This stunning location is all the more environmentally poignant when you consider that the areas we’ll paddle were under a mile of ice as recently as the early 1900's. Join us in one of the world's most gorgeous, truly wild places.
Minimum participants = 5 people. Maximum = 9 people.

    COST: $2,190 for clergy, $2,575 for lay people (per person)
    DEADLINE for registration:
April 1

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885

Alaska sea kayak trip

Apostle Islands

Sea Kayaking, Apostle Islands, WI
August 26–31, 2016 (6 days)

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a kayaker's dream, and an amazing place for feeling small … an important part of any spiritual journey! The islands are rich in sea caves, lighthouses, wind-and-water carved arches and sea stacks, and beautiful sandy shores This marvelous collection of uninhabited islands offers stunning scenery that is uniquely accessible to kayaks. We'll spend six days paddling the pure blue waters of Lake Superior, sleeping beneath stars that arc from horizon to horizon. If there’s a moon, we’ll kayak on its reflected moonbeams, which is an extraordinary experience. This is a bucket-list spiritual and physical adventure.
Minimum participants = 4 people. Maximum = 8 people.

IMPORTANT NOTE: On some days we’ll make three-mile open water crossings between islands, among waves that could be 2'-3’ high. These crossings are very do-able with advance preparation. Therefore, while prior instruction is not mandatory to participate in this trip, it's HIGHLY recommended that participants get kayak training that includes paddle strokes, wet exits and rescue techniques for capsized kayakers. Of course, there will be skills assessment and instruction on our first day together. In the Chicago area these preparatory courses are available at the Northwest Passage (, click on the "instruction" button on the main page). Outside the Chicago area, look for introductory courses that include wet exits, rescue and paddle techniques. Your safety is paramount, and with some advance preparation before your Apostle Islands adventure, you'll be more comfortable in the potentially challenging conditions on Lake Superior.

    COST: $1,040 for clergy, $1,220 for lay people (per person)
    DEADLINE for registration:
July 6
    PLEASE NOTE: Prior experience is HIGHLY recommended but is not required.
    See shaded box above for training suggestions.

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885.
>> The Apostle Islands Trip is one of our most popular! <<
Consider registering early to guarantee your spot.

Boundary Waters canoe trip


Boundary WatersBoundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Minnesota

September 3–9, 2016 (7 days)
I cannot say enough about the spiritual power of the Boundary Waters. It changed my life, so I know intimately what’s possible there. If my soul could have socks, this is where they got blown off. Although the BWCA is 1,000,000 acres huge it’s also very intimate because of all the lakes and hills that break up its immensity. As a result the BWCA feels very personal. During our early-Fall trip the leaves are often beginning their yearly parade of color, the tourists and mosquitoes will be gone, and for the most part we'll have this extraordinarily pristine area to ourselves. We could see and/or hear wolves, beaver, otter, loons, ducks, bear, geese, eagles, muskrat, moose, otter, etc. Beautiful at any time of year, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is exceptional in the Fall, and a place of enormous spiritual potential.
Minimum participants = 4 people. Maximum = 8 people.

    COST: $1,575 for clergy, $1,850 for lay people (per person)
    DEADLINE for registration:
August 2

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885.
>> Our Boundary Waters Trip always fills up fast. <<
Consider registering early to reserve your place.

Boundary Waters spiritual trip


Boundary Waters

Sea Kayaking in Crete, Greece
October 4–11, 2016 (8 days)

THIS is a bucket list trip! Everything is different here, but different in Old World ways. We'll spend our days kayaking in the deep blue Libyan Sea on the south coast of Crete, and spend each night in a different, intimate seaside inn. We’ll also do a day hike in the Samarian Gorge (for those who are able and willing), visit Minoan ruins (home of the mythical Minotaur), visit an 11th century chapel dedicated to St. Paul, and walk where Paul reputedly walked. We'll eat wonderful, healthy Mediterranean food every day. We'll practice yoga and meditate on the beach. Simply being in Crete is a spiritual experience, and when we add the intentional spiritual component, in this place, with its history … wow! There is nothing wrong with this picture! Valid passports, of course, required.
Minimum participants = 6 people. Maximum = 12 people.

    COST: $3,865 for clergy, $4,340 for lay people (per person)
    DEADLINE for registration:
July 26

NOTE: Scholarships are available for UCC clergy on week-long trips.

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885.


Wisconsin River canoe trip


Canoeing on the Beautiful Wisconsin River

Wisconsin river canoe groups

June 16–19, 2016
Trip #WR1

July 8-10, 2016
Trip #WR2

September 23–25, 2016
Trip #WR3

October 21–23, 2016
Trip #WR4

This is a wonderful way to spend a long weekend. The Wisconsin River is beautiful and wide heavily forested along the banks, and it’s dotted with wooded sand islands where we rest and camp. We see more magnificent bald eagles here than anywhere else; there’s also blue herons, sand hill cranes and more. These shorter Wisconsin canoe trips are an easy way to get much of the full Renewal in the Wilderness experience. Although not as "deep wilderness" as our longer trips, this gentle river is a wonderful place to renew, or find, your relationship with yourself and with God.

    DEADLINES for registration:
    May 29, July 12, September 1, October 2 (respectively)
    FEE: $450 per person

TO REGISTER: Click here for form (PDF) or call 847.869.5885.


Wisconsin River canoe trips


Wisconsin River Canoe Trips

Kishwaukee River near Rockford, IL
Book Now for Your Group!

May 21, 2016
Trip #KR1

June 4, 2016
Trip #KR2

All one-day trips take place on the Kishwaukee River (near Rockford, IL, it is a small version of the glorious Wisconsin River) or a good substitute. These trips are available for groups that you put together or groups that we put together. For example: men's or women's groups, church groups, work groups, couple's groups, etc. Please note: a similar river experience may be substituted for the Kishwaukee River if necessary.

    DEADLINES for registration:
    May 7, May 20 (respectively)
    FEE: $125 per person

TO REGISTER: Call 847.869.5885 for more information.


canoe trips groups


Renewal in the Wilderness provides contract canoe trips (that is, for groups that you put together) for adults and/or teens (ages 14 and up). Please call us at 847.869.5885 to discuss your needs. These trips can range from one day, to three days, to one week. The shorter trips would take place in the Wisconsin/Illinois area. Longer trips can go further afield.

    FEE: varies

TO REGISTER: Call 847.869.5885 for more information.


"In ways that are spiritual, physical and psychological, the wilderness grounds us by setting us free from our self-imposed limitations."

~ from John Lionberger's new book, Renewal in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Guide to Connecting With God in the Natural World

floating on the water

NEED MORE INFO? Check out our FAQ and Policies for details.

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