A Chance to Unwind

Meditation and massage are the main attractions at this western Wisconsin retreat

Standing before the winding circular path, I paused. The last time I’d done walking meditation, my rebellious mind had refused to focus, filling with even more thoughts. Now, on a sunny January morning in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, I was about to attempt the impossible yet again. Only this time, I faced a snow-covered labyrinth—a twisting trail carved out of the prairie stretching behind Journey Inn.

John Hufftaker and Charlene Torchia opened Journey Inn in 2006 as a retreat: although just an hour-and-a-half from the Twin Cities, cell-phone reception is limited at the inn, and silence blankets the air. Everything about the place is eco-friendly, from the clay-based paint and geothermal heating to the organic body-care products. The décor is green, too. Chunks of salvaged wood adorn door frames in the common room and locally made mugs hang from refurbished hooks, ready to be filled with hot tea.

My room for the night, the Air Room, was minimally furnished yet pleasantly comfortable. Soft-white walls and a light-blue ceiling gave the space a celestial feel, and the ever-present scent of lavender lulled me into a Zen-like trance that lasted into the morning.

After a savory, colorful brunch (roasted sweet potatoes, Swiss chard frittata, fresh fruit, and a mixed-green salad), it was time to tackle the labyrinth. The premise of a labyrinth is simple: enter with a question, ponder it while walking the path that winds to and from the middle, leave with a resolution. Some people have proclaimed it a life-changing experience. I, however, was skeptical.

I began my walk with a multitude of thoughts swarming in my head: I should waterproof my boots. Did I need that second cup of coffee? I wonder what the roads are like. But slowly a solitary concern surfaced—a worry I thought I’d resolved weeks earlier. Step by step, as I weighed the pros and cons and played the “what if” game, I felt my anxiety melt into acceptance until finally a new thought took over: All I can do is live life for right now, so what’s the point in worrying about the future or fretting about the past?

And then I was out. Somewhere within the labyrinth’s curves, I’d done what I had been trying to do for weeks: let go. Whether or not it was life-changing, I can’t really say. But it definitely was a journey.

MNMO’s guide to Maiden Rock


Plan your visit to Journey Inn around chef Linda Harding’s cooking classes. Formerly the natural-food chef for Lunds and Byerly’s, Harding now heads The Kitchen Sage as a personal chef and caterer. Classes are every other Friday at her home in Maiden Rock. They’re first come, first serve, so don’t wait to sign up.


The Friday I went, we learned the art of Japanese cooking. While rolling sushi rolls and eating enough sinus-clearing wasabi to last a lifetime, I learned all about Maiden Rock and Stockholm from my classmates: some of the area’s many musicians, artists, storeowners, and creative minds. Bring wine to share, and you’re guaranteed to make friends.


The Kitchen Sage and Journey Inn are partners of sorts: stay one night at the inn, get $10 off a class; stay two nights, get $30 off. Contact both Linda and Charlene for discount. Journey Inn, W3671 200th Ave., Maiden Rock, Wisconsin; 715-448-2424; journeyinn.net. Linda Harding, 612-964-9050, thekitchensage.com

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