photo: Leor Pantilat
"Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers and sisters, teaching secrets, freedoms, and ways..." – Gary Snyder
Join Wildtender for a weekend campout in the majestic wilderness of University of California's Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur. Learn the fundamentals of wildlife tracking with our passionate guides. Uncover the stories written on the Big Sur landscape, learn the language of the birds, and dream under endless stars.
Read the stories written on the land
The natural world overflows with clues about the lives of wild beings who surround us. Fresh claw marks on a tree trunk, fur-and-bone-filled scat, or muddy paw prints by the stream are invitations to deepen our understanding and connection to these animals and their wild lives.
Animal tracking – the art of interpreting the landscape and its wildlife – has been a crucial survival skill for the vast majority of human history, and continues as a living tradition. Focusing our awareness on animal tracks and signs, we step into the timeless realm of our ancestors. Our imagination and senses come alive as we pursue the mysteries of our place. Our sense of self expands as we track our inner and outer landscapes.
With curiosity, awareness, and a few essential skills, you can learn to track, wherever you find yourself on this spellbinding earth.
The Place: Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve, Big Sur
This is a rare opportunity to explore and camp in Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur, California – 8,000 acres of diverse wild land exquisitely protected by the University of California. Big Creek offers incredible diversity of habitats and animals. The camp we will call our own for the weekend is nestled in a secluded oak woodland. There are plenty of campsites, a pit toilet, picnic tables, and potable water.
We will hike by day on Big Creek's diverse network of trails, searching for wildlife tracks and signs, and interpreting them from an ecological systems perspective. We will engage the stewards of Big Creek to hear remarkable stories of the place and its animals, and learn how the staff use animal tracking for monitoring and wildlife conservation.
Itinerary | October 19 - 21, 2018
Friday, October 19 | Meet at the entrance of the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve at 3pm. Shuttle to our secluded campground, introduce and orient ourselves, and explore our new habitat. Shared supper and sleep under starlight.
Saturday, October 20 |
Morning: Sensory meditation to tune our senses to our environment and the bird language. Breakfast at camp, then hike out on Big Creek trails, searching for tracks and signs to learn the stories of the place. Enjoy lunch on the trail.
Afternoon: Investigate larger landscape and ecological patterns. Journaling and practices to tend our inner wilds.
Evening: camp cook-out and storytelling.
Sunday, October 21 | Half day of hiking and tracking; sharing to integrate our experiences. Pack up our camp by 2pm, shuttle back to vehicles, and make our way back to our respective homes.
Meet your guides
Our guides for this program will be dedicated tracker Meghan Walla-Murphy, Wildtender Founders Noël Vietor & Fletcher Tucker, Big Creek staff including long-time land steward and life-long tracker Feynner Arias, and of course the wild plants and animals of Big Sur.
Meghan is a wildlife ecologist, tracker, and an instructor of both young people and adults. She has spent the past 20 years dedicating herself to the art of wildlife tracking. This dedication has now become the lens through which she moves about the world. Tracking continually teaches Meghan to get out of her own way and observe what is beyond herself. It has also given her the skills to read a landscape, better understand ecology, and apply these to conservation and social justice challenges in her work.
Noël has been in an ongoing apprenticeship with the gardens and wilds of California. Her work and interests are dedicated to helping people relate more meaningfully with the land, themselves and each other. Noël organized the land-based educational programs for the Esalen Institute Farm & Garden in Big Sur from 2010-2015. Noël found a deep sense of belonging in the Big Sur wild while hiking the steep trails, observing and learning the stories and beings of the place. Noël is certified with NOLS Wilderness First Aid.
Fletcher is a California Central Coast native, and a former inhabitant of Big Sur. Fletcher is an experienced teacher, ancestral skills practitioner, Deep Ecology disciple, and lifelong student of California natural history. Fletcher has also studied and participated ceremonially with teachers within indigenous North and South American spiritual traditions, which have deeply informed his spiritual relationship to nature. Fletcher is a NOLS certified Wilderness First Responder.
Regular tuition: $400
Monterey Peninsula / Big Sur resident tuition: $320
Tuition includes campsite and shuttling fees, instruction in tracking and awareness practices, and three delicious dinners featuring organic, locally-sourced and wild foods.
In the interest of fostering local relationships with the land, we offer reduced tuition (20% off) to local Monterey Peninsula / Big Sur residents. However, this workshop is designed to apply to wherever you may call home; we welcome all lovers of Big Sur and citizens of the Earth!
We are dedicated to honoring our instructors by paying them a living wage. We also support local farmers/ ranchers, small businesses and organic, sustainable brands in sourcing our Wildtender meals and supplies. Thank you for your support as we strive to strengthen local and sustainable economies, and adequately compensate teachers who have spent decades honing their craft and skills. However, we do not want cost to be the reason you do not join our program. Please contact us to explore payment plan and work trade options.
Payment & Cancellation Policy
Full tuition is required upon registration. Cancellations made over 30 days from the program start date will be refunded minus a $100 non-refundable deposit. We are not able to refund cancellations made within 30 days of the program start date, since we will have already confirmed instructors, secured permits, purchased supplies, and most importantly turned away other potential participants. However, if you or we are able to find a replacement for your spot in time, we will happily refund your full tuition minus a $50 administration fee.
This program has completed.
Preparing for the campout
Wildtender will supply nutritious vegetarian dinners, as well as some shared camp essentials: water filters, camp stoves, first-aid kit, and more. A complete list of what you will need to pack for this excursion will be provided upon registration, and we are happy to provide more specific guidance. But here are few things you will definitely need:
trail appropriate clothing and shoes / hiking boots (broken in)
sleeping bag & pad
tent (sleeping under the stars is welcome but we ask that you bring a tent in case of moisture)
water bottles (at least 2 liters)
breakfast (x3), lunch (x3) and snacks for yourself (x3)