photo: Marc Gabor
About These FAQs
Below we have endeavored to provide general answers to general questions. Please bear in mind, however, that each program we offer is unique. If you have a question about a specific program please read the program description thoroughly, the information that you seek is likely provided on the program page.
If you have a question beyond the scope of these FAQs please send us an e-mail.
+ WHAT IS YOUR CANCELLATION POLICY?
Our Terms & Conditions (including our cancellation policy) are available for review here.
+ DO YOU RECOMMEND TRIP INSURANCE?
For your protection, we strongly recommend that you acquire travel insurance to cover your travel and program expenses in the event that a major weather or disruptive life event prevents your Wildtender program from being possible. For more information about this please review our Terms & Conditions.
+ Who participates in Wildtender programs?
People of all ages, phases of life, economic strata, genders, sexes, orientations, races, ethnicities, religions, places of origin, habitat and worldview participate in Wildtender programs… and we welcome all!
Common themes among participants are seeking meaning, purpose or reconnection with nature, self, and a conscious community. Participants often find Wildtender during a time of transition. And of course many participants are hoping to enjoy respite from busy lives, demanding jobs, domineering technologies, and the trials and troubles inherent to our dominant culture.
It is always surprising and fulfilling to see how quickly a diverse group of participants becomes a village.
+ What is the balance of solo versus group time?
We believe strongly in the value of both solitary and group experience, therefore we try to keep a fairly even balance between the two – providing practices, suggestions and context for both. All activities (for lack of a better word) are optional, and if you’d rather spend the morning meditating instead of socializing (or visa versa) this is nearly always possible.
+ What equipment will I need?
Each program has its own detailed packing list. However, the most significant items you will need for any multi-day program are: a backpack, sleeping bag & sleeping pad, hiking footwear and a lightweight shelter (tent or tarp).
These items can be purchased or rented. Some quick internet searches ought to provide you with local rental sources. If you are looking to purchase, the staff at REI are extremely knowledgeable and helpful in store or over the phone.
If you have gear but haven't used it in awhile, we strongly recommend taking it out well in advance to make sure it's all in good shape.
+ How do you accommodate dietary restrictions?
We understand how important it is to adhere to dietary restrictions. Participants always take care of their own lunches and snacks, while we provide breakfast and dinners. The meals we provide are always vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian. Because we will be hiking into a backcountry campground, we will need to bring lightweight, dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking dinners. It is easy enough to source all vegetarian, vegan, organic, gluten and dairy-free dehydrated meals, but not as easy (and quite a bit more expensive) to provide paleo, grain or bean free.
If you have quite specific dietary needs that don't overlap easily with our usual cuisine, we can explore waiving the associated food costs in your tuition altogether, and have you bring along your own food to ensure that you have complete oversight over what you're eating.
All of the food we provide is sourced with concern for quality and sustainably.
+ What if I don’t have backpacking experience?
We like to assume beginnership for everyone and give thorough orientation to wilderness experience. Many people on Wildtender programs have never backpacked or camped in the backcountry. We cover the basics as we go, and orient you so you can go backpacking by yourself or with friends in the future!
+ Am I strong and/or young enough to backpack?
Participants in backpacking programs must be physically able to...
- Hike on varied and challenging terrain, through rugged and remote wilderness areas without any access to civilization, carrying all of my own supplies, and providing for my own primary needs of food, water, medicine and shelter (for backpacking programs).
- Wade through rivers and streams, or cross rivers and streams on narrow bridges or logs.
- Hike up to 10 miles per day, carrying a full pack weighing 30-40 lbs. (this pack weight is for backpacking trips only, and weight is dependent on individual equipment).
- Ascend and descend in elevation daily with gains and losses up to 3,000 feet each. [Please check individual program itineraries for specific mileage and elevation info.]
- Hike and camp in a variety of temperatures, ranging from below freezing at night, to potentially over 80°F during the day.
- Hike and camp in a variety of weather conditions including rain, hail, and possibly snow.
Adults of all ages have joined Wildtender programs, and some of our fastest and strongest hikers have been in their 70’s!
If you are unsure of your fitness we strongly recommend you consult with your doctor before applying.
+ How can I prepare physically?
In the month(s) leading up to your program, we suggest daily cardio exercise, and taking as many 5+ mile hikes as you can with a weighted backpack, in your planned hiking boots and socks! That said, listen to your body and don’t work out so much that you’re exhausted at the start of the trip. A good way to add weight to your pack is to pack water bottles.
+ I’M A SLOW HIKER, CAN I STILL COME?
Yes. All speeds are welcome. Sometimes going slow is the best way to journey meaningfully through a landscape.
+ WHAT IS THE GROUP SIZE?
This will depend on the program, please consult the specific program’s page. We always try to keep groups to an intimate size.
+ ARE YOUR PROGRAMS SUBSTANCE FREE?
Yes. To create a container of safety for all participants, and to aid us in our practices of presence no drugs or alcohol are permitted on Wildtender programs.
For similar reasons, and due to fire danger, smoking is not permitted in any form.
+ What happens in an emergency?
Well that really depends on the nature of the emergency. Wildtender guides and teachers are well trained and certified as Wilderness First Responders or in Wilderness First Aid. We carry radios, well stocked first aid kits, and a two-way satellite communication device. Rest assured we have emergency plans and protocols in place.
+ WHAT ABOUT DRINKING WATER?
Our backpacking programs are planned for times and regions with ample access to water from springs, creeks, and rivers. We carry multiple, reliable filtration/purification systems. You may need to carry two liters of water at a time, never more than that.
+ What kinds of practices will we practice?
On Wildtender programs we acknowledged The Place as primary teacher. Most of our “work” is to simply bare witness to grandeur and mystery, and to respond to what arises as we journey through the wild. The deepest practice is one of immersion – walking the trails, sleeping on the earth, drinking from streams, and spending time in the company of all our wild relations.
We do employ a host of techniques and technologies from a variety of lineages and schools of thought to aid our participants (and ourselves) in becoming more fully aware and alive in the wilderness. These practices include inquiry and intuition based approaches like: mindful movement, seated meditations, sensory sweeps, sit-spots, check-in circles, plant attunements, journaling, illustration, and more. Additionally we employ Earth Skills building activities like: animal tracking, fire making, wildcrafting, foraging, orienteering, and more, to promote direct engagement with Place.
Many of our programs focus on a specific practice or tradition (such as Zen, Gestalt, Animal Tracking, etcetera). This will be obvious in the title and description. These programs will also include our fundamental practices, but they will go more in depth into the given tradition/practice.
+ Why do you call your backpacking programs Pilgrimages?
We are backpacking, but the intention runs deeper than an outdoor adventure or restful vacation. Pilgrimage is an ancient and culturally universal practice. In its most simple form, pilgrimage entails walking with intention through (or to) a sacred place. Wildtender pilgrimages are journeys into the sacred wild lands of California. They are deeply immersive, multi-day programs intended to facilitate reconnection to the Earth and to cultivate rich relationship with a specific landscape. In these programs we may encounter wilderness directly as a healing and beneficial force for the human heart, mind and spirit. As a group of like-intentioned people, we form a wandering village, supporting each other as we learn and grow.
+ Do you offer scholarships?
We offer a small number of scholarship positions for each program, and we are currently working toward a model that will include more scholarship.
Scholarships are potentially available to any applicant regardless of background or identity. We especially encourage applicants from underserved or minority communities, and applicants well-positioned to generate change in their cultural or organizational systems, or those moving toward such roles.
Please check to see if scholarship is still available in the program of interest. If so, contact us via e-mail to inquire.
+ Do you offer artist’s residencies?
For some of our programs we are able to offer scholarship or a discounted rate for an artist interested in participating and either documenting the experience (photo or video), or producing work related to the experience (various media).
Contact us via e-mail to inquire about a specific program.
+ Do you allow dogs?
Unfortunately not, for various reasons. Many of the areas we visit are ecologically sensitive and simply do not allow dogs. Dogs in the backcountry can also attract unwanted attention from mountain lions, and increase contact with ticks, and poison oak oils.
+ Do you allow children?
Our programs are currently not designed/oriented to include children. However, we have received many requests for child and family friendly programs, and we intend to organize programs like this in the future. Join our mailing list and stay tuned for future family friendly programs.