A council centered pilgrimage through Ojai’s Sespe Wilderness
Journey with us into the heart of the Sespe Wilderness (Chumash territory) to uncover depths of connection to land, community and self.
Following the meandering course of the Sespe, one of California's last wild and free rivers, we will enter into the ancient and culturally universal practice of pilgrimage. Like all great pilgrimages, ours will be one of body, heart, mind and spirit. We will carry only what we need, walk with presence and wonder, and gather meaning from our inner and outer landscapes.
As we wander, we respond to what the Sespe landscape reveals and our souls call for. Wildtender Co-Founder Fletcher Tucker will provide guidance regarding natural history and ecology, nature connection, and wilderness skills. Ojai Foundation President, council carrier and ceremonial guide Laura Whitney will facilitate daily council circles and offer a variety of ceremonial, awareness and threshold practices for healing and transformation.
This is a 30-mile, thru-hike journey into the Sespe Wilderness, beginning at Piedra Blanca along the Sespe River. Our wild pilgrimage will include an intimate group of up to fifteen (three guides and twelve participants) and unfold over four days/nights on the trail together. Our footsteps will carry us deep into the backcountry, with the Sespe Hot Springs as a magical replenishing point in the middle of the journey. Our Pilgrimage will complete at the eastern side of the Sespe Wilderness at Dough Flat.
Program Schedule | April 11-16, 2019
Thursday, April 11 | 2pm: Arrive at The Ojai Foundation for orientation and introductions. 4pm: shuttle to our remote campground in Rose Valley of the Sespe wilderness (near Maricopa, CA). Set up camp, share a camp meal and intention-setting council by campfire. Get a good night’s sleep before we hit the trail the next morning.
Friday-Monday, April 12-15 | All-day backpacking through the magnificent Sespe Wilderness. Hikes ranging from 4-9 miles per day. The terrain will be steep at points, but our pace will be moderate, and we will take many breaks to rest, replenish, and drink in the beauty of the land. Wildtender supplies delicious, nutritious, and energizing breakfasts and dinners on the trail. In the evenings, we will share stories of the day around the campfire. We will swim in the resplendent swimming holes of Spring, soak in the natural Sespe hot springs, and sleep beneath the sheltering stars.
Tuesday, April 16 | Hike out of the wilderness at Dough Flat (near Fillmore, CA) and shuttle back to the Ojai Foundation by 3:30 pm to retrieve vehicles. An optional meal will follow at a local Ojai restaurant to celebrate our Pilgrimage completion.
About The Ojai Foundation and the Practice of Council
Inspired by the timeless wisdom of traditions from around the world, The Ojai Foundation brings practices of connection and wholeness to our contemporary world. For over four decades, The Ojai Foundation has inspired, transformed, and nurtured people through rites of passage programs, council trainings, and nature immersion retreats.
Council, a circle practice that fosters attentive listening and authentic, heart-felt sharing, is at the core of The Ojai Foundation's offerings. Inspired by storytelling traditions from many cultures and rooted in the wisdom of nature, the practice of Council connects people authentically in a way that strengthens relationships, deepens relational consciousness and builds stronger communities.
Meet your guides
Fletcher is a California Central Coast native, and a former inhabitant of Big Sur. Having hiked and backpacked throughout the American West, Europe and Japan, Fletcher has become a devotee of trail-craft and minimalist backpacking. Fletcher is an experienced teacher, ancestral skills practitioner, Deep Ecology disciple, and lifelong student of California natural history. Fletcher is a dedicated student of Gestalt practice, learning from Dorothy Charles and Eric Erickson in the lineage of Esalen co-founder Dick Price. 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.
As a guide, Laura brings decades of experience in group leadership, council, rites of passage and nature-based ceremony. She is a dedicated student of the Wheel of Wholeness and a loyal apprentice to the earth-cherishing practices of Buddhist and indigenous traditions, including the way of pilgrimage and fasting in the wilderness. She holds a Masters Degree in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnographic Film from the University of Southern California (1987), is a certified Council Trainer, and is training to be certified in Holotropic Breathwork. Laura has an enduring passion for consciousness exploration, nature immersion, and sacred activism, working to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other and with all beings through prayer, silence, ceremony, song, story and deep listening. She has served as President of The Ojai Foundation since 2008.
$1,250 total, including meals (breakfasts & dinners), permits, shuttle costs, guide fees, etc.
1-2 scholarship positions may be available for this program (depending upon enrollment and eligibility). The eligibility criteria and application for scholarship will be posted here in January. In the mean time, if you are interested in this program and would require scholarship to be able to participate, please send us an e-mail to inquire.
Application & Registration
To apply and register for this program, click the button below and follow the steps on the Registration Page.
Space is limited and our programs fill rapidly; if you are interested, we suggest registering and submitting a deposit ASAP.
While previous backpacking experience is not required, hikers should be physically fit and capable, free of bodily injury or serious health conditions. Participants must be at least 18 years of age. If you are unsure of your capacity or have any other concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail.
Payment & Cancellation Policy
A $350 non-refundable deposit is required upon registration to secure your space. We will bill you for the remaining balance 60 days prior to your program.
Cancellations made 60+ days from the program start date will be refunded minus the $350 non-refundable deposit. We are not able to refund cancellations made within 60 days of the program start date, since we will have already confirmed lodging and shuttle reservations, purchased supplies, and turned away other potential participants. Given the intensive nature and limited space of our programs, we have found it unrealistic to find replacements within a shorter timeframe. However, if you or we are able to find a replacement for your spot, we will happily refund your full tuition/deposit minus a $75 administration fee.
Preparing for your pilgrimage
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. Wildtender will supply some shared backpacking essentials: water filters, camp stoves, first-aid kit, and more. Below are a few things you will definitely need. We will provide more guidance about preparing physically, emotionally and spiritually for the pilgrimage about one month in advance of the program.
hiking boots (broken in)
lightweight sleeping bag + stuff sack
lightweight sleeping pad
trail lunches and snacks for yourself