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Wild Council

Sespe Wilderness Backpacking Pilgrimage with The Ojai Foundation • ojai

APRIL 11-19, 2019


A council centered pilgrimage through the Sespe Wilderness

Journey with us into the heart of the Sespe Wilderness to uncover depths of connection to land, community and self. 

Following the meandering course of one of California's last wild and free rivers (the Sespe), 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.

Wildtender co-founder Fletcher Tucker will enrich our exploration with informal instruction on local natural history, nature connection, backpacking practice and wilderness skills. Ojai Foundation President, council carrier and ceremonial guide Laura Whitney will co-lead the pilgrimage facilitating daily council circles and guiding a variety of ceremonial, mindfulness and threshold practices for healing and transformation. 

Our pilgrimage will begin on the beautiful, sacred land of The Ojai Foundation. Our footsteps will carry us to the Sespe Hot Springs and back again. 

Excursion Details | April 11-16, 2019

  • Thursday, April 11 | Shuttle from the Ojai Foundation to our campground. Introductions and orientation at camp. Sumptuous camp meal, campfire, and anticipation…

  • Friday-Monday, April 12-15 | All-day backpacking through the magnificent Sespe Wilderness. Hikes ranging from 4-9 miles per day. The terrain can be steep, but our pace will be moderate, and we will take many breaks to rest, replenish, and drink in the beauty of the land. We supply 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 bathe in natural hot springs, and sleep beneath the sheltering stars.

  • Tuesday, May 16 | Hike out, and return to the Ojai Foundation for a closing circle and to retrieve vehicles.

Program Tuition

$1,250 total, including meals, permits, shuttle costs, etc.

A $350 non-refundable deposit is required upon registration to hold your space. The remaining balance is due by March 11, 2019.

Cancellations made over a month from the program start date will be refunded minus the $350 non-refundable deposit. We are not able to refund cancellations made within a month of the program start date, since we will have already confirmed lodging and shuttle reservations, purchased supplies, and turned away other potential participants. 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.


1-2 scholarship positions will be available for this program (depending upon enrollment). An application for scholarship will be posted here shortly, in the mean time, if you are interested in this program and require scholarship please send us an e-mail.


Because space is limited to only 13 participants, and we want to ensure participants are prepared for the journey, this program is by application. We suggest inquiring or applying now and we will be in touch shortly.

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 via the form below or by e-mail

Preparing for your pilgrimage

Wildtender will supply some shared backpacking 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:

  • hiking boots (broken in)

  • backpacking backpack

  • lightweight sleeping bag + stuff sack

  • lightweight sleeping pad

  • headlamp

  • trail lunches and snacks for yourself

Meet your guides

 photo by Colin McCarthy

photo by Colin McCarthy

Fletcher Tucker

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.


Laura Whitney

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 in 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.