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Wild Dharma


April 30 - May 5, 2019


“The mountains are my home… with bark hat and wooden clogs I walk… once you see through transience and illusion, the joys of roaming free are wonderful indeed!” – Hanshan (9th century Buddhist & Taoist poet)

Precious few visitors to Big Sur receive the blessings and beauty that wait patiently just beyond the coast. We are pleased to offer you a rare opportunity to expand your awareness of self and nature on a guided, multi-day backpacking trip through the sacred and majestic backcountry of Big Sur, California. Together with a small group and dedicated guides, you will journey from the rugged coast, through the expansive and biodiverse Ventana Wilderness, to the remote and sublime Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

When we cross the threshold of the backcountry together, we 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 founder Fletcher Tucker and Rinzai Zen monk Ian Momsen will enrich our exploration with informal instruction on Big Sur natural history, nature connection, and Zen practice – including walking and seated mediation, as well as some old-time feral Zen surprises! To support our deepening awareness of land, self and other, we will also practice daily check-in circles. Upon arrival at Tassajara, there will be space for rest and integration, hot spring baths, sumptuous meals, and meditation in Tassajara’s incomparable mountain Zendo.

Excursion Details | April 30-May 5, 2019

  • Tuesday, April 30 | 7:00-9:00 PM Introductions and orientation in Big Sur the evening before departure. We can provide recommendations for lodgings/camping if needed.

  • Wednesday-Friday, May 1-3 | All-day backpacking through the magnificent Ventana Wilderness. Hikes ranging from 6-9 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 sleep beneath the sheltering stars.

  • Saturday, May 4 | Hike into the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, arriving by 3:00 PM. Enjoy Tassajara's Japanese-style bath-house, featuring natural hot springs, steam room, and creek-side sunning deck. Optional meditation/Zendo instruction will be available in the afternoon. Later we'll share a celebratory family-style dinner in the beautiful dining room, followed by optional evening meditation in the Zendo. Our accommodations for the night will be shared rooms in the lovely Courtyard Rooms.

  • Sunday, May 5 | Savor the day at Tassajara, including breakfast and lunch in the dining room. Depart by shuttle by 3:00 PM, arriving in Big Sur to retrieve personal vehicles by 6:00 PM.

Program Tuition

$1,250 total, including all food, lodgings at Tassajara, shuttle costs, and more.

A $350 non-refundable deposit is required upon registration to hold your space. The remaining balance is due by March 30th, 2019.

Cancellations made within 31 days of the program’s 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.


Because space is limited to only 9 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.


Ian Momsen

Ian is a professional photographer, avid adventurer, and Rinzai Zen monk. His journey began in the Green Mountains of Vermont, interpreting the change of seasons through paintings of the natural world, moved overseas where he trained at the Zuigan Sodo in Matsushima, Japan, and continues today in San Francisco, where he works as an outdoor and adventure photographer. He has traveled and camped extensively throughout the U.S. and spent countless hours shooting photos in the backcountry.

Photos from our last pilgrimage to Tassajara