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Yosemite Pilgrimage

Backpacking through Nature's Heart

on the John Muir Trail



"Keep close to Nature's heart... break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." – John Muir

Yosemite is a primordial glacial valley, overflowing with diversity and beauty, widely regarded as the crown jewel of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was the spiritual playground of nature mystic John Muir, and the abundant, wildtended homeland of the Ahwahnechee Miwok tribe. After the summer fire near Yosemite dies down and the smoke clears, Wildtender will embark on a multi-day pilgrimage through the Yosemite (Ahwahne) Valley. This sacred and climate-changing landscape calls for our sincere awareness, connection, and care – as do our deep inner selves.

Together with a small group and dedicated guides, your journey on the historic and spacious John Muir Trail will begin in Tuolumne Meadows and end at Devils Postpile National Monument (38 miles total). We will ascend granite passes, meander with pristine streams, plunge into glimmering alpine lakes, and greet the many beings of of the High Sierras. We will embody the ancient and culturally universal practice of pilgrimage through this journey of body, heart, mind and spirit. We will carry only what we need, walk with presence and curiosity, awaken our senses, and gather meaning from our inner and outer landscapes.

As we wander, we will respond to what the Yosemite landscape reveals and our souls call for. Wildtender founders Noël Vietor and Fletcher Tucker will enrich our exploration with awareness-expanding and nature-connecting practices. Dorothy Charles, Co-Founder of Tribal Ground Circle and Founder of Relational Gestalt Practice, will support the authentic expression of our hearts and minds on the journey through daily check-in circles and awareness practices.

A Note About the Yosemite Fire (100% contained)

The Ferguson Wildfire which was at the edge of Yosemite National Park, is 100% contained. The trails we are taking have not been affected directly by the fire. And we happy to confirm that our trip will go ahead as planned. We have written an essay on wildtending and wildfires and our evolving relationship to nature in the age of climate change, called Turning Toward Fire: On Wildtending and Wildfire, which we hope you will find interesting and may inspire you to join us in our work.

Excursion Details | September 29 - October 5, 2018

  • Saturday, September 29 | Arrive at group campground by 4pm to set up camp. Orientation, introductions, campfire dinner, and a good night's sleep before we hit the trail.

  • Sunday, September 30 - Friday, October 5 | Enter trail at Toulumne Meadows. All-day backpacking south on the John Muir Trail, hiking 6-9 miles per day, with one break day in the middle for rest and inner/outer exploration without packs. Our pace will be moderate, and we will take many breaks to rest, replenish, and drink in the beauty of the land. Wildtender will supply delicious, nutritious, and energizing breakfasts and dinners on the trail. In the evenings we share stories of the day around the campfire.

  • Friday, October 5 | Exit trail at Devils Postpile National Monument and feast to celebrate our pilgrimage completion. Make our way back to our respective homes.

Program Tuition

$785 total, including all food, permit and shuttle costs.

A $350 non-refundable deposit is required upon registration to hold your space. 

Long-term students of Tribal Ground Circle can use Elective Days towards your pilgrimage tuition. Please make a note when applying for the program with Wildtender.

Cancellations made over one month from the program start date will be refunded minus the $350 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 shuttle reservations, secured permits, 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.


This program has completed.

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


Noël Vietor

Noël has been in an ongoing apprenticeship with sacred 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 served as the Program Coordinator for the Esalen Institute Farm & Garden in Big Sur from 2010-2015 – organizing its land-based educational programs and practice of Relational Agriculture, rooted in Esalen’s Gestalt lineage. Noël found a deep sense of belonging in the Big Sur wild while hiking the steep trails, learning the history and stories of the place, and experimenting with wild-crafting and homestead arts. Noël is certified with NOLS Wilderness First Aid.

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.


Dorothy Charles

Dorothy has been a Gestalt practitioner since 1985. She began her work at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California where she was inspired by the wildness of the land and experienced the way that time spent in nature enhances wellbeing. Dorothy now practices in Santa Cruz, California, and is the co-founder of Tribal Ground Circle, an educational community studying and practicing Gestalt Awareness Practice, Relational Gestalt Practice, and other work evolving from the lineage of Richard Price, gestalt teacher and co-founder of Esalen Institute. Dorothy received her training at Esalen with Richard and Christine Price, and at the Pacific Gestalt Institute in Los Angeles, California, with Lynne Jacobs and Gary Yontef.