REFUGE: A 6-DAY BACKPACKING TRIP IN THE GILA WILDERNESS

September 1-6, 2024

Gila Wilderness, Southern NM

$1600 til July 1/$1750 after. Please note this trip fee does not include a 6% NM Gross Receipts Tax which will be added at checkout. 

7 spots available at full price. 1 spot at a 10% discount, 1 spot at a 20% discount. 1 spot at a 40% discount. Please read my SLIDING EQUITY SCALE page for details and discount codes.  Payment Plans (4 biweekly payments)are available and calculated at check out. Longer payment plans available by request.

The deep canyons, vast expanse and infinite river tributaries of the Gila Wilderness, unceded indigenous homelands of the Chiricahua Apache peoples and the world’s first designated wilderness area, is a wild place like no other. We begin and end this trip in the geothermal waters of the Gila Hot Springs Campground- a luxury and balm like nothing else on our way in and out of the backcountry.

These are no ordinary wilderness trips. Sarah Byrden, a wilderness guide of 25 years, is a master of her guide-craft, facilitating and bridging a life-giving dialogue and communion between the human and more than human worlds, between wild self and wild earth, which are in fact one great wilderness. These trips will be a more intimate encounter with wilderness than perhaps ever before in your life.

Countless participants have remarked over the years that this single week in the wild is worth the transformative weight of years of “therapy”. This single week will reverberate in your cells as a counsel of elders for months and longer.

Our work here is the recovery and amplification of the indestructible soul…which is our only true aquifer of sustenance.

No matter our ancestry or heritage, across cultures we share roots that understand Nature as teacher and elder, as eternal wisdom, love and intelligence. Many of us have forgotten, been interrupted or been severed almost completely. It is possible to go into nature and miss it altogether. It happens all the time, and ironically, most often in the modern day “outdoor industry”. We can hold on to our “front-country” mindsets and use nature as an object, backdrop and stomping ground for the drives of our ego. These trips are not that. Here, we will go into the wild, admit we are that wild, and let this encounter rearrange us. We will find the wilderness and all of her cycles of life and death, and be gifted map, mirror and medicine- trustworthy maps to follow and locate ourselves within. Mirrors in which to see ourselves and lives . And reservoirs of medicine to fill our cups.

If you feel a call, I assure you there is big medicine waiting for you on this trip. And that there is a way for the details, logistics and finances to come together.

This is an invitation for the deep nourishment, true adventure, slowing down, restoration, care, silence and transformation. This is a place to bring all of you. A place that can hold and welcome all of you.

It’s time for us to claim the old knowing- to return to a communion with the land, with ourselves and each other, with that which is sacred, sustaining and wise, and to walk that path together. This trip is a pilgrimage that will breathe life back into your lungs, quench what is thirsty and re-member us back down to the bone. There is an other-worldly yet profoundly primal and visceral power to the stunning red rock canyons and mesas of the Southern Utah desert. This land is ancient, dramatic and speaks in hidden rhyme and verse. Bears Ears National Monument is the modern name for the unceded lands that were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people- Ute, Paiute, Hopi, Navajo, and others- prior to their migrations south where their descendants live today near and along the Rio Grande Valley. We go here with acknowledgement of the people who walked before us, to tend the conversations this land will give us, to witness and to listen.

We come together to true our lives (true as a verb). Not to get out of our lives, but to reconnect with a powerful source so we can step more fully into them, with greater coherence and soul-fire. To return home with the spark to take action, to live differently, make necessary changes, abide in a place altogether closer to our marrow.

In the words of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”

These trips are powerfully framed and seeded with a single story from the oracular book Women Who Run with the Wolves. We take the entire week to walk our way through a story, which reveals itself, chooses us, and becomes an otherwordly archetypal frame and guide of deep insight and synchronicity. We enter deep time. We gain access to deep knowing, sustenance, replenishment and wisdom. We follow and listen to whatever arises in the moment, explore and knock on doors direct-perception through gorgeous and stirring archetypal qigong flows, primal movement on the earth, rowdy laughter and play, stillness, silence, speaking, listening, land-art, solo time and more.

We will dive deep, slow down, and become the breathing body that the wild wants to be near. We will remember- in our tissue and cells-that we are part of wise living system, an intelligent web of life. We will give space for the tender, fierce and soul-soaked parts of us, touch the wildness that we know we are made of but that somehow evades us in the busyness of our lives. We will honor our cycles. Gather the courage to see hard truths, the fire to shift what no longer serves, and the balm to gentle and replenish ourselves. Here lies the support to see, be seen and dive deep. We will raise up as a “sudden village” with the longed-for medicine of face-to-face connection and intimacy.

These trips are a space of immersive refuge for anyone who identifies a woman, femme, non-binary or gender queer individual who feels called to the wild, inside and out, and to explore the depth of the feminine soul. These trips strive to be inclusive of a broad spectrum of human beings who wish to explore a reclamation of the feminine soul through a more feminine approach to nature, self and process.

** We will not be hiking for all 6 days. We will spend multiple days without packs on our backs, day hiking, resting, soaking up slow-time and sinking into the earth’s rhythm.

The deep canyons, vast expanse and infinite river tributaries of the Gila Wilderness, unceded indigenous homelands of the Chiricahua Apache peoples and the world’s first designated wilderness area, is a wild place like no other. We begin and end this trip in the geothermal waters of the Gila Hot Springs Campground- a luxury and balm like nothing else on our way in and out of the backcountry.

These are no ordinary wilderness trips. Sarah Byrden, a wilderness guide of 25 years, is a master of her guide-craft, of facilitating and opening a life-shaping dialogue and communion between the human and more than human worlds, between wild self and wild earth. These trips will be a more intimate, sensual and vulnerable encounter with wilderness than perhaps ever before in your life.

These trips are a dive into the brave and bountiful work of soul, of cycles, and of wildness – yours and that of the natural world. We let the wild into our skin, let ourselves be touched by this immensity and power and let it rearrange us, bring us back into coherence on a cellular level. Countless participants have remarked over the years that this single week in the wild is worth the transformative weight of years of “therapy”. This single week will reverberate in your cells as a counsel of elders for months and longer.

Our work here is the recovery and amplification of the indestructible soul…which is our only true aquifer of sustenance.

No matter our ancestry or heritage, across cultures we share roots that understand Nature as teacher and elder, as eternal wisdom, love and intelligence. Many of us have forgotten, been interrupted or been severed almost completely. It is possible to go into nature and miss it altogether. It happens all the time, and ironically, most often in the modern day “outdoor industry”. We can hold on to our “front-country” mindsets and use nature as an object, backdrop and stomping ground for the drives of our ego. These trips are not that. Here, we will go into the wild, admit we are that wild, and let this encounter rearrange us. We will find the wilderness and all of her cycles of life and death, and be gifted map, mirror and medicine- trustworthy maps to follow and locate ourselves within. Mirrors in which to see ourselves and lives . And reservoirs of medicine to fill our cups.

If you feel a call, I assure you there is big medicine waiting for you on this trip. And that there is a way for the details, logistics and finances to come together.

This is an invitation for the deep nourishment, true adventure, slowing down, restoration, care, silence and transformation. This is a place to bring all of you. A place that can hold and welcome all of you.

It’s time for us to claim the old knowing- to return to a communion with the land, with ourselves and each other, with that which is sacred, sustaining and wise, and to walk that path together. This trip is a pilgrimage that will breathe life back into your lungs, quench what is thirsty and re-member us back down to the bone. There is an other-worldly yet profoundly primal and visceral power to the stunning red rock canyons and mesas of the Southern Utah desert. This land is ancient, dramatic and speaks in hidden rhyme and verse. Bears Ears National Monument is the modern name for the unceded lands that were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people- Ute, Paiute, Hopi, Navajo, and others- prior to their migrations south where their descendants live today near and along the Rio Grande Valley. We go here with acknowledgement of the people who walked before us, to tend the conversations this land will give us, to witness and to listen.

We come together to true our lives (true as a verb). Not to get out of our lives, but to reconnect with a powerful source so we can step more fully into them, with greater coherence and soul-fire. To return home with the spark to take action, to live differently, make necessary changes, abide in a place altogether closer to our marrow.

In the words of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”

These trips are powerfully framed and seeded with a single story from the oracular book Women Who Run with the Wolves. We take the entire week to walk our way through a story, which reveals itself, chooses us, and becomes an otherwordly archetypal frame and guide of deep insight and synchronicity. We enter deep time. We gain access to deep knowing, sustenance, replenishment and wisdom. We follow and listen to whatever arises in the moment, explore and knock on doors direct-perception through gorgeous and stirring archetypal qigong flows, primal movement on the earth, rowdy laughter and play, stillness, silence, speaking, listening, land-art, solo time and more.

We will dive deep, slow down, and become the breathing body that the wild wants to be near. We will remember- in our tissue and cells-that we are part of wise living system, an intelligent web of life. We will give space for the tender, fierce and soul-soaked parts of us, touch the wildness that we know we are made of but that somehow evades us in the busyness of our lives. We will honor our cycles. Gather the courage to see hard truths, the fire to shift what no longer serves, and the balm to gentle and replenish ourselves. Here lies the support to see, be seen and dive deep. We will raise up as a “sudden village” with the longed-for medicine of face-to-face connection and intimacy.

These trips are a space of immersive refuge for anyone who identifies a woman, femme or a non-binary individual who feels called to the wild, inside and out, and to explore the depth of the feminine soul. These trips strive to be inclusive of a broad spectrum of human beings who wish to explore a reclamation of the feminine soul through a more feminine approach to nature, self and process.

** We will not be hiking for all 6 days. We will spend multiple days without packs on our backs, day hiking, resting, soaking up slow-time and sinking into the earth’s rhythm.

“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”

— Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Prerequisites

  • No prior backpacking experience necessary. Participants must be physically able to carry a 35-40lb pack, and to 2-6  miles per day with this pack on their back. (You definitely don’t have to think this will be easy, it just needs to be physically possible for you- the rest is a mental dance)
  • *Participants need to know they have the confidence, physical centering, and psychic anchoring to hold them in time and space. A clear sense of containment is required. This trip is not a fit for those who may be currently feeling destabilized, traumatized, struggling to heal, or in need of reestablishing basic nervous system or life coherency.” We will be moving not only into the vast wilderness of this coastline, but into the wilds of our psyches, hearts and somas. ( *Thank you to Liz Koch for this language). Of course, much healing is available here. And so many of us have been moving through instability…if you’d like to join but are wondering if this may apply to you, please reach out to Sarah. She is happy to get on the phone to see if this trip and timing is a fit for you.

Prerequisites

  • No prior backpacking experience necessary. Participants must be physically able to carry a 35-40lb pack, and to 2-6  miles per day with this pack on their back. (You definitely don’t have to think this will be easy, it just needs to be physically possible for you- the rest is a mental dance)
  • *Participants need to know they have the confidence, physical centering, and psychic anchoring to hold them in time and space. A clear sense of containment is required. This trip is not a fit for those who may be currently feeling destabilized, traumatized, struggling to heal, or in need of reestablishing basic nervous system or life coherency.” We will be moving not only into the vast wilderness of this coastline, but into the wilds of our psyches, hearts and somas. ( *Thank you to Liz Koch for this language). Of course, much healing is available here. And so many of us have been moving through instability…if you’d like to join but are wondering if this may apply to you, please reach out to Sarah. She is happy to get on the phone to see if this trip and timing is a fit for you.

What’s the Plan? Trip Details:

Location: This trip will take place in the stunning Gila Wilderness of Southern, NM. We will begin our trip soaking in the natural and healing waters of the Gila Hot Springs, with the option of soaking in this bone-quenching hot water on the night we hike out of the wilderness as well.

Meeting Time and Place: We will meet at 12 pm on September 1 at Doc Campbell’s Post in Mimbres NM. We will then caravan to the Gila Hotsprings Campground (3 minutes away) where we will stay for the night- we will have lunch (please bring your own lunch for this day – you can pick up chips, sodas at  Doc Campbell’s Outpost as well), organize gear, settle in together and have ample time to soak in exquisite hot spring waters under a canopy of stars. We will wake early on September 2, have more time to soak in these divine waters, drive to our trailhead begin hiking from there. Bathing suits are required during daylight hours at the hot springs. 

Coming out of the “field” on September 6:  We will emerge from the wilderness in the afternoon of September 6, arrive back to our cars, unpack and caravan as a group to Doc Campbell’s outpost (who will be staying open late and waiting just for us) for an early dinner together before everyone heads in whatever direction they’re going. (Doc’s will have hot pizza, salads, brownies and ice cream ready for us, gluten-free options included. This dinner is not covered in the cost of the program and will run about $10-15/per person) From here, it is a personal option if you’d like to return to the Gila Hot Springs Campground for a night of soaking, camping and integration before making your way home on the 7th  (reservations are required and Sarah has made a handful for us in advance).  These hot springs are only a 15 minute drive from Doc’s and make for a delicious night of integration and body-care.  Or you may wish to depart from our dinner at Doc’s and head to your airport departure city/a hotel/various creature comforts. 

Travel: Please plan to arrive near (within a 5-6 hour drive) of our field area no later than August 31 and DO NOT BOOK any travel or make any plans prior to September 7. We will not make it back in time for travel plans on September 6. You can drive to a hotel or your departure city on the night of the 6th, but do not plan to catch a flight or meet anyone on this day.  Requested time off from family and work should be no shorter than August 31-September 7. If you can give yourself an extra day on either end of the trip, especially upon landing back into your life, this is a very kind idea if it’s logistically possible. And if not, you can trust that flow too. 

Closest Airports: 

NOTE: These approximate drive times are to Doc Campbell’s Outpost in Mimbres, NM 

El Paso TX- 4 hours hour drive .
Tucson AZ – 4.5 hours  hour drive
Albuquerque, NM:  5.5 hour drive
Santa Fe, NM- 6.5 hours
Silver City, NM: 1.5 hours
Truth or Consequences, NM: 3.5 hours

** PLEASE NOTE: Silver City is a 1.5 hours SOUTH of the Gila, and is the closest large town (population 10,000) with amenities (accommodation, rental cars, hotels etc.). There is a very tiny airport here, and flights available from ABQ.

Truth or Consequences,  NM is good stop over if you are coming from the North (Santa Fe/ ABQ). The Gila Wilderness is very remote! Which makes it very special.

CARPOOLS AND COST SHARING: As soon as our circle begins to gather, we’ll connect you to coordinate carpools and sharing the cost of rental cars and accommodations, which we highly recommend. This coordination happens every trip and creates a really fantastic connection and spirit of adventure before the trip. Others make it more of a solo adventure, which is just as beautiful if needed and preferred.

Meals: We will provide all meals from dinner on September 1-lunch on September 6. You do not have to think about or shop for these. We will be well fed and you’ll have a chance to tell us about your dietary restrictions on your medical form. Please come with a sac lunch on September 1 and plan to pay for your own dinner at Doc’s on September 6.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR THE NIGHT BEFORE AND ON THE FINAL DAY OF OUR TRIP: We’ll be meeting at 12 pm on September 1, which will give you several hours in the morning to drive to the Gila. Please plan accordingly. Do not plan on departing from Doc’s until at least 6 pm on our last day, September 6. Please consult a map so that you make a realistic plan in terms of drive times. It will help that you’ll have a full belly for whatever you decide to do. 

Pre-Trip ZOOM call: Wednesday, Wednesday August 14 at 6:00 pm MDT

A Wild Companion: I bring my 2 year old pup, Fili, on these trips. It is very special to have a canine friend along for this journey. She is an incredibly sweet, sensitive, and lovely creature and has only ever added to these trips. If you are allergic, fear not, she will never enter your tent and she will be happy to oblige if you don’t wish to pet her.

What’s the Plan? Trip Details:

Location: This trip will take place in the stunning Gila Wilderness of Southern, NM. We will begin our trip soaking in the natural and healing waters of the Gila Hot Springs, with the option of soaking in this bone-quenching hot water on the night we hike out of the wilderness as well.

Meeting Time and Place: We will meet at 12 pm on September 1 at Doc Campbell’s Post in Mimbres NM. We will then caravan to the Gila Hotsprings Campground (3 minutes away) where we will stay for the night- we will have lunch (please bring your own lunch for this day – you can pick up chips, sodas at  Doc Campbell’s Outpost as well), organize gear, settle in together and have ample time to soak in exquisite hot spring waters under a canopy of stars. We will wake early on September 2, have more time to soak in these divine waters, drive to our trailhead begin hiking from there. Bathing suits are required during daylight hours at the hot springs.

Coming out of the “field” on September 6:  We will emerge from the wilderness in the afternoon of September 6, arrive back to our cars, unpack and caravan as a group to Doc Campbell’s outpost (who will be staying open late and waiting just for us) for an early dinner together before everyone heads in whatever direction they’re going. (Doc’s will have hot pizza, salads, brownies and ice cream ready for us, gluten-free options included. This dinner is not covered in the cost of the program and will run about $10-15/per person) From here, it is a personal option if you’d like to return to the Gila Hot Springs Campground for a night of soaking, camping and integration before making your way home on the 7th  (reservations are required and Sarah has made a handful for us in advance).  These hot springs are only a 15 minute drive from Doc’s and make for a delicious night of integration and body-care.  Or you may wish to depart from our dinner at Doc’s and head to your airport departure city/a hotel/various creature comforts.

Travel: Please plan to arrive near (within a 5-6 hour drive) of our field area no later than August 31 and DO NOT BOOK any travel or make any plans prior to September 7. We will not make it back in time for travel plans on September 6. You can drive to a hotel or your departure city on the night of the 6th, but do not plan to catch a flight or meet anyone on this day.  Requested time off from family and work should be no shorter than August 31-September 7. If you can give yourself an extra day on either end of the trip, especially upon landing back into your life, this is a very kind idea if it’s logistically possible. And if not, you can trust that flow too.

Closest Airports: 

NOTE: These approximate drive times are to Doc Campbell’s Outpost in Mimbres, NM 

El Paso TX- 4 hours hour drive .
Tucson AZ – 4.5 hours  hour drive
Albuquerque, NM:  5.5 hour drive
Santa Fe, NM- 6.5 hours
Silver City, NM: 1.5 hours
Truth or Consequences, NM: 3.5 hours

** PLEASE NOTE: Silver City is a 1.5 hours SOUTH of the Gila, and is the closest large town (population 10,000) with amenities (accommodation, rental cars, hotels etc.). There is a very tiny airport here, and flights available from ABQ.

Truth or Consequences,  NM is good stop over if you are coming from the North (Santa Fe/ ABQ). The Gila Wilderness is very remote! Which makes it very special.

CARPOOLS AND COST SHARING: As soon as our circle begins to gather, we’ll connect you to coordinate carpools and sharing the cost of rental cars and accommodations, which we highly recommend. This coordination happens every trip and creates a really fantastic connection and spirit of adventure before the trip. Others make it more of a solo adventure, which is just as beautiful if needed and preferred.

Meals: We will provide all meals from dinner on September 1-lunch on September 6. You do not have to think about or shop for these. We will be well fed and you’ll have a chance to tell us about your dietary restrictions on your medical form. Please come with a sac lunch on September 1 and plan to pay for your own dinner at Doc’s on September 6.

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR THE NIGHT BEFORE AND ON THE FINAL DAY OF OUR TRIP: We’ll be meeting at 12 pm on September 1, which will give you several hours in the morning to drive to the Gila. Please plan accordingly. Do not plan on departing from Doc’s until at least 6 pm on our last day, September 6. Please consult a map so that you make a realistic plan in terms of drive times. It will help that you’ll have a full belly for whatever you decide to do.

Pre-Trip ZOOM call: Wednesday, Wednesday August 14 at 6:00 pm MDT

A Wild Companion: I bring my 2 year old pup, Fili, on these trips. It is very special to have a canine friend along for this journey. She is an incredibly sweet, sensitive, and lovely creature and has only ever added to these trips. If you are allergic, fear not, she will never enter your tent and she will be happy to oblige if you don’t wish to pet her.

FAQ’s

PACKING LIST

REI rents some gear. Lots of your friends have gear and would be happy to lend it to you to support your journey! Thrift stores are a score for outdoor gear. No need for shiny Backpacker Magazine gear. This list doesn’t need to break the bank. Please let me know if there is something you just can’t find, borrow or afford.

A few rules backcountry gear thumb:
Cotton kills. It doesn’t dry quickly or keep you warm if its wet, and this can create serious safety hazards and threats of hypothermia, even in warm weather. Warmer is the way to go- you can always de-layer. You know your own body best…so tend it well based on your own idiosyncrasies. It’s ok if you bring more than you’ll need. On the first day, we will dump out our packs and go through gear, so we can help you decide between jackets, how many pairs of long underwear etc. So, if you have a question about it, bring it and we can check it out with you.

  • Backpack (55-70 liter size). Internal Frame. Please go to REI or another outdoor store to fit your pack if you are borrowing it and have never worn it to make sure you have the right pack size. Packs are not one-size-fits-all, and if you have a pack that is too big or small for you, it can be extremely uncomfortable. By size, I mean S, M, L. Make sure whatever it is that it is 55-70 liters in capacity.
  • Rain cover for your pack, or a heavy duty garbage bag that can be a rain layer that lines the inside of your pack- rain cover is much easier. Make sure it fits the pack
  • Tent: you can sleep in a solo tent or bring something larger to share. Be sure that a 1-person tent is 3 lbs or less, and a 2 person tent is 6lbs or less to be carried between 2 people (and so on and so forth for more capacity. We don’t want anyone carrying more than 3 lbs in tent weight. REI rents solo tents, as well as 2 and 3 person tents.
  • Sleeping pad- Inflatable recommended. (like this one)  **Make sure this is insulated and full length. Your sleeping bag won’t keep you warm if you are losing heat through the ground. Inflatable pads should have an R value of 3 or higher. (that’s the insulation rating). If it has a lower R value or no insulation, bringing a thin closed-cell foam pad in addition (like this). Be sure both pads are small enough that they will roll up and fit inside or affix easily on the side of your pack. (appropriate for backpacking rather than car camping)
  • Repair/patch kit for your inflatable sleeping pad- your trip will suck if you can’t fix a hole in your pad and are sleeping straight on the ground
  • Sleeping bag (15 degree or lower rating). This can be synthetic or down, whichever you prefer, but be sure that it packs down to a backpacking size. Please note that sleeping bag temperature ratings are rated for the temperature at which they will keep you safe. Add 15-20 degrees to the rating to understand how much it will keep you warm. For example, a 0 degree bag will keep most people warm in 20 degree weather, but it will keep them alive in 0 degree weather.
  • Sleeping bag compression sack (compression sack is handy but not a deal breaker. It’s ok if you don’t have one)
  • Sleeping bag liner if you run cold- these are light, packable and add a lot of warmth if you aren’t sure your bag is warm enough. If you tend to run cold, it’s better to plan to be too hot at night rather than cold. Sleeping cold can ruin a trip.
  • If you have it- Large stuff sac or light fabric with handles or a draw string to store your food in (handles/drawstrings are important so we can hang it from tree branches to keep it away from creatures and critters). If you don’t, don’t but this. I have extras.
  • Headlamp **with extra batteries
  • Metal or plastic Bowl, mug, spoon/fork (this mug will be for hot drinks).
  • Water bottles or camelback (or similar) bladder. Big enough to carry at least 3 liters (do not bring insulated hydroflasks- these are too heavy)
  • If you get cold at night, you can bring a hard-sided colored or clear Nalgene brand water bottle (like this) and this can be filled with hot water at night for you to take with you to bed to create a nice cozy sleeping bag. (not this -the white soft plastic will melt if filled with boiling water)
  • 3-4 Underwear (or more if you feel you need that)
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 2 pair hiking pants or synthetic leggings for hiking (no jeans)
  • 1 pair fleece pants or “expedition” weight long underwear or down pants if you run cold (depending on season and location)
  • 1-2 mid-weight/base-layer long underwear- top and bottom. Bring 2 of these layers if you run cold.
  • 1 Warm outer layer (like a puffy/down jacket). If you run cold, bring 2 of these style jacks or add in a down vest
  • 1 Rain Jacket
  • 1 Rain Pants
  • 1 Beanie (warm hat)
  • bathing suit for hot springs (Gila Trips) or swimming in rivers or lakes- can also wear bra and underwear
  • 1 pair warm gloves
  • 1 Sun hat
  • 3-4 Pairs of hiking socks (not cotton)
  • 1-2 pairs sock liners (will help prevent blisters!) toe socks” make great liners (there are also such things as “toe-sock: style liners)
  • 1 pair thick sleep socks- these are socks that will live in the bottom of your sleeping bag and will only be used for sleeping. They will never get wet, dirty or sweaty and will help you sleep cozy!)
  • 1 Hiking shoes or boots. Go for boots if you have weaker ankles. Make sure these fit well, are comfortable and are broken in
  • 1 pair Sandals/Crocs for camp- these shoes will double as river shoes if we need to do river crossings as they will be fast drying
  • 1 Sunglasses with UV protection. Don’t bring gas station sunglasses. You can fry your eyes without UV protection
  • 1 Bandana
  • 1 Small package of wet wipes for feminine hygeine after going to the bathroom or facial wipes- we will pack out all waste
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, facial moisturizer, hand lotion is nice, comb/brush if needed)
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • 2 rapid COVID tests- one to take on the morning of your arrival to the group, and one to bring on the trip in the event you start developing symptoms
  • Personal Medication
  • Camp Chair – like this one or this one- these are 2 different styles
  • Camera or phone for pics (optional- you are free to leave your phone in the car)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent- usually only needed for Summer trips, but depending on the weather (warmth) it is nice to have
  • Hiking poles (optional but highly recommended- more so if the terrain is steep, and/or if you have knee trouble)
  • Journal and 2 pens
  • A small gift that will be given away to someone in the group. You’ll be carrying this so make sure its small and light. Trust your gut on this one. Can be homemade, found, or bought. Don’t over think it. It can be funny, have a story, have some kind of meaning…
    change of clean clothes for your flight/drive home
  • **just a note…Things that can ruin a trip: boots that don’t fit or give you blisters, sleeping cold (aim for much warmer than you think you need), forgetting comfy shoes to change into at camp, forgetting a headlamp or xtra batteries, not having enough water carrying capacity, forgetting sun hat and sunglasses, not bringing hiking poles if you have knee trouble, not bringing a camp-chair.

    ITEMS FOR MOVEMENT/SOMATIC EXERCISES 

  • sarong or light cloth to lay on
  • larger Franklin-style ball (smooth) like this one or this one

    EXTRA ITEMS BASED ON RELEVANCE AND NEED 

  • If you are celiac, oats/breakfast cereal and some bars/snacks that are safe for you to eat- though we try, not all GF items provided are celiac-safe
  • Menstrual supplies if you’ll be bleeding (2 -3 two quart ziplock freezer bags, small package of wipes for your hands, pads/tampons/cup/sponge or whatever you use, we will have TP and soap for you)
  • 2 Epipens if you use these for anaphylaxis or allergies
  • Medication if you are prone to UTIs or yeast infections- an untreated UTI can be cause for an evacuation
  • Medication if you currently have a dental issue that could flare- untreated dental issues can be cause for evacuation
  • Diabetes medication if applicable
  • Coffee set up if needed- there will be ample instant coffee, but if you need something fancier, plan to bring it and carry it

    THE ELEMENTAL SELF PROVIDES 

  • FOOD- All Meals from dinner on day 1 through lunch on the last day..
  • Stoves/fuel
  • Cook-set/pots and pans
  • Water filtration devices
  • 1st aid supplies
  • Trail maps
  • Knives for cooking
  • Shovel etc. for pooping in the backcountry
  • Satellite texting device for emergencies
What is different about these backpacking trips?

We aren’t just going into the backcountry to cover miles and bag peaks. Though we will cover miles and find ourselves on the top of majestic cliffs and outlooks, my trips are about giving ourselves to nature, so that we can remember ourselves as nature. It is all too common in the “outdoor industry” to head into nature for an adventure, and miss her altogether. To stay in frontcountry conversations, mindsets and ways of engaging, without ever slowing down enough and allowing the wilderness to enter our bodies, psyches and hearts. I often say that we are walking our way into these places, and once we are there, slowing down and attuning enough to let ourselves be worked by the wilderness…to allow ourselves to move into “deep time” and the rhythm of the land and water, to find an intimate mirror in nature, rather than using her as a backdrop of our experience. These trips are profoundly nourishing, deep and rich. Through doorways of fairytale and myth, primal movement, embodied meditation, creative writing, land-art, archetypal qigong, and learning how to simply “be”, these trips reach into deeper meaning, insight and healing than the average backpacking trip. Oh, and also, the most extraordinary humans are drawn to my trips, and every group ends up with just the exact right people in the circle.

Do I need prior backpacking experience?

Not at all! All of my trips include at least a few folks who have never backpacked before. This is a perfect maiden voyage if you are able to carry a 35-40lb backpack. You don’t have to think that is easy, you just need to be confident that you can do it. The trip is not a fit for folks who have more major injuries or physical limitations that would disallow them from the daily tasks of carrying a pack, setting up tents, day hiking, sitting on the ground etc. These trips are, admittedly, not available for those with certain physical disabilities. 

What about transportation to and from the trailhead?
Myself and our co-guide will meet you at the trailhead. Once everyone signs up for the trip, I will start a group thread so ya’ll can link up for carpools and ride-shares.
What if I’m having trouble getting everything on the packing list?
Please don’t think that you need to spend a bunch of extra money on gear for this trip. Much of it can be borrowed and rented. The most important thing to make sure you have of your own is a pair of well-fitting and broken-in boots. It would be no fun to head out in borrowed shoes unless they fit like a glove. As for the rest of the gear, REI rents tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. You also may be surprised how many friends and neighbors might have things you can borrow. Thrift stores are excellent places to find long underwear, jackets, and other pieces of clothing. If you are still coming up short, please email me and I will try to find specific gear items for you.
How much hiking do we do?

Covering miles is never the focus of my trips, although, most days we will spend at least a few hours, if not most of the day on the trail. We will hike anywhere from 2-6 miles/day on our hiking days. On a 6 day backpacking trip, the general flow is to hike 3-4 of the 6 days, and to take the other days as “layover days”. This is our cahnce to revel in the art of slow time, of sinking into the earth’s rhythm, of giving ourselves what we don’t get in the frontcountry- which is spaciousness and a more natural rhythm. We may day-hike on these day, but we won’t carry packs.

Will I be able to call my family?
In short, no. And I invite you to enjoy and savor this fact! It is all too uncommon for us to be unreachable these days, and to let go of our constant need to stay in touch. We will carry a satellite texting device for emergencies so that we can reach help if we need it. This device won’t be available to be used for incoming or outgoing check ins. On a case by case basis, we can discuss whether it seems appropriate for someone at home to have this number in case of an emergency. However, very few (almost none) emergencies would cause us to evacuate you from the trip before the trip’s end. That situation would most likely necessitate bringing the trip to an end for everyone. Basically, even if someone can get ahold of you, the chances of that speeding up your ability to be home are slim. So again, enjoy the prospect of being unreachable! Arrange all details for your loved ones at home before you come on the trip.
Will this be hard?
Yes. In all the right ways. These trips are be physically challenging for sure and that is so much of what is unique, rewarding and empowering about them. You will experience the strength and resilience of your body, carrying everything you need to live on your back, for days on end. Living outside and being so consistently physically engaged is a rare medicine in our world and this way of life is in our blood. The physical challenges will be real, and so will the celebrations. These trips will also ask of you mentally, emotionally and in terms of your presence. I create trips that bring us into the Self and our inner world. That said, for all of the challenge, there is an incredible amount of support coming from nature and the shared group-field and human-connection fostered here.
Who should not come on this trip?

These trips are not a fit for anyone who isn’t currently physically able (you don’t have to have ever done this before, just feel that you could) to carry a 35-45 lb pack while walking 2-6 miles per day, or for folks who are feeling particularly and currently unstable emotionally or psychologically or in the acute phase of processing trauma. If you have a question about whether this applies to you, please reach out to me directly and we can chat.

A note about my pricing

These trips are an investment toward a literally life-changing experience… more or less significant for some than others based on the resources one has access to.  Those of you able to pay the full and fair price for these trips allow me to offer several spots at a Justice/Equity discount to those with less class/access/ privilege in our economic systems, which is an essential component of making wild places and wild experiences more accessible to all…something I hold as a fundamental birthright for every living person.

I’ve incrementally raised my prices over the years, to reflect that I’ve shifted these trips from 5 days to 6 days, as well as the rising costs of all things that make a trip go (food, gas, insurance etc).

As a professional wilderness guide of 23 years, I price these trips at what I believe is fair for the substance of what they offer and for right exchange for what I put into them.

I continue to choose to price these trips below industry standard (which is between $330-$375/day) for this  level of wilderness immersion, in order to keep them more accessible to more kinds of people. I pay my co-guides above highest-tier industry standard per-day rates (at NOLS and Outward Bound), which is well and what they are worth. Trips run with notable overhead costs for things such as food/meals for our time on trail, gear, permitting, liability insurance, transportation, medical-training, emergency communication devices/satellite communication access.

These trips are a ton of work and worth every breath and second. I don’t have a pre/post trip team helping me or the ability to divide costs between a large number of programs.

What goes into a trip, aside from the trip itself?  Countless hours of  paperwork, research and conversations to ensure proper permitting with the BLM and Forest Service, proper liability coverage, map study, route-planning and finding, research and monitoring of road, water and weather conditions, group-gear purchase, upkeep, cleaning and storage, planning of trip logistics, communication coordination, website copy-creation and digital marketing, keeping my wilderness-medical training current and certified, meal planning and shopping for the trip, pouring over math equations and spreadsheets determining food quantities, packing and dividing food in millions of little bags, many wonderful conversations with each of you prior to your arrival, (insert actual trip here:)) …post-trip gear unpacking/inventory/cleaning/storage, post-use trip reports to field offices…and more. Phew! it’s a lot, and so satisfying to pull together year after year.

The trips themselves are shepherded with an extremely high level of personal facilitation, far above and beyond the wilderness /backcountry basics. I facilitate a full-blown and original curriculum in the field, one that is entirely crafted toward our work of the return to soul, to earth, to righter rhythm, to integrity, to wildness. Decades of study and teaching are the foundation of this nuanced guidance and listening.

 

 

What kind of foods do we eat?
Food has never tasted so good as it does in the backcountry! We eat well and we carry all that we eat! Granola and oats with yummy toppings, coffee, tea, energy bars, trail mix, string cheese, nut-butter and jam, pasta, rice and beans, Thai curry, soup, meats, veggies, chocolate! These are some things we eat. But I assure you we eat well and that hunger is the best sauce. Trips can accommodate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. Any food needs beyond that, we will ask that you bring and carry your own supplemental foods.