Why All This Talk About Rites of Passage?

The Clearwater Trekker was built around a local hiking group based in Orofino, Idaho. If you’ve been following along with our adventures, maybe even joining us on the trail, then you may be wondering where all this talk about rites of passage is coming from and what it means for the hiking group. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.

When I turned 18 years old, I asked my friend’s dad to fly me three days into the wilderness and drop me off so I could hike back. I wasn’t hoping to re-enact The Hatchet, a story I read in my younger days, but I definitely planned on taking a hatchet with me.

Like a responsible adult, he said no. So I started asking around to see if anyone would drive me out into the wilderness, but I didn’t have any takers there, either. I had no idea where “three days into the wilderness” would be, and apparently, neither did anyone else, but the most frustrating thing of all was that no one seemed to understand why I wanted to do this.

Since I was fifteen years old, I had been asking anyone I could what it meant to be a man, when would I become one, and how would I know? But no one had an answer for me, and no one understood that I was begging to be initiated.

That trip never happened, and I have been trying to initiate myself ever since.

From road trips to mission trips, from pilgrimage to marriage, I have been seeking the edge of the map, the threshold where I cross over from being a dependent youth to an independent adult man.

It seems that the generation before me believed that responsibility alone separated the men from the boys, but I have discovered that even boys can take on great responsibility when they are told to. After all, doing what we’re told in order to prove ourselves is what boys do.

What we need is for an elder to initiate us into manhood and give us the mantle of our new position in society. That requires an initiation ceremony, a rite of passage, as well as the community support and recognition of that transition.

We can keep creating adventurous, adrenaline filled challenges for ourselves year after year, but we cannot initiate ourselves. Until our society recognizes in a tangible way that we have crossed the threshold and are worthy to carry the mantle, we will forever be boys seeking the approval of our fathers.

I have seen this longing for initiation and acceptance as a youth pastor, and I have seen the consequences of it’s absence while working with men in prison. My hope is that Clearwater Trekker can become a community that provides and supports much needed rites of passage for youth coming of age, for adults in transition, and even for inmates returning to their communities.

I am bursting with ideas about how this can happen and what it could look like without losing our core identity as an open, local, casual hiking group. If the idea sparks an interest for you, too, please do not hesitate to reach out to me through the contact form below. I’d love to hear from you and work together to build something new.

Let’s see where this path can take us! Buen Camino, my friends.

One Response

  • […] When I turned 18, I wanted to be dropped off three days hiking distance into the woods and left to make it back on my own. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could survive, and without realizing it, I wanted to prove myself in such a way that the men I looked up to would recognize my ability, too. […]

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