Why Rites of Passage

When I first started looking into employment as a wilderness therapy field guide, I called or emailed everyone I could from Utah to Washington. I wanted to know what was out there, to see what others were doing in the wilderness to create a threshold of change.

This idea of a threshold of change really took hold of me while I was serving as a Volunteer Coordinator in prison. I began to recognize that, like myself, most of the men I worked with lacked any kind of rite of passage from youth into adulthood, and there would be a similar absence when they left prison and returned to their communities. Without a ritual experience to bring them out of childhood into adulthood, these men were striving as adults with childhood tools. Similarly, they would be going back into their communities without any means of publicly shedding their identity as “inmate” and being accepted as “citizen.”

I remember asking the adults around me for a rite of passage when I was graduating high school. I wanted to be dropped off three-days into the woods and left to return on my own, but no one supported me. No one really knew how. But I knew that I wanted to test myself, to prove to myself and my community that I was enough, that I had what it took to be part of my community and that I had something to contribute.

That’s what drew me to Rites of Passage Wilderness Therapy’s backpacking model. It contains within it a sense of accomplishment, of having achieved something that once was thought unimaginable. And doing this in a wilderness setting awakens us to being part of something much bigger than our own, individual lives.

For me, backpacking is a form of pilgrimage that embodies the journey of becoming who we are.

Ultimately, my goal is not to be a field guide forever, or even much longer as the big 4-0 approaches. (Good God, that’s actually in writing.) But I do want to be part of this process of creating a threshold of change for others embarking on their own journeys. Whether through Clearwater Trekker, or in partnership with someone else, I imagine offering 3-5 day Vision Quests, 10-14 day Discovery Treks, international Pilgrimages, and a Re-entry Rite of Passage for Returning Citizens.

I see Clearwater Trekker providing a space for peers, mentors, and fellow pilgrims to share the journey.

If you look around this website, you’ll see some of these ideas taking shape, growing as I grow myself. I am busy learning and connecting with others, and I would welcome thoughts or feedback from readers and fellow Trekkers. In posts to come, I’ll start detailing some of my ideas further, and I look forward to putting a Discovery Trek on the calendar someday soon. 

Thanks for being part of the journey so far. We’ll see you on the trail!