Thank you for your interest in California Wilderness. This program will explore no less grand questions than these: what are humans, what is nature, what is their relationship? To phrase this more personally, we might ask: who are we, where are we, what are we going to do here?
These questions have occupied humans since the beginning, and we will take a broad look at some of the various directions this questioning has gone. All our actions begin with some understanding of who we are and what our place is in nature. This program is, then, an exploration of worldviews. True to the field of environmental studies, it is an interdisciplinary exploration, blending philosophy, psychology, religious studies, literature, and natural sciences.
Perhaps grand questions are best pursued in grand locations. We will travel to three different wild areas of California and make backpacking excursions into each. This will enable us to see some diversity of the state, and it will allow exposure to a variety of landforms, textures, and moods.
We will begin in Death Valley, which holds the ancient mystic allure of the desert. We will then journey to the Big Sur and its magnificent ocean vistas, plunging meadowed slopes, and hidden valleys. Next is the Yolla Bolly Mountains, a little-known wilderness at the headwaters of the Eel River. We will finish on the Lost Coast, one of the few remaining wild stretches of Pacific shoreline and a place where we can enjoy the ever-present sound of surf and sleep in driftwood lodges.
One of the unique joys of this (and other) Sierra Institute programs is that we spend such an extended period of time living in nature. It is a deepening process. As the days go on, there is a cumulative effect of waking and sleeping on the earth, going to the river for water, gathering around a fire at night. It is often difficult to put words to this influence, but everyone feels it and everyone seems to relish it. In the cities, most of what we see is human-created; on this program, we will be surrounded by the ancient earth that created humans, and our fortunate challenge is to open deeply to that ambiance.
We will meet in Santa Cruz on April 5, at which time we will have an orientation and make arrangements for driving to Death Valley the next day. From that point on we will travel from trailhead to trailhead, making five separate backpacking excursions (two in the Yolla Bollies) with each segment varying from 7-11 days. There will be brief layovers in between the backpacks allowing for showers, laundry, resupply, and mail pickup. We will return to Santa Cruz on June 6. (Detailed itinerary will be sent upon acceptance.)
“This course is to my relationship with nature as Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement.”
“This program has changed my life -- I know how to love this world as best I can. So much love and comfortableness with the group. So much learned in this wilderness experience. So inspiring ahhh -- so much open heart and listening.”
“Walker is brilliant. He inspires and educates us all with his curiosity, energy and openness of a young boy and his wisdom, awareness and care of an old man. I could not imagine a human being more overflowing with valuable experiences/ ideas/ information/ lifestyles/ enthusiasms to be shared and taught.”
“I almost had lost my interest in college before this course, but this has inspired me to want to learn again and for that I cannot thank this program enough.”
“This was the best learning and growing experience of my life! It taught me more than a lifetime of conventional schooling could about the most important topics for me to know about - who I am and the world around me. Walker was the perfect guide for this perfect journey. He's knowledgeable, caring, and created a wonderful environment for us to pursue our mind's and heart's curiosities. This small group provided the kind of personal attention that no other learning situation could.”
“Whether consciously speaking or reading about Nature such as in class, or eating in a circle or napping by myself, Nature always surrounded me and was present. The effect of Nature could not help but penetrate my consciousness, be in all things. No artificially lit rooms, no need to be afraid of dirt; the elements speak and teach us as much as the academic material we bring to the space.”
“This had been the most significant experience of my life thus far.”