A La Sainte Terre Aug 2019

A La Sainte Terre August 2019

There are 2 sets of dates for the exact same trip. Both sets of dates are for the summer of 2019. One trip is in June/July, the other is in mid-August. I’ve included a lot of detail here so you don’t need to read any more than you feel called to, but can return to it with questions about dates, length, price, what’s included, etc.


A couple months ago I was driving up the Eastern Sierra on the 395, through the forested hills and meadowed valleys, by the waterways, looking up at the spine of the Sierra on my left, I felt an inspiration come through for an experience I want to create. It was in part inspired by John Muir’s discussion of why he prefers the word saunter to hike, and where the word saunter actually came from:

“I don’t like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” John Muir

I read this over and over, delighted with it, because this is how I relate to the Sierra, as a Holy Land. Perhaps my Holy Land, but I’m very aligned with Muir in much of how he felt about the Sierra Nevada. He also coined the nickname “The Range of Light,” which to me so perfectly describes these mountains. Miles and miles of mountains stretching out like fields, clouds forming and scuttling across them with sunlight always breaking through, bathing the granite and forests, effortlessly crafting these other-wordly, golden moments of what feel to me like passionate divinity.

As I’ve explored the Sierra I’ve fallen more and more in love with a particular zone, what I consider to be the heart of the Sierra. The mountains are treacherously jagged, tall, variable, as magnificent as anywhere in the world, many over 14,000 ft. The valleys are deeply cut, rough and wild, dropping away from the highest peaks to as low as 5000 ft in some places. The visual drama here is different than the carved, domed and smooth stone of Yosemite… this place (to me) feels more wild, more remote, more vast, more ponderous, more mystical, more quieting, more enlivening, and more alluring. This is the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Though Sequoia and Kings are national parks they do not get nearly as many visitors as Yosemite or Glacier do. And because of the vast and rugged nature of the place there are destinations inside that you cannot arrive at in less than 40 miles of hiking, one way, making them solitary places, places where you may see but a few other hikers.

I have longed to share these places with people, to take them into this heart of the world and show it to them in a way that we could begin to approach taking in, and living into, the vastness. The main obstacles have been time and money.

To do the trip right, without rush and in a way where the physical challenges could be done by most people at a basic level of fitness requires 2 weeks. Because of that the costs of everything, food, staff, bear cans, gear and support (because we need food drops in order to keep pack weight reasonable) go up. The time alone for me to organize logistics for something of this length is immense and I dehydrate our veggies and do very detailed meal planning based on participants needs and preferences.

But as I drove up the east side that day feeling the magic of the mountains calling me, feeling the mystery of this expedition singing its song to me, these barriers dropped away. I felt ready to create and offer this unique and special journey to my friends, family, and fellow mountain lovers and journeyors.

The details for trip came in all at once with perfect clarity, like how the air and sky look and feel after a rain. They are as follows:

A la Sainte Terre 2019


June 28th-July 14th, 2019 (not 2018, this is in 2019, 2019, 2019!!! I want to make sure you see this)
August 9th-25th, 2019 (not 2018, this is in 2019, 2019, 2019!!! I want to make sure you see this)

Arrival and Departure details:

Arrive on Friday evening the 9th of August to a campground near the Mineral King Trailhead. Hike begins Saturday August 10th and completes on Saturday August 24th. Saturday the 24th is an evening together at a cabin to shower, share dinner, stories, integration time, get a good nights sleep in a bed, share breakfast and goodbyes Sunday morning the 25th, and depart for home by 11am ish. The trip officially ends Sunday morning.


This trip is open to a maximum of 12 participants, and there will be 3 staff, including me. The other 2 staff are massage therapists and assistants. Total possible for the group is 15.

I only invite people I know and their immediate friends and families on trips like this, it is not open to the public. If you are receiving this and have people in mind it’s absolutely fine to invite them and share it, but please do not post this anywhere for the general public or people whom you don’t have at least trusting acquaintance with.


Our route is 82-90.5 miles (depending on one option for a side trip in the second half of the trip) with 13 saunter days, 2 full rest days in the back country (1 at a hot springs and 1 at a lake). The average mileage on saunter days is about 6.5 miles with days ranging from 3-9.5 miles. There will be significant elevation on some days, but I’ve made every effort to plan our route in such a way as to alternate difficult days with shorter, or at least flatter/downhill days to recuperate. We will have 2 food drops so we are never carrying more than 6 days of food.


· Meals from breakfast on Saturday August 10th through breakfast Sunday morning August 25th

· Campground Friday night the 9th

· Permits and bear cans

· Satellite phone

· 2 one-hour massages during the trip

· 2 food drops (to reduce pack weight)

· Cabin on the final night to shower, eat and sleep in a bed before driving home Sunday

· Support for arranging carpools

· Group gear such as stoves, water filtration, bathroom kits,

· 2 large group donations to wildlife habitat conservation organizations (about $3000 total (10% of fee) tbd who).

Not Included:

· Dinner on August 9th

· Transportation to and from trailhead

· Personal gear such as sleeping bags, backpacks, hiking poles, etc.


Carrying a pack almost every day at elevation is hard work, even with all the accommodations I’ve made for pacing, rest and tending the body. I advise everyone to do some hikes at elevation and to do a few days a week at the gym on a stairclimber with a backpack and some weight for a month or two in advance. The challenge for this trip will not be the mileage but the elevation.

The more prepared you are for sustained walking with weight uphill the easier and more enjoyable this trip will be. Remember, what we’re talking about isn’t going fast, but the ability to go slow with weight comfortably. Those in good cardiovascular shape who exercise 4-6 times a week should be fine without much additional training. But doing hills or stairs with weight will be the best way to make this trip feel like a saunter.

I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking they can’t do this- in fact some people may find this trip easier, or more luxuriously spaced, than other trips they’ve been on with me. AND/BUT! 2 weeks is a long trip and I am invested in everyone who chooses to come truly enjoying themselves. So consider doing some training regardless of the shape you’re in.

Relationship with the land:

The idea/inspiration for this trip came through a relationship of love, reverence and care that I have developed over my lifetime with the Sierra Nevada. It has nourished me and my family deeply. Throughout the year places there sing to me in the same way that friends do, and the call to go be in them, walk with them, laugh, play, enjoy, jump in their freezing waters, make new stories with them, sit with them, is a patient love affair that has unfolded over time. I have experienced so much wisdom, peace, humor and joy as I’ve walked in these mountains.

From the love, reverence and care that I feel towards and from these mountains also comes a concern for the future of our wild lands. For better or worse humans are responsible for administering, protecting, and/or destroying, all land on earth now. This responsibility calls me into wanting to understand how to become a better tender. I believe great love makes us want to protect and so one of the best ways I know to protect these places is to take people there and help them develop their own relationships of love and reverence, as well as joy and play. When we communally value something we are more likely to protect it.

While this trip gives us an opportunity to commune with the earth and practice non-transactional relationship with this sacred place, I also want us to support the land directly via some of the organizations that work tirelessly to protect these places and the wildlife therein. About 10% of each person’s fee will go to organizations that work to protect habitat, educate people, and restore damaged areas. If the trip is full we will be giving $3000 (total) to 2 or 3 different organizations. I’ll be mentioning this to the group as we come together and we’ll decide together, though I’ll be making recommendations and giving information to help us make our choices.

So this trip will nurture us and the mountains in both spirit/story and actual technical preservation/restoration.


It’s hard for most people to take enough time for a trip of this nature. I know 2 weeks is a long time, and a lot of vacation. It’s also hard for people to imagine organizing a trip of this length, or to know what to expect. But I have traveled over 90% of this route, many sections multiple times. And I have planned longer trips and I know the gifts that can be received from the extra days. This is not my normal trip, and I don’t know if there will be another like this. But I trust that for the right people this will be an exciting opportunity that comes through with a full yes, as has already happened for about 5 people who are the first participants. So if you’ve ever wanted to take a big trip, to really go deep, this might that opportunity. If it feels ridiculously long and not like something you’ve ever wanted, this probably isn’t the right journey for you.

Price: $2800

If you are interested in coming on this trip and have questions please feel free to email me. If you’ve decided that you definitely want to come please let me know and send a $500 deposit to dashielle.vawter@gmail.com. The rest will be due between November 2018 and January of 2019. Payment plans are also available to anyone who wants one, just let me know and we can work out whatever you need.


Because of the permitting, booking the mules to do our food drops, and the work that goes into planning a trip like this I cannot give refunds after January of 2019, nor after the trip fills and I have started to turn people away. I will send out a note to the group when we’re close to filling and let people know so if anyone is thinking of dropping they’ll have an opportunity to do that before I close the cancellation window. By January I will only hold your place if you’ve paid in full (unless you are on a payment plan).

By communing deeply with places like this we not only nourish ourselves, but we nourish the spirit and story of these places and the beings that abide there. This trip is meant to be in offered in the spirit of that reciprocity rather than consumption.

Let us not merely pass through something inert, but feel praise in our hearts for the life there.

Email to register or ask questions