“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” This quote from John Muir captured my thoughts as I prepared for a week-long expedition with Wilderness Outreach to the Domeland Wilderness of California. I was seeking to delve deeper into the soul of masculine spirituality through worship and work in the desert; the wilderness would not disappoint me.
Our crew was composed of six laymen, a priest, and a cook. Our mission in the wilderness was to clear a few miles of trail that had been obstructed by overgrown thorn and fallen trees. To accomplish our goal we would use crosscut saws, pulaskis, loppers, hand saws and axes. No chain saws would be used, for this work was to be done by the sweat of our brows.
Besides trail clearing, our aim was to engage the intellectual and spiritual components of each man through daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and nightly discussion on leadership and the theology of the masculine body.
Life in the wilderness can be a double-edged sword. The splendor and power of God is on display everywhere you gaze, from the gigantic rock faces atop some of the mountains to the brilliance of the glowing stars in the nighttime sky. However, this beauty can only be experienced by those willing to sacrifice modern comforts while camping in the wilderness.
Cell phones and electronics were put away, as there was no reception in that remote area. Water had to be drawn from the nearby creek and then purified drop by drop for consumption. A latrine had to be dug outside of a camp for sanitary reasons. Showers would consist of washing in the nearby creek. Voluntarily giving up so many conveniences may seem like a burden to many, but not to the men on this trip who knew the value of sacrifice. These sacrifices helped us truly appreciate the many things we take for granted in our modern world: clean water, hot shower, fresh food, etc.
These were just a few of the challenges we would face that week. Because of the drought in California, we had to camp near the only creek in the area and then hike at least three miles uphill each day to the starting point of where the trail needed to be cleared. Since there was no water on the trail, one day each man had to volunteer to carry a few extra gallons of water so that the group could stay hydrated as we worked. That water felt heavier and heavier as we climbed the trail each day. Yet the sacrifice of the man who carried the water enabled our group to finish our goal of clearing the trail to the next pass in the mountains.
The physical toil in the desert served as a catalyst to heighten each man’s awareness of God and his role within the Creator’s world. Each night we would discuss how God spoke to us through our work and wrestled with the call God gives each man to lead, even if it is just himself or his family. We reflected on how our society is falling apart, and what we must do to rebuild it, as the Benedictine monks did in the Dark Ages for Europe.
By the end of the week, we had hiked over 60 miles and cleared nearly 60 trees from the trail while also taking some time to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and rock faces that abound in the Domeland. We were tired but satisfied with the amount of work we were able to accomplish and the brotherhood we had formed through our work and worship.
So if you looking for an opportunity to be tested physically, spiritually and mentally, look no further than a trip with Wilderness Outreach. The world, the flesh, and the devil are assaulting us daily. How will you respond as a man? Will you sit on the couch while our society crumbles, or will you help rebuild the world with true Catholic culture? The Church needs her men to step up and lead. Come, fight for your king!
*There are still openings for 2015 expeditions, click here for more information.