Red Cedar's Wilderness Dharma Program emphasizes the practice of mindfulness and compassion through intimacy with a sense of place. Through mindful awareness and ritual enactments on our seasonal hikes and journeys, we confirm the wholeness of ourselves, our home here in Pacific Cascadia, and the intrinsic Buddha Nature of all things. We walk in peace with every step.

Our Wilderness Dharma Program offers something for almost everyone in an annual cycle of local offerings and journeys afar: from full backpacking trips to moderate day hikes to short and easy walks in local parks. Members of Red Cedar's Wilderness Dharma Program committee take turns leading the various events. 

Following the Way of Water

The recurring annual theme of our local programming in our home watersheds is “Following the Way of Water.” Each year Red Cedar Zen Community accepts a vial of Salish Sea water in the Spring at Larrabee Beach in our Receiving Water Ceremony. This water is then carried throughout our ritual hiking season. In July it is divided into three vials near Mount Baker in our Dividing Water Ceremony during our Opening of the Mountains Hike. Throughout the summer we hike into the upper high reaches of the three tributary watersheds of our river; the North, Middle, and South branches of the Nooksack River. There, the water in each vial is exchanged with pure mountain runoff in our Exchanging Water Ceremonies during our Mountains and Rivers Backpack and our Journey to the Source Hike. Then in October the three vials of mountain water are combined again atop Oyster Dome during our Closing of the Mountains hike in our Combining Water Ceremony. Then it is brought to Larrabee Beach for the final ritual of our hiking season, the Returning Water Ceremony.

In this way each year we carry water, and follow the way of water, as water flows up to the mountains and back to sea, giving life to all beings of our home, and to the great Earth. Dogen Zenji, the founder of our Soto way, has written in the Mountains and Waters Sutra - "When water solidifies, it is harder than a diamond. Who can crack it? When water melts, it is softer than milk. Who can destroy it?...When you investigate the flowing and not-flowing of a handful of water, thorough experience of all things is immediately actualized."

Opening to Nature Walks

Our Opening to Nature Walks offer more gentle and accessible opportunities for an experiential immersion with nature. These simple mindfulness walks are usually short, easy and take place in nearby parks. In most cases they are lighter on ritual and emphasize the basic forms of quiet mindful trail walking which we have developed over the years.

Major Circumambulations and Pilgrimages

The program also performs major mountain circumambulations and pilgrimages throughout the Cascade Range involving "sutra mapping" recitation rituals spread across the landscape, viewing these as maha, or great, rituals of planetary significance, emphasizing our wholeness with, and effort to heal, the Living Earth. Over the years we have "opened the way" (performed the first of their kind) with ritual circumambulations of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and the Three Sisters in Oregon, with plans to complete further journeys to the Poets Peaks of the Skagit watershed, Mt. St. Helens, and other major peaks along the Cascade chain. Our annual Mountains and Rivers Backpack trip to Mt. Baker for over two decades has performed the maha ritual of sutra mapping Eihei Dogen's Mountains and Waters Sutra in a yearly pilgrimage circuit to our home mountain.

Support for the program

Events are moderately priced with sliding scale fees and a modest discount for Red Cedar Members. Note that hike leaders and teachers are not compensated for their time. Hikers are invited to consider an offering of dana, generosity. See our Donations to Teachers page.

If you have questions about our wilderness programs please contact program coordinator Bob Penny at 
or 360-927-5702

Wilderness Dharma Program Events

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software