A Pilgrimage of Hope

Through the Upper Swannanoa River Watershed

Why Pilgrimage?

Ultimately, we believe people best care for the things they love. As Sengalese Environmentalist Baba Dioum once said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

Love is our only hope for healing the broken relationships we experience between one another and the rest of the creation. As we have seen in the debates around climate change, no amount of education or scare tactics will ultimately change people’s actions. Only love can do that. And love cannot be forced. Instead, it can only be cultivated in time by drawing close and coming to know the other deeply. This is how God teaches us love.

God desires humans to be not only reconciled to God and to one another, but to the entire world that God created and called good. We are all connected, and anything less than the complete reconciliation of God, people, and land, remains an incomplete reconciliation. We believe that the more we are able to experience and demonstrate God’s love in creation through touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, and tasting, the more we, and all those around us, will, in turn, go forth to practice that same love, justice and reconciliation in the world.

In other words, if we can create time and space for people to experience a local watershed deeply, then love becomes a possibility. And as we begin to fall in love with God’s creation, we will learn to better care for the water, land, animals, and people around us.

The Pilgrimage of Hope

Toward this end, we have created a pilgrimage of hope through the Upper Swannanoa Watershed. 

We believe that this pilgrimage, complete with stops for prayers, blessings, lament, and liturgy along the way, can help people fall in love with the Creation through learning the watershed and grounding them in a sense of place.  It will help to connect people to God, one another and to the creation, creating space to allow people to better see and experience God’s hope, their own larger purpose, and their important place within a larger community and larger Story.  

Our Pilgrim trail connects over 12 miles of green-ways, wooded paths, sidewalks and roads to take pilgrims on a journey through their watershed. The pilgrimage will begin in the southernmost portion of the watershed at Christmount and end at Lake Susan–near the most northern portion of the watershed. There is also the option to continue another 4.5 miles to the headwaters of Flat Creek and the pinnacle of Greybeard Mountain, which overlooks the entire watershed. Along the way there are various stops at locations that teach about the watershed and its inhabitants, ground us in a sense of place, and lean into an ethic of right relationships between people, the creation, and God. At these stops, pilgrims will receive stamps to place in a pilgrim passport book, as visible reminders of their physical and spiritual journey.

And, because this is a spiritual journey as well as a physical one, at each stop we will include prayers and blessings of hope to mark the pilgrim’s path. The entire map and prayers are available digitally through Google Maps.

Walk with Us

In a world with so many trying and failing to influence through facts and information, we desire to find new ways to share God’s gift of reconciliation by helping people learn to love the world around them. 12th century poet, mystic and visionary, Hildegard of Bingen once wrote, “We shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice. If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.”

We want to help people awaken to all the beauty and love that is around them. And when they begin to truly experience all that they see around as a gift, they might begin to pursue its care with passion, love, and hope! In this, our community will be strengthened, we will become more resilient as a watershed, and the Swannanoa River might once again be restored to its original beauty and health.

Will you consider joining with us, as we walk with our Creator one step closer toward the beloved community we are called to be together?

The Nitty-Gritty Details

So you want to join us for a pilgrimage? We are really looking forward to journeying together with you and/or your group. Our standard pilgrimage is led by both Kevin & Kevin. They are both Christians, and this pilgrimage is open for all faith traditions, those with no faith tradition, all ages, and is fully inclusive. We welcome ALL to journey with us!

Walking time is typically from 9:00 in the morning to around 6:00 in the evening. Afterwards, we invite you to join us for a time of sharing and celebration with pizza and drinks where completion certificates will be handed out. We recommend at least a two night stay, and can provide housing located at the start of the trail and a shuttle back at the end of the day. All details of the pilgrimage can be adapted to you and your specific group.

We know that some might be a little anxious about the base length, so let us offer a few thoughts.

First, 12 miles is definitely a lengthy walk for a day and you’ll probably be tired (with maybe a blister or two) by the end of the day. That’s a good thing! We are embodied creatures and on pilgrimage we are reminded of this fact. We journey and pray not just with our hearts or minds, but with our feet, legs, backs, and entire bodies. 12 miles might seem like a lot, but for many pilgrims on pilgrimage around the world, that’s generally considered a short day.

Second, we will walk in any weather (within reason of course) as a reminder that we are guests on the trail. The land we walk invites us to draw near to it and experience it not as hosts or stewards, but as pilgrims. We will allow the creation to dictate our rhythms instead of imposing our will and desires upon it. Moving with the rhythms of the creation is an important part of what we strive to do with Way in the Wilderness, and we will do that on this pilgrimage. Some of our favorite times on the Camino de Santiago were walking through the rain. How many of us take time to play in the rain as we get older?

Now, all this being said, we want you all to know that we will walk together on this path. It’s a journey together and not a race to a destination. We will walk slowly and mindfully. We will stop often to rest, linger, meditate and observe. We don’t want to tell you everything in advance (we want to let the journey be a joyful surprise and be dictated by the moment), but you can expect long stops for lunch, options for lingering over coffee and drinks (maybe some local beers depending on the group and time), rests along lakes and streams and even walks through local shops. Heck, maybe even some ice cream if you’re good 🙂. We will end the day with a fiesta that night.

Think of this less as a hike and more like sauntering or meandering. There are some trails we will take, but they are not technically challenging or difficult. There are no major elevation changes. Most of our paths will be on green-ways, sidewalks, mulched paths, and a few roads.

Wear comfortable shoes, bring a small backpack to carry a water bottle, a rain jacket, and the passport book we will provide for you. We’ll have a first aid kit and moleskin if anyone gets a blister and needs it.

We will do all we can to make this a wonderful experience for everyone.

Why Us?

Kevin & Kevin have experience journeying on and leading pilgrimages internationally. In addition to this Pilgrimage of Hope, they have been on pilgrimage together on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and have led pilgrims on St. Cuthbert’s Way in Scotland and England. They know first hand all that God can do in us and through us as we journey together, and believe a local pilgrimage can help create holy space where God can work in the lives of our entire community.

As ordained clergy with Master Degrees from Duke University’s Divinity School, Kevin & Kevin are uniquely positioned in their local community as extension ministers to help teach and facilitate partnerships and collaboration between people, land, animals, and our Creator.

For pricing, scheduling, or for more information, please contact us.

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