Northeast Forest Pilgrimage

Apply Now    Reference Form 

DatesOctober 10 - 14, 2019
LocationMaine Huts & Trails
Kingfield, ME, USA
Scholarship AwardUp to $650.00
Application DeadlineAugust 16, 2019

The Northeast Forest Pilgrimage: A Walk With the Earth is a spiritual and action-oriented experience grounded in nature. While hiking on a hut-to-hut network of trails in Western Maine, pilgrims will be guided through a process designed to reconnect with the earth and discern collective responsibility in responding to climate change. Each day will contain a rhythm of contemplative practice, intentional dialogue, and personal reflection. Together we will seek a more holistic approach for compassion, active resistance, and environmental activism by identifying specific commitments and goals for ongoing engagement. This pilgrimage route will take place on the trail system of Maine Huts & Trails and will cover will cover approximately 30 miles of winding switchbacks, sandy paths along mountain streams, natural bridges, and incredible views. Beginning with the rising of the sun in the morning, our group will walk 8 – 12 miles each day.

Pedagogy and Program 

Periods of walking in silence, facilitated conversations, storytelling, reflection, observance of nature, and prayer will support the embodiment of the pilgrimage experience. Participants will be required to complete some reading prior to gathering as a primer for our time together. Morning prayer and intentions will start each day before settling into rhythms of silence, sharing our stories, and group dialogue. Our intention is to learn from each other, the surrounding natural landscape, and the required readings. Pilgrims will practice together what it means to be a beloved community, making specific agreements, about our group norms and way of being together. The experience will culminate in a workshop designed to empower participants to identify actionable steps and set goals that directly engage the degradation of the planet and support the healing of the earth. 

Photo courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails

Trip Leaders

The Northeast Forest Pilgrimage is led by Karin Baard, Bianca Esquivel, and Eric Conklin.


Karin is the Communications Manager of HEARTBEAT and has been a pilgrimage enthusiast since participating in Heartbeat’s 2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She lives in Portland, ME, and loves her “spare time” hobbies of teaching theater, hiking, kayaking, house plant tending, and auntie-ing her three-year-old nephew.      



Bianca lives, works, and plays in Austin, Texas where she currently serves full-time as a Senior Family Services Coordinator with Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. She is a certified yoga instructor and spiritual director. She was a Heartbeat pilgrim in 2017 on Camino Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage and walked with Heartbeat again in 2018 as an apprentice leader. Bianca’s passions and hobbies are rooted in service, radical compassion, holistic health and wellness, spirituality, and care for people and the planet.  



Eric and his son Auggie live in the Cully neighborhood of Northeast Portland, OR. As a Methodist Deacon who works for both L’Arche Portland and the Missional Wisdom Foundation, he wonders how affordable spiritual intentional communities of all shapes and sizes will impact our city toward the common good. Eric enjoys walking through the woods in all kinds of weather, running, hauling Auggie around on the back of the electric cargo bike, the local beverage scene, socializing with friends, and has a soft spot in his heart for the Chicago Cubs.  



Physical Expectations, Training and Terrain

Pilgrims are required to train with a loaded pack and must be prepared to walk up to 15 miles on any given day, depending on trail closures/detours. Our longest scheduled day is 12 miles and includes climbs up to 750 ft. Pilgrims must be able to walk on uneven, rocky and sometimes muddy ground with sometimes steep ascents and descents. The trip leaders will work to find a pace that works for everyone, usually a fairly brisk walk. If pain or discomforts arise, each pilgrim will be personally responsible for expressing their needs and judging their ability to continue. While often sunny this time of year, the possibility always exists for high winds, cool air, and rain. Our group will be expected to walk rain or shine unless dangerous conditions are present. Trekking poles are highly recommended and appropriate heavy-duty waterproof rain gear must be packed. A few other details to keep in mind:

  • At certain times restrooms will not be available and there may be minimal coverage for privacy.
  • A couple stream crossings may be necessary.
  • Group time will be spent sitting in a circle, sometimes on the ground for up to one hour.
  • Each participant should also be prepared to carry all of their necessary items (including a sleeping bag – see packing list below) in their backpack. Breakfast and dinner will be provided at each hut, but participants will need to carry lunch (provided each morning) and enough water for the day.

Photo Courtesy of Paul VanDerWerf under a Creative Commons license

Cost and Application Process

There is a $10 application fee, and you must be at least 18 years of age for the entirety of the event to be considered. Those who wish to apply must complete the online application and have a mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader complete an online reference form by August 16, 2019.  Please have medical history information available for filling out the application to help us ensure that selected participants are physically and mentally able to complete this pilgrimage. Please be aware that the co-leaders of this trip practice spiritual accompaniment, have experience leading walking trips, and are certified in First Aid but are not medical or mental health professionals. There is space for 12 participants and applicants will be notified of their status by August 15. All selected participants will be required to provide proof of insurance and emergency contact information and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver, purchase travel insurance (if not included in current policy). The cost of this pilgrimage is $750 and scholarship funds are available for those with limited income. The registration fee covers meals, lodging, guided walking, and program. Scholarships are available and successful scholarship applicants will receive a scholarship up to $700 towards the overall costs and are required to pay a $50 registration fee.

Additional costs:

  • Books (pre-trip required reading will be sent to successful applicants)
  • Necessary gear to complete packing list (see below)
  • Travel insurance

Meals and Lodging

All meals will be provided by Maine Huts & Trails. A hearty family-style dinner and breakfast are provided onsite at the hut, and a bagged lunch is provided for the trail. Wine and beer are available for purchase at the huts. The huts team up with nearby farms to procure sustainably raised meat, fresh produce, and grains. They are happy to accommodate conventional, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diet, as well as other dietary restrictions/allergies. The “huts” are off-the-grid eco lodges. We will be staying at Stratton Brook, Poplar, and Flagstaff. Each hut has a spacious great room, cozy reading area, breezy screened in porch, and a gear drying room. We will stay in shared bunkrooms with a variety of bunk configurations. Each bunk has a soft foam mattress and pillow (please bring your own pillowcase!). The bunkrooms are simple yet comfortable and heated through radiant floor heating up to 55˚ F.  Hot showers with biodegradable soap and bathrooms with compostable toilets are available at each hut.

Stratton Brook Hut Photo Courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails
Flagstaff Hut Photo Courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails
Poplar Hut Photo Courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails
Stratton Brook Hut Common Room Photo Courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails
Photo Courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails

The huts generate all of their own power (either solar or hydro) and therefore electricity is at a premium. You will not be able to charge any electronics at the huts. Trip leaders will have cell phones (and extra batteries) in case of an emergency and each hut has direct radio contact with the dispatcher for the local emergency rescue. The huts strive to provide a backcountry experience and cell service is limited. We invite you to consider “unplugging” during your time on this pilgrimage. If you wish to bring a cell phone or other electronic, you will need an independent way to recharge it. You may not bring hair dryers or curling/flat irons, laptops or iPads, portable/electronic game devices, stereos or CD players. To learn more about the history of the huts, please click here.


Accepted applicants will meet at the Rte. 27 Stratton Brook Trailhead in Kingfield, ME (we’ll give you driving instructions!) on Thursday, October 10th at 10:00 am. After brief introductions and trail orientation, we will walk just over 3 miles to Stratton Brook Hut (lunch will be provided on the trail by group leaders). After settling into the hut, a longer orientation and intention setting will take place. The next morning, we will walk from hut to hut, ending at Flagstaff for two nights, and hiking out via the Big Eddy Trailhead. Transportation will be provided back to our cars. The group will return to the original trailhead/car park by 2:00 pm on Monday, October 14th.

DAY 1          Meet at trailhead, walk to Stratton Brook Hut (overnight)– MILES: 3

DAY 2          Walk to Poplar Hut (overnight) – MILES: 8

DAY 3          Walk to Flagstaff Hut (overnight) – MILES: 12

DAY 4          Exploration on trails around Flagstaff Hut (overnight) – MILES: 6

DAY 5          Walk to transportation and return to cars for departure – MILES: 4

Tentative Daily Schedule:

7:00                Prayer/meditation
7:30                Breakfast
8:15                Depart for morning walk
9:45                Morning break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
10:30              Walk
12:30              Lunch break
1:00                Walk
2:30                Afternoon break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
3:00                Walk
4:00                Arrive at lodging/free time
6:00                Dinner
7:30                Group time
9:30                Lights out

Packing list

Please note – this packing list includes what you will be wearing (so you’ll wear one pair of socks and pack two). We invite you to think carefully about each item you pack and take this as a chance to practice minimalism, bringing only what you truly need. Weather in Maine in October can vary greatly. It can be as cool as 40 and as warm as 65. Please pack according to your own comfort/preference (do you run cool or warm?) and remember that you will be hiking!

  • Socks (3) light wool for hiking
  • Sock liner (3) prevents blisters (optional)
  • Underwear (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Comfortable sports bra (2)
  • Shorts (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric) (optional – see above)
  • Pants (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Shirts (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Long sleeve shirt (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Fleece or warm jacket
  • Lightweight hiking shoes
  • Lightweight slippers (or sock slippers) for around the huts
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Pajamas/comfortable clothes for being at the huts
  • 40° compressible sleeping bag
  • Pillowcase
  • Moleskin (or another blister treatment)
  • Earplugs
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toothpaste (small tube)
  • Soap (small all purpose bar for body and hair, if possible)
  • Water bottle (at least 900ml/32oz)
    • Potable water is available at each hut to refill your water bottle/hydration pack, but water is not available on the trails/between huts. Maine Huts and Trails recommends three quarts per person per day depending on the weather and your level of fitness.
  • 5 clothespins
  • Hiking towel (small quick dry)
  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Backpack
  • Journal
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera phone and waterproof container
  • Extra batteries
  • Feminine Urinary Device (like this one at REI)

Apply Now    Reference Form 

Cancellation policy

Registration fees are nonrefundable unless another participant is able to fill a cancelation.