The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage

Program and Scholarship Application Available Now!
September 5 – 9, 2019 | Northern Oregon Coast, USA

The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: Recovering the Sacred is a spiritual and intercultural learning experience drawing from indigenous wisdom through Celtic Christian and Native American spirituality. Through the ancient spiritual practice of pilgrimage, we seek to recover our inherent and sacred connection to all living things. We will explore our unique, generative, and creative response to the dominant and violent forces of our time. Guided spiritual practices will invite each pilgrim towards restoration of harmony and right relation with self, Creator, neighbor, and the planet.

This pilgrimage route follows the Pacific Coast Trail in Northern Oregon, and traverses approximately 35 miles of seaside foothills, sand dunes, coastal rainforest and expansive beaches. Beginning with the rising of the sun in the morning, our group will walk 10-15 miles each day by way of trail, beach, and brief roadside walking.

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 read Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell and Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel as a primer for our learning. 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. This will be our basis for exploring our unique and communal call to participate in meaningful action towards healing and transformation in the world.

Pilgrims will practice together what it means to be a beloved community, making specific agreements about our group norms and way of being together. Differences among group members, whether in ideology, religion, ethnicity, or race will be honored and seen as opportunities for growing in awareness and understanding. Together we will journey towards healing, connection, wonder, and a clear sense of calling.

Required Reading 

Participants will be required to read the following as a primer for our learning.

  • Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell
  • Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel

Trip Leaders

The NW Coastal Pilgrimage is led by Ben Lindwall and Stephanie Escher.

Ben is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT and has been leading pilgrimage and other spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is certified in spiritual accompaniment (also known as spiritual direction). As residents of Portland, OR since 2014, Ben and his family challenge themselves to live sustainably through their energy efficient tiny house and thriving vegetable garden. Ben comes from an evangelical Christian background but now like many of his generation, finds himself deeply committed to spiritual practice without formal religious membership.

Stephanie is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and a United Methodist Pastor in the Minneapolis, MN area.  Stephanie has been co-leading the Oregon Coastal pilgrimage since 2017 as well as collaborating on the development of pilgrimages that engage contemporary challenges such as the US Mexico border crisis and the eminent domain plight of Native Americans. She is a former pilgrim from Heartbeat’s 2015 Camino Peace Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Physical Expectations, Training, and Terrain

Pilgrims are required to train with a loaded pack and must be prepared to walk up to 20 miles on any given day. The first day (15 miles) involves walking on firm, flat sand during low tide. The second day (12 miles) includes a major 1000 ft climb up and over Tillamook Head on forested state park trails (pilgrims must be able to walk on uneven, rocky and sometimes muddy ground) with a steep ascent and descent. The third and final full day (8 miles) of walking returns to the beach below picturesque seaside bluffs during low tide. The route consists of approximately 60% beach walking, 35% forested trails, and 5% roadside walking.

The trip leaders will work to find a pace that works for everyone, usually a fairly brisk walk. The element of a physical challenge and willingness to push through discomfort is an intentional aspect of the pilgrimage and we believe this can be an important tool in the transformation process. Sharing such an experience with others and offering or receiving support along the way is a formative opportunity. If pain or discomforts arise, each pilgrim will be personally responsible for expressing their needs and judging their ability to continue.

While usually 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 will 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 up to 2 lbs of food and/or other gear needed for the whole group.
  • A support van will be driven from each night’s lodging location to the next so pilgrims will only carry in their daypacks the items they need for the day.

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 July 10, 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 July 18. 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 $475 and scholarship funds are available for those with limited income. The registration fee covers meals, lodging, transportation from Portland to the coast (and back), guided walking, and program.

Scholarships are available and successful scholarship applicants will receive a $425 scholarship towards the overall costs and are required to pay a $50 registration fee.

Travel Stipend

If you would be traveling to Portland, OR for this pilgrimage and would need additional funds to cover travel expenses, you may also apply for a travel stipend of up to $500.00. We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their network to cover the travel expenses, but where this is not possible, you are welcome to apply. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend, and you must apply for a travel stipend at the same time as submitting your scholarship application. You can apply for a travel stipend by clicking here.

Additional Costs 

  • Books (see required reading)
  • Necessary gear to complete packing list (see below)
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to/from Portland, OR (if necessary and/or see above for Travel Stipend)

Meals and Lodging

All meals will be planned by trip staff and prepared by group members. We are happy to accommodate conventional, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diet. Every effort will be made to use locally sourced and organic ingredients. 

The first and last night of the trip will be spent in state park yurts. These are semi-rustic accommodations with bunk bed mattresses (pillow and linens required), electricity, and heat. The second night will be spent at a hostel in Seaside, OR, where bunkrooms with bedding/linens are provided (we have blocked out rooms for our group only). The third night will be spent at a church in Cannon Beach (pillow, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad required). Showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen are available at all locations.


Accepted applicants will meet at the Leaven Community Center in Portland, OR, on Thursday, September 5th at 10:00 am where lunch will be provided. After introductions and orientation, the group will be transported by passenger van to Ft. Steven’s State Park on the coast. Our walk will conclude near Arch Cape, OR, and we will shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park for our final overnight and group gathering. The group will return to Portland by 11:00 am on Monday, September 9th. 

DAY 1          Meet in Portland, van shuttle to the coast, overnight at Ft Steven’s State Park

DAY 2          Walk to Seaside, overnight at Seaside International Hostel – MILES: 15

DAY 3          Walk to Cannon Beach, overnight at Community Church – MILES: 12

DAY 4          Walk to Arch Cape, shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park– MILES: 8

DAY 5          Return to Portland, OR

Tentative Daily Schedule 

6:00               Prayer/meditation
6:30               Breakfast
7:15               Depart for morning walk
9:30               Morning break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
10:15             Walk
12:30             Lunch break
1:00               Walk
3:00               Afternoon break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
3:45               Walk
5:00               Arrive at lodging/free time
6:30               Dinner
7:15               Group time
9:30               Light out

Packing list

*Please be mindful that the packing list includes what you will be wearing (for instance, you will wear one pair of socks and pack two – three total).

  • 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)
  • Pants (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Shirts (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Long sleeve shirt (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Lightweight hiking shoes
  • Light sandal
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat
  • Moleskin (or other 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)
  • 5 clothespins
  • Plastic plate, fork, and spoon
  • Hiking towel (small quick dry)
  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Backpack
  • Pillow
  • Journal
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera phone and waterproof container
  • Sleeping bag and mat (note: these items will be dropped at a specific site and will note be carried in backpack)
  • Feminine Urinary Device (like this one at REI)

Cancellation policy

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