If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagner

Do you feel a calling to connect with others, yourself and nature in new ways, to go deeper, to explore, to expand? Are you ready to answer that call?

If so, then join us in the high peaks of western Montana for Inner Wild’s sixth annual 3-week Relational Leadership Intensive, July 7th-July 31st (2019). Through the art of pilgrimage, contemplative and reflective practices, nature connection and individual and group development work we will explore the wilderness within. What does it mean to be fully human during these turbulent times of personal and planetary transformation?  What are your gifts? How can you use them to serve both yourself and the planet in more creative and expansive ways?


relational leadership Summer Intensive

Overview: This program is an innovative cross-disciplinary exploration in leadership development for adults between the ages of 22 and 55. During this 3-week wilderness intensive participants will be exploring and deepening their relationship to self, earth, community and the numinous while at the same time strengthening and or discovering their unique gifts, and leadership skills in an effort to better understand the transformative work they wish to cultivate in the world.

Our Classroom: Established in 2012, the Sacred Door Trail is a 200-mile non-denomination pilgrimage trail, which celebrates spiritual unity and our connection to Earth and community. Located in southwestern, Montana the SDT circumnavigates the Big Hole Valley and meanders through some the prettiest mountains, lakes, and rivers in the continental U.S.

Goals: With an emphasis on individual, group and leadership development in a prolonged wilderness setting, we seek to deepen participants’ relational awareness while at the same time empower them with interior and exterior knowledge, tools and skills that nurture a path of fulfillment and inspired social action in the world.

To say it was a good experience is being awfully humble since it changed my life.
— Peery, 2016 participant

Program Structure: This program is based on the ancient practice of pilgrimage and the cross-cultural initiatory structure of a rite of passage. The power of the program lies in its holistic structure which is grounded in theories and research around adult development, cross-disciplinary design, self-organizing systems and the power of peer-to-peer learning and mentorship.

Themes and Theories:  Deep ecology, holistic community development, social and environmental justice, depth and ecopsychology, contemplative practices, systems theory, leadership development, nature connection, wilderness survival skills, local ecology, rites of passage, adult development, group development, and integral theory.

I have gone to therapy off and on for about 15 years and nothing has given me this profound cellular change as walking in nature and receiving the messages needed in order to heal.
— Jamie, 2017

Tending the Shadow: At Inner Wild, we don’t use wilderness and wildness to escape but rather to reconnect to the wisdom and understandings that can help participants play a bigger role in the healing of our social and planetary systems. Part of what that work entails is an exploration of shadow. How are we complicit in systems of oppression that operate both internally and externally? How can we use our gifts to counter and replace those systems with worldview, practices, and structures that promote healing and generative transformation? This exploration also applies to the program as well, in the sense that we run the program on stolen land. We bring this reality into the program, we address it in dialogues and explore how that history can be transformed into healing in an effort to come back into right relationship with the land and the land’s original caretakers.

Black bear tracks in the Pintler Range, Northern stretch of the Sacred Door Trail.

Black bear tracks in the Pintler Range, Northern stretch of the Sacred Door Trail.

A note on the history of the Land: The Big Hole Valley was a shared hunting and travel corridor for many indigenous tribes, but primarily the Selis (Bitterroot Salish) and the Newe (Shoshone). The land is also home to part of the route the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) traveled in an effort to reach Canada to avoid U.S persecution. Sadly, they were stopped 40-miles south of the border and placed on a reservation in north-central Idaho.

AdMissions overview

What We Look for in Participants:  Inner Wild’s 3-week summer intensive seeks participants that have a demonstrated track record and commitment to self-inquiry and personal growth, and who have a passion for cultural transformation rooted in the values of environmental and social justice and interconnectivity. This program is perfect for individuals who are ready to explore their own development in a way that can only be done through a collective, community-based container that works in partnership with the land. Our expectation for participants is that they arrive in a space of compassionate openness, willing to challenge their own core beliefs and explore their own blind assumptions. It is through such a space, of openness and curiosity, that genuine transformation and authentic community connection become possible.

Preparation:  The ceremony begins the moment you commit to it. We take this notion seriously here at Inner-Wild, which is why the moment someone signs up for a program they can expect a call from us. These are mentor calls. They are designed to stir the inner-soil and support participants in the preparatory stage of the process.

I wish I was better with words so that I could fully express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be a part of such a powerful experience.
— Samuel, 2016 participant

Each participant will have two mentor calls before the experience and one three months after the intensive is over. The purpose of the calls before is to support the individual in all that goes into getting ready for such an experience on both an internal and external level. This includes introducing the individual to the rolling questions which they will be exploring on an individual and group level through the entire process of the program.  A few of the rolling questions are: how do you tend your relationship to the masculine and feminine in your life, are there things you’d like to let go of in yourself, what beliefs are holding you back, what are your gifts, what does community mean to you, what helps shape meaning and purpose in your life, how do you feel let down by western modern culture, how do you feel empowered by it, how are you and how could you serve the greater good through a deeper embodiment of your gifts and passions?

Upper Slag’O Melt Lake, just below the Continental Divide, week-two on the trail, Beaverhead Mountains.

Upper Slag’O Melt Lake, just below the Continental Divide, week-two on the trail, Beaverhead Mountains.

Inner Wild’s Commitment to Safety and Diversity:  Inner Wild’s priority for our five-week intensive is to create a container filled with a diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and interests. Through our collective journey, we seek to explore and create an authentic nomadic community that operates in right relationship to the individuals, the collective, the land, and the spirit of the trail.


In order to do this correctly, safety must be our number one priority. It is our expectation that each participant within the group speaks and acts in a way that serves, honors, and protects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety of all involved, including the land. Any safety issues that arise on any of these levels will be addressed immediately by the facilitators in partnership with the group. Our first action as a group when we gather in Montana will be to create a community charter, that includes the values, and tools we need to have in place to feel safe and held as individuals as we embark on our journey together.


Basecamp, outside of Bozeman, MT

Basecamp, outside of Bozeman, MT

WEEK 1 – Base Camp Logistics & Community Creation:  Upon arrival to Bozeman, Montana, the group will head into the Bridger Mountains and set up camp on a private in-holding within the National Forest. These first few days are dedicated to setting the group container and introducing various themes and theories that we will engage throughout the trip. Some questions the group will explore include the following: what is our basic schedule (waking, start hiking, meal times)? How do we handle conflict? How do we handle leadership? When do we hike alone? When do we hike as a group? How do we learn from each other? In addition to community building, we also take care of food purchases, rationing for the trip, review maps and food drop locations, inspect our gear, role play first aid scenarios, and practice basic survival safety, such as setting up and taking down tents, patching tents efficiently, working backpack stoves, and hanging bear bags.

Much like a river, the trail was at times patient and smooth, other times wild and turbulent though always moving, never stagnant.
— Sean, 2016

WEEKS 2, 3, – Relational Exploration: Once on the trail, the day-to-day structure and schedule will be in some ways determined by the group. Each day there will be two designated leaders of the day. Their responsibilities include going over maps in the morning with the group and offering questions of the day, or inquiries, that folks can think about while on the trail. In the evening the leaders also run the evening check-ins, where folks share their insights and learnings from their day on the trail. Over the course of the first and second week on the trail the trip facilitators will slowly handover leadership responsibilities to the group placing the experience in the hands of participants to shape through juggling the various roles of leader, teacher, student and support system for one another as the group creates their own nomadic community along the path. Every six days, the group will be met by our community support team for two layover days and a food re-rationing. Additional short group sessions on theoretical topics will also be held during these layover days.

Application process

We are currently accepting applications for 2020! To apply write a one to two-page essay explaining a bit about who you are and why you feel called to do this program. If you are in need of a scholarship, please let us know that on your application. Once completed, email the essay to, innerwild.org@gmail.com. Expect a response from us confirming the receipt of your application and next steps. Please understand that not everyone who applies gets accepted. Participant spots will be confirmed upon receipt of a $250 deposit.

Program Cost: $2,800 for those enrolled by April 1st, $3,000 for those that enroll after April 1st. Submit your application by January 15th to be eligible for a $150 early bird discount. There are two half scholarships and one full scholarship available for this year. Do not let the price tag stand in the way of applying. We have never turned anyone away due to financial limitations. If you’re the right fit for this program and willing to put in the work, then we will help you get the money needed to make this program a reality for yourself.

To apply or if you have any further questions, please contact Weston Pew at innerwild.org@gmail.com.

Weston and Shannon are incredible teachers and within the community they built I learned more than I thought possible about the environment, wildness, people and even myself. They provided a creative, free and fun landscape in which we could all grow into wiser and more loving human beings.
— Elizabeth, 2016

Lead Facilitators

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Weston Pew is the founder and director of Inner Wild and is also the founder of the Sacred Door Trail.  Weston grew up in the mountains of Montana and has been working with youth and young adults in the wilderness since he was 18. He is an alum of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s semester-long program and has backpacked all over the world.  For the past 8-years, his work and studies have focused on rites of passage, pilgrimage, and individual development through wilderness settings, which lead him to the creation of The Sacred Door Trail and Inner Wild.  He holds a masters in experiential education from Prescott College and a masters in depth psychology with a focus on community, liberation, indigenous and ecopsychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where we runs individual and group programming that supports the cultivation of relational wisdom and leadership.


Shannon Ongaro holds a Master’s Degree in History for Montana State University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Naropa University, in addition to her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Humboldt State University. Shannon has taught professionally at the college level, and has spent summers training river guides and working as an instructor at Montana Whitewater Guide School. An avid backcountry skier and outdoor enthusiast, Shannon has traveled extensively all over the world – including Central and South America, New Zealand, Africa, and Europe. Over the past spring and fall of 2016 and 2017 Shannon worked supporting refugees in Greece through the NGO, Refuge Support Europe.  She also works for the Tandana Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees service projects in Ecuador and Mali, West Africa. Additionally, she is  a co-founder of a local arts project BOOMA (Benevolent Order of Mountain Artists) through which, she organizes twice-yearly collaborative community art projects.