Animas Quests

This contemporary enactment of the pancultural vision fast is a dynamic wilderness rite for men and women seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning. As a rite of initiation, the quest is a ceremonial descent to the underworld, in which you die to your familiar way of belonging to the world, uncover the passion and wisdom of your soul, and retrieve the gift that is yours alone to bring to the world, enhancing personal fulfillment and genuine service. The quest serves as a modern rite of initiation — not into any social, religious, or spiritual group, but into your own soul and deeper layers of true adulthood.

As a rite of passage, the quest facilitates the transition through a major crossroads of life. These crossroads — leaving home, mid-life crisis, career change, loss of a loved one, divorce, a healing crisis, spiritual crisis, or retirement — can be quite disorienting and emotionally traumatic. But these unavoidable and pivotal shifts are often the necessary threshold of all post-adolescent personal development and initiation.

When you neglect the human need to periodically renew yourself, your life becomes hardened, dry, brittle. The Animas Quest is an opportunity to surrender the solidness of your life so that something new might sprout in its place. It is a chance to discover (or recover) your own unique animating essence, your personal puzzle piece of the Mystery, the gift that only you can offer the world, a necessary offering toward our collective navigation of this fragile planetary time of multiple crises and immense possibilities. During your quest, familiarity and comfort are left behind. Your old way of defining yourself is abandoned. The more-than-human world and the deep imagination become your guides.

Since 1980, Animas Valley Institute has been developing and enacting this modern counterpart to initiation and passage rites found throughout the world. The Animas Quest interweaves the practices of ancient traditions with the self-development tools of modern depth psychology and ecopsychology. Although we have learned much from native traditions, our programs are not imitations; they are distinctive and thoroughly modern, designed specifically for contemporary people of Western cultures.

The Animas Quest catalyzes the encounter with soul by temporarily displacing everyday consciousness through five primary means: (1) solitude for four days and nights while (2) fasting (i.e., drinking water only), (3) being fully exposed to and enfolded within the forms and forces of nature, (4) enacting a series of ceremonies, and (5) employing a set of practices (soulcraft) that support you in crossing into the mysteries of nature and psyche.

Most of our quests take place over a total of 11 days, 8 of which are spent in the wilderness. Preceding your time of solitude are five full days of preparation activities that enhance your ability to benefit from the fast. The first two and a half days of these five are held at a retreat center or car-camp before we journey to our wilderness base camp (or, on some programs, remain at our car-camp). During the five preparation days, we work with dreams, poetry, deep imagery, ceremonial drumming and dance, dialogues with nature, the way of council, and other practices to help us slip out the door of our everyday lives and access our own deeper, wilder, psychonautical currents. The heart of the quest consists of the solo: three days and nights without human companionship in nature, fasting, engaging in personal ceremonies, saying yes to the mysteries of soul, tending the true mythos of your life, praising and grieving, and birthing a vision. Upon your return to base camp, there are three days of reincorporation activities, preparing you to embody among your people what you received on your fast. The last of these three days takes place back at the retreat center or car-camp.

No previous backpacking experience is required. (In fact, many of those who have quested with us have never before been camping or backpacking). However, except for the Drive-to-Basecamp Quest you must be able to carry a 45-pound pack 2 or 3 miles.

Questers are responsible for their own camping gear and 3-7 personal lunches and snacks.  Details will be included in the preparation materials sent out after registering.

Reincorporation Mentoring: Following your quest, you face the challenge of integrating into everyday life what you experienced in the wild. This is the key to your further unfolding. To support you in this process, there is a post-quest session with a reincorporation mentor who is also an Animas guide. Ongoing quester-mentor relationships are available to help you grow into a more soul-centered life of purpose and passion.

Beauty Mesa Queer Quest – June, 2022

June 23 - July 4, 2022
Manti La Sal National Forest, Utah

With Bruce Howlatt, Sara McFarland, Wild Mind Guide and SAIP Trainee and Doug Van Houten

This contemporary enactment of the pancultural vision quest is a dynamic wilderness rite for those seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning.

Animas Quest: A Depth Journey for Opening to Earth’s Wild Wisdom – July 2022, Latvia

July 8 - 18, 2022
Stacija, Latvia

With Sage Magdalene and Sara McFarland, Wild Mind Guide and SAIP Trainee

This contemporary enactment of the pancultural vision quest is a dynamic wilderness rite for those seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning.

Rocky Mountain Advanced High Country Quest – August 2022

August 4 - 15, 2022
Uncompahgre National Forest, CO

With Rebecca Wildbear, M.S. and John Lynch, M.A.

This is an ADVANCED version of our vision quest, and is a dynamic wilderness rite for those seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning.

Sonoran Desert Quest – November 2022

November 2 - 13, 2022
Aravaipa Canyon Ranch, Tucson, AZ

With Doug Van Houten and Rebecca Wildbear, M.S.

This contemporary enactment of the pancultural vision quest is a dynamic wilderness rite for those seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning.