In September of 2007, after being led on a horrendous, five-mile hike through everything that I could possibly be allergic to, I laid underneath my simple shelter on the ANASAZI trail in Arizona and wrote, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not cut out to be a TrailWalker.”
So began my first week as an ANASAZI TrailWalker!
For those of you that don’t know, ANASAZI Foundation is a wilderness therapy program for troubled youth and struggling young adults. ANASAZI offers a 42-day, wilderness-based, residential treatment program and outpatient services rooted in the belief that all people—regardless of their struggles or at-risk choices—possess an inherent “seed of greatness.”
Because of my father’s line of work, I had known about ANASAZI Foundation for years but never really understood what they did. After significantly painful and difficult experiences in my own life, my parents suggested that I enroll in ANASAZI and participate in the program. After learning that it was a wilderness therapy program, I believe I said something like: “Ah heck no!”
But for whatever reason, the idea participating at ANASAZI worked on me….little by little….until, a year after my parents had suggested that I enroll in ANASAZI, I printed off an application to work there.
Okay, first of all, you need to understand a few things about me: I hated being a boy scout. Is there a way to emphasize that…without using expletives? I HATED being a boy scout. Camp outs, tying knots, being “outdoorsey”….? No. Not for me. No. No. No. I was a chubby computer nerd fully satisfied with his lot in life.
So again, for whatever reason in 2007, I printed off an application to work at ANASAZI Foundation, a wilderness therapy program. I honestly do not remember my thought process at the time. I cannot remember filling out the application. And I barely remember the drive down to Arizona to start work. (I vaguely remember a phone interview from a member of the office staff: “You do realize that you won’t be walking on marked trails, right? You’ll be climbing in canyons and bushwhacking.” “Oh yeah, sure,” I lied. Truth be told, I literally did not know what the term “bushwhacking” meant. Literally.)
Suddenly, I found myself in the ANASAZI office going through training. I was learning how to build a fire with sticks and pack my trail pack using a tarp and something they called a “burrito.” I thought to myself: Why am I here?
Soon after that, I was out on the trail, curled up in the fetal position under my tarp, sweaty, sore, tired and bruised. I couldn’t control my allergies and I couldn’t sleep. I was physically and mentally miserable. Again, I thought to myself: Why am I here?
But I kept working at ANASAZI. And as I did so, a change came over me. ANASAZI became a major turning point in my life: working with amazing individuals (the staff and the participants), learning about the ANASAZI way, having personal awakenings and strengthening my relationship with the Creator were experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. ANASAZI rejuvenated my soul and taught me to “walk forward” with a “heart at peace.” I often describe this period of my life as if I were “seeing color for the first time” because there’s really no other way to describe it.
In October of 2010, while working with a Sinagua band (participants over the age of 18) I found the answer for which I had been searching since 2007. After telling them my background of coming to work at ANASAZI, I said “I can’t remember why I applied to work here….but I now know why I came.”
The simple principles taught at ANASAZI (the fundamental belief in a Creator, Forwards and Backwards Walking, having a new beginning, a Heart at War and a Heart at Peace) can, and have changed the lives of thousands of participants. I am constantly amazed by the caliber of the staff and the miracles which take place in that blessed program on a daily basis.
More than that, I marvel at the healing which takes place in the families that participate in ANASAZI.
For these reasons and more, I have quietly pledged in my heart to consistently support ANASAZI. I hope and pray that you too will discover the peace and joy that comes from living the ANASAZI way.
Please share and enjoy these videos that I have made to honor my scared (and fun) experiences at ANASAZI. Ezekiel Sanchez, co-Founder of the ANASAZI Foundation lent his voice for the narration and artist Jon McNaughton was kind enough to do some sketches specifically for this video.