Who are We?
Bill Harper, the Founder and Director of Pilgrim Trekking, has been working with young people in the wilderness for three decades. As an Episcopal Priest Bill developed a parish-based wilderness program for the young people in his own parish, a program that has changed and sustained parish youth for 20 years. Having retired from full-time parish ministry, Bill now offers this program to congregations and youth groups throughout the West.
Bill has been engaged in outdoor adventure leadership for most of his life, and he knows first-hand how lives can grow and change on trails, through mountains, and in a community of friends and companions. Bill leads each pilgrimage, supported by young adult co-leaders who are PilgrimTrekking alums from past years.
Bill is a nationally certified Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician and remains actively engaged in local Episcopal congregations in both Washington and Idaho. When not leading trips or traveling with his family, Bill works winters skiing in Sun Valley or riding a bike anywhere he can find an open road.
Who are You?
As we design our Pilgrimages we want to work with you and your group. We’ll take the time to get to know you, working to do so in person whenever possible. You can tell us about your youth group. Is it active? If so, we’ll build on those relationships. Is it small? We’ll try to deepen those connections. At PilgrimTrekking we know the trails and mountains well through many years of connection—but we also know that every journey is unique because of the character of those traveling together. We look forward to knowing you!
Past Pilgrims have generously endorsed their experience!
"I was scared and unsure when I showed up for an 11-day hike into the Olympic Mountains. “I don’t do nature,” is a common phrase out of my mouth. Bill changed all of that. He encouraged me to trust and ask questions. He showed me my physical and emotional capacity was far and beyond what I thought it was. When I got sick and thought I couldn’t hike any further, Bill literally put my pack on his back, along with his own, and made sure I made it to the next campsite. Beyond that, he made sure I knew that the team’s priority was my health and safety and that I had not failed. He helped me summon a strength I didn’t know I had and I carry the lessons he taught me in my life today. I’m grateful for everything Bill brought to my life by way of that 11 day, 163 mile hike, the things I’ve learned helped me go on to graduate high school, graduate from UCSB, and go on to have a challenging and successful software development career. "
"The pilgrimage was definitely a challenge, but a good one. From it, I learned to persevere. Even though the hiking is tough, going up switchbacks in the hot sun with your backpack, sometimes you just have to look up and take in the beauty of the place you are in. You have to remember where you are and where you are going, and just be content with being in the presence of so much peace and beauty.
One of my favorite memories from the Pilgrimage was the day we hiked to "Our Lake". Right off the bat we hiked up steep switchbacks. This was such a challenge with the weight of our backpacks and the mid-morning heat. But challenges like this is where I really grew. I had to stay motivated and remember to look up and absorb where we were. And it was definitely worth it, when we made it to the top. It was so high up that there was snow, and you could see off both sides of the ridge, all the way down to the lakes that pooled at the bottom. I can still picture it in my mind. From challenges like this I learned a lot about myself, like how I'm stronger than I thought I was, and how even when times are hard and I feel like quitting, I can push through and keep going."
"I loved my pilgrimage so much that I took part in two re-supply excursions just so I could stay as close as possible to the experience! Our path through the North Cascades is my first recommendation to anyone looking for an extended outdoor experience but my memories and love of this Pilgrimage extends far beyond the hike itself. While my memory of the occasional bug swarms has long since faded, my evenings spent listening to Bill read The Alchemist aloud to us, the lifelong friends I developed through the experience, the amazing meals we shared along the way, and the best communion bread anyone will ever taste on our last Sunday of the trip will stick with me forever.
These days I work for a diving and salvage company, traveling the world and drawing on a sense of adventure. My ability to adapt and improvise to various situations was most certainly formed in part during my pilgrimage experience. On two separate occasions I have been asked to join a small team and hike out to a remote coastal beach in order to salvage a vessel that has a run aground after having been lost in a storm. While neither of these jobs came with the vast array of wonderful food Bill supplied, nor a copy of the Alchemist to pass the time at night, I found myself drawing on my pilgrimage experience that taught me to work with and trust the people around me, as well as myself, and to make sure and pause from time to time to realize how amazing the experience is and how lucky I am to do it."
"I really loved leaving all technology and attachments behind. There was a feeling of independence and elation that you could survive with just the things you were carrying on your back. Bill is the perfect guide -- very knowledgeable about the mountains. He brought everyone in our group together during the morning and evening pow-wows. He spreads his time equally among each of the participants and brought a spiritual element to the hike. It was just as much about finding yourself as it was about reaching a destination."