A Walking Pilgrimage at Walden Pond

April 25-29, 2022

I have great faith in a seed. – Henry David Thoreau

In the face of climate crisis, many of us struggle with feelings of grief, anxiety, guilt, despair and powerlessness…to name a few. On this five-day pilgrimage to Walden Pond, we will share wisdom and practices that connect us to our love for the Earth, help us process our grief, cultivate hope and resilience, and empower us to take action to address the climate crisis.

Generations have gone to Walden to re-kindle and re-imagine their relationship to the Earth. Even more have found inspiration in Henry David Thoreau’s account of his two-year retreat at Walden. Walden and its environs have also deeply shaped our Unitarian Universalist tradition.

Following in Thoreau’s footsteps (and practicing his own discipline of meditative nature walking), we will each day walk a different journey through the Walden Woods ecosystem. We’ll complement our walking with spiritual reflection that draws on Thoreau’s life and writings, the spiritual practices of his Unitarian and Transcendentalist friends (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller and others), as well as wisdom from contemporary environmental thinkers and activists, such as Joanna Macy and Adrienne Maree Brown. Our goal is not only to walk to Walden, but to arrive at a place of greater personal resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

This retreat is open to members of the Potomac Partnership congregations and offers an opportunity to build meaningful connections among members of our congregations.

Our pilgrimage guides will be the Rev. Dr. Robert Hardies and the ministers of the Potomac Partnership congregations. Rev. Hardies brings years of experience leading pilgrimages on three continents, to places as diverse as Santiago de Compostela, Assisi, Hiroshima, Walden Pond, Selma, Alabama and the US-Mexico border. His doctoral degree focused on reclaiming the spiritual practices of early Unitarians and Transcendentalists, which he has taught to contemporary UUs for over twenty years. Joining Rev. Hardies in pilgrimage leadership will be Rev Nancy McDonald Ladd, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and Rev. David Miller.

Interested in learning more? Please indicate your interest by sending an email ASAP to the Rev. Rob Hardies at rhardies@gmail.com and plan on attending a zoom information session on Tues., Nov. 9, 7:00-8:30 pm.

Our Pilgrimage Journey

Each day of our pilgrimage we will focus on a different dimension of climate resilience:

Day 1 – Grounding: Getting to Know One Another and Walden

After re-introducing ourselves and re-connecting to one another, we will ground ourselves in the natural and native histories of Walden, as well as its ecology.

Day 2 – Connecting with our Love and Gratitude for the Earth

A critical practice of climate resilience is to remain connected to our gratitude and love for the Earth, even in the face of climate crisis. Today’s meditative walk will invite us to identify and reflect on the aspects of the natural world that kindle our gratitude.

Day 3 – Working through Climate Grief, Guilt and Fear

Even as we are sustained by our gratitude for the Earth, personal resilience demands that we honestly confront our grief and fear for the future of the planet. Today, in a safe and caring environment, we’ll explore and share these difficult feelings.

Day 4 – Seeing with New Eyes: Re-imagining Our Relationship with the Earth

Climate resilience requires habits of thought that free us from the human-nature binary and help us re-imagine our relationship to the Earth. We will draw on Thoreau’s own experience at Walden to help us consider how we might live differently with the Earth.

Day 5 – Going forth with Commitment and Action

Creative, collective action on behalf of the planet is another critical practice of climate resilience, strengthening our sense of agency in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. On our final day we will participate together in an environmental justice project in the Walden ecosystem, consolidate our experience, and set our intentions for going forth.

Sample Daily Schedule

With a couple of exceptions, programming will generally run from 9am to 4pm each day. First Parish Concord (Unitarian Universalist) will be the home base for our pilgrimage. Most days will alternate between group work at First Parish and walking through nearby Walden Woods.

8:00 Breakfast on your own.

9:00 Gather at First Parish Concord for group learning/spiritual practice.

10:30 Break

10:45 Continue morning learning/exercises related to the day’s theme.

12:00 Lunch at First Parish

1:00 Meditative Walking

3:30 Return to First Parish to reflect on meditative walking experience.

4:00 Closing

Dinner on your own. Overnight at Colonial Inn or other lodging.


Lodging is NOT included in the cost of the pilgrimage. We will hold a group of rooms at the Colonial Inn in the heart of the town of Concord. The Colonial is a preferred lodging choice because it is located within walking distance of virtually all of our pilgrimage activities. Participants can also choose from among other nearby hotels (not within walking distance), and lodging with friends in the area.


Lunches are included in your program cost. Breakfast and dinner are on your own. There are many options for dining in Concord, within walking distance of First Parish, Walden Pond and the Colonial Inn.


The cost for the pilgrimage is +/-$500 per person, which includes:

  • A five-day immersive climate resilience workshop and pilgrimage at Walden Pond
  • Experienced facilitators to guide our journey
  • Admission to all sites and venues
  • Honoraria for guest speakers, scholars
  • Lunch daily, along with coffee and snacks

The cost does NOT include:

  • Travel to and from Concord
  • Lodging in Concord
  • Breakfasts and Dinners