Walking Water Phase 1: Mono Lake to Owens Lake, September 1-22, 2015

Report and Next Steps

The first phase of Walking Water is now complete, and we are happy to share some of the highlights and next steps with you. The walk was a success on many levels, and there is much that could be said, and will be, over time.



The Owens Valley has for some 150 years been a place of contention in relation to water. It has included the dispersal of Paiute peoples from the land, the arrival of mining companies, and then the acquisitions of land and water by the City of Los Angeles and others. It is just one of many classic stories of water manipulation around the world. In California’s fourth year of major drought, it is an auspicious time for Walking Water’s first phase to have begun, after building a relationship with many organizations, communities, and tribes in the local area and beyond for some years. We sent out our vision, our prayer, to join together in re-imagining our relationship with water and re-designing water management toward a system where we all have what we need.

Gradually, over the last three years, the core team has been asking permission to walk the land and join the conversation in a way that is appropriate to the local region. This led to designing the walk in three phases, to be completed over three years. Through the arc of Walking Water, we hope to contribute perspectives, questions, witnessing and specific actions that strengthen relationship between people and water, raise awareness and lead to significant improvements in both the local and global water situation.

 Walking and Walkers

There's something up there© 2015 Jasmine Amara

© 2015 Jasmine Amara

Phase 1 took us from Mono Lake to Owens Lake, covering roughly 180 miles in 22 days with approximately 35 walkers each week. Click here to see map of route. Our intention was to co-create a moving community of both local and global people who would bear witness to the water situation in Mono and Inyo Counties, raising awareness and examining our relation to water as a finite resource. We had the gift of receiving many peoples–their stories, experience and perspective along the way.

Pilgrimage was chosen as the method, a way to directly experience the land around us, to experience the heat and dryness of the Valley as well as its beauty and expanse. We walked from the ‘success’ story of Mono Lake, through the Jeffrey Pine forests, along the Owens Gorge and into a man-made desert to Owens Lake, sometimes jumping in the rivers and even more often not seeing water for days.

A leadership team of three women, a “carrier” support team of eight, and a small volunteer logistics/kitchen team helped us move along our route, generously supporting the daily needs of the group. All had the opportunity to share their experience and personal stories through daily councils and walks with each other, averaging 10 miles a day. The inter-gen group of walkers age 20 to 70 brought themselves fully to the experience: writers, water specialists, community leaders, local activists, tribal members, photographers, singers, philanthropists, business leaders, educators, and more. To see the full bio’s of all the walkers click here. Through walking we were able to create a daily life based on simplicity and having minimal impact; we experienced what it is like to live in community together with all our needs more than met.

Taking a break under the shade© 2015 Jen Fedrizzi

© 2015 Jen Fedrizzi

The daily councils offered us a space of exploration and expression for what we witnessed and heard throughout the journey. It was an integral part in creating community and solidarity among the group members so quickly. Together, we watched closely the tendency to jump quickly into blame and the taking of sides; together, we focused more on listening and learning from the place and the people there, asking what we might say yes to, asking the questions that still need to be asked of those in power, asking how we all might take responsibility and become more engaged and empowered through our communities. Each day we listened for events and actions that might serve and help us along the trail… from collecting trash to writing our concerns and questions to the DWP and others. Song, prayer, and action found a balance.

On many of our days, we arrived at our destination late in the afternoon, with just time enough to hear more personal stories from some of the walkers before dark. Some highlights included:

Mark Dubois, who spoke of how he was called to dedicate his life to saving rivers—most notably the Stanislaus–where he chained himself to the river bed to stop it from being flooded.

Sarah Nutting, of MaMuse, who spoke of loving and leaving her community at this time in her life. And how the question ‘what is mine to do?’ is forming and guiding her path.

Geoff Dalglish, journalist and ‘earth pilgrim’, who shared the depth of his “turn around” from a career built around cars and cross country expeditions to becoming an earth pilgrim, and subsequently walking thousands of miles for the human/nature connection.

Krystyna Jurzykowski, daughter of immigrants and co-founder of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a preserve for endangered species who spoke of the healing power of giving and new relationships possible with money.

Laura Whitney, President of The Ojai Foundation, who spoke of how the way of Pilgrimage has led to essential changes in her life and her family’s investments.

Benjamin von Mendelssohn, Director of the Grace Foundation, who spoke of a global theory of economics based on trust and mutual respect.

Rajendra Singh, ‘Waterman of India’, who spoke of his award-winning work in India in community empowerment and water management.

Sabine Lichtenfels, Co-founder of Tamera Peace Research Center who spoke of the relation between healing water and healing love.

Local and Global Events

Throughout the Pilgrimage we held a number of public events in complement to the simplicity of the daily rhythm. Opening and closing ceremonies punctuated the walk, and we were honored to be welcomed and supported by many of the local tribes, organizations, and the Mono County Board of Supervisors, among others. We were joined by members of local communities through several community walk days, and were particularly encouraged by the company of kids and elders. We held several public events under the banner of ‘Talking Water’—roundtable discussions, with respect for those on the frontlines, designed to inspire and raise awareness of water issues.

Week I, Talking Water took place at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center just south of Lee Vining. There, we had an informative evening with local author David Carle, Mark Drew, Regional Manager for the Eastern and Northern Sierra regions of CalTrout, and Andy Lipkis of TreePeople.

During Week II, at the Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center, in Bishop, we were honored and welcomed with a beautiful evening meal preceding the roundtable. The event included the passionate voices of Harry Williams, Elder of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, Alan Bacock, Water Coordinator of the Big Pine Paiute, Teri Red Owl of OVIWC, Letitia Gonzalez youth representative of UNITY and Daniel Pritchett of the Owens Valley Committee. We were also fortunate to have a group of the tribal young people join us, and a larger-than-normal-for-the-Owens-Valley audience of approximately 150 people.

Welcome dance by children of Lone Pine Paiute Tribe© 2015 Jen Fedrizzi

Welcome dance by children of Lone Pine Paiute Tribe© 2015 Jen Fedrizzi

Week III, at the Lone Pine Paiute Community Center, we had a full evening focusing on the local and global relation to water. Our group was warmly welcomed with a celebration and dance performed by local tribal children and a potluck feast. For the roundtable, we gratefully gathered around the fire with Kathy Bancroft of the Lone Pine Paiute Tribe, Alan Bacock of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, Sabine Lichtenfels of Tamera and Rajendra Singh, aka The Water Man of India.

At the conclusion, despite some tired feet, we had a full-swing celebration at the Owens Valley Growers Cooperative in Independence with locally produced food and heart-rousing dance music from Bonnie Tamblyn and the Blue Heaven Band.

Throughout the time of the walk in California, there were a number of parallel events around the world, including a pilgrimage in Turkey, a water seminar in Greece, daily meditation in Scotland, a water celebration in South Africa, a shorter but none-the-less significant pilgrimage in France and tree planting in Kenya. We celebrate the good work and efforts of our cooperation partners around the world.

Music, Imagery and Media

During the walk, we were very fortunate to have writers, photographers, musicians and a webmaster to support the telling of story. Geoff Dalglish’s blogs throughout the journey were published through his own blog ‘Earth Pilgrim’ as well as on the Walking Water website and Facebook page. We are thrilled that Geoff will carry on writing throughout the next two years.

Jasmine Amara and Jen Fedrizzi made a beautiful contribution as photographers, capturing images that show the many faces of pilgrimage. They will be working on an exhibition and collaborating on a book together with the core team.

Sarah Nutting of MaMuse accompanied us with song and rhythm and is planning a collection of songs inspired by this time. Stay tuned! Most of us can’t stop singing what became a kind of anthem …“I will lay my troubles down by the water Where the river will never run dry.”

Throughout the walk and during the ramp up, Walking Water was present in a number of articles in The Inyo Register, The Daily Independent, Positive News and various newsletters, as well as local radio. Please go to the Blog to these articles in full.

During Week III, we welcomed Velcro Ripper and Nova Ami—most known for their recent film Occupy Love—to the Pilgrimage. Walking Water will be part of their new film, Metamorphosis, which is planned for release in 2017.

Others contributions of song, poetry and story will be coming in the next months during what for many will be a strong incorporation time.

We are grateful to these and the many voices that have given insight into Walking Water.


Though successful, that of course doesn’t mean it was all easy. Throughout the preparation time one of our biggest challenges was finding a route that would be acceptable and permitted by all the land agencies throughout the journey (thank you Shay, Kate, and Co). While we appreciate all the support we received from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Inyo and Mono County, LA Department of Water and Power, Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, and others, we can also say … what a complicated process it was to receive permission to simply walk on this land! We thought of the amount of resources that went into this kind of process. And the countries and places where such permissions are not even necessary.

We were lucky with weather in that we didn’t experience any extreme storms or the high winds that often occur in the Valley, though the extreme temperatures and occasional times without water or shade, left some with heat exhaustion. Our logistics team was challenged throughout to keep up with the ongoing needs, and one key person had to leave in the middle unable to continue to do the job he had hoped because of an injury. On top of that, we suffered some gear damage due to wear and tear, and a major loss of several bags that fell off a truck on the highway, quickly snatched up by a passerby it seems. We were challenged with the gear loss and also the financial loss putting us unexpectedly in debt but rallied in support, remembering that within our community we could find what we needed. The care of each other deepened and such challenges, along with our many blisters on this walk of our choosing, seemed small in the face of what history we heard, and the world water issues others face.

A journey such as this is meant to challenge and as such, it would be fair to say most every individual was stretched, internally as well as externally. While finding shade was rare most days, personal shadows in the group were few and far between as well, mostly tended to with care and patience, moving and changing with the weather and time. Intentions, shared prayer and a commitment to keep walking certainly contributed to the group well being.

Outcomes /Evaluation

Beauty© 2015 Jasmine Amara

© 2015 Jasmine Amara

It is clear from the feedback to-date that the walk was worth taking and the money worth spending. The question still comes, what was the outcome? In a way, such a full response will not be fully revealed and perhaps best not offered until year three as the action that grows out of such a prayer will unfold over time. And yet the fulfillment of our purpose is well underway with increased awareness and education amongst the walkers and within the communities we touched.

For now, we can point to numerous local and global collaborations on water issues, including such alliances with Tamera around possible water-retention landscapes and the World Water Walk with future events in Geneva. A list of WW projects birthed-to-date include two books, a song/soundtrack, and parallel walks being planned for next year.

Then there are local actions in each of our communities that are arising and still too early to report on. Lessons learned continue to be collected and with the experience now had, there will be some evolution of plans for the logistics and leadership teams. We will be putting out a list of ways to be involved in the near future and continue to be responsive to shared interest, suggestions, and any recommendations.

Scroll down for reflections from some of the walkers.

Partners and Sponsors

Dance at Lone Pine Paiute Tribe© 2015 Jasmine Amara

Dance at Lone Pine Paiute Tribe© 2015 Jasmine Amara

Partners have been essential for the development of Walking Water in particular with the Big Pine, Lone Pine and Bishop Paiute tribes who hosted us along the way and contributed in so many ways, the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (OVIWC), the Owens Valley Committee, the Owens Valley Growers Cooperative and the Mono Lake Committee. Further afield, we give thanks to The Ojai Foundation, Biosphere Foundation, WILD Foundation and TreePeople who have also been hugely supportive.

Each walker took on responsibility to fundraise for a share of the walk, resulting in the activation of many networks, the vision being widely shared, and many more people investing into the project. Most walkers contributed more than their share! In total: $76,046.70 came in and we met our budget of $74,463.

Also important to note is that approximately one-third of the original budget needs were fulfilled through in-kind gifts of equipment and food. Much of this was given by local businesses and we look forward to more joining in. Local organizations such as Toiyabe Indian Health Project and the Rotary Sunrise Club also contributed generously with funds to support local participation and documentation. National companies were also generous, gifting discounted shoes, clothes, food, supplies and more toward the walk.

An extra special thanks to Ross Stone for his gifts to each of us, to Geoff Dalglish for his brilliant reporting, to Alan Bacock for his continued presence and prayer from the start, to Kathy Bancroft for her faith in us, for unexpected and ongoing generosity – the Wilkerson lawn party, sunglasses and books from the Mono rangers, not to mention our for-many-of-us personal assistant Tara, our eight carriers of care everywhere – Krystyna, Laura, Benjamin, Vera, Will, Laura, Dave and Roger, the many 4- and 2-leggeds that left tracks and sign along the way, the evolving, revolving logistics team, and the seemingly tireless smiling chefs serving good food night and day.

The Community is Essential

(Please forgive for any we may have forgotten, in this moment only …)

Individual Financial Donations

Adele Napier, Aleeta Hass Holcombe, Alex Polikoff, Alexis Slutzky, Ali Clarke, Allan Stuart, Andrea Davis, Andrew Beath, Andy Lipkis, Anja Waterstradt, Ann Mbacke, Anna Gleysteen, Barbara Whitman, Barry Hoonan, Benjamin von Mendelssohn, Bill Sechrest, Bonnie Robinson, Casey McCarroll, Charlie Hess, Chris Alexander, Christopher Kuntzsch, Christopher Langley, Claude Pepin, Constance Broz, Courtney Childs, Cynthia Godes, Daniel Dunn, Danna Pyke, Dave Hage, David Carle, Deanna Berman, Deborah Clarke, Delbert McCombs, Diana Rehm, Diane Saturnino, Dianne Roth, Donna Jean MacIver, Donna MazzolaDonn, Douglas MacIver, E.R Ames, Elaine Cull, Elayn Ponet, Frank Phoenix, Galen Fulford, Gigi Coyle, Harriet Platts, Hayley Lapalme, Heather Podoll, Irma Fathke, James Edwards, James Emanuel, James Lancaster, Janet Carle, Jen Fedrizzi, Jennifer Ladd, Jenny Everingham, Jesse Ford, JL Paulson, John Amistoso, John Tappon, Jon Biemer, Josephine Rohrer, Judith Bone, Julie Blair, June Forsyth Kenagy, Karen Josephson, Karen Powers, Kari Stettler, Kate Bunney, Kate Dunn, Kathy Clark, Kenneth Larson, Krystyna Jurzykowski, Laura Whitney, Lauren Hage, Leohart Shipman, Lila Morissee, Lisa Clarke, Lisa Field, Lockie Russell, Lois Eckhoff, Louise Ferrell, Lucy Ridsdale, Lynn Gardner, M.Amos Clifford, Marc Valens, Margaret Sloan, Margot Milliken, Marilyn Walker, Mark duBois, Mark Finser, Marla Crane, Mary Churchill, Mary Ford, Melissa Ambers, Michael and Lesley Bunney, Michael Baldwin, Michael Gley Steen, Michael Graham, Michael Molk, Michael Prather, Michael Wells, Mirko Borsi, Nancy Johnson, Nancy Schaub, Peter Cameron, Petra Lentz-Snow, Reenie Weiss, Richmond Brainerd, Robert Clarke, Robert Scheff, Roberta Hall, Roberta Smith, Roger Milliken, Ryan Jones, Sabine Lichtenfels, Sally Garrigues, Sandra Skrei, Sara Munro, Sarah Mason, Sarah Nutting, Shannon Mallory, Sharon Shay Sloan, Soni Clubb, Stephanie Hampton, Stephanie Jourdan, Suming Cheng, Susan Cameron, Tara Milliken, Tari Steinrueck, Ted Cline, Terry Morawitz, Thomas Kemper, Timothy Regan Jr, Tom Mitchell, Trea Yip, Troy Carter, Valerie Hewey, Vance Martin, Virginia Jordan, Will Scott, William Hayden, Win Phelps, Wolf-Thilo Stein, Yamin Chenin, Yaney MacIver

Foundations and Organizations

Ananda Fund, Avalon Trust, Beyond Boundaries/Biosphere Foundation, Earthways, LUSH, Owens Valley Committee, Pollination Project, Rotary Club of Bishop – Sunrise, RSF Social Finance, Scheerer Family Foundation, School of Lost Borders, The WILD Foundation

In-kind Donations/Volunteer Time: Individuals and Companies

Alan Bacock, Bonnie Tamblyn, Brendan Clarke, Carmen Gonzales, David Jessup, David Wright, Dr. Philip Schmidt, Emily Pease, Gaie Alling, Gigi Coyle, Jane McDonald, Janka Striffler, Jim Whitney, Juliette Baigler, Kate Bunney, Kathy Bancroft, Linda Wimberley, MaMuse, Mark van Thillo, Mike Prather, Nic Moss, Scott Davidson, Sharon Shay Sloan, Sierra Silverstone, Silvia Belgardt, Siri Gunnarson, Sten Linnander, Troy Carter, Virginia Thorson and Zack Smith, Win Phelps

Ace, Advanced Elements, Alter Eco, Amy’s Kitchen, Beaver Sporting Goods, Black Sheep Café, Blue Lupin, Crowley Lake General Store, Dwayne’s Pharmacy, Earth Balance, Eastside Sports, Go Raw, Great Basin Bakery, Joseph’s Bi-Rite, Kmart, Keen, Looney Bean, Manor Market, Marley Coffee, Mono Market, Numi Organics, Nutiva, Patagonia, Teechino, Teva, Trader Joe’s, ValueSports

Next Steps ….

Walking Water Phase I has just completed, and we are in the process of collating media, stories, feedback, and more as we begin preparation for Phase 2: Owens Lake to the Sylmar Cascades in Autumn 2016. Exact dates are still to be finalized but we are hoping for a start at Owens Lake around the time we ended Phase I: Sept 22. For the upcoming year we have an estimated budget of $100,000.

Immediate next steps and needs include:

  1. Exhibition and Story. To create an exhibition of images and story from Phase 1 to be presented initially in Mono and Inyo Counties as well as Los Angeles. We need approximately $1000 to complete this.
  2. Photo Book. To complete a photo book with story to document the experience. We need approximately $3,000.
  3. Team Expansion. To bring in new team members, including a part-time assistant to the coordinator and a part-time logistics coordinator. We need $15,000.
  4. Website. To re-new and update the website to incorporate what has been accomplished and begin focus on Phase II. We need approximately $500 to update and complete.               

TOTAL $19,500 before Jan 2016

And then the rest will come with sponsors, walkers, foundations and partners by the fall. We are confident that the steps we have made and will keep making over the next three years contribute to an inspiring and empowering dialogue about all of ‘our’ water. Thank you for being part of this dreaming. We look forward to the ways you will be part of the coming year.

The Walking Water Team – Kate, Gigi and Shay

A Collection of Walker’s Reflections

Alan Bacock
Walking Water brought people together to engage in life together on a 3 week walk along the waterways of the Eastern Sierra.
Alexis Slutzky
I am in the Johannessburg airport …
Andy Lipkis
It was an honor to be with very caring people representing so many people and parts of  the Earth …
Chris Langley
I backed into participating as a walker without much expectation for the experience.
Dave Hage
WW was definitely one of the best things I did all year.
Gigi Coyle

Someone asked on Walking Water, “How do we get people to care?” …

Gigi’s words in full
Janka Striffler
To PatchaMama …
Jasmine Amara

The feet of pilgrims walking …

Jasmine’s poems in full
Krystyna Jurzykowski
Since the pilgrimage, I cannot be at a sink, a faucet, a public toilet, any channel of provided water – without asking …
Laura Whitney

Thank you for giving me and so many others such a beautiful and life-changing opportunity…Laura’s words in full

Peter Hawk Cameron
Sun rise over the mountains, stars and the milky way …
Rajendra Singh

Thank you for this pilgrimage time. I come from a desert …

Rajendra’s words in full
Sarah Nutting

If I could see it through God’s eyes …

Sarah’s words and audio in full
Tara Milliken

Three lessons learned …

Tara’s words in full
Troy Carter

I lay on a wooden board, tendrils of hair slowly wicking water up …

Troy’s words in full
Yamin Chehin
Thank you for the waves of the after Walk! …
Yaney MacIver
For me the walk/pilgrimage back to my home valley was …
Sabine Lichtenfels
I express my gratitude for being part of walking water’s first year …
Lauren Dalberth Hage
Yesterday and today we had a beautiful rain! It rained all …
Mark duBois
Our Walking Water pilgrimage continues to gestate, & deepen me…