Bishop, CA - Sacred Rok

I started climbing in Boone, North Carolina the summer I was 15. It was the first time I felt truly comfortable and connected to something, it had been an instant connection with being outside, expressing myself and learning in my surrounding environment of nature. I returned home the end of that summer knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Some two decades later I have an even deeper sense of connection to the outdoors and purpose through a life spent in pursuit of that same passion.

photo by Scott Rinckenberger

photo by Scott Rinckenberger

In early January we received an email from a young woman in North Carolina in regards to doing a possible internship with Sacred Rok for her senior capstone project. She’d been researching the mental benefits of climbing and came across Sacred Rok in an article with an interview with Ron Kauk and was wondering if we had any internship opportunities she could apply for.

Sacred Rok has never really had an Internship Program even though we have had mentoring programs for several years. With her being from North Carolina and my very first roots of climbing having sprouted there it seemed like a very serendipitous thing, as if I were coming back full circle. After a few days of consideration I proposed that she come to my hometown of Bishop, CA for her intern week. It would provide the perfect opportunity for her to see some of the daily business operations of running a non-profit, as well as an ideal playground for some world-class winter rock climbing. Essentially, it would be a little glimpse into something that could potentially be life-changing.

Much to my delight everyone was onboard and during the week of February 20th this young woman and her father made the trip out.

View from the Tablelands overlooking the Owens Valley. Bishop, CA

View from the Tablelands overlooking the Owens Valley. Bishop, CA

The following is Mary’s account of her time:

“Last week, I had the experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget.

Mary on her first day at the Buttermilks.

Mary on her first day at the Buttermilks.

I am a senior at a small school called Woodlawn School in Mooresville, North Carolina. At Woodlawn, every senior comes up with a topic that they are interested in learning more about and we spend the whole year working on this big project, including journaling, interviews, internship week, and a big final project. The topic I chose was how climbing affects the brain. I fell in love with rock climbing not long over a year ago and since then, I joined a team and have just become obsessed with it. While climbing I’ve met the most interesting people. Everyone is just so incredibly nice and friendly. I think I first started wondering how climbing works the brain from one of my teammates. He’s nine years old and a die hard climber. I’ve never met someone so young with so much strength, dedication, and most of all maturity. My teammates and I always joke around how he is actually an old man trapped in a nine-year-olds body and I started to wonder if climbing made him like that. I started out my project researching how climbing affects developing brains and through that branched out. I discovered how climbing has started to be used to help people with mental illnesses like PTSD, anxiety, and depression and I was hooked.

I came across Sacred Rok through an article I read while researching my topic. Coincidentally, the first article I read was by Katie in Climbing Magazine. <>

After looking into Sacred Rok more, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and I emailed Sacred Rok about interning with them for my internship week.


I had the amazing opportunity to fly out and spend three days with Katie and Sacred Rok. It may not have seemed like we did all that much, but I learned so much and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I got to talk with Katie and Ron for hours about their experiences and the non-profit. I got to climb in Bishop, California with Katie at some legendary Crags I’d never imagined I’d be able to climb in. Since going to Bishop, I found a new stronger love for the sport. I think it's an incredible thing how much we can learn from it. The physical strength, mental strength, connecting with people, solving puzzles, mental control, and truly connecting with nature and our surroundings, truly understanding our place in this world.”

The famous Buttermilks in their winter coat.

The famous Buttermilks in their winter coat.

We were very honored to have Mary come out for a few days. It proved to be not only beneficial for providing her with more inspiration and excitement about all the potential in her future but also gave us a fresh perspective on how little things like this really can be transformative and have a greater impact on the future of our youth.

With gratitude for all the potential that exists within ourselves and for the planet,

Katie Lambert

Chief Operating Officer

Uplift Family Services - Sacred Rok


 As we move into this new year we bring with us what we’ve gathered and learned through our experiences with youth. The act of simply being in nature is incredibly important for a heathy mind and body. It has a spiritual richness that helps orientate us to the value of life, helping to unify us as a group. 


 Looking at the beauty of Yosemite through our senses – hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting the spring water – brings us into the natural harmony that wants to happen. For me it’s been a lifetime of being here to recognize the lessons being offered in the classroom of nature.  


 Learning to walk in your own rhythm, with your breath and heart beat leading you is the way back to the basics. The simple act of placing one foot in front of the other is like setting the timing for your personal awareness in the most natural way. 


 Between Christmas and New Year’s we had five young men from Uplift Family Services in Santa Clara county.  Four of the youth were here for their second trip and for one 12 year old it was his first.  The three days we spent together filling our water bottles at the spring, splitting firewood, hiking up Yosemite Falls trail and talking around the fire at night felt really good, much like an extended family, as we entered the new year. 


 It’s such a great example of how much appreciation there is to simply be together, listening to each other and developing the art of communication.  We like to encourage our youth to find their own unique way of expressing themselves. Through showing them respect and equality they are given more confidence to share how they feel and what they are experiencing rather than always telling them what to do. 

 Sacred Rok is committed to higher education based on natural laws, as an investment for the future of our children and all life. 


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Check out the link below that details the healing power of nature and further supports what Sacred Rok has been doing since the beginning,

A Note from Uplift Family Services

I will always remember the very first trip we took with Sacred Rok a few years ago.  The night we returned I received an e-mail from one of our foster/adoptive parents saying, she didn’t know what happened on that trip, but she had never seen, or experienced,  such a level of peace in her soon to be adopted daughter (who was about 12 at the time).  

I was not surprised. It happens over and over with our trips with Sacred Rok.  These “shifts” are also sustained in the youth, and not just an immediate after effect of the trip.  Nature promotes “homeostasis” which is so necessary for youth who have experienced trauma in their lives.  The natural, uninterrupted rhythms of nature restore that sense of balance as well as allow for changes and growth in the mind, body and soul. 


Of course, it isn’t just nature, but the way Sacred Rok leads and guides these trips – think of a guided visualization or meditation vs. just sitting and trying to do it on your own.  Just as in meditation, we first settle our body and mind, Ron facilitates the trips to ensure time when we arrive to adjust to the new setting, slowing the pace and connecting with each participant.  Once settled, we venture out with Ron as our guide. It is full engagement of our senses, and awe inspiring.   As time goes by in Yosemite, each of our beings’ own internal systems come more into alignment, freeing up more energy to be present, to enjoy, to engage more fully and to grow.

Thank you Sacred Rok!

Stephanie Antonioli, LMFT

FCAS Regional Manager

Uplift Family Services

Stanford University Students - Sacred Rok


This Autumn, Stanford University students came for a weekend trip to walk amongst the beautiful changing colors and be in the presence of this reflective time. This trip inspired our senses to communicate and facilitate our commitment to learning from nature.


Kenji Hakuta, emeritus of Educational at Stanford but still involved with the university, really took the lead on this trip with his own personal relationship to nature and respect for the Sacred Rok mission - which is to help youth to respect nature and through that to respect themselves. For the Stanford students to be with Kenji provided the unique opportunity for them to leave their academic minds behind and delve into the possibilities of learning more about themselves and their place in the world through time spent in nature.


Kenji’s example of having a good foundation in academics in conjunction with his own personal nature experiences of solo-backpacking trips and rock climbing provided a great reference for the students of what life-long education is.


Simply being together on the 6 mile Valley loop trail promoted a meditative walk which many of us did barefoot through long sections. It’s always an incredible exercise to flow freely - meaning on natures time, to stop and observe the cliffs above, the autumn leaves, and whatever may seem interesting to the group.


“I feel encouraged to develop my own relationship with land and nature. I am drawn to pay more attention to what I am walking on and to take off my shoes more. Thank you for the work that you do.” -- Stanford Student


I love being a part of this flow that always seems to evoke a deeper conversation from a more open mind to consider the beauty we're seeing; a result of the obvious effect that nature can have on our senses which can awaken the beauty inside us as well.

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Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Complex - Sacred Rok


For our last camping trip of the season in Tuolumne Meadows we had two young men who were doing time at Juvenile Hall. It’s nothing less than a miracle that these kids can join us while being incarcerated due to their good behavior and the respectful relationship Sacred Rok has built with Merced County.


Our Treasurer, Kenji Hakuta - founding Dean of UC Merced, introduced myself and our organization to Brian Cooley in 2009, who at the time was the Chief of Probation and is now a Sacred Rok Board Member. Cooley fully supported our vision of bringing the youth into nature as a way to destress, connect and create relationships.


For all of us involved in these day trips and camping trips it always creates an opportunity to naturally enjoy our time together. As we’ve said before, Sacred Rok is here to facilitate the ceremony of nature, which we observe as a very powerful opportunity to engage with our senses.


Our youth get a kind of nurturing from this experience that can promote healing as a way to find balance in a modern and stressful world. Through these experiences together we are shown the value of what it means to be human and to respect each other and the world around us.


Through the diversity of our board members and your support all of these possibilities have come together to help promote this kind of education for our youth.

Sacred Rok is committed to making a better day.

Keeping it Sacred,

Ron Kauk - Executive Director

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