Holiday Greetings

As we reach the end of the year, we want to thank all of our supporters for helping us to connect youth with nature. Our newsletters offer an ongoing voice from Ron and the young people he works with, sharing the lessons they learn through our trips and ongoing relationships. These voices offer a powerful testament for the value of their experiences in Yosemite.

Over the next couple of weeks, we also want to take the time to share reflections from some of our Board members about what Sacred Rok means to them. Please keep an eye out for these stories.

Here’s one from Kenji:


This fall, I was on my annual solo backpacking trip in the Sierras. Avoiding the smoke from the Rim Fire in Yosemite, I went to Kings Canyon National Park, exploring the Cloud Canyon area between Colby Pass and Avalanche Pass. There is a moraine that rises about 2,000 feet along the side of the river, which I am sure was created by the glacier that flowed down that canyon. I recognized that these mountains were created over 10 million years ago, and that at least four glacial advances have carved and left their stories on the rock. The moraine represented the cumulative stories of the rocks and boulders that rode down the glaciers following the law of gravity.

My trail cut a switchback up this moraine, and as I was relating to these thoughts and surroundings, I recognized that with each step I took, I was walking through time – the time it took for that glacial accumulation to be made. How many human generations are represented even in each small step that I took? Quite humbling, and as I got to the top, standing in the soft light filtered by the pine trees and looking around this documentation of time and forces of nature, I connected to a sense of my place in the universe.


In these newsletters, we have been sharing Sacred Rok’s philosophy of the lessons learned from participating in the ceremonies of nature. We want to encourage you to share any experiences you may have had personally.

This year for the first time we created a calendar using Ron’s photos. We will be sending the calendar to our supporters, and will have a limited number of calendars left. Please email us at SacredRok@SacredRok.org if you would like a calendar.

We have also posted our Annual Report on the website, and have a limited number of hard copy reports. Please let us know if you would like one. We look forward to your continued support. As you know, we depend on your donations. We set up a Year End Giving Campaign for those who would like to make a tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year.

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Wishing a joyous holiday season to you and your family and friends, and a peaceful and healthy 2014.


We are continuing to build relationships through the art of communication, appreciation and respect. Simply being and being in the moment, these things are showing the way back to the basics. When we say “relationships” at Sacred Rok we mean with all life – air, water, and land. This is the Law for the Real World. When we say “communion with our senses” we mean tuning in and remembering how to feel as well as think. Our experiences continue to help us better understand the word education and commit to the reality of Education Nature’s Way.


We are happy to say with your help we have had many day trips the last spring and camping trips throughout the summer with all our regulars – Merced Probation, Merced Boys and Girls Club, and the Mariposa Middle School. The beauty of these outings is getting to know each other, learning how to work together or let’s say be together, enjoying Yosemite’s ceremony of nature.


With the probation department we’ve taken our Yosemite outings into their classroom, working on a story sharing video from our pictures and video collection over the years. This has amazing potential to express the contrasting worlds of being incarcerated to standing under 1000 foot waterfalls with rainbows, fresh water springs, healthy food and stress free environments – as we experience the transformation of being free to be truly human.


Our Spring day trips set up the opportunity to follow the trail to summer camp in Tuolumne Meadows 8000 feet up the mountain.  In July we had our first camping trip of the summer with the Boys and Girls Club and soon after we hosted our second camping trip with the Mariposa Middle School. We had worked with all of these youth before throughout the last two years but for some this was their first camping trip. This is always a unique and important step not only for Sacred Rok but also for the youth and we do our best to host them in the most nurturing way. In early August we had a group of youth from Green Acres in Sebastopol who spent a few days with us.  This is a new and budding relationship and we look forward to continuing our work with them. Our last trip of the summer season was with the Merced Probation – reinforcing our connections.  All of our trips taught us something about ourselves and furthered our dedication to our vision at Sacred Rok.

As of this summer, it’s been 4 years since we started Sacred Rok.  The lessons we have learned in bringing the youth into nature are profound.  The institutions and the social conditions that form the environment that these young people experience every day contrast to our experiences in Yosemite.

We hope that the experiences of nature promote their human development.  The trees that they smell, the wind that they feel, and the pools in the river that they dip in all become a permanent part of their cumulative life memories — a collection of their being.  As well, we hope that our approach shows them that most of what we learn as humans comes from the inside.  As adults, we are humble facilitators of the connection to the great teacher, nature.


By learning from the inside, I mean that the young people appreciation of nature happens not because we “tell them” but because they resonate to what already exists in the human spirit.  Sacred Rok is a facilitator of this connection.

This lesson, something that I have learned over my many years from my teacher Yosemite when I was 14 – facilitated by the adults around me – is really what I want to share through Sacred Rok.  And, over the past 4 years, I think that our opportunities– working with Merced foster care, Merced Probation, the Boys and Girls Club, the Planada youth, Native American youth, as well as some groups from outside this area – has reinforced this lesson.   The youth who have participated with us, many of whom have come back repeatedly, have told me so, in so many ways.  I deeply appreciate these experiences, which have, in turn, been my teacher.


Where is the source of education, and what is the adult role in it?  That’s really what it boils down to.  My friend Kenji, who works in so many areas of formal education, tells me that that’s one of the basic debates that goes on in his world of schools in the K-12 world.  Some things for sure need to be explicitly taught – for example, connecting the script to the sounds of a language is basic to learning to read any language.  But many others things need to be constructed through facilitated experience – for example, finding the deep meaning of a poem requires discussion and reflection, and diving into the self – this is hard to teach through drills and worksheets and fill-in-the-bubble approaches.   Students learn by connecting meaning to their self and their spirit, and connecting to the natural world.


At Sacred Rok, nature provides our curriculum and our structure.  Sunrise, sunset, wind and weather guide our activities.  We follow the pace of nature, and this helps the kids to slow down and learn to breathe, walk, and listen to the water and the wind in the trees.  This is not a one shot deal.  These young people come back again and again, and over time we build our trust and strengthen our relationshipsthat are simply natural.

So through our experiences over the past 4 years, I think we have established the value of respecting the youth to connect in their own way given the chance, the value of providing healthy food, the value of place, and the continuity of learning over time.  It seems as though formal institutions try to acknowledge the importance of learning from the inside, but they struggle with recognizing it fully. What we have shown is that this can be done at a small scale, working to facilitate small groups of youth with some continuity.  When we established Sacred Rok in 2009, we knew that we wanted to support young people with the ceremony of nature.  We had a vision, but we did not have a specific plan.  But we have mapped it out during the last 4 years, demonstrating the feasibility and power of our vision.


So what is our next 5-year plan?  Kenji and Nancy just spent two weeks at camp in Tuolumne and we had a good chance to reflect on our accomplishments and envision our future, surrounded by the signs of nature and reflecting on their meaning.    Here is one reflection we had.  There is a beautiful boulder which sits just across the river from my campsite.  It got here having floated down the canyon carried on top of a glacier thousands of years ago, and was placed here as the glacier melted.  The Tuolumne River is still flowing from the Lyell Glacier that receded but continues to provide the flow of this river, being watched by the boulder.  This celebrates the art of nature.  Through the help of great friends who have given us generous grants and individuals who have contributed by buying our books and photos, we have subsidized trips working with the Merced organizations who are working hard to support these youth.  During the next 5 years, we plan to consolidate these successes further so that the organizations see this as a central part of their own mission, rather than as an add-on subsidized by outsiders.

As we do this, we hope to use our gifts, grants and donations to work toward the establishment of a “place” for Sacred Rok.  Having a specific piece of land owned by Sacred Rok and established as a center for learning is important because the “sense of place” is central to our work.  We see the mountains from which the water for much of California emanates as an essential link for our youths to the land.  Because we want all of our youth touched by Sacred Rok to have a sense of place grounded in nature, a place for them to come and stay to re-connect with the earth, is essential.  We are thus seeking a modest piece of land where we can start growing organic food, staying for gatherings, building fires, and having the time to inspire.  Such a place may be in the foothills on the western or eastern side of the Sierras.


Finally, during the next 5 years, we are hoping to play more of a convening role for organizations that seek to help youth that share our philosophy.  In our work with the various organizations in Merced, we have found like-minded souls within probation, youth organizations, Native American, and foster care organizations.  We also have met many people in school systems throughout California who understand the barren agenda of school reform focused on narrow academic skills and neglecting the nurturing of the human spirit.  We are contemplating the next 5 years as a period where we can develop leadership potential for people within these organizations, and to collaborate in the re-birth of humanity through partnerships with inspirational individuals who are in a position to transform their organizations.  The land we hope to acquire will serve as a center where gatherings of these leaders can occur.

Letters From the Kitchen


As a child my great grandfather grew a garden that supplied food for the table and the many months ahead. Things that didn’t get eaten immediately were jarred, canned and frozen. Jams, salsas, stews and pickled items lined the shelves of the pantries of every member of our family. I remember the crisp cucumbers sprawled across the ground, the prickly merlitons and their weird smell, the stakes of snap peas, the canopy of grape leaves draped across the pecan trees in the back corner, and the hot house with it’s tomatoes and box of potatoes.

The tomatoes were the best with their deep red flesh and the sweet water of the earth. I ate them like apples on occasion or my great grandmother would very gingerly peel and chop them and season with salt, pepper and vinegar. These became one of my favorite things to eat and I had a hard time understanding why many people would say they hated tomatoes.

My great grandfather took pride in his plants and he kept a journal of his garden – what he planted, when he planted, what pests came, what nutrients were needed, when was the frost, when was the drought, home remedies and theories. As I grew up I started to garden myself and I called him or wrote to him often asking advice on what I had growing. My gardens prospered and my tomatoes and peppers were almost as sweet as his.

In the south of Louisiana, especially with a hot house, one can grow tomatoes for most of the year but there are those few months in winter and early spring when this just isn’t possible. Yet, in the stores there would always be tomatoes – their skin an odd, speckled orange red color, their feel a little too firm, and their flesh leaving something to be desired. These were not tomatoes, these were an insult to my paw-paws vine-ripe beauties. They hardly seemed edible yet they were everywhere – in the schools, in restaurants, in the markets, cafeterias, etc. I started to understand why people said they didn’t like tomatoes – if these mushy, tasteless things were what they were eating then there was absolutely no reason to like them.These impostors were/are the result of large scale farming – otherwise known as industrialized farming.

Industrialized farming has done it’s job at supplying “food” for the masses and it’s also done it’s job at homogenizing, monoculturing and taking then richness out of the food. In response to this a great food movement is occurring – hardworking people are pouring their spirits into small scale, organic farming. What comes out of it are fruits and vegetables and meats so rich and full of life that I recall my great grandfather out in his garden with his soil stained hands and his bucket of fresh food.

This is the food that I love and this is the food that Sacred Rok supports. We want the youth and adults we work with to understand this difference and to be nurtured by this food. This is why we largely support local, organic farming practices and try to buy most, if not all of our food from these types of people and places. We are fortunate to have great people like Brenda Ostrum and Mountain Meadow Farms, TD Wiley Farms, the High Country Health Food store in Mariposa, the Sierra Sundance Whole Foods in Mammoth, the Mono Market in Lee Vining and the Manor Market in Bishop – all of these people and places work with local, organic farmers to provide some of the best goods available. In honor of my great grandparents and for the benefit of all Scared Rok will continue it’s vision of creating healthy meals with healthy food.


Letters to the Kitchen

“Thank you Katie for cooking for us without you I would have been starving. The food was the Best! I’m gonna miss you and your great food.”

“Thank you Katie for supplying us with all the WONDERFUL & DELICIOUS food! Without your great skills at cooking we all would most likely be starving! I appreciate your time getting up and effort you put in for us kids in the BCA program. I hope there will be a next time that we can come camping again and have you cook for us. Your cooking is the best!”

“Thank you Katie for the food and your cooking was good and delicious. It is the best food I have eaten in 5 months.”

“Thank you, the food was great and I really enjoyed breakfast!”

We are all Travelers

In late January we released our new book, “Letters from Sacred Rok” and in mid-February we  started off our book tour by giving a presentation at the Stanford Alpine Club. On February 21st we were given the opportunity to have a book release event at Heyday Books with founder Malcolm Margolin. Being at Heyday was more than just an honor, it was a validation; when we support each other and show respect it promotes healing and confidence. Malcolm’s introduction of Sacred Rok and myself was an example of that.  In his way of respecting the education I received in nature through rock climbing gave me something I know we all want to give our kids – the power to respect yourself and your uniqueness, your gift to be. Thank you Malcolm and all the people for the great night.


The following weekend Sacred Rok hosted youth from the Merced Boys and Girls Club on our first trip of the year. Many of the youth are returning from last year and some are new comers. It is so nice to see some of the young people from the last year and how they grow. This privilege to be with youth is amazing – it’s an opportunity to have fun visits, share stories and laugh.


We help to bring out the best in each other. So far we have had three trips with them this season, the most recent of which were some of the youngest yet – ages 7 to 12!  These little beings shed the light even more about how precious this life really is.


A few days after our first trip with Boys and Girls Club we stepped back on the trail with Mr.Garcia and our Probation crew. It felt like we never left, our connection is strong in many ways. These relationships are  based on Respect, recognizing as we enter the natural world we are equal as human beings, this is what I like to call “Higher Education.” Getting back to the basics we keep it real and real simple – for this profound reality – listening to the water and wind, smelling the trees. We learn that wisdom is everywhere in everything.

We have made  a new friend from Merced, Kelly Turner. She works with young girls in the  Merced area through an organization she created called Symple Equazion; she brought up three teenagers a couple of weeks ago. We found ourselves under waterfalls and rainbows, our feet in the ice cold river, looking for Eagles and meandering along. That was a great first day and we look forward to seeing them again.


March 23rd was our book signing presentation at the Merced Arts and Cultural Center on Main Street. At this gathering all of our board members shared their thoughts and feelings about why they are involved, setting me up for our power point which goes through my life  – starting as a teenager and on into our book.  After, we had a Q&A, this brought us into the realization of how this group of fifty people are creating a circle of like-minded Human Beings wanting the best for our young people – here and everywhere in the world.


To bring it home, Joe Frontella, our new friend and connection to the Juvenile Correction Complex, came up to read these quotes from our young incarcerated people who were on the first probation trip this year:

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best we can find in our travels is a honest friend.”

Yosemite is life changing and will be an inspiration for the rest of my life.”

When you are motivated and dedicated you can climb any mountain.”

The smallest choices we make now can have a huge impact on us later in life.”

I learned the purpose of nature is to preserve it, so that the future generation can enjoy it.”

“Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places to go and is my gateway in succeeding in life.”

Setting goals like climbing mountains build your character and give you confidence. Setting small goals and achieving them weekly will help you be successful.”

When you go to Yosemite listen for the call of your destiny and when it comes release your plans and follow.”


As always we thank you for your support in working together making our world a better place for all our relations.

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Sacred Rok Food Thoughts from Katie’s Camp Kitchen


Part of my job at Sacred Rok is to provide everyone with the best food I can conjure. This not only means good taste, it also means good for you.

A lot of thought and time go into thinking of recipes, adapting recipes to fit with our mission of better health through nutrition, and what ingedrients will be the most beneficial.

We have a lot of picnics with our youth and this is actually a tricky type of meal to be prepared for. I want to provide something warm, something heathy and something everyone will enjoy. Sure hotdogs are easy but hot dogs are no more than a mouthful of toxins.

A personal favorite that is not only savory but also highly healthy are cabbage rolls.

Cabbage Rolls – makes about 35 small rolls


Two head medium size cabbage

Grass fed beef, or bison

Organic rice

Organic onion – 1 large

Organic Green Onion – 5

Organic Garlic – 5 cloves

salt.pepper, red pepper, parsley


-heavy bottom pot


in a large bowl mix the meat (uncooked), rice (uncooked), chopped onion, chopped garlic, and spice.

wash cabbage and pull off the leaves. many times the center vein is very hard and makes rolling the leaf difficult – I cut these leaves in half – removing the vein- so that rolling is better. you want the leaves to be very pliable.

place anywhere from one to two full tablespoons of meat and rice mix in the center of your leaf and roll up- like an egg roll.

line bottom of pot with leaves – to create a barrier between rolls and bottom

place the rolls side by side in pot – layering up to one inch from the top of pot.

add enough water to cover halfway – about two cups or so

cover and steam on low heat until rice is cooked.

Your donations help keep us going!

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Our New Book! Letters from Sacred Rok

We are asking for a suggested $20 donation (minimum) plus $5 for shipping and handling – please send a check or money order to PO Box 148 – Yosemite, CA 95389 if you would like a copy or click the donate link above.

January 2013 Book Announcement: Letters from Sacred Rok by Ron Kauk


We are asking for a suggested $20 donation (minimum) plus $5 for shipping and handling – please send a check or money order to PO Box 148 – Yosemite, CA 95389if you would like a copy or click the link below.

Click here for a tax deductible donation through PayPal.


We are pleased to announce the publication of 107 page book, Letters from Sacred Rok. The book is based on Ron’s newsletters and photos that have appeared on our website, and envisions how we share the story of nature.

In the preface, founding board member Kenji Hakuta recounts his conversation with Ron, from which Sacred Rok originated. At the parking lot of the Tioga Pass Resort, he asked Ron what he was working on, expecting an answer about a new climbing project. “I’m working on my breathing,” Ron said. Sacred Rok is based on this kind of simple ceremony that connects youth to Yosemite.

Letters from Sacred Rok comes from Ron’s intimate connection with nature. It represents what Yosemite has meant to him over the past 40 years as a climber, and now what he hopes to communicate through Sacred Rok. As Ron writes in the book, “Sacred Rok has become a climb of a lifetime.” The book interweaves new photos taken by Ron of Yosemite and the Sacred Rok youth, with more classic pictures from his history as a climber.

This is truly a stunning and beautiful book which we would like to share with all of our supporters. We are asking for a suggested $20 donation (minimum) plus $5 for shipping and handling – please contact us if you would like a copy.

January 2013 Message from the Board Chair

On behalf of the Sacred Rok Board of Directors, we would like to wish you all a happy new year, filled with the joys of nature as we continue to work together. As our book announcement shares, 2013 is off to a good start. Letters from Sacred Rok will be having book release events in Merced and in the Bay Area in the next few months, so please keep an eye out for announcements.

Our Annual Report has also been released and is on our website. We are proud of our accomplishments and look forward to the paths that will lead us in 2013!

Nancy Goodban, Chair