Newsletter 26 – January 2016

A Letter From the Chair

Happy New Year!

We are delighted to share our 2015 Annual Report, highlighting our accomplishments and reflecting our plans for the future. Please click to see the Annual Report.

 We have continued to work closely with Merced County’s Probation Department, Merced Boys & Girls Club, and other youth-serving organizations in the Central Valley and Northern California.We completed a short video, Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous, with the American Indian tribes of Yosemite, funded by an America’s Best Ideas grant from the National Parks Foundation.


All pictures are excerpts from our book, “Voices From the Inside”

We have especially focused on our relationship with the Merced County Probation Department. Almost every week Ron goes to the Merced County juvenile justice complex, Iris Garrett, for lunch with the youth. He brings healthy organic food and they share lunch and talk about their experiences in Yosemite. Ron and his work with Probation was also featured in The Search for Freedom by filmmaker Jon Long.

Our new book, Voices From Inside Out, was developed jointly by Sacred Rok and the Probation Department youth whom are incarcerated. This inspirational book tells the stories of 22 young people who have come to Yosemite with Sacred Rok, and what it has meant to them.


With the support of our donors, last year Ron led twenty-six day trips and five camping trips with Merced County Probation, Boys & Girls Club of Merced, EMQ FamiliesFirst, Yosemite area Native American Tribes and Symple Equazion. These trips provide the opportunity for these young people to experience nature and to build ongoing relationships.


Ron has also made presentations to groups throughout the Bay Area, as well as showing his movie Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey at the Yosemite Visitor Center on weekend nights during the spring and summer.

We are grateful to our many supporters and donors, who share our values and commitment to our future as an inclusive society connected to nature and its wonders.These projects have been supported by Clif Bar Family Foundation, The North Face, Patagonia, Yosemite Conservancy, Merced County United Way, and the National Parks Foundation. All of our trips are at no cost to the participants. We are 100% funded by donations (monetary and in-kind), grants, and contracts. We are especially grateful for the donation of a camper vehicle from Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford of Clif Bar, providing amenities such as refrigeration and hot water for our camping trips.


Thank you for the opportunity to share the healing experience of nature with the young people we serve as well as with the larger community.

And please let us know if you would like a copy of Voices From the Inside Out – you will love it! We ask a $20 donation if possible, thanks!

Nancy Goodban, Board Chair

Click here for Voices from our Youth

Donate to Sacred Rok for #GivingTuesday!

Please join us in celebrating #GivingTuesday – a day where giving back takes center stage over the shopping and spending of the holiday season.  Sacred Rok reflects the importance of slowing down, paying attention to our surroundings, honoring the present, and respecting nature.

If you donate to Sacred Rok through PayPal’s Giving Fund today, they will add 1%.

Thank you for your support!!


The Search For Freedom

As we continue our relationship with Bear Creek Academy Juvenile Hall we’re happy to share our part in a feature length film called The Search for Freedom; which has played in 80 theaters across the US and winner of numerous awards.

Here is the short:

RON KAUK SHORT from Jon Long on Vimeo.

In our commitment of being with the youth at Juvenile Hall we keep building our story through camping trips, day trips, and lunch outings, which your donations help us to do.

We humbly thank you for your generous donations because it is with your support that we can continue to follow our mission.

We also would like to remind you that we offer a series of prints, t-shirts, and books in exchange for your contribution. Please check our website for more details:

Sacred Rok’s new T-Shirt and Video – May 2015

We are excited to share our newest T-Shirt with you. The Yosemite Bear was done by renown Yosemite Artist, Penny Otwell and we are very honored to be able to feature her work on our shirts.

The inspiration for this shirt came from this video: Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous 

Sacred Rok continues to be committed to understand what it means to be a human being in the 21st century. In the collaboration with the indigenous reality of the First Nations people of Yosemite we are sharing this message together. Yosemite is recognized as a World Heritage Site and has always been the responsibility of the American Indian People to be caretakers.

In this video the voices of those who understand this responsibility can be heard.

Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous  – please click the links for the 13 minute video

A behind the scenes glimpse at the production of Unifying Spirit.
A behind the scenes glimpse at the production of Unifying Spirit with our native elders.

This video was funded through the generous support of the National Parks Foundation, through its Americas Best Ideas grant. It was made possible through the generous support of Subaru, The Ahmanson Foundation, Chapman Hanson Foundation, and Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation.

A minimum of a $50 contribution will send a youth to Yosemite for a day with Ron; an event that can be life changing. In return we will send you this Indigenous inspired, Sacred Yosemite Bear tee (Adult sizes S, M, L, XL).



A minimum of a $50 contribution will send a youth to Yosemite for a day with Ron; an event that can be life changing. In return we will send you this Half Dome inspired Sacred Rok tee (Adult sizes S, M, L, XL).


Half Dome T-shirt

Half Dome T-shirt, art work by Jeremy Collins. 


A minimum of a $50 contribution will send a youth to Yosemite for a day with Ron; an event that can be life changing. In return we will send you this Half Dome inspired Sacred Rok tee (Adult sizes S, M, L, XL).

America’s Best Idea Grant – August 2014

Yosemite National Park just issued a press release about the America’s Best Ideas grant received from the National Parks Foundation.  Yosemite is partnering with Sacred Rok and the local tribal community to connect American Indian youth to Yosemite National Park.

please check it out: ABI Yosemite News Release


Coversations from the Sacred Kitchen

Everything we put in us has an impact but the body is also very powerful and resilient and has the capacity to endure a lot. But, we must nurture the body with food, water, thoughts and environment. We should do so with the the cleanest food, water and energy we can.


Clean food, real food, organic food and whole food will keep the body in a healthy way and we will perform better, function better, have better sleep, clearer minds and healthier bodies. We have moved very far in a very short amount time away from whole and real food. Dietary choices combined with lifestyle factors play a huge role in obesity, and it has been found that the prevalence of obesity increases significantly for those who consume fast food 3 or more times per week. People are simply overbooked and overtaxed and are overlooking health in exchange for convenience and cheapness. Refined foods and processed foods are chosen because they are simple to obtain and taste good enough. However, these foods are detrimental to our health and well-being. We have become addicted to these convenience foods and these foods are keeping us weak and sick in our bodies and our minds.


We have given up what we as humans innately know about what we need to eat and have placed that power in the hands of government and corporation. In turn we have received GMO’s, “conventionally” grown food laden with pesticides and herbicides, rancid vegetable oils, and higher obesity rates, heart disease, and more diabetes than ever before.


Just as the plants need water, we need water. We need to hydrate ourselves to keep our cells healthy and full, our body loose and limber. Water is cleansing and life giving – absolutely nothing can live without it yet we mistreat water so globally and with such abandon.  Many people would argue that one cannot waste water, but I disagree. Our mistreatment of water by putting additives in it, by using it in Fracking to carry slurry, using it to carry human waste, water parks, soda factories, watering pesticide laden plants is a waste of precious and limited clean water. We are abusing our life source. And unfortunately this has become the norm and this needs to change.


We buy bottled water because we desire the life source and the tap water in our homes doesn’t always taste so good, but this is a vicious cycle. The plastic is terrible for our environment. In the US alone 35 billion plastic water bottles are tossed in the trash – plastics constitute approximately 90% of all trash floating in the oceans – and this plastic will take 500 to 1000 years to degrade, turning into smaller and smaller pieces. In 2013 93% of Americans age 6 and older tested positive for the plastic chemical BPA. We are ingesting plastic whether we know it or not and it is making us sick. We should stop buying bottled water and instead invest in water filters for our homes and offices.

Organic Free-Range Turkeys, UK

Something to consider is that all wild animals, still living in nature, know what to eat and how to get it. They do not need Burger Kings or supermarkets – everything they need is provided by nature – they have not lost their way. This is a good example for us to follow.


In this highly modernized world which has conquered almost every square inch of the globe it is a tall and difficult order to go back to the wild and reacquaint ourselves with what we left behind. However, we can use nature as guidance and inspiration on how to get back to what we once knew about living healthy and being whole. 


The choices we make in what we eat make a difference in our health and the health of our families. Leaving behind the fast food and the convenience food and going for the whole food and the real food is better for the environment, better for you and keeps more money in your pockets.

emqgirlcookSacred Rok’s camp kitchen has been an advocate of this way of eating and nurturing the body from the beginning. Each year we strive to bring the groups we work with the best food we can obtain and prepare. Our menus consist of organic grains, free-range and local meats and eggs, organic and locally procured fruits and vegetables, raw and local dairy as well as items picked wild in the Sierra. Part of our job in the kitchen is to not only provide this food and prepare this food but it is also to share an understanding about nutrition and what it is we are getting from the things we eat. We also share the process of preparing and help our groups realize that they too can eat this way at home. We look forward  to continuing this journey in 2015 and helping our Sacred Rok community grow in health and harmony with nature.


Newsletter 24 – December 2014

2014 Year-end Newsletter


 At the end of the year we like to reflect on what we have learned, where we have been, and where we are going.

As the modern world unfolds with its technological advances, climate change, and wars and conflict, it continues to challenge us to our commitment of why we say “education nature’s way,” and what it means to be a human being.


 With my good friend and Sacred Rok Board member Kenji Hakuta, who is a professor of education at Stanford University, we have inspired in each other the broader consideration of what it means to be educated nature’s way.  More than once we have acknowledged the idea of “indigenous” in our conversations.  That always motivates us to continue to work on the language and story that we have been building for the last five years.

Being with our kids in Yosemite points to the reality of how simple it can really be when we get back to the basics.  It’s all about relationships based on respect, communication, and trust, which always seems to lead back to the reality of our indigenous connection to the earth.


We all came from a tribe at one time, a community that based itself on survival by respecting the environment.  The distraction from this has created side effects that are affecting our youth and ourselves, some examples of which are called “attention deficit disorder” and even further, “nature deficit disorder.”


 In my own personal experience and commitment to take the time to be in the sacred presence of the natural world, the profound beauty of Yosemite has a way of opening my senses to receive the medicine and healing that has a way of evoking my spirit — or just say energy — into a communing and communication that develops a relationship of profound connection.

Putting it simply, you can realize that this truly is a mother earth.  When taking the time to consider that we are made up of the earth as human beings, and are 65% water, is for me personally what the potential of outdoor education can bring to our youth.


Another example is in my summer camp in Tuolumne Meadows.  I get up before the sunrise, light the campfire, and have some coffee.  As the sun begins to show, I walk down to the river barefoot, and sit on a rock that faces east, positioned with the river in front of me.  As the sun comes over the mountain and begins to light up everything, there is a beam of light coming down the river over the water to where my feet are.


Holding my palms open and toward the sun, in my own way I imagine and feel all that is happening.  The earth made a complete turn to bring a new day.  The sun is hitting me, warming me, and I use my imagination to consider how it is providing life and light throughout the northern hemisphere and at the same time just for me.

After weeks of enjoying this personal ceremony, it dawned on me that I had a deeper understanding of the word “love”.  I realized that these life-givers such as the sun, the moon, the air, the water, and the earth represent the idea of love in the most giving way that would be humanly possible to comprehend.


This is what I feel Kenji and I are getting at about what it means to be educated and what it means to be a human being.  To find the deepest respect and appreciation for life and every living thing.

So sharing this beauty and healing that can evoke the human spirit into being human seems to me at this particular time in our history to be not only a responsibility, but an obligation we take seriously, to nurture our children and inspire their authentic self.


We bring this into the context of learning and building relationships to the sacredness of nature and the reality that we all belong to an extended family that goes beyond humans to every living thing.  This creates an inner strength so we can see clearly the value of who we are as unique individuals.

Kids are the future.  This is our commitment to education in the 21st century, which can help us all to reconsider our priorities and values that have everything to do with our responsibilities to the past, the present, and the future.


This may sound serious, but so is climbing El Capitan.  In my own teenage years, I had a place to go and find something to literally and figuratively hang on to.  Climbing the 3,000 foot rock face of El Capitan presented the kind of challenge that could test a youth in a positive, respectful, and humble way in the environment of the vertical world.  Learning how to get back to the basics – food, water, shelter, and survival skills – necessary to make such a journey.

Forty years later, I continue to seek the wisdom from these profound challenges.  Considering the world we live in, we at Sacred Rok are having serious fun looking for ways to be responsible to future generations.


 Thank you for reading these thoughts.  We are working on our story, following the tracks laid out before us in Yosemite and illuminated through the narrative of sharing with our youths.

As we shared with you earlier, we have a new t-shirt on the website.  Let us know if you want one.  And check out the annual report on the web site.


Also, please consider making a year-end contribution to support our work!  You can pay by PayPal on our website, or mail a check to Sacred Rok at PO Box 148, Yosemite, CA 95389.

As one of our guys from juvenile hall said, “It is all for one and one for all” – that is how we feel about being together.  Basically, we are just setting out on the trail together.


Thank you again for all your support.


– Ron Kauk


The Votes are In – The North Face Explore Fund Grant – June 2014

The voting has ended. We have been awarded a $10,000 grant from The North Face #ExploreFund.

freedom 569

With this funding we will continue our mission to expose our youth to nature.
To find out more about the TNF Explore Fund visit

The results are in! We have been selected to receive a $10,000 grant from The North Face #ExploreFund. Thanks for your support in helping us get more deserving kids exploring outdoors.

To find out more about the TNF Explore Fund visit

Stories from our Board – January 2014

Here is a story from our board member, Lamar Henderson about a wilderness experience from the summer. Enjoy!

As we close the chapter on the 2013 year I am compelled to reflect on all the experiences that made this past year so meaningful for me. One experience that has had a particularly strong impact on my personal growth was a six day, five night “wilderness experience” I took in October to Gold Lake, California. The trip was part of a year long commitment to a Leadership program that I am currently engaged in. The trip was designed to not only bring us closer as cohorts but also allow time and space to explore deeper interpersonal experiences.

On Belay!!


As the trip grew closer I can recall feeling a bit apprehensive as we discussed the details of the trip. We would take a four hour bus ride to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where we would then board a boat that would take us to the Gold Lake Lodge. We would spend two days at the lodge then take a two mile hike to a designated area where we would be trained and then experience the wonders of “rock climbing”. We would be asked to take a seven mile hike with a 1200″ elevation gain to another camp site for a two night, three day “wilderness experience”.

Now, I am a real rookie to hiking but there was something about the term “1200 foot gain” that was making me nervous so I went about the business of researching what exactly a “gain” is and how one would prepare for 1200 feet of it. Like most rookies I did what anybody else would to I googled it. I accessed some interesting information but I needed a more personal touch so I reached out to my dear friend and Sacred Rok family member Katie Lambert (who happens to be a world class rock climber) and posed the 1200 foot gain question to her. Katie being the loving spirit that she is gave me some incredibly ‘deep” advice on how to handle this undertaking she simply said “breathe and take it one step at a time”. Ok, I’ll be a little vulnerable and share this with you my initial response to Katie’s advice was less that enthusiastic. I was even less excited to “rock climb”.

As the date drew I could feel myself getting more anxious, after all I’m no world class athlete and to be honest aside from my brisk 2.5 mile walks with my dog Sallie I felt very unprepared for what was to come.


After a long four hour bus ride we finally arrived at Gold Lake where we boarded flat bottom boats and took the mile or so boat ride to the lodge. It was a beautiful location with rustic cabins surrounded by lush green trees and sweet mountain air. On day two of our trip after a nice breakfast we prepared for rock climbing. We were outfitted with rock climbing shoes a harness (which is another story within itself) and a day pack and headed up the hill. We traveled a little over a mile to an area that had been outfitted for rock climbing. Our instructors (who were wonderful) did a great job of explaining the fundamentals of climbing with a strong emphasis on safety. There were four levels to choose from varying from about 75 feet to over 500 feet and depending on your courage. I chose to first learn to secure others as they made their way up the rocks. I found that with helping others I was able to discover the courage to climb my self. My first choice was the second least difficult climb and guess what, I powered up that rock. I took my new found confidence and used it to power up the second most difficult climb. Then a 600 foot repel, man I was on a roll.

The next day we set out for our seven mile hike into the back country and even though I was still excited about the rock climbing experience I had my concerns. The hike was challenging and recent rain storms had washed away a lot of the dirt along the trail so the first 2.5 to 3.0 miles the trial were really rocky. I was so focused on how much farther we had to hike and the difficulty of the trail that I was not having a good time. But we were blessed with really good guides with the perfect spirit for this journey. If you needed to stop and take a breath, you stopped and of you wanted to forge ahead, well you forged ahead. Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 I was able to connect with the words of advice from my friend Katie; the words that seemed way too simple to be helpful at all but they were exactly what I needed, to “breathe and take it one step at a time”. I put those words to use and began to concentrate on my breathing and I took it one step at a time and you know what, something incredible happened. My eyes, my mind and my heart opened and I began to truly enjoy where I was and what I was doing. I began to notice the view from the elevations; I began to really take in the clean and sweet smell of the plants, flowers and trees that surrounded me. I was finally in “the moment”.


As we continued on our hike I saw some of the most beautiful views that I have ever seen. It was awe inspiring and breath taking and at one point as I stood on top of a ridge high above creation I began to feel overwhelmed with gratitude. I thought to myself “of all the billions of people in the world, how did I get chosen to see this?”I carried this spirit with me over the course of the next few days. I found myself taking moments of quiet reflection as I looked over all creation. I was able to connect with myself like never before. I reached my own personal summit.

Upon my return home I was excited about the trip. I shared funny details with my family and they were excited for me. As time moved further away I found the experience had an even deeper impact on me. Three days after returning to work I was sharing with some coworkers and I found myself getting really emotional and even tearful as I reflected on the boat ride, the rock climbing, the hiking, nature. Even as I share this with you now I feel a little lump in my throat. Once again I am humbled that with all the billions of people in the world “I” was chosen have this experience….and I will never be the same.

Thank you for allowing me to share

Lamar Henderson

“Off Belay”

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