Vision Quest Stories

“My Journey of Questing”

Debbie Tremel

Back during the years of reading Tom Brown’s books, before coming to the school, it was the Vision Quest that captured my heart. I was drawn to it, but sadly, never found the courage to go to the woods on my own to attempt one. I’m actually glad that it worked out that way. By the time I came to the school I was ready and signed up for the first Vision Quest Malcolm Ringwalt offered after my Philosophy I class.

I was so excited and terrified. I had no idea what to expect. I kept wondering what it would be like, if I could even do it. Would I be afraid? Would fasting be hard? Will I even understand anything from the experience? So many questions. And then the experience finally came. There is no amount of description that can be given—the moments of joy, of enlightenment, of fear, of discomfort, and all the out-and-out-boredom—nothing that can be said to someone who hasn’t Quested that can really prepare them.  But I guarantee, every person who has Quested shares a bond through this breathtakingly beautiful and dull experience, the sense of time, the sense of connection with the Earth and the Creator, the touch of Silence, the truly deep insight into our souls.

No, we don’t walk away from our Vision Quest whole and perfect, but we’ve started on an amazing journey. I went to my second Quest so excited from remembering the outcomes of my first Quest, that the first five minutes were a shock—the whole expanse of time, the endless moments, loomed before me like I’d already been out four days. And so that Quest was different.

And so has every other Quest since I started. I have done a Quest almost every year since I started. Some were completely alone. Some with one other person Questing, some as large as a 100-Person Quest. Each is unique because each time I was unique. My needs were unique, my perspectives unique, my spiritual growth influenced them and perhaps the Creator directed things differently. As I did more Quests, I moved from thinking the Quest might never end, to worrying that I was running out of time. Each moment is precious, even when boredom still grabs me at times; it’s what I can learn from it. The Quest has become a place of refuge, of sanctuary. Don’t get me wrong, I never enter a Quest without passion and commitment, but less drive. I do not need to control. I do not need to strive. I need to be open to the tides of the Quest.

And what have I gained from my time in the circle? I get teary even contemplating my gratitude for all I’ve gained from the Quest. I have grown, I have healed. I have been enlightened. I have been struck low. I have been forged. I have deeply connected with the Earth. I have heard the voice of the Great Mystery. I have been directed, and most of all, my life has meaning. I know my Vision, I glimpse my place in the Vision of the Creator. I see it unfolding and deepening every day. It’s what gives my life joy and purpose. It keeps me going when things are difficult. It drives my Faith.  It gives me hope in the face of devastation. It’s heightened my skills and made me more useful.  This did not happen in four days, it happened over repeated Quests over the years. Each time, new insights, new direction, new healing. I can see them all stringing together like harmonies in the grand symphony of my life. My life would not be anything like it is if I had never Quested. It makes me so sad to think what it would have been, and so very, very grateful that my life is as it is now. I wouldn’t trade a single hard, dirty, sweaty, freezing, hungry, itchy, painful, mundane, frightening, drenched, moment. It was all so worth it.

[Reprinted with permission from The Razor’s Edge, vol. 23, no. 1, Spring 2019]

Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony

“The Changing Quest”

Kathie Merrill

In questing I learned that it’s not a one-shot deal; it’s an ongoing venture, ergo the “ing.” It starts when you think of doing it, and for me it never really ends. I have taken quests alone (only one person on the quest), with small groups, with large groups, with Trackers, and with other organizations. I recently reviewed my notes from the last vision quest I took in the pines, a women’s quest led by Elizabeth Moes and assisted by Debbie Tremel and Katlyn Moes. Each quest is different and this was one that stood out for me. Being in the pines and being honored by Tracker leaders I think made a different kind of impact for me. Right now I’m referencing the logistical part of a quest, but I think if you are planning another one, or your first one, it is important to think about. Where and with whom are important factors that have made a difference for me.

On the quest…so different for me each time, always new teachings. My first quest was alone on my property. I was worried about doing it “right.” It rained, I was cold and wet, I was so bored I counted all the species of plants around my circle, I was overwrought with mind-chatter, I thought I wasn’t getting anything…and then…an answer to my question came and I have been following it ever since. Another significant event happened which has affected me in the following years. My deceased dog’s spirit came to me on the last night and gave me instructions. I keep getting opportunities to follow them. The answers to my questions have not always come while on the quest and I have had to adjust to not thinking I hadn’t done it “right.” They DO come! There are many more experiences to share, but I now know that each quest has something to offer, and learnings come in a variety of ways. Insights were proffered from objects, plants, animals, natural topography, and weather events that surrounded me.

I recently reviewed logs from past quests to ferret out significant points. I noted that there are things I went on to do, things I no longer find important to do, things I still want to do, ways of thinking that have changed how I do things, ideas that could still be developed, and more. The take-away is that vision questing changed my thinking, my doings, and my life. I was lovingly guided to ideas and actions that would lead me to be my best self in service to the Creator. Blessings to you on your next quest.

  [Reprinted with permission from The Razor’s Edge, vol. 23, no. 1, Spring 2019] 

Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony

The Quest Saved My Life – Physically

Bill Howard


When we talk about the Vision Quest, we speak of the miracles of change on a spiritual level. We tell the stories of great awakenings and knowings. We talk about how we come back changed, but we don’t know exactly how we are changed, we just know we are different.

Well, I’ll warn you now, this isn’t one of those stories. This story is about how the Quest saved my life, physically. To tell the story I have to give you some background.

From early childhood I have always been a very active person. My family worked from dawn until after dark to improve our little patch of land. As I grew, I was involved in sports. In adulthood I spent 12 years in the Marine Corps, four years from age 18 to 22 and then eight
more years after I was 40 years old.

Then, around 50 years old everything changed. My energy tanked; I couldn’t even workout anymore. I believed my life was over and that this was what it meant to get older.

By this point, I was already a Protector and I decided to offer a quest. To prepare for the quest I needed to ensure the land was suitable, so I decided to quest in preparation.

On the third night of the quest, I woke up staggering. It was a cold Easter weekend and I hypothesized that maybe I had buried myself too deep in my sleeping bag and was suffering from slight oxygen deprivation. “Oh well, I’ll be alright,” I thought.

The next morning I shook myself out of the sleeping bag and prepared for day four. “Uh oh, something’s wrong.” I was staggering drunk. I couldn’t have guzzled a fifth of liquor and been any more drunk. “What the hell is in my water?”

My bull-headed determination kicked in: “I’m not leaving, it’s just 24 more hours.”

I found a walking stick and staggered/stumbled down the steep hill to my marker box. By the time I got there I knew I had to leave. My quest was over.

I stumbled my way back to my vehicle. I was only able to walk 10 yards, and then I would have to kneel down. I couldn’t look up because everything was spinning. After an hour, I finally completed the half mile odyssey to my vehicle and collapsed.

It took several weeks of investigating and seeing doctors, but finally, a holistic healer told me what had happened. I was suffering from the first die-off of Candida Yeast Overgrowth and it had poisoned my system. You see, by fasting, I had deprived the yeast of the sugars
they needed to live. As the yeast died, it released a lot of toxins into my system.

The interesting thing about a yeast overgrowth is that it turns your body into a brewery. They actually take all the sugars you consume and turn them into 78 different kinds of alcohols and aldehydes. I was walking around hungover all the time and I wasn’t even drinking. It
had started without me knowing, after a normal round of antibiotics killed the bacteria in my gut.

Once we found out what had happened, we treated it with a three-month carbohydrate restricted diet. This killed off the rest of the candida by starving it without starving me.

Now I’m back to my old energetic self. I can go like the Energizer Bunny.

So you see, the Quest saved my life, or should I say, it gave me my life back.

Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony
Vision Quest ceremony

“Digging Down to Humility”

Jim Lowery

Most Philosophy students of the Tracker School remember Tom Brown’s or Malcolm Ringwalt’s description of the Vision Quest and its underlying promise of closeness to all Creation and the clarification of one’s path. After the Philosophy I class, I had no doubt that I would quest. I treated this as a challenge to be accepted, a noble task to undertake. I remember looking forward to the time after the quest, when everything would be clearer and more powerful.

Years later I look back at my expectation with some amusement, for if I were to describe the quest most basically now, it would not be about answering questions or clarifying things or feeling more spiritually in tune. I would instead speak just one word: surrender. We have no other rituals in our culture that even hint at true surrender. Yes, we sacrifice comfort and time and energy to other people, or to things that we believe in. But sacrifice is not surrender. Sacrifice is made so that a value or concept or life choice remains intact. Surrender is unconditional. Sitting in the quest circle, am I willing to give up all of my expectations, my precious thoughts about how things should be, my view of who I think I am—this whole superstructure of my life? Of course I do not want to and I struggle mightily with it, until the haze of misunderstanding erodes molecule by molecule and the truth behind it emerges: I am not in control. I will not know things until I kneel down with humility deeper than I ever thought possible. Days into the quest, I surrender not because I understand this process or know how to do it, but because there are forces so much greater than myself which are determined to teach me—because I have made the sacred commitment. That is why I would tell someone who is considering a quest not to wait until you feel you are ready to surrender. That day will not come. Just do it anyway.

Ironically, after my first quest I still clung to an illusion of control. Because I surrendered once doesn’t mean this habit of control is forever broken. I found that you can walk the path of the light and still muck things up by needing understanding, or requiring strokes, or demanding clarity, or needing to push the buttons. These things make the road a little bumpier, and still bumpier, until there is an inner cry to return to the necessary truth once again: surrender. Another quest is committed to, not only to clear out the cobwebs but also to reacquaint myself with that S-thing. It must be experienced over and over because in between I forget.

Just as surrender is unconditional, so are the gifts that seem to come from it. From my own quests, and from quests of others close to me, I know that the quest gives exactly what is needed. Not what is thought to be needed, but what is needed. These gifts are not all opened at dawn of day five. The glow and the peacefulness are opened then. Other gifts come as surprises days later, weeks and years later: they are glimpses of sacred understanding, or actions prompted by the spirit world. Perhaps the greatest gift is the memory of the circle, for that is always carried and can be revisited at any time.

[Reprinted with permission from The Razor’s Edge, vol. 6, no. 1, Spring 2001]