The Wilderness and the Soul

There is something about the wilderness that has the power to unwind the soul.  I once lead a fishing trip in the wilderness of the Alaskan Mountains.  Moose and BEAR abound as we sought to find grayling and trophy trout in between fishing for silver salmon.  The guests on this trip were former military and they had been in some very aggressive combat.  The trip host prepared us by saying, “The wilderness has a way to calm the soul.  After three or four days in the mountains, these men will begin to let their guard down and talk about things deep within them.”  He was right.   While I was there to serve these brave men, I also found my own soul yielding to the vastness, quiet, grandeur and beauty of the wilderness.

As a ministry (Altar Fly Fishing) within the wider fly fishing community on site at the national fly fishing shows, I have had many people share with me at our booth a statement something like this, “The rivers are my church.”  We have fun discussions and I affirm the power of creation in all our lives (knowing that many are trying to justify what they do not attend a regular church community and avoid guilt).  While I believe connecting with to a local church community is important, I do want to pause and acknowledge the power of the wilderness that seems to find us when standing thigh-high in the movement of a stream in a beautiful settings God has created.

This past week, Ash Wednesday was celebrated by many Christian traditions marking the beginning of Lent.  The roots of Lent goes back to the 4th Century when new converts to Christianity would endure 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (minus Sundays) in an intensive study of the faith leading to their baptism.  Later, the 40 days were adopted by all Christians as a means to prepare their hearts for Easter by taking on spiritual practices to form their souls like fasting, praying, scripture reading, acts of charity, confession, and silence.  It was a way to create a wilderness experience within themselves to prepare the heart and soul.

Does it surprise us that Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days before he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11)?  In the wilderness Jesus fasted, prayed, reflected and prepared himself for what was to come while he stood strong in the face of temptation (quoting Scripture in each temptation by the way).  Wilderness is an important part of the journey of faith.  Perhaps that is why returning to the wilderness each time I grab my fly rod is so important to me….why is speaks to my soul. 

What about you?


  • How have wilderness experiences impacted your life and faith?
  • What is good about the wilderness?  What is hard or challenging about the wilderness?
  • Next time you grab your rod and head into some wilderness stream, take time to stop.  To breathe.  To listen.  To ask questions.  To receive goodness.
  • When you return home, write a few thoughts that came to you while in the wilderness.

Eric Camfield | February 2020