Officially opened in 2012, the Montana trail is an “interfaith pilgrimage trail in southwestern Montana that celebrates and is dedicated to spiritual unity and the interdependent relationship between self, Earth, and Community.”
Kwak-Heffernan looks at what defines pilgrimage, and what happens to the ideas you carry with you when you undertake one.
The Sacred Door Trail, like many pilgrimage sites, is intended as a place for spiritual reflection. It’s for “grieving, healing, and honoring life’s major transitions,” Weston told me over lunch a month ago. Inspired by a hike on Spain’s Camino de Santiago, in 2009 Weston started piecing together existing trails (including part of the CDT) into a loop route with the help of a coalition of local faith-based and indigenous groups. The trail officially “opened” in 2012 with a multi-faith ceremony, as well as a guidebook and website. But unlike many of the most famous pilgrimage sites—such as the Camino or the Hajj to Mecca—this trail is explicitly nondenominational. And it gets its sacredness not from the grave of an apostle or footprints of a prophet, but basically because Weston declared it so.
Spiritually, it’s a bit squishy. But so am I. I mostly grew up nonreligious, and these days, I suppose I’m an agnostic, and a shallow one at that. It was hard not to roll my eyes as Weston went on about “the evolving universal life force that connects all things” or how the trail “deepens our connections to our original church, Mother Earth.”
“What makes this a pilgrimage and not just a hike?” I asked. “Wouldn’t being in the mountains for three weeks anywhere make you feel better?”