A qualitative exploration of the wilderness experience as a source of spiritual inspiration

Laura M. Fredrickson, Dorothy H. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations


On-site observations, personal field journals, and in-depth interviews were used to examine qualitative aspects of the wilderness experience as a source of spiritual inspiration. Two groups of women kept personal journal accounts of their daily 'lived-experience' during one of two outdoor recreation trips; five participants went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, and seven went to the Grand Canyon of northern Arizona. Journal entries were content-analysed, exploring the commonalties and idiosyncrasies found between individual accounts. Results were used to develop a general interview guide. Follow-up in-depth personal interviews were conducted within 3 weeks of the conclusion of each trip. Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were content-analysed, looking for commonalties and distinctions between the data. Participants spoke of the expansiveness of the landscape and an awareness of the sheer powers of nature as contributing to a meaningful wilderness experience, which thereby acted as spiritual inspiration for most individuals. Moreover, positive interpersonal interactions combined with complete immersion in a wilderness setting seemed to influence one's proclivity to perceiving elements of the landscape as possible sources of spiritual inspiration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-39
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Partial support for this research was provided by the USDA Forest Service North Central Forest Experiment Station.


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