In about five weeks I’ll be heading to Spain. I’ve written three pieces that I’ve put up at trailjournals.com under my Camino de Santiago journal. Like I did on my 2013 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I’ll post entries there as well as here. So tonight, I’ve decided to go ahead and post those first three entries. I hope you enjoy following along on this new journey.
Tuesday, June 27
In January of 2016 I began this journal with the opening line, “It’s time for a new adventure.” It turned out that it wasn’t time for that “adventure” then; however, I think it is now. Therefore, I’m starting again with a little different twist on my upcoming pilgrimage.
On September 2, 2013 I completed a five month, eleven day thru-hike of the then 2,185.9 mile Appalachian Trail. While engaged in what was certainly one of the most grueling endeavors of my 62 years on this earth, I vowed during the final few weeks of the ordeal that “every step I took was a step that I would never have to take again.” I broke that vow in the summer of 2014 when I joined my long-time friend Alton for a return to the A.T. in Maine. The hikes were short, and I carefully selected sections that weren’t quite so demanding.
It was during that time together in Maine, however, that Alton began seriously discussing his desire to one day complete a long distance hike of his own—not on the Appalachian Trail, but along another popular walking path on a different continent. The hike would be a pilgrimage—a walk from the village of St. Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. As I listened to my good buddy’s strategy for his life immediately after retirement, I too thought that I would join him on the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James.
We had actually been talking about undertaking the Camino since the summer of 2007. It was on a section hike of the A.T. in Vermont that we met thru-hiker, Tao. Joining the young lady for a couple of days, both of us were fascinated by her descriptions of the Spanish countryside. We were equally intrigued as she talked of the spiritual phase of her Camino journey.
“We need to do that Camino one day,” Alton noted as we struggled up one of the steeper Green Mountains.
“Sure,” I replied, not really as excited about a trip to Spain as I was about finishing the Vermont section of the A.T.
My friend ended his 42-year teaching career in early May of 2016. The following day he set out on his Camino journey. I did not accompany him. It just didn’t seem like the right time for me. I was trying to finish my second book on my A.T. thru-hike, and a couple of other life events made me realize that it was more important for me to be in Georgia than is was to be with my buddy an ocean away. Still, I knew that eventually I too would follow in his footsteps
So yesterday, almost on a whim, I purchased a plane ticket to Madrid and began researching modes of transportation between the capital city and Pamplona. From Pamplona I’ll still need to figure out how to get to St. Jean. I’ve already made a reservation for the first night on the path at a hostel in Orisson. From there I’ll walk on to Roncesvalles. After the first two choreographed days, I expect to just take one day at a time. At least that’s the plan for now.
With less than seven weeks until departure, I suppose I need to brush up on my Spanish and begin reading some about northern Spain and the Camino. I also need to decide just how little I will need in my pack for the almost 500 mile hike. And, of course, I’m writing again. Just as I did on my 2013 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I plan to write and post every day that I’m in Spain. As I’ve already said, now just seems like the right time for another adventure. Only time will tell as to whether the decision is a wise one.