Walking in History ~ Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims have been walking the Camino de Santiago for more than 1,000 years.  This year over 250,000 people will arrive in Santiago de Compostela having completed at least 110km of the 800 km journey known as The Way of St. James.  These Pilgrims come from all over the world and for all kinds of reasons, but I’m pretty sure that by the time their tired feet reach the cobblestones outside the cathedral in Santiago, that every one of them (even you, cellphone guy) will have experienced the wonder, the shared connection with fellow pilgrims, and the sense of having accomplished something quite special.  I know I did.  Hubs felt it too.  caminowalk2

Little has changed.  Everything has changed.

We walked on narrow, rocky dirt paths through forests knowing that since the 10th century feet had been tramping this same earth.  Not in high tech hiking boots like ours, but in makeshift shoes fashioned from strips of cloth and hide.  Not with backpacks and camel backs, but with everything they owned on their back or in a cart.  Our journey lasted 8 days.  Theirs might have lasted 8 months… and then there was the return trip.  We flew back to Madrid for a little more museum hopping and tapas tasting.  They walked for penance, a plenary indulgence and sometimes for a healing.  We walked for fun, our health and a sense of accomplishment.  But here’s what I know for sure – the one thing each and every person who’s ever walked this path has in common is that somehow we all find a little magic in the mix.

It’s said that the Camino always provides.  Maybe it’s water when you need it (or a bathroom), the kind word of a stranger as you stand at the bottom of that very long hill.  That moment when you look up from adjusting your shoes and thrill to see a farmer and his herd of cows coming down the cobblestone street – straight at you.  Or maybe, it’s stopping at a tiny church to receive a blessing and have your passport stamped.  These are all gifts from the Camino.  Steeped in history and mystery.  The outside trappings may have changed, but the true magic of the Camino takes place on the inside – if you allow it.

How can it not?

For someone like me who is a take-charge, need to know everything, cross the T’s and dot the I’s type, learning to trust that we could navigate solely by looking for yellow arrows was freeing.  I didn’t have to be in control.  I had no control.  Except to put one foot in front of the other and go for it.  And so I did.  And so did hubs.

Those yellow arrows led us through gorgeous farmlands, up long hills with stunning vistas, down winding paths through 800 year old villages, over stone bridges built by the Romans and finally, at the end of each day to a lovely old manor home where we showered, bandaged our tender feet, drank many copas de vino, ate home cooked local fare, and fell into bed exhausted.

Finding your way on The Way means being in the moment.  It’s the only way you’ll see all those yellow arrows and (sometimes) shells.   And just like magic, one always appears just when you need it…and in the most interesting places.

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Buen Camino!


Vino, Tapas y Camas ~ Wisdom from the Camino de Santiago


Our time in Spain was absolutely magical and beyond everything I imagined when I conjured up the crazy plan twelve months ago to walk 65 miles on the Camino de Santiago for my 65th birthday.

I had originally planned to post photos from the Camino but the internet availability was spotty and slow and to be completely honest we started walking around 8:30 each morning and finished around 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.  I was pooped! I didn’t have the energy.  Instead I chose to shower, slather my aching feet with the magic “freeze” medicine, wander the grounds of our lovely accommodations and meet up with my compadres to sip a few glasses of vino tinto and share stories of our day’s adventures.  Eight o’clock brought a delicious dinner, more vino tinto and then I fell into bed so I could get up and do it all again the next day.  Life couldn’t get any simpler… or fuller.

I took this photo in the village of O’Cebrerio on the very first day of our Camino.  It was my mantra for the week.  Really, if you have these three things, you don’t need much more.  Even a good internet connection.

Wine Food & a Bed ~

Wine Food & a Bed ~

I’m busy editing my photos and will be sharing more of our adventures soon.

It truly was a Buen Camino and I am grateful for the experience.







Fitness ~ Setting a Really Big Goal!

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have traveled all over the fitness map.  Sometimes there’s a plan.  Other days, not so much.  But, I have learned from experience that setting a long term goal that is a real stretch (pun intended) is often the motivation I need to keep up my exercise or walking practice.  It works for me.  Every time.


That’s me #12168 with the white visor coming into the finish lanes.

Way back when I was a young 49 year old mostly-couch-potato, I read an article about Team in Training and marathon walking.  Intrigued, I explored this opportunity to train with a group and walk or run in marathons all over the world while raising money for a great cause.  Sometimes I tend to jump without worrying about the details like “How far is 26.2 miles anyway”?  In I jumped!  I set a goal to walk the Honolulu Marathon for my 50th birthday.  I was committed.  I walked every day starting with two miles that first week and ending my last training walk with a 22 miler from my front door in Lake Oswego to my sister’s house in Hillsboro, Oregon.  Two weeks later, I was on a plane ready to take on the full 26.2 in Honolulu.   And I did it.  And I never walked another marathon again.

But I did keep on walking.   Usually by myself.  Until recently, this was the typical evening conversation at our house.  Me:  “Honey, want to go for a walk with me?”  Hubby:  “Umm, No thanks.”

But that all changed exactly one year ago when I began hatching my plan to do something memorable for my 65th birthday at the end of August.  I wanted to walk the last 65 miles of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James) in Spain.  I discovered a walking tour company, Marly Tours, who provide support for those of use who do not want the full Pilgrim experience (carrying everything on your back, sleeping on the ground and/or sleeping in hostels with 300 others in bunk beds).  I was so excited about this idea that my enthusiasm spilled over onto my husband.  Suddenly, he wanted to join me on walks.  Perfect!  Last Fall, we began planning our weekends around walking or hiking.  We have explored most of the City of Portland Oregon on foot and we’ve recently branched out to local hikes like the The Ten Falls Hike.   We’re up to 8 to 10 miles on Saturday and then another 6 or 8 on Sunday.  Always with a stop for lunch.  We call it jogging for doughnuts.

Not too bad for a couple of almost senior citizens.  On the Camino, we’ll be walking our 100km over 5 days.  We don’t know the terrain, but I’m told to expect everything from country lanes to farmers fields to hill climbs to city streets.   We walk 13 miles the first day!  Then we get up and do it again the next day, whether we’re ready or not.  Whether we’re tired or not.  Whether our feet hurt or not.

I can’t wait to get started!

Setting this long term and very large goal, has changed our lives.  We walk every day.  Hubs joined the gym.  We walk for entertainment.  We enjoy our time together.  We’re active people again and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.   In fact, we’re already thinking about walking through England or Italy next.

See you on the trail!