El Camino in Western North Carolina


Is the El Camino the next big European trail?

A few years ago, several Carolina Mountain Club pilgrims set out to walk the El Camino in Spain. Since then, a core group has walked the French, Swiss and other sections of the El Camino. And people got the bug. There’s a national organization, American Pilgrims and even a Western North Carolina chapter.

The WNC chapter meets every month at REI Asheville. They hold presentations and answer questions.

Chris Slater, the organizer, called the El Camino, the Europe’s trail for the masses and I agree.

But he likened it to the Appalachian Trail. Here I’m not sure if I want to go along with that comparison. The A.T. is a trail in the woods where you walk between two sets of trees. The El Camino is more like the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a combination of wilderness, culture, small towns and back roads. That’s what intrigued me about it in the first place. It’s the MST with better accommodations-OK with available accommodations.

LeChemin-protectionThe speakers got to the specifics right away: backpack, Comped for your feet and iPhones for communications and even photography and how to keep your stuff secure. Chris Y. showed one of his many security apparatus. It looked very heavy. We even discussed bedbugs.


Walking day after day

But Carroll K. spoke about what it means to walk day after day for weeks. Yes, the terrain is gentler than the mountains and you’re not backpacking but walking for weeks will impact your feet much more than your general fitness. In this way, it is more like the Piedmont section of the MST as well.

LeChemin-BillSkywalkerBill (Skywalker) Walker has walked the Spanish section of the El Camino twice and wrote a book. His distinguishing characteristic is his height (6′ 11″). He must take big, big steps.

Will this be my next hiking project? Right now, my MST book is about to be published. I’ve got book events scheduled from March 5 at Diamond Brand Outdoors until August. So stay tuned.


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