“I don’t think I’m lost but I don’t know where I am.”
That’s a good indication how Carroll got along in rural France-without speaking much French.
At Monday’s Camino meeting, Carroll Koepplinger, the ageless hiker, gave a presentation on his walk from Arles to Oloron Sainte-Marie in Southern France.
The Arles route is one of several Chemin through France that eventually lead to the Pyrenees and into Spain.
Though the Camino Francais that takes you to Santiago is the most popular route, drawing thousands and thousands of walkers, you can walk from almost anywhere in Europe to Santiago where the remains of the prophet St. James are supposed to be buried.
The Arles route, GR 653, isn’t as popular as the Le Puy route that I took in 2013. Carroll said that he saw maybe ten to fifteen hikers a day while I must have bumped into almost a hundred.
Like me, Carroll stayed in gites (hostels) and some Bed and Breakfasts. Each gite was different and charming in its own way. He reported that the gites were clean, simple and most important, friendly. He loved picking and eating grapes along the way. It’s amazing that he didn’t get caught.
Carroll is known as the ageless adventurer because he just keeps going. At 86 years old, (yes, 86 – it’s not a typo), he walked up to 21 miles a day, with an average of 13 over 26 days. Like any real adventure, he had some challenges. He got lost. He found himself in tiny villages with only a can of sardines and a day-old roll for dinner. It was very hot when he first started in September.
“But whatever problem I had, I knew that people could help me out.” That’s the secret to Carroll’s success on the trail. He enjoys meeting people and they enjoy talking to him.
After a while, Carroll became “world-famous” on the trail. People would come up to him and ask:
“Are you the older guy?” “Are you Carroll?”
I wonder where Carroll will go this year.
The WNC chapter of the American Pilgrims meets the first Monday of the month. Come on out and dream!