If you’re a Southern Appalachian hiker, you know what it means to hike six, eight, even twelve miles with its ups and down, switchbacks, roots and rocks. But if you’re contemplating going on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, you know that you’ll be walking much more per day but it will be easier. What does that mean?
Two thoughtful Asheville pilgrims laid out an Asheville Camino. They walked about 18 miles, recording their route. Mark Cobb, one of the leaders in the WNC chapter of the Americans Pilgrims on the Camino, led eight pilgrims through Asheville. We generally followed the route on the web.
The Asheville Visitor Center was our trailhead – nice place to park, if you park at the bottom of the lot, leaving the upper level for visitors. We then walked past The Grey Eagle and headed toward the River Arts District.
But then we followed a future Greenway and found ourselves at Edna’s at the River, just in time for morning coffee. Our barista was glad for the business, but he couldn’t believe that we had walked from downtown – and not in a direct route either.
We found several small streets and now were in West Asheville. On Haywood Rd., we admired the store windows. Several walkers had never taken the time to see all the action in West Asheville.
But it didn’t take long to get back to the River Arts District and find White Duck Taco. Are you still with me?
At this point, some hikers left to head directly back to the Visitor Center. A new person showed up.
Where was the promised 1,300 feet of elevation gain?
Sure, we had a little climb here and there. But in ten miles (yes, ten miles before lunch), we didn’t have much ascent. We went through Roberts St. and onto Depot Street. With the magic of connecting streets, we were heading toward Mission Hospital on Biltmore Ave.
By one o’clock, the sun was beating down on the pavement. Since this is urban walking, we didn’t have the protection of two rows of trees.
We weaved through the hospital parking lot and started climbing Granby St. This was our first real ascent. Between the heat, the steep street and too much, way too much lunch, I wasn’t feeling too good. I sat down on the sidewalk and told the rest that I was on my own. By then, I must have walked probably 14 miles.
I went back to Biltmore Ave. and headed toward downtown. On the way to the Visitor Center, I stopped in at the Basilica of St. Lawrence. It seemed like the right way to finish this pilgrimage.
So what did I learn about urban walking? You can’t eat as much as on a trail. And it’s a lot hotter.