Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

The Ageless Hiker – Carroll on the Camino Norte

At our monthly WNC American Pilgrims on the Camino, Carroll K. presented his trip on the Camino de Santiago – the Northern route. The Camino Norte is the coastal route from Irun to Santiago, Spain, the route that Beth and I are taking in only a couple of weeks.

Carroll flew to Europe in September by himself and quickly found amigos from many countries. He’s known as the ageless hiker because at 87 years old, he might be the oldest serious peregrino on the trail. But unlike the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the Camino doesn’t keep track of these things. There’s no ATC for the Camino, no overall body that promotes, advocates or maintains the trail. Locals deal with their own section.

This trip was Carroll’s ninth Camino; he’s a serial pilgrim, starting when he was 77 years old. First he went with a few other guys from Carolina Mountain Club, but now travels by himself. Like other experienced pilgrims, he knows that he won’t be alone for long.

“I think that the Norte has the best albergues on the Camino. Albergues are hostels along the way. One of his favorite albergues was in Guemes, La Cabana del Abuelo Pueto,  where the hospitalero, Ernesto Bustio, took a photo of Carroll and said he was going to post it on his board. Now, when we stop at this hostel, and we will, we’ll have to take a picture of Carroll’s picture.

Lenny stone on top

Carroll averaged about 11 miles, not a record but got him there steadily.

He moved on from the Norte to the Primitivo at Oviedo, a route that many take. There he saw a huge shaggy ram.

He also placed a Lenny stone, in tribute to my husband who died while Carroll was on his route.

All this Camino talk reminds me of my 2013 Chemin de St. Jacques pilgrimage from LePuy to St. Jean Pied de Port in France. On that trip, the unifying factor of every village, every place I stopped, were World War I memorials – remember the war to end all wars. I took a photo of every WWI memorial I could find.

Tomorrow, April 6, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into the war.

I wonder what the theme of the Camino Norte will be for me.







Writing Sleepaway Camp with Nicole

I first met Nicole Ayers of Ayers Edits when I was looking for an editor for Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South. Through a series of happy events, she was recommended as a good editor. She was – and is.

This past weekend, Nicole offered a writing retreat/workshop, which she called Sleepaway Camp to distinguish it from the one day or shorter workshops she holds. It was held at a B&B in Waxhaw, NC. I was intrigued. It fit into my schedule and I signed up.

“Come prepared with questions, a project, ideas…”, she said.

Writing retreat

The other two writers were also nonfiction writers in the midst of major writing projects. Marni writes about intuitive healing and Mica deals with children with educational challenges.

Me?? I wanted to see if I could make some headway with my research on Camino pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Could I write a few hundred words about a fictional character walking the Camino de Santiago in the Middle Ages? Could I do it without being paralyzed by extensive research?

Friday afternoon, we gathered in the huge house and got our individual writing corners. I spread out on the dining room table. We all signed up with our one-to-one hour with Nicole. What luxury to be able to bounce ideas off a knowledgeable editor for an hour! I spent some time writing down my questions and ideas.

“Set a goal for the weekend,” Nicole advised. So I wrote;

To write about a Middle Age pilgrim without doing much research and without worrying about how elementary it was or full of holes.

I started my story but had trouble from the beginning. I decided that this pilgrim was going to be a woman in her late thirties to mid-forty. But what time period in the Middle Ages? The tenth century was very different from the fifteenth century.

And where would she live? Where would she start her journey from? These questions bothered me more than her motivation or how she was going to find a group to walk with.

I looked at pictures of female pilgrims on the web. Yes, here we had access to our iPhones and the  Internet at this retreat, not always the best idea. I could see their costume but not their shoes. I’m pretty sure they didn’t wear hiking boots. How much research did I need to do? How much research was I willing to do?

I got the bolt of lightning that you’ve already figured out. I didn’t need to read academic treatises. I could focus on novels set in the Middle Ages. Let’s see how this works. I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure this out if I wasn’t at a retreat, thinking about my writing a hundred per cent of the time.

Nicole led two discussions: Writing Personal Essays and Tips on Writing, Editing, Publishing and Marketing. We shared tips and ideas which I find so motivating since writing is a solitary occupation.

Nicole prepared lovely lunches and dinners and we all seemed to dig in for our own breakfasts. Mica and I took a couple of hours off yesterday afternoon to walk on the Carolina Thread Trail. Otherwise it was writing and discussing writing. As we hit snags, we put questions up on a board. These were our meal time conversations.

Was it worth the time and money? Yes. I feel I have a direction now. No guarantee that the direction will get me to the writing I think I want to do but it’s a direction. And, as an extra bonus, the Waxhaw B&B was close to a historic place I’ve been meaning to visit. Stay tuned.

Camino Meetings – Of rocks and shells

On Monday, I went to the monthly Asheville REI meetings of the American Pilgrims on the Camino. At this point, I don’t go to these meetings to learn more practical stuff – though I always do. I go for camaraderie, support and plain entertainment. Mark Cobb, the evening’s moderator, said that there are now over forty American Pilgrims chapters, a far cry from when these meetings started.

Karen and Dan

Karen and Dan presented their trip from Porto, Portugal to Santiago, along with another couple that didn’t want to be part of this blog. Starting from a picturesque fishing village, Karen and Dan walked 140 miles to reach Santiago and get their Compostela. You need to prove that you’ve walked at least 100K (60 miles) to get your certificate. To do that, you need two stamps per day, along the way. You get stamps at your lodging, bars and even churches.

Their slide presentation showed a compilation of farmland, stacked hay, and grapes ready to be harvested. They also talked about the reality of walking every day, such as sore feet that needed Compeed and long lines at the albergues (hostels).

Their beautiful food photos showed only fish, bread, and baked goodies. Where were the fruit, vegetables, and even grain? I need to get those from grocery stores because restaurant and snack bars aren’t going to offer anything fresh. In these small towns, fresh fruit and vegetables are the luxury items since there isn’t much traffic.

On the Camino

Karen and Dan took a rock from home and carried it to Santiago. They also put a shell on their backpacks. Supposedly, leaving a rock behind is symbolic of leaving a marriage, a job, a burden that you’ve been carrying. The shell is for keeping something (I’m not quite sure what) close to you.

This presentation made me wonder about pilgrims in the Middle Ages. What did they wear? What did they eat? Were there women pilgrims? It’s time for me to do some research.