Saturday, October 16, 2010
I'm a pilgrim again! and loving every minute of it =)
Admittedly, my feet are killing me, but I don't care. I'm glad I packed on a few extra pounds before leaving... the high mountains require far far more calories than I can possibly eat in a day, even if I were interested in carrying food along with me. Up and down the mountains, dancing around 10,000 feet... a day of rain, a day of heat, another day of rain, two more of heat... I sleep well. The thing about Colorado, aside from the variable weather and terrain, is the villages are few and very far between. Once I get to the San Luis Valley, the routine of the daily walks should be easier.
Right from the get go, I can earnestly cry out to all American pilgrims - do your next pilgrimage here!! The send off was spectacular - hundreds at the morning Mass last Sunday stayed after the overwhelming pilgrim blessing in the forecourt of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Denver to hug me and wish me well. It was wonderful, and very personal in a way I never experienced as a visitor in Europe. And then, after walking along the South Platte River bike path to Littleton, some fellas outside a pub shouted their greetings and insisted I let them buy me a beer and hear about my journey. That sort of thing happened nearly every time I passed such a refreshment establishment. People are kind, they really are.
As for accommodation - always the most difficult part of a pilgrimage off the beaten pilgrim paths - I've managed something every night, of course, but in such a uniquely American way: in three of the six nights on the road so far, a hotel has comped me a room in exchange for a mention on this blogsite.
In Monument, the Sundance Mountain Lodge is truly a gem - I'm not just saying that! Lodge-y comfort, big fire, nice atmosphere, terrific grounds... I slept with the door slightly open to listen to the sound of the babbling brook right outside. Also extraordinary was the dinner - a huge portion of lamb and barley stew, delectable pilgrim fare. I entered Monument on the new Santa Fe Trail footpath that they're in the process of extending between Denver and Santa Fe, and when they do, no pilgrim from Denver will have any excuse not to walk to Chimayo via this route. It's a greater distance than going through the mountains, but better accommodation opportunities and shorter daily distances are the benefits. Maybe I'll return in this route. Regardless, by foot, bike, or car, any layover in Monument should include the Sundance Mountain Lodge www.sundancemountainlodge.com.
Up in Cripple Creek - a boy is that an UP! - I entered the village at the point of exhaustion and stopped in the first place I saw - no other opportunity to even sit in a chair since leaving Woodland Park 28 miles back and several thousand feet of elevation between - a Ruby Tuesdays, where Don and the rest of the staff took very gentle care of my refreshment and revitalization. Alas they tried many avenues to help me find a place to sleep. After a short tour of the steep mining-now-gambling town, I arrived at the exquisite Hotel St Nicholas and was treated so kindly in the lap of Victorian luxury - every room is different, authentic, comfortable; elegance prevails, yet in the small-town-American way, there's not a hint of snootiness. I felt it a rare pilgrim treat to stay in such luxury - it's hard for a pilgrim to choose between the spacious, strong hot shower or the deep clawfoot tub. www.hotelstnicholas.com
Now I'm in the thick of the difficult part of Colorado - today, 30 miles to a small town where there's no resident priest, then 32 miles to no where, then another 30 miles over the last mountain range I'll need to cross in Colorado. I'd dream of the ease of the San Luis Valley, but I'm way too tired these days.
I like the walking even through the difficulties not present in European walks - I fill my water bottle from the streams and plunk a chloride tablet in and wait before drinking... I struggle to find a place to sit on the ground not already occupied by some type of cactus or otherwise prickly growth... but the beauty of the Colorado Rockies this time of year is not to be missed.
Ciao until the next time I find an internet point!