Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plans for a Summer Pilgrimage

I enjoyed my walk to Mexico City last winter immensely - as I have enjoyed all of my winter pilgrimages. But why should I have all the fun? I want to emphasize the practicality and feasibility of this North American pilgrimage for others to follow. Certainly and without hesitation, I encourage anyone who is motivated to make a great pilgrimage in North America to use this same route, either by foot in three months or by bicycle in one month. Get out there! Be not afraid!

Perhaps more attractive would be a shorter pilgrimage from Denver to Chimayo in New Mexico. I strongly encourage this route for the masses. Fellow pilgrims and future pilgrims, anyone who has thoughts of walking the Camino in Spain, why not consider this route in the US? The history of Chimayo as a pilgrim destination doesn't quite reach back into the depths of time that Santiago de Compostela does, but it still has many centuries attached to its lure and with a host of unique cultural elements in stunning landscapes and quite unspoiled wilderness. Contemplate a 350-mile/550-kilometer walk in the mountains.

I see that three stages exist for something like this to become established: explorer, pioneers, colonists. I made the exploration of the route last winter, so that stage can be checked off the list - I demonstrated that it can be done and I know a beautiful and accessible route. I've drafted a written plan for the next stage. Next summer after I return from Jerusalem, I will gather a group of 16 'pioneers' whom I will lead on the route. In Spain, pilgrim groups find refuge in established pilgrim houses. These don't (yet) exist in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, so the plan for the pioneers is to bring the essentials of a pilgrim house with us - water, cots, hot showers, a laundry facility and a kitchen. Together with a small group, I'm working through the logistics necessary to make the journey of the pioneers a success. We're targeting the pioneer journey for next August (2012).

The product of the pioneers' experience will be a guide that will disseminate the route to other pilgrims and groups of pilgrims who wish to walk from as far north as Denver to Chimayo. It's a rugged route indeed, with many mountain passes to cross, and with many thousands of feet of elevation gained and lost - oh so beautiful. For Camino grads, the distance is roughly equivalent to Burgas to Santiago de Compostela. The plan is sketched at the moment for 18 days of 20 miles/31 kms. Five or six days of relatively flat terrain and the balance mountainous. The pioneers will be of diverse ages and physical abilities so that we can be better able to provide guidance for future groups.

It's difficult to predict now if the evolution of the colonist stage will become viable - that would be the construction of permanent pilgrim houses. It could be well into the future, I think, but if there's interest and need, it will happen organically. For the moment, I want only to plant the seed. Will the route from Denver to Chimayo become el Camino del Norte? Will other routes be explored - across Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Kansas? Pilgrims ho!

I've set up a poll at the top of the blog page to get a sense of some feedback. Please feel free to comment. Thanks!


Sheila Phelan Wright said...

Glad to see you are posting on all the new plans. Love your boots and hope they last to Hippo!

ksam said...

hmmmm if not in Spain...this would be interesting!!

LDahl said...

I live in Kansas, we are fortunate to get Tibetan monks here. It is a small world in some ways.