Friday, May 23, 2014

The last

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A Mariachi Welcome!

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The end of the Santa Fe Trail

The stone monument in Santa Fe Plaza marks the end of the Santa Fe Trail.  As some kind visitors offered to take this photo, a mariachi band led a wedding party around the plaza... there wasn't exactly a parade just for me, however well-deserved I may have thought it.  Just as I arrived in Santa Fe, passing heavy thunderstorms broke the long drought of the region, prompting great rejoicing for all. My pilgrimage didn't end for another day and a half, but I was again among friends and in a familiar environment.

Now back at the Santuario de Chimayo, I'll be here to help other pilgrims until the end of autumn when I'll be getting ready for the next epic winter pilgrimage - yes, back to brisk winter weather, no snakes, frozen streams easily forded, and snow soft on the feet... more suitable pilgrim conditions.. check back in November.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Past OK yet still in the wind

A long stretch between computer opportunities, but I'm overcoming the persistent strong headwinds and noticeable elevation climb and making great progress across the drought-stricken high prairie of eastern New Mexico.

The topography is more to my liking with distant mesas poking up on the horizons and the snow-covered peaks further in the distance.  I've been staying along or nearby lonely highways in the company of tumbleweeds and bull snakes.  Dots on the state map reveals towns lost to history and water has been scarce - I routinely jump barbed wire fences and push aside cattle to get water being pumped up from great depths by squeaky little wind turbines.  The distance between Clayton and Springer, both historical hubs on the Santa Fe Trail, is a direct 82 miles with only a scattering of ranches in between.  Pretty advanced pilgrim territory, in truth... not for everyone.  I'm not sure this will be a high-trafficked pilgrim camino to Chimayo.

Still, there's plenty of interesting things to occupy my mental time - bison, bull snakes, coyotes, bull snakes, badgers, bull snakes, and plenty of chatty songbirds.  Wagon parts, too, especially around the ruins of melted adobe huts, long abandoned.  Despite the wind and the dust that comes with it, it's really romantically picturesque.

I'm just coming onto a thousand miles on this journey and should be at the Santa Fe Plaza on Friday and then on to Chimayo Sunday.  The end is bittersweetly near.

A Picture of Ann in Wagon Mound en route to the Santuario de Chimayo

Hi Ann…I hope this message finds you well. Thank you for your great company!

Frank

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Almost OK

Long stretches of the dusty, nearly-empty highway and lonelier, emptier train line require little focus as I take the last few steps in the windy state of Kansas.  The terrain and vegetation also fail to require much alertness, and the heat has kept the snakes, rodents, and even most of the birds in some shady slumber somewhere out of my view.  The challenge has been to find the side of the grain elevators that shield me from both the wind and the sun at the same time.

After nearly 500 miles to cross one state, and unnoticeably ascending about 2,000 feet of elevation, I'm ready for the few days it will take to nip across the corner of Oklahoma's panhandle to get ready for the challenge of a near-completely unpopulated few hundred miles in eastern New Mexico, ever closer to the goal.

It's looking like early in the last week of May will be my estimated arrival at the Santuario.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gettin' the heck into Dodge

The rolling hills and the roller coaster dirt farm roads that I enjoyed walking westward flattened out into the Great Plains of the American west... not quite as flat as the great Pampas of Argentina, the flatness still makes for rather visually unexciting walking.  It frees up more time to look at the quick orange-striped little snakes in the grass.

The grain elevators that pop up out of the wheat fields are visible for 10 miles or more and provide the focal points of interest... three or four hours from the time I spot one to the time I can sit in its noisy shade for a rest.

The pilgrimage is going great and I passed the halfway point in Great Bend, where I spent the night with some riotous and indulgent nuns at the mother house of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.  Words like 'soaking tub' sound fabulous to any weary pilgrim, without a doubt, but when the soaking tub is nearly the size of a lap pool, soaking is more like restful floating... pretty heavenly.

Whoever kindly found the controls to the wind and turned it down a bit seems to have accidentally elbowed the heat knob and sent a few days soaring into the upper 90s.  In early May? Now, now... it might drive a winter pilgrim to whine a little, but the local folks have been ready with some lemonade and a chance to sit in the shade a while.

People are kind and good.  Finding places to sleep continues to be fun, safe, and comfortable.  Pilgriming across America is a blast, though not many have heard of the Santuario de Chimayo.