Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

A quick Merry Christmas update from a few days' north of Tokyo... I've walked across yet another of the worlds' largest cities.  A lot of urban walking has occupied my time in the last week or so, not so much to my liking as mountain or beach walking, but amazing nonetheless.  I'm still having a great pilgrim time.

Christmas is outrageously commercial here - not an ounce of Christianity buried in Santa Claus here, but presents, music, and decorated trees abound.  It's always interesting, celebrating Christmas in a different culture.

I've been reunited with my snowshoes, thanks to the fun Redemptorists who have been taking care of them at their mother house in Tokyo.  We celebrated with some dry and tasty Japanese sparkling wine.  I have little hope in using them soon, since the temperatures are well above freezing.  As I continue north, I can hope for snow, perhaps climbing higher into the mountains rather than sticking to the seashore just to find some.  Carrying all of my winter gear has been tiring - I'd rather wear the heavy clothes than carry them.

I only have a moment tonight before the Japanese language celebrations begin at the Catholic church tonight - so Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

One Night with a Geisha

On one bright sunny morning with a strong westerly wind, I walked delightfully through harvested rice paddies - the sea to my right, the mountains to my left.  There in the distance, the theatrical side-lighting accentuating its upward-facing wimple - Mount Fuji, its snow-capped alpenglow just like in the posters.  Far off - 150 kilometers, 4 days' walk - perfectly situated in the vee of two fore mountains.  (I should make a quick watercolor, I thought, as soon as I find a good place to sit, out of the tailwind, but still in the warm sun.)  I walked for some hours.  Clouds came - Fuji faded then disappeared into a white sky.  Later that day, light rain, high winds... for the days that followed, heavy rain, blustering winds, a downpour now and then, dramatic rising fog, sinking clouds, Mount Fuji hidden above it all.
I walked through forests and fields, along the rocky coast, on the beach in the spray of ferocious waves... a small sign in the mist declared in rare English - 'Mt Fuji Touristic Mountain Trail'.  No other pilgrims (of course), no hikers. Dramatic rain, dramatic wind - whistling like in the movies... rising mists and equally sinking clouds, occasionally letting 'almighty power' sunbeams penetrate like golden stakes.  Fujiyama hidden from my searching eyes.  I saw it from a distance one morning.  I know it's there.
People continue to be good.  I've encountered many immigrant communities around the Catholic churches where I seek hospitality.  Peruvians, with whom I can speak Spanish, Brazillians, with whom I can speak Spanish and listen in Portuguese with surprising mutual understanding; and Filippinos, who conveniently speak English often enough.  It goes well.
One evening, a Japanese priest contacted a local woman from a long-standing Catholic family - that is, from among the 'Hidden Christians' who converted four centuries ago and persisted in secrecy when it was outlawed.  I'd be more comfortable in her home than in the parish hall, he suggested. 'Chotte-mate' Wait.  An hour later, came a Geisha.  Proper Meiji-era kimono and hairstyle, wooden sandals, split-toed white silk socks... To her home we went on foot, with quick little noisy steps.  Surprisingly untidy, her antique wooden home, but otherwise out of a movie set.  An elaborate Buddhist home-shrine built into a wall commemorated her late husband and his repectable parents - his father of the pre-war warrior class.
Her English was no better than my Japanese, so a learning opportunity for us both.  'Sukyaki?' she suggested for dinner.  Sure, I've heard of it.  A portable gas burner was placed on the low wooden table on the reed floor mats.  Bite-sized morsels of green onions, napa cabbage, some oddly textured root vegetabe she called 'cognac' or something audibly similar - with zero calories, she claimed - tofu, sliced pork, and strips of beef sizzled rapidly in a shallow pan placed on the open flame.  A small bowl of rice, chopsticks, okay, I can managed, but I had to muster all my resources to continue when she delicately and with all the elegance of a tea ceremony (which turns out to be her daytime metier) cracked an egg into another small porcelain bowl.  Using your chopsticks, dip the cooked meat and vegetable pieces one by one into the raw egg just before eating... she gestured and demonstrated. Really? Raw egg? (must I?) (should I?) ((When in Rome... close your eyes and swallow...))  On the more culturally comfortable side, she kept the 1.5-liter carton of Japanese red wine flowing into our small ceramic cups during the extended joyful meal full of laughter.
Her agility surprised and outpaced me - sure, I had walked well over 40 rugged kilometers in the rain that day (while she taught proper tea ceremony procedures to the up-and-coming Geisha wannabees) - I felt cramped and stiff alternatively kneeling or hunched cross-legged at the little table - heated underneath with an electric blanket - the only source of heat in the house aside from the cooking burner.  She often went from the demur kneeling position at the table to run to the kitchen or shrine room for various things and back kneeling again like a gymnast sticking the landing, kicking her indoor sandals off every time entering the reed-mat dining room.  Watching it made my muscles ache all the more.  She showed me photos of her wedding, her calligraphied high school diploma, rare photos from the time of her youth - she was well over 80 years old.  What an inspiration.
I'm continuing up the Pacific coast, closing in on Tokyo, passed the quarter- way mark.  Afterwards, I suspect the population will thin out a bit and I won't be able to find a Catholic church every night.  No worries.
Ferrets a-plenty, but still the snow monkeys elude me.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Autumn Colors

Even I am impressed with how fast I'm traveling through Japan.  Autumn has come, surprising late, and the cool nights are offset by the brilliant colors of the Japanese maples.  Since my last update written in Oita, by which I had walked 576 kilometers, I've walked around the island of Shikoku - famed for its Buddhist pilgrimage of 88 Temples - and onto the big island of Honshu.  Now just past Nagoya, I've walked a total of 1,300 kilometers, nearly a quarter of my planned total for the pilgrimage.  My only struggle remains finding computers with internet access and without email restrictions.  For all its technological advances, Japan has a few quirks.  Updating my blog has a lesser priority than talking with breathing people, so explains the long gap in time since the last update.

My route through Japan is determined around the 15 cathedrals, going north on the Pacific Ocean side, turning around the northern island of Hokkaido, and returning south on the Sea of Japan side.  So far, I've gotten stamps from 6 of the cathedrals - Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Oita, Takamatsu, Osaka, and Nagoya.  I'm heading now toward Yokohama.  The population density is noticeably higher as I travel north, so rarely since leaving Shikoku am I in nature during my day's walk.  Not as nice for me, but still very interesting.  Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are everywhere.  While on Shikoku, I saw plenty of pilgrims going to the 88 temples, a traditional circuit with a resurgent interest since the tourism board go involved - with advice from the tourism board of northern Spain.  Funny that the Japanese pilgrims I saw were either getting out of cars or at the bus stops and the foreign pilgrims were walking the mountain paths in the rain.  A Japanese man I met at one of my private home-stays one evening told me that the Japanese value the unique stamps and calligraphy they get at each shrine over the time it takes to walk.  The ends justify the means.

I've managed to visit several of the 16th-century pagoda-style castles and fortresses that popped up when Japan was becoming unified.  The history lessons are varied and interesting.  About 60% of the nights I've been staying at parishes or convents, speaking equally Spanish, Italian, and English, with two drips of German and one of French.  The balance of the nights in family homes and as often in my growing but pathetically weak Japanese as Spanish with Peruvian immigrants or very basic English.  It's always a good time with plenty of spontaneous parties.  Nearly every day, people continue to offer me origiri - rice balls - and fruit - oranges and persimmons.  Japan continues to be a terrific place to be a pilgrim.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Once-in-a-Lifetime-Encounter

There's a new word in my Japanese vocabulary today - Itchy-Goi, Itchy-Yay! meaning something like 'this has been a once-in-a-lifetime-encounter.'  Handy for me, I'll be able to use it everyday.  Pilgriming in Japan is fantastic.  The people I've met have been over and above hospitable.  I've also learned 'Ee-Pi' = enough! please, I can't eat anything else!
I've wandered though thickly forested mountains and along long sandy or rocky beaches.  I managed to send my snowshoes ahead to Tokyo with a Redemptorist priest, so they'll be waiting for me when I arrive there just before Christmas (insha'allah).  It's still so warm that I'm wearing only my first layers and am carrying all of my winter clothes, a heavy burden that will disappear in the coming weeks as I continue to head north.  Leaving Nagasaki, I've traveled through towns and villages perched on the edge of the South China Sea, and the breezes have been more balmy than fierce.  The fragrances of the mountain flowers are heady, and I'm delighted to step on mint growing wild along babbling streams - nothing like a handful of mint stuffed in the boots at night to keep the locker-room odors at bay.  I've heard and seen many wild pigs foraging for acorns, and fat black long-haired squirrels, and pods of dolphins surprisingly close to the shore, but the snow monkeys have eluded me so far in the wild.
The trees are just beginning to turn at the latitude I'm passing - about 34 degrees north - but they'll turn quickly as I've rounded the islands to face the open Pacific Ocean and island-hop toward Osaka.  I'm torn - do I prefer the mountains - rugged, exhausting and providing great views - or the coast - serpentine and bustling with fishing boats and ferries and interrupted with picturesque villages and tightly packed bedroom communities around the bigger cities?  Sorry I can't be in two places at once... one day, maybe I'll come back and do a second lap.
The architecture is mixed with ultra-modern clean-lined townhomes with gardens bursting with pumpkins, daikon radishes, lettuces and potatoes, and the ancient Samuri-style timberframe homes with layered tiled roofs and upturned cornices surrounding perfectly manicured cultivated gardens.  I've slept in quite a variety by now.  Buddhist shrines, monuments, and cemeteries are everywhere, sometimes in the most out-of-the way places, moss-covered and seemingly abandoned, and somehow tidy nonetheless.  I've caught the tail end of the rice harvest and often walk along the paddies and terraces where bundles of upturned stalks hang drying in long lines between stubbly remains. 
The only thing I've encountered that's a bit untoward has been the multitude of spiderwebs, as big as bicycle wheels with complex multidimensional guylines stablizing them in fabulous geometries - cotangential hyperbolic paraboloids... they'd make Euclid downright giddy.  While I see some high in trees and powerpoles, most seem to be right at my face level, invisible until I'm a victim.  Yet, the thoraxes of the spiders themselves, always present in the center of the web, are as big as almonds or dates, black and fluorescent yellow, with evil red markings, and long black and yellow striped legs... menacing indeed... are they poisonous? I keep getting caught up in their stickiness when I'm walking along a mossy mountain lane... if they were poisonous, surely they'd have been eradicated, right?  Maybe not... what would Buddha say?  I've asked and asked, but few people I've met have experience in the out-of-the-way places I walk and - well, what newbie to a language learns vocabulary words like 'poisonous' and 'spider'.  Ah well, so far, so good.  Itchy-Goi, Itchy-Yay!
[I don't get to computers often - the local libraries I've visited restrict use to news and database access.  I've tried four times in the 17 days I've been walking around the southern tip of Japan, and today is the first time for success to update this blog.  More soon.]  Really, I don't think there could be a happier pilgrim =D

Friday, October 28, 2016

Heading to a Pilgrimage through Japan

The long winter walk begins in Nagasaki on Tuesday, November 1st, All Saints' Day.  I hope to arrive in Nagasaki after changing planes in Tokyo from San Francisco.  I'll make inquiries and take a guess and send my snowshoes on ahead to a monastery further north where I'll likely encounter snow before it gets too deep.  I've broken my journey into 15 stages between the shrines and cathedrals I plan to visit and -- insha'allah -- arrive back in Nagasaki for Easter.  Where will I find the snow monkeys?  Will they throw things at me like the monkeys in Central America did?

I've devoted a good deal of time over the last several months preparing myself for this pilgrimage.  Last winter, while walking rather ungracefully on my snowshoes in the region north of the Great Lakes where the 17th-century French Jesuit missionaries were doing their thing, I considered the tremendous difficulty of their efforts - not only were their worlds full of some many more unknowns than mine, but they had enormous cedar-and-gut-string snowshoes that were a whole different story than my lightweight little aluminum ones.

I remember last winter, crossing some snow-covered frozen lake inlets east of Georgian Bay, I let my thoughts drift... 'this place could use a few hot springs'.  During the same time period that the French Jesuits were in the wilds of North America, rightly or wrongly on their mission of cultural exchange, Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits were over in Japan with a similar mission.  Japan has hot springs.  Hot springs in deep snow, with an overlapping cultural history from last winter's pilgrimage, here are the ingredients for this winter's pilgrimage.  I've never been to Japan before.  Every step will be new to me, every vista I overlook a new one, every person I meet a potential new friend, and good and interesting food. ...and snow monkeys.

I've learned a few phrases in Japanese and learned to recognize at least a handful of kanji characters.  I'm comforted by the reputation of the Japanese to be particularly kind to strangers.  Although a nation at the mercy of earthquakes and volcanoes, I'm happy that, like Canada last winter, I'll be traveling in a place with a peaceful and stable government.  I've gotten a letter of introduction from the Archbishop of Denver, and had it translated into Japanese.  My winter pilgriming clothes and equipment are repaired and refreshed for the anticipated harsh winter of the mountainous regions -  though I've been gently informed that my backpack is looking a little shabby - I'm ready for the pilgrim season.  All Saints' Day until Easter.  Follow me, I'll try to update every few weeks.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 146 - The bells rang out...

The bells rang out in Old Town Quebec to welcome me - yeah, me! - to the almost-final destination of the Basilica Cathedral of Notre Dame.  A group of about 15 pilgrims met me outside of the city at a lovely little shrine of St Therese de Lisieux, with its own Year of Mercy Holy Door.  We walked together for the final stretch down into the old quarter of the city to the oldest cathedral in New France... the bells rang so loudly it interupted conversation and when I looked up wonder why, I was suddenly and heartily greeted by the big guys of the Basilica... to say it was a very nice welcome would be a tragic understatement... it was wonderful.  Events followed, interviews - I was again in the local paper v. nice, indeed - the world needs to hear about pilgrims and pilgrimage... Bottes et Velo have organized a lot to promote the idea of pilgrimage in North America, and the Cathedral itself is also trying to get the word out.  I've had a great time since coming back to the St Lawrence River from the northern part of the province, and the extra distance put me over the 5,000 kilometer mark for this pilgrimage... more later, Good Friday events and then the final little leap of the pilgrimage to Ste Anne de Beaupre for Easter Sunday... I'll try to get some more photos sent in...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sanctuary of Ste-Therese - Québec


Thank you again for your visit. It was very appreciated to exchange with you and to hear about your pilgrim experience.

Here is a picture of us in front of the door of mercy of the sanctuary of Ste-Therese. Also you can find the article relating your visit on our website in the section « Actualités ».

May God bless you,

Father Réjean Lessard

Monday, March 14, 2016


Kuei! bonjour! Hello!

Pierre Larouche         
Superviseur de l'accueil et de l'animation
Carrefour d'Accueil Ilnu
1516, rue Ouiatchouan
Mashteuiatsh (Québec)  G0W 2H0
Tél. : 1.418.275.7200
Sans frais : 1.888.222.7922
Fax : 1.418.275.6048
Courriel :
Site Internet :

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 134 - another day of rest

What's a pilgrim to do when the destination is too close?  Take another day of rest. What better place to rest than at a friendly and beautiful shrine?  I rested a day at St Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, another at Notre Dame to Cap in Trois-Riviere, and now yet another at the Ermitage St Antoine.  What a lazy pilgrim I've become... but I've had some long days afoot, with few places to stop and that's hard on the gams... 44 kilometers without a place to sit down... ooh.

The time so far in Quebec province has been a lot of fun with the involvement of the folks at Bottes et Velo.  With their connections, radio, television, and newspapers have covered my arrival at each of these shrines - for you francophones, check out their facebook pages and the little videos they've made...  Getting the word out that Quebec has good and worthy pilgrim destinations is an effort I'm happy to help with.

The pilgrim route between Montreal and Trois-Rivieres is a wonderful historical and picturesque one, and while speaking some French is pretty much an imperative for a pilgrim here, the parish workers have been pretty helpful.  Pilgrims are common in large groups in mid August for the Feast of the Assumption.  Otherwise, pilgrimage seems to be uncommon.  But don't be discouraged, pilgrims, come any time - the St Lawrence is ripe for pilgrim pickings.

That said, I can't recommend extending the pilgrimage up north to the Ermitage St-Antoine by foot...too far without any services of any kind... people have been great and helpful, and more people would surely be around in conditions less snow-covered, but to begin the pilgrimage in Sageunay and walking the small roads between villages for 3 or 4 days is the better approach - and gorgeous.

A new word in my growing quebecois vocabulary is 'pourvoirie', which is translated as 'outfitter', but includes far more.  All the best of summer camp for everyone.  After my plans to walk through a forest were foiled by the absence of inhabitants after the holiday week was over, I took to the quiet highway, though villages are few and far between.  Growing weary as the sun began to set, I came to Camp Hosanna, a pourvoirie near to the road.  I assumed by the name that it was some sort of Christian camp or retreat center... I couldn't have guessed it was the name of the wife of the original proprietor 80 years ago.  Nonetheless, the family who undertakes the current operations invited me to spend the night.  Hunting, fishing, hiking, ice fishing, snow-mobiling, snowshoeing, crosscountry skiing, dog-sledding, sleighrides, horseback riding, etc... the list goes on... and one among the family of operators has a passion for collecting old snow-mobile busses, which were formerly the mainstay of transportation in northern Quebec winters.  What great fun that stop was for me... and a surprise no doubt for them.  The little kids have the bragging rights now - they hosted a pilgrim one night.

Another similar stop was at a rather posh forest gîte at the edge of the inhabited zone... knock knock, hi I'm a pilgrim, it's getting dark, I can't continue on foot tonight, can I stay here?  Uh, sure, why not?  So kind are the couple who run Domaine de Bostonnaise, thankfully open year-round.

Finally, I've arrived at the northern-most part of my pilgrimage this winter, nearly 50 degrees north latitude... off toward a series of monasteries - Augustinian nuns then Trappist (chocolatiers!) - before trying to figure out how to get back down to the St Lawrence river and Quebec for Holy Thursday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

le départ!

6 :30 du matin, c’est le départ de chez Max Béland, Lucie Paquet, Émile Béland (8ans) et Élodie Béland (6 ans)


Bonne route Ann!!





LUCIE PAQUET adjointe administrative / directrice des opérations hivernales

Tél. : 819 646-5244 / Téléc. : 819 646-5682 /

3460, route 155, Trois-Rives (Québec) G0X 2C0 /



Sunday, March 6, 2016

Merci de votre visite et bonne route!!!




LUCIE PAQUET adjointe administrative / directrice des opérations hivernales

Tél. : 819 646-5244 / Téléc. : 819 646-5682 /

3460, route 155, Trois-Rives (Québec) G0X 2C0 /



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 117 Winter comes, winter goes, winter comes again...

After a brief advance to springtime, winter has returned, to my delight  The journey out of Onterio province into Quebec province came steadily through less and less snow.  And just when the last of the snow melted away and I was marching across gritty mud lanes, new snow came, with one huge thump, and all is winter-wonderland-y again.  This winter seems determined to actually show up before spring.

The photo taken and uploaded by a kind couple skating on the frozen canal during the annual mid-winter festival hardly conveys the true bite of the wind that day, yet thousands of Ottawans were out skating and having fun.  I met many many lovely people along the trek toward the provincial border - unmarked except for the language and architecture.  It's decidedly reminiscent of the French countryside - village boulangeries, soaring church spires, mansard roofs - though still with the occasional wolftrack in the forests.

This has been a wonderful pilgrim playland, with cheerful reception in parish communities, a few convents, a monastery, and many people's private homes.  People are good.  I've passed through many Doors of Mercy in shrines and cathedrals - even got the Archbishop to sign my pilgrim credential in Ottawa - so I encourage pilgrims to come to Canada (or stay in Canada) to make pilgrimages.  Year of Mercy - Pope Francis said that everyone should make a pilgrimage this year, in part on foot...

After visiting the various pilgrim shrines in and around Montreal, then Trois-Riviere, and since I've got buckets of time on my hands before Easter, I'll deviate to Ermitage Saint-Antoine a jaunt to the north of Quebec city... 300 kms out of the way, and then back... a group called Bottes et Velo - 'boots and bicycle' is stirring up some pilgrim fun inviting people to walk along with me for certain stretches and enjoy some pilgrim meals together, so anyone can join in... see the itinerary at  The world needs more pilgrims.

Monday, February 15, 2016


...  -32C / -25F brrrrrr...

Friday, February 12, 2016

FW: Pic

Sent from my iPhoneAs requested - a nice photo...
Hope you are doing well with your journey.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Day 97 I was a Drunken Moose

I've got a few more minutes at a computer finally, so I'll try to make up for the last rushed post.  A funny blogworthy thing happened a week or so ago... I was mistaken for a drunken moose.

A light snow was falling after a night of steady accumulating flurries; no storm or anything harsh, just a morning that dawned a winter wonderland... On a backroad, presumably a gravel road, but unused as it had been that morning, I was happily walking through ankle-deep fresh snow without ice beneath.  The temperature was comfortable; there was no wind to speak of.  I walked for hours alone to the sound of snow, sometimes falling lightly, sometimes clumping down off tree tops, and sometimes just squeaking under my boots (not enough snow for snowshoes).

Who wouldn't enjoy such a morning's walk?  For miles and miles, I was absolutely alone in the woods.  Unwatched, unaccompanied - what is the saying? 'dance like there's no one watching; sing like there's no one listening...'  so I sort of was, but walking, not dancing, and not really singing out loud, but with happy random thoughts savoring the journey of the day... I wandered the full width of the track - this side to peer into the woods where there were fresh deer tracks, that side to follow a wee mouse along the slight crust of the snow for a remarkable distance considering its size until it spied me and jumped into the forest... meandering onward now stopping to watch a red-headed woodpecker pound persistently into a tree top... wandering sort of straight down the middle, then stopping for a bit of a piddle on one side, later sitting on a snowbank on the opposite side to eat an apple... adrift in my own thoughts for hours and hours, unhurried, unwatched, totally enjoying my morning walk - yikes!  suddenly, silently, a small car was behind me! Hello?!  A puzzled woman shouted out - 'what is this?? I thought I've been following a drunken moose for miles!  What are you doing out here?'  I looked back down the track I'd walked... sure enough, little prints in the snow, never in a straight line for very long, tracks that could have been made by a drunken moose, indeed.  Or a pilgrim enjoying the solitude.  We both laughed fully, well into the evening, it turned out.  Why not?  Dance like there's no one watching.  Sing like there's no one listening.  Walk like a drunken moose through the fresh snow.

Some days later, at the Martyrs' Shrine, I took a day of rest as a guest of the Jesuits.  A pilgrim from Toronto came to visit.  With much deliberation, I parted with my snowshoes.  The end of January - winter's half over - not much snow to speak of.  While I used them a few times, I never really needed them - not like the deep deep snows of Serbia and Montenegro last winter.  If I find I need them again, we can be reunited in short order.  Now, without the added weight on my pack, with virtually no snow left on the ground, I can leave a trail of light prints in the mud - perhaps not as easy to mistake them as being made by a drunken moose.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 86 Finally some snow

My travels around the north shore of Lake Huron - actually more along the Georgian Bay - has been in part on snowshoes -- as the photos suggest -- yeah!  I've been following a fair number of snowmobile trails, and conveniently there's really not enough snow for them to be officially open to snowmobiles.  By sticking to the back-country, I've enjoyed some solitude and beauty but haven't even seen the tracks of the wolves people with expressions of great horror warn me of.  Happily, I've at least seen a few moose.

Hosts and other people I encounter continue to be kind, and I've been with the three general groups of collocated communities - general English-speaking Canadians, French-speaking Canadians, and First Nation folks, one fun evening being welcomed for accommodation in one of the Elder Homes of the Serpent River band.  Every day is new and adventurous, a few bitterly cold days, some fluffy snow days, but no harsh storms.

Pushing for the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, the northeastward into deeper snow.... more soon...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Day 71 Through the Soo

Au Canada!  How nice it is when everything falls into place - an easy border crossing for me.  Few international borders are set up for pedestrians, especially those defined by a river.  The high, arching bridge can be crossed by bicycle, the border guards related, but not by foot.  No one had a bicycle for me to borrow, so a little 'bridge bus' was flagged down, and on I got for the crossing.  Welcome to Canada >stamp<.

The UP of Michigan flew by under my feet more than my snowshoes, but I got in some off-road and forest walking and was met with kindness (and coffee) everywhere.  Overall, the warmest gesture I met in all six of the states I walked through since Denver has been the offering of cups of coffee, so often right through the car window.  I haven't encountered this anywhere else in all my travels.  God Bless America.

Amid all the joy and fun I've been having, a highlight before exiting the country was found just north of Paradise - and what pilgrim could bypass a town so-named?  Just north of Paradise is a Catholic community called Companions of Christ the Lamb.  They've got a substantial wilderness area and offer short and long-stay wilderness retreats in small hermitages away from the world.  It's a funny perspective that such a place could be dubbed 'wilderness', but it's an apt title.  While I associate wilderness areas with a rugged lack-of-life appeal - those many deserts I've crossed, the high-altitude way-above-the-treeline aretes, the vast uninhabited tundra all with an imminent threat of death with the slightest lapse of senses - a cozy hardwood forest with meandering rivers and plenty of wildlife certainly qualifies for a comfortable wilderness retreat anyone could enjoy.  To the surprise of the residents, I approached in great tranquility on foot along snowmobile tracks rather than on the paved highway, quiet as it may be.

Onward toward the Shrine of the Martyrs in Midland, Ontario...maybe by the end of the month.  More snow is forecast, so soon, I hope, the snowshoes will be off my back and on my feet for good.

Happy New Year...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The "Winter Pilgrim" stayed the night at Bay Mills before hitting the Caffey Truck Trail this morning. Ann Sieben has walked many parts of the world as a "Winter Pilgrimage", Today she will enter the 44th country (Canada) as this Winter's walk takes her from starting point in Denver, Co. to Quebec's Atlantic seacoast.

Sent from my iPad