I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills….

from whence cometh my help.

Today’s walk was a gentle constant ascend into Monte Irago. We left Santa Calina (pop 50) around 730 so we could walk in the morning light before breakfast. We stopped in El Ganso, a 12th century village, at a family home that had a little store and offered hot coffee on the porch.

As soon as we started our ascent, our path was lined with a wire fence to our right. Looking closer at it you could see crosses that were placed in the wires. This went on for at least a mile.


I wonder when the first one was placed and how long ago. We nicknamed it The Fence Of One Thousand Crosses (plus one, with mine). In Rabinal del Camino (pop 60) we were greeted by a man with a falcon raising money for a children’s cancer hospital and of course had to help.



The town still continues a century old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before taking the steep climb, and Templar knights that protected their journey.

The picture above is a church run by an order of monks that still hold a blessing everyday for the pilgrims. We also came across the parish church, Iglesias de Santa Marie that was built in the 12th century that gave us the rest we needed before going on.

The hike was one of the prettiest so far frequently coming across respites of cool water.


We finally saw our town ahead

and turned around to look were we came from and realized we had walked from as far as you can see- we have walked 150 miles, half way there.

The village, Foncebadon, is a semi-abandoned village that flourished during the Middle Ages. It is starting to come back to life with the re-awakening of the Camino. Our Albergue, Convento de Foncebadon, was one of the few buildings in the town but had everything we needed: a place to sleep, do laundry and enjoy a wonderful meal.




My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Surprises along The Way

The mornings are a very special time for me. This morning we woke to Rick playing Amazing Grace. You then here the rustling of the other pilgrims rising and packing their gear. We are all going in the same direction on the same mission. It is quiet and respectful. You then share some coffee, a good morning in a variety of languages and head outside. The town is transformed by the light and we begin to walk in silence not knowing what the day will bring. .

It wasn’t long before I had my first surprise. She poked her head out and gave me a sniff and a lick.


Little did I know that animals would be a theme for the day. We walked through farm lands and was greeted by another person with a wonderful cart of fresh fruit and drinks.



We then came across the Cruceiro Santo Toribio stone cross where we said a prayer and headed down down down the valley to Astorga. You can see it in the background.



Astorga is another beautiful town where we enjoyed a lunch in the main square listening to the bells every 1/2 hour.


It was here where I saw my first donkey!!


As i said before the sight of your Albergue after a long day is the best and this in the village of Santa Catalona de Somoza did not disappoint.

Maybe one of the most beautiful yet. Oh yea, the animal theme. When we went in the back courtyard to do our laundry look who was there to greet me.



Enough said.

In a Little Spanish Town…..

This is yesterday’s blog since I did not have wifi last night.

We left Villar de Mazariffe (pop 400)


And stopped for cafe with some other pilgrims in Villavante. They were from Denmark , Germany, and Portland!


Lunch was in Hospital de Orbigo after crossing Puente de Orbigo

It is one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain dating back to the 13th century.
The legend says that on this bridge a knight from Leon confronted some foreigners who wanted to cross it in a duel in order to undo a pledge of slavery to his beloved Lady Leonor, under which he would have to fast every Thursday and wear a heavy iron ring around his neck. He must have broken 300 lances. He did not succeed, but the judges of the contest repaid Don Suero by freeing him from the ring. For this reason, the bridge is known as Passo Honroso (Honourable Crossing).


One of the great feelings is when you come over the hill and see the town you are going to stay in on the horizon. We decided to stay in Suntibanez de Valderglesia to break up the 20mile trek to Astorga. We always head for the church which is the tallest structure in town and the Albergue is usually close by.

Ok back to small towns. Our last town was bustling compared to this one. This was a one horse town but with out the horse.


We checked into an Albergue run by the church of the Holy Trinity- how bad could that be. Well, there is an ivy branch growing in the bathroom stall. The place was run by Juan, a pilgrim that walked ten years ago and now volunteers for 5 months running the place.


If you saw the movie The Way we thought we met the crazy guy. But as in life Juan surprised us all. He made the best paella and we had a family style dinner with people from Russia, Australia, Germany, and Canada. The night turned into a night of song where we were treated to Danny Boy in Spanish.

20140530-180539-65139802.jpg. Love these little towns.

On the Road Again.

Leaving Leon we passed San Isadoro an 11th century Basilica Church. There was a Door of Forgiveness through which medieval pilgrims, too ill to travel on to Santiago, could still receive forgiveness.



We also passed the Leon Museo and stopped to sit with a pilgrim of old resting.



After our morning ritual of stopping for cafe in La Virgen del Camino we were soon off the hard surface of the streets and back on a dirt trail. Even with the rain, there was something comforting about it.

We came across a man selling fruit,coffee, nuts and chocolate to pilgrims for a donation.

20140528-184005-67205567.jpg<It was a fairly short day of 22km to Villar de Mazarife, but blisters are really getting the best of some of us.


We are staying at Tio Pepe- Uncle Peter and have a great room for just the five of us.


Of course right next to a church dedicated to St James.


I have to share my journal with you. Debbie, Lindsey and Jenna gave me a journal with a saying or note for me to read every day. When I opened today’s day I found this note and had to share. It made us all laugh.


We had another nice dinner after we used our dictionary to find out what are choices where on the pilgrims menu.


Leon, Spain

Today I put down my pilgrim backpack and picked up my tourist camera and spent the whole day exploring the city of Leon. It began at 10am with breakfast at an outdoor cafe and ended with mass at 6pm said by the Bishop of Leon. It was a glorious day and I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Mom, the St. Francis statue is right next to our Albergue.










100 miles.

After 7 days we have settled into somewhat of a routine. Lights go on around 615am and we start to get ourselves packed before breakfast at 7am. Breakfast is comprised of bread, butter, jelly and coffee for 3 euros. Some places you can buy some fruit or yogurt for a couple more euros. After breakfast we pack up and head out between 730 and 8am. Today we traveled from Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos along the oldest Roman road in Spain. I was thinking that it was actually built around the same time that Jesus was alive.



We walk for a few hours until we hit a town and stop for coffee and a snack. Lunch is a few hours later at the next town. Today was a long stretch with no towns so we stopped along the trail and made sandwiches from the bread, cheese and avocado we bought the night before. Always taking a stretch before walking again.


We then walk to our alberque, check in and get shown to our bunks. The first thing we do is shower and laundry. Each of the albergues have an outside sink with actual wash boards and clothes lines. So you find a space for your underwear next to all the other drying socks, pants and shirts.

Dinner is always at 7 so we have a few hours to journal, nap or explore the town before dinner.



Tomorrow will be a different day touring the city of Leon

Ooops. Lights just went out. Good night.

Pilgrams old and new

At 615am, they usually turn on the lights to wake you up. If for some reason that doesn’t do it, we have the Rick alarm. It is a gentle shake of the shoulder and a soft voice saying “wakey, wakey”. I gathered my stuff and headed down the back stairs across the courtyard to the bathroom and came across a group of pilgrims singing. In front of them was a man that we had been walking with for a few days in a white vestment saying mass! I stayed to participate with toothbrush in hand. Come to find out he has been saying mass every morning wherever he is staying.

After our typical breakfast of bread, fruit and coffee we discussed as a group that today maybe the day we take a rest and only go as far as Sahagun. We were all pretty sore and after all it was the Sabbath. In Sahagun, we stopped for more cafe and a pastry.


followed by a rest in the main square:


We decided to take it slow and headed for Calzadlla de Los Hermanillos along a road built by the Romans 2000 years ago.


And at times sharing the Camino with the locals



We found out that the markings on the back are caused by a bag of chalk the males wear on their chest. You figure it out :-).

There are constant reminders of the care given to the pilgrims long ago and to us still today. Our trail went past an old pilgram hospice


and to the fuente del peligrino in the middle of a five mile long trail through the countryside. Here is where you are to drink water from your scallop shell and taste the sacredness of what you are doing.


Some time the day gets long and we end up getting a bit silly. Most days we start to sing but today Monica taught us a marching step to keep us moving.


We were thrilled when we got to our Albergue, Via Trajana for a few reasons: it was right off the trail, hot showers, beds with sheets, and only 3 of us in a room.


buenas noches, my loving family and friends.

Wheat Fields, And Then Some

Today is a short blog for a long day. Our first 17km was through endless wheat fields.


The sun shone again and was actually warm. At one break we were greeted by Rick in his usual fashion. We purchased food for our trek the night before and we were surprised by a little beverage truck in the middle of no where.


So we stopped and enjoyed our fresh bread,cheese and chorizo.


We were very excited to get to our Albergue- Jacques de Molay in Terradillos de Templarios because after 27 km all of our dogs were barking. Well, we found out that they cancel your reservations after 330. The bad news was we did not have a room but as Rick said our walk would be shorter the next day. Yup, 3 more km down the Camino was a place- actually not as bad as it looks. They fed us a wonderful pasta dinner downstairs.


After 30km, we r going to see how we feel in the morning and decide where we go from there.


Fromista – Carrion de Los Condes. 20.5 km. Thank you all for your prayers. It worked. The sun was out all day. Now if you could work on the wind and temperature. It was 46 when we started out and maybe got to 60 by days end. We didn’t really mind because we were dry. Today was a shorter walk, which was welcome since we were all a bit soar from yesterday. We decided to take our time, and truly enjoy our ever changing surroundings even stopping to take in a swing.


At a crossroad in Villovieco. we met two pilgrims. The older gentleman did not speak any English but his companion was able to tell us he was 80, did 1/2 the Camino last year and was completing now. Embarrassed to say he passed us about an hour later.


We found a beautiful church to take a break and enjoy the sun and then headed to Villacazar de Sirga for a tortilla lunch and to see Santa Maria la Blanca. Many of the churches are not opened in these small town but this one was and we took the time sit in silence.

On our way out of town we thanked St. James for our journey so far and headed to our final destination of Carrion de Los Condes.
I must have been getting tired because I think I saw two of Rick.



Our alberque is Spiritual Santo run by the brothers Hijas de San Vicente de Paul. Mom, you would of loved it when a sister came out to greet us, walk us by Mary

And then check us is.



There is a pilgrims service at 8 and then to bed for tomorrow’s journey to Terradillos de Templarios, our longest walk yet- 26.8 km.

It is becoming harder to find wifi so will blog when I can.
Hasta lugeo…

It was an “er” day

Castrojeriz to Fromista-26.4km + a 1.5 km detour.

Why “er”. Today was colder, wetter, and windier. The walk was longer, our feet sorer and our packs a bit heavier. But by the end of the day a little smarter and heartier.

The day started at 630am when our hospitaleros came into the sleeping area turned on the light, came up to each of us and woke us with “Buenos Dias” and then put on Gregorian Chant music. A few minutes later he gave us a gentle reminder that we had to “vamos”. The rain and wind had already started when we began walking a little before 8. We were soon met with a climb up another Mesa.


20140522-213035-77435309.jpg Yup that’s me coming up the hill. With every good climb you are rewarded with a view, and we were. Look real close and you can see the town we left beyond the valley floor.

20140522-213516-77716298.jpgThere are not a lot of pics for the next several hours because it was too wet to take out the camera and in fact hard to steady the camera because of the wind.

Though the rain did stop and we enjoyed the rest of the walk with other pilgrims into Fromista stopping for lunch and cafe when possible.



We learned that the municipal alberques do not take groups more than three but you can call ahead and reserve beds at the private ones. The difference is only 3 euros and knowing we were going to have such a long day we had beds waiting for us at Estrella del Camino.

20140522-215211-78731167.jpg It is a beautiful place and I am secretly hoping we do this a few more times. Though I will miss the Gregorian chant in the morning.

20140522-215529-78929999.jpgA shorter day tomorrow but heard more rain. No worries, looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

The Rain in Spain Does Fall Mainly on the Plain

And boy did we get it. It started even before we got our packs on. In addition the heavy wind was against us making the rain feel like pebbles being thrown at us. Oh yea, add 50 degree temperature in the mix! We all had a jacket to help keep our tops dry except “she who must not be named”. Within minutes the realization set in that Elizabeth brought a windbreaker and not a rain jacket. So Rick took out his tarp and tied it around her. It did very little for her, but gave us the giggles every time we looked at her keeping our spirits up. We took a detour after a few hours and found refuge at San Bol alberque to try and get the feeling back in our hands and feet. When we left there the rain stopped for a bit but left behind a Camino of mud. More laughing ensued as we tried to navigate through the mess. When we came out of lunch atEl Puntido , the sun was out. We came across San Anton, an ancient monastery and hospice where bread was left for pilgrims in two alcoves. We got to Castroojeriz and found some beds at the municipal alberque- the cost- a donation of your choice. We were told when shown our beds that we were not allowed to get out of bed until 630am. I don’t think that will be a problem. Tomorrow we head to Fromista, 25 km.







Burgos to Hornillos

What a great first day on the Camino. I was excited when I saw my first scallop shell, the first of many that will guide us for the next 4 weeks. Today took us through quaint little towns and beautiful country side. It was cool in the 60s but the sun was always with us. Tomorrow expecting rain, and not looking forward to that at all. We stopped for lunch in Rabe de las Calzados where the owner gave each of us a St. Mary’s medal for our backpacks. This time Rick had to order since the owner did not speak English and there were no menus. All I can say is that there was some part of an animal we ate and was told better not to ask. The trail to Hornillos del Camino was picturesque taking to the high point on the Meseta and then down the other side called Mule-killer Slope. Unfortunately, the municipal alberque was full when we got there, but in true Rick style and after some conversations in Spanish with a variety of people he pointed to a van and told us to get in. We were driven to a bed and breakfast outside of town where we dined family style with other pilgrims. Between Spanish, French, and English, we were able to wish each other well. Tomorrow’s destination is Castrojeriz, 20km.



<img src="https://karensjoi.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140520-183622-66982128.jpg"



To Burgos and Beyond





We all made it safe and sound to Spain. We flew from Rochester through Philadelphia and onto Madrid. In Madrid, we were met by Jutta, Monica’s daughter who lives here . She helped us program our phones while we waited for Elizabeth. We then took about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Burgos. We toured the Catedral de Santa Maria, built in the 13th century and is one of the beautiful and largest in Spain. My first mishap, of which I am sure there will be more, was at our first dinner. After a quick lesson Rick of course had us order in Spanish. I ordered asadurilla. What looked like beef was not, but I got the vino blanco right. We are already tucked in at the Hotel Alda Entrearcos and looking forward to the start of our Camino tomorrow. Goal is Hornillos del Camino 21 km.

Gone for a Walk


Give me my scallop shell of quiet;
My staff of faith to walk upon;
My scrip of joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of salvation;
My gown of glory, hope’s true gauge
And then I’ll take my pilgrimage.
                             Sir Walter Raleigh

On May 18th I leave to walk El Camino de Santiago – The Way of St James. It is one of the oldest Christian pilgrimages with its destination map1 (1) The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – the final resting place of St. James.  It will take me 4 weeks to walk over 300 miles to get there.  I will be making the journey with some amazing people and meeting others from all over the world that are doing the same thing at the same time.   I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Welcome to my journey.

Welcome to my journey.  I started this site in as a way to capture my pilgrimage, in 2014 to  Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.  I wanted a way to share the experience with the people I love so much, my family, my friends and those I serve.   As I began to build it, I realized I had so many more experiences to share with others of places that humbled me and people who transformed me.  Many of you have heard my my own story of how my cancer brought me JOI (Journey’s of Inspiration).  JOI has taken me to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and camp on the Serengeti, to a week in the Grand Canyon, to the Camino of Santiago, back to Africa to build homes, and recently to Peru to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.  I have also ventured out to Europe on a trip on my own and the most amazing trip to Taiwan with my cousin. 

Traveling and seeing the world is extraordinary.  The ones most dear to me continue to be the ones that I am called by God to do  – to live my faith and serve others. This blog is a work in progress and I will continue to build it with stories of my journeys and the people I have met along the way that have inspired me to be the best I can be – and I hope it does the same for you.

Beun Camino, 我的自由年代, bonne faço,njia nzur, buon mod


History of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

st-james-stone-statue-500The story of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is intertwined with the history of Christianity. After Jesus’ resurrection, St. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. According to tradition, he also traveled to Spain to spread the Good News, then returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred.
Following his death, his followers are said to have taken his body to the coast, where a ship was miraculously waiting for them. The body of St. James was interred in a tomb in northwestern Spain, after which its location fell into oblivion for centuries.

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When JOI Came Into My Life

JOI’s mission is to create a community of people whose lives have been affected by life challenges. To strive to develop support for each other, spread awareness, fund the struggle for a healthy world and celebrate the beauty and goodness of life.  It is an organization of people I call my family and whom I have shared my lifes most inspiring moments.  JOI has taken me to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and now across Spain and with every step remembering:

 It is not how high you get or how far you go, but the difference you make along the way.




Child of Sand and Water

img-315162404-0001One of my heroes and true inspirations is Diane King. As the founder of BMISS, she authored Child of Sand and Water, a book about the story of two lost boys and how they are bringing hope back to their villages.

I have the privilege of working with Diane to promote her book and hope you will take a peek at my video to learn more.


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