Love and Life on the Camino
By Susan Alcorn
For my husband Ralph and me, the Camino has been an integral part of our life for many years. Reflecting back to our first walk along the Camino Frances in 2001, it was a natural progression, but it was a daunting proposition nevertheless.
Ralph and I met in 1987 on a Sierra Club car-camping trip to Baja California. We had two weeks living in primitive circumstances in which to get acquainted. There were mishaps: people getting lost. There was reality: campsites that varied from dirt lots surrounded by cyclone fences to sandy stretches along beautiful azure waters. There was me with wind-blown hair and no makeup beyond lipstick (oops, not much has changed, there!). There was romance: together washing the group’s dishes each night (clean dishes and warm hands) and walks on the beaches, getting fresh shrimp right off the fishing boats, and dancing under the palm trees to the sound of a Mexican band playing nearby for a wedding party.
I’ll skip the details of our many years of backpacking in the Sierra except to emphasize that we had considerable hiking and backpacking experience before our first Camino trip. We knew that we could be happy with minimal comforts, and with spending 24 hours a day in each other’s company.
But we had never attempted a 500-mile hike across an entire country!
Other than it was an ancient pilgrimage trail, I knew very little about the Camino before we started. I knew that we started in the Pyrenees, that we would come down through the Basque country, then would cross the meseta, and end up in Santiago de Compostela.