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Camino Chronicle  Walking to Santiago
by Susan Alcorn - ISBN 0936034033 - Journey of discovery on the Camino de Santiago

One of the three finalists for the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Travel Essay for 2007

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Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago takes the reader along the ancient pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago, as the author and her husband travel 400 miles through northern Spain's hamlets, cities, arid plains, and mountains. The book combines intriguing historical background and rich cultural stories with the author's engaging narrative to provide travelers with the inspiration and knowledge to make their own journey to the city of Santiago de Compostela and the famous cathedral where the remains of the apostle St. James are found.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to walk five-hundred miles across northern Spain, but whether armchair traveler or active adventurer, readers will find that Camino Chronicle provides a realistic, non-embellished account of what such a trip involves. You'll gain a picture of refugio (hostel) life, learn about the food and wine of the regions, and enjoy reading some of the mythology and customs of the people.

This book was updated in 2014, primarily in the "how to" section, to give the reader current information

A true adventure in Spain enriched with the flavors of contemporary culture, spiced with legends from ancient times, and shaken by the happenings of 9/11.

"This highly personal account is interwoven with a sketch of the bloodstained history of the Camino from the beheading of St. James and his miraculous appearance to lead the Christian Reconquest of Spain from the Muslim's, earning him the ignominious title - 'Slayer of the Moors'. In between we have glimpses of yet more massacres of Charlemagne and Roland, the Inquisition, the Spanish civil war, Guernica, the ETA, the Madrid train bombing. Midway through the pilgrimage comes 9/11 and the agony of this American struggling to come to terms with this latest atrocity and the seemingly endless cycle of violence." - John Brierley - Camino Guides

"rich in the history and mythology of the Camino, the book leaves armchair readers longing to pop right through the page into Spain to take the trip themselves!" - Kathy Morey - Wilderness Press.

"will have you thinking, 'Hmm, I wonder if I could do this.'" - Melanie Rigney, "Editor-for-You"

European Review

When Susan Alcorn together with her husband Ralph leaves her Californian home to walk the Camino Francés from Roncesvalles to Santiago in September 2001, she does so with the intention of having an interesting vacation with the added benefit of improved physical fitness. ... [Camino Chronicle] is also a direct result of her Camino experience. Initially thinking it hadn't affected her much at all, her outlook changed greatly between the time of walking and writing the book in 2005/2006. Susan shares her experience by using her journal entries from the walk. These are divided into regional sections. Each section begins with a map of Spain and the Camino, highlighting the relevant part, plus a list of towns and the mileages between them. With the first-timer in mind, she adds very useful information on how to prepare for the Camino. Among them are a packing list, and a comprehensive action plan of preparing for a longer stay away from home. Answers to frequently asked questions, a short chapter with statistics about the modern day pilgrims, and a comprehensive bibliography complete the book. The result is a book that will mainly appeal to (American) people who haven't walked the Camino as it provides practical information combined with the experience of Susan's walk, and it details the rich history of the pilgrimage. Angelika Schneider --Confraternity of Saint James, London, England Bulletin 95, September 2006

From the Author

In some respects walking the Camino is much the same as any other long hike: there are both physical demands and mental challenges, but walking the Camino is also quite different from other hikes because of its unique history and its cultural setting.

Long-distance hiking is not just about the blisters and the uncertainty of where you'll find food each day, it's also about the motivation and self-discipline to keep going when you'd just as soon not roll out of bed. But as I was learning to deal with the everyday challenges of where to find shelter and so forth, I took comfort in the fact that millions had traveled along the path before--that anything that is part of the human experience had occurred there: birth, death, war, crime, compassion, bravery, love….It was a strange juxtaposition: my immediate needs and sense of their importance and the knowledge that I was no more significant than one of the millions of rocks along the way (or stars above).

Walking the Camino de Santiago was an empowering experience. I learned that I could set, and attain, goals far beyond what I had ever before considered. And, in the five weeks of walking, I had ample time to consider the oft-said, oft-ignored phrase "live in the moment." I learned that when I followed that advice, the trail provided all that I needed to succeed.

The mystique behind the ancient trail is based on this reality: it has changed the lives of millions.


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Emma Gatewood first hiked the entire 2160 mile Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.  She last hiked it at the age of 76.

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