Why go on pilgrimage?


In recent weeks I’ve been asked a few times, “Why are you doing this?” or more pointedly, “What’s the point?”.  The answer, of course, isn’t that simple.  I’ve used a few of the standard reasons such as it’s a journey for my faith,  for adventure, or for my health, but these don’t get to the root of the issue, the raison d’être, so to speak for why I would spend months in preparation and a large amount of money and time on something that’s rather vague and slippery such as a pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage is something out of the middle ages that people did to earn Catholic points.  That’s the old explanation anyway.   No one could possibly want to do that!  Of course they would, but for me, it’s something that I have to do.

Years ago I was thumbing through a magazine, and I saw a picture of Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico from an aerial perspective.  From that minute forward I had to go, and no number of hindrances and barriers would stop me.  I drove to New Mexico, but my car broke down as I was nearing Albuquerque.  I didn’t make it that time.  A year or two later, a friend and I decided to go, and midway through the road trip, he decided he had enough and wanted to go home.  I learned a lesson from that; only go on a spiritual quest with someone who shares a passion for the destination, or at least doesn’t have the keys to the vehicle!  Finally, on a third attempt, I made it to Chaco Canyon with my young family, and it was the experience of a lifetime, walking through those old rock halls and rooms, hearing dusty echoes from a long forgotten people.

My pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, and, more specifically, to the tomb of St. James, is very similar.  I watched the movie, “The Way”, and from that point on, I have had to go.  I cannot find words adequate to describe why I want to go.  Yes, it’s a Catholic pilgrimage, and since I am Catholic it means a great deal to walk in the path of my spiritual ancestors and to walk with fellow Catholics I will meet along the way.  It is also a challenge for me as I age and find new health challenges.  Hiking is my passion.  It is also a way for me to spend quality time with my middle son, Dylan.  I will be able to use the bit of Spanish I have studied over all these years.  All of those things qualify as reasons, but the main reason is I am going because I have to go.

I simply must go, and be there, and experience it, or it would be one of those things that I would always regret.  Of course, that’s not an easy answer that people can digest, so when asked, I will probably just trail off, with some inadequate nonsense about it being “part of my faith” as my eyes grow distant looking at the horizon.


Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More Camino Preparation


The days are going by too quickly now, and I feel I don’t have enough time to get everything ready.  I have made some strides though.  I have starting training walks with the full backpack.  Yes, I look like an odd duck at the local park with my full backpack while everyone else is in shorts and tank tops, but it will hopefully pay dividends.  I’ve found a small bag to place my important documents in.  This will enable me to leave my backpack at the hostels while exploring the towns I plan to stop in.  I had a heck of a time finding sleeping bag liners.  Apparently camping stores in Texas do not believe you need those.  Finally, had to order one off the internet, and I hope it will arrive in time.  Tonight, I will do another mid range training walk with the backpack, and I will also print train tickets and a host of other documents that will be needed for my hotels, flights, etc…  I don’t remember feeling this nervous for any trip before, but I worry because I’m afraid I’ll fail to deliver for my son.  I want this to be an experience of a lifetime for him, something he will cherish.

More preparation for the Camino de Santiago

My idea of getting ready for the Camino de Santiago is to read “The Sun Also Rises” by Hemingway.  I have a vague idea of things to put in my backpack.  I’ve bought some of the train tickets I’ll need, and booked a hotel in Pamplona and Madrid.  I know there’s a bus that goes to Pamplona, but I’m still not sure how to get to St. Jean Pied de Port.  There’s a saying, “The Camino will provide”.  Maybe I’m waiting for some of that Camino magic to happen.  I thought about getting a blessing from my priest.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Yet the Hemingway seems good preparation.  I will know about the Running of the Bulls and the Festival de San Fermin from an eyewitness who saw it nearly 90 years ago.  Surely it hasn’t changed much.    I have been on some training walks, but not nearly enough.  The Camino will provide.  The Camino will provide.  Say this three times and click my custom Merrills’ heels and hope.

Fort Worth Nature Center – Cross Timbers Trail


After a long hiatus, the Cross Timbers Trail at the Fort Worth Nature Center recently reopened.   This is the only trail I have not been able to walk at the Nature Center, so I was excited to finally get a chance this past Saturday.  To make it twice as good, and because I needed the extra mileage, I decided to walk the trail twice on the same day.  The trail did not disappoint.

The trail is roughly 3.4 miles and starts at a causeway intersecting the Trinity River and marshland to the south along the River Bottom Trail.  There is a small parking lot here where you can start the walk.  The causeway was the reason the trail had been closed since last summer.  It was facing imminent collapse, and the center was afraid to allow people on it.   They’ve fixed that now, and it’s fantastic.

The first thing I noticed as I started on the causeway were various egrets and heron to the left in the marshland.   I stopped to snap a few photos and then realized that a group of kayakers were  paddling beside me on the river.   It brought back memories as it was last summer my son and I decided to take the kayak tour.

Walking along the causeway for probably half a mile, I had good views of the Trinity.  The marshland eventually changes into dense cross timbers type forest.  For those not familiar with cross timbers forest, it was the predominant type of forest in central Texas prior to settler days.  The settlers preferred not to cross this type of forest because it was so thick with trees, brush, and undergrowth as well as quicksand in some areas.   In addition there are trees in various states of falling down and rotting.  In fact I heard one large tree cracking in the wind and it was not comfortable being out there with it.  Luckily I had a path to follow.

An example of cross timbers forest.

An example of cross timbers forest.

Eventually, the trail turned away from the river and headed into the forest.  I walked for another quarter of mile before hitting the trail loop.  The main things I noticed at this point were the large number of yellow tiger butterflies.  Then I noticed a type I had not seen that was blue and black.  I believe it might be a spice bush swallowtail.

Spicebush swallowtail at the Fort Worth Nature Center, June 7th, 2014.

Spicebush swallowtail at the Fort Worth Nature Center, June 7th, 2014.

The loop is a nice sized loop of roughly two miles.   I first walked it counter-clockwise and then clockwise.  On the second time around, I spotted a small herd of deer who quickly darted out of camera shot.  Further along, I caught up with one of them who stood on the trail before me as if posing for a photo shoot.

Deer on Trail

After finishing the loop the second time I headed back the causeway.  The kayakers were gone, and I was able to maintain a level of quiet.  I only saw two groups of hikers the entire time I was on this trail.  I think a lot of people aren’t aware it has reopened, so that worked to my advantage.

Turtles, Fort Worth Nature Center, June 7th 2014.

Turtles, Fort Worth Nature Center, June 7th 2014.

I also encountered standing cypress, which is a plant I was not familiar with, and I saw plenty of yellow cactus.  In addition I got a good picture of a cattle egret resting on a branch.

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Near the end of the causeway near the parking lot, I came upon this deer walking among cattle egrets.  It was a brilliant photo-op, so I took lots of pictures.

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Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



In Training – Camino de Santiago


I finally booked a flight to Spain to walk part of the Camino de Santiago.  I can’t walk the whole thing, because I only have two weeks, but I plan to do a significant portion.  My son and I will be going over in mid July and will also happen to be in Pamplona for the San Fermin festival, which includes the running of the bulls.

So I have been in training the last week and a half.  I have to get my mileage back up.  Last year, my longest walk was twenty-six miles.  Today I managed to do seven, and it wore me out.  Granted, I was at Eagle Mountain Park, which has a lot of hills.  It was more like hiking and less like a nice country stroll.

Yesterday I also found out that I have a rare condition called PCD, or Primary Ciliary Dyskinisia.  It is a progressive lung and airway disorder.  Basically the cilia that cells use to move around don’t function quite right in my airway, so I have a difficult time clearing mucus.  It causes a lot of issues with sinuses, breathing and hearing.   It’s funny how a diagnosis can change your entire perspective on things.  I remember blaming myself for losing my hearing in my right ear, thinking that I had not done enough to take care of myself.  In fact, it wasn’t me at all.  It was this disease, which is relentless and will not allow the middle ear to function as it should.  I also felt like maybe I seemed a bit soft with all my sinus and breathing issues.  Last fall, I went into a sedentary lifestyle.  I blamed myself for not exercising enough.  I gained a lot of weight and didn’t want to do anything but sit in my recliner.  It wasn’t me!  It was this disease which robs you of energy and makes you feel like crap all the time.  Now I know what I am up against and I am going to fight it all the way.  I’m supposed to get nebulizer treatments in the next few weeks, so hopefully I can continue to improve my training and add mileage.   I will be ready, PCD or not.