Take your first steps toward the Camino de Santiago in Breckenridge
If you go
What: First steps toward the Camino de Santiago, an introduction
When: 5 p.m. Thursday, April 23
Where: Yellow Arrow Coffee, 103 S. Harris St., Breckenridge
More information: Visit yellowarrowcoffee.com
Coming soon …
In early June, Yellow Arrow Coffee and the Speakeasy Movie Theatre, both located in the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center on Harris Street in Breckenridge, will host a special event with Annie O’Neil, co-producer of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.” The documentary film follows the paths of six very different pilgrims, including O’Neil, from six different countries, each tackling the route from a different perspective. Follow the Speakeasy Movie Theatre on Facebook for updates.
“It seems like a big thing, this walk to Santiago. And it is, a huge thing. But as I learned step by step on the camino, it can only be taken one day at a time. So in this first stage, or etapa, of my journey in relaying this story to you, I start with a typical day in the life of a pilgrim.”
So begins one of many blog posts capturing the highs and lows, the occasional tears and the swells of gratitude felt by Gwen Edwards, owner of Yellow Arrow Coffee in Breckenridge, as she traversed the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, a journey of hundreds of miles across Spain. Together with Breckenridge residents Randy Huebner and Sharon Trumbore, Edwards will lead a brief presentation and question-and-answer session about the trio’s experiences on Thursday, April 23, at the coffee shop.
“I’ve had a lot of people come in and have either hiked the camino before or are interested in doing it,” Edwards said. “They’ve come in to introduce themselves to me and want to talk about it. I thought it would fun to have a more formal gathering so people can meet each other, and if there’s enough interest, I’m hoping it will turn into a more regular group.
“Walking the Camino was life changing for me, so if I can share that in any way, that would make me happy.”
A single pilgrim
Edwards’ personal pilgrimage covered more than 40 days during July and August of last year, and her chosen path across Spain was the northern route, the camino del norte.
“I was kind of in this place in my life where I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I wanted to do with my life, so it was a good time for me to do it,” Edwards said. “I’d been wanting to do it for a long time.”
The pilgrimage can follow any number of paths, with all roads leading to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, where, tradition says, the remains of St. James are buried. The level of difficulty of the walk depends on which route is chosen.
“That’s what we’re going to talk about a lot on Thursday,” Edwards said. “I took a route that is less traveled. There’s a main route called the Camino Frances. The way I went was along the coast, and it’s pretty mountainous and pretty difficult, but the French route, there are parts of it that are pretty difficult, but for the most part, you’re walking on flat terrain. It’s a mix of trails and pavement and beach and mountains.”
Each trail has been traveled millions of times over a span of hundreds of years, Edwards said, and each traveler has a different reason for stepping onto the path.
“For a lot of people, it’s definitely a spiritual journey, so I think it appeals to people,” she said. “It’s more than just a vacation. It’s a way to sort things out, maybe, because we all deal with different things. There’s definitely something very spiritually powerful about it that people are drawn to.”
A pair of pilgrims
Huebner and Trumbore traveled the main route, the Camino Frances, completing their journey in 34 days last September and October. Trumbore said her interest in the Camino de Santiago began with an heirloom from her mother.
“She passed away about 12 years ago, and I inherited her button box,” she said. “In that button tin were three buttons shaped like the shell on the camino.”
Scalloped shells — along with yellow arrows, the namesake of Edwards’ coffee shop — are used to guide travelers along the camino. Trumbore’s mother had been to France and knew the significance of the shells, and Trumbore was inspired by the gold buttons to plan her own trek across Spain.
After watching the Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez movie “The Way” more than a dozen times, Trumbore met Huebner and invited him along on the journey. The two spent months planning their trip and researching the course.
“Sometimes, you don’t know what your reason is, you just feel drawn to do it,” Trumbore said. “We weren’t sure, either, why we were doing it, except that we were really excited about going there. It was unbelievably exciting; it totally consumed us for months. And as you’re walking along, something clicks and you know why you’re there.”
After a few days on the trail, Huebner and Trumbore discovered that most people were there to work out problems or to seek a spiritual connection, but the couple’s revelation was something different.
“We found that as we were hiking, our pilgrimage turned out to be one of gratitude,” Trumbore said. “We were very grateful for our health, for the ability to do it together at this time in our life. We were so grateful for so many things.
“Myself personally, I didn’t realize what it was. In the beginning, I had a strange feeling in my throat for a couple of days. It was a feeling of emotion, and once we started talking about it, both of us had this overwhelming feeling of gratitude.”
Passing it on
Taking the first steps toward a Camino de Santiago journey can be intimidating, but Trumbore said you don’t have to be a super athlete to tackle it. The event Thursday at Yellow Arrow is a way for the trio to share their experiences and to provide support and encouragement to those who are contemplating their own trips.
“It helps people get to know themselves because you are on this journey by yourself or maybe with a significant other,” Trumbore said. “It’s a wonderful experience because it shows you that there’s so much good and kindness and positivity in spite of what you hear on the news.”
“My perspective on life changed a lot when I did it, and I want to share that with other people,” Edwards said.
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