After days of walking across the flat Meseta, I was excited for the climb today to the highest point on the Camino Frances at 1515 meters (about 4,970 feet) above sea level. A thick blanket of clouds hung over the mountains this morning, obscuring any broad views of my surroundings. Fog danced and spun in the valleys ahead of me, shifting with the wind.
I started to curse myself a bit for not walking further yesterday to take advantage of the clear sky. But instead I shifted my focus to my close surroundings, appreciating the beauty I found there.
Withered leaves clung to the oak trees. A mat of lichens held fast to their trunks.
Tiny webs encircled a purple flowering shrub, and a few diminutive wild flowers poked from the ground.
My first stop was the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) that sits near the top of the Monte Irago. It is a small cross attached to a large wooden pole, circled by a mound of stones, left by pilgrims over the years. Typically, you bring a rock from home, but since I haven’t been home in ten months, I brought a rock that Alex gave me from the banks of the river next to Fairy Falls in New Zealand.
I climbed to the top of the mound and placed my rock there, leaving behind other spiritual burdens as well.
I had purchased a small stone decorated by a local artist in the tienda in Rabanal del Camino the night before. That stone represents the lessons I have learned (and continue to the learn) on this journey. I will carry that stone and what it represents forward.
After reaching the high point just past the Cruz de Ferro, it’s down, down, down to the valley below. I was worried that my knees would give me trouble, but with the help of my poles, they carried me without complaint.
The clouds broke into layers as I descended the mountain. A few hung over the peaks behind me; another thick layer blanketed the valley below. But it was blue sky above me.
As I neared the bottom of my descent, the sun was shining brightly and wildflowers blanketed the sides of the trail.
It felt as if I had just walked out of winter and into spring.
Today I walked 21 miles.