Camino resident Judy Collins has a goal: to hike 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago from southern France over the Pyrenees mountains into Spain.
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“I saw ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen last year and it inspired me to do the Camino de Santiago,” said Collins, 69. “I will be hiking by myself, but it’s very well traveled and secure. I’m hoping to meet a lot of nice people.”
Collins is no stranger to long walks. She’s been hiking for about 25 years and has hiked about 800 miles of the Pacific Crest trail. She is a retired sales representative who moved to El Dorado County 12 years ago and she volunteers her summers at the Carson Pass Ranger Station.
The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) has been in existence more than a thousand years and is a major pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where the remains of St. James the apostle were reputedly buried. It has been used continuously, particularly during the Middle Ages when pilgrimages were often used as penance. In 2012, 192,488 pilgrims followed the Camino de Santiago.
Collins has been preparing to do the hike since January.
“I walk just about every day, starting before sunrise with a 30 pound pack on my back,” said Collins. “I plan to average about 15 miles a day for 35 days.”
She’s experimented with different shoes in different sizes and with techniques to avoid blisters.
“I’ll take a pair of hiking shoes and a pair of tennis shoes,” said Collins. “If my feet hold up, I’ll be OK. A guy who used to be in Special Forces told me they use tincture of benzoin on their feet for about two weeks before long hikes to prevent blisters, so I’m trying that.
“The Camino de Santiago is supposed to be very scenic, with many historical sites like cathedrals along the path. The Knights Templar used to protect the pilgrims along the way, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
She plans to stay in hostels that have long been set up along the way for weary pilgrims.
Collins will likely sport a scallop shell on her backpack and receive a “compostela”— a certification of accomplishment given to pilgrims — when she reaches the cathedral in Spain. Scallop shells are the traditional symbol for pilgrims who wore them as identification so that bandits would not attack them and so they could seek shelter in the churches along the way.
Collins leaves for her adventure on April 23, flying into Madrid and then taking a train to France to begin the hike. She will fly back to Madrid at the end of the hike and plans to be home on June 10.