The compulsion to walk yet another Camino de Santiago trail draws Susan Alcorn to the north coast of Spain. In Healing Miles, her vision is hiking through lively cosmopolitan cities and remote hilltop villages, pausing to sample delectable pintxos in coastal San Sebastian and sip sidra (hard cider) on Oviedo’s trendy Calle Gascona. She finds that and more. There is the challenge of walking many miles each day, but there is also time to gaze out upon long stretches of sandy beaches, witness the ocean’s moods as it blasts seawater up through blowholes, and look out from mountain paths across valleys blanketed with fog. Layover and shorter days provide opportunities to visit museums, Neolithic cave paintings, and cathedrals.
And throughout, there are rich experiences with others—bonding with new people, sharing news with friends at home, listening to local bands, and happening upon colorful festivals. Yet, she also sees that life goes on—no matter how much you want to do something, your body may protest, and no matter how remote the journey seems, news may arrive from home that a family member needs more care—stressing you to your utmost limits.
At 74, Susan Alcorn sets out to hike across Spain on two lesser-known, and more difficult, Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trails—the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. This is not an easy venture, no matter what your age. Though not everyone has the time or inclination to walk seven-hundred miles across Spain as she and her husband did, all can appreciate the struggles and joys of walking the Camino Norte route along the Bay of Biscay, and of both the Norte and Primitivo Camino routes as they cross the mountains to arrive in Santiago de Compostela.
Those contemplating walking either of these trails will enjoy the substantial section of practical information. They will learn how to plan and pack for such an adventure, the pros and cons of albergue life, and what to expect in the way of weather, terrain, and trail signage.
Throughout Healing Miles you’ll find a larger story—one that’s certain to be familiar to many—aging. The author must confront the issues of her own not-so-young body and her mother’s decline. Doing so is not an easy task, but with her own determination and the gifts from others as well as from the trail itself—she does so.
Order online or ask your favorite local bookseller to order it from Ingram ISBN 9780936934065 or Mountain N’ Air Books. Available on Kindle as well as hardcopy. Contact us if you want a signed copy backpack45 at yahoo.com
Reviews of Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo
A valuable read for anyone interested in walking these lesser known routes to Santiago de Compostela. Susan writes a much needed travel guide for these two challenging Caminos, but she gives us much more than just the usual descriptions of time, distance and places to see. By carefully crafting her reflections, journal entries and emails, she weaves for us her story, one that could very well be our own, about the joys, challenges and hardships encountered through these beautiful and mountainous regions of Spain.
Emilio Escudero, a fellow Pilgrim
In Healing Miles, noted author and long distance hiker, Susan Alcorn, has brought together a powerful personal story of her 700-mile journey across Spain, as well as the “how to” knowledge of an accomplished long distance hiker. Her luminous prose bring the sights and experiences of these two Camino routes into vivid focus and left me ready to hike them both!
“Our wide dirt trail led to the Mirador de Letizia where we looked across to Tineo’s hillside apartments—painted in lovely muted tones of blue, rose, green, and mustard. The sunlight breaking through the high clouds warmed the red rooftops. The city seemed to be floating on one finger of land….”
With the need to care for a loved one while on trail, her personal loss and injuries, Susan’s hike was not an easy one. But the magic of unexpected goodness on trail, and the day in day out peace of living on the road, make for a journey that anyone would want to follow. While this is a must read for Pilgrims contemplating a walk of the Norte or Primitivo, her advice and notes on tramping in Spain and ultra light backpacking and gear, are so thorough and practical as to make this a very useful book for anyone considering walking the many Camino paths.
Scott “Shroomer” Williams, thru hiker of the American Triple Crown, (Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trails) and the Camino Francés. Lecturer on long distance hiking and overuse injuries.
“My husband Ralph calls what we do, hike long trails, obsessive behavior; I call it an addiction,” says the author, only partly in jest, in this story of one such journey. Woven together are pieces from a resilient traveler’s journal as she and her husband pursue these ancient trails, stories that develop as they pass along the way, and unexpected tugs from home. The author’s many gifts from friends, family, and the trail itself enrich her experience and support her through the challenges.