Dear Christine and Renee.

Unlike the narrative in this post, today was a very long day. Over 7 walking hours, 17 miles, and 36,000 steps. This included a climb of over 1000 feet to Alto del Perdon where life-size metal cut outs of pilgrims on the Camino provide one of the iconic photo opportunities for pilgrims.


In the background are wind generators taking advantage of the elevation and constant winds aloft.

Britton was real trooper and never missed a step. Along the way we made the acquaintance of two young lady pilgrims from the United States, one (Chelsea who works in the field of social justice) from New York

and the other (Lexie, an art teacher) from California.

We later happened upon them and a group of pilgrims that assembled spontaneously for dinner. It was wonderful!

Our entourage included pilgrims from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and the States. Camille from France has already been walking for 43 days and started in Le Poy France. She is introspectively trying to find the next stage of her life. She was seated next me a table and in the course of discussions with the group it emerged that she is a young lawyer who specializes in mediation!. We have exchanged contact information and perhaps more discussions will follow along the way.

Our ages extended from Britton’s 15 years to my 72. Our nations of origin differed as did our non-Camino lives, and yet there seem to be no distinctions among us a table. The spirit of the Camino and its “magic” were fully present.

It is late and a Saturday night. The streets outside of our second-story window are alive with the sound of revelers which may impact upon sleep…


…but not my satisfaction with the day. Pictures follow below.

Love to both of you. Peace. Dad

Early morning departure from Pamplona
The interior of an old church we visited. Each square on the wood floor is a crypt containing a buried religious.
It’s Saturday. Flea market time!
The climb begins 
Looking back upon Pamplona 
The ruins of an ancient monastery
Shortly after this picture was taken the horse “let go“. The young lady had to dismount and clean up the mess, just like with dogs on a leash. 
A church and a small community halfway to the top where pilgrims are gathered. 
We near Alto del Perdon.
Looking west into the distance, the horizon is where our day ends. 
Britain begins the descent 
A shrine to Mary along the way. 
Having completed our descent, we look back up upon Alto del Perdon.
Another church.
The street where our hostel is located 

Dear Christine and Renee.

FINALLY I have the bandwidth to upload pictures! We arrived in Pamplona this morning after a relatively short walk. Here is the recap of our last few days:

June 12th. We left the Monastery at Roncesvalles walking in a continuation of the cold, rain, and fog we “enjoyed” the previous two days. Into the morning the sky began to clear and the sun made its presence and warmth intermittently known. It was a good hike, mostly downhill into Zubiri. In the interest of brevity and an economy of time I will caption pictures where appropriate.

Leaving Roncesvalles
The original 12th century church at Roncesvalles
The iconic picture EVERYONE poses for.
The second food truck we have encountered
A monument to a pilgrim who died on the Camino
A happy Britton

June 13th. Pursuing a recommendation from our UK friend, Kate Hacket, we decided to stop short of a full hiking stage which would have taken us to Pamplona. The detour took us to the ancient church (1100’s) of San Esteban, and the Albergue Zabaldika which is run by Sisters of the Sacred Heart. There is only room for 12, and it is first come first served, no reservations permitted. We were a bit concerned that there would be “no room at the inn”. Our luck held and there were only 8, including us.

There is no “price” as the Sisters offer their hospitality, which includes spotless dormitory accommodations, dinner, a moving prayer/contemplation service, and breakfast in return for a donation. Only the hardest heart or thinnest purse would be less than generous. Oh yes, we also got to climb the church tower and ring one of the oldest bells on the Camino. This was a marvelous experience for Britton and me. I miss the friends that we met and the kindness of the Sisters who cared for us. The prayer service was especially emotional as a dear friend of a German Peregrino had died earlier that day. Again, pictures follow:

Leaving Zubiri
A 13th century church
A group of American students on a 3 week (non-Camino) trip
A rural village and cafe
San Esteban Church and the adjacent Zabaldika Alberge
Climbing the bell tower
Britton rings the bell

Today, June 14th. The sun was shining and for the first time for us on this journey the thermometer topped 80°. (of course that’s Fahrenheit!) We had an easy walk into Pamplona, a city of over 200,000, known for its association with Ernest Hemingway and the Running of the Bulls. A couple of miles of our hike less pleasantly passed through an industrial area and suburbs before reaching the old city center. Britton voiced, “l miss the countryside!”

Breakfast at Zabaldika
Pamplona in the distance
We have entered the outskirts of Pamplona

Britton (and I!) were ready for some privacy in our sleeping and bathroom accommodations. I looked for room availability in any nearby small pension or simple hotel, but struck out as they were all booked. It’s Friday. We adjourned to a small outdoor café to consider our options. The café was located in front of a four-star hotel and I thought, “What the heck, there’s no harm in checking.” They had a room in the price at €110 was not unreasonable for the city center.

Our own PRIVATE bathroom

It is courtesy of their excellent Wi-Fi that I am able to present this post and pictures. I also was able to reserve bookings for the next three nights which alleviates some stress. In the rural areas a private room for the two of us is about €50, including breakfast. These pictures from today include an afternoon visit to the Cathedral and Plaza del Castillo:

Pamplona Cathedral
Archaeological Excavations beneath the Cathedral. 2000 year old Roman artifacts 
The Plaza del Castillo

Ours is an evolving experience. It has occurred to me that I am a participant in two Caminos: One Camino takes us on foot to Santiago, the other “Camino” molds an enduring relationship between a grandfather and a grandson. Like a picture frame that draws the eye and brings focus to the painting it holds, the Camino de Santiago frames what is the more important journey for me, my time with Britton.

Love to you both, Peace and… Buen Camino. Dad.

Written at Pamplona, the 14th of June.

Dear Christine and Renee’.

We were up and out of the refuge at Orisson by 8:00 AM. 7 AM breakfast was disappointingly thin and consisted only of French bread, butter, and jelly. There was hot coffee and orange juice.

Britton on the road, first steps 
There were moments when the fog cleared. 

I had purchased sandwiches for us to carry along the way, ham and cheese on baguette. They were a lifesaver and did a great job of staving off hunger when we ate them around noon.

Much of the time today was like walking in the middle of a ping-pong ball. White out conditions. We could barely see 100 feet in any direction. It was cold, wet, with alternating rain and drizzle… and it was also wonderful!

A French gentleman walked with us much of the day. He speaks very little English. Britton and he conversed in French and Britton provided translation for me. He really cast his shyness aside.

The elevation increase (2100 feet) was greater than what we experienced yesterday, but spread over a much longer distance. Britton felt today was the more difficult of the two days and I felt yesterday was more challenging.

Today was a day to make friends and spend the hike with new companions. I will identify some of the pilgrims in the photographs.

Britton and I with a Saya (sp) from Romania and Jell (sp) from France.
Our group here includes Pierre from Sweden, Lana, Abbey, and Erica, from the States. we are at the border between France and Spain. 

One surprise was a food truck in the middle of “nowhere”. Sodas, sandwiches, candy bars, and best of all homemade cheese made for a delightful pause in the hike.

Food truck!
Our host, a true Camino angel. 
Our group enjoying snacks at the food truck. 

Britton has frequently vocalized how much he is enjoying this experience. He is blown away by the beauty and the variety of people that we are meeting. He is already planning to walk another Camino and take his friends along, him as their guide!

There were places where the mud was ankle deep and given the area livestock, of questionable composition. One of our companions, Lana from Washington, was wearing Crocs!

Arrival at the monastery. 

We will eat dinner at the monastery tonight at 7 with mass following at 8 PM. I have also arranged to take breakfast here before we “hit the road“ early in the morning.

Britton gets top bunk (again).
I looked down the hall on our side of the first floor dormitory. 

I am sorry if this post seems a little “scattered“, but I am trying to get it uploaded before dinner, Mass, and lights out.

Love to you both. Peace, Dad.

Written at the Monastery at Roncesvalles, Spain, June 11, 2024.

The Long And Winding Road. 
Britton finds a small friend. 
More “friends”, but the bull did not look so friendly. We did our best to walk around him. 
There were moments when the vistas were spectacular. 
The border between France and Spain. 
This is an emergency shelter, which has a fireplace, two beds, and emergency phone. 
Dear Christine and Renee.

I am writing this the Sunday before Britton and I depart for our trek across Spain. I have timed it so that you will be reading it sometime while we are flying over the Atlantic. I find my thoughts drawn to each of you, and of course to him. There are others, the loving hands that reach through to give me strength and a nurturing spirit. I am consciously coming to grips with the responsibility of watching over and caring for one of the dearest treasures that life has given you as Mother and Grandmother.

We are not “islands”, disconnected from the line of our ancestors. We are the product of genetics which determines our height, eye color, hair color… and those other things which decide what we look like. To an extent, genetics also determines personality, but here we have some self-determination. I have never learned to overcome my wanderlust, but I have chosen to embrace my emotions. I willingly recognize the “female” side of my humanness.

I feel the touch of my Mother and my Grandmother.

I sense the touch of Christine upon you Renee,

…My touch upon you…

…And your touch upon Britton.

We are not isolated islands, but an endless archipelago, a family chain of individuals linked by the love and caring of preceding generations.

There has been much said about what an extraordinary experience I am providing to Britton. However, in giving a measure I am receiving back a greater measure. (Luke 6:38)

Please understand that each of you, in trusting, have given me and him this gift.
Thank you. Peace, Dad.

PS. June 6, over the Atlantic. Three of us are having a really nice flight. Britton, me, and my bag. Unfortunately, Britton’s bag decided to spend an extra day in Atlanta. Hopefully it will catch up to us tomorrow. 

Britton and his Great Grandfather, William “Bill” Nichols (1918-2020).

Written in Kansas City, May 19, 2024.

In 2022, with only 18 days to my departure to walk the Portuguese Coastal route of the Camino de Santiago, my 3rd journey on the Camino, I mused in a post, “Is it an Adventure?” . I concluded that “Adventures are things typically out of the ordinary. They present aspects of risk, challenge, and uncertainty.” Adventures are defined by the abilities of the participant. A walk to the mailbox is hardly an adventure for most people, but the term certainly qualified in the context of my 100+ year old father-in-law, may he rest in peace.

Again, I find myself looking to the future with 18 days to departure for my 4th Camino and I am confronted with the same question. At 500+ miles this is a longer Camino, I will be gone 6 weeks, and I will be accompanied by and responsible for Britton, my 15-year-old grandson. In my mind each of those factors qualifies this as an “adventure”.

However, l am not a stranger to long trips in Spain, this will be my 4th journey on the Camino, and Britton is a kind, thoughtful and delightful companion. Yes, it will be an interpersonal “adventure” for both of us, but…

What makes the coming journey really an adventure is a difficulty that is of fairly recent origin. About 6 months ago I began experiencing discomfort and stiffness upon waking in the morning. It was across my lower back and radiated down my right leg. Tylenol, and 30 minutes of yoga/stretching and I was good for the day.

Unfortunately, the problem has persisted and increased to the point that a couple of weeks ago I sought out a chiropractor that accepted Medicare. A few adjustments coupled with therapeutic massage sessions have been helpful, but no cure.

Last week I visited an orthopedic surgeon and the University of Kansas Medical Center. “I wish you had given me more than 3 weeks!” was his initial remark. (You and me both!)

He and previously the Chiropractor gave me a list of descriptors to describe the pain. 8-9 on a scale of 10 upon rising out of bed… burning, aching, stabbing, throbbing… “Yep, that pretty much describes it.” says I. X-rays were ordered and the results not encouraging:

Severe degenerative disc disease with mild retrolisthesis at L5-S1. No instability between flexion and extension. Severe lower lumbar facet arthropathy.

The doctor recommended that I continue working with the Chiropractor and Massage Therapist, continue the stretching/yoga, and he prescribed a much stronger NSAID to replace the Ibuprofen and Tylenol that I had been using. He also prescribed a course of oral steroids to reduce inflammation. We are scheduled to meet again the morning after I return from Spain.

In the meantime, once I loosen up the pain is down to a “3” and manageable. Walking is actually good for this condition. Whether or not this much walking is “therapeutic” remains to be seen.

Yes, this will be an adventure. I may arrange periodic transport of my pack and perhaps resort to the occasional transport of my person. But it will definitely be an adventure in ways that I wish it were not.

Hell, aging is an adventure, and as I am learning not for the faint of heart.

Peace Everyone, and Buen Camino! Pete