WINTHROPBy Ashley Lodato

Among the many adventures had by Methow Valley families this past summer is the DeLong family’s journey on the Camino de Santiago – a medieval pilgrimage route that took them on an 800-kilometer walking tour from the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Fifth-grader Ian and ninth-grader Taya, along with their mom, Allison, walked the entire route beginning on June 1; they were joined mid-way through their trip by their dad, Pete.

Initially their trip was plagued by minor setbacks – flight delays, pilgrimage route closures – but once the DeLongs really got going, it was the adventure of a lifetime. Taya kept a blog during the trip (kidsonthecamino.blogspot) and early entries report excitement about things like eating french fries in France and getting sock tans, while later entries begin to describe the many interesting people they met along their journey, as well as some of the history of the route and the places it encompasses.

Those making the pilgrimage apparently get up and get walking pretty early in the morning and Taya reports that the members of her party were often the last ones out the door of the hostels they stayed in along the way, even if they were starting at 7 or 7:30 a.m. Taya liked walking in the dark, so was happy when everyone in her family woke up early enough to get a pre-dawn start.

The route is varied, with some sections following hot, dry farmlands (which Taya describes as “everyone-walking-around-in-underwear hot”) and other sections going right through the heart of big cities. In Pamplona, for example, the family covered five kilometers crossing roads, dodging bikes and cars, and waiting at stoplights.

After 39 days the family entered the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – the official end of the journey – and participated in the mass that is held at noon each day for pilgrims finishing the route. The moment was very emotional, as the pilgrims digested the fact that they had truly completed a monumental journey. Says Taya, “that was a perfect moment, gazing up at the cathedral, so close to tears, so sad, but so so happy. I just stood there, soaking it up, before we moved on.”

The family got an unexpected treat upon exiting the cathedral. Through a secret source, they learned that a particular parador (beautiful old buildings such as castles and monasteries in Spain that have been turned into fancy hotels) gives a free dinner to 10 Camino pilgrims each day. The DeLongs joined six other pilgrims and managed to secure the 10 spots and enjoyed a delicious, plentiful, and free dinner of soup, pasta, bread and fruit.

The DeLongs are planning a slide show to share the story of their walk on the Camino. Stay tuned for details.