If you are in Yellowstone National Park and want to travel to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, I suggest an overnight stop in Cody, Wyoming. Buffalo Bill’s hometown has everything you could wish for in an authentic Western town including American Indians, cowboys, horses, and rodeos. Cody was my hands-down favorite stop outside the National Parks on a 14 day trip from Seattle to South Dakota.
To drive from East Yellowstone to Cody take the Scenic Byway of Highway 20 through the Wapiti Valley. President Theodore Roosevelt called this stretch of highway the “fifty most beautiful miles in America” and I concur.
We drove this route a few years ago and the views and sights never end. At one point we saw about 50 wild horses running as a pack in a field about 20 feet from our vehicle. This drive is definitely a white knuckles type of journey because you are way up on a mountain pass and the drop down to the river is very deep. I would not do it again but am forever grateful that we experienced this special place.
As a mom and lover of all things National Parks, I am happy to say that I took my child and parents to Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota. I guess we will be heading back there soon because I want to see the Dignity statue as soon as possible.
South Dakota has 6 National Parks but is so vast it can take all day to drive across. We only visited a few places in the Rapid City area which I will write about in future blogs.
The purpose of this current blog is two-fold:
1. I just wanted to congratulate Dale Lamphere for designing and constructing the incredible statue named Dignityin Chamberlain, South Dakota. The 50-foot stainless steel statue depicts a native American woman dressed in pioneer clothing and holding a quilt over her shoulders. The quilt contains a star, an important symbol to the Lakota and Dakota cultures which is equated with honor. This statue honors the Native Americans who hail from that area of South Dakota. This beautiful statue symbolizes pride, strength, and durability of the native cultures. It was dedicated to all the people of South Dakota in 2016. I definitely want to visit Dignity someday.
2. I started a National Park Planning and Logistics Group on Facebook and I would love if you could join in. This small group is being formed so members can post suggestions on how to plan a trip to our majestic National Parks and how to save money while doing it. The group is comprised of people who share a passion for travel to our parks and those who are in the planning stages and want to ask questions or voice concerns.
Here is the link and I hope you will join in if you are on Facebook:
After a long, peaceful week on the Camino we felt part of the Camino family. We knew what we were supposed to do and say to everyone, and most importantly what to expect each day. Get up, walk, eat and rest, nothing more, nothing less.
Once we arrived in Sarria, Spain the atmosphere quickly changed and the peaceful calm of the previous trail was gone. There were pilgrims everywhere and they looked clean and energized with their sparkling new clothes and equipment. Sarria, Spain is the starting points for most pilgrims walking the Camino because the final 100 kilometers it is the least distance you can walk and still qualify for a Compestela once you arrive in Santiago. It was exciting to see so many new faces and groups but I was a little melancholy that the experience as I had known it, was over.
We stayed in a new albergue called Albergue Puente Ribeira in Sarria, right on the canal that runs through the Camino area. We loved our albergue because it was near all the action including a street fair and many restaurants. Puente Ribeira is super clean, modern and had several washers and dryers so we were able to sanitize our disgusting clothes and towels. Here is the website and I do absolutely recommend this place.
My clothes were falling off me because I lost weight from the heat and longs hikes so we stop by the local Rhodani Sports Store and bought new trail pants and shirts. Yea! The store was well stocked and the prices were similar to REI or Dicks in the US but they did not have a lot or any XL women clothes so I bought men’s clothes. Here’s the website:
We enjoyed some seafood and rice at one of the many cafes along the canal and then retired to our much-loved room to prepare for the final 100 kilometers of our Camino.
The next morning, we departed our albergue and jumped right back on the Camino which was located behind our albergue. All the additional pilgrims ensured the peacefulness and serenity of our prior days had disappeared, but it wasn’t unexpected. We had been warned the most people start their Camino in Sarria and it was true.
We wandered through beautiful hills, forest, and some older farming villages. We peeked into some of the open barns to gaze at enormous cows and enjoyed listening to the roosters trying to wake everyone up. Although the Camino had now changed for us it was still a simple place.
This day was long but it was relatively flat. After lunch, I swore we had walked at least 30 miles but it was probably only about 15. Today’s endeavor just would not end. Just when I thought I couldn’t go on anymore we approached the River Mino and the Camino trail went over the bridge over the river. Portomarin was our final destination for the day and it was just on the other side of the bridge.
Walking over the bridge was the most frightened I was our entire time in Spain. It was built high above the water and the cars sped by us pilgrims. I thought for sure we were going to get hit and tossed straight down into the River Minho. Looking back at the pictures it doesn’t look so precipitous as I remember but I guarantee you if you are the least bit afraid of heights you will not like anything about this bridge. Funny, but my 12-year-old wasn’t concerned about the terrifying bridge in the least. She was singing along with her music and devoid of any fear. Silly girl.
After timidly crossing the bridge we then faced a steep set of stairs up into Portomarin.
Will we ever finish this ‘easy’ day?? The stairs were a beast but the view the entire up is stunning, so we took our time and just kept climbing. Unfortunately, after climbing the stairs and entering this charming town we discovered this town was built on a steep hill and the main church and our lodging were at the top of this hill. Somehow we made arrived at our Refugio and were happy with our accomplishments.
Portomarin was definitely one of our favorite places. The main plaza has great restaurants where pilgrims congregate to socialize and discuss the day’s events.
I just started a new Facebook Group for those wishing to begin researching, preparing and finding out info for a possible Camino Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage.
This group is not made up of judgemental or experts on the Camino. It is just a group of regular people who want to learn more about the Camino and possibly start planning their Pilgrimage. Those who have walked before are especially welcomed to answer questions.
Please consider joining and contributing your knowledge. Here is the link to copy and paste into your browser:
Just prior to beginning the Camino Santiago (French Route) we observed this wonderful gathering of the local religious population outside the Cathedral de Leon on a beautiful Sunday morning. The plaza is beautiful with lots to see and do.
Here is the official website if you want more info: https://www.catedraldeleon.org
Sorry, my video skills are so poor.
Camino Santiago de Compostela with a soon-to-be teenager.
Today we went on a little horse ride up a mountain trail on the Camino.
Elizabeth was still suffering from a blister on one of her toes, and although we tried all the recommended therapies it was necessary to give her foot a rest so it could heal. We decided to skip hiking for a day and to ride horses along the Camino trail instead.
Our next area to walk was up to the mountain hamlet known as O’Cebreiro in Galicia and I found a horse stable called Al-Paso that caters to Pilgrims. Al-Paso is located directly on the Camino in Herrerias and has twice daily trips up the mountain for about 30 euros each. The manager’s name is Victor, and he was a wealth of information about the horses and the Camino. Elizabeth was the youngest rider but luckily there was another young person about 18 years old for her to chum around with. Our group consisted of about 8 riders, 2 guides and the rest Pilgrims from Italy, New Zealand and the USA.
The horses well-cared care for and were given a lot of attention and love by Victor and his staff. There were a lot of flies swarming around the horses’ heads and they were not wearing fly masks, but the assistant assured me that horses were used to it and it didn’t bother them. Still, I spent a lot of the time swatting the pesky insects off of my poor animal’s head during our ride.
Our group rode straight up the mountain and passed many Pilgrims and runners along the way. The ride was smooth but we moved at a quick enough pass that it was fun and exciting. The farmlands and valley views were spectacular and we both really enjoyed this experience.
We only stopped once so the horses could have a drink from a water trough in the center of a small village about 3/4 of the way up. Once we arrived at the top and dismounted we took some photos and then headed to the center of the ancient but tiny village called O’Cebreiro, where we enjoyed local music, some tapas and liquid refreshments.
O’Cebreiro weather is startlingly different from the other parts of the Camino we had walked in. It had a thick mist surrounding it and was much cooler and comfortable out. There are lots of things to see in a small space which has been described as a hobbit’s hamlet. The round stone buildings with thatched roofs are called pallazas and they appear to be right out of a fairy tale. I bought several tee shirts and the prices were very affordable. This is a cool place to spend an afternoon.
The next few days rushed by and I hardly had time to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Camino way. We completed walking in the Leon Province and then entered the hypnotizing countryside and vineyards of the Galicia Region.
Elizabeth and I were eating, sleeping and most importantly walking together, day after day, with no breaks from each other or the schedule. To pass the time, sometimes we discussed history, politics, how talented she was twirling her walking stick and how difficult middle school was. We took care of each other, me by ensuring her toe blister was cared for and her by handing me her walking stick each time we descended steep hills, so I did not kill myself in a tumble. We were both entirely committed to each other’s success here and in life. She seemed to mature right before my eyes and my stress levels vanished to a non-existent level. The life I had was perfect at this time, as we wandered up and down the hilly pathways and inched closer to Santiago.
Departing Ponferrada, we enjoyed the path out of town because this flat Camino section runs parallel to a river or creek that was partially visible with our head lights. But just when I thought it was going to be an easy day, we were faced with a monstrous stone staircase that needed to be climbed. It was only 6:00 am, and I was already overheated and panting climbing these killers. But once we arrived at the top, it was satisfying to know that we were able to do it without stopping to rest. Our bodies and our mother-daughter bond were getting stronger by the day. After the stairs, we were rewarded with a lovely stroll through the edge of town. We then entered the bountiful and green, wine producing region of NW Spain known as Galicia.
Spain is the worldwide leader in exporting wine, ahead of even Italy and France, and its wine production dates back 2,000 years. Galicia is well known for its lush landscape, white wines, and seafood. At one point on the Camino, we approached a large wine production factory that bottled wines called Vinas de Bierzoso. It was opened to the public and although there was a wine tasting area, this was a real wine factory with its workers in protective clothing and hairnets. I wanted to buy a bottle but did not want to carry it, so we continued on. It was so nice to walk in and out of different grape vineyards during this wonderful day and we sat down regularly to enjoy the pretty scenery.
The heat wave continued to haunt us and that night while staying in the lovely town of Villa Franca del Bierzo we found some relief. The town has a picturesque river flowing through it with a beach area for swimming and sun bathing. This place seemed different from the others to me in that it wasn’t a typical Camino type stop with tourist stores everywhere but a real town with restaurants, stores and locals who were out and about, working and socializing. I liked it here.
After checking into our Refugio, we went for a swim in the crystal clear, fresh water river. I expected to see many pilgrims cooling off but didn’t any. It did not matter because we had a ball. Elizabeth was thrilled to be swimming and devouring ice cream at the foot of Leon mountains we had just walked over. The icy cold water was the perfect remedy for my aching legs and Elizabeth’s sore foot.