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Day 23: Hiking My Camino de Santiago

Updated: Mar 8

August 11, 2018


Today I walked 20.28 miles from Foncebadón to Ponferrada. Most of it was downhill on lose rocks or hard rock. If you weren’t careful, you could easily hurt yourself. In fact, Garmin says I walked down 3,953 feet but there was also an elevation gain of 1,148. Regardless, this was a day that my knees and feet are glad is over. It is also a day when you wished you had hiking boots and not trail running shoes.

If you are unfamiliar with the Camino de Santiago, you may want to google “Cruz de Ferro” or “Cruz Ferro.” Cruz de Ferro is approximately 1.3 miles from Foncebadón on the Camino and occupies nearly the highest point of The Way of Saint James. The site consists of a tall wooden pole topped with an iron cross. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left there, leaving the pilgrim lighter for the journey ahead. Today, all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages. (Note: I share this information so you understand better my story.)


I mentioned yesterday that Tonnie and I went for a walk last night. Well, we walked to Cruz de Ferro for the sunset. Unfortunately, there was nothing spectacular about the sunset. Nevertheless, as we approached Cruz de Ferro we noticed a couple of kids playing around the pole. They left to be near their parents as we approached the pole. While there I left the Bernhardt Wealth Management (BWM) Challenge Coin. (Note: You may want to google “challenge coin” if you aren’t familiar with it. Those with military service will understand. And many businesses today have created their own Challenge Coin like BWM has. I will post an image of the BWM Coin after I post this photo and commentary. However, I will tell you that one side of the coin has an image of the piano I mentioned in today’s video.) I left the coin to honor the memory of my mother. We were looking at other items there and noticed paper that probably had a message, rocks with messages written on them, etc. I saw small wooden crosses and even saw a coin with the Serenity Prayer on it.

We left the pole/iron cross to explore the area more. The kids were immediately back around the pole as we explored. When we went back I noticed the BWM Challenge Coin was no longer there and the coin with the Serenity Prayer was also gone. It made me angry that those parents would allow their kids to desecrate a sacred place like Cruz de Ferro. I don’t really care about the BWM coin because I did honor my mother’s memory. And I also realize stones and items eventually roll away. I just figured the coin would be there longer than a few minutes.

I also left a rock there and there is an interesting story about the rock. Before I left home I thought about a rock and burden. Truthfully, I didn’t feel like there was a burden to leave behind. When you already feel blessed and fortunate I couldn’t think of a burden.


And the week before I left the rock you see in this image came into my possession. I found it at a shopping center near where I parked. I picked it up, read it, and began to think about where I would re-hide it in Virginia or Maryland. But the rock brought a smile to my face.


I then considered bringing it to Spain to leave at Cruz de Ferro but initially felt guilty for considering it because the rock does not represent a burden. However, the more I thought about it the more I became convinced it should be left at Cruz de Ferro for two reasons. First, it came into my possession one week before I left. Second, it represents my positive, grateful spirit and maybe it is leaving a little bit of me behind. So I left the rock. And I will post a photo of me kneeling where I left it.


Anyway, Tonnie, Ilka, and I started walking away from Cruz de Ferro today. I ran into Robert from Michigan and Chris from Arizona on my way down and started walking and talking with them. Robert retired three years ago and the Camino represents something on his bucket list. But he did share that he left stones in memory of his father and mother.


It turns out Chris is from France and just graduated from law school in Arizona. He met someone on a hike recently in Arizona and told them he was going to France for vacation. They immediately told him he should do the Camino. He had never heard of it. But his research and their passion for it convinced him to do it.


So that’s it for the day. If you have not listened to today’s video (Episode 3 of ASK GORDON), watch it so you understand why the piano is on the BWM Challenge Coin. Also, I am going to post a separate image of the Challenge Coin and an image of me kneeling at Cruz de Ferro where I placed the rock.

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P.S. While in Ponferrada I recorded Episode #3 of "ASK GORDON" (August 11, 2018) on the Camino de Santiago. This was originally shared in my Facebook Journal. This Episode is dedicated to the “object” question I mentioned above. I did not plan on doing Episode 3 this early but you need to understand the “object” question to fully grasp everything in the post/photo above.


To Advance to the next post, click here.

See additional photos from August 11th below:

Brief descriptions of the photos:

  1. Cruz de Ferro occupies nearly the highest point of the entire Camino Francés. This is said to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place (either from home or the flatlands below) to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left here, leaving the pilgrim lighter (literally and figuratively) for the journey ahead. Today all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages.

  2. Cruz de Ferro occupies nearly the highest point of the entire Camino Francés. This is said to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place (either from home or the flatlands below) to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left here, leaving the pilgrim lighter (literally and figuratively) for the journey ahead. Today all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages.

  3. Cruz de Ferro occupies nearly the highest point of the entire Camino Francés. This is said to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place (either from home or the flatlands below) to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left here, leaving the pilgrim lighter (literally and figuratively) for the journey ahead. Today all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages.

  4. I placed the rock I brought from the United States at the foot of the cross yesterday so I didn't think about getting a photo of myself today. I was about ready to leave but Tonnie wanted to stay a little longer. It was then that I realized I didn't have a photo of me at the cross so I asked Tonnie to get a photo of me. That is me kneeling at the cross in this photo. This is one of my favorite photos, and it almost didn’t happen.

  5. This is a view of the trail I walked today.

  6. This is a view of the terrain to the left of the trail.

  7. Here are pilgrims walking on the trail.

  8. Here is a pilgrim walking on the trail.

  9. Here is a pilgrim walking on the trail.

  10. This is another view of the terrain to the left of the trail.

  11. This is a view of the village of El Acebo where I stopped for breakfast.

  12. This looked like a small church in El Acebo.

  13. This is a view of part of the trail I walked today.

  14. This is a view of part of the trail I walked today.

  15. This is a view of part of the trail I walked today.

  16. This is a view of part of the trail I walked today.

  17. This is the trail into the town of Molinaseca.

  18. This is a church in Molinaseca.

  19. This is a bridge crossing a small river in Molinaseca.

  20. This is another pilgrim statue along the trail in Molinaseca.

  21. This is the Templar Castle in Ponferrada.

  22. This is the cathedral in Ponferrada.

  23. This is a view of one of the streets in Ponferrada as I was trying to find a place to stay.

  24. This is another view of the Templar Castle in Ponferrada.

  25. Here is a Camino Trail marker outside the Templar Castle in Ponferrada.

  26. This is the cathedral in Ponferrada. The Templar Castle is to my left.

  27. This is another church in Ponferrada near the Templar Castle.

  28. This is another view from a different side of the cathedral in Ponferrada.


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