Our Camino kept escorting us off the map. I refer not routes outlined in one of the Brierley guidebooks, but any lay of the land as to how a Camino is supposed to look. Our first day out (October 1, 2012) found us leaving my wife’s pack in a bus station. By the second day, we’d lost our guidebook, the worse because it was borrowed. The third day, we recalled (too far back for tired legs) walking sticks leaning over empty plates of tortillas in an aromatic cafe´. The fourth day the watch went. And so on, until the thin blue camera with the best photos of our life must have leaped out of a torn back pocket.

We were pobrecitos. Having left behind our plans and assumptions, uninformed by time and without images—St. James had politely removed them all and extended to my wife and me his invitation to walk into newness, freshness, the mystery of each of our days on this gran adventura.

Yet there were more ‘gifts’ of Our Lady of Compostella—the feeling of being as home as rocks in green Galicia, stunning embraces at the plaza below La Catedral de Santiago, the bonding of globalized hearts…and one last and lasting regalo.

Not far from our destination, a voice whispered far within our ears a message as clear as springtime arising, “It’s time for a Camino de Crestone.” That’s where we live, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Our little international mountain town of Crestone at the foot of sacred mountains, has since the ’70s drawn to its quaintness numerous retreat centers, spiritual enclaves, labyrinths, sweat lodges, prayer circles, medicine wheels and sanctuaries. Immediately, the Camino’s invitation to create another Camino became clear: The Camino de Crestone would be the world’s first interfaith pilgrimage.

Now, week-long pilgrimages take place between June and September in which pilgrims visit 15 spiritual centers—each like a bead on a necklace—enjoy 18 special presentations, plus an extensive audio tour, on this 36-mile educational intensive doubling as a spiritual retreat. Last year witnessed the inaugural Camino de Crestone—a life-affirming, life-transforming pilgrimage—with five more planned in 2014 (

Buen Camino! May all caminantes walk into their larger destinies, and may all of our lives be pilgrimages of exquisite gifts.

By William Howell