As if crossing the country via bicycle weren’t daunting enough, Chapel Hill-based Boy Scout Troop 845 is taking its sense of adventure to a whole new level. Later this month, the troop will jump the pond and ditch their bikes to hike 500 miles on El Camino de Santiago.
For more than 1,000 years, pilgrims have traveled the routes meandering through northern Spain and southwest France that make up El Camino, which translates as “The Way of St. James.” Despite various starting points, all paths end at the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela – where tradition says that the apostle St. James is buried.
The group of about 20, comprised of everyone from high school freshmen and seniors to several alumni Eagle Scouts, will take off for Madrid on June 15. From there, the group will make its way to one of the trail’s most famous starting-off points, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in southwest France.
“The trail passes through 340 villages of varying size, from one million [residents] to ones with three buildings – a church, cafe and hostel,” says trip leader Brian Burnham.
Ideally, the hikers will average between 16 and 18 miles per day for five weeks. That said, members of the group have mentioned a marathon, so Burnham is promising at least one day of 26.2 miles.
“This is an established pilgrimage, so there are hostels all along the way,” Burnham explains of accommodations. “If I could not stay in a hostel a single night, I would choose that. We all have small, one-person tents. I prefer to camp. And we won’t carry supplies. We’ll pick stuff up along the way.”
Burnham led last summer’s Cycle20Ten (which we wrote about here), a cross-country cycling trip that raised $20,000 for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Some of the Cycle20Ten group members are back for this adventure, which Burnham hopes will generate even more cancer-fighting funds.
“I’ve always wanted to do the Camino,” he says. “The group seems right and ready for it.”
Follow their journey here.