I have heard many people talk about the Camino de Santiago being life changing. It never occurred to me that the preparation and training is equally as life changing. Contributor Marianne Hoffman trained and walked the trek and found the fountain of youth along the way.

I Found The Fountain Of Youth…

I wasn’t even looking for the Fountain of Youth when I stumbled into it. It was my 58th trip around the sun and I started thinking I wanted to do something BIG and memorable in my 60th year. Of course I had many reasons for wanting to do this.

I wanted to prove that I wasn’t “old”! I wanted my little granddaughters to know that anything is possible…at any age! I wanted to be a good example to my peers and I guess most of all, I wanted to see what I was capable of.

I have always loved walking but rarely took the time to hike in the amazing canyons just in my backyard. Oh, each summer I’d do a short hike or two and think how great it was. I’d promise myself I would do it more often and then the summer would come to an end and I hadn’t kept that commitment. But with the big 6-0 looming in the not too distant future I decided to get serious. I started searching the internet for “long walks”. I was surprised how many popped up and each one intrigued me. After doing several searches I kept coming back to the Camino de Santiago. That seemed like something BIG and it was calling to me for sure! Walk and hike 500 miles?!? Sure, why not…and so I decided to get serious and start training. I had about 15 months to get ready.

I started my training with short hikes – 3 miles, then 4, 6 miles, then 7. In the beginning I hurt! There were days I would hobble to my car and by the time I drove home I wasn’t sure I could even get out. I was positive if I did make it out of the car I would never make it up my front stairs and into the house! I took lots of Epsom salt baths and some days I would have to lay on the couch for awhile. After each hike I would question what I was doing and if it was realistic. And, after each hike I wanted to go again. I loved being in the canyons and trying out new trails. I loved being on the lookout for a moose or a coyote. I loved the intoxicating smell of the pines and the different wild flowers in bloom. Even though some days were still painful I was hooked!

Then summer came to an end and I pulled out my snowshoes and my micro spikes and put baskets on my poles. I headed back up to those amazing mountains and jumped right into some winter adventure. I couldn’t get enough…and then I could go 9 miles or 10 and I realized I could walk the Camino de Santiago. I also realized I didn’t hurt much anymore and I could easily get out of my car and up the stairs!

I completed the Camino in May and June of 2016. Yes, it was incredible and hard and amazing and life changing. I met new friends and formed long-term relationships and long to go back.

What I didn’t realize was that the training would be my Fountain of Youth.

Last month I got an email from a fellow pilgrim. An amazing girl 20 years my junior who resides in London. We only briefly met on the Camino but had an instant connection. She wanted to come for 10 days and hike with me and my Camino partner in our beautiful Wasatch Mountains and the Southern Utah desert. We jumped at the chance and put together an itinerary of some of our favorite hikes from one end of the State to the other. We did 5 fabulous hikes in 5 days!

I was a late bloomer on the trail and those blooms are nourished and hydrated by that lovely Fountain of Youth. I’m healthy and strong and capable and amazingly happy. Now, in my 61st year I can’t get enough and look forward to twice weekly hikes. Sometimes it still surprises me how far I’ve come and how much more there is I want to do. Everyday I hike is the “best” day…it never gets old and I don’t plan to either!

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