ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Mission Walk: a California Pilgrimage

Updated on February 21, 2020
R Nicholson profile image

Robert Nicholson is a member of the California Mission Historical Society and the California Mission Walkers, and an amateur historian.

Mission San Juan Bautista seen from the original mission trail
Mission San Juan Bautista seen from the original mission trail | Source

Many religions have a tradition of pilgrimages – journeys undertaken for spiritual growth, or to demonstrate religious devotion. A pilgrimage may be a journey to a site with spiritual significance, or it may be a journey along a specific route. Generally, pilgrims are expected to devote significant time or effort to their journey.

Most pilgrimage routes and destinations date back hundreds, if not thousands of years. But in the past decade, a new route has arisen in an unlikely place: coastal California.

The California Mission Walk is an 800-mile route that roughly follows El Camino Real (the Royal Road), the trail that once connected the 21 Spanish missions in California.

The missions form a continuous line from San Diego to Sonoma California. Some of the missions are little more than ruins, while others have been extensively restored. Most are still active Catholic churches.

The California Mission Walkers

The trail is being promoted by the California Mission Walkers, an informal group that provides information and resources for people who want to walk the route, in whole or in part. The group also maintains an active page on Facebook, where members share photos of their journeys and comments about the route.

The motto of the group is Siempre Adelante (always forward), which was the personal motto of St. Junípero Serra, founder of the California mission system.

People join the mission walkers, and walk the trail, for a variety of reasons. For some, the walk is a religious pilgrimage – an act of devotion. For others, the motivation might be staying in shape, or learning about early California history, or sharing the comradery of the trail.

Because the route connects a line of missions, roughly equally spaced, it’s possible for walkers to hike just a few “legs” at a time, taking several years to complete the entire journey. The trail itself includes pedestrian routes through urban areas, roads through historic towns, country roads, and even forest trails.

In some places, the trail follows the Historic El Camino Real bell markers erected by California in 2005. However, in areas where the markers are placed along highways, the hiking trail deviates from the route.

El Camino Real road marker
El Camino Real road marker | Source

A long-term goal of the California Mission Walkers is to formalize the trail with route markers, and perhaps even gain recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Pilgrimage Hike.

Currently the group publishes a Pilgrim Passport which walkers can have stamped at each mission they visit to commemorate their journey, as well as an embroidered patch which is worn by many mission walkers.

Inspirations for the Mission Walkers

Edie Littlefield Sundby

One of the most inspirational and motivational stories for mission walkers is told by Edie Littlefield Sundby in her 2017 book, The Mission Walker. Diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given just 3 months to live, Sundby began her personal mission walk on southern tip of Baja California, and followed the mission trail for 1600 miles. Her book is an exploration of courage, faith, endurance and transcendence.

Camino de Santiago

Many of the California Mission Walkers have been inspired by the Camino de Santiago in Europe. The Camino de Santiago actually consists of several routes in France, Portugal, and Spain, all of which terminate at the burial site of St. James’ remains, in the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It is estimated that 300,000 people travel along the Camino de Santiago each year. The primary routes through France and Spain have been in use for over 1,000 years, and are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

A scallop seashell has long been the symbol of both the Camino and St. James. Seashell markers were placed along the trail, and adorned many churches and cathedrals in honor of St. James. Today, the trail is marked by stylized shell motif. Many pilgrims also wear a scallop shell as a pin or necklace, or even dangling from a hiking staff.

St.James' shell at the Well of the Way, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Languedoc-Roussillon, France || Stylized Camino de Santiago Logo || Camino de Santiago trail marker in Huesca, Spain
St.James' shell at the Well of the Way, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Languedoc-Roussillon, France || Stylized Camino de Santiago Logo || Camino de Santiago trail marker in Huesca, Spain | Source

Travelers along the Camino de Santiago may carry a “pilgrim’s passport,” or credencial, which allows them to stay at reserved accommodations along the route. Like the California Mission Walkers passport, the credencial can be stamped at each place they visit or stay along the route.

Walking the California Mission Trail

For anyone interested in hiking the mission trail, there are many resources available on the California Mission Walkers website. Most hikers follow the route described in “Butch” Briery’s guidebook, “California Mission Walk ~ The Original Hiker’s Guide to California’s 21 Missions Along El Camino Real”. The book is available on Kindle, or a hardcopy can be ordered through the website.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      Having watched a programme about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela a while ago, I have read your article with great interest.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)