Spend a night at Fontana Village with your Friends

Your Friends of the Smokies, that is!

Fontana Lake

I am so excited that Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes has chosen Fontana Village as the base for their annual overnight trip.

With FOTS, we’ll explore the Fontana Lake area for two days.

Fontana Lake in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located far from everywhere. You don’t bump into it on your way to anything else.

Sign up for the Friends of the Smokies trip on

Monday August 28 – Tuesday August 29, 2017.

There are still a few rooms left. All the details are here but the highlights include:

Professor Dan Pierce, chair of the history department at UNC-Asheville, who has made the Smokies his life work, wll be our evening speaker.

On Monday evening, he will be speaking about his latest book, Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Community. I’ve known Dan since Fall 2001, when I took my first course on Appalachian history, a few months after I moved here. I’ve been a Dan Pierce fan ever since.

Now for the hikes. Monday afternoon, we’ll hike in the Twenty-mile area, even more remote than Fontana Lake. Look at my blog post on the hike scout.

Tuesday, you have a choice between a long and short hike. Friends and couples coming together can each choose a hike that they would prefer. Both hikes have little elevation gain – the length is the difference.

Hall Cabin

The long hike is on Hazel Creek Trail to the Hall Cabin. See a blog post on the last time I led a group to the Hall Cabin.

We’ll take the boat across Fontana Lake and hike the Hazel Creek Trail and then onto the Hall Cabin. It’s 15.5 miles round trip, with little ascent, but quite an experience.

The short hike on Lake Shore Trail is just as fascinating. You go past old cars and wonder: where did these cars come from?

Cars on Lake Shore Trail

Again, you can read about the history of the area in an article I wrote years ago and learn from Dan Pierce’s talk.

We’ll be staying at Fontana Village and not roughing it.

But you have to make reservations with Friends of the Smokies soon.

Sign up and see you on the trail.

Camino del Norte – detailed days and lodging

Beyond the beautiful scenery, culture and food, the Camino del Norte requires some planning. Or to be more precise, I felt that we needed a plan. As they say:

You need a plan to deviate from.


The only guidebook that we could find was the Pilgrim Route: the Northern Caminos by Laura Perazzoli and Dave Whitson.

Using the daily stages in the book, I created a spreadsheet of day-by-day locations, distances and altitude gains. The book had 31 stages, i.e. 31 walking days to Santiago.

I wasn’t comfortable with some of their distances. Some days were over 24 miles; on other days, we would only walk 9 miles.

My feet – Camino 2017

Also I knew something might happen: a broken piece of equipment or an injury. So we added two extra days. But amazingly, nothing disastrous happened.

We were able to alter some destinations. We started walking a day earlier and shortened some days.

I kept track of all the lodging: albergues, hostels, pensions, hotels.

Here’s the list of towns and places we stayed in.

A few accommodations were so outstanding that I gave them a star (*). But it’s my version of outstanding. To me, it’s all about memorable people. I enjoy interacting the people who run the lodging.

Camino maps

Look at my stages, change it to suit you, and Buen Camino.

PS As I write this, I received the package that I mailed home from Santiago. It contained maps and literature for several other Caminos.


Camino del Norte – Finisterre, the end of the world

Beth and I had arrived in Santiago on the Camino del Norte. But our adventure wasn’t over. After a day of wandering around Santiago and going to the pilgrim’s mass, we got back on the trail heading to Finisterre (or Fisterra, in the Galician language), the end of the world as believed by the Romans. It was another 73 miles, which we did in five days. This time, we took our time.

Emigrant from Negreira

First stop was the town of Negreira, shut tight when we arrived on a Saturday afternoon.

But one sculpture, placed as we walked out of town, was worth a thousand words. The statue shows a man leaving his family in Galicia to find work in the new world. The boy tries to grab his dad to get him to stay.

Galicians have emigrated throughout the world, mostly in South America. Life was tough in the 19th and early 20th century here in Galicia, as land got divided up continuously. A statue with a similar sentiment is in the Finisterre as well.

Heartbreaking. You can’t eat scenery.

The walk to Finisterre can be done by going to Muxia first or to Finisterre first. We elected to leave Finisterre last – after all it is the end of the world. On this trek, we met a whole new set of people, including most who walked the Camino Frances and those who are just walking this loop.

Sign to Muxia

It’s all very clear. On a roundabout, we reached two sets of arrows and we took the right to Muxia.

Still past this sign, on the way to Muxia, I got lost for the first and only time on the Norte. At one point, I encountered three roads emanating from the one I was on and none had a sign.

I went back and forth for what seemed an hour. Finally, unlike the Robert Frost poem, I took the road most traveled.

This is where I had the most chance to find people and get back on the trail. It was the right decision, though I had wasted a lot of extra time on what was already a long, long day.

In Muxia

Muxia is a tourist spot in its own right.

After dinner, we walked to the point to catch the sunset.

Like most churches, the church facing the sea, the Virxe da Barca sanctuary, was closed. Close by stands a spectacular modern sculpture.

From Wikipedia, “A Ferida” by Alberto Bañuelos is a sculpture that symbolizes the wound that has been done to the sea by the spilling of 66,000 tons of oil when the Prestige tanker broke apart off the coast of Muxia on November 13, 2002. The sculpture is 11 meters high, and weights over 400 tons.

Finally, Finisterre, a lively town with many restaurants, shops, and boats. Most visitors are not hikers or pilgrims but come by bus or car. The beaches are spectacular and I even put my feet in the water at the town beach. My feet were in bad shape.

We planned a short hiking day because in the early evening, we walked from town to the lighthouse and the never-ending sea. See the photo on top. Contrary to rumors, you can’t burn anything on the spot. Yes, Cape Finisterre really did look like this.

On the bus the next morning back to Santiago. The end of our pilgrimage.

580.3 miles, 15.7 miles average, 37 hiking days