Near Villelongue, France – February 9, 2017
Some of the mountains have a white tinge to their tops, just a dusting of snow, the remnants of yesterday’s storms. They aren’t tall enough to carry snow for more than few days. The trail snakes through them, sometimes on paved roads, sometimes dirt, sometimes just narrow paths.
The rounded mountain tops feel old, like weathered giants pulled down by gravity. I don’t know their name. I didn’t even know they existed until the Camino led me into them.
I still haven’t seen another thru-hiker. Or maybe they are called pilgrims here. I don’t know. The trail is too well marked, too visible for just my feet. More and more people I meet ask if I am heading to Santiago. They know about the trail. They’ve seen someone like me pass before.
But mostly in the summer, they say. Not now, not in the cold.
But it is not cold. It is nice, beautiful weather for walking. The kind that lets you climb without pouring sweat, that cools you enough that movement is the most comfortable state. Still, the trail is empty.
Sometimes I think I recognize footprints in the mud. I watch them appear and disappear, sometimes fresh with sharp edges to every pattern on the sole, sometimes faint and worn by time. They are never there enough to be sure. They could be a farmer walking the fields or a couple out for a stroll, not someone slowly moving toward Santiago, so I keep waiting, walking forward, hoping to see a backpack around some bend.
But it’s just an empty trail, just me and these old mountains that I still don’t know by name.