While several of the many spiritual centers at the foot of the sacred Sangres de Cristo Mountains in the Crestone/Baca area have been in place for more than 25 years, 2013 is the inaugural year for the Camino de Crestone.  The great pilgrimages of the earth—in India, Japan, Spain and England—are now joined by the world’s first full inter-faith pilgrimage here in our tiny international village.

Amid gorgeous country, Crestone now can invite people from every state and all over the world to experience a full range of authentic “paths of return”—the great traditions aspiring to their original inspiration here in the San Luis Valley.

History will be made on June 1, when the inaugural group of pilgrims begins seven remarkable days of walking, covering just 42 kilometers (26 miles) in all.  Along the way they will take part in meditations, sacred dance, yoga of the voice, labyrinths, a sweat lodge, a shamanic journey and much more.  These week-long pilgrimage walks will start and end at the White Eagle (“Gateway to Crestone”) every Saturday from June through September.  MP3-player audio-tours, offering recorded presentations along the route, will be available at the White Eagle, where participants begin the pilgrimage.

The Camino de Crestone is offered in the spirit of religious unity and diversity.  Pilgrims, walking in groups of 7 to 14, will visit 15 different centers, with an array of educational, non-dogmatic, clarifying and richly thorough experiences.

How did this possibility come about?  Last October, William and Brahmi Howell walked the Camino de Santiago, a 1000-year old pilgrimage in northern Spain.  At the end of their gran adventura, the notion—“like a seed,” William says—was planted within them to organize a “Camino de Crestone.”

“Most everyone we tell feels the Camino to be an ‘idea whose time has definitely come,’” William notes; “Many people wonder why such an idea hasn’t happened before.”  The Camino de Crestone will bring high-intentioned visitors to our community, sharing with them the essence of why Crestone is unlike any other town on the planet, renewing our spiritual centers (which will want to present the best of themselves to these pilgrim groups) and, without trying to do so, creating  ambassadors for peace.

William adds:  “The spirituo-religious impulse is the deepest urge in the human breast—to  belong to the largest, dearest and most intimate context one is capable of imagining.  To the extent that such a hope is authentically enlivened in someone is the extent to which s/he is at peace.  Individuals participating in the Camino de Crestone will automatically be ‘peace ambassadors,’ simply by having walked the Camino.  The balance they’ll carry in this inmost arena of fulfillment is valuable and equally rare.  It’s a significant, albeit quiet, contribution to world harmony.”

The need for inter-faith pilgrimage is timely to the point of urgency, according to William. “When we realize how time seems to be speeding up, that events on the world stage are escalating in drama, and that most wars have been waged over religious conflicts, then we can see how vital is the motion towards inter-religious harmony.”  The Howells believe our human family deeply needs more than just inter-religious tolerance, but inter-religious respect—“and even inter-religious admiration.”

Potential pilgrims needn’t define themselves as religious or even particularly spiritual to walk the Camino de Crestone’s carefully mapped route, nor do they need to be experienced hikers.  These seven days of mini-intensives are designed to be a grand opportunity that is life-affirming, an education unlike any other.  The Camino de Crestone is dedicated to the uniqueness and universality of the participants and all the participating traditions.

The Camino de Crestone will provide our community with a new flow of funds, with each pilgrim registering at www.caminodecrestone.com.  The tuition is $800, payable online and covering all meals, lodgings and programs.  It’s an invitingly reasonable fee that will be spread among participating spiritual centers, food providers, presenters and artists, as well as creating at least one new job: the Camino de Crestone administrator.  Of course, anyone can walk the Camino anytime, the audio-tour portion can be rented at the White Eagle.  But, the Camino’s presentational and overnight aspects will be possible only for registered pilgrims.  The Howells are hoping that three or four scholarships will be available for the Camino’s inaugural year.

It is also hoped that other “participative tours” might be organized to feature such distinctive aspects of the Crestone/Baca community as sacred art, sustainable building, gardens & grow domes, healing arts or wilderness experiences.  We hope those who have completed the Camino de Crestone pilgrimage will want to stay awhile to enjoy other offerings that our one-of-a-kind village might share.

Readers of The Crestone Eagle are invited to tell friends and affiliates about this opportunity and to encourage them to visit www.caminodecrestone.com for details and registration.  Calls are also welcome at 937-7697, Sanctuary House, non-profit sponsor of the Camino de Crestone.

Buen Camino, everyone!