Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Local woman completes 490-mile hike


Deb Nagurski completed the 490-mile Camilo Trail in Spain.

Completing the 490-mile Camino Trail in Spain this fall was a personal challenge for Deb Nagurski of Sturgeon Lake.

She began the month-long hike at St. Jean in southern France on September 10, and completed the trip in Santiago on the western coast of Spain. She returned home on October 18.

"The history of the trail is amazing," said Deb in a recent interview. "St. James walked the trail to the sea 2,000 years ago. It's very old but well known. Three thousand people walk the trail every year."

Deb is no stranger to hiking.

"I've hiked sections of the Superior Hiking Trail, the Grand Canyon, Glacier Park and Mount Rainer. I started backpacking for something to do. I've always been athletic and like challenges."

Deb has known about the Camino trail for some time but didn't consider hiking it until recently.

"The seeds had been planted long ago but I just didn't connect with doing it myself," she said. "I decided to do the Camino a couple of years ago, and then I saw a movie called 'The Way,' starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilo Estavez.

"In the movie, I saw the terrain and the places to stay.

"I told some friends. They were retired and thought that they would like to do it too."

Age was also a factor. Deb said that, at 63, she decided that she wanted to hike the trail while she could still complete the 490-mile course. She trained by walking around the various lakes in the area.

There was also a spiritual component to the hike.

"The Camino will give you what you need in your life," said Deb. "Many people who walk it want to write a book about it."

Men and women share sleeping spaces, often in bunk beds, in dorms or albergues, as they are called in Spain. The albergues can be operated by the government, by families or by convents. The hikers can also stay in hotels in the larger cities.

"When we get to stay in a place where there are no bunk beds, it is wonderful," Deb recalled. "They had showers in the albergues but there were some irritations, like sleeping near someone who snored."

The trip is called a pilgrimage, and the hikers are pilgrims.

The pilgrims walked 12 to 18 miles a day.

"We carried lighter packs with our sleeping bags, water, snacks and clothes," said Deb. "The packs were 23 pounds or so, and heavier if we carried water. We could get food in the many villages that we passed through."

Deb and her friends met people from all over the world on the trail.

"We met people from Switzerland, France and many other countries," she said. "People do pilgrimages all over Europe. Everyone in Spain knows what you are doing. They are very supportive and helpful."

The pilgrims climb the Pyrenees while on the trail.

"That's straight uphill," said Deb. "We split the first day into two days. Other parts of the trail are flat, like in a desert."

Along the way, the pilgrims receive stamps in their books.

"We get a certificate after we complete the last 100 kilometers in Santiago," said Deb. "We go to a Mass and show them our books with all the stamps. The certificate has your name written in Latin and says that you completed the hike on the Camino."

The hike was completed in 34 days by the group.

"I often went off by myself when we were hiking," said Deb. "I was looking for a quiet reflective time for myself to see what the Universe gave me.

"When it was over, I felt that it was over too soon. The hike had been trance-inducing. I got into a routine. I heard the sound of my footsteps and the clicking of my walking stick. Those sounds became part of the trance. When I was in the trance, I didn't know it until it was over."

Deb said she had to keep herself prepared for the challenge of the hike.

"It is very important to take care of yourself," she said. "You have to pay attention to your feet, and you have to eat enough. You burn a lot of calories every day."

There were irritations to deal with.

"Some people were talking on their cell phones or using other electronic gadgets," said Deb. "Some wrote and made comments each day about that day's events.

"I didn't want any part of that. I put a shield around myself and turned myself off. That caused some irritations both ways.

"I wanted to leave everything behind. You don't have to let anyone invade your space unless you wanted them to."

Some of the people on the trail rode bicycles, Deb said.

"It would be scary going down those big hills," she added. "You would be going very fast. They traveled the same trail as us. Sometimes they fell."

When the month-long hike was completed, Deb said she felt a feeling of accomplishment.

"I wasn't tired," she said. "I didn't want to quit. I've run marathons that were shorter than the Camino."

Deb Nagurski poses near a statue during her hike along the 490-mile Camino Trail in Spain.

As she looks back on her experience and the experiences of others, Deb sees the value in hiking the Camino Trail.

"There were a lot of cancer survivors on the trail," she said. "Each person was on a different pilgrimage. You get forever changed by your experiences. The experiences of others are not your experiences. No two people's stories are like another's. You have an appreciation to what your body can get used to."

Now that she is home and has settled back into her routine, Deb looks back on her fall hike in Spain and at who she has become because of it.

"It's a new normal now," she said. "I'm still settling into my new normal. I feel off balance. But time will allow me to acclimate to the changes as I go back to work."

Deb divides her time between her home and husband in Sturgeon Lake and serving as a psychologist in the Twin Cities three days a week.


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