It’s time to catch up with the latest in the adventures of Dorothy Knox, world traveler. She last appeared in Oyster Pointer in 2013 after completing the climb to the Base Camp on Mount Everest (an altitude of 17,560 feet). She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, visited Antarctica, ballooned over the Serengeti and walked the Great Wall of China.
From April 3 to May 6 of this year Knox hiked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known as The Way of St. James. A popular pilgrimage route since medieval times, it is 500 miles long and travels across northern Spain from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Finisterre, Spain, on the Atlantic Coast. Santiago de Compostela was named a World Heritage Site in 1993. Reportedly the remains of St. James are enshrined in a cathedral there. A reported 300,000 pilgrims made the trek in 2017.
Why did Knox choose this long hike? “I wanted the physical challenge and the adventure. And I didn’t want any more mountains!” she says. A friend had planned to accompany Knox but got sick. “I never considered canceling,” says Knox. “I did train and prepare myself.”
Knox set a goal of 15 – 20 miles a day. “Some days were more physically challenging than others,” she says. “There were always people to walk with. Hikers ranged in age from mid-20s to late 70s. There were no children. Sometimes a group would form; sometimes I was alone. We passed through a number of villages along the way.”
Most of the hikers are European; about 10 percent are American. Europeans often walk in stages since it is convenient to return at a later time to walk another section.
The terrain varied but was not very mountainous. The path went through flatlands, vineyards with no desert. There were two big cities and every town had a cathedral at its center.
“There were hostels available every night. They were clean and comfortable and housed 8-100 people. They were reminiscent of a dormitory with bunk beds. The beds had sheets and maybe a blanket. They were clean and comfortable but there wasn’t much privacy. And the snoring was awful!” says Knox.
“There were hotels in the larger towns,” Knox continues. “A few times I treated myself to an overnight stay so I could get a good night’s sleep and a good shower. For my birthday, I stayed two nights in Burgos, Spain, with friends I had met on the trail. We had a nice dinner celebration.” Knox also took another “rest day” in Leon, Spain.
“I made friends along the way,” says Knox. “There was an instant camaraderie because of the shared goal. Everyone had different reasons for making the pilgrimage. We were always walking but some days were ‘talking days’ and some days were ‘thinking days,’” she says.
A lot of time is naturally spent in contemplation and self reflection. For many, the walk is a spiritual journey. “Sometimes I felt lonely,” says Knox, “but I never felt unsafe.” There was one snow day but only a few hot days. “We did not encounter much rain,” she adds. A “passport” is stamped at various points along the journey. If the walk is completed, the hiker is “credentialed” and receives a certificate. Knox’s only mishaps were shin splints and a couple of blisters.
One of Knox’s first adventures was a boat trip along the Amazon. “It had a profound effect on me,” she says. She has remained connected through a philanthropic organization called “Angels of the Amazon.” She plans to return in October to attend a board meeting.
Knox has retired from her career as head of the Hampton Roads International Montessori School in Newport News. She now has her own business as an education consultant. She saw a need and now offers parent coaching, targeting children from toddlers to six years.
Knox has no travel plans at this time. “Something will speak to me,” she says with a twinkle in her eye. “It will have to be something compelling. I would like to take flying lessons,” she adds. Her friends have suggested that she write a book. She replies with her favorite Jackie Kennedy Onassis quote: “I want to live my life, not record it.”
TO THE POINT:
Dorothy Knox, education consultant
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