Day 2 – Paladín to Cornellana

10.3mi/16.57km from Paladín to Cornellana

It was a good but sweaty as usual hiking day, as the humidity remained high all day. After a solid and very necessary sleep, David and I walked about 4 miles to the pretty town of Grado, had breakfast, then began a 1,150-foot climb up one of the many short but rugged Cantabrian mountains. Like yesterday’s 500-foot climb, it was a little steep but very doable, and not as daunting as various web guides made it sound!

On the way down from the top, we stopped at the super hospitable Casita Mandala in San Marcelo, run by ultra friendly “hospitalero” Patrick. He and his wife moved here from Slovakia years ago and found a house for sale at a reasonable price, not knowing it was directly on a Camino route. So daily she goes and works in Oviedo while he looks after both pilgrims and his kids. We had a great time getting to know his recently-rescued border collie puppy. I love dogs – they’re good buddies.

We stopped for the night at the Roca Madre albergue just outside of Cornellana. It was a beautiful place, hand-constructed with beautiful stone and woodwork by hospitalero Diego over 2 years, and only opened 2 weeks ago. He makes an awesome vegetarian dinner as well. The only drawback is much of the building was carved into the earth, and with the pervasive humidity here, the rocks were literally dripping with moisture. And whoa was it cold at night! But thanks to the many blankets available, we slept well and long.

As I tried to fall asleep I thought more about the reasons I am here. As I mentioned yesterday, the Asturian king Alfonso II “the Chaste” began the tradition of the Camino de Santiago by first walking from Oviedo to what is today Santiago de Compostela, and building a shrine to Saint James there. You might call this “original” or “Primitivo” Camino the “King’s highway.” Thanks to old Camino pal Chuck, I was recently acquainted with a poem by Evelyn Atwater Cummings called “I know not where the road will lead” (also sometimes called “I walk the King’s Highway”). It’s simple but it spoke to me and the state I’ve been in recently:

“I know not where the road will lead I follow day by day.
I know not if the way is long, and no one else can say;
But rough or smooth, up hill or down,
I walk the King’s highway.

The countless hosts lead on before,
I must not fear or stray;
With them the pilgrims of the faith,
I walk the King’s highway.

Through light and dark the road leads on till dawns the endless day,
When I shall know why in this life I walk the King’s highway.”