In Pilgrim Land

Part Ten: Costilla to San Luis. Across the state line.

On the final day of the pilgrimage, we left our lodging in the Parish hall and set off after taking some pictures of the church and surrounding structures. We walked through Costilla which is full of abandoned houses, old ruins, and collapsed fences. It is a prairie photographer’s dream. Below you can see many beautiful pictures that I took during the first part of our twenty-two-mile trek. After a while, we reached the Colorado state line. The only marker is a street sign. One arm says Garcia Road and the other Colorado State Line!

After crossing the line, we were in Garcia Colorado, the oldest settlement in Colorado. The church there is very quaint and there is a little model of the church next to it. By mid-morning, we hit a long straight road that led to Wild Horse Mountain.

We reached the base of the mountain and began to go up. The trail was broken and rocky with huge beds and veins of black or red lava intersecting it at many points. All morning, we struggled up the steep grades. Though it was difficult, the views were spectacular.

After several false summits, we finally reached the top of the mesa and began crossing it. The road was winding and sandy. We saw more vehicles than I had expected. Three motorcyclists roared by, filling the air with sand and zooming around the bends at high speed. While I was having lunch, a truck pulling a trailer of wood roared by. The trailer was made of the bed of a pickup truck and one of the wheels was flat and riding on the rim! I had thought the motorcycles raised a cloud of dust but this contraption looked like it was moving around inside a tornado! There is a herd of wild horses on top of the mountain but I did not see them. The sandy trails were covered with hoof marks.

In the afternoon, we began going downhill. We had been told that at a certain point in the afternoon, we would see our destination ahead. Finally, we topped a rise, and there far away across a beautiful valley was the white shrine shining in the sun. It seemed so close that I felt like we should reach it quickly but, in fact, it was still five miles off. To make it worse, the trail was now thick clinging sand that was hard to push through and the road began a slight upward grade. Our pace slowed to a crawl. And then suddenly, in front of us, was a huge solid metal gate. We stood and stared at it wondering if we had got on the wrong road. Finally, we decided to climb over the fence because the gate was unclimbable. My cart posed a problem but with three of us working together, we managed to heave it over.

This effort had further tired us and we slowly made our way into San Luis. Finally, we reached the parish church in San Luis, slapped our hands against the side, and raised tired cheers. Then we all gathered at a Thai/Mexican restaurant and had a big dinner. By the time we got up after dinner, my legs had stiffened and we hobbled to the parish hall to spend the night. Crazy as it might seem, I told the group that I would be there next year for the next pilgrimage. We invited a young homeless man in to spend the night with us in the hall. The next morning leaving our packs piled in the hall, we began the last half mile of our pilgrimage. We climbed the Mesa to the shrine for morning Mass.

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