The High Hope Ranch in Glen Rose will give guests the chance to experience the Camino de Santiago for a weekend at its 1,100 acre property on June 19-21. Photos courtesy of High Hope Ranch.

May 19, 2015 

An eco-friendly nature retreat in Glen Rose is recreating a shortened version of an historic route in Spain next month on its 1,100-acre preserve. 

A statue of St. Francis watches over a ranch trail.

The High Hope Ranch hosts the Taste of the Camino June 19-21 to give guests a chance to experience the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James. The world famous 500-mile trail starts at the French border and winds to the northwestern corner of Spain to the shrine of St. James, drawing travelers from around the world.

People have been making the pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. Today modern day travelers still flock to the trail, made famous in the 2010 movie The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez. 

Both the owner of High Hope Ranch Krystyna Jurzykowski and one of her ranch managers Chandler McLay have walked the 500-mile path. They wanted to give North Texans the chance to experience what they considered one of the most profound journeys of their lives. 

“It’s not just about the physical part of the walking, it’s the contemplative part where you think about where you are on the trail in your life,” said Jurzykowski.

Both communal and private accommodations will be available during the weekend.

To recreate the flavor of the Camino, guest houses will be turned into communal hostels and a visiting Spanish chef will prepare authentic Spanish cuisine. Mini cafes will even be set up along the routes so that hikers can enjoy lunch and snacks. Luxury accommodations will also be available to those who prefer more privacy. 

Jurzykowski walked the 500 miles in six weeks for her 60th birthday, along with her ranch manager McLay, who was 73 years old at the time. They averaged 10 to 20 miles a day.

"We started out easily. As we got acclimated to the climate, we increased the miles," said McLay, a longtime hiker and outdoor educator. "You don't need to suffer to do the Camino."

At the High Hope version, guests will have the option to walk as few as 3 miles and up to 12 miles each day.

The cost is $250 and includes breakfast and dinner. Lunches can be purchased at the cafes. An early bird special for $225 is available thru May 31.  

The rare and endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler has been spotted at High Hope Ranch. Below, Zebras from the adjacent Fossil Rim Wildlife Center are a common sight.

One aspect that High Hope Ranch will bring to the Camino is its emphasis on the environment. The ranch incorporates green practices, including solar power, organic land management, recycling, green cleaning, native landscaping and wildlife habitat preservation. The ranch itself serves another conservation purpose as it was purchased specifically to create a buffer for the adjacent Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, which Jurzykowski and her husband owned for many years.

According to McLay, parts of the landscape will mimic parts of Spain. However, hikers may catch a glimpse of native Texas wildlife that live on the property, including the endangered golden cheeked warbler, deer, bobcat and fox – and the occasional zebra on the fence line of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. 

Also, visitors will get to hear the stories of those who’ve walked the Camino themselves.

McLay, who has walked the Camino twice, said in the past, people walked the trail as a religious rite or even as penance. However, today most people go because they need some personal time – for example, following a divorce or the loss of a loved one – or to reflect on what they want to do next in their life.

She said it gave her the opportunity to just enjoy “being in the moment” and to appreciate the diverse group of travelers who shared the trail. She said she also learned to take adversity in stride.

A stonehenge type monument adorns a field of bluebonnets at High Hope Ranch

“You learn that even when it’s pouring down rain, you can laugh at those things,” she said. “Whether my foot hurt from tendonitis or it was a hail storm or it was a sunny day, every moment was a moment of joy.”

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