For years, people have walked the so-called California Missions Trail, which ends at Mission San Francisco Solano, the northernmost of the state’s Franciscan missions and the last one built. Now, there’s a new trail picking up where the old trail ends – both literally and symbolically.
The Camino de Sonoma, an ecumenical grassroots initiative launched in 2019, is a 75-mile walking route through Sonoma County that connects Mission San Francisco Solano with the Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross, which dates from the same period. Originally conceived by longtime Protestant pastor turned community organizer Adam Peacocke, it draws on the rich tradition of Christian pilgrimage, incorporates wisdom from the local native tribes and centers around reconciliation and healing – with God, with ourselves and with one another.
“Something really powerful can happen when we walk alongside people,” Peacocke said. “Practically every time we walk, we see people who would probably be tearing each other apart on social media actually developing a relationship on the trail together. There’s something about walking together. When we walk prayerfully and purposefully, amazing things happen.”
Divided into six stages, each of which can be done in a day, the route is “like a commuter Camino,” according to Stephen Morris, who works for the Diocese of Santa Rosa and has handled outreach to the local Catholic community. (The diocese isn’t officially involved in the initiative.) Although some people have walked all 75 miles in one go, most of the 65 people who’ve completed the entire Camino have done so piecemeal. As of late June, around 200 people had walked at least one stage.
Passing through Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Occidental, the route covers beautiful and varied terrain – everything from vineyards to farmland to foothills. At the end of stage 5, in Jenner, it joins up with the Russian River. The final stage runs along the coast.
For now, the route isn’t marked. For those interested in following it on their own, it’s on Alltrails. However, people are strongly encouraged to join a guided walk to get the full Camino experience, which Peacocke calls “organized and intentional.”
Camino leaders insist they haven’t designed the pilgrimage out of thin air but have simply engaged with a story that’s older and larger than them – both on a local and cosmic level.
“A huge part of the journey has been just really believing that there’s a bigger story here that’s meaningful, that we’re being invited into,” Peacocke said. “Whatever reason people might come to walk, whatever the impact of their own story might be, the walk really is inviting people into something that truly is rich. There really is something here of value.”
Full story at Archdiocese of San Francisco website.