Adventure, camino de santiago, hiking
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Camino de Santiago: A 500-Mile Pilgrimage for Park Preservation [The Conversation Fund]

My name is Jessica. I have been called an outdoorsy person, once or twice.

I hike. I boulder. I trail run. I camp.

My very first memory was going on a hike. My father has worked security for state & national parks for as long as I have known him, despite all of his short-coming I have learned to love & respect nature from him.

He was leading me along a trail in the autumn, my toddler self kept complaining about the newly gifted hiking boots were hurting my feet. We paused a few times along the trail so my father could loosen the laces around my ankles to prevent blistering. When we finally got home & my father was taking off my boots, we discovered a giant beetle had crawled down the loosened ankles of my boots. I screamed & cried for hours after seeing the hard-shelled bug attached to my socks. My father kept taking me into the bathroom to show me my safe foot in the mirror after he released the beetle outside, but I was inconsolable.

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Mi Camino

I promise this a pre-planning updates of sorts for my Camino de Santiago.

My initial post details the route overview, I will be taking 800km routine known as The French Way from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrénées to the end of the world, Cape Finisterre, in Galicia, Spain. I plan to leave the first weekend of May 2018, taking 30 days to accomplish this route.

My body has healed & I have been feeling physically prepared for this hike, but I have struggled with setting an intention.

I am not a Cheryl Strayed or a Bill Bryson, I am just a quiet Jewish kid from the Northside of Chicago with a dry sense of humor & affinity for coffee. However, a smaller lesson I have learned about goals over the last year  is they do not have to be grand life changes born from tumultuation. Tiny changes or realizations can still be goals, they can even be an indirect personal impact by making changes to support the things you love.

That is how I came about setting a purpose for this Camino. I wanted to support the very thing I would be hiking in & my longest love, nature.

Public Lands Matter

I feel like I have taken our public lands for granted, much longer than I care to admit. I have enjoyed hiking, running, climbing & enjoying lands from all around the world without much thought or perspective of what my life would be like without them. Only recently have I had a wakeup call that the national parks, mountains & historical sites I have enjoyed for the last 27 years are a privilege, but not a right.

This year started off with a loss of conservation protection in the USA, resulting in the resignation of over 90% of our National Park Service Board as protest over legislation. The current administration has expanded oil & gas drilling that our land in National Parks are at risk, but the most alarming from my personal perspective is the largest reversal of national monument protections in USA history that prompted the #MonumentalMistake campaign.

It seems only fitting that a pilgrimage should have more meaning than just being a thru-hiker, but atone for neglecting the terrain I have loved. I have selected to support The Conservation Fund, an environmental conservation program with an international outreach that focuses on a range of environmental issues from National Park preservation to sustainable farming to urban planning.

A donation of less than $1 per mile could show your support of preserving public parks & landscape, it is a small gesture towards a debt we all have to land we have enjoyed. Here are just a few projects hosted by The Conservation Fund that could benefit from your dollar:

  • Cleaning up e-coli contamination in Lake Michigan so everyone can enjoy the beaches again
  • Funding the Norwegian Research Counsel in their development of sustainable aquaculture systems for Atlantic Salmon
  • Honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy through the continued development of the Underground Railroad National Historical Park
  • Promoting women in agriculture & resolutions “food deserts”
  • Providing environmental education & safe green spaces for urban youth
  • Keeping National Parks open to the public
  • Protecting Native American rights to ancestral land

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The Conservation Fund

It is an American non-profit that pursues environmental conservation & sustainable economic development. TCF has saved over 7.8 billion acres of land & water in the USA alone; including national parks, historical battlefields & wildlife areas. Their conservation projects consist of 10 categories, ranging from urban conservation to sustainable farming to wildlife rehabilitation. TCF is most active in North America; but they have water conservation projects in the Middle East, South America & Northern Europe as well.

I support The Conservation Fund because they’ve shown they care by dedicating 96% of their budget to conservation projects, it is given a 98% score by Charity Navigator for transparency & program outreach as well.

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