by Laura Nelson
“I like to learn as I go,” said Dorothy Anderson of her approach to taking in her surroundings while traveling. I sat down with her to learn about her hikes on some of Europe’s oldest trails. Dorothy is an emeritus professor in the Department of Forest Resources and former department head at North Carolina State University. From age 18 to her retirement in 2014, Dorothy worked full-time, so for her, hiking provides a way to transition away from a career of full-time work to retirement. “I wanted something to separate; “that was then; this is now,” she said. She’s traversed multiple routes of the Camino de Santiago, or St. James Way, a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. She got the idea from listening to a radio program about the Saint James Way. As an avid backpacker, she thought “I’ve gotta do that!” Much of her backpacking was in wilderness areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, but she was intrigued by the cultural aspect of backpacking along an ancient, storied trail. “I gravitated toward something that I started as a very small child, trying to understand other people,” she said.
So far, Dorothy has hiked 500 miles on the Camino Frances, or the French Way, the most famous of the Camino de Santiago routes that spans France and northern Spain. Most recently, she hiked the Portuguese Way from Lisbon, Portugal to Santiago, Spain. “If you really want to bump into culture, you have to be on the ground,” she said of hiking at human speed. Along the trail, she encountered small coastal towns where fishermen continue to push their boats out in the water without mechanization. “You can hear them groaning to push the boats out.” She’s also hiked nearly 100 miles in the Cotswolds region of England, an area of rolling hills, stone-built villages and many sheep-dotted fields. What’s her next trip? Dorothy and her partner plan to hike another portion of the Camino de Santiago, the Via de la Plata, from Sevilla, Spain to Santiago.