Mike Metras and Petra Wolf pause long enough on their California-to-Jerusalem walk to pose for a photo along Hillsboro?s Main Street Friday. They figure they?ve already covered 2,000 miles.
The husband-wife team, who started their trek in Paso Robles, Calif., in mid-January, hope to reach the Holy City in late 2010 or early 2011.
But they?re quick to say that while Jerusalem is the goal, it?s not really their destination.
?By making the goal so far away, then the walk itself becomes the destination?which is what it should be,? said Metras, 66, a retired technical writer. ?We know the universe is going to give us tons of things here (during the walk). The idea is to be open to what?s there.?
Wolf, 45, added: ?The biggest adventures we have are the people we meet?sharing stories, getting to know them, making new friends.?
The couple see their pilgrimage not only in geographic terms, but historical. Grateful to have left the hustle and bustle of modern Califor?nia, they currently are following the Santa Fe Trail, traveling toward the country?s origin on the East Coast.
From there, the plan is to sail to Portugal, then backtrack through history to Rome, Ancient Greece and finally Jerusalem.
?We don?t have a vague idea what we will do once we get to Jerusalem,? Metras said with a smile. ?We could go on from there and walk through the Fertile Crescent or up the Nile River.?
The couple are no strangers to pilgrimage walks. They met in 2003 during the Camino de Santiago, a 465-mile trek along the northern coast of Spain. In 2007 they walked from Germany to Rome.
It was while in Rome that the seed was planted for their current pilgrimage.
?A nun at a convent where we stayed asked if we were going on to Jerusalem,? Metras said. ?We didn?t take it too seriously at the time, but then we moved to California and things got a little too hectic there. So we decided, ?Why don?t we do the thing to Jerusalem? We?ll start in California and walk back through history.??
The couple walk 15 to 20 miles on an average day, weather permitting. They often stay in motels for a night, but they particularly like bed-and-breakfasts.
?We find that bed-and-breakfasts are really super places to stay,? Metras said. ?They?re only a little more expensive than a motel?but, man, you get to know the people.?
Added Wolf: ?They are run by local people, and they can tell us more about the area.?
They said their original goal was to walk the entire route, but they?ve moderated that goal during the trek.
?We realized this country is different than Europe,? Wolf said. ?It?s so far apart. And in wintertime, you want to stay inside.?
Added Metras: ?We must walk, but we?re practical. Sometimes we?re not going to be able to walk 30 miles. We might say, ?Can you give us a ride for 10 miles?? When we get out so far at the end of the day, we?ll stick our thumb out and wait for a pickup to come along.?
The weather has been the biggest challenge.
?We expected rain to stop us, we expected to be stopped by snow once or twice,? Metras said. ?But I never thought I?d be stopped walking by wind. But it?s happened a couple of times.?
For Wolf and Metras, the walk itself is the ?purpose? of their pilgrimage. But they also find that they?ve become carriers of other messages along the way.
?I don?t like ?peace walks,? but in fact this is really a peace walk because we are, by experience, saying, ?This is a peaceful place. There are problems and there are bad things, but this is, by far, a peaceful place.?
?A lot of times in the media you read about the bad guy,? he added. ?And everybody asks us, ?Isn?t it dangerous out there?? But I have to remind them that the bad guy is only one out of 100,000. There?s 99,999 who are fantastic people.?
Wolf and Metras said they?re also inspiring people to pursue their dreams.
?They see us and they say, ?Perhaps I should do that now,?? Wolf said. ?It?s like being a catalyst. We didn?t think about that before we started, but that?s what is happening.?
Added Metras: ?It?s an honor to be a tool of the universe to get Joe Blows that we?ve never ever met in our lives off of his duff and go do what the universe has been trying to get him to do for a long time.?
Editor?s note: To read more about the couple?s walk from California to Jerusalem, go to their Web site: WalkingEast.com.