Island News and Features
... but "The road to a friend's house is never too long." - Danish proverb
Pamplona -> [Güemes] -> Santiago (450 miles)
When Father Ernesto, Paqui, Miguel, and Marina, from Güemes, Spain, visited Guemes Island in April this year, I didn't divulge my intentions to hike the Camino de Santiago. I'd dreamed about completing the epic pilgrimage for years but, at that point, it was still just a dream. I had read books, watched movies, and talked about my dream, but taking the next step was a big commitment - and more than a little daunting. Ernesto's visit was the driver that put my "Camino wheels" (and, ultimately, my feet) into motion. I was committed to making my dream a reality - and maybe visiting Güemes, Spain as well!
After talking with family and completing the necessary preparations and travel plans, my husband, John, our daughter, Gina, and I flew from San Francisco to Paris, to Madrid, and then to Pamplona, Spain. On September 13th, we began the month-long walk from Pamplona to Santiago - 15 miles per day, carrying 15-lb packs.
But this isn't a story about us or our Camino. It's a reminder of the special, lasting bond between two Guemeses and the extraordinary hospitality and kindness extended by the people of both ...
When I finally contacted Father Ernesto about our Camino plans, he was delighted to hear that we'd like to visit his pilgrims' shelter in Güemes. He made arrangements to pick us up near Logroño, a 2-1/2 hr drive from Güemes. After 4 days of walking from Pamplona to Logroño (with blistered feet, already!), we were really looking forward to seeing our friends and giving my feet a couple of days rest. Ernesto, Paqui, and Miguel were a sight for sore eyes (and feet)! There was much hugging and laughing. We spent the day touring the Spanish countryside, including some beautiful little seaside villages, and around the village of Güemes on our way to Ernesto's albergue. We visited the 2 churches where Father Ernesto serves, including one that displays photos from his "Guemes world tour."
Ernesto's albergue isn't just a pilgrims' hostel. It's a large estate owned by Father Ernesto. Practically the entire village of Güemes is engaged, somehow, in helping at Ernesto's albergue. Volunteers bring food, help cook, help with maintenance, and many other tasks. Paqui and Miguel and several others are an integral part of the albergue’s mission. Many pilgrims who stop at the hostel for the typical one-night stay decide to come back and volunteer for weeks or months. Three meals a day are served to pilgrims and all that's requested in return is a donation. The complex has a library, a common room, and an ermita, where pilgrims can sit and reflect on their journey. Ernesto's collection of slides from his travels line the walls and ceiling of his study. Notes of gratitude from pilgrims from around the world are compiled into large volumes - each one a treasured gift. Many pilgrim guidebooks call this the best hostel on the Camino del Norte. It was definitely the best that we saw on our journey across northern Spain (of course, maybe we're also a little partial). Although we were pilgrims on the Camino, Ernesto insisted that we would not eat or sleep with the other 70+ pilgrims spending the night at his albergue that particular evening. Rather than twin beds or bunks in a large dormitory-style room, we had an entire living space, including 2 bedrooms and a private bath, in what was once was his parents' house (where Ernesto was born, 80 years ago), right on the grounds of the albergue. Instead of the customary pilgrim's meal that we had experienced so far on the Camino, we ate with the wonderful staff in the large dining room - with mementos of Ernesto's travels and his life of caring for others covering the walls. The huge dining table was covered with plates of amazing food (Spanish paella, pasta with mushroom sauce, succulent roasted chicken) and lots of wine and other "merry-making" beverages. Dozens of volunteers shared in the feast. Barbara, a volunteer and former pilgrim from Dusseldorf, Germany, served as our translator. There was much laughter and joy (no translation required) - obviously one big "family" enjoying a shared meal and time together. We were stuffed - and very "merry." Our visit was short (parts of 2 days and 1 night) but we were grateful for the time we could spend together. Ernesto, Paqui, Miguel, and Barbara drove us to Bilbao the following day. We spent the afternoon and evening in Bilbao, where we visited the Guggenheim museum and participated in a "tapas tour." The following morning Gina flew to Barcelona and then home to California; John and I took a bus back to Logroño, where we picked up the Camino again - only 26 more days of walking to reach Santiago!
My feet continued to be a problem; I was resigned that they would hurt for the rest of the trip. However, after a visit to a podiatrist in Burgos (5 days further down the road), a new pair of shoes, and another day of rest, things began to improve.
About a week after leaving Ernesto and friends in Güemes, I received a text from them asking where we were - they wanted to take us out to dinner. "Wherever you are, we will find you." What a fun surprise - and a little crazy, we thought. Were they really going to drive another 2-1/2 hr (one way) to have dinner with us and then turn around and drive back? Yes, they did! They found us in the sleepy little village of Castrojeriz (population 500). We shared another wonderful meal with these amazing people. Excellent food, excellent company - we felt so fortunate to be the recipients of their kindness and hospitality once again!After dinner, we said another fond farewell, with more hugs and smiles. Nineteen more Camino-days (~ 285 miles) awaited us when we set out again the following morning. We stayed in touch with our friends throughout our trip and shared this photo when we, finally, arrived in Santiago on October 16.Amazing journey. Amazing people. Special friends.
If you'd like to keep the "Guemes connection" alive, I encourage you to include Güemes, Spain in your future travel plans. In the meantime, if you're interested in sending holiday greetings to Father Ernesto and team, here's the mailing address:
Father Ernesto Bustio Albergue La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto Calle el Albergue, S/N, 39191 Güemes, Cantabria, Spain
Sandy Seifried, Leslie Tysseling, Dana McCarthy, Joanne & Michael Gray, Tom Godwin, Ginny Sherif, Mark & Barb Ohms, and Barbara Schnabel now join Randy Schnabel and Darla Gay Smith, who were previously certified, as part of our Guemes CERT team. Twenty other islanders came to one or more of the on-island classes. CERT information and hands-on emergency training will benefit families and the community in an emergency.
A special thank you goes out to the Guemes Island Fire Department, especially Olivia Snell and Gerry Francis, as well as Kendrick, Rick, Nancy, Fran, and Larry. These dedicated volunteers assisted with the emergency medical and first aid classes, basic fire suppression, and safe extraction exercises.
Anyone who is interested in learning to be a HAM radio operator, please contact CERT at email@example.com for information. HAM radios may be the only functional communication method in a major disaster. Be prepared and become part of the radio NETwork.
For more information about CERT on Guemes and to find out who your neighborhood leaders are, see the CERT link under Helpful Links on the Home page of this site.
We have many overdue items and a few empty DVD cases. Remember to check your bookshelves and DVD players.
Thank you from the Guemes Library staff.
Meet Your Neighbor
We traveled to Europe, for the first time, to celebrate our 60th birthdays and to get a taste of places we’d dreamed of seeing in person. Scotland, Austria, and France were on the list, and seeing Güemes was a priority for us. We took a train from a village in France to the border with Spain where Ernesto, Paqui, and Miguel picked us up. (We were sorry not to see Marina, who is working and studying in Berlin.)
On the drive to Güemes, we got a taste of northern Spain’s coast and the Cantabrian countryside before landing at the albergue. Though I knew from our eight days with Ernesto and friends in our home that we were in the presence of a remarkable person, our three days at the hostel brought regular confirmation of his specialness. Ernesto is a person who has dedicated his life to caring for others while also having grand adventures—it seems like a great mix to me.
The hostel is decorated throughout with evidence of the huge number of people who have benefited from his love, care, and sense of humor. Everywhere you look, there is artwork, appreciations, posters, and more from and about the people who have been influenced by Ernesto and his helpers. The place is full of talent, love, and good humor that seems to never falter, even while a new batch of 30-100 pilgrims arrives every afternoon.
Lisa and I were particularly pleased to share and enjoy music with Paqui’s wife and others from the community one afternoon and evening. We were tickled to hear lots of American music in their repertoire and to enjoy their robust harmonies. There was lots of laughter as well.
We toured both of the local churches that Ernesto serves, and got a great view of the small community of Güemes from the tower in the center church. We also took a day trip to Picos de Europa, a gorgeous mountainous region where Ernesto served early in his career as a priest. There and around Güemes, everyone seemed to know and revere Ernesto—there was a familial warmth that was obvious.
We were able to hear Ernesto speak to one of the pilgrim groups in the round building on the albergue property that is dedicated to meditation and contemplation. I was particularly amused at how often Ernesto would tease or make jokes; he is a person who has done and accomplished so much, but has not lost his childlike humor and a humble sense of his own small place in the universe. Paqui and Miguel and several others are integral parts of the albergue’s mission, and the spirit we saw shining from them on the island is shared with pilgrims, volunteers, staff, and visitors.
We had the opportunity to chat with some of the pilgrims, and even more with the hostel staff and volunteers. With some frequency, pilgrims who stop at the hostel for the typical one-night stay decide to come back and volunteer for weeks or months. While we were there, we connected with volunteers from Spain, Netherlands, and Columbia who were there to help—and to soak up more of the congenial spirit of the place.
Our visit was brief, ending with a ride to the nearest international airport in Bilbao. It left us with a lovely taste and a wish to return, perhaps to walk some of the Camino, or to spend time helping at the hostel. I encourage islanders with European travel plans to consider a stop at this small place that shares our island’s name. The place is quite scenic; the people are extraordinarily hospitable and kind. Building more connection between the village of Güemes, Spain and Guemes Island was our pleasure, and could be yours too.Read less
Whoooo's your neighbor?
Does your neighbor have a quiet and wise demeanor? Does s/he exude an air of mystery and diffidence? Do you hear him/her calling out at night? Does s/he hang out on your back fence and stare at anything that moves? Strange behavior for a neighbor? Not if s/he's an owl! What a hoot!
Thank you to all the islanders and visitors who attended the presentation by Paul Bannick, Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls, on Saturday September 22. Paul's talk was informative and accompanied by his fabulous photographs of owls from the desert Southwest to the frozen arctic. The proceeds benefit the Guemes Island Environmental Trust.
Paul, a graduate from the University of Washington, is an award-winning wildlife photographer and acclaimed author. He combines his love of the outdoors, his skill as a photographer, and his passion for wilderness conservation into his books as well as his multimedia presentations that emphasize the natural history of North America with a focus on birds and habitat.
Paul has been featured numerous times in local and national press, including in the Seattle Times, King 5 News, Evening Magazine, NPR, NBC Nightly News, etc. He currently serves as the Director of Major Gifts for Conservation Northwest, an organization dedicated to protecting and connecting wild areas and recovering native species from the Pacific Coast to the Canadian Rockies.
Join us! Don't miss Owl!
Stephanie was born during a Guemes Ferry outage as her mother, Phyllis, had to be “ferried” by other means to the hospital in Anacortes for the birth. A true “Guemes Girl,” Stephanie grew up with a love of animals, nature, art, and music. She has traveled extensively abroad to China, Australia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Ecuador, France, and England. She is back and will begin married life on Guemes.
Dan’s college degrees in Spanish, music, and philosophy led him to join the Peace Corps in 2006. He was assigned to Bolivia where he built wells and worked on basic sanitation. As Dan immersed himself in the local community, he taught English, played soccer, and learned the indigenous music and native dialects. He was as well loved in Bolivia as he is now on Guemes Island. Dan began work as a rural postal carrier in Anacortes in 2010 and occasionally substituted for the Guemes route. Now a full-time resident, Dan built a “green” home with his own artistic touches in the southeast corner of the Island, which he will share with his wife Stephanie.
Stephanie and Dan found each other and common ground in international travel, art, and music. Their involvement with community, congregation, and family reflects their love for each other. Congratulations to this Guemes couple on their upcoming wedding!
Guemes Island Property Owners Association's
Citizen Of The Year, 2018On June 9, 2018, the Guemes Island Property Owners Association (GIPOA) voted at its annual membership meeting to award the "Guemes Island Citizen Of The Year" to Barb Ohms. This award is presented once a year to a Guemes Island resident or residents who have given outstanding service to the Guemes Island community. Barb was recognized for her outstanding leadership as president of the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) and for her involvement with a number of other island organizations.
As GICCA's president, Barb’s inclusive leadership style and active engagement have fostered teamwork and progress on a number of important community projects and committees. If you need to schedule an event at the Hall, she’s the gal to call. Barb's also the keeper of the comprehensive, island-wide Events Calendar on the GICCA website.
Barb is an organizer with Guemes CERT, a Gathering Lunch cook, and can be found volunteering at most island events. Barb's commitment to the Guemes community is evidenced by her ongoing efforts to partner with and support other island organizations and to build on the work done by previous leaders to improve the many aspects of life on Guemes Island.
Congratulations Barb! The Guemes Island community thanks you for your dedication, commitment, and hard work on behalf of all Islanders!
Photo: Howard Pellett, GIPOA President, presents Barb Ohms with the Citizen Of The Year award. Also pictured are Julie Pingree and Bob Stickrod. Photo credit: Carol Pellett
Greg and Marlene Kleven
The Long Road To GuemesSometimes the truly unexpected happens for all the right reasons. This was our recent experience on our road to the “other” Guemes.
My wife Marlene and I were recently staying in Spain, renting a flat in San Sebastian, using the city as our base to explore the Basque countryside. During our three-week visit, our oldest son and his wife came for a short stay. At the conclusion of their visit, we dropped them off at the Bilbao airport and decided to continue our journey west to the city of Santander, the capital city of the Cantabria region on Spain’s north coast, located at the mouth of the Bay of Santander on the rocky La Magdalena Peninsula. We were planning on having breakfast near the beach or the boardwalk. Much to our surprise, however, everything was closed. We should have known. This is a Catholic nation and it was Sunday morning. We eventually found a small coffee shop open. We ordered two “café con leches” and “toasta” then decided to continue our journey, entering a random town in our GPS on the coastline that would that would take us off the freeway and into the countryside.
Within 45 minutes of driving to our selected destination of “Bayeu” we came upon the following road sign.“Marlene,” I said. “Look at this. It’s a road sign for Guemes. We have to go.”
In the back of my mind I remembered there was a Guemes, Spain, but I had no idea where it was, until now. Changing course we drove for roughly 10 minutes down a beautiful, pastoral, country road, filled with cows, grass, and rolling hills. And then we pulled into Guemes town square, literally just as the church bells were ringing, reminding local villagers that Sunday mass was about to begin. I immediately jumped out of the car and took a video of the church bells ringing.
Somewhat overwhelmed with our recent discovery, we walked behind the church and discovered a bed and breakfast establishment with a small pub. We walked inside. Using Google translate I ordered two diet cokes, a couple of sandwiches, and proceeded in “very poor Spanish” to explain that we were from Guemes, US. Fortunately for us, the bartender understood English quite well and told us to wait at the bar. Moments later the proprietor, Fermin, came out and excitedly told us that their local priest, Ernesto was visiting Guemes, US, with two of his associates, “that very day!” He pulled up his Facebook account and showed us pictures of Ernesto with Guemes residents, Bob Anderson, Pastor Sally Balmer, and Ian Woofenden, to name a few.
I repeat, we did NOT plan this. The story gets better.
Knowing there was a nine-hour difference between Guemes, Spain and Guemes, US, I sent a copy of the ringing church bells video to our friend and fellow Guemes parishioner, Lois Duncan. That very morning when Ernesto and his friends were attending the Guemes Island church service, Lois stood up and played the ringing church bells of Guemes Spain. Needless to say, everyone was quite amazed. Ernesto was overjoyed.
Over 250,000 people have walked the centuries-old ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as “The Way." Father Ernesto’s Albergue is one of the stops where he has welcomed thousands of pilgrims from around the globe to a hot shower, a bed, food, and companionship. During our visit we found out that Father Ernesto, who is now 80 years old, was actually born on the very site of his Albergue which can host up to 100 people a night. On the evening we stayed at his Guemes Albergue there were roughly 50 pilgrims. Our hostess, Bego, introduced us to the audience of fellow, Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Brits, and Spaniards, as travelers from the “other” Guemes in the US.
Our visit to the Guemes Albergue ended up being the highlight of our trip to Spain. For Marlene and me, this was a journey that began in 1992 when we made our first “Guemes discovery” answering a Seattle Weekly add advertising a beach cottage for rent on a small island off Anacortes. Little did we know that our journey would continue thousands of miles away along the Camino de Santiago in Spain 26 years later. The adventure continues.
Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarship Winners (L to R): Paula Gunning, Katherine Butler, and Brynna Bone2018 is the 27th year that Guemes Island honors outstanding students, both juniors and seniors, with the Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarships. This year's recipients are Paula Gunning, Katherine Butler, and Brynna Bone.
Congratulations to these impressive young people. Thank you also to those Guemes residents whose donations fund this ongoing scholarship program.
Travel Blog Now Available!
Click here to follow the "De Guemes a Guemes" travel blog. You can select "Translate to English" from the pop-up menu after you right-click on your mouse or touchpad from your PC.
Just as with athletic and musical performances, NHD teams need an audience and a team of judges. Randy is looking for islanders willing to help judge. Click here for more information about NW Regional National History Day. For questions about judging, please contact Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National History Day is a nationwide competition for 6th to 12th-grade students. Each year a new theme is chosen. Students use primary sources to research their topic that relates to the year’s theme. Individuals or teams then develop a presentation by gathering and evaluating facts. They choose one of five categories to present their argument: academic paper, documentary, performance, exhibit, or website. The learning process includes compiling an annotated bibliography and a paper that explains the process they used to research their topic. NHD not only promotes the study and appreciation of history but helps students learn to evaluate opinions and news sources. These are valuable skills needed in developing good, objective citizens in an age of “alternative facts” and “sound bite” news.
Just as with athletic and musical performances, NHD teams need an audience and a team of judges. Randy is looking for islanders willing to help judge. Click here for more information about NW Regional National History Day. For questions about judging, please contact Randy at email@example.com. You also might come away having learned something about history.
The Guemes Ferry: The union of sea, boat, and passenger.
Flow Yoga: The union of breath, body, and mind.
As one of crew of the Guemes, Kelsea Teel is a familiar face to many who ride the Guemes Ferry. Beginning January 5, Kelsea will be providing 8 weeks of Flow Yoga. Classes are free of charge on Friday mornings at 10:00 at the Community Center Hall on Guemes Island.
After nine years of her own Yoga practice, Kelsea recently began instructor training through YogaFit. Part of the process is providing Yoga as a community service. This allows her the opportunity to connect her personal practice with the ability to share Yoga with others. YogaFit is designed to teach Yoga to everybody in EVERY BODY in a way that is safe and adaptable regardless of your age group, body type, fitness level or experience. This philosophy centers on letting go of judgment, competition, and expectations. YogaFit includes many aspects of practice including Flow Yoga, or Vinyasa. It is called "flow" because of the smooth way that the poses run together with each movement synchronized to a breath.
Kelsea says, "I am excited and truly grateful for the opportunity to extend the gift of Yoga to the Guemes community. Thank you for your patience and support through my process of instructor certification."