Hope Waterman (from left), John Paul Hanson, Matthew Geier and their dog, Laika, take a break in Aptos on April 8 during their pilgrimage walk from San Diego to Sonoma to visit all 21 California Missions. Photo: Tarmo Hannula
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Three friends and their dog stopped in San Juan Bautista April 7 on their “pilgrimage” that began in San Diego on Ash Wednesday (March 3) and continued north with overnight stops at the California Missions.

Their goal is to visit all 21 California Missions and to arrive on Easter at the most northerly mission in Sonoma.

“Lent is the penitential season in the Catholic Church where we take on penitential things and spiritual exercises of various kinds to recollect ourselves and try to improve ourselves to prepare for the joyful season of Easter,” Hope Waterman said. 

She spoke from a patch of shade on Soquel Drive in Aptos while walking to Santa Cruz with her companions John Paul Hanson, Matthew Geier and their dog, Laika. 

“It is in memory of the 40 days that our Lord spent in the desert preparing for his earthly ministry and also for the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert before they came to the promised land,” Waterman said. “So it’s 40 days of penance, fasting and recollecting your life and becoming closer to the ideal of being a better person.” 

The group aims to walk to the missions, or religious outposts, established between 1769 and 1833, and were originally laid out to be about a day’s walk apart from one another. 

“I believe that San Juan Bautista was our 15th and we’ve done all of them up to this point,” Geier said. “It’s been very positive. People see us walking along the roadside and they stop for us and offer us water, food, and even showers or places for us to sleep. I never really knew how much hospitality and kindness was out there. I’m very encouraged to see so much of this.”

Geier is from Eastvale in Riverside County, while Hanson is from Irving, Texas and Waterman is from Stanford.

“This trip was my brainchild; I was the one who came up with it,” Waterman said. “I wanted to do something special for California that we had been talking about. I want California to be healed of its ills and to be fully dedicated to Christ.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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