A retired band director from Eagle Point and a retired aerospace engineer from Italy have done something perhaps no one else has done. They hiked to every mission in California and did it in just 55 days.
The journey saw them walk 800 miles to visit 21 missions.
Ron “Butch” Briery, 65, is a name well known to many area residents. Not only did he teach band in District 9, he had the State of Jefferson Sometimes Marching Band , that included among its members retired folks, wanna be musicians and so forth. They were a fun group and one of the features for years in July 4th parades.
His partner on the journey was Beppe Sala, 62, from a town near Milan, Italy. Sala and Briery met in Spain when Briery and his wife, Sandy, were hiking. Of course hiking was a topic of their conversation and it was then that Sala learned of Briery’s plans to visit the missions.
Briery said one of the challenging parts of the journey actually came before the journey– it came in the planning stages. Briery describes himself as an urban hiker. In other words, he rather likes some of the conveniences such as a shower and a comfortable bed. This required some zigging and zagging to see all the missions on foot, yet only camp out about half the time. To be sure his plans worked he made the trip by car before finalizing plans.
Departure day was Mar. 3. Briery, accompanied by his wife on the first 200 and last 200 miles, and Sala began their journey in San Diego at Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission constructed (1769) in what later became the state of California. Fifty-five days later they ended their journey in Sonoma at the Mission San Francisco de Solano, the last mission constructed ( 1821) in what is now California.
Briery said El Camino Real was originally designed to connect all of California’s missions, a journey that would have been 600 miles. Much of the road is gone and has become Highway 101. Briery’s plan avoided Highway 101, thus adding 200 miles to their journey.
There was one 9 ½ mile strip where they could not walk and that was at Camp Pendleton.
Briery’s trek was because of his interest in history. He hopes others will want to make the journey and is in the process of writing a book about the journey.
Sala’s primary purpose was spiritual. For him it was a pilgrimage. For both, it is a journey never to be forgotten.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent