by LYDIA COBB | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

A Grand Pilgrimage

Jody Stell grew up exploring national parks. She’s been to all 50 states and 42 countries. Her husband Jerry Horna was a Navy kid and described having lived everywhere from Puerto Rico to Saudi Arabia to the San Francisco Bay Area, with roots in the D.C. and Virginia. Jody and Jerry have lived in Rancho Peñasquitos since 1999, drawn here for the climate and outdoor recreation.

Jerry is an IT project manager and attended West Virginia University. Jody, an accountant who grew up in Pittsburgh, attended James Madison University. When they’re not traveling, they’ll hike Black Mountain. Jerry surfs. Jody volunteers with Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course. They both love the library.

faces_horna-stell_1To celebrate Jody’s 40th birthday in 2015, she wanted to return to Spain where she’d spent a college semester abroad. “I loved the culture, food, and people of Spain,” recounted Jody, “and had returned there a few times, taking Jerry in 2012 to see my university town of Salamanca.” They discussed the possibility of hiking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

They left San Diego for two months last year, hiking 34 days and 315 miles. Some days they rested and visited towns. Jerry developed plantar fasciitis – pain in the heel – that demanded they adjust their stride. “We enjoyed being outside in the fresh air every day,” said Jody. “Hiking the El Camino was a great exercise in living in the present.” At a trailhead in France, they registered as pilgrims. They crossed the Pyrenees and walked for 100 miles, then took a bus to a more northern route along the coast to walk another 80 miles. A train delivered them down to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, and there they walked along the coast concluding at an Atlantic lighthouse.faces_horna-stell_2

Jerry remembered a typical day: “Walk, snack break, walk more, lunch break, more walking, afternoon chocolate break, walk more.” At hotels they’d hand wash their spare clothes and head out to savor local cuisine and wines.

“Take your vacation days!” added Jody. “It’s so beneficial for mental well-being and to de-stress and unplug.” Jerry now has a Yosemite backpacking trip planned. They also aim to hike the Italian Dolomites with friends. For Jerry and Jody, it’s all about finding balance, living and hiking one day at a time.


Name: Jerry Horna and Jody Lynn Stell
Professions: Jerry – IT Project Manager; Jody – Accountant
Community: Rancho Peñasquitos since 1999
Hobbies: Jerry – hiking and surfing; Jody – reading, hiking, participating in the Sierra Club Wilderness Basics Course
Favorite Spots in 92130: Deli Stop Sports Pub, Black Mountain Open Space Preserve, Rancho Family YMCA, Rancho Peñasquitos and Poway Branch Libraries

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