Friday, November 26, 2010
As part of our physical preparation for the Camino Robin and I decided to replicate the crossing of the Pyrenees from St. Jean (France) to Roncesvalles (Spain). As one learns more about the Camino concern seems to grow about that first day, or two, crossing the mountains into Spain. There are a great many posts on a variety of forums where others have recounted their struggles. We wondered just how bad this was going to be. The closest local hike we could find that fit the bill was the Larch Mountain Trail. We drove to the trailhead at Multnomah Falls Lodge, just east of Portland, and set out from there, in fine weather, at 9:30 one Saturday. We returned at 5:10 after a 14 mile hike that gained 4,000 feet in the first 6.8 miles. Surprisingly all went well. We were pretty much done at the end but we carried our Camino packs at 20# and 16# respectively and survived. No blisters, used the Pacer hiking poles (couldn't have done it without them). I also will confirm that the downhill trip is the worst. It really does affect your knees. I will be looking for some kind of wrap or elastic bandage to help with that. Gorgeous hike through something that looks like a Lost World set. Paths that varied from cushy pine needles to sharp broken rock to boulder fields (yikes). Robin did great. No blisters, but she was a little sore the next morning. We now know we can do the mountain pass crossing from France into Spain (we have done it - sort of). At the end of the hike we celebrated with an icy cold beer at the lodge and then shuffled (did I mention the knees) out to the parking lot for the trip home and more celebrating. Great day.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
As one prepares for any Camino the question of what to bring and what to leave behind looms very large. It is all about the weight of your pack and the effects of that weight on your body as you continually walk 15-20 miles per day. Recommendations suggest limiting your pack weight to no more than 10 percent of your body weight. In the end my pack weighed in at just about that but Robin's was a bit more. This included allowances for food and water. I have linked our pack lists to this post. Robin and I managed to keep to the bare essentials. Mine included two sets of long johns (one capilene 3 and one power stretch fleece), two capilene T shirts, two pairs of underwear (ex officio), three pairs of Smartwool hiking socks with three pairs of liners (Injinji), one pair mid weight softshell pants (Marmot Scree), one pair waterproof softshell pants (REI Taku), and a waterproof shell jacket (Marmot Genesis). What we aren't wearing along with the usual other odds and ends are going into Aarn (NZ company) Peak Aspiration backpacks with the sport balance pockets. These packs have been on our backs for many months loaded with training weight and fit and carry beautifully. Our sleeping system is a down quilt made by Nunatak called the Back Country Blanket. This has a full length velcro closure instead of a zipper (lighter). It has drawcords that gather the bottom together and the top around your shoulders to form a sleeping bag tube out of the flat quilt. Weighs 1.5 pounds and is good to 20F (so advertised). We will use a Sea to Summit premium silk liner (4.5 ounces) with it for extra warmth and to keep the quilt cleaner. We will also carry the altus rain poncho which seems to be a staple on the Camino. We both will be using Pacer poles. One tip of the hat to technology is my Kindle which has my reading material as well as guide book information on it and weighs less than the print guidebook. Robin will carry her iPhone. On our hands we will wear waterproof Marmot Precip gloves with optional liners. I should also mention we will be using Hikers Wool (an NZ product) as a blister prevention product instead of the frequently recommended vaseline under the liner socks. We have been using the wool for months and love it. But in the end, as with all this gear, the Camino will tell us whether we have made the right choices.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
And that is exactly what I am about to do. Sure, I could list a few reasons why I am doing this; why I am leaving the comfort of my own home, those familiar faces with whom I share laughs and sometimes a few tears, and, ah...that endless list of things to do..... What would those reasons be you might ask? I could say as John O'Donohue put it, to explore "the invisible geography" of my inner self or, to walk with silence to taste what it is like to be in profound repose. But in truth, I really don't know why I am doing this Camino. Perhaps, it isn't important to know why but I dare to say that it is significant, at least for me, to feel, for the first time in my life, that I am okay with the unknown, I am okay without having any plans, and I am ready to experience what might be, without exerting so much effort so as to understand 'why'. Of course, one does not have to leave one's own home and set out a long journey to do a pilgrimage. As J and I have been training for this since last Christmas 2009, I became more aware that the life itself is a pilgrimage. I wonder if this endless list of earthly desires we've created, and strive to accomplish, have anything to do with The Destination we hope to reach one day. Yes, you guessed it. The more questions I ask, the more confusion gets on my nerves, yet the more comfortable I become with who I am. So while my body travels through the terrain of Spain for next 54 days (or so), I am mindful of the fact that those questions are blessings and all I have to do is to simply trust, trust what is. It might take the Camino de Santiago to know 'why' or, perhaps, it might take multiple life times. But, I do know one thing; my longing has brought me to this point. And for now, I am happy with that simple truth. Okay, I know I am rambling on so I will offer some wisdom from Thomas Merton who has articulated some of these things much better than I ever could in this life or the next.
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone." Thoughts in Solitude
Thursday, November 11, 2010
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