Monday, March 28, 2011

We seekers

Day began in the pre-dawn half light, stretched out in front of the fireplace, the heat warming the stiffness from my body, watching the steam curl up from a small pot of tea, while gathering my thoughts for this blog. It is another typical Pacific Northwest early spring morning with a quilt of dove grey clouds hanging low over the valley with a few peaks to the east nestled into its soft underside. A sliver of pale light is struggling in vain to separate valley and cloud. This, for me, is the golden time when my mind, unfettered, tends to embrace all the possibilities of another new day. It seems, these days, I find myself winging back across the Atlantic and onto the Camino. I don't want to obsess on the experience but it certainly has gripped (perhaps embraced is a better word) both Robin and I in a way that we can't (or don't want to) let go of.

Why did we go? To some it might seem reckless to run off to a foreign country and set out to walk across a good portion of it. What about this, and what about that? Have you ever done anything like this before came the questions from well meaning friends. Of course, we had no experiences to match up with what we proposed to do, but we also had a sense that all would be well (hubris or faith?). Is this the way others set out? Who could know, but in one sense it didn't matter for once we were there it became obvious that we would simply walk our own camino. After all, there is no standard to follow. Just follow the markers and your heart. We all have a point of departure and a point of arrival in mind when we travel. It frames the journey and provides context for the time and effort spent to get to our destination. Plus, as part of our human legacy, we are more comfortable with known limits. Our journey started out in a somewhat similar fashion. Get to the point of departure, join the camino, set a goal for each day and walk that plan until you arrive in Santiago. Seemed easy enough. Oh, also be open minded enough to realize that all plans are subject to change (hmmm...). We got it (we thought), and were ready to go.

After one night in St. Jean we started up the valley route to Roncesvalles. That first day was exhilarating as we engaged the pitch of the pass adjusting our steps to the cadence of our upbeat mood. Everything just felt right for both Robin and I. We were finally walking the Camino. We were still bone tired from the trip to St. Jean, but with perfect weather for our ascent our fatigue slipped away, and as we climbed we realized a joy unlike any other we could remember.  A call had been answered and we were on the Camino and underway at last. But, what about the "why" of the journey? I haven't forgotten.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


We have been home now for about a month and a half and I finally feel ready to start posting some reflections on our Camino. We have put up all the information about gear and accommodations (the outer journey) but the story of the inner journey is much on my mind these days and looking for a way out. Let's see where this takes us. Welcome aboard.

 When Robin and I set out on the Camino we were reasonably fit, felt we had the right gear and a pack weight we could carry to Santiago. Those were the basics. Beyond that there was, let's call it, a feeling that something else was looming in our future. We simply knew that this would be more than a long, interesting walk. Of course, we had read a great deal about the Camino including many personal accounts of how pilgrims were impacted by the journey. For some it was a unfortunate litany of physical ailments (tendonitis, blisters, muscle aches, illness, etc), for others it was a grand adventure, a physical accomplishment, and then there were the more compelling tales (for me) of providence found along the Way. In truth, I thought our trip might be a sampling of all the above. It just seemed logical that there would be some challenges (daily distances to cover, aching or damaged body parts, steepness of grade, cold/wet weather), and it was certainly going to an adventure. The providence part well, who could say for sure what that might be. Our minds were open, we were excited, but we harbored a certain wariness of the unknown as well. What we did not appreciate until much later was the why of this journey. In truth we did look forward to being able to say, "We did it." What we did not foresee is what it did to us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Winter Camino Slide Show

J took more than 2,000 photos from our Camino and these are some of my favorites. I am not very keen on taking pictures when we travel but I am so glad he is! If you've walked the Camino I hope this will take you back to those wonderful moments. I believe there are seasons for everything and perhaps, and only if you desire, let this be an invitation for you to seek your own Camino. Wherever you are, enjoy the journey. Buen Camino!

p.s.) Unfortunately, this video is currently blocked in Germany due to a copyright law that I am not familiar with. I have joined 4 tracks of songs into one track in order to upload .mov file slide show (which is generated from my iPhoto) onto the Youtube without loosing the audio. YouTube only picks up the first audio track of .mov file and the rest of the video is mute.

You may view this video directly from YouTube for a slightly larger viewing size. Google "Caminoat6450" and there you should find all three videos in this blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Sunday walk in the pouring rain...waterproof jacket or poncho?

Our walk started out all right with cloudy skies and light winds and just a few veils of showers coming over the west hills in Portland. It was a Sunday walk just to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Everything we had on we wore on the Camino. Today it was waterproof jackets and pants. No ponchos. Off we went down past Fort Vancouver, across the land bridge that leads you to a walking path along the Columbia River where we turned east. The first 8K was fine and our pace was steady and brisk. We were really enjoying ourselves. At Tidewater Cove, where we doubled back, I could see heavier showers approaching. No worries lets see how all this gear holds up. It was shortly thereafter when the first drops greeted us and the trees started moving to the rhythm of the gusting winds. We shortly were being pelted by driving rain and much stronger winds. Sheets of water ran off our jackets and pants down over our boots. The older trees were shedding smaller limbs. We were effectively underwater. We actually never had any rain like this on the Camino so I thought this will be a perfect test. We slogged on towards home doing constant mental body scans seeking out possible wet spots beneath the hard shell, soft shell, Gore tex, and whatever. I got the first hit. Left foot upper part definitely damp. These were the same brand and model boots I wore successfully on the Camino but not the same pair (that pair presented no problems fording streams in Spain). These will go back to REI next week. Then I noticed a dampness running down my right arm, below the elbow. This was then followed by dampness in the front of my pants. Robin fared much better and arrived home without much complaint in her hard shell outfit. My soft shell jacket and pants were advertised as waterproof, but I guess one could add, up to a point. Today's weather must have moved just beyond that point. We finished our walk. Had a wonderful day of it and learned something valuable. Even the best gear can leak so it is still wise to carry a poncho (for us it's the Altus). You will never know when you might need it, and it covers your pack as well. Our "swim" home was followed by a couple of  cold Believer Double Red Ales (from Ninkasi Brewery) in front of the fireplace. As we sat warming and drying ourselves by the fire, and enjoying our well deserved ale, I must admit my thoughts drifted far from home, to some rural part of northern Spain, where Robin and I were still inching westward.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What have we missed?

Robin and I are very close to posting our slide show and are continuing to work on some further reflections on our recent "Christmas Camino", but in the meantime it would be helpful if any reader has a question please leave a comment with your request and we shall attempt to answer it. I must restate that we are very sorry that we were not able to respond to the many kind and thoughtful comments posted while we were walking. Now that we are home we will be more responsive to comments and questions posted on this blog. You, our readers, have given us much encouragement and we are truly thankful for your willingness to share our journey and our enthusiasm for the Camino. We will be continuing to keep this site active as we look forward to our return to Spain and our next winter camino (summers are definitely out).