Monthly Archives: July 2017

Thinking and Training

After a thirty-seven year teaching career, I walked out of the classroom for good in May, 2012. I’ve been officially retired now for over five years. At 66, amazingly, I still feel young. At least young enough for an occasional adventure. And that’s how I’m viewing my upcoming trip to Spain—-as another adventure. I hope to find spiritual relevance along the way, but for now I’m focusing more on the physical journey than I am the internal experience.

During those years as an educator, I’ve also been a dedicated runner, logging over 59,000 miles in a journal that I’ve kept since 1980. For the past three years, some things have changed. After a series of minor injuries, I’ve been more of a sporadic runner than a dedicated one. Still, for the past few months I’ve been maintaining about 20 miles a week. I walk almost every day as well. Fortunately, I’ve been able to stay in reasonably good shape, especially for my age.  

To get ready for the Camino I’ve determined that all I really need to do is spend a little more time walking. I’ve decided to continue running three or four days a week, usually 4-6 miles every other day. I’ll also hike occasionally and walk before and after each run. By the time I leave for Spain, I plan to have walked at least two back-to-back days of around 15 miles. That should prepare me well.

This past Monday I walked a little over 11 miles, and yesterday I hiked a 7.8 mile loop on the Pine Mountain Trail with my good friend Alton. Along the way my buddy shared some of his Camino experience and answered several of my questions. I appreciated his insight.

Later in the afternoon I joined my other Camino-experienced friend, John, for lunch. Like Alton, John was happy to answer questions and provide what should prove to be some valuable information. It was interesting to see different perspectives on a couple of issues from two men who had both walked the trail last spring.

Today I’ll run, walk, read, write, and wait. I wouldn’t say that I’m anxious, but I am definitely in an anticipatory state. With only a little over a month remaining until my departure, I expect the time to pass quickly. The Camino de Santiago is just over the horizon.

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Immediately after booking my flight to Madrid, I ordered a copy of John Brierley’s A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago. Even though I already had an older edition that I’ve been perusing for a couple of years, I figured it was better to travel with the most recent publication. The book arrived in the mail from Amazon two days later.

I’ve begun reading; however, I don’t plan to try to absorb all of what Mr. Brierley has to offer prior to my departure. I do want to become familiar with the route, at least in a minimal sense. But like the guide suggests, I will let the path lead me rather than try to pre-determine my every step.

One thing that the author strongly suggests is that pilgrims have a “spiritual purpose for taking the journey.” At the present I haven’t quite determined if I do. I suppose I’ll know when that occurs, and I fully expect that it will. Like with my steps, I’ll let the path determine my inner journey as well.

For now I just plan to read about the Camino. I’ll walk some each day and continue to run four or five days a week until I leave. Occasionally, I’ll train with a full pack. I hope the “full” pack will never weigh any more than fifteen pounds. That seems like a reasonable goal.

Over the next five weeks I plan to write a few pre-walk entries in this journal. Some may be informative while other will be reflective. Like with the walking, I’ll let the spirit lead. And I’m looking forward to finding out exactly where that is.

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The Plan Begins

I posted this entry at on Don’s 60 birthday, July 6.

“When are you going to do the Camino?” one of my good friends, John, asked as Linda and I shopped in Lowe’s last Monday.

“I plan to go one day,” I responded. “I’m just not sure when right now.

John undertook his walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago last summer. A few months later he shared stories from his pilgrimage with our group of running buddies one morning over coffee. Producing his certificate of completion, it was obvious that John’s journey had been both physical and spiritual.

So last Tuesday, the following day after that chance meeting with my friend at Lowe’s, I decided to search for plane tickets to Madrid. I check regularly like some people monitor the stock market. Always looking for a deal, it occasionally doesn’t even matter where I go. I just like a bargain. When I spotted one departing from Atlanta in mid-August, I only vacillated for about an hour before hitting the “purchase” key. I too was going to Spain.

“I just booked a flight to Madrid,” I sent in a text message to Alton.

“You are like me……a restless soul,” my friend responded.

Alton was right. Lately I’ve been restless. The decision really wasn’t a difficult one.
In six weeks I’ll embark on another adventure…..a journey…a pilgrimage. As I write this today on what would have been my brother’s 60th birthday, I’m thinking about Don and what he would have said. He would have reminded me to “be careful.” And I will. And just as I did when I successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, I will have my brother with me in spirit. Physically, I’ll travel alone. But within, I’ll know that Don is with me.

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A New Adventure

In about five weeks I’ll be heading to Spain.  I’ve written three pieces that I’ve put up at under my Camino de Santiago journal.  Like I did on my 2013 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I’ll post entries there as well as here.  So tonight, I’ve decided to go ahead and post those first three entries.   I hope you enjoy following along on this new journey.

Tuesday, June 27

In January of 2016 I began this journal with the opening line, “It’s time for a new adventure.” It turned out that it wasn’t time for that “adventure” then; however, I think it is now. Therefore, I’m starting again with a little different twist on my upcoming pilgrimage.

On September 2, 2013 I completed a five month, eleven day thru-hike of the then 2,185.9 mile Appalachian Trail. While engaged in what was certainly one of the most grueling endeavors of my 62 years on this earth, I vowed during the final few weeks of the ordeal that “every step I took was a step that I would never have to take again.” I broke that vow in the summer of 2014 when I joined my long-time friend Alton for a return to the A.T. in Maine. The hikes were short, and I carefully selected sections that weren’t quite so demanding.

It was during that time together in Maine, however, that Alton began seriously discussing his desire to one day complete a long distance hike of his own—not on the Appalachian Trail, but along another popular walking path on a different continent. The hike would be a pilgrimage—a walk from the village of St. Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. As I listened to my good buddy’s strategy for his life immediately after retirement, I too thought that I would join him on the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James.

We had actually been talking about undertaking the Camino since the summer of 2007. It was on a section hike of the A.T. in Vermont that we met thru-hiker, Tao. Joining the young lady for a couple of days, both of us were fascinated by her descriptions of the Spanish countryside. We were equally intrigued as she talked of the spiritual phase of her Camino journey.

“We need to do that Camino one day,” Alton noted as we struggled up one of the steeper Green Mountains.

“Sure,” I replied, not really as excited about a trip to Spain as I was about finishing the Vermont section of the A.T.

My friend ended his 42-year teaching career in early May of 2016. The following day he set out on his Camino journey. I did not accompany him. It just didn’t seem like the right time for me. I was trying to finish my second book on my A.T. thru-hike, and a couple of other life events made me realize that it was more important for me to be in Georgia than is was to be with my buddy an ocean away. Still, I knew that eventually I too would follow in his footsteps

So yesterday, almost on a whim, I purchased a plane ticket to Madrid and began researching modes of transportation between the capital city and Pamplona. From Pamplona I’ll still need to figure out how to get to St. Jean. I’ve already made a reservation for the first night on the path at a hostel in Orisson. From there I’ll walk on to Roncesvalles. After the first two choreographed days, I expect to just take one day at a time. At least that’s the plan for now.

With less than seven weeks until departure, I suppose I need to brush up on my Spanish and begin reading some about northern Spain and the Camino. I also need to decide just how little I will need in my pack for the almost 500 mile hike. And, of course, I’m writing again. Just as I did on my 2013 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I plan to write and post every day that I’m in Spain. As I’ve already said, now just seems like the right time for another adventure. Only time will tell as to whether the decision is a wise one.

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