July 1, 2013 – Only two months before I begin my Camino, in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, on the French-Spanish border. As each day is clicked off the calendar, I am both more excited and more frightened than I was the day before. It’s after midnight and I’ve been on the Camino forums for the past 90 minutes, sopping up experiences of pilgrims who have gone before me. My biggest decision at this point is whether I will risk the hardest day of the journey on Day 1, going from SJPP over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles, or whether I will stop after 8-10 km and stay in Orisson, making the 28km trek in two days, rather than one.
The advice is endless, of course, from tales of jubilation for having survived the whole first bit in one day, to stories of walking, sobbing, stiff and sore, practically falling up and then down the mountain. I cannot know what is the best thing for me, but my good friend Jacques urges me to hedge my bets and reserve a bed in Orisson. After agonizing for the past year about this, I am convinced I must do this so I will have an option as I make my way UP the mountain. I have just sent an e-mail requesting information for the night of September 1. My mother would have been 92 on the day I begin, and I smile as I imagine her floating near me as I trudge.
Yesterday, we returned from nearly a month at “the cabin”, my partner Neil’s family mountain cabin outside Ouray, Colorado, the Switzerland of the Rockies.
Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, the cabin is an opportunity for us to completely relax, read on the old log porch, take our Golden Retriever down to the lake, and walk or hike to our hearts’ content.
This summer, I have my upcoming Camino in mind, so I found numerous opportunities to take training hikes in a most spectacular setting. It is both exhilarating and disheartening to be active in these mountains. It isn’t the walking/hiking that gets to me; however, beginning at over 8000 feet of altitude and going UP from there quite literally takes my breath away, in addition to the breathtaking views all around me as I go along. I remind myself that my camino will be very different, in ways both advantageous and disadvangateous to my mind and body. Lower altitude, but approximately seven weeks of walking 12-18 miles per day, and sleeping in rooms with anywhere from four to one hundred fifty other trekkers! Still, training is training, and I am quite happy to report that I get no hotspots or blisters with either my trail runners or my hiking boots. A most important confirmation that my shoes are well-fitting, well-made, well-broken in.
So a hike up the mine road to scatter Luna’s ashes, then to Jackass Flats near the cabin with our friend Jacques for a beautiful afternoon hike.
One day an attempt to get to the Amphitheater above Ouray, and on another, a steep walk up to an old mining railroad bed.
You can see the old cross-pieces, as well as the turn-around at the top. (I caught the back of Neil’s tall body in the corner of the turnaround photo.) My altimeter app didn’t even work on that hike, since we were already quite near Red Mountain Pass, and there was no service at all! The last altitude measurement I took before I lost service was just about 11,000 feet. I was just a bit out of breath here and there . . . Beautiful, though.
When I’ve done these “little day hikes”, near the cabin, I am carrying nothing but a small fanny pack, and the heaviest thing in it is the water I require. On my Camino, I will have a twenty pound pack, so that will be much more difficult. However, I keep asking myself, “Isn’t a four-hour hike at 11,000 feet the equivalent of an eight-hour hike at 2000 feet?” I certainly hope so.