Big Bend National Park November 2015

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Got back to Big Bend National Park over Thanksgiving 2015.  No mountain lion sightings but we did see some bears.

I did my favorite hike in a new order: Blue Creek Canyon up to South Rim and then down Pinnacles. The hoodoos in Blue Creek Canyon were gorgeous in the morning sun and the grasses on Pinnacles trail were golden in the afternoon sun.

We got to the hot springs during the day and found the short 1 mile hike up  and around the bluff very lovely.

We had the most beautiful weather 70s and 40s and a few awesome cloud viewings.

And I finally got to walk into Santa Elena’s Canyon, just spectacular.

More photos

Past Big Bend Trips

Tips for walking The Camino Part 3- My Favorites

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A few of my favorite places on the Camino.

Trabadelo: Albergue Camino y leyenda- one of my favorite places; Pio and Ana were wonderful and place was so tranquil.

Astorga- I would like to go back as we didn’t have much time here. Palace designed by Gaudi is here.

If you go the Samos route- Albergue De C. F. Luiso is in Luiso just after Tricastela, it is worth the extra walk. Samos was amazing and I would like to go back at stay at the monastery

Fisterra- Hotel Langosteira LOVED THIS PLACE. it has several creative reuse elements in the hotel and is just beautiful.

Muxia- Bella Muxia was rich with history and beautiful design.

Here are few flickr albums, followed by a few of my favorite photos.

Spain Art and Creative Reuse

Spain Food

Spain Flowers Plants and Animals

Buen Camino!

 

 

Tips for walking The Camino Part 2- What to Pack

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Keep your pack as light as possible…

Most of you won’t be using a donkey to carry your supplies so keeping the weight to a minimum will really help your feet out.  While we were in Spain, the weather on the Camino was mostly between 63F and 46F (17C and 7C) and usually a chance of rain. We did have a few beautiful sunny days that were around 85F and no clouds in the sky.

Pack your backpack several weeks out and weigh it. A good rule to follow is that if it is more than 10% of your body weight, take stuff out.

Here is a  pack list for details on what I would consider packing for hiking for 3 or more weeks when there is no camping and food is readily available.  Womans_packing_List_3plus_weeks

My insights into a few key items.

  • Backpack(Mochila): Both my mom and I carried 28L packs: 28L Deuter  and 28L Ospery.  I love my Deuter bag and use it on most my hikes. I would probably go up to the 35L as I would bring a sleepbag next time and there isn’t room or straps to accommodate one on my 28L.  The smaller the pack that you can carry the better: less roam, less stuff, less weight.  Make sure to be measured for your pack as a good fit is essential.
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Fanny pack of 12th century pilgrim

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My new fanny pack; made in Nepal but purchased at the Rastro in Madrid.

  • Fanny Pack-  Since we stopped regularly at cafes, I would recommend wearing some sort of fanny pack or purse that will hold your wallet, phone, headphones, Camino passport, hand sanitizer, small notebook, and pen, etc. While my hiking pants had great pockets, my hiking skirt did not.

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  •  Drinking Water (Agua potable): There is easy access to water and other beverages on the Camino and most of the maps point out where the water fountains are. Some people just bought a bottle of water and refilled it along the way.  This is one item that I would change from what I packed. Going against my habit of carrying lots of water all the time, I only brought a fold-up plastic water bottle and a metal cup with no lid.

Fuente_del_vino_iracheNext time I will pack my camelbak, my nalgene water bottle and an insulated cup with a lid. Most of the books tell you to leave your camelbak and water bottles at home. I am so used to drinking from my camelbak as I walk that I know I stay hydrated and its natural to me. Stopping to pull out a water bottle isn’t, so there were a few days that I had to catch up on my water consumption.

I would also think about bringing a Nalgene water bottle as it is helpful to have a bottle to put hydrating tablets in or to have a bottle of water by your bed.  I also have sinus issues regularly and it is helpful to have a bottle that can hold hot water to use in my netti pot.

And I would also bring an insulated cup with a lid. It was so nice to be able to have a cup of tea or warm water whenever I needed and I could use it at the fountains if I just wanted to drink a cup of fresh water. I attached my cup to the outside of my pack with a carabiner

  • Medical notification card and common medical terms in Spanish: I luckily don’t have any severe allergies or medical issues; however, I did have an allergic reaction to a plant one day on the Camino and my arm broke out in a rash.  I went to the local farmacia and picked up some medicine for it very easily.  While I was there I realized that I had no idea how to say common medical words like bruise (contusión), inflammation (inflamación), rash(erupción), bleeding (sangría), and headache (dolor de cabeza). So next time I will have an index card that has some medical terms along with a list of any medicines or supplements that I am taking and my insurance information.

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  • Sleeping bag (saco de dormir): I went back and forth about bringing a sleeping bag. My sleeping bag is over 2lbs so by just bringing my silk liner, I would reduce pack weight by more than 2 lbs.   Most nights I either didn’t need a blanker or the blanket provided was clean and warm. However, there were three nights that I was cold since I did not have a blanket. so next time I am bringing a sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping pad/ yoga mat: I never planned to bring a sleeping pad as mine is rather heavy and based on the time of year, I figured we would always have a bed and we did. I added my yoga mat at the last minute. Unfortunately I brought my regular mat and not a travel one. I used my mat most days to do yoga and also put in around my legs on those nights when I was cold. I will continue to bring one, just take my travel one.20150503_121349
  • Rain Gear (ropa de lluvia): I brought a rain coat, a baseball cap and a rain cover for my pack. I used all 3 many days.  The baseball cap was to keep the water from dripping on my face as the hood on my raincoat doesn’t have a brim on it. I have rain pants but just don’t like wearing them. If you are more sensitive to cold and wet, you may want to bring a pair. Also, some people had rain ponchos that covered their bodies and their packs which seems like another great option.

Buen Camino!

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Tips for walking The Camino Part 1

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Here is first post of my tips for walking The Camino, or really for any long trek.  More to come as I have time to post.

There is no right way or wrong way; choose what works for you.

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There are many paths to Santiago de Compostella and there are many ways to get there.  You can walk the Camino Frances or the Northern route or perhaps you would like to walk from Portugal. You can walk all of the 769 KM from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France or you could walk 107KM from Sarria.

Some people section hike and will walk for 2 weeks for one segment and return the following year to walk for 2 more weeks on the next segment. You can take a train or a bus to leap frog to another point in the map so maybe start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and walk some and then take train up to Leon to finish.

You can also have items shipped ahead; so if you need a day off from your pack, you can send it ahead or perhaps you have a special diet and want to bring food with you but not carry it all.  Just check with the albergue or hotel that you are staying at and they will coordinate for you.

My mom and I walked from Leon to Santiago de Compostella, then took a bus to Fisterre. We then walked from Fisterre to Muxia and took a bus back to Santiago de Compostella.  The only change that I would consider for that trip would be to go to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and walk a few days, then catch a train to Leon.

I also found the ambiance of the trail very different after the 107KM mark in Sarria.  It was great to see so many people out walking everyday and so excited about their journey; however, there tended to be large groups of people walking together and they talked more amongst themselves than with those on the trail. I prefer to walk in very small groups and join in conversation with those that I meet along the way.

Wear the right shoes and socks.

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I typically hike in hiking boots but chose to wear a pair of Salomon trail running shoes due to the amount of pavement that we were going to walk on and the fact that my pack would be under 20lbs.  The shoes had the grip needed for wet terrain, were waterproof and lighter in weight than boots.   Other people wore hiking boots and thought those were the best for their feet.  Decide what works for you .

Make sure to get the right size boot.  Many people buy the wrong size hiking/trail shoe. My shoes were a size larger than my day to day shoe to allow for the swelling of my feet from walking so many hours in the day.  Resources for selecting Hiking Boots: REI and Sierra Trading post

As for your second pair of shoes (you only really need 2 pairs of shoes), go with something really light weight and water proof.  Reasons: Keep weight of pack down and you may want to use them as your shower shoes.  There are lots of options. I had a pair of flip flops that I brought with me.  Many people wear Crocs or Chacos or some other sandal.  If it was cold, I just wore a pair of socks with flip flops.

Invest in good socks. So many people get good shoes and then pick up a pair of $1 socks from the bargain bin.  Good socks will prevent blisters just as much as good shoes.  I brought 2 pairs of good hiking short socks, 1 pair of smartwool wool short hiking socks and 1 pair of liner socks.  Resources: Rei- How to pick socks; Darn tough socks

Buen Camino!

 

Walking the Camino

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In April 2015, I journeyed to Spain to walk the Camino Frances with my mom. We walked from Leon to Santiago de Compostella, spent time in Fisterre and walked on to Muxia.  Being able to take this time with mom was so wonderful.  The Camino is a pilgrimage walk to to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostella that allegedly holds the relics of the apostle St. James the Greater (Santiago).

For those unfamiliar with the history of the Camino, the American Pilgrims on the Camino site has the best description of the Catholic history of El Camino that aligns with what I heard while in Spain.

To see more photos from my trip, please checkout my Spain 2015 Flickr collection.

Buen Camino

 

 

 

West Texas Art

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While traveling in West Texas in January, I came across lots of great public/street art.  I like street art and reuse art and look for it whenever I travel.

The largest set is a trail of art called “One Man’s Junk Art Trail” and is outside Alpine, Texas.   Read more about the artist, Harry Weekley Jr,  in this Big Bend Galleries & Artists article.

 

Big Bend Ranch State Park

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Big Bend Ranch State Park– the Other Side of Nowhere!

 

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While many people are familiar with Big Bend National Park, fewer people are familiar with the Texas State Park that is located near the National Park.  Big Bend Ranch State Park is about half the size of the National park and is also about the same size as all the Texas State Parks put together.  It takes some patience and time to visit this park as the ranger station and most of the camping and lodging facilities are located 27 miles of rugged, dirt road from the main highway (FM 170) and this is after the 5 hours it takes to get to the entrance if you are driving from Marathon, Texas via the scenic route.

I visited the park with 7 other hikers in January 2015. Due to the time of year, we stayed at the Hacienda House and I would recommend it and the bunk house for small or large groups. And the campgrounds are amazing and very secluded if you like to camp.  We had a guided tour by one of the rangers that really helped me understand more about the geology, plant life and history of the area.  I highly recommend this if you have the time. It is a great park for novice to experienced hikers and bicyclists; however, select the proper vehicle to take there as many of the trail heads require a 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicle to access. It is also a great place to check out the stars and the park is working towards it’s International Dark Sky certification.

Trails hiked: Closed Canyon, Fresno Canyon, Puerta Chilicote,  Cinco Tinajas, and Ojito Adentro.