One month until I start walking.
Man, these days are going by fast. My lofty Camino goals (Learn Spanish! Back-to-back-to-back 15 mile hikes!) have been put on the back burner. At this point, all I’m really focused on is buying a few more items, reserving a train ticket to St Jean Pied de Port, and hiking when I can.
I know that I’m not as prepared as I could be, but I think I’m prepared enough. And I still have a month to go.
4 months ago I had visions of doing lots of long hikes with my loaded pack and well worn-in shoes. The reality is that I can fit in a long hike about once a week. Because, surprise surprise, long hikes take time. They take a lot of time. (I know this is the most obvious thing, and yet, I may have underestimated just how much of my day would need to be devoted to 15 mile hikes. I just can’t fit in a 15 mile hike after a full day of work. Darkness catches up with me).
But I’m continuing to walk, a lot. I drive to the same local state park, wind my way through the same trails which I now know like the back of my hand. I’ve begun to recognize the same people, too. I try to smile and say hi to most people I pass, and now others have started to recognize me and give me friendly greetings in return.
Two days ago I passed a man and a woman as I walked along a paved loop trail. The man said, “Looks like you’re preparing for a backpacking trip!” We talked about the Camino for a few minutes, and as I walked on, he called out, “Remember! The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plains!”
“Yes,” I replied. “I still need to get my rain gear.”
I passed another group further on that path, and a man in the group said, “I definitely recognize you. You’re walking at a really good pace.”
That made me smile.
About a week ago I bought a pack and I love it. It’s a Deuter 24 liter and I know it’s small for a 5 week walk. Maybe really small. I went to REI prepared to buy something in the range of 28-32 liters, 28 being the lowest I would go. I tried on pack after pack, adding and removing the 5 pound weights, walking around the store. I switched back and forth between the Deuter 24 liter and Deuter 28 liter packs several times, wanting to like the bigger pack better. But I didn’t. Something about the 24 liter pack felt just right, it felt perfect (even though I’ve never owned a good backpack and I’m not really sure what perfect should feel like).
But after several hikes, with about 10 pounds in the pack (less than what I’ll be carrying on the Camino, but a good start for now), I still think that pack feels perfect. I was on mile 10 of a 12 mile hike the other day, and I found myself thinking that the weight of the pack pressing against my lower back felt sort of comforting. Not heavy or intrusive or weighing me down. Just comforting.
I’m curious- very curious- to know how I’ll feel about my pack in two months, after walking for hundreds of miles and having the pack nearly permanently attached to my body. ‘Comforting’ might not be my go-to word. But for now, loving my pack is a good thing.
My mom thinks it’s too small. She saw it and exclaimed, “You have to carry everything you’ll need for 5 weeks in that thing! There’s not enough room!” But I disagree. I’m walking in the summer so my layers will be light, plus a small-sized pack is going to force me to weed out all the stuff I don’t actually need. That’s not to say that in two or three weeks when I finally have everything I need and put it all together, I won’t be running back to REI for a larger pack. But, my instincts tell me that this is the one for me.
I’ve got a pack, I’ve got a good pair of pants, a good t-shirt, a new pair of shoes that I think are going to work. Slowly, it’s all starting to come together.
Here’s a photo of me with the pack that I didn’t get: