One month to go!
Let me share a little about my mom and I.
I am the oldest of 6 and we have been a camping and hiking family as long as I can remember. My mom was one of the first women I personally knew who hiked solo. In fact, before I went and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State solo, my sister and I used to give my mom a bad time for doing it!
My mom lives about 8 blocks from me and has for 20 years (this year). As a single parent for most of those years, she has always been there for me. She visits regularly, weeds my yard because I am too busy hiking and makes sure I remember to recycle properly.
In 2008 or so, I began my foray into backpacking with women from my church, most of them in their 50s and 60s. Years and miles behind them, they had so much experience to share. Because of them and their encouragement, I was soon backpacking solo and heading off on long distance adventures.
In 2015, I took my mom on her first backpacking trip (picture above in Olympic NP) with some other ladies from church. We had so much fun! She had borrowed a HUGE pack from my sister that was almost as big as her and soon after my siblings and I chipped in to buy her her own pack.
I mentioned in an earlier post about it being 2018 that we first started talking about doing a Camino together but thinking back now it was probably 2016 when I was laid off from work. I remember going with her to a talk in Seattle about the Camino Frances that got us thinking about when we might go to walk it ourselves. I ended up going back to work sooner than anticipated so the trip was delayed.
My mom is retired and I work 30 hours a week in a school (read teacher's schedule) that is perfect for a hiking lifestyle. I will be 49 this year and she is a young 72. In addition to hiking, she is also the reason I am involved in trail work with the PCTA and WTA. She has been maintaining trails for as long as I can remember! This last summer I got to help replace the monument at the terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail on the Canadian border which was an AMAZING experience.
There are many reasons I am looking forward to this trek in addition to visiting Spain and doing it with my mom. Aside from hiking, we are both looking forward to the history and culture. All those centuries old churches and artwork. My mom was a art history major in college and I can just imagine how exciting it will be to see historic works in person. We will be making time for museums like the Prado in Madrid, too!
But the most important reason is relational. If you are like me and have a mom that is working on those "Golden Years", you know that as a daughter (and maybe as a son, too), there is something about seeing your mom age that changes how you see yourself, too. A jumbled mix of fierce love, respect, fear and frustration. The beginning of a role reversal. A shift in the universe.
I will admit, I am not always as patient with my mom as I should be. It is hard to see someone who has always been your rock begin to falter in unwelcome ways. Forgetfulness, a slower pace and an ever-so-slight frailness are more than tiny irritations but reminders that we won't have our parents forever. And maybe that we, too, are not immortal.
Not only am I looking forward to making memories of a lifetime with my mom in Spain on the Camino, I await our trip together as a way to spend time within our relationship. For me to be more patient and enjoy a slower pace. An opportunity to appreciate all there is to appreciate. To connect with my mom in a more meaningful way doing something we both love to do.
The Camino Primitivo will be different from other long distance hikes I have done as we will be hiking town to town. It is not a wilderness experience but more of a cultural one. I am looking forward to experiencing Spain in this way, learning about the people and life as we walk through each village and landscape. I have to admit I am NOT looking forward to the amount of road walking, but the Camino Primitivo has less than the other routes. This is another reason I picked it.
In thinking about how to get in miles each day or week in preparation, my plan is to use my feet as much as possible. I have been taking the bus to work which requires about 2 miles of walking in the morning and then walking home from work which is about 7 miles. Some days I walk to the gym after work first and then the bus (3.5 miles). In general, walking whenever I can. With gas prices the way they are going, it has been nice not to drive my car at least 4 days a week (I work M-Th).
As I walk the areas of my town, a town I have lived in most of my life, I think about how I am traveling to Spain to soak in the details there. I am conscious of the fact that by leaving my car at home, I am doing the same thing here in my own town. How often do we do that, notice the little things? From the bright azaleas blooming, to wild rabbits on the court steps, to the patterns in the sidewalk. Sure, from the car I notice if a business has changed hands or construction projects. But once moving at a slower pace, I see so much more.
When we go on a hike, we are in amazement of the nature around us. The wildflowers, the fauna, the terrain at our feet. We feel connected. But we are not limited to this experience in the outdoors. Those things exist in our urban environments, too. I am excited for this in Spain and I am enjoying it in my hometown, as well.
My biggest debate so far is which pack to use (I have about 6 to choose from). My two most likely choices are my 22 liter Osprey daypack or my Gossamer Gear pack, which I think is about 35-40 liters. I'm not sure since I got it out of a bargain bin for $20 at a ALDHA West Ruck event.
The Osprey would keep me from taking too much and has the best support but the Gossamer Gear is lighter and offers more flexibility. I have used it on most of my 2-3 day backpacking trips and two weeks in the UK last fall so I know it would be great on this trip.
Most forums I visit people talk about a base weight of 15lbs but my typical wilderness backpack weight is between 13-15 so I know I can do better than that. I was talking with Angel of Boldly Went and she said she did it with a 14 liter pack so I'm pretty sure I can get my weight down low enough that the support of the Osprey would not be needed. No sleeping bag, no hammock, no tarp, no sleep pad. No problem.
I have been checking out several online resources for our trip and ordered a guidebook and our pilgrim passports. Something tangible that says we are actually going to do this.
With this being a less popular route than the French Camino that starts in France, there are fewer books and materials. However, that is the whole idea! This route is more hilly and remote allowing for a bit more of an actual hiking experience. There will still be pavement to walk but less of it.
Here are some of the resources I have found so far:
https://www.pilgrimagetraveler... (I ordered her eBook)
So, two months ago my mom and I did this thing.
And today once again, I walked from my house to Mukilteo Beach.
It’s about 8 miles one way.
Last time I did this was six years ago in preparation for hiking a section of the Pacific crest Trail. At that time, it was the longest I had ever walked on foot.
I had come close once, when my sisters and I with my mom did the Seattle half marathon.
Walking to Mukilteo Beach, in another town, seemed like such a big accomplishment back then. Of course, that was before I knew I was capable of hiking 33 miles in the mountains on one day. Or 75 miles in three days.
Now I know there isn’t a whole lot I can’t do that I set my mind to.
In less than two months, my mom and I will get on a plane to fly to Spain to walk one of the El Caminos. Yes, one of them, El Primitivo. It’s about 320 km or 195 miles.
I have wanted to go to Spain since my first high school Spanish class.
I have wanted to experience Spain by walking across it since my sister gave me the movie The Way to watch about four or five years ago.
Since I had hundreds of miles under my belt at that time, it only seemed like another great adventure to add to the bucket list.
I was going to do it when I was laid off in 2016 but it didn’t materialize because darn it, I went back to work.
In 2018 when I quit my job, my mom started talking about wanting to hike the El Camino, too.
Now, two years later after telling my mom we weren’t getting any younger, we finally bought our plane tickets.
Not only am I going to Spain, not only am I going to hike across Spain on a pilgrimage, I’m going to do it with my mom.
Sometimes when you try something new, you find something you didn’t expect. That was the case this weekend when for Mother’s Day @reneetougas and I decided to drive along the corridor that follows the Sentier Nationale towards Quebec City to see what interesting things we might find.
We discovered Les Chutes du $5 ($5 Falls), at the intersection between a river (Riviere Bastican), a small town (Notre-Dame-de-Montauban), and the Sentier Nationale. Named for being the waterfall featured on the Canadian $5 bill in 1954... but apparently that claim to fame isn’t actually true (the Internet told us this afterwards). The real name is Fall of Nine because it was the ninth port settlers reached travelling up river. (The Internet told us this too).
Either way it was a beautiful discovery along the way.