August 15, 2019
I can’t believe we are a day out from our trip! As many of you know, Terry (my mother-in-law), Rachel (my sister) and I will be completing the Camino, a 550+ mile backpacking journey across Spain, starting tomorrow. Tomorrow! What!
This trip has been a loooong time coming.
I first heard of thru-hiking in college in my Environmental Studies minor courses, and I’ve had the itch to do one ever since. I have read countless books and blogs on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. I was pretty set on the AT for a while (I still haven’t counted it out) but realized pretty quickly into the planning process that 5 months on the trail and the expenses involved in that hike were just not in the cards at the time.
I remember first talking to Terry about my dream of thru-hiking while they were visiting us in Colorado – we were coming back from a day trip and didn’t have enough seats in the car, so I was sitting in the trunk, the wide expanses of Colorado-scape passing me out the back window. We talked about the AT and she said if I was ever going to do a long hike, she would join me for parts of it.
Life went on and before we knew it, she and my father-in-law, Larry, retired and completed the Camino for the first time (if you see him, ask him about his feet). I had never heard of it before, but they spoke so highly of their experience, so every time they talked about it, the more I wanted to do it. A couple years later, Terry & I decided to do it together. We talked Rachel into coming too. And that was that.
The hardest part of planning this hike was finding a date range that worked with all of our schedules that also gave us ample time to train. We decided on September of 2019, put it in big red marks on the calendar, bought plane tickets in January and began training in April.
It’s pretty amazing how quickly the training period went. Since April, we’ve done at least 4 walks a week, averaging 3-4 miles on week days, 6-14 miles on weekends, with back-to-back long hikes to get our feet used to moving for long stretches with little break. Rachel and I did a lot of those long training walks together because we lived fairly close to one another. I have to say, it was nice having someone to talk and complain to, especially on the hot, loopy hikes in July and August…”sweatin’, five pounds, sweatin'”.
Terry & Larry pulled out all the stops for us in this process – they cooked us Spanish meals, provided us with our training schedules and pack lists, watched movies, threw us a proper shell ceremony, booked our flights and first nights in albergues. Looking back, I haven’t really done much except put miles on my shoes and drown our bank account in gear expenses.
Now that we are a day out from our trip, it is hard to believe that the prep we’ve done will be enough to carry us through 550 miles worth of trail (and we’ve put in a lot of miles!). I know once we are there and in a routine, it’s going to be amazing, but getting there and the uncertainty/anticipation of the trip has caused me many nights of lost sleep this week.
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about the trip, so I figured I’d finish with a little Q&A:
What is the Camino?
The Camino de Santiago, or “The Way”, is an ancient pilgrimage leading to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where the remains of the Saint James are supposedly buried. There are many routes that you can take that vary in length and toughness. We are doing the most well-traveled route, the Camino de Frances, at one of the most popular times of year. Many people walk it as a spiritual or religious journey, but it has become popular over the years with hikers and cycling groups as well.
Where will you start and end?
We are starting in a small French town called St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and the first leg of our journey ends in Santiago. This is where Terry & Larry ended their first trip. Once we reach Santiago, we will be continuing further on to Finisterre and finishing our walk at the ocean called “The End of the World.” We will be putting in some tough miles those few days.
Why are you doing this to yourself?!
Lol. There are so many reasons! First, I like to hike 🙂 I’ve wanted to do a long-distance, physically-grueling trip for a while now. I’m excited to meet new people and experience the Spanish/Camino culture, as well as the simplicity of trail life and carrying all my possessions on my back. I’m looking forward to the long hours of reflecting and the lifelong memories I’ll make with Terry and Rachel, also for the monotony of a new routine and physically exerting my body in a way I never have before.
Being in nature, internal reflection and human connection are all spiritual practices to me, so I’m looking forward to that as well. Now that I’m writing it, it’s really hard to sum up why I’m doing this in a short paragraph; I’m not even sure I’ll be able to explain in full until it’s complete.
*The Camino is also a really good stepping stone into thru-hiking because you carry much less weight and you don’t need nearly as much equipment!
What are you most excited/nervous about?
I am most excited about the spectacular views we are going to see and the completion of such a big personal goal. I am most nervous about the first day, 16 miles up the Pyrenees jet-lagged, and hoping that my body & feet will hold up until the end. Think happy thoughts for me.
What are the rocks for?
It is tradition to bring a rock from home with you when completing this journey. It symbolizes a burden you carry or a memory of someone who has passed. You leave your rock near the end of the Camino at the “Cruz de Ferro”, which is meant to symbolize release/leaving a piece of your burden behind. People also say they are used to rub your fears, hurts and sorrows into while on the trail. I have two small rocks with me – a piece of Pennsylvania bluestone from our house in the Poconos, and a small round river rock from Patapsco near where we lived in Baltimore.
Where can we follow along on your adventure?
Please do! Cheer us on! You can follow along on Instagram at @seanashuchart. This is where I will be posting all of our updates during the trip. I’m sure I will write up a pretty descriptive blog post if I make it back alive (and still planning to write up my pack list!), but for now, Instagram is it!
Thank you Terry & Larry! And Brian, this post wouldn’t be complete without me thanking you for keeping our life going while I am away – I love you and wish you were going to be walking beside me!
See everyone in October!
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I am so excited for you and I will keep you in my prayers!