Monthly Archives: April 2013

Galicia!

Nice article on Galicia, an often overlooked part of Spain. We cannot wait to see the beauty and mystery of Galicia for ourselves.

http://www.thespainscoop.com/you-gotta-see-spain-la-coruna/

Buen Camino!

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The Rain in Spain…

When deciding to travel the Camino in springtime, Sandy and I knew we would not only see the beauty of spring but also experience the perils of hiking 800 kilometers through Spain in their rainy season.

When planning your Camino experience, one of the big advantages of this adventure are the peregrinos themselves. Yes, the thousands of pilgrims who hike it each month. Their personal experiences along with their own technical competences (in whatever fields they work) bring a wealth of information for you to use in planning. In the true spirit of the camino, most pilgrims will be honored to share their experiences or expertise with you. If you are even just contemplating the Camino, I encourage you to read personal blogs (like mine), find more deailed information on the huge Camino blogs I have previously listed on this site, or simply turn to any search engine on the internet.

For example, this morning I decided to see if anyone had worked out a quick reference on the levels of precipitation along the Camino routes. Lo and behold, I found the following great link:

http://pilgrim.peterrobins.co.uk/santiago/weather.html

Sandy and I have already decided to hike in the spring, and have decided to carry along with high quality rain jackets and pants versus the ever popular ponchos. We decided even though adding a bit more weigh in our packs, the rain jackets and pants would be more effective because they could double as an extra warmth layer should the temperatures drop during our trek. Also, the sometimes windy Camino has been known to turn pilgrims wearing ponchos into human sails on occasion.

In any event, don’t just go it on your own, use the blogs and experiences of the thousands who preceded you to help your own experience.

Buen Camino

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Green Mountain hike above metro Denver

Due to all of our recent snow, Sandy and I loaded up the packs and headed down to Lakewood, CO where we hiked into the William F Hayden Park on Green Mountain.

The park encompasses an entire grassy mountain, all 2,400 acres of it. It was used as a Buffalo Ranch for many years and still has some of the original corrals and loading chutes. In 1972 the Hayden family donated it to the City of Lakewood (the community west of Denver) and it has been developed as a mecca for hikers, runners and mountain bike enthusiasts.

The weather was great, the low 60’s and partly cloudy, which was nice compared to what we have been used to lately. Metro Denver has had the highest level of precipitation ever for the month of April and we still have additional storms in the forecast. Still, there was quite a bit of unmelted snow and lots of sticky clay on Green Mountain’s vast trail network. Our boots and poles quickly became caked in mud but we absolutely did not let that deter us.

We started out from the main trailhead at 6,090 feet elevation and climbed steadily all the way up the Green Mountain Trail to the summit at 6,800 feet. We then walked to the far western side where we stopped for a nice view of the Golden, CO area. It was on the west side of the mountain where we found some nice sized rocks to sit for lunch.

After a few minutes of eating and resting we were back on the trail. We had two options for the trail back, the quick way – about 1.5 miles, or the, “extremely long way” as one hiker explained it to us. Of course, we chose the “extremely long way”. The Rooney Trail back to the parking lot was a lot of elevation losses, then elevation gains – you know, the hiking that can drive you a bit crazy. But I have to admit, it was great training for what we expect along the beginning of the Camino. Up and down, very muddy and snow packed. The long hike downhill caused our old knees to ache but we were distracted by the singing of songbirds and the beautiful cactus in bloom.

The overall numbers for the day were as follows: Pack weight was 22 pounds. Total distance covered was 5.56 miles. Total time on the trail was 3:01 hours.

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How much does it cost to spend 40 days in Europe anyway?

I have had some friends inquire as to the cost of completing the Camino. How can one afford to spend almost 40 days in Europe?

Well, for a thousand years peregrinos along the Camino de Santiago have been taken in and cared for by the people and villages along the various routes. Historically, most peregrinos were penniless. They slept in churches and refugios along the route and ate whatever they could scrounge up. Pilgrimage today is not quite as difficult, but the traditions of communal accommodations and fellowship continues as it has for centuries.

Today’s peregrinos sleep in government or private run refugios, hostels, pensions, and some locals offer spare bedrooms for rent to help their annual income. Some of the overnight accommodations are donation only while others charge from 5 to 10 euros per night. Most peregrinos eat a light breakast, use the market to gather lunch and finish up with a pilgrim’s menu at the village restaurant or a communal dinner at the hostel. All in all, the euro costs are minimal as the experience itself makes up for it in its richness.

If you are contemplating the Camino don’t let the cost hold you back. You will never be able to spend as much time in Europe/Spain for as little cost and gain as many memories as this adventure has to offer.

If you would like an individual euro estimate I have found a neat Camino expense calculator:

http://caminoteca.com/index.php/cost-calculator.html

I had to smile at the beer comment that pops up after your total is calculated.

Buen Camino!

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Ramping up pack weight and trail distance

High Meadow Burn

Mark on the rocks

Pine Valley

Sandy on the rocks

Sandy streambuffalo_creek_trail

Yesterday we ventured out on a chilly and blusterly day to Jefferson County Open Space’s (JCOS) beautiful Pine Valley Open Space Park for a training hike. Our goal was to carry our Deuter pack systems under a full “Camino load” while adding some additional distance to bring us closer to our goal of a 12 mile hiking average before we tackle the Camino. 

We started out by crossing the North Fork of the South Platte River at an elevation of 6,775′.  We quickly accented up the steep Park View Trail while appreciating the results of the hard work the JCOS trail crews put into the stairs and safety railings.  We gained 300′ in elevation in the first .6 miles.  The hard climbing provided for some great benefits, as the huge rock formations and vistas were amazing.  After gaining this “elevation by immersion” the remainder of Park View Trail was relatively easy and we soon exited the Jefferson County park into the Pike National Forest’s Buffalo Creek Recreation Area.  

We connected to the Strawberry Jack Trail which took us south in and out of the boundaries of the 2000 High Meadow Fire.  High Meadow was the fire which resulted in a loss of over 50 homes in our local community and us being evacuated from our ranch for 5 days on June 12, 2000.  The fire was officially contained on June 25, 2000.  Sandy and I were amazed at the regeneration of the mountain sides.  Where once thick conifer forests made hiking off trail nearly impossible, now vast hillsides were covered in natural grasses and one to two foot pine trees.  I commented on now knowing why we haven’t seen too many elk on our property recently, as they now have thousands of acres of nearby grassland to keep them busy.  No need any longer to hang out in residential or ranchland areas when this amazingly large garden salad awaits.

We hiked alternatively through beautiful healthy ponderosa pine forests, lodgepole pine, Colorado blue spruce, Engleman spruce and Douglas fir forests and then grassy hillsides with blackened matchstick blowovers and then back into thick healthy forests multiple times as the High Meadow fireline fingered throughout the mountains and across our trail. 

After a few miles, we connected to the Skipper Trail west to the Buck Gulch Trailhead.  Skipper was a really neat trail.  Portions very flat and thickly wooded with ponderosas and then down to a neat glenlike area complete with a small running brook.  At the Trailhead, we connected to Buck Gulch Trail and traveled north back toward the Open Space Park.  Buck Gulch was a bit more rough than the prior trails, probably due to some heavy erosion, popularity with mountain bikers and steep decents back down to the South Platte River basin. We also were keeping an eye on an approaching spring storm front as obvious snowfall was quickly moving east over the Continental Divide.   In fact, it was now obliterating the once majestic snowcapped peaks of 13,575′ Mount Rosalie and 14,265′ big brother Mount Evans, to our northwest. After a short break for a snack it was decided we should start heading back toward our starting point so we kept moving.

While on the trail, we observed two herds of a dozen or so mule deer and too much mountain lion scat to count.  Mountain lion scat is easily distinguisable as it is most always white in color and contains lots of deer guard hair and bone.  It is the bone and bone marrow which causes the white coloration.  I commented to Sandy that there are very healthy mountain lions and lots of deer for dinner in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area.

Once we traversed back down the steep trail to our starting point it was time to compile our trip numbers.  We hiked for 4 hours and 47 minutes, over 7.45 miles of trail, and gained 1,004′ in elevation.  Our pack weight was at what we expect to carry while on the Camino, 22 pounds for Mark and 17 pounds for Sandy.  

Yes, we were a bit sore afterwards, but that is to be expected.  Neither of us had any blisters, although a couple of hot spots on our toes were felt.  We were both very pleased at our pack system, outerwear, footwear, pace and endurance level.  It finally hit us…we are starting to get into “Camino conditioning” and it feels great!           

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Frozen Maxwell Falls

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April 14, 2013 · 11:10

Sandy on the trail to Maxwell Falls

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Yesterday, Sandy and I got back into the swing of things for our Camino training as we finally had a decent day together to go for a hike. We chose to hike the upper loop to Maxwell Falls in nearby Pike National Forest, near Evergreen, Colorado.

The weather was a bit breezy as a storm front was moving into the front range of Colorado. We started the hike on the upper trailhead and really enjoyed the relative lack of snowpack gradual elevation and beautifully thinned lodge pole pine forest. We climbed to the top of a spectacular rock formation and could see northeast, as far as the horizon.

We then began our slow descent toward Maxwell Creek. The trail network was well maintained and provided an enjoyable hike, even at it’s 8000’+ elevation. The sunshine over the past couple of days exposed about 60% of the trail and the other 40% was a combination of 4-5 inches of snow, ice and/or slush.

Once at the falls, we found it was still blanketed in many inches of solid ice. It was so encapsulated that you could not even hear the roar normally caused by the volume of water Flowing. It was actually quite interesting, as looking at the mass of ice you could only imagine the rush of snowmelt and raging waters below the surface.

Overall, the 2.5 mile hike took an hour and forty five minutes and the elevation gain was just over 500 feet.

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April 14, 2013 · 11:06