Tag Archives: essay

Camino de Santiago

camino

A couple of days ago I wrote that after careful consideration, a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail was not going to happen. After consulting with my doctor, the fact that something could happen during a thru hike related to being dehydrated and my kidneys was too much to ignore. Also, if I were to get injured on the trail, I’m not confident that I would be able to either get out under my own power or be able to contact someone for help. This latest incident really made me think!

So what am I to do? A couple of years ago two of my colleagues completed a portion of the Santiago de Compostela. As I sat in my usual spot earlier this summer waiting and waiting for my ankle to heal, I thought about that and began researching what it would take to hike the entire Camino Frances.

What is the Santiago de Compostela you might ask? (taken from Wikipedia)

“The Camino de Santiago “Pilgrimage of Compostela”; known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups.”

Although there are many different routes to get to Santiago, “The commonly agreed-upon route for El Camino de Santiago (a.k.a. the Way of St. James) begins at Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, and travels 500 miles through four of Spain’s 15 regions, ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.” This is the route that I intend to take.

Because so many people choose to hike, walk or bike the Camino, it has actually become a livelihood for the poeple living there and as a result has been broken up into 32 stages. Although the distance of each of the stages are similar, the difficulty can range from really difficult to really easy. It all depends on the day. They say you should allow for a total of 35 days to hike the Camino Frances, but some take longer, some shorter. There are so many towns and villages along the way so that if you decide that you want to go longer one day or cut a day short, it’s all up to you.

This is the main reason I have chosen to hike the Camino Frances. The fact that being isolated along the Camino is next to impossible, water is plentiful and places to stay are in abundance makes this an ideal place to spend a month or two right after I retire. You can even add on mileage at the end to add a hundred or so miles to your trek!

So the dream for now to thru hike the AT is gone. That’s ok. The large amount of other places to experience what it offers can be found elsewhere and I think that I have found it.

Has anyone reading this hiked any part of the Camino de Santiago?  Is anyone planning to do so? Let me know. 

 

 

Disconnect

shhhh

In his essay about silence, noted explorer, author and publisher Erling Kagge notes three things-1) The basic state in our brain is one of chaos, 2) An abundance of activities leaves us with a feeling of experiential poverty and 3) We are living in the age of noise.

Why does he say this? Think about it. What do we do every day? We wake up and what is the first thing we do? We look at our phones. We check e-mails, texts and phone messages. We get to work and do the same. After work we repeat the process and it never seems like we get off of the electronic devices crazy train.

One of the things I learned while I was in the hospital a couple of months ago was that nothing happened to me when I couldn’t use my cell phone or ipad (to face time). The world didn’t end, I didn’t cease to exist or go crazy. I just did what I did when I was a kid, I read books. Honestly, I didn’t care that i couldn’t access my phone.

Imagine this-six days of quiet. Not total silence (I was in a hospital), but I did not have the usual distractions that we are all forced to endure every day. I will admit that it was nice. My mind became uncluttered and I didn’t find myself checking the phone or ipad for messages, notification and e-mails.

My idea is a simple one. Take one day a week and disconnect. It’s not that difficult. As a matter fact, it’s really quite nice. I did it and survived.

Does anyone out there do anything to disconnect on a daily basis? I would love to read some of your thoughts.

Don’t Let Them Fool You, PT Is No Joke!

'Shall we start with some stretching exercises?'

My first PT session.

Yesterday I started PT. My daughter, who is 17 and has had the “pleasure” of participating in some quality PT told me that I would be in some pain after the first session. She was right. She was also quick to remind me of the time when she complained about the pain after a PT session and was told to, “suck it up.” So when she asked how my ankle felt when I got home, I told her. Her response??? You guessed it-“Suck it up dad.”

Since it was an initial visit, I spent about twenty minutes being questioned, then another thirty having my ankle twisted, turned, bent and pulled. This, I am told, will bring me closer to getting me back to where I want, no, need to be.

The need to be back in the woods hiking is a strong one. It has been two months to the day since I slid, fell and fractured my ankle on that fateful backpacking trip. Two months of sitting around recuperating isn’t as much fun as it sounds! Obviously it is sitting around time that is necessary, and that is what makes it somewhat bearable.

But as uncomfortable as it has been and will continue to be for a while longer, it also means that I am healing, and that is a good thing. The bottom line is this-You have to be positive. Life is way too short to set sucked into the negative. It will most certainly kill you.

My goal? I want to be back on the trails no later than October 1st!!

What I Have Learned…

The Urban Dictionary defines Cabin Fever as: A type of hysteria brought on by spending too much time indoors.

It has now been forty-one days since I had surgery on my ankle. Due to the layout of our yard (it’s on a hill) and the steps leading in and out of my house, it has been next to impossible to leave my humble abode. That is where the Cabin Fever comes in. Being stuck in the house is no fun. The danger of doing nothing was, and is always there. You tend to get a little wacky sitting around. Luckily, I can say that I have had a lot of time to think and can tell you that I have learned many things over these last six weeks.

I have learned that:

  1. No matter how many precautions you take when you are hiking, things will go wrong. Case in point being I was the third person in line the day I fractured my ankle. I heard my friend say to #2, “Watch out, it’s slippery, move to the left.” #2 then turned to me and said, “Watch out, it’s slippery, move to the left.” So what did I do? I moved to the left and still ended up with a busted ankle.
  2. Even if you think that you drink a lot of water, drink more.  I drink a lot of water. I mean a lot. But somehow I still ended up in renal failure.  Think and Drink!!!!
  3. At 53 , you can learn to speak another language. One of my biggest fears in coming home was that I would sit in front of the boob tube all day. I went ahead and bought Rosetta Stone and have been pleasantly surprised to find out that an old dog can learn new tricks!
  4. I could rekindle my love of reading. Not that I sopped reading, but I have read more books this summer than I can remember. Old books, new books, short books and long books, nothing has been off limits!

Finally and most importantly:

If it hadn’t been for my friends, I would have been in serious trouble. They immediately knew that my ankle wasn’t the only issue and called 911 immediately. As my condition worsened, they didn’t panic and kept me calm. For this I am forever grateful!

Needless to say, these six weeks haven’t been easy. But by making decisions that would keep me moving mentally, it has lessened the effects of my perceived cabin fever.

Happy Hiking!!!

Hiker Culture

What do I love about hikers? Pretty much just about everything. With the exception of a couple of folks, I can tell you that every hiker that I have ever met have been unique individuals who have great stories to tell of one hike or another. Over the years the number of hikers that I have encountered has grown ten fold and for the most part that has been a good thing. I love seeing the sweaty smiling faces as I pass them on the trail. The greetings of “What’s up?” and “Have a nice hike!” stay with me as we each move past each other in our own space and time.

But what else is it about hikers? What has attracted to me to this culture of hiking and its intrepid travelers? Many things. But before we get into some specifics, what is culture?

A very simple definition of culture that I got from the Cambridge dictionary is the following and says that culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. I would think that hikers, no matter what kind, fit this definition. They are an incredible diverse group of individuals that come together and create their own dialect, customs and lifestyle. So, what are my top three characteristics or values of what I see as hiker culture?

Overall, hikers are an incredibly welcoming group. It doesn’t matter what how old you are, your race, weight, height or religion, If you are out traversing the trails, then you are a full fledged member of the group. They aren’t afraid to break bread with strangers or share what they have if they encounter someone who may not have planned a hike properly.

I have also found that hikers aren’t afraid to ask for assistance from other hikers if they aren’t sure of where they are or where they may be going. And this is the coolest part. If they can, they will help you! Out comes the map and together you will work towards a solution to get you on your way. Although both of these provide an example of a sense of community, they are on different levels.

The one thing that truly makes me proud to be part of this tribe is the respect that fellow hikers have for trails that they are walking on. Words such as “Leave No Trace” actually mean something to people who hike. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have had to pick up trash while hiking. To me, that sends a powerful message.

Now remember, this list is by no means a comprehensive one. I have chosen my top three and shared them with you.

What are the values or characteristics that define hiker culture for you?

Happy Hiking!!!

 

 

Moving Forward

“It’s always hard to deal with injuries mentally, but I like to think about it as a new beginning. I can’t change what happened, so the focus needs to go toward healing and coming back stronger than before.”
-Carli Lloyd

Ever since I’ve been laid up with this fractured ankle, all I have been thinking about is hiking. My favorite hikes, not so favorite ones, ones that I’ve done many times and ones that I’ve done once. I’ve dreamed about hiking and have already started planning my “Return to Hiking” hike that will hopefully usher in a new era of hiking for me.

Will that first hike be a difficult one? You bet. But I need to get back on the trail. I need to be out there. I already miss the warm air moving through the trees, the sound of rushing water in the streams that run parallel to many of the rock strewn paths. I miss making my way around a corner and being mesmerized by an awesome view, captivated by the colors of the season and just sitting and breathing in the awesomeness that is just being there. If you have hiked, you know what I’m talking about!

Obviously, however, I am getting way ahead of myself. As I was laying in the hospital, all I could think about was getting the surgery to repair my ankle so I did everything that the doctors and nurses asked me to do. My goal was to go home.

Now that I have been home for ten days, I have the same anticipation as I sit and wait for my followup appointment with the surgeon.  The hope next Tuesday is that I will get a positive report on my progress and soon after PT will follow. For me, PT is the next step, the next chapter in not only in my physical recovery, but in my mental salvation as well.

Thanks for reading and your positive comments!

Happy Hiking!!!

 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

“What do you think dignity’s all about?’
-Kazuo Ishiguro

“Without dignity, identity is erased.” 
-Laura Hillenbrand

“Nothing is so essential as dignity…Time will reveal who has it and who has it not.” 

-Elizabeth Gilbert

Yesterday marked the end of my journey as a travel hockey parent. For the better part of the last 15 years, I have been traveling to rinks in the Northeast making sure that both of my children made it to practices, games and tournaments. First when they played roller hockey, and then for the last 10 years, it has been solely been for hockey. We started in New York and then spent considerable time in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire I have traveled the many highways and byways of these states at all hours of the day and night to clean rinks, filthy rinks and all rinks in between. All so my kids could play hockey.

And I have loved every minute of it. But, as with everything, you have your good and bad moments. Have there been teams I wish that either my son or daughter hadn’t played on? Of course. Have some coaches been either to overbearing or lenient? Of course. Overall, however, they have benefited from the teamwork and camaraderie that comes with playing a team sport like hockey and they have made what I would hope to be life long friends in the process.

Of course as you read this you are probably wondering to yourself, “It can’t all be good, can it?” And with that I answer with a resounding, “NO!”

Over the years my kids have encountered teams, parents and coaches who, quite frankly, are a disgrace to the sport. You know who they are, the ones who are abusive in one way or another and who truly shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a hockey rink, let alone children. But there they are. Parents who laugh as a player lays injured on the ice. The same parents saying that opposing players are “faking” injuries, even as they lay crying because they were cross checked into the boards. Coaches who encourage their players to “take out” opposing players.

This weekend, probably the last one of my daughters hockey career, should have been one that she would remember for the rest of their lives. It will be, but for the wrong reasons.

My daughters team played a game on Saturday night in our end of the year competition against a very competitive team. On its face, the game would have been a good one no matter who won. On paper, they were equally matched and the girls felt they could do well. As the game progressed (and we were winning). the opposing team felt it necessary to start with the elbows to the head, tripping, slashing and boarding. For some reason the referees missed a majority of the infractions. The end result? We won the game.

As luck would have it, we ended up playing the same team the very next day in the championship game of the tournament. From the start the opposing team engaged in the same behavior as the day before. Several times our players were injured by members of the other team. On two occasions, as they lay on the ice, parents in the stands and the team itself were laughing as our player cried in pain after being cross checked into the boards and after being up ended in the middle of the ice. The most disgusting part of this display was the fact that the coach, the leader of the team, did nothing to stop the laughing.

In the end, we lost the game. And that’s ok. Although it would have been nice to win, I would have been embarrassed if our girls had lowered themselves and played at the level that this team decided to play at because they wanted to win.

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again. The fact that the team plays in a way that can lead to serious injury says everything about the coaches and the parents. It sickens me that anyone would condone this type of behavior. If you aren’t telling them to stop, then you are part of the problem. And for what? A trophy?

Here’s the point to my story. As the medals were being handed out, one of our players who had been targeted by the other team the entire game both verbally and physically did something that showed the class of our team. She could have just taken her medal and gotten back on line with our girls. But no, she skated by the opposing team and offered her congratulations. No mean words, no punches, slashes or boarding. Just “congratulations.”

To me this erased the bad feelings I had about the loss. Our girls came away with something much more important than a championship and a trophy.

They came away with their dignity.