Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you waiting at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Christina Georgina Rossetti, Uphill
I was given the sandals a few years ago and always toss them in my pack when traveling in warmer climates. They’re light enough to not weight down the pack, and function as excellent camp shoes at the end of the day. I’ve never done any serious hiking with them though, and I wanted to see how capable they (and I) were.
I ended up doing a 15 mile hike. Towards the end, the balls of both my feet felt a little sore. They feel as if they’re developing a new callus (good thing) rather than a blister (bad thing).
I think it’s a healthy habit to do a hike every now and again with minimal-to-no foot support (such as barefoot, or with sandals similar to these). We all know that shoes are supposed to be bad things. If you’re the type who wears 6” or taller boots everyday, it’s especially important. Combat boots provide so much support for the foot and ankle that the muscles and tendons don’t have to do any work. They waste away. Walking with less supportive footwear will allow your feet to develop to a more healthful level.
For myself, I was surprised to find that the muscles in my lower back seemed to get the greatest workout. I usually have very bad posture, but walking with the sandals, for some reason, forced me to stand straighter than usual.
I decided to bring the Kifaru E&E instead of my normal EDC pack to cut down on weight. Here’s what I carried in it:
TAD Gear BC-8 pouch
Canon Powershot SD1000
Klean Kanteen (40 oz)
Challah (1/2 loaf)
Grimloc Carabiner (2x)
Bushcraft Northwest BCNW-O1 knife
Filson Tin Cloth Packer Hat
Minimalist Self-Aid kit
The Wilderness Tactical Halfway-Decent Glasses Case
...most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember, and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods, but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt, they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.
Henry David Thoreau
To the multitude, whether city or country bred, the bare idea of faring alone in the wilds for days or weeks at a time is eerie and fantastic: it makes their flesh creep. He who does so is certainly an eccentric, probably a misanthrope, possible a fugitive from justice, or, likely enough, some moonstruck fellow whom the authorities would do well to follow up and watch.
But many a seasoned woodsman can avow that some of the most satisfying, if not the happiest, periods of his life have been spent far out of sight and suggestion of his fellow men.
... By yourself you can sit motionless and mutely watchful, but where two are side by side it is neither polite nor endurable to pass an hour without saying a word. Lonesome? Nay indeed. Whoever has an eye for Nature is never less alone than when he is by himself.
...Solitude has its finer side. The saints of old, when seeking to cleanse themselves from taint of worldliness get closer to the source of prophecy, went singly into the desert and bided there alone. So now our lone adventurer, unsaintly as he may have been among men, experiences an exaltation, finds healing and encouragement in wilderness life.
When twilight falls, and shadows merge in the darkness, the single-handed camper muses before the fire that comforts his bivouac and listens to the low, sweet voices of the night, which never are heard in full harmony save by those who sit silent and alone.
- Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft
When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last February I began a training ritual in preparation for my anticipated journey to Spain. Every weekend that I could, up to the very time of my departure, I would load up my Kifaru ZXR with the heaviest books I owned till it reached something in the range of 70-80 lbs, then head out the door and hike 15-20 miles. In reality, this is far more weight than I usually carry while traveling and I tend not to walk much more than 15 miles a day. But by pushing my body and mind further than where I actually require it to go, the pleasure, serenity, and ease of travel is heightened.
I find that no amount of running, biking, or light-weight day hiking adequately prepares the body for the weight of the ruck and life on The Road. So, this year, I’m continuing the training. Yesterday was day one. I hadn’t walked under my heavy rucksack for a couple of months, so I started out with something probably closer to 50 lbs and did a 15 mile trip that lacked much elevation change.
It felt good to dust off the rucksack and move around some. At the end of the day, I could feel the strain in my gluteal muscles. Today I’m only a little bit sore. The exercise works and I’m glad of my starting weight and mileage.
In the coming weeks, I’ll increase the weight and mileage until I reach stability. At that point, I’ll keep things interesting by using my GPS to clock my speed and see what I can do about cutting down on time.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least -- and it is commonly more than that -- sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them -- as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon -- I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.
Henry David Thoreau
I’ve returned early from Spain, arriving in the States last night.
I walked only about 110 miles on the Camino de Santiago, from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logrono, before deciding that it was time to come back. During my short time on the walk, the Camino gave me what it could, and I gladly accept the gift, but I felt the remaining miles had nothing more to offer.
Following the Camino’s yellow arrows day after day, while comforting in their promise of direction and safety, is too structured an experience. This, the cultivated landscape, and the crowds of walkers contribute to a feeling of limitation.
I seek to find my own paths, and to forge my own way. Only by traveling into the unknown can we explore our selves. And so, despite the cultural differences, despite the linguistic barrier, and despite the unknown country, I think the Camino is flawed. There are no yellow arrows for the mind, save for those we paint our selves.
For me, it must be a journey wilder than this. One for which I do not have my way painted upon the landscape. A journey in which I am dependent on the self, alone in a solitary wilderness. To explore that is to touch the crevices of consciousness, running one’s finger upon the peculiar bumps of its surface.
From the 21st of June till the 1st of July, I walked, taking a day off in Pamplona and in Viana. In Logrono, I spent 3 nights before taking a train back to Madrid, where I’ve been for the past week.
Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood... Afresh dawns the morn of life...
- Sir Richard F. Burton, Journal entry, December 2, 1856
Tomorrow, I will be in Spain. I fly into Madrid, from where I’ll make a quick jump over the border to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. There, my pilgrimage begins. I walk west, over the Pyrenees, and reenter Spain. After my feet carry me roughly 500 miles from the Basque lands to Galicia, the journey culminates at Finis Terrae, the End of the World.
As usual, I don’t speak the language and am embarking alone with limited funds. Internet access will be sparse, if it all.
Catch you on the other side.
"The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity."
- Mircea Eliada