Goat Creek to Goat Fell

Yahoo lassies!

On Monday the crew of us heading to Scotland to complete the Arran Coast Way in July had our one and only chance to train all together and it was awesome!

Shar selected the Goat Creek Trail for us seeing it would mimic much of our path in Scotland. I sure hope so too because the trail was great and I could do that for a week for sure!

The trail starts at the Goat Creek trail head just outside of Canmore and ends 19km later at the Banff Springs outside of Banff (the trail tail / trail butt as Rosa and Shar joked).

The path was undulating for the most part, up away from Goat Creek and then back down again as we left Canmore further behind and gained on approaching Banff. Just a few slogs up overall really – what a treat!!

At the head of the trail there was a big ole sign warning of wolves and grizzly bears in the area. Always a nice ‘welcome to the trail you hikers who may also double dinner’. Ha! Usually I see these signs when I am alone hiking and they freak me out – which 4 of us hiking though it was way less intimidating. Ok maybe not way less but at least a bit less.

Best way to curb the ‘gonna get eaten’ fear is to launch into full ‘don’t eat me’ mode. This includes being generally loud on the trail – holding conversations, hollering out a word or two every 50 feet or when approaching a bend in the path or a creek, and staying together if you have a hiking tribe.

Really you are just hoping to scare any wildlife away before there is any chance of you startling them into eating you. We also did a quick run down of what to do if we do see a bear, cougar or wolf so we were all on the same page. We did this loudly of course as part of our ‘be heard and be seen’ wildlife strategy. (I like to call things strategies so they sound all planned and awesome – even though this this was more of a ‘holy crap, what if’ scenario discussion.)

We had a lot of fun with the calling out a word every 50 feet or so strategy; turning it into a game of sorts. This keeps the bears away, is fun, and seems to eat up the miles quickly! We did the classic name that country sound off starting with A thru to Z, then a round for celebrities and one for names of songs. This last one may have include some short bursts of singing which may have been the best thing for keeping those pack hunting wolves at bay. At least when I was belting out the ole Toy Soldier by Martika! Remember that one?

During our walk we focused on a two things – the beauty of the trail and our gear. Lots of gear talk. Mostly gear talk. We were out there on Monday to test gear. Everything from socks to hats, and from undies to backpacks to see what will make the cut for Scotland.

I discovered my penchant for being cheap has resulted in wearing decade old SmartWools that don’t keep their shape any longer resulting in under the heel blister potential, and that my new hiking capris from Eddie Bauer are great but they are not the replacement for my long standing favourite Nike capris that need to make one final trip me thinks. I also confirmed that after logging probably 1000s of kilometers in my Asolo Backpacking boots across the globe I may need to splurge for some new insoles. I better get on that quick so I can train the next 6 weeks in them before we depart.

Rosa tried the switch from boots to shoes technique to see how that worked for her dogs – a strategy I deploy on 20km+ days with great success especially when it includes compression socks! Cheryl discovered that the pants she thought would be perfect were not and will not be making the cut for the trip’s packing list. Shar confirmed her hiking shorts are perfect for the trip and that the wax from Baby Bel Cheese can be used to prevent sunburns on your the nose if there is ever a shortage of sunscreen.

Overall the trail of 19km took us just over 4 hours at a very easy pace with lots of wee stops to check and test that gear and some snacks mid way too. The weather was overcast with some small breaks of sun – perfect for hiking! Not too hot or cold. Oh and

A little extra time was added to the trip for an extra special reason! We had to make one special pit stop for Rosa to see if Jamie Fraser of Outlander was perhaps at this standing stone – nope, she did not hear bees. Doh! We will try every standing stone in Scotland for you Rosa until we find him.

Oh and we had to stop for Shar and Cheryl to knock off a few yoga moves for those tight ham-dogs and hip-flexors too.

We rolled into Banff arriving at the trail butt by the Banff Springs Hotel of amazingness. But us classy gals didn’t stop there for a cool, fancy drink. No way! We made our way down to Buffalo Bills for a cold pint and some meat!

Then we headed up Banff Main Street to catch the Roam bus for $6bucks back to Canmore where our vehicles were waiting! Lots of peeps bike the trail we walked so there were even some bins strapped to the front or the back of the bus to bead back to Canmore.

Am awesome trial and trail day for all of us! We all loved the trail and each of us figured out something a little more than we knew before about our gear for Scotland.

Eeeek the trip is coming fast!

Brande

8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet

Well with 8 weeks to go till departure I have a big decision to make – boots or no boots?

Seems crazy to even consider hiking 100+km in soggy Scotland without my beloved, make me happy, bring me joy as soon as I slip into them boots. But I have a love / hate relationship with my Asolo boots and that makes this a big decision.

img_0814

Weight: My boots are a mid-backpacking boot  – which means they are heavier than a hiking boot or shoe but lighter than a heavy backpacking boot. Together they weigh just under 3lbs and while that may seem like not much right now when you add that to the bottom of your feet for 25,000 steps or more every day it definitely adds to the workout. Not to mention my pack weight when they are not on my feet. I have strong enough legs, knees and ankles that I could most likely go with a light hiker or even a cross trainer like my also very loved purple running shoes from Nike. hmmm

img_1545.jpg

Waterproof: My boots are totally waterproof – lovely, amazing Gortex that has kept up its waterproof-ness now for over a decade. I can tell you that dry feet are happy feet. While some hikers may be all like “I don’t mind if my feet get wet”  – I am not one of those. I know from experience that wet feet become swollen, the skin becomes weak and soft and that means blisters, blisters, blisters. Also, I wear SmartWool socks and wet and wool means stretching, which means bunching, which means (yup you guess it) blisters, blisters, blisters. If there is one thing Scotland is famous for (maybe almost as famous as Ireland for) its rain. Hey they named that misty, hang in the air rain Scotch Mist for a reason! So if the weather is perfect every day of hiking, I wont need my boots but .. well it is Scotland.

img_1348

Underfoot: I love the weightlessness of my running shoes for sure but a rocky or shale path is havoc on feet in running shoes. The bits of sand and grit gets kicked up and settles into your socks and shoes – making blisters, unless you annoyingly stop every 100 yards to clear em out. The rocks under the soft tread of sneakers feels like a few bumps at the start of a 25km day but those same rocks starts to feel like broken glass and upturned nails as the dogs bark louder and louder by the end of the day. My boots have a Vibram sole – hard equals heavy, but hard also means you do not feel rock edges or the bumps and clumps underfoot. In fact, the bottom of my boots are so good that I can balance on a pointed rock as if its flat (assuming I am doing spirit fingers for balance and posing for a photo of course).  Now I could find the perfect balance and get me some trail runners which feature a much harder sole than regular cross trainers, and I could where gaiters to keep the dust and rocks out of my shoes and socks. But hmm 9 weeks out I do not want to be breaking in anything new and gaiters assuming good weather make the feet sweat and we are back to the wet feet issue above.

IMG_1979

Change of pace: now I have to say one of my favourite things to do is to switch it up. If the path is rocky or scrambling is involved; my boots are fabulous for grip, kicking in a toe hold, keeping the grit out, and generally keeping the feet happy. But when the path is maybe on a flat surface or through the wee Scottish villages; then my sneakers are light and bouncy and I feel like I can really kick the pace up a notch with 1.5lbs less on each foot holding me to the earth. I also love switching to my sneakers from my boots when the sun starts shining, as a kind of celebration of Vitamin D. Not to mention throwing on my sneakers and compression socks (of a lovely lime green variety cause I am sure the bright the colour the better the compression) for an awesome pick me up – both in blood flow and in hiking attire appeal.

Hmmmm decisions, decisions -well, no not really. I have decided – I am taking both.

This will surprise very few people I suspect; its kinda my thing to have both. I just cant imagine how lonely my Asolo’s would feel being left out of the fun and I love a good mid-day change up! I also like that when I have my boots or my sneakers secure to Missy Morado (my Osprey backpack’s name) she sits upright and proud in her purple goodness.  Really its Missy confirming my choice to bring both really! Yup.

Brande

Sunset of Villadesuso

Yesterday was day 2 of the Camino Portuguese – Coastal Way for us. We walked about 23kms from Nigran to Villadesuso (33,370 FitBit steps).

We started our day with a special treat – we met the awesome lady who had been making all the arrangements to have our extra bag transported forward. Sometimes she even does the transporting herself. Teresa of Santiago Backpacker Express. She is so helpful and just really such a nice person, it was great to put a face to the WhatsApp account I have been working with for the last few days.

After meeting Teresa, we left our hostel Pazo Pias in Nigran around 9am. The detail on the maps and online about were to walk on this route is pretty limited and so are the way markers. So we had peppered Maria with a few questions when we met her. We knew we had to cross this bridge …

Then keep the ocean on our right again all day. That seemed to work and there was even an awesome bike and walking path all along the coast for us to follow into the next two of Baiona.

We were held up a few minutes taking silly pics using a mirror on the trail. I think the locals walking by though we were nuts.

Anywho back to walking. We had ourselves some yummy eggs and bacon breakfast in Baiona and spent some time taking photos of the original fort they had reconstructed while we waited for the Tourist Info Office to open.

Tourist Info opened at 1030am! The map books we had said we had to use the inland route to make it to the next coastal section. What? We were sure we could stick to the coast the whole time. We wanted to ask Tourist Info if this was true and how. Why waste coast time walking inland! Tourist Info advised we could walk on a path beside the highway which runs along the coast the whole way to our next destination. Great news! Walking on a highway for 20km is tough on the feet it’s such a hard surface but also easy as it’s flat and even. So here we go.

Yesterday, for the first time, Lana and I both had our head phones in. She was music and I was some music and then my audio book. It was safest to walk single file close to the outside edge of the path as there were many other walkers and cyclists using this same path. And the noise of the highway made it a little hard to chat anyway. So that was a fun little change for us.

By 2pm we saw our hotel for the night in the distance, we thought we had about another 6km to go still so this was such a treat!

Yes that is a pool. But don’t get too excited – the pool also has a siesta from 1 to 5pm. So it was closed when we would have gone in. Doh! These siesta’s here are killing us. Nothing is open in the afternoon – not the markets, food in restaurants and apparently pools from about 2 in the afternoon till 8 at night. I am going to come home and expect to be off work and doing nothing for hours everyday after this trip!

We had a nice evening of drinks at the local pub, some beach time taking pictures of the sunset – which was amazing:

After the sunset we tried to find a place to eat – one restaurant had no one in it at all, another had no kitchen, and or own hotel restaurant also had no one in it. No other options in town. Weird! Clearly there are not enough hungry pilgrims in this town! So we had a private dining experience in our hotel’s restaurant – one table among 40. The service was excellent!

Today we get to walk into Portugal – yup we go to a new country today, how exciting!

But first we need to walk 24kms and find the brother of a guy named Mario who has a red boat and will take us across the water crossing into Portugal for 5euros. Sounds suspect right!? Well all the pilgrims on the Camino forums are doing it this way on Monday’s when the ferry service is closed or during low tide. So we are sure it’s a good plan. Yikes! Adventure here we come.

Buen Camino!
Brande

One Bridge Too Far

Yesterday was another great day on the Camino for this duo. We walked from Pamplona to Puenta La Reina which is just over 23km or 39,289 Fitbit steps.

Our day started as usual it seems with poor sleep, too many pilgrim body sounds recalled from the night prior, some white toast and jam and very strong coffee. The life of these pilgrims so far but we are still loving it!

We left our humble abode at 8:15am and commenced the day with a 5km walk though Pamplona. Along the way we had our cameras ready to capture a few sights:

When we hit the next town Cizur Menor we had already added another stamp to our Pilgrim Passport (thank you Universidad de Navarre), discovered how amazing and light you feel switching from boots to runners, and had a few laughs. Not bad for 5km!

When we hit a section of path that required boots, we would take a welcome break and switch them up. We were light as feathers with our sneakers – ok not really light with our packs still on but that’s what we kept telling ourselves. Especially after we ate our bananas about mid morning and further lightened our load.

Around 930 or so the proof of the ‘there is a big climb after Puenta La Reina’ came into view. This was all the talk at the albergue (hostel) and we were a bit confused. Sure the elevation map looked like we had a high blip but so much talk was a bit much especially when you compare anything to the climb of day one. As came around a bend in Cizor Menor we saw the windmill hill we were going up and over. It was a good one for sure and worth some pilgrim chatter but nothing these two pilgrims couldn’t handle.

Up and up we went over some amazing trail, largely across or beside farmer’s fields. Many that were wheat already harvested but some were all sunflowers. Had we walked maybe a few weeks ago I think it would have been a sea of yellow but by end of August, the sunflowers were scorched from the sun and not quite as picturesque. I felt for them – I was feeling the same way in the hot Spanish sun!

The highlight was coming over the ridge to find one of the most photographed pilgrim monuments on the Camino. We were pretty high up at this point (about 900m) as high as we had to climb that day. The wind was harsh and the wind turbines were all around us loud and looming. Once in a while you had to brace agains a gust of wind. But this did not prevent a photo opportunity for us gals! Including a reenactment of my favourite part of the movie, The Way. If you have see it, you will know instantly this scene. If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing and you should!

The afternoon was down hill literally for the most part with some small ups – but generally easy walking and the weather continued to hold off any rain and give us long pockets of sunshine!

Mid afternoon when the tummies where grumbling for chow we stopped in for a couple of coffees in a town called Uterga. Well it turned into a massive lunch (I finally got some eggs and served with fries, come on! yahoo!) and a small ice cold cervaza. Mmmm

We walked the last 6km into Puenta La Reina maybe a little slower after that amazing meal but it was fun all the same! As we came through towns we took some pics and as we came by churches I took a peek inside. They are a welcome break from the heat and give you a peace boost!

Following a short back track (couple blocks) as I read the map wrong we were at our albergue. This is my second time in a week messing the map – not bad for being tired in mind and body and distracted and excited by all the new stuff around me. Not sure our feet agree lol

An evening of showers, journaling on the amazing terrace in the evening sun, a cold pint and some pilgrim’s food wrapped up the day for us.

We have a twin room tonight – so just me and Lana in our little individual twin beds with an amazing little balcony. So we will get much needed sleep (that’s so exciting I may not sleep) and a chance to air our ‘smelling like backpack’ clothes in the evening breeze.

Another amazing day on the Camino.

Buen Camino!
Brande

Running of the Pilgrims

Yesterday we walked from Zubiri to Pamplona. A wonderful walk with some tough inclines, some veritable death trap declines and some easy strolls over 21km (37,865 steps). Just enough trail variation to keep you guessing what would be around the corner.

We began our day at 545am which you would think is early but so far is about the time we have been laying in bed waiting from the rest of the dorm to wake up so we could make an exit without waking everyone. I don’t think we are on the right time zone yet OR maybe going to bed by 9pm dog tired has something to do with it OR maybe listening to everyone snore all night makes you wanna just get the hell outta there!

By 615am I was down in the hostel living room working on a blog post and by 645 Lana and I were enjoying our breakfast. Breaky was included with the bed cost and it was, to be blunt, a disappointment but not at all surprising … basically a piece of very hard toast, jam (a choice of strawberry or peach), margarine, coffee or tea, and juice. Our albergue, Hazel Sticks, also included cafeteria fruit cocktail and some cornflakes. Oh and everyone got a piece of cake. Again I ask, where is this famous Spanish egg and potato omelet I keep hearing about!? Oh or maybe the churro with chocolate treat others fav for breaky?

Once breakfast wrapped up, we finished getting ready, published a blog post for you all, I filled water bladder and we were on our way. See yah Hazel Sticks of Zubiri and bring on Pamplona!

Our day started nice and easy. Lots of adjustments to make to boots and socks but we made great time. Passing town by town hoping to make it to Pamplona before the rain which was looming in the forecast and the sky began.

A quick highlight reel via photo for you:



Today we didn’t stop into any cafes for coffee and instead enjoyed our lunch in Irotz about half way and sat on a half stone wall in the amazing sunshine while we gave our bodies a break from our packs and our feet a break from the trail.

Once rested up a bit and bellies full, we were on our way again. The afternoon included a tough slog up and that don’t get any easier as the sun gets hotter. We were at 28C in the afternoon. Hot for sure but I was happy to be putting on sunscreen not my rain jacket.

Afternoon highlight reel:

Well the last 5+km were tough for sure – as great as Pamplona is there is just something exhausting about walking through a city compared to the country trail. There are benefits though I will admit! Like switching from boots to sneakers and being distracted by the sights and all you wanna capture on camera!

Just a few of the pics from Pamplona for you:

Yes that last one is from an awesome candy store and yes I may have added just a wee bit of weight to my pack in sour gum balls – hey burning that many calories in a day deserves a little pick me up, guilt free!

We enjoyed a yummy dinner that was altogether way to white so had to be followed by some red at the hostel as we wrapped up the day with showers, some social media time and journaling. This is usually when Lana and I sit and laugh our faces off by recalling the antics of the day as we scroll though pics!

By 9pm we were in our space pods and ready for a good night sleep! And I literally mean space pod, look at our beds:

Well that good night sleep was actually worst night sleep. Who knew space pods were also snore and fart amplifiers! A personal body sound speaker! Not ok!

Get me outta here and on the trail to Puenta La Reina!

Brande

For the Love of Feet

Well doesn’t that title just entice you to read this blog post!

OK if you are eating, drinking, sipping, nibbling, snacking, whatever – STOP.

This is a pretty graphic blog post about the sad, short life of a toenail on Kilimanjaro and my concern for my feet considering the pain and punishment they have caused me in the past. You have been warned …. and warned again … this post is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach, or for the love of feet! BUT if you have ever hiked this blog post will totally make sense to you, sadly.

I have had some awesome experiences walking lengthy distances. It would seem that’s what I like to do – walk a lot. I have had the pleasure of the West Highland Way in Scotland 154km, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales 299km, Hadrian’s Wall Path in England 135km and Great Glen Way 127km in Scotland to name a few of my most awesome adventures on my own two feet. And there are a b-zillion more walks that my soul and feet are just itching to complete – oh so many! Don’t get me started!

West Highland Way, Scotland

My first long distance walk in 2008 (Scotland, West Highland Way) that got me addicted to the seeing the world on my feet!

Its OK, honest, you don’t have to understand me. This walking thing is a illness. Sometimes referred to as a hill walker, walker, hiker, trekker, strange, crazy, rambler, munro bagger, weird, wanderer,  walkabout-er, pilgrimage-r, nuts, traipser, perambulator, peregrinari, etc.  To name a few of the loving names we walkers identify with and/or have been called across the globe.

Depending on who you ask, my love of walking is either just so super cool (thank you to my friend Jane, you are the best fan ever) or is just down right crazy (thank you to my husband Lance who loves me dearly but finds this love of walking thing rather odd).

However, as much as I love getting about on my feet I am one of those very “lucky” people who gets a blister from thinking about shoes – seriously. A shoe can be so comfortable for me for weeks or years and then one day KABLAMO there is a hot spot and a lovely blister to make my world painful and me grumpy for a week.  I get blisters in flip flops and have even gotten a hot spot from slippers. For real. What the heck?

Don’t believe me; allow me to dazzle you with some graphic foot-of-pain pics … final warning, stop eating!

heat rash and blisters

Heat rash and a horrible blister during the Great Glen Way, Scotland with my sister Shar.

I will spare you any additional pictures – too gross right!

Regardless of how unpleasant these look, I will not let this foot stuff taint or ruin my trek up Mount Kilimanjaro!!

As you may have guessed, I have taken my training for Kilimanjaro a bit seriously – hiking twice a week, running 5 mornings a week, core and lower body work outs, trying on every article of clothing I will be wearing on that mountain, etc.  Oh and yes this includes putting on every layer I will wear on summit night including head lamp and walking around the house, up and down the stairs, etc. to make sure I can move and am in a happy, sweaty, warm place for the slog.

I am, in fact, so dedicated to my training that I am already losing a pre-climb toenail  … providing great experience on just how absolutely NOT fabulous it feels to stomp downhill with your fleshy toe hitting the front of your boot. Queue the “learn how to tie your boots for downhill climbs” on Pinterest and YouTube commercial here … If this is me not even on the mountain, what will the mountain do to me!

Big toenail going

Toenail soon to be MIA thanks to all this pre-Kilimanjaro training.

I am not alone – I read somewhere that the average number of toenails lost on Mount Kilimanjaro is 4. Yes you read that right! This is some crazy stuff. When I googled Kilimanjaro and Toenail to dazzle you with some more quirky stats, I got 43,000 search results. That tells you something. Google knows!

Please cheer for me in what seems to be a crazy game of toe vs nail vs boot vs mountain game! Current score is Team Brande 9 vs. Team Toenail 1 … score to be updated post Kilimanjaro!

Brande

PS 13 sleeps to go, we are in the home stretch now!