Training for the Camino Gets Real

How will I train for my Camino adventure? How will I make it so lifting these boots for kilometers a day is a total blister-muscle-pain-soreness-free pleasure?

Boots_May2017There are lots of forums, blogs, websites, books and more with tips and fully designed plans for training for the Camino de Santiago. They are all so helpful and really have helped me figure out how I am going to train for my Camino.

The Camino adventure Lana Rae and I will be doing this fall is a bit of a mash up from the usual point A (St. Jean Pied de Port) to point B (Santiago) Camino. Ours includes the Pyrenees mountain section and final 100+ km of the Camino Frances, the Camino Finisterre taking us out to the Spanish coast through some long woodland stretches, and then finally the Camino Portuguese – Fisherman Coastal section with lots of walking right on the beach. Yahoo!

So basically I need to train for all manner of terrain, with temps in the 25C+ range, a month of walking with most days around 25-30km, and about a total 600km. Accounting for any detours to off trail historic sites, and lets be honest probably a couple get lost and found again kilometers too.

Hmm well here is my plan:

  • hike often
  • aim for round 15-20km each time
  • get in as many days back to back as possible
  • throw in at least a half dozen 30km
  • always with with 25lb in my pack
  • wear the boots and gear I will be wearing on the actual trip
  • throw in some stair training
  • get some overall weight training in
  • increase the yoga focus to limber up these getting creaky joints

Plan established (check) and now in progress (check).

JinkerstonStairs_ChilliwackI have been doing most of my training to date in my own neighbourhood which is just amazing to be able to do. I am lucky to live at the top of a big hill with the great Burns Bog trail system close by.

But I do need to kick it up a notch. To officially start my training plan I did a  jaunt up and down one of my favourite hikes in Chilliwack – Mount Thom. I parked a couple of kilometers away so I could get in some extra hill time and the horrible, torturous and awesome for training Jinkerson Stairs (all 240 of them). Now that will get the glutes and hammies working!

MountThom_ChilliwackFrom there, with some serious Darth Vader breathing, it was up and up the Mount Thom trail. Its an easy trail really with no scrambling at all but the ascent is pretty quick in some sections. And there are some random up and down sections throughout so just when the legs get burning up, you get a down section and a whole different set up muscles burning, then back up again.

MountThomView_ChilliwackI also like this trail for the nice number of folks on the trail. Not too many and not too few. Just enough so there are other food options for the bears and cougars. I prefer to not be the only main course for the wild beasties.

The view from the top is icing on the cake – you can see out over all of the amazing farms that Chilliwack boasts and the mountain range start out in the distance. So great!

A favourite, close-ish to home hike for sure.

FitBitMap_MntThomMay2017FitBitStats_MntThomMay2017Now I just need to get these ‘baseline / first training session’ stats kicked up a notch. Posting my first session FitBit stats here and I will toss up my last training stats doing this same hike before I go as my goal to see these improve.

Wow nothing like making myself publicly accountable!


There is truly so much pleasure in the training – I love hiking and most especially love just being out in nature listening to the birds or my podcasts and just doing a lot of thinking. I cant wait to experience the same joy of walking but in France, Spain and Portugal.. and I will have my bestie to chat with each step too. Hello!

1 month and 27 days to departure – and now I have a solid training plan and a end goal. That just makes this adventure quite real. Eeeeek so excited.





Dear Sir Osprey

Dear Sir Osprey (my backpack),

Well my little buddy, my trusted friend and most loyal travel companion … it is time for our travels around this vast world to part I think. With a sad, but working on accepting it heart it is time for your retirement. You will have a trusted place on the shelf next to all the very travel books that once you carried around this wide world for me on our adventures. And oh the adventures we have had together!

West Highland Way

West Highland Way, Scotland

Remember the West Highland Way, Scotland? Our first long distance hike (154km). I bought you for that  adventure 10 years ago from the Robinson’s Outdoor Store in Victoria. I loved you the from the second we took our first step on the path! This is the hike that set the bar for all others. We walked from the lowlands to the highlands, playing the Run Rig music collections on repeat, and feeling amazed at how lucky we were every day. We closed this trip in my favourite town in this world Fort William, Scotland at the Grog and Gruel with a pint of Tennents Lager toasting my 30th birthday and the start of 5+ more months of travel still in front of us!

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Wales

Oh but do you remember the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on the coast of Wales? Wow that was a doozy. 16 days walking 299kms. Sadly 14 of those days you were wrapped tight in your waterproof cover as we were pelted with sideways, upwards, downwards and misty rain. Like the rain scenes from Forrest Gump really! Not to mention the poor tears you had to witness as the path was often on the very edge of the coastal cliffs and well beyond my comfort zone. I will never forget that gust of wind that took my right off my feet and I was sure we were plunging to our death – but you had me! I landed on my back like a sad little turtle flipped upside down on my shell with my legs dangling, tears streaming and all of our fresh blackberries in your outside pocket crushed. You still have that blackberry stain!

Hadrian's Wall Path

Hadrian’s Wall Path, England

Our next adventure was the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England and it was no less exciting at 135km of adventure. You hung on tight as we  very, narrowly outran that crazy bull on day 3 –  catapulting ourselves over Hadrian’s Wall itself (thank goodness it is now so robbed of stone over the years that it was only 7 feet not 16 feet tall). We landed right in a thistle patch as the bull struck the wall behind us. Thanks to you my back was the only spot not covered in thistle burrs that led to prickly hives for days. A great compliment to my 102 fever we were fighting from all the spider bites I had when we walked through that nest and they all snuggled under and you next to me and starting their afternoon snack on me!

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Did you love the day we got back to Scotland as much as I did? Our trip to the Isle of Sky where we hiked basically through the equivalent of pea soup all day for days – we were soggy and virtually blind from the fog. Yeesh I almost walked right into a sheep up on the ridge. Probably saved me from walking off the cliff edge really now that I think about it – wee cutesy and heroic lamb he was.

Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way, Scotland

Oh yes and of course one of my favourite memories with my sister Shar – the 127km Great Glen Way also in Scotland. You experienced everything from walking to boating on that trip. Again never a complaint. How great you did your job and how easy it was to carry you about. Even on all the days I was sick as a dog from drinking from an unwashed water bladder pack (I brought the wrong one), you felt like comfort and home on my back. Many a time on our breaks during the day you became my trusted pillow while I tried to cat nap away the headache, dizziness and nausea. Oh what a story – all part of the adventure!

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Perhaps your biggest adventures was Mount Kilimanjaro! Wow. Up and over the tallest free standing mountain in the world. We love Africa – the only place where you can you get a sunburn while walking along a glacier while people chant and encourage – it was just amazing. Sorry that other guy had to carry you for a while at the Summit there. My much regretted and unexpected case of the ole pulmonary edema wreaked havoc on me. Trust me though, your hike with the guide was much better than it would have been on my back that day. Alas though we made it and loved it and once again our long standing friendship was solidified in another country and another adventure.

Salt Spring Island, Canada at the top of Erskine Mountain (fairy door trail)

Salt Spring Island, Canada

Now we can’t of course discount the many, many adventures we had here in our own backyard of Canada. You have been with me to all kinds of places on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, North Shore, Whistler, Squamish, Fraser Valley, Alberta, Okanagan, and more, and more. Too many too remember individually but collectively a wonderful memoir of you!

I can’t imagine having reached for any other than you Sir Osprey to get me where I needed to go. However, all great things (even backpacks) must one day come to an end and Sir you have put your time in. From the battle scars and stains all over you, to the ripped out non-existent inside pocket, to the old- school canvas hip straps you are ready for a glorious retirement! May your days forward be relaxing and reminiscent, because you dear friend can now sit back and enjoy the easy life.

A quote from Henry Miller comes to mind when I think of our travels together …

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” This is so true and I have you to thank for helping me see things in new ways. With just my own two feet, a full heart of love from back home, and anything I could ever need in your 35litres – I had the confidence and the hefty sense of adventure to see new things in new ways and in so many amazing places.

Thank you Sir, thank you.


PS. I hope the next generation of Brande’s Backpacks tackles my Camino adventure as well as you did all yours! I will be sure to leave you and he alone for a few days so you can provide him with a comprehensive briefing on how to best support this gong-show adventurer!

Salt Spring Island – Hippy Happy Bliss 

Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island

Approaching Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island

I am so lucky, for ra-zeal … I live on the west coast of amazing Canada and have at my finger tips some awesome places to explore. This summer for a few random weekends in June and August I am blessed with the scenery of Salt Spring Island. I big style enjoy the hippy, happy bliss of Salt Spring Island and would recommend the Gulf Islands, Salt Spring or any other, to any one!

Salt Spring Island

What a place. How to describe it? In one long, poor grammar and badly punctuated sentence …. A small isle of winding,  hilly, crazy roads riddled with cyclists navigating from lake to lake to ocean among mountains, two wee villages, many artisan shops, some cheese shops, a winery, a brewery, a cidery and more, oh my! If it sounds quaint and yet rugged – I have gotten my point across!

Getting here: the only way here is to boat yourself (I wish), harbour plane (amazing if you can afford it), or on BC Ferries (also amazing but still expensive). I come over on the ferry. Some tips – it’s cheaper to walk as a foot passenger ($20 per human each way) and the expense of driving across is cheaper if you go mid week. Make a reservation for this sailing and check the schedule closely. This route is usually served by a small, old ferry boat with little room for cars and peeps so things fill up fast in summer. The milk run route (stops at least once at every other Gulf Island before getting to Salt Spring) is a neat idea if you have double the time but does not save you any money.

Getting around: I am all about using my own two feet to get around or at least the most enviro friendly option (biking, public transport) but on Salt that’s an adventure in itself. The island is MUCH bigger than most people assume. The roads are windy, hilly and the wilderness (trees, deer and more) meets the road right where a ‘shoulder’ for walkers and bikers should be. So walkers and cyclist must use the actual skinny roads to commute and while probably safe (many do it here) not something I prefer (I am a big fan of bike lanes and sidewalks). If you are traveling with kids here, use caution walking and biking assuming the little humans even have the leg power to get up and over the hills. So basically I recommend a car while here. There are though local taxi like services and many locals gladly pick up and drop tourists on their travels – but not my thing.

Getting eats: there is no shortage of good eats on this island. Salt Spring is as good to artists as it is to the outdoorsy and the foodies. All over Ganges and Fulford (the only ‘towns’ on the island) are restaurants from burger joints to coffee shops to pubs to pizza places to bakeries. Ganges is littered with food truck inspired locations that are really fun. Most places boast of local, organic food and many have fun twists on the usual boring fare too (duck wings instead of chicken wings). In Ganges my usual haunts like the Oyster Catcher has a great flatbread pizza, Moby’s Pub has great duck wings and the best pints, Treehouse Cafe (built literally around a tree) has awesome breakfast, Salt Spring Island Coffee has epic .. you guess, coffee, and Embe Bakery has treats for every taste. To name just a few of the yummy places about.

If you need groceries I highly recommend the Country Grocer just past Ganges Harbour to the Thrifty’s in the  Harbour. I am a huge Thifty’s fan usual (mmmm west coast ranger cookies) but the one on this isle is a gong show. Sorry. But if you are here in the height of summer I would instead suggest sticking to markets for your shopping! There is a massive market in Ganges on Saturdays and Tuesdays offering veggies, breads, jams, meats and more. There are also honesty boxes all over the island. In your travels have some small cash on hand and if there is something on the roadside for sale like eggs, veggies, flowers, firewood and more – simply drop the indicated and required sum in the honesty box and take what you paid for. Easy! The organic, free range, couldn’t be any more local eggs we picked up were amazing!

Getting to sleep: there all a whole host of campsites, bed and breakfast places, and Air BnB or VRBO places across the island. There are a few inns, hotels and guest houses too. Oh and most do accommodate humans and not just fairies like this one.

I generally go the Air BnB route so I can ‘live like a local’ and find this a pretty affordable option especially as I prefer to cook most of my meals. And by cook I mean eat cereal or make peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches. (Side note: did you know that was Elvis’ favourite sammy? Yup!)

Anywho, the camping can be fun but be warned most campsites are walk in only (aka you must hoof your stuff in by hand not car) so embrace minimalist notions if you camp. I love love love the Ruckle Provincial Park campground! Some folks just set up their camp on local beaches and parks and don’t bother with official campsite mumbo jumbo. While this route is easy on the wallet, the prospect of getting woken in the night to get in trouble for it deters me. I am…how do you say it … A wimp when it comes to authority. Park Rangers especially. They might revoke my hiking rights!

Full disclosure here – prices in high season (summer) can be steep. Take the time to explore all options and you will find something in your price range even if maybe out of your comfort zone a wee bit – even 5 star hotel peeps can enjoy a walk in campsite with no amenities right? What you maybe over spend on accommodations you can save by fishing for your own dinner or eating Elvis sandwiches at your camp site!

Getting to know the island: what better way to get to know a place than by leaving it! Seriously hike and drive and bike the island for sure but also get on a boat and see it from the water. It’s just an amazing place – as is all the other small and large islands around it! Consider kayaking; the slow, quiet commute around and about the island gives you a great opportunity to take it all in. We saw seals, otters, snakes (being eaten by aforementioned otter), star fish, osprey (the actual bird not my backpack), deer and more from the comfort of my kayak! (Check out Island Escapades if you go.)

If bobbing in the ocean where something called a Killer Whale swims about underneath you isn’t your schtick – don’t worry, the island has enough to offer to keep you entertained. Try Mount Erskine Provincial Park for the fairy door trail, Ruckle Provincial Park for a great trek from bay to bay (and awesome geo-caching), Mount Maxwell Provincial Park for a hard core hike or a 4×4 drive to the amazing summit, Peter Arnell Trail for a rain forest fix, and then cool off at Beddis Beach on the ocean or St. Mary Lake for a swim of the non-salty variety.

Now what most people will tell you about Salt Spring is that the place is full of local artisan shops – if you like amazing, homemade, interesting, one of a kind, local art then Salt Spring is the place for you! You can’t dance in circles without hitting a local artist on that island. So many and so much talent. I will be honest I have not had the chance to explore this aspect of the island yet; when I have an ocean and mountains around me I hike not shop. Once I have done all the hikes, I will check out the art.

Some more pics to give you a sense of how great this Island really is!

Peter Arnell Trail, Salt Spring Island

Peter Arnell Trail (convinced they filmed Jurassic Park here

Ruckle Provincial Park

Hilltop section of the Ruckle Provincial Park Trail

Mount Erskine Trail

Up and up and up; the trail to the Mount Erskine summit

Mount Erskine, Salt Spring Island

View from the top of Erskine Mount, Salt Spring Island (the Fairy Door Trail is on this mountain)

Burgoyne Bay Beach, Salt Spring Island

Government dock at Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island

Burgoyne Bay Beach, Salt Spring Island

Burgoyne Bay Beach, Salt Spring Island (northern part of the isle)

Outhouse at Chocolate Beach, Third Sister Island

Chocolate Beach, Third Sister Island (about a 1,000 kayaking paddles from Salt Spring Island, Ganges Harbour

Hmm, I think that about sums it up  – put Salt Spring on your list!


A-Lone Cone

A little update on my training progress for Mount Kilimanjaro – largely because I am pretty impressed with myself (if that’s ok to say), and you have just got to see the view I was blessed with seeing this weekend!

This past weekend was the annual Fat Man Surfing Challenge in Tofino, British Columbia. No, this  is not an official event in B.C. or anything. Rather it is organized by our group of friends for our friends as a way to test the stealth, grace and gumption of a bunch of rugby players (“the fat men”) by suiting them up in wetsuits, marching them out into the waves of Long Beach, Tofino to see who can stand up on a surf board.

Yes you read that right, this is about who can just stand up, period. If you can actually surf, carve a wave, cutback, or layback good for you – but you get no extra points. Standing up is all you need to do to be a challenger. Sounds easy? Not at all – ask Joe’s tooth, and Lance’s head how easy it is! Barneys! [Shout out to the girls who surfed and how they kicked some standing up challenge butt.]

Any who, a tough decision but with all the amazing hikes in and around Tofino, and with Kilimanjaro looming just a month away – I decided to skip the surfing challenge and the fun of peeling on and off a wetsuit and instead get my hike on while the others got their surf on!  I picked the challenging Lone Cone for my Saturday hike.

The Lone Cone hike is located on Meares Island just a 15minute water taxi from the Tofino harbour. Yes I will admit… as a prairie girl from good ole Alberta, the idea of taking a water taxi on the ocean to get to a hike where the vegetation is basically rain forest was too good to pass up and part of the reason I picked the trail in the first place.

Lone Cone, Meares Island, Jamie's Whaling Station, water taxi, tofino

Water Taxi to Meares Island with Lone Cone Mountain straight ahead.

Dropped off at 9:30am on the dock of Meares Island, I arrange a pick up time of 3:30pm with Dennis, the water taxi captain, who dazzled me with all kinds of trivia on the way over. During our conversation we found out his family is from Vegreville, Vermillion and Mundare, Alberta where my Mom’s said of the family hails from. A fellow Ukrainian – what a small world! When I asked him if it would be possible to make the hike up and down before the pick-up time, he looked me up and down and said “you will have no problem; you have good strong Ukrainian legs.”  I took that as a compliment! Right?

Now on Meares Island, I made my way to the Lone Cone Hostel and Campground on the island, about 1km inland, and paid my park fee of $10 to the local First Nations community for upkeep of the trail and dock. The trail was in awesome shape!

Lone Cone trail is described as “it’s all uphill”, “things get really steep”, “feels though it goes straight up the mountain” and “watch your step and not lose control on the slippery, loose dirt” oh and this one “relentless on the knees”. As soon as I started on the trail, I could confirm all of these and some additional expletives are true.

Lone Cone, Meares Island, up, trail, Tofino

The easy parts of the upward slog of Lone Cone Mountain.

This hike is a slog to say the least. I debated multiple times my sanity and my willingness to continue with the stupid-dumb-hike on a stupid-dumb-mountain on a stupid-dumb-island – all of this of course said out loud in grumpy voice  with a couple of “Yuuups” in there to keep me safe from black bears, cougars, wolves and pumas! Because bears and cougars aren’t scary enough, lets toss some wolves in there shall we?!  Oh and if that was not enough to set my nerves on fire, the tape that was used to mark the trail was pink (pretty right?) with DANGER on it (not so pretty!).

danger, lone cone, trail marker, up

Danger tape as a trail markers?!

However, in addition to the super hard work and scary animal eating me paranoia it was also really fun. There were lots of logs to walk across over streams and fallen trees to go under or attempt to crawl up and over. The trail rangers were even nice enough to put in permanent rope in about 4 sections where the incline was super steep and there was no foot or hand holds on the loose dirt or where the bridge over the creek had fallen down. I felt a little like I was in a video game jumping over and across things or something. Yuuuup!

trail, Lone Cone, fallen tree, Meares Island, Tofino

The trail, under that fun mess of logs!

According to my FitBit, after just 6.72km, 2hrs and 58mins and 1,106 calories burnt I made it to the top – I conquered Lone Cone Mountain!

The fear of wolves eating me, of bears chasing me, of plummeting to my death down the dirt slop of a mountain alone, or being found swelled up like a balloon from a bee sting– was over! I was at the top and I was darn proud of myself. Yuuuup! The view was beyond amazing and I had to literally sit, breathe, maybe even tear up a little (not too dramatically, in a really pretty sort of Hollywood way) to take it all in.

Lone Cone, Clayoquot Sound, Tofino, top, Osprey, Asolo

Lone Cone view over Clayoquot Sound, Tofino British Columbia

lone cone, me, top, up, view, Clayoquot Sound, Tofino

So proud of myself, I couldn’t resist a top of Lone Cone Mountain selfie!

Wow, I did it. Wow!

Now where is the Gondola?! I wish!

What goes up, must come down – I always hated physics in school!

If I thought the way up was tough, I knew I was in for a “good” time on the way down. Additional expletives were added to the litany from the way up, some Yuuuups, and some yelps from the knee crunching and ankle jarring. Wow was it amazing though to truly realize how far up I had actually come! I pulled out one of my hiking poles and between the pole and trees on the way down I was making good time swinging myself down. I was mostly upright with just a few Gollum moments when the terrain was too steep for my fear of heights (refer to Lord of The Rings and how Gollum scrambles of rocks on all fours – not overly attractive but effective all the same) .

Wow was I getting tired. You know that tired where you get a little clumsy and don’t lift your feet quite as high as you think you are – I met a few roots in the toe and in the shin. I met the ground suddenly when I slipped and fell but still managed to pop up and pretend to be all cool in case some wolf was watching me. I didn’t need the Big Bad seeing I had a weakness; I am the lion not the gazelle in this story Mr. Wolf!

After 5.75km down in 2hrs and 38 minutes and another 305 calories burnt, I was back at the dock. I called my Ukrainian water taxi captain Dennis to come for me a bit earlier than our predetermined time and ate me a snack from my pack (mmm dried figs) watching the jelly fish floating about below my dangling feet while I waited.

Tofino, Clayoquot Sound, ocean, Asolo, Lone Cone, Meares Island

My tired feet dangling off the side of the dock as I waited for my water taxi back to Tofino.

I was a little worried about how my wobbling legs would get into the boat but, let’s be honest, gracefulness has never been my strong suit even without a crazy hard hike behind me – so why worry about it today.  The captain guy said to me as I got on the boat “did you see any wildlife; wolves or bears?” I replied “Nope, a couple squirrels and these jellies is all” and he says “Hmm, well they saw you”.  Yikes! Not ok!

Back in Tofino, I headed to Long Beach to heckle the fat man surfers, take off my boots and enjoy the warm sun and sand, a cold beer, and the company of great friends! {and maybe brag a little about how awesome the hike was}


PS: 32 Sleeps to departure for Mount Kilimanjaro