Packing for a 500-mile hike on El Camino is no easy task!

Off on Another Adventure

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Each time I go on a major adventure, I am glad I have put in the effort and preparations to go, yet I never know if I will be able to go again for so many reasons. It is a lot of work to prepare and leave things in good order for my return. Each trip is very different. Sometimes it seems so long ago that I have traveled because so much happens in such a short time in my daily life. I do not worry when I am in the midst of an adventure, but I am always deeply concerned before I go. That is one reason I prepare so carefully. Life has risks and I take them seriously.

This time I will be walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am not traveling by tour, so the planning is quite time-consuming but rewarding. I will be off to Belgium and France for short day tours. Then I will travel by train to southern France and by bus to St Jean Pied de Port. There I begin my walk. I do not know how long it will take me to walk the 500 miles of el Camino—probably two months—and the rest of the time will be visiting Belgium & France before the walk, and staying in Portugal after I finish.

I am traveling very light, for everything I take must be carried in my backpack, every day, for 7 to 8 weeks. I will not carry a tent as I did for 4 months when I hiked the Appalachian Trail solo. I will go light, as weight defeats a hiker.

I began thinking about this walk in late fall of last year. Before that I had never heard of it. A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie, The Way, which is about walking the Camino de Santiago trail.

Walking the Camino will be very different for me. It will be daily walks along the trail, stopping at albergues (pilgrims’ hostels) each night. Many people walk this trail as a pilgrimage. For me, it will be a pilgrimage in memory of my son Michael.

Each day the sights will be very historic. This trail is the way of St. James, which is several thousand years old. Ancient Celts walked this way, Romans built a road on this trail, and then Crusaders walked the trail.

It will be a great adventure. There will be many people on this trail as I walk it. There will be interesting churches to pray in, cafes to eat at, and country people to stop and say, “Hola.”

Spain is the third largest country in Europe, and the trail goes from one side of the country across to the other side, ending at the Atlantic Ocean. I will cross the Pyrenees Mountains, the vast treeless central plateau, and the Cordillera Cantabrica mountain range to the west, with wet climate and much rainy weather from the west side to the end.

There will be animals and nature and different types of vegetation. I will be going through wine country at harvest time. Although it may be hot in August, there may still be snow in the mountains at higher elevations.

I am looking forward to seeing the Spanish people and eating the native food again.  It is my third trip to Spain but my first hiking trip there.

I am excited to depart because you only live once and I have no regrets about anything I have ever done. Each step is a new learning experience. This will be a great adventure!

-August 19, 2014

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To see updates from Madelyn’s trip, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

As I sit at my window, I can see the loons that keep me company every day.

View From My Window

As I sit and work in my writing studio, I get distracted by the life outside my windows. On the third floor of our house, the views are quite extensive. I look down on my walking path, which goes through the pines and along the water front.

Red squirrels try to chase away the big fat gray squirrels. There is always a merry chase going on as the squirrels ran up and down the trunks of the trees and leap from one branch to another. The squirrels check the bird feeders, trying to get ahead of the birds that come to visit. The ducks waddle up to the feeders; as the summer passes, they gain confidence and are not so afraid of us anymore.

Mother muskrat swims along the shoreline, heading out for food, then returning by swimming under our dock to her home in the burrow. She swims with great earnestness and purpose in her nature. Once in a while I will see her young. Once a day, the bald eagle flies in to land on a big tree limb in front of my window. It will stay there quite a while surveying the area, looking for its prey. Sometimes I will hear a big splash and look out— and it is ever so slowly, with effort, rising above the water with a fish in its talons.

One recent morning, four deer walked up my path and stopped at one of the bird feeders to munch on the feed that had fallen on the ground. It was clearly a four generation group, from this year’s fawn, to a one-year old, a young mother, and a grandmother.

A blue heron flies by twice a day to feed in our marsh. While watching for minnows, it walks carefully, placing one foot at a time, to avoid disturbing the water. Sometimes it walks on my path before flying along the water, out of sight, towards its nest.

In the spring a few turtles come ashore to nest on our lawn. They appear to move slowly, but before I know it they have come and gone from my view here. There are mud turtles, spotted turtles, and huge snapping turtles.

We have loons that keep me company every day. They let me know what is happening, as they speak out very clearly and alert all other creatures to where they are and what is happening around them. They are curious, fun, and beautiful birds. The adult will carry the baby on its back–a lovely sight to see.

A pair of Baltimore orioles comes for the cut-up oranges I leave especially for them. Woodpeckers are visitors in our woods; even the pileated woodpecker occasionally sits on the ground and pecks into a dead tree within my view. Our hummingbirds, who really know us, provide great enjoyment. The crows that watch our place act as sentinels, sitting high in our pines.

I could go on and on with the sights of nature, but we have fishermen and boaters, too. Neighbors greet me from my dock. Rain or shine during the summer, someone is kayaking, canoeing, or boating in front of my windows. It is great fun watching a fisherman, as it is serious business to them. He or she is lost in happy bliss for long periods of time, sitting or standing in their boat, enjoying their time as they cast out for a fish and hope to be rewarded with a great catch.

As you can see, I do have a difficult time keeping on task, as the views from my window are quite distracting—but very enjoyable!

-August 12, 2014

Although Aunt Doris traveled around the world, she never forgot her Maine home and family.

Visiting My Grandmother: Part Four

Going to my grandmother’s house was special because my grandmother was so loving and my Aunt Flossie was so much fun. It was a happy place. I had another aunt, Doris, who lived in Oregon and came home each summer for two or three months. Ever since she married and went west, she vowed she would come east to help take care of her mother, and she did. She came by car, by train, and by plane over many years—really a long lifetime.  She lived to the age of 96.

Aunt Doris was the oldest of my father’s siblings; he was the youngest and he thought the world of her. Sometimes she and her husband (Uncle Fred) would drive across the country and he would visit for a few weeks before flying to see his family in England. Those times were great because both would take me on day trips when my parents were too busy and I would have them to myself.

Aunt Doris and Uncle Fred had met after college, married, and soon moved to Oregon. They owned a business and many of their associates were international. When they retired in the 1950’s, they took a year and went around the world to visit their many friends. As a young child of rural Maine, I thought this was pretty amazing. As often as possible we would sit on the porch in old rocking chairs, she telling her stories while I listened, as if on a magic carpet ride. She also liked to write and recite poetry.

My grandmother could cook, Aunt Flossie had all the animals to tend, and Aunt Doris would be the organizer. Each time I would come walking through the woods and hurry onto the porch there would be lots of activity. The dog would greet me; the folks all stopped their chores and greeted me. Sometimes rooms were getting a good cleaning, or a new car had been purchased. Sometimes all three were canning vegetables from the garden. They were always busy from dawn to dusk. They were cheerful and never an unkind word was spoken. They were happy, thoughtful people.

It was always sad to see Aunt Doris leave in the fall. During the winter our family would receive letters, a few phone calls, and a big package of holly to share at Christmas time. She always took care of her mother throughout the year. The support was very noticeable.

Aunt Doris loved her roots of Maine. After I graduated from college I went to visit them in Oregon. They had a lovely home and were a happy couple, but in her heart she never forgot how she cared about her family and childhood home back in Maine. These three women made a difference in my life. I was blessed to know them.

-August 5, 2014