Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

I love the sea.  I feel calm and free whenever I am at the beach.  While exploring the shops at Cannon Beach, Oregon, there were a lot of cards made by Mary Anne Radmacher. One in particular contained the phrase, “I come to the sea to breathe.”  Without question, this simple phrase fully describes what I feel when I am at the beach.

So hard to choose just one picture.  Hope you enjoy these!

Sunset walk along the beach. Ocean Shores, WA

Sunset walk along the beach. Ocean Shores, WA

Ocean Shores, WA

Ocean Shores, WA

Cresting wave. Cannon Beach, OR

Cresting wave. Cannon Beach, OR

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Journal Day 5: Ponferrada cont.

Albergue ManjarinAs I made my way down the mountain, I ran in to Cody and Becca (Missouri kids).  They were taking a break, as Becca’s foot was acting up again.  Back in Rabanal, they thought that her foot issue was from a large blister that wrapped around her toe. When the blister guy took care of her, she felt much better and determined that she could walk again, instead of taking a taxi.  Unfortunately, however, it started to hurt again, and they were taking a break.  Alternatively, Cody and I talked about how great we were feeling (maybe it was the mountain air?).  My feet and legs were feeling great.  I felt like I could walk all day.  The walking poles were working beautifully, and I have no doubt, were playing a large role in saving my knees and keeping me steady on the rocky ground.

In the sections in between trail and rock, I saw enumerable abandoned homes along the way.  Stone houses with walls completely broken down, others with caved in roofs.

All empty and abandoned.

It was eerie, sad, and other worldly all at the same time.  I wondered who had lived in these homes before, and why they had left.

My next stop was in Acebo.  I was starving and getting light headed.  Not a good combination when working your way down steep, muddy, and rocky mountains. I also wanted to refuel since I had decided to try for Ponferrada.  A city that was 6.3 kilometers further than the days’ “scheduled” distance of 26.5 kilometers.

Why was I walking another 19/20 mile day when I swore I wasn’t going to do it again?

Simple…I was going to treat myself to a day off and a hotel.  I reasoned that the extra day would help to heal my feet and I could rest all I wanted.  For me, it was sufficient motivation.

The meal in Acebo was delicious and I chatted with a couple from Idaho, who sat a few tables over from mine.  Prior to walking the Camino they quit their jobs and sold everything, using their time on the Camino to think about what they wanted to do next in life.  How amazing is that?

After Acebo, I lost track of all my “buddies” and didn’t see many pilgrims in general.  It was certainly a time for solitude.

As I walked through the next town of Riego de Ambrós, it was strangely quiet.  Everything was closed up.  Some of the homes were totally run down and some looked nice and well kept.

But I saw no one.  Did anyone live here?

The narrow path out of Riego was incredibly rocky.  Long slabs of rock covered much of the path, with some places where loose rock threatened to turn an ankle if you weren’t paying attention.  I was very thankful that during this time there was no rain.  The sun had come out and dried the rocks, making for much surer footing.

As I walked this path, I soon became very tired of walking on rocks.  I was on constant high alert to keep from losing my footing, and my mind and body were weary from it.  I was not thinking about anything else but just enduring to the end.  At times, reminding myself to pay attention to the path so I didn’t kill or horribly injure myself.  Otherwise, I was pretty much on auto pilot.

Finally, at the bottom of the mountain, was Molinaseca.  The “scheduled” stop for the day, according to the guidebook.  However, I had decided early on that I would go for Ponferrada, and I was sticking to the plan.

And I wanted that hotel room.

As I walked through Molinaseca, I ran in to Nick, one of the Missouri kids.  He was catching up to the rest of his group who was staying at an albergue just outside of town.  We walked together and chatted along the way.  He seemed to be the quiet one of the group, and I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with him much before.  It was nice to have the opportunity to get to know him a bit one on one.

When we reach his albergue, we say our good-bye’s, and I continue on the road to Ponferrada.  It is hard to tell if I am on the Camino.  My guidebook says I should be on some sort of a path, but I didn’t see any arrows or signs that would have taken me off the road.  There are lots of signs saying that this road goes to Ponferrada, though, so I stay on it, figuring I will get to the town eventually.

The 6 kilometers in to Ponferrada are all walked on road.  Turns out this makes a world of difference for the feet, and not in a good way.  They have walked a long way, on some treacherous ground, and quickly become unhappy and fed-up with being pounded against the hard concrete.

It seems to take forever to get to Ponferrada.  I can see the city in the distance, but the more I walk, the less it seems that distance is shortened.  I always seem to be just outside of it.  I feel like I am chasing a mirage in the desert.

These last kilometers are dragging, and the only thing keeping me going, is knowing that I will have a room and bathroom all to myself for two whole nights.

Finally, I reach the city, but am still on the outskirts.  I need to get to the inner old town, since that is where my hotel is.  The basic map my guidebook provides isn’t great, so I wander around a bit to find my way inside.  When I finally find my way in, I begin the next adventure of finding my hotel.

Miraculously, I find my hotel, which is down a short alley, and pray for availability.  With my limited and broken Spanish I ask the gentleman behind the counter if he has availability for two nights, and he does.


I am thrilled to have a room to myself.  I take a LONG shower, wash my clothes, and collapse on the bed too tired to go out to eat (this is where I am thankful for my granola bars) or explore.

I will tomorrow.  I have all day.  Tonight, I sleep.

Click here for the days’ pictures!

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Day 5 Pictures: Ponferrada cont.

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Journal Day 5: Ponferrada

Morning out of Rabanal28 May 2013
32.8 km – 20.3 mi

Rabanal was a great small town.  I was a little sad that I was too tired to walk around and check it out.  I will simply have to return.

I left the albergue at 7:30 am, and walked the stone road, still slick and wet from the rains the night before.  The sky was dark and cloudy, with some pockets of sun eerily shining through.  It was the type of sky that promised that more rain was to come.

The promise soon came true, as I headed out of Rabanal.  And just to keep it interesting, some snow and sleet were mixed in as well.  If that wasn’t enough, the wind blew so hard, the rain/sleet/snow fell almost horizontally.

I was thankful for remembering to pack my poncho, gloves, waterproof windbreaker, and rain cover for my pack.  I did not have to use these items often, but they were certainly necessary for the trek over the mountains.

For some reason (maybe it is being from the Pacific Northwest, where we Northwesterners don’t even carry umbrellas), I didn’t put the poncho on until it actually started to rain. Perhaps I thought I could wait it out (I did have my rain cover for my pack and my waterproof windbreaker on).  But as the rain fell harder and harder, showing little signs of letting up, and the wind blew so hard that the rain hit me square on, I reconsidered my position, and attempted to put on my poncho.

Ponchos are great, but they can be a little cumbersome to put on when you are in a downpour and the wind is whipping the poncho every which way.  I was able to get it mostly on and was trying to situate it over my pack and snap the snaps, when some ladies came up and asked if I wanted some help.  I gratefully accepted and they straightened the poncho out over my pack and buttoned me all up.  I must have looked pretty silly in the middle of the trail trying to get this done myself!

I thanked the two women profusely for their help, and after I was all bundled up, we continued on our way.  We kept pace for a while, and chatted.  They were both from Sacramento, CA. One of the women was part of the group American Pilgrims on the Camino or A.P.O.C.  When I told her I lived in Santiago and about the Pilgrim House project, she seemed very interested, and really liked the idea.

Eventually, the rain stopped, but the wind kept up its blustering.  I was ok with this, as it helped to dry me out from when I was exposed earlier.  I was also not as cold as I thought.  The many layers I had on, and the walking helped to keep my body temperature insulated and up.

Once I arrived at Foncebadón, I was glad I had not stayed there.  The town looked practically abandoned.  The muddied ground, grey clouds and swirling mists, did not help to promote a welcoming atmosphere.  I did not have much choice, though, as I had already walked over 5 kilometers, and the next possible place for food wasn’t for almost another 10 kilometers.  I needed to try to find some food here, or I could be in trouble.

I looked for a café, and found a tiny store run by a couple of very nice Spanish gentlemen.  I asked for a café con leche (latte, basically) and chose some snacks to munch on.  The coffee process was totally manual.  The guy ground the coffee beans (manually) in this huge, hand cranked grinder.  Then he went in the back to heat up some milk.  Finally, the grounds were put in a French Press with the warm milk to steep.  It was an incredible process for a cup of coffee, but boy was it a darn good cup of coffee!  As I munched on my snacks and drank my coffee, I was soon also joined by 3 or 4 Germans who were also making their way through.  They mostly talked amongst themselves, but we smiled at each other as we ate and drank.  I picked up a few more snacks for along the way, paid for my wares, and left happy to be fed and stocked for the next leg of my journey.

Although it was overcast and misty from the mountain weather, the scenery was eerily beautiful.  The trail was lined with tons of wild flowers, and the area was green all around.  It reminded me of my Pacific Northwest.

I was also feeling amazingly cheery.  I was not bothered in the slightest about the wind, rain, and snow.  I giggled to myself as I made my way through the mud and crazy weather.  It just seemed ridiculous to be hiking through it. I loved it!

The Cruz de Ferro was not far from Foncebadón, and soon I saw it atop its rock mountain of laid to rest burdens from pilgrims who have come and gone.

It was still pretty windy and a little wet, so I dropped my pack underneath the covering of the small church and walked up to the top to drop off my rock.

Here I must make a confession.

I am a pilgrim idiot at this point.

I knew I was supposed to drop off a rock here, but I hadn’t done any research as to “why” I was dropping the rock off.  I figured it was a way to mark what I had done or something.  “Anne was here!  Yay!”

Although I had neglected to find out the meaning of leaving the rock, the rock itself (at least) had some special meaning.  It was given to me by my friends, Todd and Angie, in Portland, OR.  After a dinner and watching the movie, “The Way”, Todd handed me the rock to take with me to Spain for when I eventually walked my Camino.  It was from a pile of other rocks and treasures they had brought back from trips to the Oregon Coast.  He wanted to be sure I had something from home to place here at the Cruz de Ferro.

(Later I did find out that the rock was supposed to signify laying down a burden.  I thought about it for a while and determined that I didn’t feel like I had any burdens to let go of.  So I was content to simply leave a little of the Oregon Coast in Spain.)

On the way down from the Cruz de Ferro, a flurry of snow began to fall.  It didn’t stick too much, but there was still a lot of it.  This was the highest point of the Camino.

From here it was all downhill.

(This was an especially long post, so I am breaking it up and will post part 2 in a few days.  Stay tuned!)

Click here for pictures!

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Day 5 Pictures: Ponferrada

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Journal Day 4: Rabanal

Pilgrims en route to Rabanal27 May 2013
21.4 km – 13.3 miles

Actually slept through the night last night, and slept in a bit this morning.

Note: I am actually curious as to what time I “slept in” until, since I can’t remember at this point.  I have a picture (taken as I am leaving Astorga) that is time stamped for 7:00 am. Which means, I had to be up by 6:00 am, because I had breakfast that morning and it took me an hour to get out pretty much every morning, so…… I MUST have awoken earlier than 6:00 am.  And how that constitutes for sleeping in, I do not know.  OR the time stamp on my camera was lying. OR I must have been really tired when I was writing in my journal in Rabanal. End note.

 Breakfast was great!  Toast, fruit, little packaged pastries, cereal, juice, coffee, and all for only €3!  I ate my fill and grabbed a pastry and a piece of fruit for the road.

The morning was cool and a little overcast, but no rain.  Lots of us pilgrims started out together, and we were spread out along the road out of Astorga. I also saw a lot of runners out for their morning run.  I missed running.  I made a mental note to try and start up again once I recovered from my Camino.

Today’s goal was to try for Foncebadon. Last night Alison and Marishka talked about adjusting the stopping points to even out the daily distances a bit better.  Some days would be longer and some shorter, but the goal was to try and eliminate some of the 18 and 19 mile days.  This sounded wonderful to me, so I thought I would give it a try.  Even if it meant that today’s distance would be a bit longer.

The towns with cafe’s were a little further apart, so I made a point of stopping to grab a quick snack to try and keep the energy up and to give the feet a little rest.

As the day progressed, this routine certainly helped with the energy, but only a little with the feet, and I did not make it to Foncebadon.

Today’s walk was quite nice.  The weather was sunny and warm with a light breeze.  The breeze was nice, since there was very little cover for shade.  The elevation chart in the guidebook shows that the walk was all uphill, but the incline was so gradual, it was hardly noticeable.  The pathways were mostly dirt, which was nice for my feet.  One section was rough with a lot of rocks, but it was short.  I was grateful for my walking poles.

As I came upon Rabanal, my feet were begging me to stop.  The town looked cute and quaint, and I read that there was an albergue run by English speakers.  How could I not stop?

I ran in to Cody (one of the Missouri kids) on my way in to town, and was very confused how he could have beat me there.  I remembered pretty clearly leaving Astorga before them, and was pretty sure I would have seen them pass me.

“We took a taxi,” he told me.  Becca’s foot was still giving her problems, so he joined her on the taxi ride to Rabanal.

The group was also (and again) staying in the same albergue I was, and Becca and I chatted as we waited in line for the albergue worker to check us in.

The albergue Gaucelmo, run by the London based Confraternity of St. James, offered basic amenities, but they had a huge beautiful backyard and an herb garden.  One of the workers was even a woman from Portland, OR!  She, too, chatted with Becca and I while we waited in line.  Another gentleman was the albergue blister doctor, and helped a long line of folks with their blisters.  A third guy led a group of us in some stretching exercises, which felt delicious.  Those of us who attended swore we would do this every morning for the rest of our Camino.

Note: hahahahahahahahahahaha!  yeah…that didn’t happen. End note.

In the afternoon, tapas and wine were provided and everyone in the albergue snacked and chatted with each other. Sharing stories and enjoying each others company.  I actually somehow missed this.  I don’t know why I did, and I don’t know where I was.  Rabanal is a bit of a fog.  I think I remember being really tired.

I can’t remember when I met them, but I did meet the nicest couple from New Jersey.  They were walking the Camino to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.  They were adorable.  It was wonderful to see a couple enjoy each other the way they did.  While they were walking the Camino, their son was also hiking the Appelachian trail, and they were looking forward to comparing stories with him when they got home.  Sadly, I never saw them again after Rabanal.  I would have loved to see them again once more, though, to chat with them again.

The Missouri kids enfolded me in to their group, and I was grateful for their friendliness and company.  I liked these kids.  They invited me to join them for dinner again, which was going to be pizza at one of the town’s small bars.  However, when we arrived we discovered that the pizza was basically a frozen store bought pizza cooked in the microwave.

This would not do.

I was starving, and needed some real sustenance.  I graciously thanked the group for the invite, but stated that I would look for another place for dinner.

Frozen microwave cooked pizza, apparently wasn’t appetizing for Chris, the group’s leader, so he asked if he could join me for dinner.  I was exhausted and let him know up front that I was not going to be good for much conversation, but he was welcome to join me.

Thankfully he was fine with that.

We found a restaurant across from the albergue, and wrote in our journals while waiting for our food.  We did some light chatting during dinner though.

After dinner, while walking back to the albergue, I could see that the weather was starting to cool and change.  The sky was cloudy and showing signs of rain.  I hoped it wouldn’t rain the following day.  I was enjoying the sunny weather.

The next day was a 26 km/16 mi day.  I seriously considered not walking the full way.  The feet had spoken, and they seemed to prefer the 13 mile distance.

Check out the pictures from Day 4!

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Day 4 Pictures: Rabanal

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