Camino Photos

Setting out first day


Camino companions


Over the Pyrenees


To Zubiri

Zubiri, Spain

To the Pain

Yesterday was about conquering the mountain… today about enduring the pain.

We almost didn’t get a bed last night because there are a lot of pilgrims walking with us and the hostels fill up. Consequently we left Roncesvalles this morning at 7 am., before the sun came up, walking by the lights of our headlamps to make sure we would get to Zubiri early. It was very cold at the start and we were all bundled up in jackets. We walked 24 km today, up and down, alternating between woodlands, pastures, and small towns.

The towns were cute, with white-washed buildings with red tile roofs, dark wooden shutters and window boxes of cascading red begonias. The trail has lots of delicious wild blackberries growing along side it, which a lot of the pilgrims seem to be enjoying.

The pain of walking kept increasing as the day wore on. The down hills are the worst because of knee pain. Thank goodness we packed the trekking poles at the last minute because I’m not sure I could do this camino without them. This afternoon after beer/wine at a bar we’ve been cleaning up and hopefully now we can just chill out until dinner. We are all so sore that one of the other pilgrims described the way we walk as the “camino shuffle”.

We learned a fun fact last night from a Spanish pilgrim who dined at our table. He says the country that has the most pilgrims on the camino these days is South Korea!

Note: The wifi at the albergues has been really slow so I haven’t been able to upload photos ūüôĀ

Roncesvalles, Spain

I tried to imagine the worst

and today’s walk was far more difficult than I ever thought it could be!¬†58,910 steps, 23.7 miles (horizontal), 4,933 calories burned, 525 staircases climbed.

When locals said the trail was steep I thought the trail would be steep, not slide-down-on-your-butt STEEP. But the views as we crossed the Pyrenees were gorgeous and we met many pilgrims, a number from California, Canada, Brazil (on bikes), Australia, Germany and Denmark.

The albergue hostel is “interesting”. Mixed sex ( around 36) sharing bunk beds in a building with 2 toilets and 2 showers. Getting laundry dry has been a problem and we’ll see about the snoring tonight.

The Journey Begins

We’ve arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port

Rich and I spent the afternoon registering as pilgrims and exploring this picturesque Basque town in Southern France. Tonight we’re splurging on an Air BnB and one of our few chances for a comfy, private bed.

We have a tough day tomorrow, as we go over the Pyrenees and ascend 1,389m on the Route de Napoleon to Roncesvalles, Spain…and jet lag has hit… so to bed we go.

Pilgrim Passports Have Arrived!

Ready To Be A Pilgrim

Our pilgrim passports have arrived from We’re officially pilgrims. We can now gather our pilgrim stamps in the credencial, twice daily, and with God’s help, earn our pilgrim certificate by making it to Santiago de Compostela.

With my packing pretty well wrapped up (See Preparing for our Pilgrimage)¬†I’ve been doing some more practice walking, which has taught me a thing or two.

I’ve learned that 10 miles is more than twice as hard as 5 miles. I’ve learned that I’ll be miserable with ¬†a ~20lb pack. I’ve also learned that it is very unwise to go walking when the temperature is 99F. I’ve earned one blister on my right pinkie toe. And I remain conflicted about whether to take walking poles. I feel like they help me keep going when I might otherwise really slow down, but they also change my gait (hence the blister) and raise my heart rate.

On another note, this week I will say goodbye to each of my children as they head off to college. Both kids out of the nest off to their own adventures. Buen Camino kiddos!

Preparing for our Pilgrimage

Osprey backpack with Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil View Dry Sacks

Coming up this Fall, my husband Rich and I will go on a pilgrimage in Spain for 5 weeks. We’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to¬†Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. As preparation for the trip I have read a number of books and explored as many forum posts as possible to come up with a packing list. The ideal goal is to keep the weight of your backpack to 10% or less of your body weight. For me, that means I should be aiming a 13lb pack when fully loaded. ¬†To that end I have been gathering and acquiring items for several months, so now I am going to share what I think I’m going to end up packing.



The main goal for the clothes is to not take more than is needed, to dress in layers and for everything to be wicking and quick-dry.

  • 1 sun hat
  • 3 wool socks
  • 3 sock liners
  • 2 sports bras
  • 3 ExOfficio underwear
  • 2 wicking short-sleeve shirts
  • 2 pairs of long hiking pants
  • 1 mid-weight wool long sleeve shirt
  • 1 pareo
  • 1 fleece pullover
  • 1 wind-proof, water-resistant jacket
  • 1 silk long underwear (shirt and tights, for layering)
  • something cotton to sleep in? *
  • belt *

*Not pictured



  • Osprey Women’s 46L Kyte backpack
  • Western Mountaineering Megalite sleeping bag ($$$)
  • silk sleeping bag liner
  • rain pants
  • flip flops (didn’t make the final cut)
  • Chaco Z/Volv sandals (open toe so can be worn with socks too)
  • Brooks Caldera trail running shoes
  • day pack¬†(didn’t make the final cut)
  • Bluefield backpacking rain poncho *
  • 20L dry sack (in image at top of page)
  • 13L dry sack (in image at top of page)

*Not pictured


  • travel size bottle of of shampoo
  • deodorant
  • baby wash cloth
  • travel size bottle of liquid face/body soap
  • disposable shaver
  • 2 travel toothpaste
  • travel tooth brush
  • travel-size floss
  • tweezers
  • nail clippers
  • foot glide
  • travel size sunscreen
  • intense moisturizer
  • small hairbrush
  • head wrap/band
  • bandana
  • sleep mask*
  • ear plugs*

*Not pictured


First Aid Kit

  • self-adhesive ace bandage*
  • assorted band-aids
  • individual triple antibiotic packets
  • tube of Advil caplets
  • 2 safety pins
  • lip balm
  • 2 sudafed
  • 2 anti-diarrhea tablets
  • Q-tips
  • Pepto Bismol tablets
  • glasses cleaning cloth
  • Compeed blister treatment (available in the US at Walgreens)

*Not pictured


Laundry Kit

  • elastic twisted clothes line
  • sink stopper
  • fingernail brush (for scrubbing clothes/shoes)
  • Trek and Travel laundry wash
  • large quilters safety pins (for pinning clothes to a line or a backpack)
  • 5 wooden clothespins (apparently there is frequently a shortage)


  • iphone *
  • super light day pack/shopping bag *
  • lightweight glove liners
  • baby wash cloth
  • core-less toilet paper
  • small microfiber travel towel
  • money pouch (for credit cards/passport)
  • super lightweight journal
  • whistle
  • binder clips
  • sewing kit
  • hand sanitizer
  • hand wipes
  • spork
  • pen
  • carabiners (including “S” type)
  • head lamp
  • 2 port USB charger
  • 10 ft charging cord
  • duct tape*
  • prescription eye glasses*
  • prescription sunglasses*
  • guide book*
  • very small zippered change purse (for daily cash)*
  • gear tie (for tying backpack to chairs as a theft-deterrent)*
  • a stone from home to leave at¬†Cruz de Ferro*

*Not pictured

**Orange massage ball didn’t make the cut. Too heavy.


  • hiking poles
  • cross-body purse (for guide book, money, glasses, grocery bag, and phone when not carrying backpack)
  • printed name and address labels to share with folks we meet

Items to acquire there

  • bug spray
  • pilgrim scallop shell

Items I had to eliminate

  • hiking capri pants
  • heavier fleece (swapped it out for a lighter one)
  • a 4th pair of wool socks
  • ear warmers
  • massage ball (supposedly great to prevent plantar fasciitis, but too heavy)
  • flip flops for the shower
  • a self-packing day pack (was just too heavy ‚ÄĒ replaced with a very lightweight string bag)
  • built-in pack cover (removed it since I’ll have the backpacker’s poncho)
  • extra straps on the bottom of the backpack

In conclusion ‚ÄĒ my pack is weighing in at 18 lbs, including the clothes and shoes I will be wearing on my body. It feels quite manageable but I may be able to have my husband carry a few of the items that are for the both of us. Most of the weight is in the backpack, liquids, toiletries, some of which will lighten as we walk along. Things I could still eliminate ‚ÄĒ rain pants, sleeping bag liner, some toiletries, clothespins, gloves? To be continued…

Corn Tassel Dance

Tomato Haul

A look at some of the tomatoes and other vegetables coming ripe in the garden. Looks like the reflective tape is keeping those birds away!

Bounty and Blight in the Garden

There’s lots happening in my vegetable garden this week ‚Äď the carrots are out, I’ve started pulling my bulb onions, the spring crops are going gangbusters, and we’re finally getting some rain after a very long hot and dry period.

Last year at this time we’d had a fairly cool and wet spring, which really put a damper on pepper production, but this is a good pepper year. I’ve got lots of poblanos and hungarian banana peppers and quite a few nice sweet red bell peppers ripening. The first zucchini has been harvested and the yellow bush beans, which had a very slow start, are now producing magnificently. The black beauty eggplant has also set some fruit.

But of course, the main event is the tomatoes! I’ve now harvested the first 4 of the orange Flamme salad tomatoes. The Cherokee Purple plant is absolutely laden with large fruit and the Cream Sausage and Mortgage Lifter are producing heavily¬†as well. I’m disappointed in the Amish Paste. It seems to have very few fruits, but maybe it’s just getting shaded too much by the Cherokee Purple. The Isis Candy finally has, like, two cherry-size fruits. So this looks to be a season of mixed successes with the tomato varieties. (You can see what I planted in my post¬†Reap What You Sow.)

The good news is that the reflective tape seems to be working so far to keep the birds away. (See How To Protect Tomatoes From Birds.) The bad news is that a couple of the plants are showing signs of stress and/or disease.

The Flamme tomato is starting to have leaves turn yellow and branches die back.

The Cream Sausage has been looking great, but I’ve started to find fruits with blossom-end rot.

So to address whatever blight is affecting these plants I went off to my favorite local nursery and asked for advice. I am pretty sure they have a Calcium deficiency (blossom-end rot) and possibly a Nitrogen deficiency (yellowing leaves). Well, the nursery staff also suggested that the yellow leaves are die back due to¬†the extreme heat we’ve been having. At any rate, I purchased a small bag of Espoma Tomato-tone and applied 3 Tablespoons around each of my tomatoes (and my peppers too) and then watered it in well.

I’m generally pretty bad at remembering to fertilize or even having the intention to “feed” my plants. Instead, I generally rely on seasonal applications of compost and that’s it. So I’ve set a reminder on my to feed the tomatoes every two weeks. Let’s see what happens! I’m really hoping this saves my plants. Happy gardening!

How To Protect Tomatoes From Birds

Garden Protector

Believe it or not, the first tomatoes are ripening. Not mine, of course, but some of my neighbors at the community garden are already harvesting¬†Supice tomatoes. I’ve got green tomatoes on all of my plants except the¬†Isis Candy cherry tomato (see my Spring planting list here), so it is time to think about protection!

Since I began vegetable gardening I’ve always ended up putting bird netting around the tomatoes, along with a few other deterrents, such as fake predators (more on that later) and shiny whirligigs. Alas, over the years I have unintentionally killed 2 large snakes, and last year two¬†large (mating?) lizards when they have became entangled in the bird netting. Not only is accidentally killing these reptiles contrary to my principles of being a good steward of our environment, it’s really gross! I always find them caught in the netting after they’ve started to decompose.

Bird netting is also really hard to work around when harvesting and I have tripped myself innumerable times. I weigh it down with bricks and then have to move each of the bricks to get in under the netting for harvesting, and somehow the birds still manage to peck any ripe tomato that they can get at through the netting.

So this season I’m trying something different. I’m going to avoid the physical barrier and use scare tape instead. I bought this brand of tape¬†here. ¬†I thought about doing this after a really dumb¬†male cardinal kept flying into our dining room windows attacking his own reflection.¬†While googling on solutions to that problem I saw lots of suggestions for hanging scare tape in front of your windows¬†and also for using it in your garden. Apparently birds hate shiny reflective things that move in the wind. I bought the tape and tied lengths of it to my tomato cages and to a pole. I sure hope this works!

Additionally, I’ve got my fake predators ‚Äď an owl and a fake snake, and I’ll get some new shiny whirligigs from the dollar store (these don’t last too long because high winds rip them up).

Additional ideas I haven’t tried yet:

  • hanging red Christmas tree ornaments on the outside of your tomato cages so that the birds come to expect hard, inedible tomatoes
  • suspending¬†noise-making and/or shiny objects such as old CD’s

And finally, I follow the most important rule ‚Äď always pick your tomatoes before they fully ripen and put them on a windowsill to finish up. That nice big juicy fully-vine-ripened tomato you were waiting one more day to pick? ¬†It’s going to have bird pecks in it!