04
Apr 16

Tacos and Doughnuts

Sunset on Venice Beach

Another Amtrak ride, another blog post.
Rolling out of Los Angeles after a fantastic 2 weeks in Venice Beach.

Last we left, I was on the train to Houston. I had a great time there. Continuing my role as the cousin ambassador, I got to see many but not all of the Texas Cousin Clan. Got to see some good stuff in Houston: The Museum of Art is excellent and had a fantastic Art Deco car exhibit. The Museum of Natural History has a world class dinosaur exhibit and the finest opal I have ever seen. Then I headed up to Wimberley, just south of Austin to spend time with cousin Barbara. Turns out South by Southwest was starting then so I spent a weekend with cousin Robert and his family. I went into town to the SXSW job market which was interesting but nothing spun my beanie. Had some world class BBQ at La Barbecue. Beef ribs: $17.95/lb. One rib= 1.5lbs.

By this time, I found out about the beach house that cousin Linda has. So rather than make my way west through NM and AZ, I flew from Austin to LAX and ensconced  myself in the sweet house on Venice Beach.

So for the past two weeks, I have been ‘busy’ with reading, eating amazing tacos and having my soul changed by world class doughnuts. Spent hours on the front porch, watching the bikers and skaters and all sorts of characters roll on by. Went to the Science Center to see the local Space Shuttle.
Got to see cousin Greg Booth a few times, visiting his office at Google and getting third place in pub trivia…twice.

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Finally I was within walking distance of the Santa Monica REI, so I made a few trips over there to stock up for the hike at hand: warm things, new trekking poles, water bottles, etc.

It was great to see old California friends: Jan my old SF roommate and his family. Alice and Nick met me at the Getty Villa for a lovely afternoon. The Getty Center is also a spectacular visit and a great example of what should be done with great wealth. There is currently a fantastic Mapplethorpe exhibit and a nice one on Daguerrotypes, so it hit my photography buttons nicely.

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But mostly I enjoyed the nice spot and appreciated the civilization around me: the good food, plentiful water and comfy bed.

Because now, after a couple days in San Diego gearing up and getting food, it’s off to Campo, CA and the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The PCT is Same Same but Different than the AT. At ~2600 miles, it’s longer than the AT by 300ish miles. But because it’s graded for animals (not as steep, path is wider), people tend to do more miles per day and therefore tend to finish more quickly. Instead of 5 months on the AT, this will take you 4 months.
It’s more open and exposed: More to see, more sun. The temperature gradients are steeper. The first month is in the desert. Super hot and not a lot of water but I someone reported snow on the ground last week. Highest point on the AT is 6600 ft. PCT is around 12K and you spend a lot of time over 6K. After the desert, you hit the High Sierra and spend the rest of the walk in them or the Cascades further north.
Most people start northbound in April because you want to be in the desert before it gets too hot but into the Sierras after the snow stops. So I have to plan for desert heat and then transition to snow and ice before the summer is in full bloom. THEN you have to get to the Canada border before winter starts up again in late Sept/early Oct.
In the desert, I will have to carry up to 7 liters of water at a time (VERY heavy) and then in the mountains, I can drop back to 1 or 2 liters at a time.
So I am going to hit the San Diego REI one more time to make sure I have what I need.

Next post should be from the desert!


01
Mar 16

A Year in Shorts

Sunrise on Cocoa Beach


Sunrise on Cocoa Beach

Sunrise on Cocoa Beach

Today marks one year since I left home and work to go hiking and once again, March 1st finds me on the move with a backpack, heading to a trailhead. Seems like a good time to get caught up, as I have time to kill on the train from Lafayette to Houston.

My last update was from last summer, while hiking in France.

After hiking 1200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, I got bored of walking in the Green Tunnel. Once I found out how strong the dollar was against the euro, I booked a ticket to Paris and spent a very nice two months hiking in France and spending time with friends and family. It was lovely to walk through the south of France, through impossibly quaint villages, meeting pilgrims on their way to Spain and getting to know the country better.

wpid-dsc_0259.pngBut all things must pass and I was back in Newport for the family reunion in late August, a week before I was supposed to start work again.

Long story short, I had walked myself out of my job. Things were running swimmingly without me it seems. So I found myself in a position with no job, no apartment and no car. It’s a strange position to be in and if your place in life is such, it can be seen as alarming or liberating.

Ideas like “You can do anything.” are tossed about all the time, but it’s fascinating when it is actually occurring. What is ‘anything’? It takes a while to liberate your mind to allow any idea to be considered. I could travel, I could get some crazy job, I could volunteer, I could anything.

But leaves would be dropping soon and at this stage, I was still working out of my hiking backpack, with tent and sleeping bag and my limited wardrobe. Turns out that my mother needed her car driven down to Florida, so I offered to take it, with the idea that there were a couple of empty beds down there I could use for a spell.

So after 4 weeks in summery Newport, i jumped in the car and headed south. I worked out an arrangement with my employer to work on computer/web stuff for them until the end of the year. This would afford me some pay and health insurance for a nice transition period.

Took 3 or 4 days getting down there. Stopped in DC for a spell to see the museums. DC is always a great stop and was happy to have my friend Mike Byrne and his charming boys join my at the new Air and Space museum and the excellent Space Shuttle exhibit.

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A couple of days of bad road food and side-of-the-highway motels had me rolling into Cocoa Beach, FL in good shape. It’s a quiet beach town on the east coast of Florida, a stone’s throw away from the NASA launch pads.

Being a lifelong space nerd, I was happy to be on the Space Coast and was looking to get a job in the space industry, if possible and otherwise relax and figure out what was next. My aunt that lives there was great at hooking me up with her space connections but then two things happened: Space jobs tend to be narrow and deep: highly specialized and focused. I, on the other hand am not that. I am more shallow and broad and it wasn’t clear where someone like me would fit in. Second, it turns out I didn’t feel like getting back to the workforce just yet. The idea of jumping back behind a desk again wasn’t spinning my beanie. So I hung out with my auntie, worked on art projects, got tacos and lattes and puttered around the beach.

Angry Astronaut
Angry Astronaut
Due to my mothers’ arrival and other guests showing up, the bedrooms dried up for a spell so I got myself a bicycle and headed out on a ride. I headed west and visited my friend Tom Peterson and his family, went to Hogwarts for some magic wands and butter beer. Then it was on to Tampa where I spent a week with cousin Clara and her wonderful family. I spent a week at her work, helping with database things and working on Halloween candy.

Sunset on the West Coast
Sunset on the West Coast
Then was time to take a left and head south down the west coast: Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Naples. It was nice riding. Florida has an impressive amount of bike lanes and empty sidewalks that go for miles out of town. And due to the direction I was heading, I spent a lot of time riding along the beaches on thin islands and keys, so no traffic coming from my right.

Longest day was 60ish miles from Everglade City to the indian casino on the outskirts of Miami. Most days I would do 4ish miles. Not bad but I hadn’t ridden in years and I was weighted down with my tent and such. I was planning on tenting but it turns out that Florida doesn’t really have campgrounds…they have RV parks. So the trip was more hotel-laden than I was hoping but there weren’t many options.

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Once in Miami, I once again took a left and started heading up the east coast. Got to visit Kevin and Scott, cousins on my maternal side and then the next day, cousin Kathleen on my paternal side. Then it was straight up the coast and back to Cocoa Beach, bringing to an end a 4 week, 700 mile bike ride.

I passed the holidays in Cocoa, getting to see more family and having a good, quiet time. But once again, more guests were showing up and beds were getting scarce. It was time to move on.

By this time I had decided to try hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I decided to take the direct path, but long time there.

Early January, I rented a car and drove to Pensacola, where I got to visit Aunt Judy and her family for a few days. Then I drove to New Orleans, with a quick stop at the NASA engine testing facility in Mississippi.

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I liked New Orleans, with all it’s music and art. I could see spending more time there for sure.

Mardi Gras Outfit
Mardi Gras Outfit
Then I spent the last 6 weeks in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a small town just outside of Lafayette. I was there as a Helpx helper and I spent my time building and fixing things for my kind host. I built shelves and finished up a big bathroom closet, built fun shelves and a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, installed molding, etc. Moved the TV and cleaned up the wires, helped with computer stuff, fix this, move that. Spent this last week putting up these huge, beautiful planks on cypress on the studio walls.

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Shelves and cabinet

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And now I am on the train, heading west.
Going to visit MORE cousins in Houston and Austin and then find a helper gig further west and plan on hitting San Diego in 5 weeks or so to prepare for hiking.

But enough about me. What have you been up to?


05
Aug 15

Down on the farm, where the chicken is.

Was happy to be in Paris.

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Got a hotel by the Bastille and then walked all across town up to Monmartre, one of my favorite neighborhoods ever and dipped into my favorite bakery for my favorite dinner baguette. Got some butter and settled onto one of the usual benches and ate.

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Then a glass of wine and a creme brulle.

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It’s good for the soul.
Decided I needed a Paris day so headed off to the Louvre to nerd out a while.

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Victory of Samothrace.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace was beautifully cleaned and restored last year and in my book is the most beautiful presentation of artwork I have ever seen.  The placement at the top of the Daru, with its clean, smooth lighting is just magnificent.


Then it was off to the Picasso museum, which I had not seen before. It was good of course. Nice to see so much of his work along with some of his contemporaries. Note the first floor was closed but never once did I say:”Oh, there’s that one I know!” Not sure how I feel about that. C’est la vie, it’s nothing.
Had some nice chocolates from Meert, which had been around longer than my country.
It had been two days now and I still hadn’t heard from the helpx hosts. That was strange.
So the next morning I headed off on the GR22, which goes from Paris to Mont St. Michel. The trail starts at Notre Dame, goes along the river past the Eiffel tower and then out of town.

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This got me to just outside of Versailles. Got a room there for the night. Still no word from helpx people. Strange.
Next morning was Sunday and luckily I found a market that was open, got food and headed out.
A village or two later I noticed I was on the wrong trail. This happened to be an intersection town and I didn’t know. The trails are rarely marked with a number. Luckily someone wrote it on a pole and I caught it quickly. The trail I wanted was just up the road a bit.

I was resting at a small train station when “DUH, check your email, idiot!”.
And there was an email from the helpx host, written a couple days before. Idiot.
I write back and told him I would be there the next day. Jumped on a train back to Paris and with seconds to spare, made a connection to Rouen, half way to the coast.
I spent the night there because I wanted a chance to see its famous cathedral.

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As it was still Sunday, the town was deserted. The next day I took a short train to Dieppe, on the Norman coast and was picked up by my host.
So now I am on the farm I a small village in the north of France. I have been pitchforking hay into a wagon pulled by two horses, chiseling bricks in the barn to build a fence and hanging out with the animals. It’s good to have a project!
I suspect I will be here for almost two weeks, until it’s time to head to Paris to catch the plane home.

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28
Jul 15

GR Deux

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Good to be back on the trail! After a quiet and rainy night in Dijon, and a week of not hiking, I caught the bus that took me to the small village north of town where the GR2 goes through.
It was cloudy and very windy but the rain clouds had moved on.
It was a short day, 9 or 10 miles, since I didn’t get walking until 1pm.
It’s a bit different here: mostly wheat or straw fields that have already been cut. Not sure how get, but a different character than the south.
Walked past the source of the Siene river, which flows through Paris and into the English Channel.

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Source of the Siene

Then a few more miles to the tiny village of Chanceaux, which has a tiny bar/tabac and a small bakery that wasn’t open. Staying at a small gite, in which I am the only guest. Happily I packed some food while in Dijon, which is now serving as dinner.

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Took off on a brisk morning. Had to bust out the long sleeve shirt got the first time in two months or more, maybe since southern Virginia.
The owner of the gite impressed upon me, with zero English and my poor French, that I should have food, since all the villages were very small and had no stores. I grabbed some things at the little bakery and head out. Good walk; cropped fields of what was wheat, looking like my head the day after I shave, writ large.
Got some actual forest trails to, taking me back to the AT.
The villages were indeed small. I had to stop and water up at a small river since the public water fountains were dried up.
I passed the Seine a couple of times, getting bigger and bigger.
After 8 hours of walking, my feet were tired and I was yet again in a tiny village with no food and no gite.
Only option was to get to a bigger town. I had just missed the bus and the next one wasn’t for three hours and it was going back to Dijon, the other way. I set up my tent in a small corner by the church and read for a while.
Then, while waiting at the stop for the wrong-way bus, a nice guy stopped and offered me a ride in the right direction!
So now I am in Châtillion-sur-Seine, on a rainy, misty day.
Probably going to take a bus west a bit to another trail that seems better populated.

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Took a bus the following day to Auxerre, a beautiful old town right on the river. Two huge churches dominate the town. Old creaky houses leaning over from age.

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Spent the night in a great hiker hostel in town, chatting with Pablo, my Spanish roommate.

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My right heel was still bothering me from a steep hill a couple days before, which was weird. I limp a bit until it gets warmed up but hurts again if I stop for a bit or step on it incorrectly.
Again, I was literally at a crossroads. I could head to a town south of me which was one of the starts to the way of st. John, which I had been on earlier. Lots of people, more gites, I would be going with the traffic…or head north to Paris: quiet trail, in the direction I need to go, unsure of villages/food. I was a bit indecisive but chose to head north. I hobbled to where the trail should be.
I got to where it should be but saw only red Xs, telling me where not to go. I couldn’t find the right way, nor anyway, to go.
This, plus my tiredness of walking and growing lack of purpose was surprisingly disheartening. In some way, I literally didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know what I was doing or why.
Fuck it.
I hobbled back to the cafe I passed some time back, got a coffee and signed up again with Helpx.
Sat there for a while and looked through listings. I found a couple I liked and sent off emails to them.
Then got back into town, went to the train station and got a ticket to Paris leaving within the hour.
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Making parchment


26
Jul 15

Switzerland

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It’s been a while since I have written! I guess it was feeling repetitive. Walk, coffee, walk, gite, repeat.
It happens that my cousin is in Europe concurrently and we made plans to meet up, because why not!
She in Salzburg and I in France decided to meet halfway in Zurich.
So due to timing and when I would encountera train station ment that I spent five days getting to Zurich, a bit longer than I would have liked.
Walked to Cahors on Monday, which had a train station. Due to the changing terrain, my feet were quite sore. I was in more of a forest zone as opposed to farms. The next town with a station was Figeac, which was a few days away. I couldn’t afford to be late and with the timing uncertainty, I spent the night in Cahors and the next morning trained it to Lyon, running along the south French coastline for a bit. Next day was Lyon to Geneva. When I got there, I noted a train to Lucerne leaving in a few minutes, so I jumped on that. In Lucerne, I found a campground and spent two nights there. The train ride was beautiful, running along lake Geneva and the Swiss Apps. Lucerne is a lovely old lakeside town and it was nice to be a tourist for a bit.
Switzerland is punishing expensive. When you get $100 from the ATM, you get one bill. Burger king meal is $14. They are Swiss franc but the exchange is basically 1 to 1. Bacon, eggs and coffee is 15 to 20. Ouch!
But Friday arrived it was a one hour train ride to Zurich. Got to town and made my way to the AirBnB place I found for the weekend.
Steph showed up a few hours later and it was great to see her as always.
Spent the weekend being tourists: walking around, taking pics, drinking coffee. Found a place that served a real breakfast and hit that both mornings.

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We tooka quick train up the nearby mountain and hiked a nice tail in the woods for a couple hours. Had a snack and warm drink at the cafe at the to and then took the cable car down and back to town. The transportation system here is fantastic. Dined by the river Saturday evening and then walked around town as the sky grew dark.

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Sunday (today), after breakfast, we hit the Kuntshaus, the amazing art museum that was literally just down the street from our place. It was a tremendous experience because 1) it was a world class collection of art in a great building and 2) we almost had the place to ourselves. The third floor had great natural light as we saw Dali, Picasso, van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Degas all by ourselves. Amazing. Saw other great stuff that I noted to look into further.
But then it was time to go. Dropped Steph off at her train and I headed back to France shortly after.
So I have three weeks left in this adventure. I need to focus on walking! I am headed to Dijon, where I will grab a tail that head through Paris and up to the coast. Not sure how far I will make it, but whatever.
Thanks for reading.

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16
Jul 15

Pics

Haven’t been good at writing things down, but there is a nice routine: get up at the gite, bread, jam and coffee for breakfast. Walk 2 or 3 hours to next quaint town. Get coffee and snack if the village is big enough, otherwise snack from backpack and move on. Take short rest as needed depending on temp. After around 15 miles, oil into next town and get a gite. Shower, rest and head to dinner at 7:30 because it’s impossible to eat out before then.
So, this time is photos.

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Some estate on the way out of town.

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Time to head back to class.

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Time to resupply!

Baby grapes

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10
Jul 15

A routine

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After all the moving around for the last two weeks, I have been walking for the last two days and it feels good to have a bit of a routine again.
After spending Sunday night in Pau, which seems a great little town, I took the bus to Artix and finally started walking north. So far the trail is much more of a blend of actual trail and back roads, cutting through fields of corn and sun flowers and running through tiny villages. As expected, it’s much more exposed than the AT, which was 95% forest. That plus the recent heat wave has made for some sweat days.

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The walking is nice though: mild hills and wide trails. Most of the villages so far have been tiny; not big enough to support a cafe out site of any kind. Many people run a gite, which is a type of hostel. Often they have a small food and drink service so you can often stop in for rest and a simple lunch. Bigger towns obviously have cafes, a post office, food markets, etc. Plus there are farms and houses frequently enough that water isn’t much of an issue. The food I am carrying is mostly snacks.

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First day was 15 miles. Took a while because I had to stop a few times and cool off…and a coffee break or two.
Hiking here is more about gites than it is about camping. When you get to a village at the end of the day and you are about done, it seems you hasten to be right at the gite. So rather than getting food and finding a call spot, you settle in at the gite. There is always a host and they have coffee and usually cook some kind of communal meal.
Monday night I fillyed into the gite just before dinner. Got a quick shower and sat siren to an amazing salad right from the garden, pork with garlic and onion, roasted zucchini, bread and wine of course, and a cheese made 2 miles up the road with an amazing watermelon jelly. Remind me to make some when I get home. Got to use my tent for the second time since I got here.
A quick and early breakfast, which in France is bread, jam, coffee and juice, and headed out. The day was overcast and cooler which was nice.

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People set up little rest spots for pilgrims.

More fields and cows, old churches and cute villages. It was a good day but walking on paved roads is much more punishing on the feet and after 13 miles, mine were done. Seems I have to get calluses and the tingly numbness back again. It happens that the woman I was chatting with about the little town was running the gite. So that was that. Did the laundry and got the feet up.
Dinner was salad, pork and lamb, potatoes, cheese course and chocolate mousse. There was an Italian guy helping her and once a figured out that we both knew Spanish, a quacked away. There was also another hiker that had just done 26 miles and a guy doing the Camino on a horse.
And finally, with maps of France and help from the team, we figured out where it is I have to switch trails sometime next week or so.

Wednesday was good. Another day of walking through fields and back roads. Walking on roads is harder on the feet so it’s nice to get onto a trail…and some shade. The temps have gone down a bit since the heatwave and the days have been very pleasant: 70a and 80a, usually with a breeze. Got to Miramont and had lunch and bought some food. Pressed on to a tiny village with a nice gite. When I got there, the sign said they were closed that night. Well that sucks. Good thing I grabbed food. I set up my tent in the grass next to the church and settled in. The church had a little water spot, ask that was helpful and since it’s a pilgrim trail the mairie (town hall) had a bathroom open. A lovely night with lots of stars.
Off the next morning after a breakfast of dried apricots, sausage and an orange.

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The days are repetitive but nice. Because it’s a Camino, I run into an English speaker at least once a day. I say “good morning” instead of “Bon jour”to flush then out.
Ended the day in Nogaro. The French are into the siesta, so it seems I arrive in town just after everything has closed. Usually you can find some place open with food but it’s very quiet. And you can’t resupply until the market opens, usually around three. So I was late heading out of town and on the outskirts I had to take off my shoe to investigate the weird feeling. Turns out I had a good blister in a new spot. I have been trying out new insoles since New York and this was the first new one. Rather than continue the next two hours in the heat of the afternoon, I pulled back into the local gite to take care of the feet…and go back to the old insoles.
Friday was good…not a cloud in the sky all day. Seems like I am seeing more vineyards and fewer corn fields but still plenty of both. Stopped in a small cafe thing that a woman had set up at her house in the middle of nowhere and had some ice tea.

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Got to Eauze again right at closing time but managed a sandwich at the last minute. The day was in the high 80s by then and I find a cheap gite right in town.
Distance had been tough dye to my lack of good maps or guides. I just get up and start walking, confident the blazes will get me in the right direction. I have been averaging 6 to 7 hours a day, which is around 12 to 16 miles a day.

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05
Jul 15

GR10

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Seems to be a routine on the GR10. Since you usually end in a village, the day is: steep climb, walk all day, steep decent into the village.
Day 2 was such a day. Again I was last out of the gite at 7:30. It’s nice to get an early start before the sun starts beating, but bed is so comfortable. After a good climb and the hours of walking, I arrived in Sare, a nice little village on the trail. Picked a cafe for lunch and found Carol and Mick, the Aussie couple, mid lunch. Ate, sent a postcard, got a baguette and other food and set off.

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That afternoon had me in another little village where I found a campsite/gite for the night. Aussie showed up a bit later.
Had a nice evening chatting with a German pilgrim, munching on bread and cheese. Laundry dries fast when there is a heat wave going on. Did about 15 miles.
Day 3 was another good day. Small breakfast and then to the trail. A nice walk through fields, yes and roads. The hours in had me at a gite in the middle of nowhere. The Aussie had just arrived, so we sat for omelettes and juice.

A long hot afternoon (miss the green tunnel!), and a longish walk to town, but is in Biddaray, another quaint village with a very old church. Eventually, sitting at the outdoor cafe was me, the Aussie, French guy from the campsite, a young couple (French and American) that we recognized from the campsite, the women hiking together also from campsite and a single French woman that was hiking the other direction. So a nice little hiking crew. Another 15ish miles.
Then after getting settled in the gite and cleaning up, we all ended up back at the cafe for dinner: leg of duck, salad and creme brulee.

We asked them to make sandwiches for us for the next day since it was a hard day with no lunch spots.
Thankfully, the next day dawned overcast and misty. There’s been record breaking heat all over here for the last few days, so that was a nice change.

Today was a long and very steep up, walk along a ridges with a slight incline and then a terribly steep down to the town. It was a tough day, only 13 miles but it took all day. Missed out on some great views but happily traded them for a misty day with a breeze. Caught up with the Aussies (you have figured out that they start early but are slow), which was good because they had my sandwich.


We also stopped at the one water source of the day and stocked up.
The decent was way steeper then anything to date, one step down from repelling. Then along a ridge for a while, continuing down. The ridge trails here can be very narrow, with your outside pole often not hitting ground. It was here that I had to make way for a couple of guys on bicycles, heading up.
After a good walk on the road, I got to the village. The Frenchman from the last two nights was sitting in the yard of the church and made me understand that the gite wouldn’t open until 4:30, only 15 minutes. We told the same to two pilgrims that walked by.
We all piled in and got beds. Got some amazing hot chocolate at the chocolate cafe and got some food at the market.
Saw the Aussie chime into town but they were staying at the hotel across the street.

The hikers and another couple that I had met the night before all day for an amazing dinner of salad, pork with red peppers, carrots and peas in herbs de provence, roast potatoes with garlic and onion and dessert. Bread and wine of course.
The next day was scheduled to be 95F, so most were going to take a zero as it was to be a hard day with little water.

And now after a quick visit with my friend in Laborde, who we meet back in Cambodia, it’s finally time to start walking north!


29
Jun 15

Where the Hell Am I?

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Is a good title for this past week.
Walked to the subway in New York, subway to JFK, plane to Paris, train to Bordeaux/Hendaye, smaller train to San Sebastian, bus to Vitoria, walked to hotel, arriving Tuesday night. That was a busy day.
Spent five days with my friend that was in Spain for the summer, getting over jet lag and catching up.
Basque country is cool. Crazy language, good food, lots of bicycles with sidewalks and streets designed for it. Went swimming, long lunches and a couple naps.
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Saturday we rented a car and headed to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an ancient church built on this little island connected by a bridge. It was a nice day, sunny for the little hike down and up. It was busy and touristy but nice.
Then we stayed in Gurnika, a nice little town famous for an early aerial bombing by the Germans in WW2, and then made more famous by Picasso’s painting of the event. It was a nice evening, with lots of people walking around or having a glass of wine or beer outside.
It happens that the Camino del Norte goes thought that town and I was planning on walking it back to France, so that made for an easy start.
Said goodbye and started following the yellow arrows. The Camino isn’t like a normal trail in that it kinda only goes one way. Well at least the signs only point in one direction, unlike the AT, which is designed bidirectional: arrows on both sides of the tree.
So I had to keep looking back for a marker and infer the direction I should be walking. Clearly this was tedious and as somewhat expected I got lost twice within two hours, going northeast when I should have been southeast. Plus it was Sunday and a pilgrim said that it was hot and nothing was open at all. I failed to get food in the pack before I left…
So I scraped that plan and wake back to Gurnika and caught a train to San Sebastian. That saved maybe three days of backwards walking. Started walking to France and made it a coupe hours before the that of rain arrived. Then jumped on a train to Irun, on the French border.
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Irun was hopping, with some festival happening. Roads were closed and people were everywhere. Then hopped over the border to Hendaye, France where I finally got a room and went to bed.
This morning, I got up and out and eventually found the GR10, the big trail that goes along the Pyrenees between France and Spain. I am going to walk that for a few days before I start heading north.
It was good to be walking again after a busy two weeks.

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Follow the blazes through town and you eventually start heading up the foothills of the Pyrenees. The overcast cleared up and it got sunny and hot. I caught up with a French woman that was also walking and we walked and tasked a bit, neither knowing the language that well. We went through a small village but the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we pressed on.
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But the hills got bigger and the day hotter and I didn’t have enough food on me. Rookie mistake again! I was cooking and getting low on water after a few hours, having to stop and rest a few times.
I ran into the first water source just in time, filled up and then just sat in the little shade and drank. That really helped and I pressed on. Turns out the next town was only 15 minutes away and I happily devoured ham and eggs and bread. Rested, fed and rewatered, I headed out and finished up the day about two and a half hours later, around 7. Stays light out here until about 10 here.
So a long and hot 15 miles today. Trail legs need a couple days to get back to speed, but tomorrow looks relatively easy.
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Staying at the gite (hostel) tonight, right on the trail on the edge of town. Meet a nice Australian couple over pics and they secured by tent spot for tomorrow.
Here is the section I hope to do before I had north: http://randopyrenees.com/rando-pyrenees/gr-10-troncon-1-hendaye-st-jean-pied-de-port

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22
Jun 15

Big Apple

I have some time to clack away as w head up to cruising altitude. It’s been a busy week!
Wednesday morning Jacoby, Hot Sauce, Billy and I borrowed a van from a trail Angel and drove from Duncannon to Harrisburg. They were going to the movies and I caught a ride. The movie was 4 miles from downtown, but who cares?! That’s only a two hour walk. Grabbed a hotel and had some great Indian food.
The next morning I took the train to Penn station.
I hadn’t been in the city fort a long time and it was exciting to be there.
I walked from the station, had lunch at Chelsea Market, through the village to the REI down at Houston and Broadway, looking to swap dinner gear. But I ended up chatting with this guy who was looking to hike and didn’t know much. Lost track of time and had to go so that mission failed. BUT, while in the store, I ran into Tick Tock, who we meet in Waynesboro and last saw in the Shennies. Hardly recognized her in civilian wear. We were both pretty stunned at the coincidence.
Then I hiked up Broadway to 77th on the west side. It was blazed pretty well with lots of water sources.
Hung out with George, my host and we went to a Chinese/Cuban place for dinner.
Next morning I walked to midtown to meet my friend Eric for a coffee. Great to see him as always.
Then it was off to Grand Central to have lunch with Irish! Glad I got to see him before he headed out to do trail magic for week.

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He and I walked back to REI and I was successful in getting a new pack and better poles.
We parted ways and I headed off for a head shave and beard trim in the village. It was only walking out of there did I realize how scruffy I looked. Got cleaned up for the New York/Paris week…Then walked back up to 77th.
It was nice and easy to walk around town, esp since I was eating so well.
Friday I walked to Rockefeller center to pick up the AirB&B keys, then over to the lower east side for lunch with my friend Zimra. It was great to see her after so many years.

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Then back to Penn station to pick up cousin Susan. 
Finally went underground and took the subway to the apartment.
Visited Chelsea market for more little amazing doughnuts. We hit the highline, which was really well done and a nice walk and then meet George for dinner at a French place nearby.
Expecting rain on Sunday, we saved the museum for then.
After a leisurely breakfast we hit the amazing Frick collection, a remarkable private collection/mansion turned into a museum. Then we tried to hit the tenement museum but got distracted by little Italy, Canal st and the village. Find genre defining chocolate chip cookies at Bird bath. Damn they are good.

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Tapas for dinner and that was that.
After another relaxing breakfast it was off to the Met.
Spent most of the time in Europe paintings, of which they have an amazing collection.
But time flies and it was time to get Susan back to the train station. It all went by too fast. But it was nice to see family and a familiar face.
Then after grabbing more cookies from Bird bath and cheese at Dean and Deluca, I walked across the Brooklyn bridge for dinner with my friend Stephen and his lovely family and some friends.

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Morning came and the fun and games are over…almost. Made the pilgrimage to Dominique Ansel’s, home of the Cronut. Worth the hour wait! This months flavor is key line and it was pretty amazing.

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Did some errands and then it was off to JFK. Old plane but I did score the three middle seats to myself, so that’s ok.
Funny, after the city days, the trail feels far away and the next trail is still literally far away.
If all goes well, I will be in Spain tomorrow night and should be hiking again by next weekend.