Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walking....Jamie and Claire.....Scotch whiskey........

" We HAVE to go to Scotland! We have just got to follow Jamie and Claire's trail"

This was the chorus of three hardcore addicted Diana Gabaldon " Outlander" junkies.
Hooked, we were simply and thoroughly hooked, on the love and adventures of Jamie and Claire Fraser.  Three 50 something's immersed in the Scottish Highlands of Diana Gabaldon's romantic couple. We've  read every book - we know this story inside and out.  We HAVE to go!
Three 50 something's determined to find Craigh na Dun, the mystical portal of time travel.  After all, we believe in magic. We believe in a multi dimensional world.....why not?  It's there, somewhere in those ancient stones, right? Of course it is! Craigh na Dun, Lallybroch....

Thus started the planning to head to the highlands of Scotland.  We would not go to experience the rich landscape and immense beauty of this wild corner of the world; not to discover the bloody  history steeped in the grounds of Culloden or the medieval whispers of Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Those truly " highland"
sites would have their place in our adventure, of course.  But, our true draw to  the Scottish highlands  was walking in the footsteps of dashing Jamie Fraser and the bewitched Claire Randall.  Three 50 something's as smitten as16 years olds ogling the hunky high school quarterback.
Ok, we admit, a tad pathetic, but oh so much fun!

Enter our love, our fervor ( Thank you Helen for showing us the way) of Scotch whiskey. Burnished gold, smooth, gorgeous scotch. Hmmmm, rather than admitting to our "Outlander" crush, perhaps single malt Scotch whiskey is a finer reason to make this 6000 mile journey.  Scotch, the quintessential highlands drink.This was understandable. Who doesn't want to explore the multitude of highland distilleries?  This would make perfect sense to our 50 something compatriots. Of course! Trek to Scotland, explore the highlands, in the name of distilleries - comparative studies as it were.  And, well damn, we are so very close. Why not make a side trip in search of to Craigh na Dun, that stone portal from 1950's Scotland to the 1700's of Jamie and Claire's world? Find our own " Lallybroch " , Jamie and Claire's Scottish  family home.  Ooops! I forgot it is really all about the Scottish whiskey.

So now we say the adventure is focused on wandering scotch distilleries.  Sip, compare, Ahhhhh!  
So enthralled were we with this new mission that friend Lynn , one of the life sister 50 something's who knows us so well, gifted us with journals to keep record of which distilleries we visit. Journals to records which aromas waft most pleasingly; which touches of smoky peat or rich grainy oat tempt us.  Yes, THIS is it.  This is why we are journeying to  the Highlands. It is all about the Scotch whiskey

We are planning our Scotland  journey. I am Walking Woman. I have walked the Camino de Santiago. Long distance walking is a new found passion.
" Let's walk the 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William,Scotland's glorious West Highland Way." I say.
We will soak in scenery (and Scottish whiskey mind you). It is a not to be missed experience for a walker. THIS is why we are truly venturing to Scotland!  The final gratification of those last 16 miles into Fort William?  Prove to ourselves we can trudge the highlands with the best of them? Fight the midges, survive the winds and rains? It is about the walk! That's why we are headed to the highlands we say.

Of course, one needs  a shot of something at the end of a long day on the trail, right?  Relax the aching muscles, tired boot worn feet. Scotch!  Walk, sip...rest....walk.....sip.......

Ahhhh so this is why we are headed to Scotland....to walk.....and sip Scottish whiskey ....and, just perhaps,
Craigh na Dun....Lallybroch.....Cranesmuir........Jamie......Claire.....

" We HAVE to go to Scotland! We have just got to follow Jamie and Claire's trail"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

October sunset from Muxia -end of my Camino 2014

Walking with Penguins...Matillo Island February 2015

Today, I walked among penguins!
Over 18,000 penguins inhabit a private island reserve off of Estancia Harberton in Tierra del Fuego, southern Argentina. Home  to three species of penguin, 18,000 Magellanic, 70 Gentu and four misplaced King penguins, Matillo Island  echoes with their chatter October through March when they settle in to create a new generation.

Magellanic and Gentu thrive in these warmer than Antarctic waters of Beagle Channel. The four Kings have shown up one at a time over approximately 8 years.  An Antarctic bird by nature, how and why the Kings decided to make this island home even the local penguin experts cannot answer.  But, here they are, thriving quite nicely along with their counterparts, although no mating rituals or babes have been

My visit in late February saw the males preparing nests for the coming fall. Nests will be readied underground for the Magellanic;above ground for the Gentu.  In both cases the  males construct a nest they will return  to the following October and use in their courting rituals.
A fat,sassy male with a homey, well constructed nest 
definitely has the female heads turning.  The fatter the male 
the more seal fat he has consumed, and,in the female's eyes, 
the more able to care for young ones. Of course, a deeper quality in his call aids in garnering the appropriate attention to his cause!

Magellanic penguins will produce two eggs a year, and due 
to the underground nesting, most will survive.  Beds of twigs are used to form an underground platform, helping to protect 
the eggs from possible flooding. Gentu nests, created from 
beach pebbles and shell fragments, sit above ground 
allowing predators a more ample snacking ground.  Of their two eggs , usually only one will survive to maturity.

A local ecotour company, PiraTour, is the only agency allowed to bring guests onto the island for this remarkable 
"walk among the penguins" experience.  Limited to 80 guests per day,in groups of 20 each, the penguins are regarded with utmost care and consideration so as not to disturb their rituals.  
IF you are ever touring this gloriously beautiful portion of planet earth, this experience is not to be missed.  I will forever treasure my time with these tuxedo'd creatures.

Today, I walked among penguins!

Sunday, April 12, 2015


With my West Highlands Way ( Scotland) walk on the horizon, it is  time to go through my pack and make my shopping list ( always some new things needed). After all, my clothes have been through about 650 miles of hot,sweaty walking in the last few months.  Yep, time for a couple new tee shirts I'd say :-)
And, since I have been asked on several occasions what I take ,and how it has worked for me, I thought this might be a perfect time to share my packing list...so here goes:

1    backpack.                     Deuter Ladies 45+10
1.   set of hiking poles.        Black Diamond ( spare tip covers also)
1.   pair boots.                     Lowa Renegade. ( LOVE these)
1.    Windproof/waterproof
     Jacket.                           Northface
1.   Polar Tec 100 fleece.      Northface
1.    Lightweight poncho 
      pack cover style.           REI
1.    Pair lightweight shoes for after walking and 1 pair flip flops for showers
2.   Convertible walking  Pants      Trangworld 
2.   Quick dry short sleeved
    Tee shirts.                        Eddie Bauer
1.   Long sleeve quick dry
    Tee shirt.                          Patagonia

1.   Long sleeve shirt
    ( a tad dressier for day-   REI
1.     Walking skirt                 REI ( so great in warmer climates)
2      REI lightweight wool socks( pair),  liner socks, sports bras
3      Undies                        

1.     Lightweight leggings for extra warmth
1.     Quick dry towel.               REI
1.     Lightweight bed sack ( hostels,albuegues etc. this is essential)
1      BUFF, windproof/water resistant gloves, 1 baseball style cap
1.     Polarized sunglasses and any glasses/ readers needed
1.    Medical zip lock bag: any needed medications, aspirin or ibuprofen, band aids or            moleskin,ANTISEPTIC wipes( the little ones with alcohol...I swear they kept my blisters in check) small nail scissors
1.    Sunblock - I carry a Neutrogena 50 stick - lightweight and works great

1.    Personal sundry bag w/ lightweight soap bar used for everything, mascara and a 
lipstick (  'cause I am a GIRL after all....even if dirty and sweaty,mildly blistered and tired- still a girl )
1.    Headlamp ( one with a red light option is great when in adorm setting so not as to disturb others)
1.    Small utility knife .... CORKSCREW if you wish to be the heroine of the day!
6-8  Large safety pins. ... Great for hanging clothes and emergencies
1.    Pair  spare boot laces...... Make GREAT impromptu clothes lines and poncho waist belts when the wind whips
1     Small pack to wear on your waist for Easy access of daily needs on the path : cash,passport (make a small laminated copy of original) sunblock,camera/phone
1     Small bag with needed chargers for electronics

Cash ( I carry about $ 200 ), credit card, debit card ( make sure banks know where you are traveling),Passport, health insurance card
1.    Mini iPad , 1 small Nikon pocket camera , 1 cell phone

When my bag is loaded and I am wearing a complete outfit ( sans outer wear ), my pack weighs in at 18 lbs. ( water and snacks included- I carry about a liter and refill at every fountain/ stop)

This list was perfect for the Camino Frances as well as the W Trek In Southern Chile and El Chaltan in Argentina.  Now it will see me through the West Highland Way in Scotland and the Via Francigenia pilgrimage walk - Canterbury, England to Rome!

Kate's iPad...Follow me!



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nightclub Barbie

  Perhaps one of the most treasured  aspects of walking the Camino Frances is the amazingly warm and wonderful fellow pilgrims who become part of your daily life; 24/7 in some cases.  And with that comes a sharing and openness often saved  only for lifetime friends.  Here it becomes simple to start chatting and find yourself in a sort of open confessional, often with complete strangers.  They take a turn, you take a turn....it feels normal.  It feels safe.
And, then there are the stretches of time when the crazy silly antics of youth come racing back and the telling and sharing  of these stories has listener and storyteller alike bent over their walking poles while the tears flow and laughter echos loud.  Pure joy!

When I was about 11 we had moved to a house with a grand walk-in closet in the bedroom I shared with my three sisters.  I 'm sure if I saw it now I would giggle, but at the time it seemed immense.  Of course it was not really a walk -in closet - it was a nightclub where my gorgeous, talented,svelte
Barbie was star of the show!  She was a red -headed Barbie which made her all the more dear to my strawberry -blonde 11 year old self.  And SHE could sing!  She sang Mary Hopkins , Bobby Sherman, Dionne Warwick....if it was a hit in 1968 she sang it!
And her dedicated audience, my sister Annie and her Barbies, paid homage to red -headed Barbie's outstanding talents.

Working her shoebox stage, Barbie was striking in open -toed royal blue heels tucked under the full white satin skirt of her nightclub gown. She looked right out of an MGM movie set.  Tight blue bodice, waist cinched, the  glittered skirt flowed around her as she twirled and danced.
And not only did she look stunning, that girl could  sing and she just knew her audience went wild as she  belted lyric after lyric." Do you know the waaaayyyyyyy to San Jose?  I'm going back someday, I'm afraid I'll lose my way..."
" THOOOOOOOSSE were the DAAAAYYSSS my friend, we thought they'd never end, we'd sing and dance........" ( you can just hear her, right?)
Cheering from the crowd...CLAP....CLAP....CLAP.!

Annie was on her knees, audience gathered In her arms , as she scooted quickly to the door.
"NO! Don't leave....I have an encore!" Barbie hasn't sang enough yet, her set had just begun after all.
Patient Annie and audience sit back down.

The spotlight returns ( I have access to the cord dangling low from the ceiling)
" Julie, Julie Juuuuuuliiiieeeeee do Ya love me? Julie, Julie Juuuuuulieeeee do ya care?"
Okay, so Barbie , at 11, wasn't all to keen into which lyrics suited her.....she just sang 'em all. LOUD !
 But the crowd plays their role beautifully.  WHISTLE,  CHEER.... CLAP ..CLAP ...CLAP.... And then silence.

The door swishes open as Annie and audience make their escape this time. Barbie takes her bows under the glow of  her bare bulb spotlight.

She settles back into her shoebox stage.... It doubles as a dressing room of course.  Maybe with a little bribery and coaxing she can win back the audience in an hour or two.  Maybe.....

( Dedicated  to my beautiful sister,Annie, whose patience and love as my Barbie sang her heart out gave me confidence ....I will be forever grateful my sweet sister)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Camino memories....

I think it was coming out of Zubiri the day Ed, a just retired assistant anesthesiologist from New York, met up with our little gang of peregrines.  Ed talked....and talked.....and talked some more!  Ed was definitely in need of company on this day . And, with proper camino etiquette, Ed asked if he could join our group. His dry humor had us laughing quickly and he soon became part of our walking family...a gang of about five at that point.    It turns out Ed had walked alone the first four days....NOT his plan....and I cannot quite imagine  chatty Ed as having chosen this Camino to be a solitary affair.  Ed's wife Camille had twisted an ankle just days before they were to set off.  Camille was now waiting in Pamplona having to miss the first 4-5 days of the walk.   It was charming to listen as Ed called her throughout the day, sharing sights and adventures she was missing.  No doubt this man loved his wife and no doubt he missed sharing this experience with her.  His voice told it all.

 I just realized I have digressed from my original thoughts about that day. I'll get back to chatty Ed and wonderful Camille another time as we do meet up with them throughout our Camino.

Coming out of Zubiri was a long morning. By 11 AM with no cafes in sight, it was clear that the snacks we had purchased in a local tienda the evening before were going to be much needed. And, between us, we had almonds, oranges, crackers, apples , a banana, dark chocolate ( we ALWAYS had dark chocolate bars) .... A mid -morning feast as we perched on a ledge along the cafe wall....closed, of course, on that particular Monday.

Along the path we had passed an elderly Korean woman, someone we came to know by sight throughout the remainder of our camino.  She chose to carry her her large pack with the waist strap un-cinched.  The weight on her shoulders must have felt extraordinary.  She was stocky and strong;
small in stature.  Coming upon us , and I do not even recall how we knew she was
without proper food and water supplies for the long path of that morning, we knew she was hungry.
And, as pilgrims always do, we offered to share our feast, which she gracefully turned down.   A bit  of coaxing though and  we were able to convince her it was perfectly okay, we had plenty and wasn't sharing part of the camaraderie of the Camino after all?   She agreed and happily sucked orange segments, munched almonds and crackers, and savored that beautiful chocolate.  She chatted ever so briefly, then  was off, pack weighing heavy over her shoulders.

The next day, walking through a magnificent  glade of woods,  we came upon her again. Excited to see us, and after the prefunctory " BuenCamino! " greeting, she stopped us and offered us all a share of her salty potato chips. " Salt is important on this walk" she said.  The remarkable moment was this:
as she passed the sack to each of us, one by one, she bowed person to person and thanked each for the portion of the mid -day snack they had provided the previous day. "For the orange" to Ed, " For the almonds" to Guy, " For the crackers" to Paul and " For the chocolate" to Liz.
I  recall being so deeply touched by her gratitude and I am touched again now as I write of this lovely

Lesson: Never, ever believe that the smallest measure of sharing does not count immensely in the
eyes  and heart of another.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Going LIVE!

April 6th..... Let the blogging begin!

Walking Woman, that's me :-), heads out again next month for the West Highland Way in Scotland.  98 miles from Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, north to historic Fort William at the base of Ben Nevis, this iconic walk will occur after several days of whiskey distilleries up north...Bring on the fresh air and excersise! 

So, until this new episode begins, I'll do a little catch up on my last couple walks.  
Most recently, February, when  opted for some hiking in Chile and Argentina, topped off with good old sightseeing in Tierra del Fuego.  

The W Trek In Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is a well known 6 day trek into the glacier country in the southern Andes. Breathtakingly beautiful, well signed and offering comfortable Refugio's along the way ( book in advance if traveling high season December through February - I used Say Hueque) it was a hike proving to me I could manage just about any normal long distance walk I set my mind to tackling.  One of only two single women on the six day circuit ( the other was a 24 year old with vast experience for her tender years) it was exhilarating to realize I was accomplishing this on my own....and enjoying every minute ( the slip while  headed down from Los Torres base was a tad spooky).   At 57 and proving to myself I could do a trek of this nature I was exactly where I was meant to be...