The Camino Frances

The Camino Frances

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Celebrating: Hiking and lunch at the Bistro Camino

Dec 23, and 28 rugged hikers joined me on a beautiful hike through Taylor Creek Park. It was about 3 degrees, and the snow was crunchy underfoot.  As Pat B said when she posted this picture: "There is no bad weather, just bad clothes. Layer up."
We walked from Main Subway station to Nostalgia coffee shop, where they managed to serve all of us, and I passed around peanut butter oatmeal cookies.

Then we headed back down into the Taylor Massey ravine, walking east into Warden Woods. After a stop to hydrate, we crossed back over Pharmacy, and through Dentonia Park Golf Course. We have never been able to do that before, but the gate was open on Pharmacy, so we trudged up and down over the snow covered golf course, then past the Victoria Park subway station, using the pedestrian overpass, arriving at Camino Bistro about 1 pm. We were joined by others who were injured, or who had limited time the day before Christmas eve, and all 38 of us had a splendid meal, featuring roast lamb or chicken, with lots of other choices.

Service was great - love the staff here!

Hiro is a pilgrim and chef, and he set up a dessert buffet for us. On the walls there are pictures from his many Caminos, and his compostelas. He closesfor the month of January to walk the Camino - 2017 was the Primitivo! Buen Camino, Hiro, and see you on the hikes in February.

It was wonderful to see so many friends out sharing their joy in walking and the Camino.
Merry Christmas, and the best for the New Year to all of you, and Buen Camino on your journeys.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The power of the Camino

What is the power of the connections we form on the Camino?
We meet people as different from us as possible: the other sex, different ages, from different continents, different cultures, different religions and beliefs, different socioeconomic circumstances.
What draws us together and makes that powerful connection that can last for years?
It's what we share, not how we are different.
It is our commonalities, not our divergence.
On the Camino we are committed to a purpose: making it to Santiago.
We are committed to putting one foot in front of the other.
We are not deterred by pain or rain, by hunger or thirst, by injury or loneliness.
Our commitment is to ourselves, but also to those who share our path.
We celebrate our shared path and purpose - with a glass of wine, at communal meals, with sharing supplies and information.
We work together for a common goal.
Can we bring that back to our life here?
Can we look at others and see the values we share, not the views we disagree on?
Can we celebrate what we all value and work to overcome the barriers between us?
Can we drop our fears and embrace others who are different from us?
Let's commit to caring for others, sharing with everyone, helping where help is needed, and listening, not judging, just listening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cottage Camino - last 2 days

Sunday morning, May 29 - Breakfast on the dock - at the cottage I never eat inside unless it is raining or freezing! I served coffee and egg on a raft - easier that eggs and toast, and no utensils required.

Not exactly as served

 It was hot when we started off at 6:45, but this section of the Victoria Rail trail south to Lindsay had more mature trees and therefore more shade than yesterday. However, there were more mosquitoes!
The first hour was familiar to me, as I have biked it, but as we headed further south it was all new. After 2 hours we arrived at Ken Reid Conservation area, but once again the signage was minimal, and we walked straight through the park, along their boardwalk, with no rest or picnic area to be seen.

Image result for image boardwalk Ken Reid Conservation

We stopped on the side of the trail and had part of our lunch.
We met many more people today than on the other days - perhaps because it was a Sunday. There were lots of bikes and 8 ATVs passed us along the way.
As we walked through the outskirts of Lindsay a woman with a dog told us that we were only 20 minutes from the Kawartha Dairy, our destination for the day.Image result for image kawartha dairy barn lindsay
 Hooray! We arrived there before 1 pm, Dave met us, and we rewarded ourselves with one of their wonderful ice cream cones - mine was "3 truffle chocolate".
Back to the cottage, had the rest of our lunch, a swim

 and were back in Toronto by 5 pm.

But we weren't finished the Camino! So in July, I invited all my pilgrim friends to the cottage, and the 3 of us plus Pat's cousin, who had done a Camino years ago, and Cathy, who was planning to walk in September,  completed the pilgrimage by walking the last stage from Fingerboard Road to Lindsay and the Kawartha Dairy once again.
It was hot, but this section of the trail was shadier, and the signage was much better once we entered the city of Kawartha Lakes.
This is their website.
While we were walking this section, we met a woman who had recently joined the board of this section of the trail. We gave her an earful of suggestions, including washrooms, water, more shade, picnic areas and signage showing the locations of all these facilities.
Once we arrived back at the cottage ( after another stop for ice cream for some of us) we found more pilgrims, and the rest of the day was spent eating fabulous food ( thanks to all, especially Ingrid),

A sample of the feast

swimming, sunning, and sharing Camino stories. That night there were 10 pilgrims sleeping over in my cottage/albergue,  also known as Pilgrims Rest.

Morning has broken - Ingrid

So finally, with the help of friends, I was able to complete a dream of walking from home to my cottage.

Image result for images trans canada trail lindsay

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cottage Camino, day 3 and 4

We continued up Westney Road, as we couldn't see a direct path through the Conservation Areas. The road was very quiet, hilly, with very little traffic, and a tremendous swath of trillium along the sideroad on the west side. We also saw a fox on the road.

Once we reached the outskirts of Uxbridge, the trail was much better marked. We walked through the Timber Tract then the Countryside Preserve.

Uxbridge bills itself as the trail capital of Canada, so we had high hopes that we would find maps to lead us on. After eating our packed lunches on a bench on Main Street, we went into the Library, hoping for water for our water bottles, a washroom and information. We satisfied the first 2 needs, but the Library had no maps, nor information on the Trans Canada Trail, which started a few blocks away along a rail trail. They called the Township office for us ( pilgrims never walk back!) but they had no maps either. I think we were the first through hikers they had encountered at the Library.

This link covers the town paths, but the rail trail belongs to another county, and perhaps that is the problem.
We walked over the trestle at the beginning of the trail, and continued on.

This Rail Trail is straight and flat, built for trains. It is also without water sources, washrooms or benches, and the shade is minimal. As it was very hot by now, we stopped and called it a day, returning to home in Toronto.

Saturday, we started where we left off, but once again it was very hot, and no coffee shop in sight!
We went off the trail in Blackwater, thinking there might be a coffee shop there, but the only commerce was a junk shop.
No wonder, with only 79 residents!

Trail near Blackwater

A local filled our water bottles, and we were back on the trail. We met several bikers, and a few local walkers, but no hikers. The trail went cross country, though marshes where we saw many water fowl. We ended where the trail crossed Fingerboard Road, and this time, our chauffeur, Dave, took us to my cottage in Fenelon Falls.
We settled on the dock, for a swim, appetizers and wine, had dinner at Murphy's and were in bed by 9 pm.

Image result for image fenelon falls

Sunset in Fenelon Falls

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Where was I?

I am back from Spain, with many tales to tell. But why didn't I post from Spain? Well, I was blocked from my blog for the duration of my time outside Canada. I made many attempts to get in, but it is all a blur to me now, as Yahoo also frequently blocked my email, and between the two, it was very frustrating trying to stay in touch.

Meghan, Cy and I walked 180 kms on the Camino Frances.


"3 generations of McKee family from Toronto with Hospitalero Gilbert. Grandmother Darlene, daughter Megan and grandchild Cy.
Darlene will be back as a hospitalera at Gaucelmo on September 15th.
— in Rabanal Del Camino, Castilla y León, Spain"

I walked 123 kms - the entire Camino Ingles, by myself.

 This is a picture that Ingrid took on the Camino Ingles last year.

I spent about a week in Santiago, with a visit to Carantonia, Muxia and Finnesterre, spending most of this time with a new pilgrim friend - Irene, from California.

 Irene took this picture of me at
the  0 cairn in Finnesterre.

I spent 16 days caring for pilgrims as a hospitalera at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal.


 Ray and I at Refugio Gaucelmo

I was in Madrid for 4 days, staying at the OK Hostel, (highly recommend it!)


 and for 2 of those days, Julie and Michele and I were roommates as we wandered around Madrid.


 Thanks to Julie for the 2 pictures above.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I'll be posting more on my adventures.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cottage Camino - Pickering to Westney Road and Concession 9

May 26 - Fortified by a sleep in our own beds, Dave drove us to Bayley and Church street in Ajax, a few kms from where we finished yesterday. Our goal was to follow Duffin's Creek, through parks and Conservation Areas, north to Uxbridge. But the maps were inadequate, and when we used the  GPS, the Trans Canada trail  (TCT) kept appearing and disappearing  on the screen.

Here is the map we were trying to use.

We entered a park, called Major Spink Area, with the TCT designation, but soon had to backtrack. Next, through a hydro field path, then east to Westney Road. We walked some distance through the Greenwood Conservation area, ending at Pickering village museum

There we ate our lunch, at a picnic bench, and the helpful staff tried to find out the route of the TCT, as we were to follow Paddock road, and the paving of 407 cut it off just north of there.
With no clear path, we decided to walk over the 407 on Westney road, which had signs up saying it was closed to through traffic. Were we local traffic, or were we through traffic? We decided on local, and walked over the bridge.

We connected with the trail again as it goes through the Claremont Field Center, run by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
but we couldn't find the trail markings through the center, so we were back on the road again.

We ended for the day at Concession 9, and Dave picked us up and returned us once again to our own beds.
The highlights of the day for me were the many rabbits we saw on the trail, the beautiful wildflowers, and the camraderie of our fellow pilgrims. Frustrations: trying to find and follow the TCT!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cottage Camino- Scarborough to Pickering

I had mused about walking from Toronto to my cottage in Fenelon Falls many times with my grandson Cy, but when I mentioned it to my hiking friends Lise and Pat, they said " Let's do it!"
So, from May 25 to 29, we walked from Toronto to the cottage, except for one 20 km stretch which we walked on July 19.

It was a very hot week in May: around 30 at the hottest time, midday. The temperature prevented us from doing the whole distance, as we had to stop when the heat was too much for us. The section we postponed was along the Trans Canada Trail, which is flat, straight, and not shaded.

We began our hike from Pat's home at Kingston Road near Warden. The path along the
 Waterfront Trail 
was familiar to us, as we have hiked it many times before.

Pat B (her picture) Lise, Lynne, Darlene and Ada

 Ada and Lynne joined us for the day, so the 5 of us set out, along the trail and Kingston road, stopping for a short break at Peggy's, as we knew that the washrooms were few and far between once we went down to the beach via theDoris McCarthy Trail at Brimley

Once we arrived at Guildwood, we climbed up, walked through Guildwood Park
and back along roads to East Point Park with great (closed) facilities, where we ate lunch. Then down to the water again, through Stevenson Swamp and Lower Highland Creek Park

 We passed the Rouge Hill Go station, then the lovely waterfront at Rough Beach Park,
with wetlands, and a boardwalk,
Image result for rouge park beach images
 and picnic tables for another snack. We crossed the river via an interesting bridge, then we were in Pickering - finally out of Toronto!

We walked through Petticoat Creek Conservation Area,
 Petticoat Creek Conservation Area
 then up the west side of Frenchman's Bay. We had hoped to go down the other side to Duffin's Creek and eventually follow it all the way to Uxbridge, but by the time we hit the north side of the Bay, we were done. 30 kms, and there was the Pickering Go Station. We caught the next train back to Danforth, and from the train we were able to see quite a bit of the trail. We walked from 8 am to around 2 pm, to get to Pickering,  and it took us 20 minutes on the train to return.
Back home, rest up, and off again tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kelowna, spring 2016, hiking with friends and family

I spent 3 weeks in Kelowna this spring, though by the weather and the gardens, it seemed like summer. The cherry blossoms were done, and the trees were in full leaf. It was too hot some afternoons to hike, as there is little shade and lots of pavement and stone, instead of all the green lawns and fields that I find in Toronto.

I hiked in Mission Creek park with the Keen Poles hiking group, then explored more of it on my own.

I hiked several times in Scenic Canyon Regional Park. The pathway was just a 10 minute walk from where Aislinn lives. If you turned right, you could walk about 12 kms to Lake Okanagan, which I did several times. If you turned left, the trail climbed gently toward the mountains. Next time I'll make time to walk further this way.

Image result for scenic canyon regional park kelowna
Mission Creek in Scenic Canyon

Overlooking the creek from the canyon

Here is the backpack I occasionally carried!

The family and I went walking in Chichester Wetland Park, looking for turtles.

Turtles spotted!

And ducks!
This is the website for Chichester.

Another park we visited is Maude Roxby Wetland, right on the lake.
We were able to walk the boardwalk around the entire wetland, and saw many birds and turtles.

I pursued another of my interests in Kelowna - thrifting!
There are about 13 thrift stores in Kelowna, and I met my goal of 100kms a week by walking to 10 of them.
I found a new Camino hat, and several more merino sweaters and the Tilley pants ( guaranteed for life) that I will wear on the Camino in August and September.

Kelowna is a hiker's paradise, especially if you drive into the mountains.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Unanswerable questions about the Camino

Unanswerable questions about the Camino

The counter on my blog is about to tick over to 20,000 hits, so here is a reflection I prepared for our Toronto Camino Meeting March 19, 2016.

I have been asked many questions about the Camino, and some of them are difficult to answer.

Is it difficult?
Well, what is difficult about it?

The physical exertion? 
Train with your equipment by yourself and with others, and ask yourself - Is it difficult?
Ask other pilgrims what physical problems they had.
It's personal.

Sleeping with snorers?
Earplugs and the day's exertion may solve that one, or perhaps you will learn that you need a private room.

Carrying it all on your back?
Prepare your list, pack it and carry it on walks in increments, and ask other pilgrims about their experience. You may need to ship your bag on occasion.

Is it religious?
Are you religious? If you are, then God will be present with you every day, in the people you meet, the churches you enter and the services you attend. You can be God's hands and feet on the Camino, as you walk in community with other pilgrims.

Is it spiritual?
What do you mean by spiritual? Dawn's early light? Helping one another? A kind word or gesture when you are exhausted? A cuckoo greeting you each morning? Lifting your eyes to the mountains? All of these you will experience, but it is your idea of "spiritual" that matters.

Why do you keep going back? 
The answer is different for everyone. I have a long list of answers to that, but the short answer is "Because I can", and Magdalena's answer is "Why not?" It's personal. As my walking partner in 2014 said "Now I know why no one can answer this question. You have to experience it to understand it." The journey makes you a pilgrim.

Let me quote Leonard Cohen's CD Songs for the Road.
The road is not a line between places. It is a place between places. A place of it's own.
If departure is the past and arrival is the future, then the road is the present and there is nothing more spiritually difficult or spiritually rewarding than learning to live significantly in the present.

Let me ask you one last question from Mary Oliver.
Tell me... what are you doing with your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Training, part 2

Several people have kindly suggested that perhaps my training agenda in my recent post was a bit over the top. I love to walk, so I walk a lot, maybe more than is necessary for training. Some might characterize my regimen as excessive, or perhaps obsessive, so here is what I think is a minimum that you might consider in preparation for the Camino.

Do some kind of regular walking -  to accustom the body, and to encourage the happy hormones.

Walk at least 100 km, over a number of days, in the shoes you plan to wear. After each walk, take off the shoes and look for any red or hot spots on your feet and ankles. Are your shoes big enough? Would you benefit from 2 pairs of socks? Or perhaps try vaseline the next time. My feet were vaselined every morning on the Camino.

Practice with your poles. You will be able to go farther, faster, and it will take some of the weight from your feet, hips and knees.

Find someone, or a group, who has walked the Camino, so you can listen and learn, and share your own plans. Going through your packed backpack with a veteran can also be very helpful. Attending an information session can answer a lot of questions and allay some fears.

Get your backpack, try it out, and get help getting it fitted. When you are sure it works for you, and fits you well, start wearing it while walking. Gradually fill it up, so that by the time you leave, you have walked with the weight you will carry on the Camino. Aim for approximately 10% of your body weight, and remember that the weight will grow as you add water and snacks.

Walk 2 hours. Then walk 2 hours with your backpack. Then walk 3, then 4 hours, then 5 hours with your backpack. Then walk 5 hours on 2 consecutive days. Track the distance, so that you know that you can walk 20 kms on 2 consecutive days. If you can do that and enjoy it, you will be ready.

You could always do more to prepare. Some people show up in untried equipment and make it. And then, some people have to give up as a result of injuries, chronic conditions that flare up, accidents, and just plain doing too many kms. I am a prudent pilgrim. I go prepared. But truly, I am training not just for an upcoming Camino, but for life.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tools for training

What tools do I need to help me to accomplish my training goals?

First, the goals, for me, need to be concrete and achievable. 100 kms per week is a challenge most weeks, and I achieve it most weeks. I track my steps with a LifeTrak watch. It records my step, calorie burn and distance each day, then charts them for the week. Many people who walk with me use a Fitbit, and the info is on your wrist and in your computer, but as I don't have internet access at home, that wouldn't be an advantage for me. My watch was a gift from my daughter and went on my last Camino with me. I am very satisfied with the way it monitors my walking.

I lead walks, so there is incentive for me to be out there 3 times a week, with a plan ( and snacks for everybody). Being accountable to others help me get out of bed every morning. I'll blog later with some snack recipes, and also another blog post on my favourite walks here in Toronto. I don't have a car, so I go everywhere on foot or transit, and occasionally in a shared ride. The way I see it, if I have the time to walk to a destination, then I don't see taking transit ( and thus I save money towards the next Camino). I also can read and walk, so when I have a great book to read, I am happy to walk and read outside.

Since I don't have a back seat to toss items into, I carry a backpack everywhere. I have food, water, reading material, my wallet, my to-do list, and sometimes maps and miscellaneous other items. It often weighs 10 pounds ( and more, as I shop for groceries most days), so when I put on my Camino backpack, I am used to the weight. I use a MEC daypack.
It looks like this one. I like them with a flat bottom so they don't fall over when I set them down.

 MEC Senior Book Bag (Unisex)

I have lots of coats ( the benefits of thrifting, mostly) but the ones I wear the most are waterproof and lined with fleece. It is easy to layer underneath, so that I can wear the same coat if it is raining, snowing, sleeting, or sunny and 10' or lower. I don't often wear my down jacket, as it isn't warm when wet. I do have a down vest, and I love it for layering. I have the weather channel on mute most mornings, so I can decide how many layers to wear under my coat.

I only wear Keen Shoes. I go through 2 pairs a year - one pair of sandals, which I wear as long as possible, even with socks (gasp!), and another pair of shoes for cooler weather. This is what the shoes look like. I wear a men's size 43, as my feet are very wide ( partly thanks to all the walking) and also thanks to genetics. I wear them a size larger that I might if I weren't doing all this walking, allowing room for swelling and sweating and merino socks.

 This is the sandal I wear, and these are the two shoes I take on the Camino. The sandal is heavier than clogs or flip flops, which are popular with pilgrims, but I am able to wear these on the trail, with socks, if I need a change from the heavier shoes. I also can wear them into the shower room, but I go into the shower itself in bare feet.

Using poles while walking in Toronto is a good idea. They take some of the weight off your feet, knees and hips, and give the upper body a bit of a workout. Mine are missing right now, or I would be using them, and I might not have slipped and fallen in the mud on Friday!

Here's a picture from 2 years ago, as I was training for my 2014 Camino - so far we have had no snow in Toronto! Thanks for the picture, Julie.

Buen Camino!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Plans for training for my 2016 Camino

I'm walking the Camino this summer and fall. I'll be turning 70 while I am there, so I am giving careful thought to my training in preparation for about 4 weeks of walking, and 2 weeks of 18 hour days, caring for pilgrims at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal.

The largest part of my training is the walks that I lead here in Toronto. I have been leading 3 hikes a week for several years, and I'll continue to do that while I am in Toronto.
On Mondays, we walk for about 4 hours with a break for coffee - about 15 km.
On Tuesdays, we walk for an hour or so, then have coffee, and walk home - roughly 6 or 7 kms.
On Fridays, my goal is 20 kms. Sometimes we go further, especially if we walk home after lunch. Sometimes it is shorter.
That adds up to roughly 43 kms on training walks.
I walk about the same amount over the week, doing my errands. I walk to pick up my grandson, to pick up my email at the library, to church on Sunday and back again, food shopping.....I walk almost everywhere I go.
My goal is 100 kms per week, and I have averaged that over the last 18 months.

Miguel Cura did this caricature of me and put it on his blog. He walked the Camino with his dad, and trained a few times with us. See his Camino at

I also attend a 90 minute Iyengar yoga class each week, and have been doing this for the past 12 years. It has helped my stamina, strength and balance, and I enjoy it (mostly).

I wear a backpack wherever I go, and it usually weighs in at about 10 pounds, so that is part of the training too. When I start to practice with my Camino backpack, I hardly notice a difference.

I am thinking of walking to my cottage this spring as part of my training. It is about 120 kms, and most of it can be done on trails. I have friends along the way, so I can possibly stay at various homes, maybe taking 5 days to walk it. So far, I have no definite plans, just the possibility, but it is a fun idea.

All this walking makes me a happy woman!

I read about the Camino, follow blogs, and help to organize our twice yearly meetings about the Camino. Yes, and I dream the Camino!