More adventure than I bargained for…

The rain had moved on and the hourly forecast called for highs in the lower 60s.  Not bad for a late November day.  Thinking that I’d like to get some hiking miles in without going too far afield, I decided to head for the “tried and true” Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.  A warmer day calls for a good bit of water In my Camelbak; a midday hike demands a trail lunch; a solo hike permits bringing my iPod along so I can continue listening to the audiobook I’m hooked on; training guidelines say: “Work up to carrying the weight you expect to have on your “real” hike.  So, feeling energetic and enthusiastic, I don’t balk at the 17 lbs. in my pack.  After all, the trails at Griffy are pretty flat.

It was about a month ago when Kevin, Maura, and I were at Griffy on a drizzly but actually quite pleasant October afternoon.  As far as I recall, I had never proceeded as far along the Griffy Creek Trail as we did that day.  Still, we hadn’t reached the end when Kevin voted to head back to the vehicle.  Aw…  Well, a month later, I was my own boss; there was no one with me to suggest an about face.  I was excited about continuing on to the end of this out-and-back trail.  Creek and valley.  Easy-peasy.

Why did the hiker cross the creek? Duh!  ”Cuz there’s more trail on the other side!

Easy, that is, until I had to cross the creek.  Once, twice, three times, and yet a fourth, knowing that I’d have those same crossings once I turned around..  But no biggie: there were some strategically-placed, if somewhat slippery rocks at one or two crossings; the water wasn’t deep; my waterproof boots needed a christening, and… wasn’t I clever to notice the tree which had fallen across the creek, allowing me a handhold as my boots found purchase on rocks and accumulated leaf piles.  I was feeling pretty confident, though at the same time I wondered what might happen if I had a major slip and needed assistance…. The parking lot had been full of cars, but I wasn’t seeing others on this more remote section of the trail.

But hey, after enjoying a creekside lunch of turkey salad, I made my way back to the parking lot and sought out a totally new-to-me trail on the other side of the road.  Full disclosure: not totally new.  Ken and I had walked at least a portion of the North Shore Trail at some point during our first year of dating some 42 years ago.  I remember sitting on a rock overlooking the lake and sharing a kiss.  That’s all I remember about the trail back then.  Kevin told me, the day before this second venture along the north shore of the lake that he had started it a time or two; he confirmed my suspicions that it wasn’t all that easy to follow.  His computer open, Kevin pulled up a city brochure with a map of all the trails at Griffy and we looked it over.  Ah, but we didn’t read the description of that particular trail.  Today, one day after my hike, I call up the brochure again and see exactly how it describes this 1.5-mile trail:

Steep slopes, narrow pathways, and rock outcrops make the North Shore Trail the most rugged trail at Griffy Lake.

Yes!  I concur!  Add to that description: “and you are likely to lose the trail at some point and find it necessary to head cross-country until you come upon it again.” So, had I read that beforehand, would I have decided against the trail?  Probably not.  I would most likely have told myself: Self, you can just turn around if you find it too challenging.  Did I turn around?  Of course not!

Was it rugged or was that just a disclaimer to release the city from liability?  How often is “rugged” really “rugged,” after all?  YES!  It was rugged!  I have been hitting a lot of trails in the last five months, and I am convinced this one surpasses the others in terms of being challenging.  Yes, it has the “narrow pathways” AND those narrow pathways are along the “steep slopes.”  Yes, I lost the trail and found myself making my way through briar patches in search of the next ravine where I felt I was likely to meet up with the trail again.  Fellow hikers were few and far between.  I was basically on my own to find my way, though the lake shore was a godsend in terms of orientation.

Did I make it to the end–the dam–before retracing my steps?  Yes!  At least I had that reward!  More importantly: did I make it back to my car?

That, too.  With 9 miles total to my credit.  But… there was… a fall….  Not a long one, but not so pretty either.  It involved a big angled stone on a steep slope.  It involved my body doing at least one roll over the 17-lb. backpack.  Abrasions and bruises on my right hand, “carpet burn” on or near both elbows, scattered hiking poles, and a huge reminder that I am no longer a 20 or 30-something!  The good news?  No broken glasses or bones, no torn or blood-stained clothing, no humiliation (if no one sees you fall, then did you really fall?).  I struggled to use my right hand last night even to do simple things like turn off the bedroom light or push the button to start my electric toothbrush, but here I am this morning typing with relative ease.  Our bodies are pretty awesome.

Darn it all, anyway, though!  I had hiked 200 miles before I tripped the first time.  Also at Griffy, now that I think about it….  I expected to get in at least another 200 miles before a reocurrence.  Instead, it was a mere 100.  So… I’d better be cautious when I’m about to complete another 50.  Maybe daily caution is called for.  Along with a bit more common sense when I choose my adventures.

Feeling like a traitor… but a singing traitor

True confession: I have been unfaithful.  My bikes have been shut up in the barn, abandoned, discarded, barely thought about and, I must admit, not even lusted after for a good six weeks.  My longest lap in 2018.  The longest one in memory, for that matter.  In my effort to log in the hiking miles, I have turned my back on the biking.  I have had to recognize that though my to-do list grows, my days still have only 24 hours in them.  Fewer than half of those hours include daylight, and still fewer of them include temperatures at which one wants to ride.

Today, though, the promised 50 degrees, along with Ken’s plan to take a spin on the trail we can access just half a mile from our house, persuaded me.  I approached my steed with no small amount of sorrow for my unfaithfulness.  But Townie, bless her, didn’t seem to hold any grudges.  Especially once I filled her soft tires and promised her an adventure.  “No hard feelings,” she seemed to say.  Apparently I felt worse about my treason than she did.

I didn’t get more than a block from home before I had forgiven myself as well.  Chilly, yes.  It’s only natural that 10 mph will create more breeze than the 2.3 mph of my typical hiking-in-the-woods pace.  I was dressed for it, though.  Before long I had a song stuck in my head and we soon got far enough from other trail users that I was compelled to sing out loud.

Townie doesn’t object to leaving the pavement and so we continued on to the Bloomington Rail Trail and were treated to a much more complete view than the one we get when the leaves are on the trees.  We came upon some interesting vines that were totally intertwined as they made their way towards the higher branches of the tree to which they clung.  I can’t say that I had ever noticed such twisted vines.  I took it as a sign and symbol: one of the vines represents me, the other, my passion for biking.  I may have set the bike aside for a while, but we are, in the end, inseparable.  My biking days are not over.

No, they are not over.  They are not even over for 2018.  I may remain at only 93% of my goal of 2,000 biking miles for this year, but I’m determined to meet another goal, that of riding during every single month of the year.  Watch out, December, I’ll be out there.  At least once.

All I can say is “WOW!”


I had nothing at all to do with planning today’s adventure, but I was a very willing participant.  For the second time in as many weeks, I joined the Bloomington WOW (Women of the Woods) group for their 2nd annual “hot potato hike” at Brown County State Park.  Did we have any idea when tasks were being assigned just how much we would appreciate the hot apple cider?  Or the kindling and logs and the propane torch that would ignite them and give us almost immediate heat?  And the shelter itself where we would indulge in a post-hike feast that included—in addition to  the still-hot baked potatoes and the butter, sour cream, chives, grated cheese, barbecue pork with which to top them—three kinds of hummus, fresh veggies, tortilla dippers, and an assortment of delicious cookies?   No.  But then how were we to know that temperatures would dip as they did and that the trees would be coated in ice?  And how were we to know that for the entire morning that ice would follow gravity’s call and pelt us as we completed Trail #6 near Strahl Lake?

Warming ourselves by the fire after our Hot Potato Hike

In a way, isn’t the unknown a huge part of the adventure?  Weather is unpredictable—even though we repeatedly check our weather apps and try to prepare accordingly.  Our bodies are unpredictable, too.  Some days we get up feeling we can conquer the world… and other days we admit to being the conquered.  Case in point: three women who expected to be with us today had to bow out for a variety of reasons that I think involved bodies that were talking back to their owners.  Also unpredictable: will we have all the supplies we need?  Oops… Sandra remembered the forks and the tablecloth and the cloth napkins, but… the plates she was going to bring didn’t make it.  Part of the adventure!  We easily improvised and found that the foil in which the potatoes were wrapped could do excellent double duty as plates.  Problem solved.

And so I hope it will be in Spain.  Innovate.  Make do.  Go with the flow.  Solve the problem.  Give help.  Accept help.  Swap.  Be creative.  Enjoy other people.  Tell stories.  Listen to others’ stories.  Really listen.  Really, really listen.  And keep those eyes wide open to take it all in.  An open heart, too.  And, it goes without saying, an open mind.

After the WOW lunch, I went off hiking on my own to add in a bit of speed, climb some ferocious Brown County hills—Pyrenees here I come!–and “practice” solitude.  Trail 9 of the park was ideal for the latter, though it was a bit disconcerting to hear gun shots echoing off the hills (really?  in a state park?  and what was that “hunters’ check in” sign all about?).  I had truly loved the morning chatter, laughter, and camaraderie, but I also treasured the mostly-quiet afternoon and the need to pay careful attention to my surroundings so as to stay on the trail and not be distracted by possible spurs.  I’ve hiked so little alone lately; it was good to see that I still do enjoy my own company.

I admit: by the time I returned to the car, my hips and my toes were not exactly shouting “Thank you, thank you, for bringing us along with you!”  I don’t blame them for protesting a bit, as my Fitbit reported at day’s end that I had climbed—and thus descended, as well—150 “floors.”  That was 50 “floors” more than a week earlier when I had actually walked four miles further.  The hiking in this renowned park is clearly not for flatlanders.  Conquering the hills, though, caused another part of my anatomy to declare their alleluias loud and clear: my hands were absolutely toasty by the end.  If you know me, then you know those hands doesn’t usually warm up between October and May!

In the end, what’s not to love about those dramatic ridges and valleys of Indiana’s most acclaimed state park?  All I can say is… WOW!

Reminder: I try to post the occasional picture with my blog, but I’ve been told that WordPress is not the best platform for photos.  You can check out a more complete collection on Instagram (follow katys.camino) or, if you prefer, on a special Camino-dedicated Facebook page, called, believe it or not, Katy’s Camino which Maura has been kind enough to set up for me.


A family* affair

It is, without a doubt, my Camino.  Slowly but surely, however, everyone is getting on board.  Everyone, of course, means “the family*.”  It’s easy enough for acquaintances to come up with statements such as: “Yes, you must!”  “Do it!”  “Go for it!”  “Do it while you can.”  “Katy, you gotta do it.”  Easy for them to say.  But for the immediate family?

Not so hard for Maura, really.  She appreciates a good adventure, whether it be her own or someone else’s.  Besides, I’m not doing her laundry or her dishes.  I’m not cleaning her house, making sure her bills are paid, keeping track of her appointments.  I text with her, “like” her Instagram posts, and enjoy a long phone call a couple of times a month.  All of which, with a combination of luck, wifi, and charging cables, I should be able to manage while in Spain.  My trip doesn’t turn her world upside down.

But the fellas?  They have less reason to be behind me.  My absence might mean a dramatic reduction of nagging from me—the good news!—but, as well, a considerable amount of extra work for them.  Oh!

Ken observed the animation with which I spoke of the photos Virginia posted on Facebook during her Camino earlier this spring.  He noticed how my wistful “wish I could do that” slowly but steadily morphed into “I really want to do that.”  So by the time I got around to seriously broaching the subject and, in a sense, “asking permission,” his response was: “You know you’re going to do it.  I can see that.”  His way of getting on board was perhaps more resignation than enthusiasm.  He’s happy for me but wishes that he was still of an age and/or in condition enough to do it as well.  I don’t doubt that he’ll spend time online looking for a more appropriate adventure… and I just might be invited along.  Or not.  Stay tuned in for that one.  We’ve certainly done many daring-for-the-likes-of-us things since our first camping, biking, and whitewater adventures back in the late 70s.  (Now that he’s approaching his late 70s and I’ll be entering mine all too soon, those past adventures seem all the more daring in retrospect.)

So yes, Ken’s on board.  Has been since the beginning, really (though some days more than others…).  Never put up “a fight.”  I know that my going is asking a lot of him.  It’s not just the extra work and responsibility he’ll have while I’m gone, not just the lack of my company or the fact that my spring departure pretty much precludes our usual late-winter get away down south.  For practical purposes, he probably feels like he has “lost me” to the Camino already, given how my focus and energies are pretty tied up in preparations.  During months that might be spent in efforts of downsizing, decluttering, making the house more presentable, etc., I’m organizing hikes, meeting up with folks who have walked the Camino, reading about it, watching films…  “You won’t need to go,” he tells me.  “You’ll already have experienced it.”  Or, he says: “You’re going to be so over-trained and over-prepared,” or “you’re going to get tired of it all before you even leave.”  I hear his words and yet still feel like I have hardly scratched the surface.  Funny how perspectives can vary.

There’s also this: a year ago, long before the Camino occupied my every thought, Ken stated that he wanted to take over the cooking.  He had been a master at it during my working years and, more often than not of late, I appeared to be less than enamored of the job.  The actual transition and handing over of the mixing spoons came in mid-February of this year.  I think the magic has worn off for him and any day now he is likely to declare that the kitchen is once again my domain.  Meanwhile, I’m more than happy to be off cooking duty.  I manage to sometimes put the freed-up time and energy towards other needed home chores, but I know that not being responsible for dinner allows for some late-afternoon hiking.  I’m grateful.  And well fed!

Kevin was the one who assumed, for the longest time, that I was just teasing, just playing with him.  “You’re not going to do that,” he said, totally incredulous.  Without Dad? he was no doubt thinking.  Across the ocean for as long as two months?  You’re a mom!  You can’t do that!  In time, though, he realized that his dad seemed to have come to terms with this preposterous idea and that, indeed, I was serious.  From that point on, there was a total transformation on Kevin’s part.  He became the leader of my team.  My advocate.

“Come look at the things in this box,” he called to me one day.  He had gone through his search-and-rescue and his camping supplies, pulling out things he thought might be useful to me either on the Camino or during my preparation hikes.  The box included: moleskin for blisters, waterproof paper for taking notes in the rain, lightweight whistle and pocket knife, emergency blanket, first-aid kit, stuff bags.  And those are just the things I can easily call to mind.  He has been patient teaching me how to use a trail app on my phone and has been a willing partner in the “lifeline” feature of that app so that when I’m out hiking he gets real-time progress reports on my whereabouts delivered to his cell phone, his computer, or both.  With regard to my phone: Kevin did research and found a refurbished iPhone with a longer-life battery and considerably more storage space than the 5s model it replaces.  Found it and then did all the tech stuff one does to get a new phone up and running with all apps, contacts, and calendars transferred, etc.  He is a total life saver when it comes to technology.  I currently carry in my pack a device he gave me should I find myself in a dire emergency.  (Example: I’ve been lost in the woods for four hours, I’m injured, my cell phone doesn’t work, it’s getting dark AND it’s cold.)  Somehow this gizmo, if I remember how to use it correctly, can get the attention of … is it the Air Force?  Come to think about it, I might need a refresher lesson on that thing…  But then again, I’m not too sure he will claim to know me if I should really put it to the test….

Kevin also likes spending other people’s money (don’t we all?).  In this vein, then, he has helped me look for good products and prices and has steered me in the right direction—we hope!—on any number of online purchases.  My wide-brimmed Camino hat, the silk sleeping bag liner, the backpack are just a few.  “You really should look into some high-quality technical clothing,” he tells me, “but you won’t want to pay the price.”  How well he knows me!  I really appreciate his concern and interest.  And how’s this for concern: thanks to Kevin, in the back of my car I have a bag full of blaze orange hats and vests from Kevin’s collection, enough to keep me and a car full of hiking friends from being mistaken for deer when we hit the trails in the upcoming months.

A few months ago I mentioned that I had signed up for a one-shot WordPress class at the library because I wanted to look into the possibilities of a blog as a way to track and record both my preparation for the Camino and the walk itself.  “Oh, I can help you with that,” he noted.  “You don’t need a class.”  How right he was!  At least I didn’t need the kind of class that was presented.  To tell you that the instructor showed up 25 minutes late, that all the computers and keyboards were unfamiliar-to-me Apple products, that the jargon and tasks we were being taught were beyond geeky is to only scratch the surface of what was wrong with the class.  I was proud that no tears fell during the truncated and frustrating session.  (I guess I figured I had my age as an excuse, so no cause for embarrassment.)

The point I really want to make is that Kevin just guffawed when he heard what the instructor’s approach to the class had been.  “You don’t need any of that stuff.  I can set up a WordPress blog for you in 10 minutes.  All you’ll have to do is type the content.”  A day or two later, the deed was done and I’d practiced with a fake post or two.  If I wanted to write, it was up to me; the structure was in place.  “Written any posts yet?” Kevin questioned me for a couple of weeks until, finally, I was able to announce: “Guess what I did today!”  He knew.

And then…  Maura came in for a fall visit.  She’d been reassuring me all along that I should “go for it” with regard to the Camino.   When I expressed doubts early on about my feet and knees being up to the task, or about finding the time to train sufficiently, or when I lamented the need to give up my beloved biking and reading in order to hit the trails in the woods, she just said: “Oh, momma, with all the walking you already do, you’ll be fine.  And the biking will be good complementary exercise.”  Nothing like having someone believe in you, and when that someone’s profession involves working with human bodies in various states of disrepair and malfunction, you listen and try to believe.

Once home, Maura threw herself into giving me lessons on how to use Instagram.  (Don’t laugh: some of us are just a lot more comfortable being taught such things rather than figuring them out for ourselves.)  We went adventuring almost every day during her 9-day visit, sometimes just the two of us, a couple of times accompanied by Kevin.  State Parks.  City parks.  Nature preserves.  The Deam Wilderness.   All beautiful in their fall glory!  In the evenings, we posted photos.  Practice for Spain.  If I do it often enough, I’ll retain the skill, right?  I told Maura I wanted my Instagram account to kind of match my WordPress site, that both were meant to reflect my months of preparation and, then, the actual walk.  At which point she began inquiring about the WordPress site.

Here’s where I’m not totally sure that I’m reporting things accurately.  Probably the fewer words I use, the better.  Maura started quizzing Kevin about “servers” and “hosts,” getting more excited as their conversation continued.  The long and the short of it?  Kevin was persuaded of the advantages of hosting this blog on his server, and Maura offered to be co-administrator of the site, the artistic, creative force behind it.  So what was initially a very plain, black-and-white, get-‘er-done-and-out-there site, is… or is going to be… well, what you find… if indeed you find it.  More fun!  More colorful!  Extra links, bells, and whistles.  Maybe.  Depends on how well Maura and I manage to communicate about it across more than 2300 miles and several time zones.  “It depends on what you want,” she tells me.  Uh, do I know what I want?  Have I studied many blogs?

“Wait, though,” I ask her, “aren’t you too busy to do this?  Won’t it add unneeded pressure to your life?”  To which she replied: “Actually, I find it a form of relaxation.  A good diversion.  I just need to get back up to speed.  Haven’t played—her favorite word?—with this stuff for a while.”  At various times during her home stay, she and her computer would keep me company in the evenings while I did kitchen clean-up.  I pictured her checking in on the people whose blogs and Instagram posts and what-nots she follows.  Or looking up the latest from her “nutritious movement” friends.  And maybe there was some of that.  She coyly admitted, though, that most of the time she was toying with this site, just checking out options and possibilities.  Then there was the evening when she was tapping away busily on her laptop, asking me the occasional question about my iPhone-use habits.  Turns out she was investigating on settings and ways in which I might conserve battery space while I’m in Spain.  She gave me a tutorial and I took notes.   I can easily lay claim to the daughter who loves the woods, but the one who finds technology “relaxing” and who takes on the tough task of trying to teach an old dog new tricks?  Where did she come from?  Regardless, I’ll take her!

Last but not least: Regina.  Though she doesn’t live in our house, she picks up the pieces when and if things or people around here are falling apart.  She’ll notice my absence because no doubt she’ll feel the need to “come by” with greater frequency to cheer her dad and brother.  She’s already my best Instagram follower.  If anyone reads this blog, it is likely to be her, especially when I learn how to cut out 90% of my verbiage and just get to the point.  If I learn.  Regina is incredibly good about listening well and before you know it she’ll be giving you things you forgot you mentioned needing.  Or sending you info she found online about a topic you’ve had questions about.  Like SIM cards, for one.  (Regina, I did star that email and know I can call it up when I’m ready to deal with that topic.)  She’s steady as a rock.  Since she can’t imagine why someone would willingly walk around the block (yes, I exaggerate), she’s no doubt convinced that I’m crazy for wanting to walk across more than half of Spain.  But she already knew I was pretty loony, so no great learning curve needed here.  I picture her come mid-April, texting Ken and Kevin to let them know there are new pictures to see or a new post to read.  At least I hope there will be some to find.  We’ll see.  If I have any emergencies while in Spain or need someone to get me some information, Regina is my go-to gal.  Counting my blessings!

So there’s my team, assembled and, more often than I deserve, at the ready.  Hoping the family will stick with me through the dreary winter months and will find reasons to anticipate their own spring adventures.

And then there’s my village.  It does take one, you know.  But that’s a story best told on another day because for now…

Snip, snap, snout, this [overlong] tale’s told out.
¡Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado!

*Cheat sheet for the uninitiated:

  • Ken: husband extraordinaire of 38 years, chief cook (but not bottle washer), fan, rider, and promoter of recumbent trikes, etc., etc.
  • Kevin: son, geek and computer guru, mid-30s
  • Maura: daughter, exercise physiologist and tree-lover/-climber/-hugger, incredibly patient teacher of a variety of skills, early 30s
  • Regina (not pictured: (step-daughter, cat-rescuer and all ’round come-to-the-aid-of-anyone-who-needs-help type, of an age that she probably prefers to keep to herself