Camino de Santiago

Month: November, 2015

Keeping Our Balance

Gothic Basin-3

Gothic Basin-23


Preparing to walk the Camino, Terri and I did a lot of training in advance. We prepared months in advance by slowing building up our ability to walk long distances. We did the majority of our training walks in the city. In hindsight we both wish we would have trained a bit more in the mountains with more of the varied trail conditions. I have found trail conditions to be a big factor in how difficult a hike or walk will be. Distance and elevation gain are the traditional ways we measure how tough a hike but the other factor often underestimated is how rugged the trail is to walk.

During our Camino, we had some very long days of walking and in some cases a fair amount of elevation gain. What we did not really anticipate was how rugged the trail conditions would be at times. A really tough trail filled with lots of trail obstacles (rocks, roots, steps) require a lot more energy, balance and concentration level than a walk on a relatively smooth path or trail.

I mentioned balance as a key element of hiking on rugged trail conditions especially as one begins to fatigue. I believe this is a very important area to focus in training for hiking difficult trail conditions. Since my hiking injury this past spring, I have decided to train harder to improve my core strength and balance. I know this training will have lasting benefits for me as I age as well, since falling is so much more common as we age. Surprisingly it does not take that much time to make a big difference and I don’t even have to go to a gym!



P.S. I even found some brain fitness training as well to help my improve visual processing and useful field of view which can be very important to reducing our risk of falling.

Photograph of the Week

Gothic Basin Summer

One of the most rugged trail condition hikes I did this past year was Gothic Basin. It is located up in the Monte Cristo area near Barlow Pass on the Mountain Loop Highway. This is one of the toughest day hikes I did this year as it was long, steep and the trail conditions were really bad the whole hike. This panoramic image was taken at the top in Gothic Basin. and the images at the top of the blog article show some of the trail conditions we faced!


Use it or lose it


One of those wise sayings that we are all familiar with is, “Use it our lose it”. I know those of you that have tried to keep in good physical condition by exercising regularly can sure identify with this axiom. It has always seemed wrong to me that if we stop exercising even for a week or two, we begin to lose our gains we had made in our physical condition. We sure saw this on our Camino walk as well. After finishing this walk we were in great shape from walking for 5 weeks. Unfortunately, for Terri on the return home she had to lay off exercising for several months, due to the stress fractures she had from the walk in her ankle. Obviously, you quickly lose all the gains you achieved in your physical conditioning when you stop for this long. It just seems so hard to keep up our gains. It is so true, use it or lose it.

Another area where the “use it or lose it” wisdom applies, is to our brains. If we are not “exercising” our brains we will lose some of those capabilities we worked so hard to gain. I read a wonderful book on the new science of the brain titled, “The Brain That Changes Itself“. This book really inspired me! I have read several more books on the brain since that have really captivated my interest.

You see the “use it our lose it” wisdom lies at the heart of the matter when it comes to our brain. The brain is  incredibly plastic. That is the coolest thing about all the new research on brain. We can literally change our brains but we have to work at it. One of the most exciting things I learned from this book, was the work being done to help stroke patients recover many of those capabilities they have lost due to the stroke (like the ability to walk again or use your arm/hand). They discovered that our brain is so amazing that it will grow new networks, if we use the leg or arm that has been disabled by the stoke. It is hard work but if we go through the therapy of moving the “dead arm” our brains will recover, by growing new networks, to help us gain back arm movement again! I sure wish my Dad who had a stroke would have had this kind of therapy! You see back when he had his stroke, they thought that part of our brain was dead and we could never recover it again. Amazing. All he needed to do is move that leg and arm that did not want to move. Crazy but true.

There is so much truth in this “use it or lose it” wisdom. Since reading this book, I decided I needed to be proactive and start working on my “brain health”. I realized that if I do nothing then I will lose it (a real danger of retiring and not actively working our minds). The brain is like our body though. It will atrophy if we are not actively working it. So keep up your physical conditioning but don’t forget to your brain exercise as well!!



Photograph of the Week

151002-Ingalls Pass-200_1_2_tonemapped-2-12x18Since I have been posting panoramic photographs of the Camino now for a year, I think it is time to begin to start something new. I would like to show you some of my photography from my hiking that I have done this past year. I have been hiking almost every week and I have some awesome photography to share with you from all my hiking explorations!

The first one I will share is from a hike I did with my “hiking buddies” this past year Bob and Karl Maier. It was one of my favorite fall hikes I did this year. We went the first week of October to Ingalls Pass, which is at the end of the Teanaway River road out of Cle Elum. The Larch trees in their full fall yellow glory, breathtaking!

Golden Larch Glory