Travels - Links to each trip

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Camino Training 3

As agreed yesterday, I met up with Danny and Dave today. They had planned to meet and park at O'Toole's Irish Pub and start the hike from there. Afterwards we would stop for an Irish pint and perhaps some lunch.

I arrived as planned at 8:15 and we set off in pouring rain. It was the first time I had field tested my rainwear in real time and i now feel very good about it. I have a poncho which covers me and my backpack. The others have a rain jacket and rain pants. Each has advantages. I like mine since it allows air circulation and does not build up moisture inside. By the time the rain stopped after about 45 minutes, they both said they were wet inside their gear due to perspiration. Since I expect the weather in Spain to be more on the warm side than cold I think the poncho will work better even if my legs do tend to get wetter when it is windy. Anyway another unknown eliminated.

No pictures today since we hiked basically the same route as I had gone yesterday except for the detour through Hollywood Cemetery. Instead we explored another trail I had found on a previous hike that heads west from below the Boulevard Bridge upstream along the river through the woods towards Pony Pasture. We walked about a mile along it but then turned back since they had arranged to meet some other people at the Irish pub at 11:30. We met several people on mountain bikes on the trail. It seems to be a pretty trail worth exploring so I will try that another time.

After about 45 minutes the rain stopped, the sun came out and it got warm so we shed layers of clothing to stay comfortable.

We got to the pub on time, met the others including Danny and Dave's wives. I stayed for a beer and a sandwich before heading home.

A very nice hike and good company. In all we covered about 10 miles. This was two days in a row with 10 miles for me and I don't even feel it in my joints (or feet) so I am very confident that I will ready for the start in 5 weeks. I had also bought a new backpack earlier in the week at Costco since I was not comfortable with my old one. It just didn't seem to fit right. I have now used the new one on 2 reasonably long hikes and it is very good. Even when fully loaded I get used to it soon after setting out and don't really notice it any more - that's the way it should be.

Will have to see about hikes next week. I would like to get in a long one before Helen and William arrive on Thursday evening. They will be here until after Easter since they both have spring break next week.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Camino Training 2 - part 2

Hollywood Cemetery was opened in 1849 and named to reflect the holly trees on the property. It sits on hills overlooking the rapids of the James River which stretch along most of the river as it passes through the city. It has an interesting history including being the resting place of 2 United States Presidents - James Monroe and John Tyler along with Jefferson Davis, the only Confederate President.

Having walked up from the river I found that the only entrance is at the very top of the hill. But my goal is to get fit, so no problem. I stopped at the office by the entrance and bought a map ($1.00). I followed one of the paths and soon came across an interesting memorial at the grave of a young girl

I remembered we had seen this a couple of years ago when we went for a walk here with Sarah and her (white) dog. There is a photo somewhere of Schatzi standing next to this dog.

I continued on enjoying a beautiful day and the peace. I came across a burial in progress (there is still room available!). Some of the graves are old and some are more recent.

Even some signs of spring as the trees are ready to burst

Next I came to the "Presidents' Circle" the black tomb is James Monroe and the tall column is John Tyler.

The view from here is nice but of course it is too late for the inhabitants to enjoy it!

The memorials are very interesting and often show the themes of those being memorialized. Here is one in memory of Confederate Officers from the Cicil War with the barrel of a cannon sticking out of the ground


I then left the cemetery and walked though one of the older neighborhoods in Richmond back towards the river trail. The architecture here is interesting and today many of these older houses are occupied by students from the nearby universities. Many of the porches had bikes tied to the railings - a give away to student occupation.

Then back to the river, acoss the hanging bridge and on to Belle Isle

This shows the river rapids with the cemetery on the hill behind.

As I walked along the bank of the island I saw people out enjoying the beautiful weather. I am not sure why the children were not in school since today is Friday, but perhaps they are home schooled.

Then on the south bank of the river, past the islands, across the railway tracks and up the hill to the Nickel Bridge and then to the parking area. A total of 10 miles today according to the GPS app on my iPhone and an interesting hike. There is so much history here. Perhaps I can explore more of it on another hike.

I have arranged for another hike tomorrow with the people doing Camino training who I met this morning. Meeting at the Irish Pub at 8:15. After the hike we will have lunch and a pint for St Patrick's Day at the pub. It should be a good day.


Camino Training 2 - part 1

Today was again a beautiful day and I took advantage of it for another training hike. My goal is to do two decent hikes each week plus a couple of visits to the gym. I set out for a hike around the James River in Richmond. There are some nice trails right in the downtown area but it feels like being in the wild.
I drove to one of my usual parking/starting places and got my backpack out of the car. I had loaded it up the night before with extra bottles of water to make it representative of the weight I plan to carry in Spain. As I was closing the car I saw another man loading a large backpack into his car. We started talking and it turns out that he had just finished his hike and he is also training for the Camino. He and a friend will leave about 2 weeks before me. After talking for about 15 minutes and comparing notes and ideas he suggested I might like to join them for some training hikes and I gladly accepted. We will meet tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 8:15 and leave our cars at an Irish pub near the river. They plan to hike and end up back at the pub for a pint for St Patrick's day (March 17). It should be fun.
I then set off on my hike first across the Boulevard Bridge. This is often referred to as the Nickel Bridge since the toll used to be 5 cents. Now however it is 35 cents.
The bridge crosses the James River with nice views on either side.
After crossing the River I headed down a steep path and after crossing a railroad track there is a nice path that stays close to the river bank for about 2 miles towards downtown Richmond. It was muddy in places and the river was much higher than normal. Probably due to the warmer weather melting the snow in the Appalachians further upstream.
The trail continues alongside the river and passes some small islands near the bank. When the water is low it is possible to cross to the islands on rocks but not today.
At one place the trail splits to a lower section and an upper section. I started along the lower section but it soon ended up under the water so I turned round and went to the upper section which was fine.
I continued on and then across a footbridge to a large island in the river; Belle Isle
This also offers a first glimpse of the downtown skyline across the river.
Here the river is very rocky and on the island there are the ruins of an old hydro-electric plant that closed in the 1960's
During the civil war there was a prison camp for union soldiers and a plaque has been erected as a memorial to the over 1000 who died there while prisoners.
Further I came to a second footbridge, this one across the main part of the river. It is built hanging from a large highway bridge above.
This gives clear views of the downtown skyline and of the river
Once on the north bank I continued on up the hill to the historic Hollywood Cemetary. Details of that part of the hike will be added as part 2 of this blog,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Camino Training

Back training for the Camino walk. I will leave Virginia April 22 and meet up with my pilgrim buddy Werner in Biarritz France the next day. We plan to take bus and train from there to the little French town of St Jean Pied de Port from where we will start on our 500 mile walk on April 24.
The weather had been cold and rather wet including snow last Wednesday, but by Saturday it had got warm and I went a very pleasant hike along the James River in Richmond. I completed about 10 miles which was a good way to get back into hiking. It was a beautiful sunny day and a lot of people had taken the opportunity to get out again with families, children, dogs and friends. I felt pretty good after it so perhaps I have not lost too much condition over the last 30 days.
Today I set out again. This time more ambitious with a trip to Pocahontas State Park, about a 40 min drive from home. I had filled my backpack to the target weight for the Camino - 17 lbs.
Again a beautiful day, perfect for a hike. It started out well on a trail through the forest with occasional clearings and meadows.
After a while I came to a stream across the trail but it was easy to cross so no problem
Soon after that I came to the creek that on previous visits I had been able to walk through since there is no bridge and wet feet was a good way of testing my susceptibity to blisters since I am almost certain to get wet feet on some days on the Camino (European spring weather).
What I had not planned on was a raging torrent, too fast and strong to cross on foot. The dam just upstream was overflowing as I had not seen before.
I stopped and ate my sandwich lunch as i decided what to do. I had previously met 2 people on horseback but they were long gone or perhaps they could have ferried me across the creek.
I was more than halfway around the 13 mile circular trail and since there were no other ways to cross the creek I turned around and headed back the way I had come. I headed back and finally arrived back at the car after a total hike of around 18 miles. I was very pleased and satisfied, if a little sore! This would represent a little more than a typical day on the Camino so I feel confident. I will try and do a hike of this length once a week until I leave for France with shorter local hikes in between.
This is also my "training" for blogging which I hope I will be able to keep up with on the trip.