The Route Less Traveled

October 19, 2019

Today we took an alternate route on the Camino, leaving the busy highway and most of the pilgrims far below as we climbed high into the hills.

Leaving the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, dimly seen below.

Rain was our constant companion. Not the soft, misty, soaking rain that makes plants glad to be alive. Nor was it the hard pelting arrows of rain, drumming through our skulls. Rather, this was a slow, methodical soaking rain with big, steady drops of water filling the air, turning the ground into a sponge, and determinedly working its way through my rain gear, dripping off my nose, down my neck, running in rivulets through my shirt and down my legs.

Zero wind meant the rain fell vertically, far nicer than horizontal or diagonal streams of water. With temperatures in the high 40s, we could stay warm even in dripping wet clothes as long as we stayed moving.

This high route promised a walk through oaks and pines and chestnuts with gorgeous long views from ridge top to ridge top.

Trees, yes. View? Umm, well … no!

Later in the afternoon, a slight lessening of the downpour did give us a glimpse of our neighbor ridge framed in ragged white clouds.

As we came off the ridge, nearing the town of La Portela de Valcarce, we passed between hundreds of chestnut trees. We saw an older woman, carrying an umbrella and wearing a rain cape over her skirt, putting chestnuts into a split wood hand woven basket. I felt as if we’d stepped back in time, seeing this woman working alone under the trees in the rain.

Even closer to the town, we ducked under the clouds and were able to see a bit of the countryside around us.

The cows didn’t seem too affected by our water-filled day.

Water dripped busily off our clothes and gear as we entered the hostel. The woman at the counter took one look at us, grabbed a room key, and led us straight to our room, joking, “Hoy es todo agua, por dentro y por fuera.” (Today is all water, inside and outside.)

It was such a relief to peel off wet clothes, wring them out over the sink, and hang them up, then relax in a hot shower! I close this post with a picture of our gear, strung over one end of our room. As we snuggled into warm beds amid drying clothes, misty memories of peaceful beauty replayed in our heads.

Yes, it does rain…

October 8, 2017

Rain began our morning.  There’s nothing quite like hearing the patter of drops on top of the tent, just inches from ones face, first thing in the morning.

By now, Jay and I have our rainy-day-campsite-pack-up down to a science.  First, pack everything into our waterproof bags while still inside the tent.  Put the bags into our packs.  Put on rain gear.  Then emerge from our dry haven into the dripping, watery forest.  At this point, I always stand a moment and revel in the wonder of being dry inside my rain gear while fat drops of water plop on my head.  We then take down the wet tent and pack it into Jay’s outer pack pocket.  Next we retrieve our food bags and put them into the tops of our packs.  Finally it’s time to set out down the trail, looking for a dry place to eat.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

Today we were only eight-tenths mile from Pochuck Mtn. Shelter.  When we arrived, the rain was streaming off my rain gear, beginning to trickle down my neck.  Four hikers were packing up inside the shelter, eating breakfast, stuffing sleeping bags, etc.  They were a bit startled to see two very wet hikers suddenly appear out of the mist.

“Hi!” I greeted them brightly.  “We don’t want to drip all over you, but we haven’t had breakfast yet, and we were planning to eat it here, under cover from this precipitation!”

The good-natured hikers willingly consolidated their gear and gave us a dry corner of the shelter.  What a treat, to eat breakfast without water drops plopping into my raisins!  By the time we finished eating, the downpour had lessened to a small pattering, and I was ready to set off into the drizzle.

We hiked 15 miles today, through clearing skies, then lowering clouds and incredibly heavy humidity.  Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was a treat – two miles of level grassy trail circumnavigating ponds and marsh where ducks and egrets happily enjoyed the weather.



From there the trail gradually climbed 1,300 feet in elevation to a tower at High Point State Park, the highest point in New Jersey at 1,803 feet.   There is an obelisk built as a war memorial in 1930, about three-tenths mile off the AT.  It was late afternoon, and I was reluctant to take the side trail. But a wooden viewing platform right on the AT, at 1,700 feet, gave an even more expansive view.  Clouds hovered just above us, enabling us to enjoy a sweeping panorama of the surrounding countryside encompassing three states, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Though we were able to shed rain gear for the afternoon, our feet squelched wetly the whole day.  Saturated socks began rubbing blisters.  I was delighted to reach the High Point State Park Headquarters and call a shuttle to take us to a hostel, Mosey’s Place.  What a treat, to end such a beautiful but wet day with dry clothes and a dry place to sleep.  As I snuggled into the bunk bed at the hostel, and heard the rain begin again, I knew that I was a very lucky woman!