Camino Gear

Been going back and forth on how to describe my experience. On one hand, I thought about describing every area I walked through, with pictures and witty anecdotes from handwritten journal but then I remembered that I didn’t like to read those myself when planning for the walk since I wanted a truly organic experience without some other persons’ bias and stories in my head.

I decided I’d write it, at least to begin with, in a way I wish others would have written it. With plain facts about gear: what I brought and wish I hadn’t (and ended up sending off) and what I wish I had brought and hadn’t. 

If you read this in preparation for doing your own Camino and are wondering about anything I might have missed or are just curious about something else, don’t hesitate to comment and ask!

I started just before the main heat wave begun smack middle of summer (begun May 11 and completed June 22) and had heard the Pyrenees could be cold so brought my insulated Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket, North Face gloves and Thinsulate hat which I only wore once, climbing the Pyrenees with cold ass gusty winds and never wore any of those again for rest of trip. 

I brought 3 pairs Injinji toe socks (love, love, love Injinji!) which was a bit overkill. Sent one pair off, along with my Ursack bear bag (SO unnecessary, even if camping), compass, my extra bandanna and sun hat (even when sunny, my headband was sufficient and I hate hats so never wore it although I saw plenty of people wearing theirs). I’d also been hoping to cowboy camp along the way, which I didn’t do (the only times I saw chances to do it, rain was in the forecast so, for obvious reasons, decided against it) so sent my tent footprint – which I use under my sleeping pad – off as well.

I did NOT bring my tent for which I was happy about since I probably would’ve used it only once, if that. I was advised by some lovely ladies who’d done their pilgrimage before me so thought I should note that.

I did bring:

1 Nike Dri-Fit pants (best pants ever!)

1 Columbia sport tights (for when I do laundry or when I feel like switching things up)

1 tank top

1 shirt for laundry time

2 pairs of Ex Officio undies which are much much better than regular cotton underwear.

1 pair of Bedrock Sandals for when my foot would swell and would be too painful to walk in my trail runners. Also great for the showers and walking around town. Lightweight and stylish.

1 pair of Brooks Cascadias trail runners (my walking/hiking shoe of choice since it usually accommodates my foot swelling).

1 Buff and another UV headband (didn’t need two in the end since only wore one entire time)

2 pairs of Injinji socks (I switch socks on super hot days to prevent blisters)

1 small Therm a Rest Zlite sleeping pad (not many people need a pad but I elevate my feet every 8km or so and use it constantly)

1 Sleeping Bag (10 degree Zpacks bag so super lightweight)

1 lightweight camping pillow (Sea to Summit Aeros) which honestly probably wasn’t necessary but my neck hated the pillows offered in albergues so I’m glad I brought mine.

1 super lightweight (Deuce of Spades brand) trowel which I didn’t use once but felt good to have, should I have an uncontrollable urge to poop somewhere outdoors.

1 bandanna dangling from pack for pee reasons (or as some lady and on the PCT 2 years ago called it: “vajanky”: like “vagina” and “hanky” Lol).

My trusty Black Diamond trekking poles (brought 2 extra tips for which I was grateful for since I ended up needing them both)

My Osprey Ariel 65L (total overkill on the size by the way but I love my pack too much to trade her for a smaller one I have. I probably could have made a 38L fit).

Osprey pack rain cover

Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket

Electronics: 1 Anker 20,000mAh external battery along with converter and charger for phone and battery. Side note: The 20,00mAh was probably too much. A 10,000mAh would’ve been sufficient. If you’re like me and absolutely have to have phone battery life, it’s worth its weight. Some albergues have very very few outlets to charge on and having an external battery makes life so much easier in the long run in those instances.

I also brought my tele, wide and fisheye lens from Moment for my phone (see my Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/skahlua912 . DEFINITELY worth their weight, in my opinion).

Medical supplies: bottle of ibuprofen, sewing needle and thread (for both blisters and any clothes or gear that might need a stitch), antiseptic towelettes, bandaids and Compheed anti blister pads and some moleskin). Also Electro Mix electrolytes (swear by them…. better than Nuun and other more expensive electrolytes, for me personally anyway). 

Hygienic supplies: to go travel sized toothbrush and paste, Sea to Summit multipurpose soap used as shampoo, body wash AND laundry detergent, rosemary and lavender tonic for cramping, relaxation when able to take baths and to repel bed bugs, coconut oil for hair, face and body lotion, contact lens shit and comb.

Wish I’d brought and ended up buying:

My anti-diarrhea pills/activated charcoal

Smaller, lightweight backpack to use while in towns

Poncho 

More of my favorite protein bars (I could only find muesli or granola bars at the stores in Spain)

Ultimately though, the Camino has services for sending your backpack on to next albergue you plan on staying at so you can bring as much as you want if you’d rather have a more luxurious experience. Or, opposite of that,  if you’d rather have a more minimalistic journey, you could go without more than 1/2 of what I brought and still be fine.

The Camino has stores, albergues, cafes and water stops along with towns throughout the day. Not one day will there be nothing. I prepared a bit more for the backcountry which the Camino is most definitely NOT! Lol

Will write more later about the beautiful people I met along the way and epiphanies I had along the way.

Here are some pics:
The last day, when you first get a peak of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral πŸ‘‡πŸ»
The first day, when carrying a bunch of unnecessary stuff and pack is heavy πŸ‘‡πŸ»
My sweaty selfie πŸ‘‡πŸ»
Blister resolution πŸ˜³πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Blogging the Camino

I’ve found it to be quite a chore to go back and rehash emotions, thoughts and events each day on the Camino so I’ve been keeping a written journal and have decided to write more on here once actually done.

I’m more than halfway now and should be finishing within 2 weeks. Having gotten sick for almost a week and conking out the last couple of days have set me back but I’m in no real hurry.

I have so many things to say and look forward to updating the blog once done with more specifics and tips, etc.

Rest assured, you will get some exciting posts later! 
Xoxo,

Saina 

Estella, Spain

I woke up around 3-4am choking. Apparently I’d barfed in my sleep and because I sleep on my back, it started going down the wrong chute. At first, I panicked thinking “this is how I fuckin’ die?!? Choking on my own vomit in a random hotel in Spain?!? How lame!” And then I remembered I’d wanted to die the other day and could just let myself asphyxiate but decided that’s not how I wanted to go and I still need to finish this pilgrimage and see my family in Finland. This entire mental dialogue happened in the space of a second or so and I quickly coughed the acidic barf out and went back to sleep. Fun stuff.

Stuck here for another day. I woke up at 6am to gauge if I could walk and I still could hardly bring myself up to go to the bathroom so decided staying another day. Hopped in the shower and a HUGE thick glob of dark green/yellow snot the size of my hand came out of my nose which actually helped me breathe a lot better. I’d never ever seen that in my life. It was like the size of a clementine. No exaggeration.😳

Finally caught the pharmacy while it was open (they keep weird hours here in this town. They’re like open for 2 hours at random times, once early AM and then late afternoon). Got flu stuff, echinacea, diarrhea pills (yay!) and extra blister stuff just in case. I feel like I’m oversharing some bodily functions here but it’s my blog. If I can’t keep it disgustingly honest here, where can I?

Feeling a lot more positive today. I rarely get sick so this is a bummer but I’m sure it’ll take longer to heal if I’m mentally in a negative space.

Need to download for the previous days which were actually quite pleasant. Will post some of the pics here and put a bit of commentary next to them when able. I will then expound on all that later when more mentally aware (head is pounding at the moment). This is just 2 days of shittiness. The other days were fantastic so really don’t want my blog to represent the sucky part too much. Mentally, I really want to keep walking but my health needs to come first. But I’m not done here. Not by a long shot. I know I can do this. That’s not a question in my mind at all. Sometimes you just need a mental perspective shift.

The people are wonderful that I meet. Just the other day, when I was crying,  sopping wet and freezing from the rain and waiting for the albergue to open, some Italians walked past and offered to sit with me until I was ok which was so nice and made me cry even harder (whenever someone is nice to me when I’m upset, it just makes me cry. I’m more comfortable with people being harsh or ignoring me when upset, as bad as that sounds).

I separated from my walking buddy in Pamplona. Just needed to feel the feelings I was having and I couldn’t do that with someone else around, no matter how lovely. Miss her tons but we agreed it’s best for both of us.

Tried to upload a ton of pics but the wifi sucks at this fancy pants hotel which is frustrating but will just do a separate post when able. The support I’ve received from people on last post was so heartwarming and really, really helped. Thank you!! 
Some road walking (not my favorite but it was still sort of pretty) πŸ‘‡πŸ»


This town is super old and this is the view from the rabies bridge (pic of bridge below this one). It used to be said that if you cross it 3 times with animal, they’d be cured of (or never get) rabies. The lepers would also be housed right nearby. Like holy shit, history man! πŸ‘‡πŸ»πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Rabies bridge πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Daily Baguette Service in this town! πŸ˜„πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Horsies!!!!! πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»



I absolutely loved this day, when a lot of it was in the forests with birds chirping. Absolutely my favorite πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Again, have SO many more pictures but unable to download. Been sleeping most of today and can feel my body healing itself so am very happy about that.

Adios for now! ❀️

3 days on Camino

I am resisting the urge to stomp on ahead and disciplining myself to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. 

My right foot tends to scream at me after a few miles so, in order to do any sort of semblance of mileage, I sent pack ahead of me the last 2 days. The first day of like 10km just straight up hill, made both feet super mad at me and I intend on finishing this. I’m learning quickly that long distance hiking (PCT, AT, etc) are much more about getting to the destination within a certain time frame. I have the luxury to not do that here and everyone I’ve bonded with are also the kind who just want to enjoy this and not make it a race. 

Since I didn’t have much time to prep for this walk/hike/pilgrimage, I’m kind of doing it now so taking it maybe too easy the first week and then plan on pushing myself after building up some strength.

The first day, I came across a lady who was hiking solo and we talked about if we were doing all 25km to next city or staying at the albergue (hostel) in the Pyrenees that usually books up ahead of time. I told her I had just called and got a reservation and gave her my phone to call. Long story short, we started talking and I just fell in love with her. I call her my Camino mama. She is empathetic, hilarious and has a fuckin killer Kiwi accent. We’ve hiked last 3 days together and I haven’t laughed so much in a long time back to back. 

I haven’t slept all that well in the albergues since have had some night terror type nightmares and tons of snoring people (I started recording it. New album coming out is “Snoring Symphonies” πŸ˜‚). 

Having to figure out logistics of where to sleep every night since outside camping is basically prohibited (extremely restricted) makes me quite anxious. I enjoyed the PCT more in the sense that I could night hike if I wanted to and know I could just pull over anywhere and camp.

But learning as I go. The people are terrific and I feel like that bonding and sense of community I wanted on the PCT that I didn’t truly feel, I am getting here. This is more of a spiritual journey as opposed to an endurance feat (not digging on long distance thru hikers. They’re incredible) and it’s what I needed.

Found myself crying walking amongst beautiful trees. Come to find out, some witches were burned there. There is history soaked into every single step of this journey and the beautiful views, sheep, cows and horses roaming free just add to the whole experience.

I have so many other thoughts – from what I wish I hadn’t packed to people I’ve met – that I want to talk about but too tired. Only got 2 hours of sleep last night. 

But here are some pics:

Old monastery that’s turned into an albergue. Stayed there for the night (pics of the beds is somewhere in this batch).πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Drinking coffee out of a bowl at the albergue. Lol. Apparently that’s a thing? πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Dinner at albergue Orisson in the Pyrenees. We all had to stand up and say our name and where we were from. Everyone clapped for each other and it was actually really a bonding moment. Loved it! πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Coming into town at night. So many pilgrims descended upon St Jean Pied de Port.πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Paris Day 4

Not much to tell. Paris has been lovely but also overwhelming. Ready to start my pilgrimage. Actually thinking about doing a silent one (not speaking entire time) just to try it since I know it’s sort of a meditative experience and will help me to quiet down and really take in everything and listen to people but, realistically, doubt that’s going to happen. Anyone who knows me knows I talk – sometimes too much for other people’s comfort. πŸ˜‚

I definitely need to come back when I’m not so emotionally raw so I can revel in the energy here. If Paris was a blind date, they’d be a hot guy that probably thinks I am an emotional wreck and not cool enough to even hang out with. Hahaha. I’ll be back for a second, better, impression. 

I head out maΓ±ana (working on my Spanish skills since headed into Spain πŸ˜„) on the train. Excited to get to the point of this trip which is walking and walking and to heal.

I’ve been having flashback nightmares. Anyone that’s dealt with PTSD knows what I’m talking about and it’s not pleasant. Memories from past abuse come up and even new, sometimes even worse than what I remembered, ones rear their ugly head. So haven’t slept well until today, when I took quite a long nap.

Super grateful for my uncle and his family for taking me in. Not having grown up around family since age 8ish, there’s always a period of awkwardness (for me) but they’ve been so lovely and welcoming that it’s truly been heart melting and I love them for it.

Tourist spots here are cool but seeing people making duck faces, putting up peace signs and taking selfies in front of them just isn’t the type of space I’m in and kind of irritating to me at the moment but if they’re having fun, go for it. I’m just not going to join in. Maybe next time.

Day 31 & 32

Day 31 – mile 313.5 to 332. 18 1/2 miles (29.77 km)

I get up early but dont want to really hike. I just want to stay in my sleeping bag. Takes me about 45 mins of snoozing and yelling at myself (in my head – not out loud, duh. I’d sound crazy doing that) before I get one foot out. My morning routine consists of this now:

1) Wake up from the sun. I don’t set my alarm anymore. My internal clock is tuned to the light of the sun these days.

2) grumble to myself about how cold/hot it is.

3) Remind myself things could be much, much worse.

4) Close eyes and try to sleep for another 20 mins.

5) Pretend I don’t hear other hikers rushing past me. They’ve probably been hiking since 5am. Crazy people.

6) Finally get up (still in my sleeping bag though) and dig a Pop Tart from my food bag and eat it.

7) Put contact lenses on.

8) Look at my torn up feet and bandage them accordingly. I feel like I’ve gotten to be quite the foot wrapper expert. I almost feel like one of those professional athletes that look like they’ve been doing it their whole lives.

9) Do yoga or at least a few stretches. This makes the world of difference for me in hiking so I really try to do it, even if I’m running “late”.

10) Pack up and start hiking.

So that’s what I do. Start hiking past the dam which is near the creek/campsite area.


I go past some day hikers. It’s a bit of uphill but a gradual one, which I’m totally happy with. I even have service so I call my friend, Cara, in Chicago. We talk for about an hour. I realize the long Slim Jim I was hoping to have as an easy accessible snack, had somehow escaped my belt clip. I bring it up because, days later, I found the hiker who found it and ate it. Lol

I leapfrog with Ghost (a Japanese hiker who hiked the John Muir Trail last year. Super sweet man!), Pilgrim, Junior and his group and with some young kids pretty much all day. They can’t be more than 16-17. One of them is called “Liability” because he couldn’t get a motel room due to his age and their motel’s Β liability policy. I wonder how cool their parents must be to let them do this. I also wish I had the balls to have done something like this when I was their age.

We go past Silverwood Lake. Some of the kids stop to go sunbathe and jump in the lake but it’s about 4pm already when I get there and I want to get to Cajon Pass as soon as possible (at mile 342) so I can get McDonalds. Plus, it’s quite windy and the wind is really chilly so wasn’t too crazy about getting wet.


I love gradual uphills!!

“Ghost”, my new Japanese friend.

Views at start of hike

Getting to Silverwood Lake

Β Β Β Β 

Resting my feet. Feels sooooo good.

I hike slowly so I just hike until the sun goes down. I feel like something is watching me as I pass miles 329-332. I shrug off the feeling and start singing Cher and Peter Gabriel. “That’d scare me away, were I a mountain lion!”, I think. Β Finally find a little spot I can camp at and get ready for bed.

My friend, Jen, texts me to tell me another hiker saw a mountain lion at mile 329. I remind myself to go pee before bed so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and be prey for this local cougar.

I heard that mountain lions sound like women screaming when they roar (as if they can’t get any scarier already, right!!?!) and I kept waking up to some weird ass screaming noises. I was still half asleep so wasn’t sure if I just imagined them or not. Either way, I sure as hell wasn’t getting out from my covers.

The night was super windy. Another storm was supposedly coming in. While I hate hiking in high heat, this cold also was getting to me. It’s very hard to sleep when you’re cold and you get all stiff by morning time.

Day 32 – mile 332 to 342 – 10 measly miles (16.1 km)

Maybe it was because I had the worst sleep but the 10 miles (which were mostly downhill too!) to Cajon Pass wiped me out. My feet were KILLING me! I tried to take a break a few times but bees swarmed me each time. Must’ve been my musky scent since itd been about 5 days since my last shower. The winds were picking up and were really strong. I kept feeling like I’d be blown off the mountain (and I’m not a scrawny girl!).

Views that day were gorgeous though.


Β Β Β Β Β Β 
Got to McDonalds. Mama Squirrel, No Boundary, Stretch, Frankenstein, Bird, Doolittle and Chugs were all there but wanted to get ahead of the storm, which I didn’t think possible since it was going to hit the next day in Wrightwood, our next stop, which is higher in elevation and usually always gets snow. So they left.

Pilgrim, Gabe and I were all for waiting out the storm though and got a place at the Best Western. Β I couldn’t wait to take a shower!!! The dirt coming off me was unbelievable!

Dirty ass legs! Lol

Day 28, 29 & 30

Day 28 – mile 266 to mile 283 – 17 mile (27 km) day

Was sad leaving Big Bear. Whenever I’m in town and about to leave, I have this part of me that doesn’t want to go back on trail. But the other part of me is super antsy and wanting to be hitting the dirt already. It’s super weird. There’s like a war inside me every time I’m going to/in and leaving town.

Trail was pretty straightforward – not much incline except the first couple of miles. After that, was pretty straight and then after mile 281, it was just downhill (although not a direct decline – just little ups and then random quick steep declines. I prefer straight downhill since I like running down those).

   
       
Went through the land of dead and living trees. Apparently, a while ago, there was a fire so there are still standing dead trees all over the place. It was eery but beautiful.

   
 

  

Meant to go to mile 285 since that was the next water source and a large campground but the sun was going to set soon so just camped at 283 (and, not going to lie, my feet hurt. I think my feet thought I was done hiking since I took so many days off at Big Bear).

Sunset that night was beautiful!

   


Day 29 – mile 283 to 298.5 – 15.5 miles (25ish km)

Not a big day. My feet seemed to have turned to mush since Big Bear and were acting like they’d never backpacked before. My left hip flexor was seizing up and super painful. 

I did some yoga stretches in the morning which actually REALLY helped my hip flexor but my feet were dead by the time we reached Splinter Cabin even though it was only 15 1/2 miles.

At this point, I had to remind myself that – in the beginning of this trek – I couldn’t even do 15 miles with a huge pack. I’ve come a long way. It’s hard to congratulate yourself though when there are people running past you every couple of hours, making me feel like such a slow fat ass. 

That day, I met some rad people – Mr Noodle and his girl, Mama Squirrel and her husband, No Boundary. I also met a Canadian who was going to do a large section before starting a job back in Canada in June. 

A bunch of us just camped at a Splinter cabin since there was a flowing creek near ther (oh and they had picnic tables AND 2 outhouses!!!! Felt so good, being able to act like a normal person and go to an actual bathroom). 

   
        


Day 30 – 298.5 to 313.5 – 15 miles ( 24 km)

Feet are killing me. Huge blisters appearing everywhere – a big chunk of my left index toe (can you call it that since it’s a toe?? Lol) is gone. Mentally, I’m fine though. 

I see a group on the way out of Splinter’s Cabin. It’s another one of the groups of all men with the exception of a single female (something I’ve been seeing a LOT of. It’s quite primitive and something I’ll probably be writing about soon. I’ve yet to see a group of men with more than a single female. And the prettier the female, the larger the group of men around her). I say “hi!” Cheerily and ask where they hiked in from. It’s inane chit chat but they were breaking so thought I’d be friendly. I’m met with stone faces and one of the young guys snarkily says “Mexican border”. I fake laugh. “Oh, an asshole!”, I think. Unfortunately, there are a few of those on trail for some reason. The girl in the group is the only one who smiles back and is in any way friendly. Thankfully, they pass me quickly so I don’t have to be near them.

I hit mile 300

  
I meet an Israeli by the name of “Ram”. He seems to be gliding down the trail effortlessly yet he’s going quite fast. He passes me and I’m a bit jealous of how easy this seems for him.

I somehow meet up with him again after trudging a couple miles to a somewhat shady spot (did I forget to mention, it’s HOT! No shade really, either). We talk about the journey. He says he’s found his natural stride after spending so much energy trying to be in sync with everyone else and is now able to go longer miles. He talks about how he also takes breaks every hour, no matter what. He said something that hit home to me “The Gods seem to be pleased with my quest” as good things started happening since he had begun the trail. I pondered upon that as things seemed to be happening – both good and bad – since I had officially started my trek as well. We briefly try to contemplate the “cause and effect” (if you will) of journeys like this but give up. It’s time to keep hiking. I wish I could pick his brain a little longer but Ram is soon gone from sight.

I trudge on in the heat. My feet continue to swell. I take an Indomethicin (anti inflammatory). Deep Creek Hot Springs is at mile 309 and I force myself to get there.

On the way there, I kept seeing these beautiful pristine beaches near the flowing creek. It was such a tease since I’m boiling hot, sweating profusely and wishing I could be there. “I need to come back here and find a way to these non populated beaches, even if that means I need to climb a shit load of boulders to get there!”, I think to myself. It looked like paradise.

   
   
When I get there, the “asshole” group (I stereotype groups) is there so I feel immediately insecure. No way am I getting naked or near naked around these judgemental types. The last time I was at Deep Creek, a young nasty couple made a comment about my weight, which I was already super insecure about since my uncontrollable weight gain from my IUD. I started to cry. I felt so fat and ugly. A wave of insecurity washed over me. 

Then I realized I’m about to start my period and I’m probably taking everything WAYYYYYY too personally. And it’s also probably why I’m having such a hard time hiking. My body feels like it’s resenting every step I take even though my mind is in the game.

I meet an older gentleman hiking, by the name of “Pilgrim”. He’s hiked the Camino de Santiago (which is on my bucket list) and a part of the Appalachian trail. He’s now doing the PCT and plans to do a trail in Australia next year. I basically want his life and tell him so. He laughs. We bond. I haven’t bonded with many people on the trail but Pilgrim is pretty rad and we chat for a while. He then leaves. 

I get some water, treat it and elevated my feet. A naked old dude comes over and talks to me for a while. Some people make faces when seeing him, like they think his nakedness is funny. This reinforces my decision not to be near naked around these people. In Finland, nobody would’ve bat an eye at someone being naked in the appropriate surroundings, no matter how big their belly or thighs, etc. In America, especially LA area, I feel like most people are much more judgemental about superficial looks.  

I then had to leave before nightfall. Needed to get some more miles. Met another hiker by the awesome trail name “Frankenstein”. He went on ahead while I took a break.

   
      

Leaving Deep Creek. Chug, Bird and Doolittle up ahead. 

 

The rainbow bridge! 

      

Found a perfect camp spot just before 314 and crashed. 

The End. (Of that day. Lol)