Hoofprints of the Stag

Hoofprints of the Stag

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Equipment Search and Training: April 28-29

As the pilgrimage approaches (my flight leaves June 17 from Portland), I have begun purchasing equipment and organizing the equipment I already have.  At the same time, I have been trying to physically train for the trip so the first week is not absolutely dreadful.  In this particular post, I'll describe how a simple trip to REI to examine equipment turned into a moderately interesting training adventure.

So on Monday, I went down to REI to look at two things: backpacks and shoes.  I have some old hiking boots, but they are simply not adequate for what we will be doing (and they're coming apart as it is).  And the only backpack I have is a day pack I got from my dad for Christmas one year.  It's a great pack, and I use it all the time, but it is obviously too small for a month+ long journey across Europe.  I brought my book, "The Backpacker & Hiker's Guidebook," which has thus far been very helpful in planning for the trip, to aid me in remembering what to look for in a pack and especially in boots.

Osprey Aether 85
First, I looked at the backpacks.  The customer service rep helped me try on a bunch of different packs based on the information I gave him.  When I told him what the trip was for, he thought it was awesome (he was also one of the few who didn't assume 'month long pilgrimage in Europe' meant El Camino de Santiago de Compostela).  My favorite pack that I tried on was the Osprey Atmos 65, though after talking to my dad later on, I decided I might get a comparable one that is bigger, like the Osprey Aether 85.  There was another one I liked, but I can't remember what it's called off the top of my head.  I'll need to make my decision soon, so I can start training with it.

My La Sportiva Boots
Then I moved on to the shoe section.  It was there that I ran into one of my colleagues: the vice principal from my school.  I told him about my trip, and he got all excited and started offering to lend me all sorts of gear, and then he proceeded to recommend to me some various boots as well.  After trying on many different pairs, I selected the La Sportiva hiking boots they had.  They were very comfortable.  So excited was I to own this pair of shoes, that I wore them the next day at school, juxtaposed with my slacks and suit coat and tie (much to the amusement of my students). 

Sancta Catherina, ora pro nobis!
Incidentally, it was also the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena (April 29), whose city and shrine we will be visiting along the way.  We had Mass in the school's chapel and I made a little silent prayer for the pilgrimage through the intercession of St. Catherine.

Unfortunately, during the school day I realized I'd made a critical error: I'd left my book at REI at the cash register the previous day.  I called to see if they'd saved it for me, and they had.  I thought that I might drive there after school to pick it up, but then I thought, "Well, I'm in my hiking boots; what better way to begin breaking them in than by walking all the way to REI to collect my book."  I mapped it out at a 6.5 mile hike (one way), a little over two hours at a decent walking speed.

St. Ambrose Catholic Church
And so I walked.  I experienced a delay by getting distracted first by my school's boys' soccer match, and then I stopped by the girls' softball game, which was on the way.  So I didn't really get going until 5PM, an hour after I'd intended to leave.  I happened to pass by a Catholic Church, St. Ambrose,which I've only been to once.  I always enjoy passing Catholic churches on my way, and I'm sure Europe will oblige.

Graffiti Rock
On the walk, I spent my time on the phone with many people, catching up and reminiscing (but mostly just planning my visit to Portland this coming weekend).  On the way, I came across the rock with all the graffiti.  I don't know what it's called, but I call it simply Graffiti Rock.  Stymied by a couple of interstates and misleading 'shortcuts', I finally made it to REI.  My boots had given me minor trouble, so I spent some time asking the customer service rep about it.  I decided to keep the boots anyway.

On the way home, I decided to eat at a restaurant called 'Shivers.'  It's a burger and shake place.  I went in and felt very much like I was on one of my Small Town Adventures, which I one day hope to blog about here.  I asked my new one-time-only-restaurant-question of the server, "Let's suppose I am a traveler and this will be the only time I will be able to come to this restaurant.  What is 'the thing to get'?  If you could only eat here one time, what would be the thing you would have to order?"  It's a great question to ask because you quickly find out what food they're famous for or what food they make
So delicious it gave me the Shivers
best.  The server gave me an adequate answer, and I decided to order the Bleu Bacon burger with a shake (butterscotch), but they didn't mix the flavoring in very well at all.  Oh, well.

I didn't leave Shivers until 8:15 or 8:30, and the sun had only just set.  I talked to my dad about the various backpacks for a good while and a couple of other people on the phone, which made the journey seem much faster.  As I continued, I realized about an hour later that I was actually in my friend Peter's neighborhood.  I decided to stop by (after calling and checking with him first), and spent some time talking to him and his wife Katie.  After learning I'd walked, Katie insisted that I not walk the rest of the way home so late, and I, having not taken any 'Bellocian' vow to 'take advantage of no wheeled thing,' decided to let Peter drive me home.  Weary from my journey, I fell asleep quickly.

What a pleasant afternoon it was.  My boots held out well, and my feet were in decent shape in the end.  The walk gave me a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family and to enjoy the city of which, even after three years, I have seen so little.  But at least now my hoofprints have been left in a few more places.

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