Day 6: Pola De Allande to Berducedo

17.8 km / 11.1 miles

I needed a short day today and in retrospect, doing the long day yesterday set me up very well for today. Had I not added extra on yesterday, today would have felt like torture. Today had nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain, heading up over a mountain pass, but with the shorter overall distance, it was doable.

I left Pola De Allande a bit later than I have been normally leaving. I was tired and dragging. One of the “joys” of albergue life is accepting that not all pilgrims know to be quiet or limit turning on lights later in the evening in the sleeping area. Even though I was exhausted, the distractions kept me from getting to sleep as early as I wanted. Even though I got up at 6, I took my time getting ready this morning and didn’t leave town until 7:15 after getting a coke at the local bar.

Idyllic is probably the best word to describe my first two or three miles of walking this morning. A trail with a creek running along side it with some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen. The occasional cow pasture set among lush hillsides. I nearly had the place to myself, only briefly seeing five other pilgrims along that part of the walk. It was gradually leading uphill, but the bigger climb of the day was the next stage.

After leaving the ravine area, I started the climb. I took it very slow. It was nice knowing I had a reservation for today and with the shorter day I could take my time. Also knowing there would be no stops for water fountains, cafes or bars, I figured the less sweating I did, the better. I tried to revert back to my “rest step” days from climbing Mt. Rainier. Using that approach has helped me many times to conserve energy on a harder climb.

I didn’t stay long at the top of the hill because the wind and clouds kept it a bit colder up there. I also didn’t get much for a view until I started heading down the steep hill. When the clouds past, it was a fairly impressive view.

You could still smell the wildfire smell walking through here.

I would say after the first two thirds of today’s walk, it was no longer that exciting. Sure, it was green rolling hills and beautiful forest, but after what I’d seen in the morning, it just didn’t compare. But, there were cows!

Sometimes I feel like I walk as slow as these little guys.

So I told my mom when I called home for Mother’s Day that I probably talked more to cows than I did to people on the walk today. Luckily once I got to town I noticed faces I recognized. It’s a small enough town with only three options for food or drink, so I should be able to balance my people to cow conversation ratio before the day is done.

Right now I’m eating a quite large pilgrim’s meal at one of the albergues in town. It’s a three course meal, that could on a normal day probably feed three people. Since I’m going off a breakfast of a granola bar as my only meal of the day, I’m eating far more of this meal than I’d ever imagine I could.

First course is a big plate of salad with a bowl full of bread. (That’s tuna on the salad)
Second course is steak and fries.

Third course of the meal is dessert, but I’ll see if I can’t explain to host here that I don’t need dessert since I think I’m now officially full after the first two courses. It’s amazing how much you can eat when you burn an average of 4000 calories a day. If only I could get this kind of exercise on a regular basis!

Day 5: Tineo to Pola De Allande

27.4 km / 17 miles – 3000 feet elevation gain

Today was a better day, but it was also a very hard day. I had great weather from start to finish. The forecasted rain and thunderstorms only ended being a light sprinkle – far more refreshing than annoying for a day like today.

The hard part was the hills. I knew they’d be there but I wasn’t mentally prepared for all of them. The path climbed to two or even three high points of mountains today. And what goes up, must come down. My feet felt like they were going to fall off, but then I climbed the last steep hill to my albergue. It’s probably the nicest albergue I’ve ever stayed in. Absolutely adorable and my bed (lower bunk) even comes with real sheets instead of the disposable ones albergues usually offer. Andrea the host is super nice. I even met some ladies from Idaho on the steep climb to the albergue that are also staying there.

While the walk ended up being challenging for the last 5 miles, I had no complaints about the beauty it offered. And the cows…still waiting for my mom to get a cow for the family farm in Idaho. Perhaps if she’d seen all the faces of the many baby cows or their mamas I’ve seen on this walk, she’d be convinced.

How could one say no to this face?

Leaving Tineo was really beautiful with the sunrise and low clouds. It was hard to keep walking as I wanted to stop every few feet to take pictures. There was still mud to navigate but not nearly as bad as yesterday.

Bathtub with a view! (Or just used as water troughs)

So this is one of the lesser populated routes of the main Camino paths, and today I definitely felt that. Other than meeting some Australian pilgrims for a few steps and regularly passing or getting passed by a Brazilian father and son, I didn’t have anyone to talk to on today’s walk. I also think some of the folks I’ve been seeing daily stopped a few towns back today. The guidebook I have suggested a 9ish mile day. My legs probably wish I listened to the guidebook. Oh well.

Before I realized how many more hills I had to climb. 😃

After getting checked into my albergue, where I got a hand colored stamp, I headed to the nearest bar for one of the biggest burgers I’ve ever eaten. Tomorrow won’t have any options for food or drinks, including potable fountains, for 18km so I need to plan this evening for what I might need on the hike up the big mountain. It’s said to be the most difficult day of walking on this Camino. 😳

And here’s one more cow of the day trying to play peekaboo with me…

Day 4: Salas to Tineo

19.8 km / 12.4 miles

Today was probably one of the worst days I’ve had on any of my Camino walks, conditions wise. It was also one of the toughest mentally. I left Salas around 6:30am in overcast but comfortable weather and feeling lots of energy. I felt good about today, because it would be a shorter and “easier” day. Ha! If only. 😃

As I reached the edge of Salas, it started raining. It didn’t stop for a few hours. In fact, it turned to downpour conditions for some of the walk. My poncho could have used it’s own poncho…that’s how drenched I was getting. After a bit, I felt like I was walking upstream because the Camino path essentially became a small stream. Oh and did I mention that all day today was mostly uphill? Somehow even the fact that it was a mostly gradual uphill didn’t make it hurt my legs any less.

Oh and I got my first blister since my feet were soaked while walking all day.

Trying to look happy even though I don’t enjoy hiking in the rain. 😃

For the first four miles I felt good, despite the weather. But nearing the top of one of the long hills today, my legs just felt sore and dead. I knew I hadn’t done enough training on mountain hikes before this trip and today I felt that lack of training. But nevertheless, she persisted.

I had a not so great encounter with a younger German Shepherd. I thought he was chained up as you see many farm dogs here. But he had freed the chain from whatever it was attached to. He seemed friendly, but then he started following me and lunging at me. I think mostly to play, but when you don’t know a dog, having them run and lunge at you can be a little disconcerting. He followed me well around the corner from his house, I kept yelling at him to go home. But then again, I don’t really know how to speak to dogs in Spanish about such things. He kept following me and occasionally running at me trying to grab at my hiking poles or my feet. Some other pilgrims came along and they helped me get him back to his house. A couple times he tried nipping at their feet (common practice with dogs trying to herd things) and being a larger pup, I wasn’t sure he knew how to hold back. Luckily his owner came out to bring him inside when we led him back to the house. I generally don’t fear dogs, but not being sure of what to expect here, it did throw me off a bit.

Around every corner was another hill.

I think one of the things that made today harder was that I didn’t notice even one bar or cafe open to stop at. So I never got to sit down for a short rest, didn’t get my typical Coke Zero, didn’t even have a real bathroom as an option. I’m really starting to notice the lack of Camino “infrastructure” on the Primitivo vs the other routes I’ve walked. Cafes and bars are fewer and farther between. On past routes, you could expect some sort of available stop in most villages and sometimes randomly on their own. Today was short on villages and even those I walked through didn’t have options for a good short break. I found a vending machine where I was able to buy an electrolyte drink, but that was it.

Yep. The trail.

I had booked a bed in a hotel that also has an albergue, but after the challenge of today’s walk, I decided to cash in a free hotel night and got myself a single room at the hotel. No dealing with top bunks, no dealing with school groups that take over the kitchen/social area so nobody else could use it (as happened last night), and no listening to snorers. Plus the room came with a bathtub, which made my legs and feet really happy.

It turns out Tineo is in a beautiful area when the rain stops.

Tomorrow has the opportunity to be a short day, which I might be tempted to take, but I may also consider walking farther so I can make a future long day even shorter. We’ll see.

The Camino has tested me today and with the looks of the forecast, it may continue to do so over the next few days. But I’m still happy I’m here.

Day 3: Grado to Salas

22.7 km / 14.2 miles

Yesterday was a 16 mile day that felt like 12. Today was 14 miles and felt like 20. That’s how it goes on the Camino sometimes. I think day 3 is when your body starts to get defiant in accepting the torture you’re putting it through. Usually by day 5, the body understands the full routine and is more up to the task. Today also had endless ups and downs for elevation including a brutal hill at the start leaving Grado.

Today was meant to be sunny all day. I saw the sun, sure, but saw more clouds and the occasional rain – including some short downpours. I never did get all my rain gear out but stood under trees to wait out the heavy rain. That seemed to do the trick since the weather changed within minutes.

An older working farm dog that had made the rounds along the fence, while two younger dogs kept an eye on the cows in the pasture. It was clearly time for the old one to stop and take a rest.

Today I saw more cows and horses, and beautiful views – though I’d say yesterday was overall a prettier walk.

I did also see more pilgrims today. This route is much quieter in general than the Camino Frances or the Portuguese, so I’m noticing that I’m seeing the same few people over and over. There also seem to be a larger percentage of pilgrims from Spain on this route compared to the other routes I’ve walked in the past. This makes me wish I had started in on Duo Lingo Spanish sooner. What I’ve learned on there has certainly helped me out on this walk, but more would have helped. Despite that, I’ve had some good conversations with folks that don’t speak English and I’ve had to try to use the few words of Spanish I do know.

Wishing I had my good camera for this shot.

So I mentioned the horses. Those in the pic above seemed up to no good. When I was walking near them they had just run up the hillside. Unfortunately in their goofing around, it appeared one had a recent scratch on their back that I gather was from another’s tooth. My guess around this is because one had some blood on it’s nose that it probably got from adding that scratch to the other’s back. Nothing too serious, but hopefully their owner was able to attend to them soon after I walked by.

My other, more pleasant, horse encounter today was when one of the locals in a village was about to walk his mare and foal down from the small barn at his house to the pasture about a quarter mile down the hill through town. Mom was lead by a halter, but baby was able to follow behind at their own pace, which meant lots of stopping to smell things and take bites of grass. Little one was tempted to follow me on the Camino, but I told them they should follow their mom – and so it did.

I love the simple Camino signs, but I must say that those that are decorated in unique fashion are a deposit in the emotional bank account while walking.
There are old fountains every so often on the Camino, many with potable water for pilgrims to fill up their water bottles.

Salas is a charming little village to wander around. I arrived before the albergue opened and I hadn’t made a reservation in advance so I ended up with a top bunk (my worst nightmare of the Camino) in a nice little albergue. Many of the same folks that stayed at my albergue last night are there as well. The bunk bed doesn’t have roll bars on one side, so wish my luck that I don’t fall off in the middle of the night. 😳

Due to there being so few albergues along the Primitivo, I’m starting to think I should start pre-booking a bed, especially in a small town. It’s not the way I want to walk, in case I decide not to stay in a certain town one night, but I also don’t like the stress of worrying about walking up to an albergue with a Completo (full) sign on the door.

Tomorrow is a shorter day with only minor gradual elevation gain. Hopefully this will be a good way to get my body to accept what we’re doing before the bigger climbs of this Camino start.

Day 2: Oviedo to Grado

25.5 km / 15.9 miles

Today was beautiful and the miles flew by quickly. I started out of Oviedo before sunrise. Through the city, the Camino markings were the little metal shells on the sidewalks. But i quickly realized that I’d have an easy go of getting out of the city as a group of four guys from Spain were just ahead of me. With the stoplights, we ended up walking out of the city together. They didn’t speak English and my Spanish is quite limited. Another pilgrim shortly joined along with the group of us.

I stopped to search for a geocache that I didn’t find since I didn’t allow myself much time to search. I walked alone for a bit until a pilgrim/peregrino from Texas caught up with me. We then spent the day walking and chatting with each other. So far, all but one of the pilgrims I spent time walking with has checked into the albergue I’m staying at in Grado.

So I think I mentioned that today was beautiful. Farmland hillsides and beautiful mountains, rivers and streams. Yesterday’s scenery was fairly easy to beat but today’s walk outdid itself

I’m not a morning person. But on the Camino, I’m a morning person and it pays off in many ways. Not only is it cooler then, but the early morning views before the clouds have lifted are something magical.

Most of today’s walk was on paved roads. Some very small single lane roads and others busy highways. But we did pass through some more primitive roads and trails. Small portions were still a bit muddy. But overall good walking conditions. The major hill of the day didn’t even seem that bad – perhaps because the pilgrim from Texas and I were in the middle of a conversation.

I’ve showered, done laundry and am now sitting outside my albergue enjoying some beverages and potato chips. As you can see below, tonight’s experience will be the typical shared bedroom one expects from the Camino. Luckily I got here early enough to not have the shared shower experience. 😳 Most albergues will have individual shower stalls, but you’ll find the occasional few that will take you back to the misery days of junior high or high school.

Laundry can vary at albergues, but often it’s a sink outside and clothing lines to dry your clothes.

Bottom bunk!
Yes, that’s bird 💩 in the wash basin.

Grado is a slightly bigger town, so I’ll plan to wander around and hopefully find a slightly more substantial meal than potato chips.

Day 1: Pola de Siero to Oviedo

16.7 km – 10.4 miles

First steps of this Camino.

Today wasn’t a typical Camino day, but overall I do think it was a good way to start out. Being that I stayed in Oviedo, I had to take a taxi back up the route to Pola de Siero. Then I walked the 10.4 miles back to Oviedo where I’ll stay tonight. I say this wasn’t a typical day because I didn’t start walking until 10:30 this morning and I booked a hotel near the cathedral in Oviedo for tonight. So today I feel like a luxury pilgrim!

Started out with 338 km / 210 miles to go!

It was sprinkling when I started walking, so I did worry that I wouldn’t have the greatest weather for my walk. But shortly after my worrying, the rain stopped and I had pretty close to perfect weather for most of the walk. Minus the downpour that luckily started and ended while I was taking a break at a cafe.

A week ago I hurt my foot somehow in soccer. That, along with some lingering other foot pain, has had me worried that the walk wouldn’t be enjoyable. Luckily today most of the pain wasn’t there. I’m hoping that continues for the rest of the walk.


The guidebook indicated that I’d be on city outskirts and so I expected more industrial type areas, but I was pleasantly surprised that I passed through a lot of farmland before heading into the outskirts of Oviedo. I didn’t see any pilgrims on my walk today (since many start in Oviedo), but I saw lots of horses, cows, sheep, and beautiful flowers. The scenery of this area is quite beautiful.

When I arrived in Oviedo I visited the cathedral to get my first stamp in my credencial. It was then that I finally started seeing some pilgrims wandering around the city. Guessing many of those will be folks that I see over the next few days or two weeks. Seeing other pilgrims, along with seeing more Camino signs makes me feel like this is finally real.

King Alfonso II

Today wasn’t challenging, but tomorrow will be. Longer distance and a lot more elevation gain. I’ll plan to start out around 6:30am – much more consistent with my past Camino walks. And I’ll be trying to get a bed in an albergue with other pilgrims when I reach my destination.

Only 200 miles left to go from here!

A long but smooth day of travel.

The view flying into OVD

It was a long day of traveling since leaving LAX airport around 6pm yesterday. I think I arrived at my hotel after two flights and a bus ride around 7pm today. Everything went about as smoothly as it could have, so even if it was a long day, I’m ending it happy. The views flying into OVD and then from the bus to Oviedo were very beautiful. It made me excited to be exploring a new part of Spain.

Current view.

I’m writing this from a restaurant across the street from my hotel in Oviedo. When you order a beer or wine in Spain it’s customary to get some sort of tapas/snack to go with it. I have no idea what I just ate on that plate, but it was fantastic. I have a hamberguesa (hamburger) on the way.

I’m still trying to determine if I’ll start walking tomorrow and if I do, where I’ll start from. The way my travel plans worked out, I can add 1-2 extra days of walking on to the main Camino Primitivo route. So the choice is where to start. If I only start one day ahead of Oviedo, I can spare an extra day somewhere later on for either a rest day or to break up one longer day into two. Right now, I think I’m leaning toward that option. But I’ll do some reading in my guidebook after dinner to set my final plans.

Shells like these guide the way through Oviedo.

I’ve already wandered around Oviedo a bit for some exploring and taking pictures. I found the cathedral not too far from my hotel that the Camino route leads pilgrims past. As my aunt and uncle mentioned, Oviedo is a neat place to explore.

It’ll be an early night in for me after my burger, as I only got about an hour total sleep between my two flights here. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I could see that playing a last minute role in what my final plan for tomorrow ends up being.

Hoping that by the end of tomorrow I’ll have my first stamps in my credencial and have had the chance to meet some other pilgrims.

I’m going on an adventure.

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

-Jack Kerouac

I always liked that quote above, despite that I actually really love the office I work in. To me it’s a good reminder to go after your dreams. Make what may seem impossible, possible. Waiting around for “someday” isn’t a mantra I like to live by. And on this Camino journey, I’ll certainly be climbing lots of “goddamn mountains.”

Today after spending a little more time with friends in Los Angeles, I’ll board my flight to Madrid, then head on to Oviedo. I am excited and ready for my next Camino journey. But I’m also struck with the reality that this one may be more challenging than my walks in the past.

They say “The Camino provides” and I am hoping that saying rings true for me on this walk.

The List and final preparations.

As with tradition, I’m in including a post with my packing list. Most of my list isn’t changing this time around. The shoes and some of my clothes are new, but I’m going with what’s worked for me on my past Camino walks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? I will say that with this being my fourth Camino, I feel much less stressed about making sure I don’t forget anything important. As long as I have my money, passport and broken in shoes, I can get anything else I might need along the way.

Bridge of the Gods – crossing the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon

I’ve included the photo above because it’s from a famous location on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I visited the bridge this past weekend while out geocaching with friends. I had been excited to see it all that day because through hikes are of interest to me. I’m not sure I’d ever walk the PCT, but I’ve certainly watched documentaries and films that feature it. Visiting the bridge this weekend reminded me that I needed to rewatch Wild (based on the book by Cheryl Strayed). The bridge plays a role in a scene in the movie. A few years back I actually had the awesome opportunity to meet Cheryl Strayed and was able to tell her that her story has helped to inspire me on my own journeys. So naturally, watching this movie while I put together my Camino items this evening felt like a good idea.

Most of the list.

So now for the list. Some items may still go and there may still be some last minute additions or clothing changes, but this is the bulk of what I’ll be carrying all 200 or so miles in Spain.

  • REI 40 liter backpack
  • REI backpack rain cover
  • Brooks Cascadia trail runner shoes – goretex
  • Havaiana Flip flops
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Camelbak water bottle
  • Platypus foldable water bottle
  • Costco down throw blanket
  • Lightweight blow up pillow (splurge item)
  • REI rain jacket
  • Lightweight hoody jacket
  • Fleece hoody jacket*
  • 2 pairs of yoga pants
  • 1 pair of hiking shorts
  • 1 skirt
  • 3 pairs of Smartwool or Darn Tough hiking socks
  • 2 quick dry shirts 
  • 1 quick dry long sleeve shirt
  • 1 tank top
  • Ball cap
  • Lightweight poncho
  • Gloves
  • 3-4 pairs of undies
  • Backpacking quick dry towel
  • Toiletries including mini shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Fingernail polish (splurge item)
  • Minimal first aid kit including band-aids, moleskin and compeed
  • Advil, Advil PM, Vitamins
  • Mini toilet paper roll
  • Two needles with thread
  • One safety pin
  • Extra chapstick
  • Mini sunscreen/face lotion
  • IPhone
  • Fitbit
  • Battery pack charger for iPhone
  • Charging cables for iPhone, Fitbit and battery charger
  • 2 International plug-ins
  • USB charger plug with two USB ports (charge two things at once)
  • Camino Primitivo guidebook
  • Camino Credencial
  • Small carabiners to hang things from backpack
  • Mini roll of duct tape
  • Clothes line and pins for drying clothes
  • 1-2 Reusable shopping bags (for storing clothes)
  • 2 organization compartments to separate belongings in pack
  • Kavu fanny pack
  • Small wallet for credit cards/ID
  • Passport
  • Buff scarf
  • Sounders FC Scarf (splurge item)
  • Snacks and energy chews to get me started
  • Scallop shell

* may remove item

When I look at the list it seems like way too much stuff, but again, it’s a list similar to what’s worked for me in the past. And at least it’s a tad bit lighter than the pack Reese Witherspoon’s character in Wild started out with on the PCT. 😃

Next Thursday I leave Seattle for my journey. I will be detouring to Los Angeles for a few days before flying off to Madrid. I’ve probably trained less for this Camino than any of my previous walks, but I know I can do it. As my dad said for my first one, just put one foot in front of the other.

Training and getting prepped.

As this will be my fourth Camino, part of me feels like getting ready is old hat. But then this morning as I was going through my backpack and assessing what I’ve stuffed in it so far, I found myself thinking “Oh yeah, I can’t forget that…and that!” I know when it comes close to leaving, I’ll go through my past packing lists and make sure I have what I need. And trying to see what I haven’t needed and can remove from my past packing lists.

Today, as I’m writing this, I’m walking through my neighborhood. This is the start of what I hope to be at least a 10 mile training walk. I need to return something to a store that’s a 4 mile walk away, so that’s the initial goal and then we’ll see where I wander to after that.

As far as preparations go, I recently received my credencial in the mail.

I ordered my credencial from the American Pilgrims on the Camino group, but you can acquire one from a variety of places – including some churches as you start your journey. I’ll be taking this credencial with me and adding stamps to it from cafes, albergues, cathedrals/churches, etc along the way. To earn my Compostela (the certificate to show I completed the Camino) I’ll need to have stamps added from two stops each day of the last 100km to Santiago – though I’ll collect them every day of the journey For me, I love collecting the stamps in my credencial the same as I love getting new stamps in my passport.

On my “Camino de Sounders” training walk.

More important than making sure I have everything I’ll be stuffing into my backpack, is to ensure I’ve trained enough for the walk. While I call it a walk, the Camino Primitivo has a lot of elevation gain and loss, making it a bit more challenging than a casual stroll. I also won’t have the luxury of time on my journey, so I’ll be averaging 15 miles a day. One major way I train is through urban walks in Seattle. Luckily this means I have access to training on lots of hills. Last weekend, I turned my transportation to and from the Sounders FC match into a pilgrimage I like to call the “Camino de Sounders.” This gave me a good 11-12 mile walk on a beautiful Saturday in Seattle.

The next day, I headed out with a friend on a hike on the outskirts of Seattle. With another walk in the evening, I ended up with about 22 miles walked over the weekend. This is a few miles shy of what I like to do in a weekend leading up to the Camino. Usually I’ll try for a 25 mile weekend between hiking and urban walking over two days sometime within a month or leaving for my walk. I feel like this is a great way to warn my body of what’s to come and test out my sock/shoe combination.

Like my three previous Caminos, I’ll be using Brooks trail runners (this time the Cascadia), and Smartwool or Darn Tough hiking socks. This combination has worked very well for me in the past, so why mess with a good thing?! So far today, the combination is keeping my feet happy.

There’s still a lot more prep and a lot more training to do over the next and a half before starting my journey. But to me, that’s part of the fun.