As we learned from the experience of our last Camino, along with tightening your boots and lightening your pack, training is critical to surmounting to the challenge of backpacking for 490 miles, much of it over the rugged Pyrenees Mountains in the east of Spain and the more rugged mountains of Galicia in the west, some of which rise to an elevation of over 3,000 feet.
But then the challenge of the challenge is trying to find a mountain to practice on in central Ohio.
But there is a 350-foot-high hill an hour outside Columbus in Clear Creek Park near Lancaster, Ohio, and so we figured that walking up and down that 350-foot hill nine times should equal about 3,000 feet total, right?
So for the past few months we've been spending our Saturdays walking up and down that hill, usually walking the two-mile Fern Trail, which takes an hour and fifteen minutes to complete, but sometimes for variety walking the longer but less-grueling thee-mile Hemlock Trail which takes an hour and forty minutes. But those are only the basic times, to which must be added the time stopped along the trail to talk to other walkers who, seeing these two old folks hiking along loaded for bear, always stop to ask us what we're training for. We've actually met fellow pilgrims along the way who've done the Camino. While training for our first Camino we received some invaluable advice about lightening our packs from veteran pilgrims we met at Clear Creek
So the training days are long, but the trails are beautiful,
... and the Fern Trail has become so familiar that I've divided the trail into sections in my mind and given a name to each section: The Beginning, The Wretched Stones (named after a Chris Van Allsburg picture book that terrified my son Tommy when he was little) , The Meadow, The First Fairy Forest, The Deep Brown Forest, The Second Fairy Forest, The Not-Quite-As-Wretched-Stones, The End.
In truth, we've seldom managed to accomplish nine trail loops. We generally walk two or three loops, then break for lunch, invariably a cut-in-half foot-long Turkey-And-Black-Forest-Ham which we eat in our car after purchasing it from the Subway located in the back of the convenience store outside the park entrance.
After lunch we usually manage another two or three loops after which we're usually ready to drive the hour back to Gahanna where we always stop for dinner at our local Frisch's and, sweaty, dusty and dog-tired, drag ourselves into the restaurant where we each order our usual:
The friendly wait staff knows us now and, though they never ask, I sometimes wonder if they wonder about this older couple who come in every Saturday night looking (and probably smelling) as if they've just come off a construction job and who always order the same thing and then leave a great tip.
I also wonder if a few weeks from now one of the Frisch's waitresses will say to another, "Hey, you know those two old folks in dirty clothes and boots who used to come in here every Saturday night? They haven't been here for a while, have they? I wonder where they are?"
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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