Sunday, March 31, 2013


Today is Decision Day. Time to make those final choices as to what will go into the backpack. For tomorrow is Departure Day for Europe. 

In 2007, a backpack that was much too heavy (30 pounds) left me with a lot of knee, hip and back pain for several years. (Note: Pilates sessions in 2012-2013 cured all...thank you, Myra!) Back to 2008, while recovering on the sofa from knee surgery, I devoured a recently-discovered book called, "Trail Life: Ray Jardine's Lightweight Backpacking." ( Through trial and error, this amazing adventurer has developed many techniques and materials that result in a great reduction in packweight. Less pain and effort on the trail = greater distance that can be covered, with much more pleasure. My fully-loaded, humongous pack in 2007 weighed just under 30 pounds. No camping gear, just clothes.   

After ordering a kit to sew a lightweight backpack from Ray Jardine, my new, fully-loaded version in 2009 came in at under 10 pounds. There are 2 reasons for this: my new pack, empty, weighed less than one pound (I have no idea what the 2007 model weighed); and I learned how to carefully select my clothing, based on versatility and light weight.

Back to the present: after months of deliberating what to bring, I finally had the final choices laid out on the floor today. Once loaded, I'm pleased to announce that the 2013 pack again weighs under 10 pounds.

Here's my present list of items that will be carried or worn:

hiking pants (convertable to shorts);
stretch yoga pants (my "evening wear");
lightweight leggings (for under hiking pants if Belgium is cold and rainy, and for sleepwear);

medium-weight Polarfleece hoodie;
lightweight Gortex rain/wind jacket (Belgium is known for cool, wet days at this time of year);

long-sleeved tops: (1 of which will double as sleepwear)
lightweight Patagonia wool long-sleeved top;
lightweight inner-layer insulating top;
sunprotective hiking shirt by Coolibar;

short-sleeved white sports t-shirt, in a breathable "technical" fabric;
sleeveless sports shirt, also lightweight;
swimsuit and goggles (for time in spa towns along the way);
3 prs. toesocks (these help eliminate blisters);
3 pairs of undies, bottoms and tops (2 sports bras);

1 pair lightweight gloves;
1 billed hiking cap;
1 lightweight knit cap (for warmth under hiking cap);
lightweight Teva hiking/trail running shoes;
flip flops for evening;

1 lightweight silk sheet-sack (for use in hostels);
1 lightweight chamois towel (also for hostels);
quart-sized ziplock filled with minimal toiletries;
cotton bandana

4 guidebooks about the trail;
very small notebook (journal) and pen;
3 chargers for the following items;

front pouch and its contents:
Panasonic Lumix camera;
iPhone (with a European SIM card, for blog, phone calls, and Kindle books);
Garmin watch for time and distance;
snack-sized ziplock used as wallet;
small compass and whistle;
"chapstick" from my favorite dentists, the Kinlaws
1 pair retractable hiking poles (mailed ahead to my hostel in Luxembourg)

I also packed a carry-on sized suitcase for my pre-hike traveling with Bill (April 2 - 18), but I think it's best not to bore you with this. My next entry will be from the other size of the ocean. Stay tuned for a brief report and picture(s) from both France and Portugal. Thanks again for your interest and support!

Monday, March 25, 2013


I have been gradually building up my distance and hill workouts during my walks. I was in super shape in January, getting ready to speed walk a marathon in March, when I accidentally slammed a foot into a door jamb, breaking the pinky toe. That set me back about 6 weeks, with a lot of catching up to do once the bones healed. The marathon was obviously put on hold till later this year.

I've been walking about 5 times a week, between 1-3 hours per session. I wear my hiking clothes and my partially loaded backpack on many walks.

Today's walk was cold, snowy and windy in Cincinnati's huge, historical Spring Grove Cemetery. Nonetheless, it was invigorating and very enjoyable.

The first of the following photos shows an angel that graces one of the tombstones in Spring Grove.

Our two "grand angels," Caitlyn and Maddie , were my hiking partners last weekend in Radner Nature Preserve in Nashville. I am going to miss them on the trails of Europe!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


While living near the Alps in France a few years ago, I learned about the multitude of "Grande Randonees," or long distance hiking paths, throughout France. In fact, there are 35,000 km (approx. 21,800 mi) of these marked and signposted footpaths.

One specific trail, the GR5, passed near our home on its way 1500 miles from Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands, on the North Sea, down to the French coast on the Mediterranean.

Because I ran marathons, my friends encouraged me to try this challenge as well.  Although hiking through the Alps and running 26.2 miles on pavement are not especially related, the idea of walking from sea to sea, through 5 countries, was just too appealing to resist.

In 2007, I started with the section that appealed to me the most:  south from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean.  It took me 5 weeks of hiking through the Alps to finish up at Menton, France, right on the French-Italian border on the Mediterranean.  I ended up having hiking partners 50% of the time (including my husband the first 4 days), which was quite enjoyable.  But I also discovered how much I enjoyed the quiet solitude of solo hiking.

The portion of the trail in northern France was my goal in 2009.  Beginning in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, I hiked south to Lake Geneva, again for 5 weeks.  This time I went solo, except for a  few days with a new hiking friend, Ravi, and the final day with my husband and our dear dog.

We're now living back in the U.S.  For one reason or another, I have had to wait till April 21, 2013, to complete this journey. My plan is to leave from Luxembourg City again, but this time follow the trail to the north and northwest, through Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland, to the beginning/ending of the GR5 on the North Sea.

And then I'll start planning my next long-distance hiking goal. So many wonderful trails are still calling my name.