Thursday-Aug. 27th-A day of rest in Pamplona

Today was a well needed day of rest. After trekking through the countryside, my body could not take any more abuse. Health wise, I am fine with the exception of a mild cough and one blister, I am fairing a lot better than some of my fellow pilgrims. Perhaps it is the amount of prayer. Now I get why people go to cloisters. It is totally contemplative and you are always deep in prayer and thought. Of course, I am not that disciplined so I will not be joining any time soon.

After a crazy night of frustration with the cell phone, I went back to the department store this morning, well maybe early afternoon and found that my AT&T phone (iPhone) is locked. It is not supposed to be locked but boy they will hear it from me when I get back. The iPad SIM card is fine so I am not bent out of shape about it and only hope that if I have an airline issue, they will contact me via email rather than calling. 

Today I wanted to share a little history of Pamplona. The drawbridge gate at the entrance to the city after crossing the Rio Arga (Arga River) was known as the Portal of France. The photo I have of the sign will tell you more as it is too much to write. It is an ancient gate however and you may see from the photos the giant wheels of chain that it took to open the gate.

On my agenda today was to visit at least two places of interest. You could easily spend a week here hitting the entire inner city. First I went to the Cathedral of Pamplona. It looked vaguely familar and perhaps we did visit there in 2011 but I enjoyed it a second time nonetheless. One of the wonderful things about being a pilgrim is that the prices are slashed to encourage visitation. I will post a few photos of the Cathedral. 

After a self guided tour, I wanted to go to the Museum of Navarre however it was closed for the siesta period so I visited some other churches, had a bite to eat with Leon and then went back at 5pm when they opened. One of the works of art that I was excited to see was the Goya’s Marquis of San Adrian. Photos without flash were allowed so I indulged myself in the enjoyment of the view and have the photo to share. The church next to the museum is another magnificant work of art. Every church and cathedral here shows a fortaste of Heaven on Earth. The attention to detail is amazing. You will see a photo of a saint that had her breasts cut off. I never knew of this saint and had to cringe when viewing the painting. 

Walking back to my hotel along the Calle Mayor, I stopped by St. Saturin. A baptism was going to take place at one of the side altars. I had just taken a photo of the altar. St. Saturin was also called St. Cernin. He was the first bishop of Toulouse (France) in the middle of the third century. According to the brochure, he sent his disciple Saint Honestus of Nines to Pamplona to proclaim the Gospel. Later, he went himself he came to the city where he converted the first Christians, among them St. Fermin, who would become the first Bishop of Pamplona. The chapels surrounding the main altar are gorgeous.

Finishing with the photos as I need to sleep for the 23K trek to Puente la Reina tomorrow. This is the same walk I did back in 2011 when I was here for World Youth Day. I know first hand how steep it is so will need all my strength. I am keeping all of you in prayer. Please do the same for me.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

August 26th-The trek from Akerreta to Pamplona

This morning was to be a much shorter day so the day began later. Breakfast was not until 8:30am and I forced myself to eat something substantial. I have no appetite and it is exhausting just thinking about food but I know that the strength I get from nourishment will save me along the way, so I am trying my best to eat. I am sending photos of the view from my room this morning. The Hotel Akerreta is a 300 year old building and it is very old looking although modern fixtures and it has been restored to make it look great. The walls are so thick. The view from my balcony was amazing and as I was repacking for the fourth time, I watched out the balcony door as folks got an early start to their day. Many were going on Cizur and not stopping in Pamplona. The trip for me was only 11K but there were parts that were so uphill that I had to stop often. I tell you, stairs will never be a problem for me again. I am so grateful to have walking sticks to navigate the hills both up and down. 

The first stopping point was a small town called Zuriain which was only 3.3K from where I started. I did run into some people from yesterday and from the first day. I took Leon out of his pocket to take a photo with some nice lemon drink. After this brief stop, the trail became very narrow and hugged both the highway and the river at different points. Some of the trail was so narrow that one miss footing could easily cause a real problem. Lucky for me, I looked down and watched carefully my footing. The photos don’t even do the trail justice.

I arrived at the bridge into Pamplona at around 1:30 and was exhausted. Hung out to rest on a park bench and had a nice conversation with a woman from Holland who was awaiting her husbands arrival by foot from Zubiri. It was a long distance to do in a day and he came across the bridge while I was talking with her. She was thrilled.

I am going to reserve the history of Pamplona for tomorrow since I have a day of rest. On the advice of the gal organizing my trip, I went to the department store and bought two SIM cards, one for the phone and one for the iPad. I am unable to get the phone one to work, so I will go back there tomorrow after trying some tips that Kate sent me on email. 

I tried to go to a Pilgrims Mass but the hotel clerk spoke no English and told me that it was at 6pm. Of course when I got to the church there was no Mass so I brought my Magnificant and read all the readings for today. And boy, did the entrance antiphon ever speak to me today.

Ps.86 (85):1-3 Turn your ear, O Lord, and answer me; save the servant who trusts in you, my God. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all day long.

At every step of the Way, the divine interventions are real otherwise there is no way that I would even be this far.

So enjoy the photos of today and I will send some history tomorrow.

   

Hotel Akerreta a 300 year old building

  

The next three photos are the view from my room window

  
    
  

First rest stop, had a cool drink, hit the WC and got a stamp

  

My sun glasses broke at Dulles AP and this is my repair with duct tape

    
    
    

My room at Hotel Eslava, a small but clean room

    
 

The Camino-Day 2 walking from Roncevalles to Akerreta

Today was another long day. It was not has steep as yesterday but still my feet, legs and whole body felt the sting. The trail today was a mixture of many rocks with steep inclines, some pavement, paving stones to mix up an otherwise exhausting trek and forest with paths of dirt as well as total stone. I walked with some fellow pilgrims today who are all her alone as well. They range in age from 46-61 and are in fabulous shape. Only one is not an experienced walker but you would never know it by her long legs. They are from different places as well and a fellow American (Kris) but from California, a gal from Jersey, England (Jan) and another from Germany (Susan), somewhere near Duesseldorf. We began the day by accident, meeting on the trail after I spent the first 30 minutes walking with two other young women from England who had been walking since June 3rd all the way from England (yes they have walked already for almost 3 months and are doing the entire Camino. They are young, energetic and are carrying with them everything they need for the journey on their backs. After stopping for breakfast, at least a 30 minute break, two hours later they passed me on the trail. I am currently at the Hotel Akerreta which was further than my fellow walkers, so I had to walk the last kilometer alone but tomorrow is a shorter day (so they say) and I will reach Pamplona where I have my first extra day of rest. While I look forward to the rest day, I will depart from these gals who have been very inspiring. Today I had a conversation with one of them when she brought up the Pilgrim Mass last night and spoke of how beautiful it was until the priest announced that Communion was only for practicing Catholics. It prompted me to explain why and she went on to talk about judgement day. I found her dialogue interesting however, I explained the meaning of Communion and the reception of the host as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. I think she would love to be Catholic so that is why I went through the explanation. She said her husband is Catholic but not practicing. Like so many Europeans, the number has dropped drastically.

We stopped at a little cafe for a cold drink. While others had a coffee, I have kept to something cold. The breakfast this morning at Hotel Roncevalles was just too much and I made a sandwich to take with me and only ate half of it. My appetite has dropped tremendously and I find myself eating just to get something in my stomach for energy. Shortly after our stop, Leon must have jumped out of my backpack pocket where he was riding and he was lost. A really nice girl from New Zealand stopped me about two hours later and brought him to me. She was a wonderful example of caring that it was returned. She has a monkey so she understood. I am happy to have Leon back and he will be riding in a safer location from now on.

Arriving at my hotel tonight at around 6pm, I was given what would be called the smallest room I have every seen and the only other time I can remember a room this size was in Lourdes in 2011. This is testing just about every claustrophobic bone in my body. On a good note however is having a private bathroom and opening the door gave me cause to smile real wide. There is a bathtub. I fully took advantage of soaking these weary legs and almost fell asleep while laying there. Then I took a short nap. I actually missed the cut off for dinner but had some snack foods with me that will hold me until breakfast. Tomorrow’s breakfast is not served until 8am and my bag must be outside my room by 8. Tomorrow is a short walk day unlike today where I left at 8am and arrived at 6 with two stops to rest. One couple seeing me resting at the side of a building in Zurbiri asked me if I was okay. I responded ‘do I look that bad?’ It was  funny but I was in pain from a dreaded blister. It is not popped and I changed my socks albeit a little too late for it to do any good. But that is the Camino. We must sacrifice and suffer otherwise there will be no graces. 

I am still as happy to have come this distance and look forward to the next days ahead. The Buen Caminos are flying.

So here are some photos that I hope to caption. The wifi seems fine here so I will see what happens with amount of pics.

 

Map of walk to day with a little more distance for me

  
    
  

A short stop at a cafe and photos of our group

  
  

Jen holding Leon, Kris and Susan

  
    
    

The only way to go is downhill

  

Some times the Way is shown with stones

  
  

Overlooking the bridge in Zubiri

  
  

Tonights accomodation

  
  

Sorry for the duplicate photo don’t know how to delete

  
 

August 24-Monday The trek to Roncesvalles

If you saw me several hours ago, you might think I should be committed. Today was by far the hardest day of my 62 year life. Since I did not bear children (they arrived by plane) I have nothing to compare it to so I am going on I could have died but for the strength of prayer. I prayed the rosary and my feet pushed along. When you see the map that I will add as a photo, you will see the length. Of course I had to take the hardest route possible but truthfully I don’t think there is an easy route. All along the way I met new people and one couple from Brazil kept watch to see if I would make it over a hill. I dreamt of a massage at the end and only found out later that my hotel offered them for the cheap price of 25 euros. I would have paid more. My muscles in my knees when out at one point then I got a charlie horse right at the steep part of the mountain. I felt like Maria Von Trapp crossing the Alps to safety. Thankfully didn’t have any bathroom issues or water as there were plenty of stops to fill up. I am lightening my bag tomorrow because I did not use any rain gear and I am of the opinion that if it is so hot, it doesn’t matter if I get wet. 

The photos that I am sharing are of the actual route. At times it is a paved road which is very narrow and reminds me of Ireland last year and other times it is a field with a path and then it is a mud trail that seems to go on forever. At the top of the mountain the winds were blowing about 40 mph and it was chilly but I was so hot from walking that I didn’t even notice. All along the way, farmers have left their sheep, bulls and horses to roam free which is a little daunting when you have to go around the and the only way is behind them. I know better than to walk behind a horse so I was extra careful to be beyond where his leg could fly at me. I was kicked in the knee as a 20 something while riding a horse and it ain’t no picnic. 

They say that whatever goes up must come down. And yes the steep decline was made worse by the amount of stones on the path. Several people along the route. In fact about 40 or so people left when I did this morning but there were many times that I was just alone with my thoughts and prayers. We arrived at Roncesvalles at around 5pm which was my prediction for the 15.5 mile trek. I was exhausted and my hotel was behind the Monastery and just above the stairs to the church. I asked right away what time the Pilgrim Mass would be and it was 8pm. It was so beautiful it made me cry as did the blessing at the end when the priest brought every pilgrim to near the altar rail and gave us all a group blessing in 15 languages. The priest was remarkable and an older man. The main celebrant had the reader get readers from the pews to either do a reading or the prayers to the faithful. It was wonderful and great end to an exhausting day. I see by the time (it is already 11pm here) I have to hurry and get to sleep. I did have a glass of wine at dinner and will get breakfast with my room but they don’t start serving until 7:30 and most everyone wants to be out by 7am. So here are some photos beginning with the map. As you look at the photo, I took the top route. 

   
                          
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
The Church in Roncesvalles is called the Royal Collegiate Church of Saint Mary. I lit the middle candle for everyone  in need. 

Arrival Day

Hey everyone, well I arrived late last night very tired from travel but have managed to meet other pilgrims who are also beginning their journey today. I will post some photos of the journey but while I would like to say traveling was uneventful, it was not so. On the flight from Dulles to Heathrow there was a man in my cabin who was taken away by five Britsh police when we landed in London. No reason given just that there was an issue and we had to sit while they took him off. He went quietly and there was no drama.

From Heathrow to Paris was not a breeze and I have to say that as long as you are on British Airways, they bring you right to the gate unlike my last encounter with the airport where you are dropped by a bus to la la land. Getting the luggage and then walking to the Easy Jet terminal was no big deal.

Arriving at Biarritz, I was amazed at how small the airport actually is. It reminded me of the old Islip Airport. Okay here are some photos, then I begin walking. Met several folks that are on their way today. Had a pizza for dinner with Leon.

 Leon is my companion. He was purchased by me at Bean and I got the last one. He is so sweet and doesn’t mind having his picture taken.  
    
    
    
    
   
If I am not too tired later, I hope to write some about St. Jean Pied de Port. Too bad I did not plan an extra day here. Until later. Oh and wifi is not that great.

St. Jean Pied de Port has a small population of 1800. It lies in the Basque Region of Basse-Navarre and looks medieval. The structures are incredibly old and the architecture preserved from long ago. I arrived too late to attend Mass at the church above but it was beautiful on the outside. It is a hopping town in the evening but of course later the people go in early to sleep. I am going to end the update for Sunday’s arrival as I would like to get some updates from today. 

Day 8-Thursday, July 16th-Our last day in Yellowstone-Norris and Canyon again

We decided to return to Norris Basin since when we were there earlier in the week it was rainy and we were unable to walk the entire pool and geysers. The boardwalk has since been repaired and reopened and returning today was a great idea. The view from the top of the visitors center and museum is dramatic but as we walked the boardwalk, the colors are phenomenal and more sereal than seeing them from a far. I have taken photos of most of the signs because each hot spring has a name and after you see one, the tendancy is to say they all look alike but that is not true. Here are a few photos from this first stop and the best is yet to come. It is really hard to see in the photo but the boardwalk curves around the entire basin and the walk is a little over a mile. Sure getting our hikes in each day. 

   

  

  

  New boardwalk just installed this week. The repairs are never ending.


  

  

  

  

  

Next stop would be the hightlight of our trip. We headed for a repeat visit to the Canyon area to see a site called Artist Point, so heading East toward the main road that would eventually take us to the South Rim turnoff. But boy were we ever in for a treat today. As we crossed over the Norris road turn where by the way, they had closed the road because there was no more parking in the lot. So we headed across the road and were commenting that other than the two Bison we saw when we started out this morning and they were way off in the field, we hadn’t seen anything. All of a sudden, right in front of us were so many rangers with the road traffic pulled off on both sides of the road. I asked the ranger what it was and he said a grizzly had downed an elk and was off in the woods in full view. He said just drive up and pull off safely onto the side of the road. We drove up for a bit and parked and then walked back. When we got to the spot you could see pretty well the bear at work making a great meal for himself. Then I spotted a coyote looking for scraps but the grizzly was having none of it and the coyote circled to the left. Tom pulled out the binoculars and I pulled out the Nikon with my great lens and went to work just shooting photos. The bear was not nervous despite the fact that over 200 people had now gathered to watch the ordeal. It must have started early because there were people with folding chairs just sitting by the road watching and having lunch. I cracked up thinking that maybe some of the bears friends who could smell a tasty meal 18 miles away, would want to share a great picnic basket. Ha! So the following photos are those of the coyote and bear. I was able to telephoto the bear then crop the photo and zoom in even more with the iPad mini. BTW, best investment in an Apple product ever made. So enjoy my pics before I move on to Artist Point. This day has been fabulous.

   

    
    
    
    
   
Check out this license plate. Everyone who know how much I love wolves will appreciate this plate. I couldn’t resist and we have not seen any wolves.  We were all very safe watching at about 150 yards away. The Park Rangers here are awesome.

Moving on to the Canyon Road, we went south to the turn off for Artist Point for a view of the Lower Falls along the Yellowstone River. When I say that this is a photographers paradise, I really mean it however, as good as a photo may be you cannot replace seeing it in the flesh. There is a whole story about the painter who took some liberties with the painting and of course I took photos of the signs because I would never remember all this information. At Artist Point the Yellowstone River thunders more than 308 ft over the Lower Falls. Many birds make the cliffs their home and a birder had his telescope like device (yes Paul forgot the name of it) trained on an osprey nest. But we were told that eagles, swallows and ravens also live in the area. We asked this morning after seeing the one legged Osprey yesterday and learned that they fly south for the winter. We wondered how he would servive with just one leg especially since they live on fish and food they dive for to eat.

While at Artist Point there was a Ranger talk which we stayed to hear. We have heard all week about the Caldera and the huge volcanic eruption that occured 640K years ago in Yellowstone, emptying a large underground chamber of magma (partially molten rock). In minutes the debris spread for thousands of miles. The roof collapsed forming the giant caldera 30 miles across, 45 miles long and several thousand feet deep. When you look at the official Yellowstone map, the caldera is outlined and it is scary to think that we are due for another huge explosion. It it blows again, the ash and destruction will spread over have the US.  All of this information comes from the small brochure I got from the visitor center. You could spend months if not years learning everything about the park. We are so ignorant when it comes to knowledge of this area of the country. 

Ending our stay in the park with a rootbeer float and then seeing our resident Bison on the way out. This was a fabulous vacation and I am happy to share the experience with all of you. 

So here are some photos from today. This is our last day in Yellowstone and it was so sad to leave. Who knows when we will come back. Tomorrow we venture down to Salt Lake City for the weekend to attend a wedding. Making a short stop along the way to see a friend in the northern part of Utah.

Hope you all have enjoyed seeing the park from my perspective. Since the photo parts have been so easy, I am hoping that the wifi will be as good in Spain next month. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
   

Day 7- July 15- Fairy Falls and Fountain Paint Pots

Day 7 of this magnificent vacation proved all that it can be. The plan of the day was to hike six miles to see Fairy Falls. They did not disappoint. While the trail was not very challenging, just the distance and altitude alone made it long. Before reaching the Falls, there were two sections that were challenging to cross. One over water and the other over marsh with fallen trees. The effort was so worth it in the end seeing this beautiful waterfall. I am including some photos of the path and scenery along the way. Six miles, piece of cake. The first photo was our car parked across the street because the lot was so full. We are between the two cars you see. Then some stupid people decided to feed the Raven ice cream in a cup on the hood of their car. You can see his white beak.

I had never seen a baby pine cone so this was a treat. The path was gravel when it began then as it turned inland it became more narrow and moved from gravel to dirt. The chipmunk was a special treat.
 
  
    
    
    
   
While at the Falls we took some photos for others and had them take us.

   
    
    
    
    
 
Backtracking a little bit to show that every day we have entered the park, we have been stopped by a walking Bison. I think it is the same one that lives near the West Entance. He has created a traffic jam every day. The males will be moving on soon as it is almost mating season but for now they are solitary animals. The sign was from the path beginning after already walking over 1.5 miles just to get to that spot. The geyser was at the bridge before the trail began.

Next up is Fountain Paint Pot

We made a quick drive to get water and make a pit stop then backtracked to the Fountain. This hike would be much shorter and is all boardwalk that has been recently updated to Trex. It is so smooth. The amount of mud pools and bubbling geysers, odd looking springs and beautiful rock formations. We are constantly reminded that there is volcanic action happening right below our feet and it could blow any time but the predictions are that it is far in the future. There was actually a geyser too and silly me tried to take a video but put the phone on time lapse and only had the small camera so we got what we got. Here are a few with the names on the signs ahead of the hot pool.

   
    
    
    
    
    
 
We saw this Osprey on the way back to the hotel. He only has one leg and we wondered how he is able to hunt. This is the second time we took the Riverside Road back from Madison. It is a detour that hugs the water. Finally saw a beaver today but we went by it too fast to stop. It was just sitting by the side of the road. Just hoping it was not hit by a car. That is all for today. The adventure continues tomorrow and it is our last day in the Park. We leave Friday for Salt Lake City to attend a  wedding on Saturday and return home on Sunday. Time sure goes fast when you are having fun. 

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