Monthly Archives: August 2017

Training for the Camino

My projected route will start at Pamplona, at the lower right, for some 450 miles of hiking…

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Some three weeks from now I’ll be winging my way from Atlanta to Madrid.*  (As in Spain.)  I’ll arrive at 8:30 Saturday morning, after an all-night flight.  (And no doubt suffering from jet lag.)

The bad news?  “Travelling east causes more problems than travelling west because the body clock has to be advanced, which is more difficult.”  Also, if you cross six time zones – like I’ll be doing – “the body will typically adjust to this time change in three to five days.”  By which time I’m supposed to be in Pamplona, getting ready to hike 450 miles, in 30 days, on the Camino de Santiago.

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And now for some background:  Last year at this time I was training for a four-day “hike” on the Chilkoot Trail.  I was also training for a canoe trip.  That canoe trip came after the Chilkoot-Trail hike, and entailed my brother and I paddling 440 miles “down” the Yukon River,* in Canada.

I described those adventures in On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1 and Part 2, and in “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  (As metaphorically illustrated at right.)

The “Chilkoot” was pretty much a nightmare.  For one thing, it’s not a trail at all.  It’s more like one big pile of &^%#$ rocks after another.  But I’m glad I did it.

I’m also glad my brother and I canoe-paddled 440 miles “down” the Yukon River, from Whitehorse  to Dawson City.  (For reasons including but not limited to the “naked lady” sighting described in my prior posts.)  So now I’m ready for a new adventure.

For one thing, between last summer and now we’ve had a contentious presidential election, and an even more contentious beginning-of-the-Trump Administration.  So my new adventure in Spain is a chance to get away from it all.  Then too, I’ve tried to keep pace with all the resulting mayhem since last August, but to no avail.  (For one thing I was going to do a post on a “Bizarro Trump.”  But that’s been impossible because it’s hard to tell the Bizarro version from the real thing.)  So I’ve decided to focus on some things I can actually have an impact on.

Things like my upcoming pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.  (Where I’ll meet up my brother in Pamplona, but not during the “running of the bulls, as seen at left.)

And incidentally, the map at the top of the page is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT.  That post described a 14-day trip on the Camino, starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.  But that guy and his travel-buddy covered the 500 miles on bicycles, not on foot.  (Though traveling on bikes could be a fallback position for us:  “an alternative course of action that may be taken if the original plan fails.”)

Other sites with good advice include Preparing for the Camino and Training for the Camino.

Then there’s Camino de Santiago – Helping pilgrims since 2004, and – for some “devil’s advocate” feedback – a post called 10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks.

Among the reasons the Camino “sucks:” Car traffic within earshot 95% of the time, monotonous scenery and unfriendly commercialism.  But apparently the biggest reason:

It’s hard to take a piss.  There’s little privacy. Cars and pilgrims are constantly passing you by.  After 3 p.m. most pilgrims retire to their albergues (huts) and you’ll get more privacy to do your business.  Nevertheless, at 7 p.m. one jogger still managed to catch me with my pants down.  [Emphasis in original.]

13 Dead Horse GulchWhich could be a personal problem.  And for that matter there was also very little privacy on the Chilkoot Trail.

But as I described the situation in The Chilkoot – Part 1, that was more of a problem of “cursing my fate” rather than answering a call of nature.  (See the notes…)

Then too, I ran into a similar problem kayaking into the Okefenokee Swamp – twice – for overnight camping trips.  But in that case it was a matter of no solid ground – in the swamp – for you to get out and stand up.  (For whatever reason.)

But we were talking about “training for the Camino.”  For starters, there’s a boatload of paperwork:  Making sure your passport is up-to-date, and has at least three months left after your projected departure date.  (Departure back home from Spain that is.)  Getting your pilgrim’s “credencial.”  Booking your air line flight.  Getting travel insurance.  Getting your pack ready, and making sure it weighs no more than 10% of your body weight.  (For me, 16 pounds.)

You could get all the necessary prep-info from the websites noted above, or other informative sites. Or, you could have an ex-Marine Sgt. Rock-type older brother who’s done the research already.

And sent a number of informative emails, plus a 4-page single-spaced “to-do list” to check before you leave.  (Not to mention a note saying, “I hope you’re saving this information I’m passing on…”) 

As to getting ready to hit the trail itself, the hardest part is getting your feet ready.  (Like the hardest part of getting ready to paddle six hours a day for eight days is getting your wrists and hands in shape.)  To that end, I’ve been hiking 12 or more miles a day, once a week, for the last several months.  And making sure my feet are in good enough shape the next morning to hike another five or six hours.  And for the past several weeks I’ve been doing my weekly hikes on the Pine Mountain Trail, near F.D. Roosevelt State Park, near Warm Springs, GA.

But there’s a big difference.  The Pine Mountain Trail is – I hope – far more rugged than the Camino.  Lots of roots, boulders, sheer drop-offs and slippery-rock streams to cross.  On the other hand the Camino seems to be more smooth and level, or asphalt-paved.

Naturally I’ll be doing a post-mortem in this blog, once I get home.  So “we” will see if my hike-training preparations were adequate.  But in the meantime it pays to look ahead.  And looking ahead to some time on the weekend of October 14-15 – some seven and a half weeks from now – I hope to catch a glimpse of of our final destination, shown below.  That would be Santiago de Compostela, whether the “Pico Sacro*” is in the background or foreground.

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“A partial view of Santiago de Compostela, with the Pico Sacro in the background…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the asterisk next to the passage “from Atlanta to Madrid:” The image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Spain, including a link to the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).  The caption indicated the words “No pasaran” translate to “They shall not pass.”  The caption further noted a sub-title on the banner, that “Madrid will be the graveyard of fascism.”  And finally, the caption noted that “Fascism was on rise in Europe during Spanish Civil War,” which somehow seemed appropriate…

Also, re:  “‘down’ the Yukon River.”  As explained in the “naked lady” post, the Yukon flows north, like the Nile River but unlike most other rivers in the world.  Thus the anomaly of saying you are paddling “down” a river, but also paddling northward, which most people refer to as “up.”  See The Straight Dope: On maps, why is north always up?

Re:  “Cursing my fate.”  See On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1:

What with my lack of depth perception, going over “one big pile of *&$% rocks after another” was like negotiating a minefield.  I wore heavy hiking boots, but they felt like ballet slippers. Every step was sheer torture…  I had just taken one of many missteps – especially bad that day – and let loose a string of pungent epithets. Then I looked behind me and there – climbing “personfully” behind me – was [a] sweet young [lady hiker].  Sheepishly I apologized, noting that I had “no depth perception.”

Also re:  The Camino.  See also Camino de Santiago – Wikipedia.

The image to the right of the paragraph “But as I described the situation,” shows “Dead Horse Trail,” so named for the number of horses who died on White Pass, the only alternative route to the Klondike gold fields in the 1898 gold rush.  As to which route was better – White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail –  “a pioneer – Mont Hawthorne – said there really was no choice:  “One’s hell.  The other’s damnation.”  

The “Sgt. Rock” image is courtesy of Sgt Rock Wallpapernocturnals.com.

The lower image is courtesy of Santiago de Compostela – Wikipedia.  As to “Pico Sacro,” see Pico Sacro | Web Oficial de Turismo de Santiago de Compostela, which added these points:

The history of the municipality of Boqueixón is closely linked to its main geographic landmark and greatest natural and cultural resource:  Pico Sacro, one of Galicia’s most mythical and best-known mountains.

Pico Sacro’s silhouette is a scenic point of reference in a wide-ranging area.

Pico Sacro is the source of countless legends and traditional tales.  The region’s inhabitants venerated the mountain before and after the arrival of Christianity, and it plays an essential role in the myth regarding the transfer of the Apostle James’ body.  It has a peculiar shape formed by rocks of crystallized quartz and a height of 533 metres above sea level.

“Let’s hear it for lawyers!”

atticus finch

Atticus Finch:  Old school lawyer who now might say “First thing we do, let’s kill all the clients…“

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Students at Middlebury College shouted down Charles Murray rather than listen to his controversial ideas when he came to speak at their campus in MarchI just read a great piece in the July 13 issue of Time magazine, Free Speech on Campus.

It noted there are some college campuses where a robust freedom of speech still exists.  That is, there are notable exceptions to those college campuses – especially lately – where demonstrations disrupt controversial speakers (As show at left.)

And what are those campuses with freedom of speech still?  They’re called law schools:

 Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness.  That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.  People love to tell lawyer jokes, but maybe it’s time for the rest of the country to take a lesson from the profession they love to hate.

Put another way, law schools teach people – and hopefully lawyers as a profession – how to zealously argue the merits of an issue without demonizing their opponentsname calling, or character assassination.  And that’s something we could use in this era of polarized politics.  That is, in this time where “moderate voices often lose power and influence.”

Charles Murray Speaking at FreedomFest.jpegThe article noted the telling example of Charles Murray, shown at right.  He’s a conservative political scientist who argued – for example – “that all social welfare programs cannot be successful and should ultimately be eliminated altogether.”

When he tried to speak at Middlebury College last March 2, he got shouted down.  Rather than listen to his controversial ideas, students chanted “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away” and “Your message is hatred.  We cannot tolerate it.”

Compare that with Murray’s reception at Yale Law School, where Murray spoke “twice during the past few years,” with a different reception:

Students and faculty engaged with him, and students held a separate event to protest and discuss the implications of his work.  But he spoke without interruption.  That’s exactly how a university is supposed to work…   People love to tell lawyer jokes, but maybe it’s time for the rest of the country to take a lesson from the profession they love to hate.  (E.A.)

And speaking of lawyer jokes:  That brings up Dick the Butcher, a character in Shakespeare‘s not-so-well-known play, Henry The Sixth, Part 2 He’s the character who famously said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  (The quote is more famous than the play…)

I wrote about Dick the Butcher in On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”  That post from April 2016 noted a number of things about that infamous quote.  But the main point was that maybe people don’t like either lawyers or politicians mostly because they are an accurate reflection of themselves.  (As shown at left;  “Mirror, mirror, on the wall…”)

That is, maybe there are too many nasty-bastard lawyers and politicians precisely because there are too many nasty-bastard clients – and voters – who hire them.  “The problem with lawyers is – after all – that they’re only doing what their clients want them to do.”

Which leads to my better quote:  The first thing we should do is, let’s kill all the clients.”  

Or the nasty-bastard voters who keep electing nasty-bastard politicians to represent them.

But the better course would be to bring back respect for the “professionalism” shown by old school lawyers and politicians.  (The term old school is “commonly used to suggest a high regard for something that has been shown to have lasting value or quality.”)  In this case, it could refer to the kind of professionalism shown by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy.

For example, even though they were political arch-enemies, Kennedy admired Reagan:

He [Reagan]’s absolutely professional.  When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do…   He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself…   He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it.  There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth.  And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

Having a personal philosophy and fighting for it with consistency and continuity.  And with professionalism.  What a great idea!  Which brings us back to Atticus Finch.

Even though he’s a fictional character, one law-school professor wrote that “the most influential textbook from which he taught was To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Another wrote that “Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles.”  And no small wonder:

The folk hero often begins life as a normal person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events…  One major category of folk hero is the defender of the common people against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure.

It is true that Atticus Finch is a fictional character.  And it’s also true that far too many lawyers fail to live up to the standard of “defending the oppressed” that he set.  But the main truth is that lawyers as a whole have made him the kind of folk hero they try to imitate.  And they are willing to listen to and “engage” with people they disagree with, sometimes vehemently.

People like Charles Murray.  Yale law students disagreed with him, some vehemently.  But they were willing to hear him out, to listen to him and engage with him.  And people like Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy, political arch-rivals who could “fund-raise” together, back in 1985.

So as I noted in closing the post on Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher:”

Now that’s what I would call True Conservativism

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Two lawyer-like political rivals – in the old days when they could “sup with their enemies…”

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The upper image is courtesy of gospelcoalition.org/blogs … atticus finch.  And as to Atticus Finch – the fictional lawyer in Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird – a Michigan Law Review article said “No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession.”

The full title of the Time article, Yale Law School Dean: Free Speech on Campus | Time.com.  For an opposing point of view, see No, Law School Didn’t Teach Us to ‘Engage’ With Racists, and Yale Students Demolish A Dean’s Weak Argument | Above the Law:

Confronting racism is difficult, but essential, work.  Promoting civility can undermine this work by policing the tone and speech of those who are oppressed, diverting our attention away from efforts to combat ongoing white supremacy.

Re:  The True Conservativism link:  The article linked-to began by saying that in the last 50 years “the word conservative has undergone diverse changes in meaning and value…  in short, a word reduced in quality of character and integrity.”   The writer –  – added this:

…our conservatism is ultimately the moral exemplification of our conservatorship; that the conservative as conservator guards against violations of our reverent traditions and legacy, and is, in fine, a preserver, a keeper, a custodian of sacred things and signs and texts…

All of which led me to the home page for The Imaginative Conservative.  (Which to some people may seem a contradiction in terms.)  The key difference:  That site offers a “conservatism of hope:”

Far too often, those who call themselves conservative offer nothing in the realm of art, literature, or theology, choosing instead to adopt the petty practices of modern American politics, interrupting questioners and hurling epithets at those who dare to disagree with them.  In addition, an essential part of true conservatism … is a commitment to liberal learning.  [“Be still, my beating heart…”]

Another point of view:  “Moderation is the true conservatism.”  See for example, A Conservative’s Case for Moderation | RealClearPolitics.

The lower image is courtesy of www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/08/senator_ted_kennedy.  The caption:  “Senator Edward Kennedy talks with President Ronald Reagan, left, on June 24, 1985, as they look over an American Eagle that graced President John F. Kennedy’s desk during a fund raising event for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at McLean, Virginia.  (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi).”