Camino training hike 3 and Altus poncho review

Everyone has been asking me when I see them—at work, socially, my family—how’s the training going?

It’s going!

Training hike 3

Distance: 5.55 miles
Pack weight: 5lbs

A peregrina friend sent me her Altus poncho to borrow for my upcoming Camino. The morning of my third training hike, I saw the threatening clouds and drizzle and was excited to test it out! (Only in Oregon are we excited about this kind of weather!)

Honestly, I’ve been kicking myself since April 2013, when I passed up the opportunity to purchase an Altus in Saint Jean Pied de Port. They’re part-poncho, part-raincoat with sleeves, but not sold outside of Europe. In fact, today they’re not available at all because they’re not made anymore. When my peregrina friend offered to lend me hers to use in Spain, I was tickled!

As soon as I arrived at the park, got my pack on, and the poncho situated, this happened.

Keizer Rapids Park

The sky cleared.

Even with only a slight mist, the wind was strong. Ponchos are notoriously billowy, so I was curious to see how it responded in the wind.

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The hood has tiny clips allowing for adjustment of fit. The wrist sleeves are elastic. The zipper was surprisingly tiny–maybe to keep out water? There’s a protective flap over the zipper with velcro closure to keep out the rain. My favorite part is the back which works like a wedding-gown bustle. Snap it up, and it’s short when you’re around town. Unsnap the three fasteners, and it’s longer and pouchy to fit over your backpack.

Like a floating bright blue cloud, I passed three women with five small dogs. One quipped, “The rain won’t get you today!”

The earthworm game

After a night of rain, the paved footpath had thousands of tiny earthworms all over it. They reminded me of the little snails on the Camino path every morning. I hated stepping on them, so I turned it into a game. At my walking speed, I stared at the ground as they “sped” by placing my foot so I wouldn’t squish one.

This nightcrawler was so huge (I wear a size 11 shoe), he insisted we take a selfie together.

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It’s amazing how your mind can wander as you walk. Seeing this sign along the road into the park made me recall my early driving days in high school.

bump ahead sign

“Bump ahead!” yelled my impish, slightly younger-than-me brother.

The yell was followed by a shove to my forehead, bumping the back of my skull into the car’s headrest. “Hey!!” I replied in protest.

“Sign says ‘Bump a head,’ so I did!”

A grin. Do all siblings mildly torture each other this way?

Back to the poncho again

After 20 minutes, I was hot. I was afraid that would happen. The Altus has no side or pocket vents, no tiny armpit holes to let out the warmth the body produces while exercising. After 40 minutes, I took a short rest. When I took off the Altus, I discovered the chest and shoulder area drenched with condensation.

My first reaction was disappointment. I really wanted to use this poncho, so lovingly shared by a friend. There’s just no way to hike for hours with this much moisture inside. My next reaction was profound remorse: I had steered my friend toward purchasing this jacket for her own Camino. (I’m so sorry, Sarah!)

The danger in non-ventilating rain gear is hypothermia. All that condensation makes your clothes wet, makes you wet, and can lower your body temperature—especially if the air is cool, if it’s windy, or if you need to rest, sodden, for any reason. Wet and cold are not a good combination.

The problem is that the better your rain gear vents body heat and dampness, the chances of getting rain under the protective barrier increase.

So, I’m back to the drawing board. I do have my original Camino poncho, the model that leaked and is on the heavy side. If I can tape the leaky seams, it could work. It’s not ideal, though.

The other idea I keep tossing around came from a convincing article I read about hiking with a lightweight umbrella. A reflective parsol takes the place of rain gear, eliminates the need for a hat, allows for complete ventilation, and protects against sun (portable shade!). The average price is about the same as a decent lightweight poncho or rain suit. The down side is that legs can get wet, but that’s true with ponchos too.

So rain gear is on the agenda again.

In the meantime, I walked my longest training distance yet five and a half miles, and felt really good. No funky knees, no soreness the day after, just a touch of stiffness in my right foot toward the end. I’m averaging fifteen minutes per mile too, which is about right for me.

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More hikes are in the plans!

Do you have a good rain gear solution? I’d love to hear about it!

Camino training hikes 1 and 2

At a bent elbow of the Willamette river sits a quirky little park with just enough trail for training. Since my current goal is to increase distance (elevation comes later), paved trails on a riverbed are perfect.

Training hike 1

Distance: 4.12 miles
Pack weight: 4lbs

Late in the afternoon, Mary and I decided to go together to take advantage of the sun. While she bee-lined to the river’s edge to hunt for agates, jasper, and petrified wood, I did a full two loops of the park.

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We’ve had a lot of el niño-related storms, so the water was unbelievably high and running fast.

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At the end, we walked back to the car, and this spray-painted arrow appeared on our path. Whenever I see these somewhere random, they remind me of the Camino’s yellow arrows that direct pilgrims to Santiago. This particular arrow pointed us back the way we’d just come—just the way all my upcoming Camino arrows will be.

 

Training hike 2

Distance: 4.54 miles
Pack weight: 4lbs

Same park, different day—this time solo in early morning. I had the park practically to myself.

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It was lovely not having anyone around to stare at my backpack-and-walking-sticks getup. I swear I am going to train in the rain (especially if I ever get my Camino rain gear figured out), but I was so grateful for the mid-winter sun.

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The river is high again, but not nearly as swollen as before. As I walked along the path, I heard the croak of a great blue heron (AKA pterodactyl) protesting my presence and a number of songbirds testing out their songs (yellow-rumped warbler, winter wren, Anna’s hummingbird, among others).

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I spied a flock of small waterfowl bobbing in a back current, but I couldn’t identify them. As I stood there, breathing in the quiet, a pair of Canada geese aloft called to each other, their wingtips almost touching. It’s hard to believe nesting might already be in progress in late January.

This forested half-mile along the water is my favorite part of the park. The rest of my loop is through open field that runs beside an old hazelnut orchard. Although I resist taking my camera at all, I loved the sunlight, mist, and trees full of fuzzy catkins. Spring is coming!

 

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Most of all, I’m grateful this sweet little park is so close to home. It means I can get my early training and mileage doing without having to drive very far to a trail.

At the moment, I’m working on a training calendar that will help me get up to fifteen miles and will post about it soon. My hope is to feel strong before I leave for Spain. With these two first hikes in, I know I can do it!