Monday, December 2, 2013

3rd December-Donation day

I had notification last week from The Cancer Research Foundation that any donations made on 3rd Dec will be matched dollar for dollar, So donate a $10 and they will match it so in essence you have given $20, Pledge $50 and end up with $100, This has to be a no brainer,

Pre Walk

I mentioned in a previous blog that i was getting a pain in the arch of my right foot, Luckily for me my wife has had a broken toe and has been seeing a foot surgeon, On one of the visits i mentioned this to him and asked if he thought it was Plantar fasciitis, I have some new inserts in my walking boots to help support the arch, He asked if i had exercised before walking and of course the answer was no,He gave me a sheet showing 3 things to do, One was to stand infront of a wall, Put your hands on the wall and keep your legs straight and push forward which will stretch your tendons, Next was to get a towel and holding in both hands put your foot arch in the middle and pull back on the towel, The last and most effective for me was to get a can out of your cupboard and put it on the floor, Roll your foot over the can using the arch, I did this for a few days and no aches and pains since, Simple really, You always see athletes exercise before a race so why not a walker/hiker?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who are you?

This is something that has gone through my mind many times, You are out on a trail, A long way from anywhere and you have an accident, You have left your wallet with details in your car and you are found unconscious, Who are you, How does that person get in touch with your family, What if you have allergies to meds etc, Last night i was looking through backpacker magazine when i found Road ID, Simple but very effective, basically a bracelet with all your info on it, I ordered one straight away, What i liked about the site was that you could design your bracelet and it showed it then and there, Lots of colors available and not expensive, It could be a life saver


People have been dressing in layers since time began, Vest/shirt/sweater/jacket and yet when it comes to hiking i still see people either cold or sweating, Its not rocket science, Take off when hot and put on when cold, I spend a lot of my time outdoors as a nature photographer so comfort is very important to me, If i am cold i will not be enjoying what i am doing and then the concentration goes and you may as well pack it in, I have shot in every kind of weather from the tropical jungles to the arctic circle, every environment needs a different type of clothing to stay comfortable, Winter is here and now is the time to really get it right if you are out on the trails especially if you are in wilderness areas, I only walk the local trails but still if i want to stay healthy i need to dress appropriately, Here is what i am currently using for walks up to 16 miles a day

Base layer
I am using a tee shirt from REI, They are very comfortable and wick tany sweat away that may form and keep you dry, They are polartec so although very light are also warm, Long sleeves or short works just as well, If i knew i would be walking very slow or taking longer breaks or the temperatures were bitter then i would choose a long sleeve over the short,
Mid Layer
The next layer could either be a light fleece, A good walking shirt or a soft shell, This is a lightweight fleece from Eddie Bauer, Very light and warm, I find that once i have walked 20 minutes and my core temperature is up i can take off the upper layers and walk in this and the base layer and stay comfortable until i stop and then put a top layer on
Loft LayerWhen starting out on a cold morning i wear a 'loft' layer, This comprises of a very lightweight puffer type jacket, These are not cheap but if you look in the sales you can pick them up around $100, When i say light they are featherweight and pack extremely small which is essential on a long hike, Every ounce counts at the end of the day, The lighter your pack the easier it is on your knees and feet, Again this is from Eddie Bauer, I have had it a year and it gets used a lot, even out shopping on those days where the wind bites,

Top layer/shell
Rain will bring its own problems, Firstly you will need a good jacket, I have tried the cheaper ones and they just dont cut it, Great for doing the shopping but i ended up with bad condensation which will make your other layers wet and then you get cold, You need a jacket that 'breathes' , A lot of jackets say they do but some breathe better than others, I have been using a Northface Guides jacket which has been pretty good, Not as light as i would have liked but has done the job, You will get condensation form inside but far better then some of the cheaper models i have tried, Today i hope to have taken that up a notch, Eddie Bauer have kindly donated a jacket for my Camino walk in April, Not just any jacket but a top of the range light shell, The model is a Rainier, Very light but tried and tested by some of the top mountaineers, I will be giving it a good workout over the winter, It gets the highest rating for waterproof and breathability, Sounds just the job,
 Thank you Eddie Bauer, I have purchased there clothing for the past 5 years and have always been impressed, I would not use anything that i was not happy with just because it was free, I try to buy Eddie Bauers First Ascent range which is their top of the line gear and have never failed to have been impressed, You can see that i like to purchase Eddie Bauer gear but you can get excellent clothing from The Northface and REI to name but 2

So that's my day to day hiking clothing, I have not yet needed to wear long johns even though i have walked in minus temperatures, As long as you keep moving and the blood keeps flowing i have been warm, I have used long johns in previous years when out in sub zero temperatures doing photography, I have some Cableas expedition under garments and they are great ,but far to warm for general hiking, If it does get cold on my legs i can always add my waterproof trousers. One thing to remember when shopping for layers is not to get them too small and tight, You need to have some air between each layer , Your body heat will warm the air between the layers and will keep you warm, if the layers are too tight there will be no air and you will get cold, If you are unsure if certain clothing is suitable make sure you see the words wicking and breathable, Some companies use the expression 'Technical Clothing'
The main thing is to know when you are getting (too) hot and to remove a layer before you really start sweating and when you stop add a layer to stay warm-easy
Obviously if you are out in the cold you need to keep your hands and head warm, Most of your body heat will be lost through your head, I use Under Armour cold gear liner gloves which are a perfect combination of warmth and thickness when using trekking poles, Cold weather head gear goes to Spyder for a wooly hat with a small peak, If its raining then an under armour peaked cap with the jacket hood up does the trick if keeping my face dry


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


With the trip getting closer its time to think about fund raising, After all the main reason for me to do walk the Camino is to raise funds for Cancer research and to remember my brothers who have lost the battle against this wicked disease,
To help find a cure please go to my page on the Cancer research institutes website here , It does not matter how small the amount, Every little helps and will be much appreciated
If you have a business or know of a business who would like to sponsor me and will donate over $500 to CRI i will add a link to my blog page and get the company logo on the cover of my backpack which will be seen right across Spain, I have been told (today) that i have my first corporate sponsor and when the goods arrive (clothing) i will reveal who the company is.
I do not think that there are many people who have not been affected by Cancer or who know somebody who has been affected, This is VERY important for me and the thousands who are diagnosed each and every year, PLEASE be generous and add your support


Friday, November 8, 2013

Count down

Time is moving one and its now less than 6 months until i board the plane to the UK, My first flight has been booked and i just have the forwarding flight from London to Biarritz to book, I have sat down with a friend who is coming along with me to sort the itinerary so that i can now book the final flight and the first 2 nights accommodation, Once that's done and i hope it will in the next week i can relax and concentrate on my fitness,
I have increased my walking and i am lucky to live a very scenic area with lots of trails, I walk on the MST which is the mountains to sea trail, Which not yet finished will stretch from the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to the NC coastline, Around 900 miles, The trails are through thick woodland and at this time of year very colorful, the leaves are now starting to drop and the trails are getting somewhat tricky, Only last week i took a tumble and quite a heavy one, I now use my hiking poles all the time, Which help if you go over on a rock/root or just wet leaves, The poles also help getting up and down the slopes and are said to take up to 20% off of your weight,
I have started using an APP on my Phone called Runkeeper which i have to say is awesome and free which is even better, Runkeeper tells you your distance,average speed and time which you can set, I have mine at the default of 5 mins and yes it tells you by voice, This is a good as well as bad thing as it makes you somewhat competitive and if your speed drops slightly i feel myself increase my pace, Purely physiological i guess, I train with 2 friends as well as on my own so have different speeds for each, I am currently walking 3-4 times a week up to 12 miles and a minimum of 7, My best week so far is around 50 miles and a max of 15 miles, I am at a stage of being very comfortable at 12 miles and with 5+ months still to go am very confident for the trip, I am not having any problems with blisters or hotspots which is a god send, Last year i was getting hotspots and managed 1 blister but after months of trial and error have come up with a combination that suits my feet and i stress MY feet and will not suit everybody, Some people swear on liner socks, Vaseline/sportslick, talc etc etc, I have tried all the above but just simply use my Salomon x ultra mid GTX boots with smartwool ultra light hiking socks and thats it, Since increasing my milage i am having 2 small problems, I have inner arch ache on my right foot and a pain in my left ankle that i have a pin and screw in from an accident many years ago, I dont think theer is much i can do re the left foot buy i am keeping an eye on the right foot to make sure that i do not get Plantar fasciitis, On my walk which was a very fast 11 miler i used some drop in Plantar fasciitis insoles that i purchased from walmart and they seemed to help, I may see a foot doctor just to make sure, better to get theses things sorted now, one thing that has happened is an increase in foot size, I think this may be a lowering of the arch caused by walking which is stretching the foot, I am now nearly a full size bigger than a year ago!! You will need to take this into account when selecting shoes/boots and i would always advise getting a full half size bigger than normal to allow for feet swelling and to stop black toe which is caused by your toes hitting the ends of the shoe when going down hill-you will loose toe nails if this happens, REI have a great returns policy and if you are a member and have shoe/boot problems you can return them within a year,
Since i increased my distance and effort the pounds seem to be falling off and i have dropped 17+LB in the last few months which is a big benefit, My last doctors visit showed big improvements to my health with decreased cholesterol, I wonder what my weight will be after walking 500+ miles,
I have hit the stores especially during the sales and now have some REI waterproof trousers which fit very nicely, The feel is of quality and they were very reasonable, I have yet to walk in heavy rain so will report back on that one, My outfitter of choice is Eddie Bauer, I have been a fan ever since living in the States, Everything washes nicely and feels as good as the day i purchased it, I have all kinds of layers, My problem at the moment is that i am shrinking weight wise and things are getting too big for me, Which is better than the other way around, I think i will need to replace a few things before i go and the boots will be one of them, Not that the soles are wearing badly but i have put 600+miles on them already, The insoles i feel may have compressed so a month or 2 before the off i will get another pair and give them a few walks to break them in,
I have purchased a camera for the trip, Being a photographer i though it would be easy but the selection of smaller cameras is huge, Image quality is very important so that means a larger sensor than most compacts, My mind was set on a Sony RX 100 but after looking around i settled on a Fujifilm XM1, My budget was around $800 so the Fujifilm XE2 was out of the question, The XM1 uses the same sensor which is 16mp, More than enough, The camera is lightweight and you can buy some very nice lenses if you want to make it into a proper system, I have a thinktank camera bag that fits onto the backpack strap so its always at hand without getting in the way, Obviously i would love to take my Nikon Dslr but the weight would be a PITA so it will stay at home,

Walking the MST at Falls lake

Surprising what you see at the edge of the trail, The articulated screen on the XM1 allows easy low level shooting

Its always nice to walk with friends
And resting when on my own
Keep putting one foot in-front of the other


Monday, August 5, 2013


Its been forever since my last blog, I have had no end of problems getting back into my account but thats now solved and we can move on,
Since my last blog i have continued my 3-4 times a week hike, The weather here in North Carolina is very hot and very humid during the summer months, This has given me some feet problems due to them over heating, To stop blisters forming i have had to stop more frequently and take my boots off to let the socks dry out and to allow my feet to cool down, I have been walking along the road which does mot help as the pavement it very hot, I will have to go back to walking along the trails around Falls lake,
I decided to get some lightweight and airy shoes and opted for the Merrel Mix Master, These are very lightweight and the tops are very airy allowing air to circulate and for heat to disipate, One problem i get with these type of shoe is the inner sole rubs the side of my heal, A quick adjustment to the inner sole, moving it slightly to one side makes them very comfortable but they soon move back, I think i may be taking these on my trek next April as a walking shoe if it gets hot and a shoe for the evenings.
I have pretty much everything i need to the Camino except for leg rain gear, I will get some before the winter and will either go for the North face or Marmot, I want a lightweight rain pain that has a zip up the leg for easy access with boots on
One thing that i have taken to is cycling, I go out about 3 times a week and cover up to 17 miles at a time, This will help with my thigh muscles and cardo workout and hopefully will help on the hilly sections,
I am still undecided on what camera i will take with me, Either a good quality compact and there seem to be new models every week or take a small Dslr, I have plenty of time to decide but either way quality must come first,
I have now (today) booked my flight tickets for the end of April, Yes its early but i now have a date and can start counting the days, I will increase the walking over the winter until i can easily walk 10-15 miles on a daily basis,
Now that i have accessed my account i will post on a more regular basis


Monday, February 11, 2013

Wet and Dry

I have continued my weekly walking of around 30-35 miles, I try to get out 4 times a week but sometimes thats not possible so 3 longer walks of around 11-12 miles instead of 4 7-10 mile hikes, I have changed a few things, Firstly underwear, Nothing worse than feeling wet so i have bought some Exofficio pants and i have to say that they are brilliant, Before my old cotton Hanes boxers would be soaking and stay that way making it uncomfortable and cold, The new pants wick the sweat away instantly and are super comfortable, I guess that they should be at $26 a pair, By far the most expensive underwear that i have ever bought but they are so comfortable and stay in shape even if you sleep in them that i will be buying more, I can not rate these highly enough,
Hydration is also very very important, At the moment i have been using camelback water bottles which being insulated work fine at keeping the water cool, But i have to stop and take my backpack off to get to them, Its not a problem at the moment as i walk 45-60 minutes between stops before stopping for a drink and a rest, However the temperatures here are starting to rise and spring is in the air, Its normally over 90 degrees in the summer so drink stops will be very regular and i dont want to stop every 5-10 minutes so i have been looking at a hydration pack for my Osprey backpack, Having one of these means that i can take a sip as i go, They are not expensive so i will soon get one and see how it goes, The downside is that you have to clean them out regularly otherwise you can get bacteria in them and thats not nice, If you do not drink enough water you will start to get cramps and even tendinitis so keep drinking even if you don't think that you need it, Even when walking in exxtreme cold conditions you need to keep hydrated,
I have been reading various hiking websites and many advise to put some lubricant on your feet then a liner sock with a smartwool sock on top, I already have the socks so just needed the lubricant, Vaseline will do but i went for the silicon variety called sportslick which will seal your feet and stop blisters caused by friction, I have not had blister problems and don't want them, Its a little bit messy getting it on but soap and water will remove it, I still get a warm under foot on my left foot but its never gotten any worse and a couple of minutes rest and i am ready to go for another hour, I have started to tie my left boot very tight at the foot and its certainly helped, I think my feet may be a tad narrow for the boot but over all i am very happy with my North face boots,
It looks like its going to be a wet week here in NC so the treadmill will be getting some use


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Begining

As with all things its best to start at the beginning and give you an idea of what, why and where.  I am 50 year old male born in Britain and proud of it, over the years I have lived in Northern France and Switzerland before moving to North Carolina in the USA 4+ years ago.
 I love to travel and so far have visited over 20 countries, I have 4 brothers of which 3 have suffered from various forms of cancer.  Over the last 3 years I have lost two of my brothers to cancer which has been incredibly hard.  It was after my brother Gerald passed that I decided that I would do something about it.  My brothers had been diagnosed with cancer in their 50's and now that I am 50 it was time to change my lifestyle. 
I had watched the movie 'The way' with Martin sheen over a year ago and after my 2nd brother died I found the movie on Netflix so I watched it again and an idea started to form.  After talking to my wife I decided that I would walk 'the Camino De Santiago' also known as 'The Way', an 800km pilgrimage across France and Spain.  I will be walking to raise funds for Cancer research (more of which in a later blog), I plan to start my walk in April 2014 and hope to finish in around 35-36 day.  I will be walking the Camino Frances which starts at St Jean Pied De Port in France and ends at Santiago De Compostela in Spain.  My Wife plans on meeting me in Sarria in Spain and walking the last 70 miles to Santiago.
I am not an overly fit guy and this walk will be the challenge that I need to get me back to fitness and drop a few pounds.  I started to walk/hike a few months ago and now walk 30-40 miles a week, I have to admit that I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I am lucky that I live close to a State Park with 26 miles of trails, I walk anywhere between 7 and 11+ miles 3 to 4 times a week and also do a couple of training sessions on a treadmill, after a couple of months I can see and feel the difference.  Training here in NC will be a challenge as the summers see high temperatures and high humidity.  So far I have have enjoyed the cool/cold winter mornings, I have been building up some hiking experience and have been testing a variety of gear and clothing,

Below is a list of the gear I am currently using and why

Backpack-Osprey Atmos 50 This more than big enough for the trip.  Its highly rated by other hikers and has some great features, I love that there is  suspension that keeps the pack clear of your back allowing air to flow and keeping you cooler, Its works well, I had it custom fitted at REI who measured my back etc.  For training i carry 25 pounds and have no problems at all( During the Camino walk I plan to carry a max of 15-18 Lbs). Its very comfortable and well worth the money-Its a keeper, Also check out backpacks from Gregory which are very similar (my wife has a Gregory Jade 28)

Boots-North face Verbera Hiker GTX Its very important to get boots that work for you. REI has a great returns policy, try and if they don't work bring them back-No questions.  Well after many 11 miles cross country trips over roots and rocks I have not had any problems like blisters which is the scourge of walkers, they took very little breaking in and give good ankle support. Not the lightest but for my training they work fine, I have to say that I do fancy some of the Salomon light weight hiking boots and may try some in the future.

Trekking poles-Black Diamond Now you either love poles or not, its the first time I have used poles and have to say that I am in the love category. The poles have saved my butt many times after tripping over roots and find that they really help going up and down steep hills. The poles I purchased are expensive although I got mine in the sales but they are beautifully made and extremely light.

Clothing-The North Face Varius Guide Jacket I wanted a lightweight waterproof jacket and this fitted the bill and budget. I got mine in orange/black for 2 reasons, firstly I walk through woodland during hunting season and secondly I will be walking in mountain ranges, any problems and I should be easily found.  After a long walk there is some sweat build up but not as bad as other jackets I have used, its certainly waterproof and used as part of a layer system it works very well.

Trousers-The North Face convertible pants I got these in the sales at REI for under $50 and they are nice and comfortable, I would also look at Eddie Bauer and REI's own make which look good, Lightweight and fast drying.

Layers-I have been using a variety of Eddie Bauer and Under Armour base and mid layers. I like the Eddie Bauer base and mid layers in their First Accent range like this and this.  One thing I have found is that if I use the Under Armour lightweight T shirts as a base layer and do a long walk I can sweat and its not wicked away making you cold.  In cold weather the Eddie Bauer base layers work great along with a fleece or micro therm jacket as a mid layer.

Socks-Again very important, I have been using Merino socks by Smart Wool and love them.  I have dabbled with the light weight Injinji socks as a liner and find them with the smart wool socks very comfortable, no problems, no Hot spots or Blisters so far.

Sleeping bag-Sierra Designs,I have purchased mine very early as it was in the sales and have yet to use it so cant make judgement except to say that its incredible light and packs into a 11LTR compression bag.  I did lay in it on my sofa and was amazed how warm it was for its weight.

That pretty much covers the essentials for the trip.  Things like a first aid kit and water bottles etc can be bought anywhere but are essential.  I always make sure I take plenty of water and some energy food bars.

For more info check out-The Camino De Santiago forum and The American Pilgrims

Please check back and read my reports on my training and also new gear etc