Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Research...Nov-Dec 2013

I have read several articles about people who walk the Camino de Santiago or other long hikes such as the Appalachian trail  and come back "addicted" to the the thrill of long distance hiking.  Our friend MJ in San Diego walked the Camino 3 times in a period of 30 months or so.  In fact, it was the enthusiasm of MJ and her husband Dewey that convinced us to walk the Camino last year.  We were skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try.

When we were on the Camino last year, we would ask people if they had any desire to walk the Camino again.  Most, including us, said it was a one time event.  And, I think we truly believed that....

Since moving to San Francisco 6 years ago, we have primarily been "urban" hikers, taking many long walks around the city.  San Francisco is a terrific walking town, and of course the hilly landscape can provide a very good workout.  Other than occasional walks in national parks such as Yosemite and Zion, we mostly focused on city walking.

After we first returned from Spain last year, we started discovering the huge network of hiking trails around the Bay Area.  We are very fortunate to live in an outstanding outdoor haven.  Near our home in Sonoma, we found several large state parks with multiple trails in excess of 10 miles.   As we continued to expand our hiking horizons, we found that we truly enjoyed the beauty and exercise of these types of long distance hikes.  It made me think that perhaps we should consider another multiple week hike.  Not the Camino again, but perhaps something similar....

I began researching the various long distance hikes around the world.  While hikes like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Cost trail sound exciting and challenging, they are harsh- you have camp and cook along the way.  This also means you need to carry loads in excess of 50 pounds. No thanks!  While on the Camino, we enjoyed having a hot shower, a good meal and a comfortable bed to sleep in each night.  Our good friend Curt Nelson from Austin calls this the "luxe gypsy life" approach.

In my research, I discovered hikes in South America, a few in Asia and Africa,  several in England and France, etc.  but the one that caught my eye is called the Via Francigena, which goes from Cantebury, England to Rome, over 1000 miles.  Well, that sounds a little long, perhaps we could just do a portion...?  It is 650 miles from Lausanne, Switzerland to Rome, about 150 miles more than the Camino trip from last year. 

We have enjoyed several trips to Switzerland and Italy over the years.  In fact, a couple of years ago, we started to make plans for moving to Italy for 3 or 4 months as an adventure.  We even took Italian classes together (as always, Linda did a much better job than me!).

So, in my normal analytic fashion, I ordered several books from Amazon about the via Francigena and started researching on the Internet, including joining a Yahoo user group for the Via Francigena.  One interesting challenge for this hike is that the Great St Bernard pass over the Alps is only open from mid June to late September, so this puts a bit of a timing constraint on a trip like this.  And Italy can be very hot in July and August.  My work tends to be very busy from mid-September to October.  How to solve this dilemma?  Hmm....Well, perhaps we could start in the middle, say around Milan, then hike to Rome.  Then we could fly to Switzerland in mid June when the pass is open and hike back to Milan?

Ok, a plan is starting to come together in my mind..... Time to do some more work....

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