Furry friend or foe?

A canine friend on the trail from Lyon to Le Puy

Dogs on the trail

One topic that comes sniffing around every once in a while concerns dogs, and meeting them on the trail.

You can read about encounters with packs of snarling dogs, and I’m sure they do occur from time to time. So far, after thousands of miles walking solo in France and Spain, it has never happened to me and I’ve never met anyone with such a story. I’m definitely not minimizing the concern – dog attacks can happen anywhere, and let’s face it, gnashing teeth are scary.

I’m a “dog person”, so I have a positive bias, but I’ve known animals that were fearsome and even vicious. So I’m happy to offer this good news: I’ve never been nipped yet. These are some memories of dogs in France and Spain. (more…)

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A walker’s “web mall”

My little cheat sheet of where to get the goods

Finding great hiking equipment, clothing, footwear, books and know-how can take quite a bit of hiking across the Internet Mountains, through the Webworld Woods and down the Hyperlink River – sometimes seeking solutions, sometimes tracking down a specific piece of gear. It’s gets frustrating when source “A” doesn’t carry the brand I want, “B” doesn’t have the model I need, “C” doesn’t stock my size, “D” is out of the color I like, “E” only sells at list price… (more…)

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Footsteps ~ Short tales of the trail

Crossing paths, Paris-to-Paris

Part of making a round-trip is finding your way back to where you started.  Sometimes, along the way you may cross your own path…

The most northerly of the pilgrim paths in France bears the Latin name via Turonensis – the Tours route.  It begins beneath the “St. James Tower” (tour St-Jacques) in Paris and heads south to Orlèans, on the Loire River.  Here it follows the GR-3 long-distance trail, running along the river through its famous valley of vineyards, forests, and grand chateaux.  (more…)

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Masters Class ~ John Hillaby

Thoughts and lessons from famous walkers

Britain was the subject of the second of his “Journey” books, which are still admired for both their literary quality, and for the easygoing descriptions of the personalities and places he encountered along the way.  The landscape, wildlife and history evolve naturally as he spins the tale of his solo parade across the countryside of England, Wales, and Scotland from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

In his subsequent adventure, Journey through Europe, from the Hook of Holland across France to Nice, he presents his take on some of the enduring themes and counsels of ultralight backpacking. (more…)

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Have a Happy Hiking Holiday

An ultralight list of gift ideas

Every year I get asked about “the perfect holiday gift” for the friend or family longwalker.  Since backpackers don’t want to carry anything extra, you don’t need anything big.  Think small.  Here are a few ultralight stocking stuffers.

Safety first.  Some of these trails are long, and people few and far between.  The next village or campsite may be “just over the next hill”, but it is over the hill.  This Fox 40 Micro Whistle is basic safety gear, one of the key components of any hiker’s kit.  You never know when one false step can put you in need of help, so be ready to call out.  Super loud, and only 5 grams. (more…)

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You can always have another chance

To leave that extra stuff at home

Whether it’s a business trip, weekend getaway, or trip home for the holidays, every time you travel is a new opportunity to pack light and pack small.  Ultralight travel doesn’t have to be with a backpack (although that’s still my favorite kind.)  Travel with a suitcase works, too.

A lot of us are used to just throwing a bunch of things into a suitcase and dashing off to the airport – but these days, with checked baggage fees piling on, taking less makes more sense than ever.  (more…)

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A Longwalking Packing List

Footpath through the Gers

My 2011 Pro Forma 30-Day List – Gear, Clothing, Supplies

Creating a gear and clothing list is one of the principal ways of planning a long-distance, and crucial if you want to start off with everything essential, no extra payload, and with the minimum possible weight for your needs.

This is a detailed list of everything – all clothing, gear, equipment, and supplies – that I’m planning to use for a walk across France in 2011. Although it continues to evolve, this is the current, latest, up-to-date list. It’s grouped by what I will have, which is not necessarily how I will carry it. It includes clothing to be worn.

This is an updated list of what I used during a 12-week walk across France, the Pyrenées, and Spain, from late April to early July, 2009. For my experience and purposes, this is adequate to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, for example. (No camping gear was used, or is included.)


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Getting Ready ~ Pre-Walk Checklist

South from Bergerac

One year timeline to the trail

If you’ve decided to leave your footprints on the sentiers de grande randonnée in France, make your own camino in Spain, or trek somewhere else, here’s a one-year timeline to keep your planning on track and your getaway gone. If you have less time before departure, do what it takes to catch up on the earlier checkpoints.

It’s time to start getting ready. There are a lot of tasks to accomplish and decisions to make in order to realize a fantastic, engaging, life-changing, healthy, robust journey over the land on foot.

: : Note >>> This is the general scheme we’ll be using for our 2011 longwalks. As we move through the year, we’ll update the list, and report on our progress and decisions.

Checklist ~ 12 Months

Commit. Tell your family and friends. Expressing a dream with words is the first step to making it come true. (more…)

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The Best Trail Walking Shoes

Bar in rural France

Tips on choosing the one best for you?

Shoes are a special class of walking paraphernalia. They serve as part of the wardrobe, but also have the technical functions of gear. Selecting proper footwear for any purpose is always important. For long-distance walking, it’s critical. It’s not often an easy task because everybody’s feet are different, and often the right is quite different from the left. What’s essential is finding the right shoe for you, which involves balancing a number of important factors. Very few hikers I’ve met claim to have slipped into a pair of shoes and walked away effortlessly. I know I’m not one of them.

Hiking boots, walking shoes, trail runners, sandals – whatever you prefer, you’ll live with your choice day after day after week after month. The right choice makes walking fun; a wrong choice can lead to tortuous, even dangerous days on the trail. (more…)

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Training ~ Weekend Walking

along the canal to espalais

Shortwalking your way to the long-distance trails

Wherever you live, if you’re planning to walk one of the world’s long distance trails, you need to get ready by walking at home. Training is so important, it’s hard to over-emphasize it. In fact, before finishing the rest of this article, you probably ought to get up right now, and go wander around your neighborhood for an hour. I think I’ll do the same …

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Welcome back.

Before my first European trek, I decided to take a little tour of my hometown. I mapped out a route to a string of my friends’ homes, which were each a day’s walk apart. Then I called them up and asked if I could take them out to dinner in exchange for a night on their couch. (more…)