I crossed the Pyrenees today, a part of the Camino that sounded exotic if not slightly dangerous and was one of the reasons I chose to start my walk in southern France, rather than in Spain. Our highest point was approximately 4,000´ which, though considerably more elevated than the surrounding area, and above the mist shrouded villages below, is still a good chunk lower than Denver´s 5280. Hiking up the road, past flocks of shaggy white sheep, golden cows with clanging bells, and dappled ponies, I moved relatively quickly, even though my pack is considerably heavier than most everyone else´s.
A Quebecois couple who also started at the same time are carrying compact packs, as if they are out for a day hike. A South African woman has even less, even though she is carting six weeks’ worth of insulin in her tiny pack; to keep her load light, she’s using sunscreen as both a moisturizer and foot cream. While I´m strong enough to transport my belongings, I felt ridiculous for bringing so much stuff, some of it the wrong stuff, even though I thought I had whittled it down.
It turns out that it’s much warmer than I expected, at least now. And it seems as if my fear of being cold (and wet), plus incorrectly transposing my high altitude hiking experience onto this adventure, motivated some of my packing choices. The weather could change by the end of my stay, but I´m wishing I had brought lighter hiking pants as a second pair. The long underwear I slept in last night caused me to break out into a sweat. For whatever reason, I have a surfeit of rain protection, when a simple poncho would probably do. It occurred to me that I let all the ¨worst case scenarios” determine what I would bring, that – back home – I wasn’t willing to imagine enduring even a momentary discomfort on this trip. However, if there is such a thing as pound-miles, carrying even an extra pound over 500 miles is considerable. Is it worth carrying something that far and only using it once?
As I schlepped my fear-filled backpack over the Pyrenees, I wondered what I could sacrifice (or mail home) to trim weight and for which contingencies I’d be willing to forfeit an instant and exact remedy. I still don’t have the answer…with the exception of my rain pants, almost everything else I brought seems ¨necessary”, even though I know that’s probably not true. Something to sleep on tonight.