This is my report for my Camino Del Norte hike. I started on May 17 at 9:05 AM and completed the hike on June 6 at 8:05 PM.
I primarily stayed at hotels and hostels along the way. My food was purchased at restaurants and grocery stores, and I had access to local municipal water taps. The trail is primarily urban hard paved surfaces with mixed hiking trails.
Often the trail divides without an official route. Markings within the cities were ambiguous at best. I tried to follow the official route as strictly as possible.
I interacted with strangers and walked with other hikers for brief periods of time. The trip included three ferry rides that are part of the official route.
I've included a daily report of my trip below:
Day 1 0-26.9 miles (26.9 miles)
Day 1 started off well, missed my alarm and did not get on the trail till 8:45 AM. I walked from France to Orio, Spain with some town stops along the way including San Sebastian. The trail has been beautiful so far, views for days, all coastal along the Atlantic Ocean, with a bunch of river crossings.
I walked 26.9 miles and feel a bit sore now. I need to figure out eating on this trail, missed several meals and did not consume enough calories.
Day 2 26.9-47.5 (20.6 miles)
Day 2 is going well! I slowed down and had a bunch more food. Lots of paved paths and great views. Sleeping my first night at an Albergue tonight.
I think I ate a kilo of jamon and queso today, but was able to find two salads too!
Day 3 47.5-70.1 (22.5 miles)
Woke up this morning looking forward to a cup of coffee, and there was no coffee. First restaurant was 12 miles away! That was the negative, the positive was that I had a huge three course lunch, walked 22.5 miles, and am ready to walk more tomorrow.
Dinner tonight was highly international, many languages and representation from at least 10 countries. Pilgrims dinner is a lot better on Del Norte too!
Day 4 70.1-95.3 (25.2 miles)
Today I made it to Bilboa and was able to have some excellent walking. There are parties everywhere with people dressed in all white. My lunch town had zero open restaurants because of the parties so I ended up eating two bags of chips and 3 cokes. Very healthy...
My feet are starting to slow me down. The walking part is easy but my feet are very sore. The majority of the trail is hard surfaces, which is much harder to hike than backcountry soft trails.
Still having a great time! I talked to a nurse named Alfred this afternoon. He started his Camino in Amsterdam via bike and is walking from France border to Santiago.
Day 5 95.3-117.4 (22.1 miles)
Today was a long walk out of Bilbao. The official trail had a large loop through the mountains above Bilbao, and then back into the main portion. After Bilbao I talked to a Korean student named Tae Yun. She is studying creative writing and wants to go to grad school aboard, so lots of things to talk about. We separated our ways at the beach and I continued on to the next town.
The elevation gains were minor today and it felt like I had a bit more recovery.
Day 6 117.4-142.8 (25.4 miles)
Today I walked really fast in the beginning, hitting close to 18 min/miles. The trail was super flat and fast, but still mostly hard surfaces. My legs are doing well, this is just like a really long walk in the park.
Feet on the other hand end up a little painful towards the end of the day. The feet start talking around mile 18 and that lasts for the next 3 hours.
It rained for the first time today. Just a little sprinkling. I've seen a ton of horses, cows, and goats.
Day 7 142.8-169.1 (26.3 miles)
First week completed and I'm already nearly a 1/3 done with this trail. I saw real rain today, talked to some nice pilgrims, and spent a lot of time on/next to the beach.
I really loved seeing the interface between agriculture, tourism, and the ocean today. Farmers planted right to the edge of the ocean side cliffs here.
Day 8 169.1-196.5 (24.4 walking + 3 boat miles)
The day started off with an amazing boat ride, and then I did a 20+ mile road walk. Oh boy... do my feet hurt. I ended up next to a Solvay factory, which processes raw materials for European markets.
In this town, homes are right next to the factory. I can't imagine the impacts on human health. Environmental Justice is totally lacking with corporations able to pollute communities, take the profits, and hurt the neighborhoods.
I walked by the pipeline for several miles and that was fun! I also ate really well today.
Day 9 196.5-221.9 (25.4 miles)
I left the factory village and made it back to the Atlantic Ocean. The trail was still primarily road walking, luckily a couple sections had grass next to the road that I could walk on (so much softer).
I'm starting to really slow down now. At this point, I could use a nice rest day.
In other trail news, I saw a man walking his donkey on his Camino. I also witnessed 2 men using oxen to tow a log. Somehow, I walked through an city build in the 9th to 11th century. That was cool!
At the end of the day, there was an insane squall line. I had to hide in a bar for 30 minutes till the lightning stoped so I could walk the last 3 miles.
Day 10 221.9-247.3 (25.4 miles)
I woke up this morning to a fully prepared breakfast. I slept in the hotel with one of the nicest hosts I've ever experienced. She was super concerned that I wasn't eating enough food and gave me multiple oranges that she personally grew in her garden.
I then proceeded to meet Dave and Cal from Scotland and was able to walk with them for 10 miles. We had lunch together and then parted ways.
This is where the day turned. I quickly realized there was hidden gluten in my lunch. The next 8 miles were pretty difficult but the trail was a lot softer, thus easy walking.
The last 7 miles were coastal walking and I ended up in a lovely town named Llanes. I have to finish my laundry now 9:10 pm, then get dinner, go to bed and start again tomorrow.
Day 11 247.3-269.6 (22.3 miles)
I recovered from the glutening!
The sun was in full force this entire day, and I engaged sun mode clothing (tights, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and neck gaiter). The only pieces of skin exposed was my mouth and nose. Boy I was hot.
I was required to walk a shorter distance because the sleep options were either here or my 8+ miles.
My shoes have gone completely flat from all of the road walking. I've been super creative making paths that avoid hard surfaces. There was more gravel today, but still too much ashpahlt/concrete.
Day 12 269.6-299.8 (30.2 Miles)
Today was a PR! I hit 30.2 miles destroying my previous hiking records. Hiking Personal Records usually happen because of mistakes, and today was one of them. I thought that there was a hostel just past the 22 mile mark...
There wasn't. It was a mistake on my app.
Then I thought there would be a hostel at mile 25...
There wasn't. It was closed.
Finally the sign you see here was posted with an invitation to stay at the local church. I had to walk up and down this town to find Father Enrique. He is a lovely man, and opened his church to pilgrims that are stuck in my dilemma.
Right now I'm eating my first meal at 9:50 PM, and will quickly go to bed after this day.
Here is to tomorrow and more long distance hiking.
Day 13 299.8-324.8 (25 miles)
Today was marked as new shoe day! I typically swap my Altra Lone Peaks halfway through my hikes because they start to feel flat and useless after 300 miles.
I purchased the new shoes 150 miles back with the expectation of the swap. In Europe, there is a system called inpost and you can send a package to yourself from online vendors. Super useful for hiking.
I felt super fast after putting on the new pair.
I talked to Tim today. He is a high school graduate about to start school for Industrial Engineering. His friends took the bus to the next city instead of walking, and he was alone for this part of the Camino.
Day 14 324.8-348.4 (23.6 Miles)
I started really late today because I was tired and I had an small episode at the bank. The bank was special... all due to my inability to use an ATM.
So I did all of the normal steps, put away my debit card, and went to grab the cash but the money went back into the machine! Thus, I'm in a random town in Spain talking to a bank teller and trying to figure out a solution.
We (the teller and I) ended up figuring out that I could make a claim with my USA bank to cancel the transaction. From now on, I'm grabbing that money as soon as it comes out! That was a lot better than the original plan of waiting till tomorrow to pickup the money.
After that I walked, and was able to run into the German student for a quick moment.
I've completed 2/3 of the trail and just need to wrap everything up with the last 170 miles.
Day 15 348.4-370.4 (22 miles)
Today felt a lot more like USA hiking with steep climbs, remote access to services, and less pavement. Overall the day went well and I enjoy harder hiking more than the flat road walks.
The past two days were extremely foggy and the humidity feels like it is approaching 100%. Lots of sweating going on over here.
I didn't meet anyone today. I saw some other hikers briefly but didn't get a chance to say hi. I typically stay in hostels (Albergues) and meet people at night. However, a lot hikers have a COVID sounding cough, and I've moved over to hotels for this trip.
Day 16 370.4-391.5 (21.1 miles)
I'm not sure exactly what I did today. I know I walked 21 miles, and I was able to breifly talk to a Hawaiian couple, a woman from Scotland, and a man from Lithuania.
I'm now eating dinner on the beach at this really nice shack style grill.
Our cat is sick, and I've mostly been thinking about home. I haven't had a sick pet since Puerto Rico more than 22 years ago. This is tough.
Day 17 391.5-419.9 (28.4 miles)
I entered Galicia today with only have 100 miles left to hike. The hike today included walking across this bridge, which hit every part of my acrophobia. I would have taken a picture... but acrophobia prevented that.
I then had one of the best paellas of my life, it had to have been a serving for two or three people. No struggles finishing it from this hiker. I then proceeded to hike in the heat with two pounds of paella in my belly.
After all of this, I ended up at a closed Albergue, then another, and another. I was forced into walking an additional 6 miles bringing my total mileage over 30 via my gps numbers.
My gps watch and trail miles are usually off by 10% with my watch always having higher numbers.
Day 18 419.9-445.1 (25.2 miles)
I'm fully into Galicia at this point, the locals will often start speaking to me in Galician. Imagine there are 9 Galician dialects listed on Wikipedia. Eventually they will pull out some Spanish to get the message across.
The trail was a climb for the first 10 miles today, it was hot and I was slowly moving up the hill. The elevation changes on this trail aren't too bad, but everything is hard once it is hot.
I talked to a woman today who also went to Waterloo. Small world. She has the FKT record for the Bruce Trail, super impressive.
Day 19 445.1-465.4 (20.4 miles)
My cat passed away today. I did not take notes.
Day 20 465.4-492.5 (27 miles)
Today I woke up at one of the friendliest hosts I have ever experienced. His hotel was delightful and truly the trail provided when I was in need.
Pablo offered to pick me up if I needed anything, gave me gluten free snacks for the day, and personally washed all of my clothes.
Long distance hiking is a strange activity that requires me to talk to strangers and ask for help on the simplest tasks. Every year I meet people just like Pablo, who open their home/compassion to me.
Day 20 + 11 hours 492.5-523.1 (30.6 miles)
I finished the Camino Del Norte! I averaged 24.90 miles per day a new hiking Personal Record.
Today I hit my best 50K, marathon, 1/2 marathon, and 10 miler, it was faster than my normal speed.
I was able to talk to three separate people today, the first was Phil, a German student at Tufts working on a MA in Policy Sci. I then talked to Mark, a Bay Area technologist, and he has actually hiked significantly more than me, including a Thru Hike of the PCT in 1980.
I finally talked to Reneé, a high school English teacher in Omaha. She has four daughters and we talked at lengths about education.
I finally arrived in Santiago at 8:05 PM just after a rain shower.