Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pilgrims’ Progress #4: The Genesis of My Camino

For this entry, I interviewed Brent to find out how the idea of the Camino became a reality.  In his words...

For years I have been fascinated by long distance hikes.  In the past several years, the family had completed several shorter backpacking adventures, traveling to places like Minnesota (Superior Hiking Trail), Colorado (Colorado Hiking Trail, Continental Divide Trail), Alaska (Denali), Arizona (Superstition Mountains), Michigan (Isle Royale), Texas (Big Bend), and Tennessee (Appalachian Trail) to do parts of those trails, but I always wondered how far I could push myself physically and mentally.  So, a couple of years ago, I became interested in the John Muir trail in California, and as I was sitting in Jethro’s BBQ in Ankeny explaining my plans to hike it in the fall of 2013 (I did it! My first mega-hike!  We covered 200 miles in less than two weeks –finishing our hike by climbing to the top of Mount Whitney!), my friend Todd asked me if I had ever heard of the Camino de Santiago.  I told him that I hadn’t heard of this 500 mile long “ancient pilgrimage” but that I thought it sounded exciting. 

As my friend elaborated, I became fascinated with this romantic-sounding hike and its appealing location in rural Northern Spain.  Seeing my interest, Todd suggested I watch the movie, The Way, which is a film directed, produced and written by Emilio Estevez, starring his father Martin Sheen, that tells the story of a son who attempts the Camino de Santiago and a father who finishes it for him.  That night, I went home and did numerous Internet searches on the Camino de Santiago and was instantly intrigued with the challenge and the uniqueness of such a hike.  Then, I gathered the family together in front of the large screen TV and we watched the movie. I was hooked.  The family was hooked.  That is the whole family, minus Luke.

Later that weekend, as we were eating supper on the screened porch, Luke’s friend, Greg, stopped over to join us.  We filled him in our new fascination with the Camino, and I told him, half in jest, that we were planning to take a month next summer to spend it in Europe on a big adventure.  In general, the idea was gaining momentum with most of the family.  Luke wasn’t quite sure he wanted to go, thinking he might rather lead a mission trip to China next summer instead.  When Greg heard this, he was appalled and said, “If Luke’s crazy enough not to go, take me instead!”  As it ended up, the rest of the family eventually embraced the Camino idea, and Luke still decided NOT to go, much to his mother’s dismay.  He is in China now as I speak.  And we aren’t taking a replacement.  Sorry Greg!

And though Luke’s heart was captured by China and God’s work there (and really, what parent can chide their child for that?), the rest of the Haverkamps have chosen to fall in love with the Camino de Santiago in this the summer of 2014.

And that’s where it all began.

Buen Camino!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pilgrims' Progress #3: Jesus the Ultimate Ultralighter

Can I tell you something? 

I really love this whole ultralight backpacking thing. The nit-picking, number-crunching, over-analyzing process of deciding what I need to take on a month long pilgrimage has been a completely freeing to me.  I have labored over what/what not to include in my pack for weeks so that it can be as light as possible; I don’t want to carry a heavy burden on my back every day.  It’s so great to choose to lighten my load!  There are so many things I used to think necessary that I really don’t need—it’s wonderful to figure that out.  My life has been reduced to the just the essentials, and the sense of simplicity this provides promotes great joy in my soul.

Wouldn’t life be better if we approached it like this?  With a sense of freedom because our packs are light and are needs are small?  Reducing our worlds down to the bare minimum and choosing to let the voices of our greedy society go silent?  Wouldn’t it be great to figure out that it is ok to be satisfied with what God gives and realize that’s really all we need?  To be able to trust God with whatever he chooses to place in our lives and not be burdened with worry?

You know, Jesus was an extreme ultralighter.  He told His disciples in Luke 9, as he sent them out to proclaim the gospel, “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.”  He knew they didn’t really need anything but him.  Their relationship to their Savior was the only thing to consider.  When he said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” in Matthew 6, I think the ‘things’ he was referring to were all the ‘things’ we worry about, and think are necessary, like adoration, approval, and acceptance.  I think those ‘things’ weigh us down more heavily more than the actual things that we hoard.  If we choose to let go of who we think we should be and start focusing on God and who he is, we can let go of our fear of man and live the simple life of a child of God—unencumbered and free to chase joy.

Sound appealing?  Thought so.

Throw off your burden and follow your Leader, Jesus the Ultimate Ultralighter.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pilgrims' Progress #2: Packing and Prep

Today, my guest blogger and seasoned hiker, Tess, will be informing us about the packing process and the importance of limiting the weight of your pack.  Prepare to be amazed.

With less than five days until the departure for Europe and the Camino de Santiago, packing is in full swing at the Haverkamp house. With careful planning, we will reduce our worldly possessions for the next month to just over ten pounds carried in a pack on our back. As I have told people about the trip over the past few months, I have gotten responses ranging from hidden horror to unbridled excitement. Personally, I think the Camino will be freeing. Life always becomes simple on the trail. You don’t have anything to weigh you down, both metaphorically and physically. This is the concept behind a pilgrimage: you aren’t worn down by patterns and possessions of everyday life. You simply have to walk. And, as you walk, you can follow thoughts through to completion, uninterrupted by deadlines and to-do lists. You can simply be.

Now that we have the deep touchy-feely “I’m going on a pilgrimage” introduction out of the way, we can get down to the practical implications of such a trip. The process of packing can be quite complicated. Daily essentials must be paired down to the bare bones. As a rule of thumb, a peregrino (pilgrim) should only carry about ten percent of his total body weight. Fortunately, the albergues (pilgrims’ hostels) we will stay in along the way provide basic accommodations: a bed with a mattress (and sometimes a pillow), a shower, a sink, and the occasional meal and laundry facilities. So, unlike the wilderness backpacking trips we’ve endeavored in the past, this trip will not require tents, sleeping pads, stoves, shelf-stable meals, or water purification devices. Formerly, we would have called it “luxury camping”. We’ll see how luxurious we feel after a month on the trail.

Nevertheless, packing for the Camino is different than the other trips we have undertaken in the past. In an attempt to achieve to a light pack, the last week has consisted of the meticulous evaluation and weighing of every item in our pack, and ultimately, the creation an Excel packing spreadsheet (click here to see mine). This way, we can see which items are worth their weight, and which are better left behind. As a wise man once said, “ounces add up to pounds”. In theory this sounds great. But, soon you reach the backpacking-geek stage where you begin to question whether or not you should add in a third pair of underwear because they weigh a whole ounce. In fact, sometimes the desire to cut weight can result in some pretty desperate measures. Say, for example, that you thought you could bypass the weight of a razor by using this great hair removal technique you saw on Pinterest. This is purely hypothetical, of course. But, just in case you do ever decide to try sugaring, simply be aware that it may a) only work on about 50% of the hair, and b) cause a rift between you and your sister, who volunteered her legs for your new esthetician practice and ended up with large patches of irritation for the next three days. The moral of the story? Go ahead and bring that disposable razor. It only weighs two tenths of an ounce. It is probably worth it. Just don’t tell the ultralight backpackers I told you that. Oh, and don’t try to sugar your legs. I sure didn’t.

Now that we got that out of the way, here is my final packing list. I think it’s pretty swell. It isn’t “ultralight”; in fact I included some items that weren’t completely necessary. In total, my pack will weigh in right around ten pounds without consumables (that is, food and water) or the clothes on my back. All in all, I expect it to be right around twelve pounds. Take a look at the picture below and the spreadsheet listed above for a more detailed explanation on each item.

·       GossamerGear Gorilla Ultralight Pack (Not Pictured): A good pack is essential. You don’t want to be carrying a heavy or ill-fitting bag for a month. I’ll also be lining my pack with a garbage bag for rain protection.

·       Sleeping Bag: The albergues will provide a mattress for us peregrinos, but no bedding. Although my bag’s 15°F rating is a little warmer than I would like (a 30°F would be ideal), it’s what I had.

·       Pillow Case: I considered bringing a camp pillow (pictured below), but after some reading and consideration, decided that bringing a pillowcase would suffice, since many albergues will provide pillows. For those that don’t, I’ll simply fill up my clothing stuff sack and use it as a pillow.

·       Passport, Credential del Peregrino, Alternate Identification, Cash: I plan to store these important documents in a waterproof bag and to keep it on my person at all times. While my passport and identification shouldn’t be too important while on the trail, the credential, and the stamps I accumulate at albergues will be used to chart and verify my  Camino once I reach Santiago de Compostela.

·       Nalgene Plastic Liter Bottle: Clean, cold, and potable water is available in almost every town, so it isn’t necessary to carry much more than a single bottle.

·       Small Notebook and Pen: Useful for keeping thoughts, memories, and contacts.

·       Headlamp: Useful for early morning or late evening walking.

·       Phone with Charger, Converter, and Headphones: While I will be turning off my service during the walk, a phone can be used for its camera, flashlight, Kindle books, podcasts, and music (all downloaded prior to leaving). Again, I will store in a plastic bag for rain protection.

·       SauconyTrail Running Shoes (Not Pictured): Good shoes are another essential item.  I choose trail running shoes because they are light and breathable, but also sturdy. I have been careful to break them in during a number of training hikes leading up to the Camino.

·       Rain Jacket: Nothing is worse than being cold and wet all day. I’ll also be using my lightweight jacket as a warm layer on chilly mornings.

·       Wool Long Sleeve Jacket: Wool is an amazing material; you’ll see it mentioned a couple other times on my list. It is warm, light, and clean-smelling (even after multiple uses). This lightweight jacket will act as a second long-sleeve layer.

·       Two Short Sleeve Shirts: I plan to alternate shirts each day, washing the dirty shirt (in the sink) at night , and allowing it to dry before the following evening. I am bringing one dri-fit polyester shirt and one lightweight wool shirt.

·       Two Bottoms: I chose to bring running shorts and knee pants, due to their weight and comfort, but hiking pants would also be a good choice. Again, I plan to alternate wearing each pair and wash at night.

·       Three Pairs Socks: Next to shoes and a pack, socks are arguably the most important item you will bring. So, choose high quality and comfortable pairs. I will be taking two pairs of Smart Wool hiking socks and one pair of Brooks running socks.

·       Underwear & Sports Bras (Not Pictured): I brought three pairs of underwear and two sports bras. Again, I will alternate washing and wearing each item.  Be sure to choose high quality and comfortable pairs.

·       Maxi Skirt: Although this is not a necessary item, I plan to wear it, along with a basic cotton t-shirt in the evenings, and whenever else I don’t want to look like a grungy hiker. I will also be wearing it on the plane and before the Camino during our four-day stint in Rome.

·       Flip Flops: After all day in hiking shoes, my feet need a break. In addition, I will be wearing these in Rome and in any particularly fungi-ridden albergue showers.

·       Wide Brim Hat (Not Pictured): Great for widespread sun protection. Will also help locals label me as a hiker and a tourist.

·       Buff HeadWrap: If you don’t know about Buff headwear, you should. Buff is a seamless tube of quick drying fabric that can be worn in a variety of ways; it is the “multi-tasking bandana”. I most often use my Buff as a head wrap, but it can also be worn over the neck as a sun guard, around the head and ears as a hood, or under a hat as a moisture-wicking liner.

·       Stuff Sack (Not Pictured): Pretty self-explanatory. Stuff all your clothes inside. Stuff it inside your pack. Say goodbye to wrinkle-free clothing. I opted for a waterproof version.

·       Small Towel: Use after showering. I chose to bring a small, light, and quick-drying brand, the Norwex sport towel.

·       Toiletries in Mesh Bag: The possibilities here are endless. Bring small amounts of whatever you need for a very basic daily routine, as supplies can always be replenished along the trail. I plan on bringing a washcloth, an oil blend (I use this as a face cleanser & moisturizer), deodorant, a contact case and saline, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a disposable razor, hair elastics, sunscreen, lip balm, ear plugs (for loud nights and snorers in albergues), a basic first aid kit (Band-Aids, ibuprofen, Imodium, antihistamines , and antibiotic cream) and travel tissues (for portable toilet paper).

·       Dr.Bronner’s Bar Soap: This versatile castile soap can be used for shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, shaving cream, and even toothpaste (although I can’t stand the soapy taste and will be bringing toothpaste). I am bringing half of a peppermint-scented bar, and storing it in a small plastic container.

·       Repairs Box: Useful for gear and clothing repairs, as well as packing, and blister management. I will include four safety pins, two rubber bands, a small length of duct tape, and a needle and thread.

·       Snacks: Although we will buy most of our meals and snacks along the way, I decided to include a few “emergency snacks” for when I get, as my brother puts it, “scary hungry”. I will bring four cliff bars and a small bag of dried fruit (not pictured).

Happy Packing and a Buen Camino to all!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pilgrims' Progress #1: History of the Camino

Many of you have asked about our upcoming trip to hike the Camino de Santiago and, since I can’t talk to all of you before our big adventure, I thought I would write a series of blogs about it.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to check in during our trip for photos and updates of our pilgrimage.

On June 1, 2014, five of the six Haverkamps (Luke will be leading a mission trip to East Asia all summer) will set out on an adventure to hike the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, in northern Spain.  This nearly 500-mile ancient “pilgrimage” gets its name from the apostle James in the Bible. At the end of this long journey lies the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This cathedral is rumored to be James' burial place.  According to Wikipedia, legend states “the apostle Saint James the Great brought Christianity to the Celts in the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD he was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia, Spain. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. According to legend, this tomb was rediscovered in 814 AD by the hermit Pelagius, after he witnessed strange lights in the night sky.  The Camino was one of the most important pilgrimages during medieval times (together with Rome and Jerusalem) and one on which a plenary indulgence could be earned (which means that by completing at least the last 100 km, one’s sins could be forgiven).  Although we know this to be false since only Jesus alone can redeem us, Tess has been having a grand time deciding what she would do if that were really true.  I’m not even going to go there. 

Here is what our route will look like:

We will be starting at the border of France at St Jean Pied de Port.  This French market town is hidden away in the Pyrenees Mountains, which means the first day of our journey will look like this:

Have I ever told you how much I hate don't care for mountains?

As you can see, we will be climbing, climbing, climbing—about 1400 meters up (I don't know how to convert that.  I just know it will hurt), before we start heading down to our hostel for the night.  Day one will be about a 14 mile day. Ugh.  Speaking of hostels, we will be staying in them each night of our trip.  In Spain, these shared sleeping quarters are called “albergues” and usually consist of multiple bunk beds in a big room (can you say earplugs?) with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Sometimes these albergues are privately owned, some are in churches, old school buildings, or community buildings.  Most will have hot showers where we can wash our smelly selves and our laundry. We will all be very happy about this.

A picture of a typical albergue

Since we will be walking an ancient pilgrimage, we will be called “pilgrims” and will need to carry a pilgrim’s passport (or credential, see below) which we have already ordered and received. These credentials will be stamped at the hostels or alberques that we stay in each evening.  We can also get stamps at churches or cathedrals along the route.  If we each finish at least the last 100K (62 miles) of the Camino (which ends in Compostela, Spain), we will receive a Compostela, which is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way.  Fun stuff.

 The Haverkamps are slightly geeky (see my excel spread sheet here) when it comes to planning these types of trips because we have to pack very efficiently and minimally to have successful adventures.  Since we know that ounces add up to pounds and pounds add up to exhaustion, and since we also know that we will be walking between 8-10 hours everyday for nearly a month, we have decided to go as lightweight as possible with our packs at or under 10% of our bodyweights. We have also been wearing, and hiking in, our chosen packs, clothes and boots/shoes so we can pre-experience our intended hike.  On many of those practice hikes, we have taken Neo, which is a true miracle and unexpected privilege for him because he almost died the last time we took him with us. I’m sure those who have seen us time and time again assume that we are “that homeless family” since we are carrying large backpacks on city trails.  Tess will be posting tomorrow to fill you in on the packing/prep portion of our trip.

Because we will only have a little over three weeks on the trail (We will be spending the first 5 days of our trip in Rome, Italy, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary--yea! Remember when I said marriage was like a really long hike? What a great commemoration, huh?)--we will be probably complete about 350 miles, taking a bus or train to gain some distance mid-way. If we were superhuman, we could probably complete it in that amount of time (it takes most folks at least 33 days), but, since we are not, and since we want to sleep and visit a few of the relics along the way, we will probably cover between 12-18 miles per day. This means that we will do part of the beginning of the Camino and part of the end—leaving out a portion in the middle.  Cause, remember, we can’t get our sins removed unless we complete the last 100km of the route. 

Some of you have also asked if I know Spanish.  The answer is no, but I am taking along my interpreters (my own personal Ames High Spanish students) who have had at least 10 years of Spanish combined! Bueno! Since we will be passing through small Spanish towns and villages every two to three hours each day, it will be important to know some of the local dialect since many in rural Spain speak no English. 
Good thing the way markers are pictures.  I can read those.

 That about wraps up the nutshell history lesson of the famous Camino pilgrimage.  We are excited to step away from the trappings of our lives here and get lost on our walk to Compostella.  Leave me a comment with questions that you have and we will try to address them in future Pilgrim’s Progress Posts. 

Buen Camino!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sacred History

Hey y’all.  It’s already May and I have been busy. I know it’s been awhile since I have written here, but I have been thinking about things and something I have been thinking about today is the sacredness of marriage.  On Mother’s Day, most of us evaluate our mothering; we hope we have been good role models by serving our kids and taking care of them; we hope that they will grow up to be respectable adults and appreciate us even more some day.  But after 25 years of marriage, and raising three of our four kids to adulthood, I have determined that rumination on such matters is not the most important factor in being a good mom.  The most important factor, for those of us blessed with a husband, is what kind of marriage we have modeled. 

Few talk about marriage on Mother’s Day but I think it’s important because it’s key.  Here’s why: 

  • ·      When Brent and I persevere in our marriage, we are showing our kids how to endure.  In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas explains it this way, “Building a sacred history together teaches us to be persistent in doing good, even when we want to do something else.  This commitment to perseverance teaches us the basic Christian discipline of self-denial.”  We live in a nation of quitters.  We, as couples, need to model stick-to-itiveness to our kids.  Reconciliation, forgiveness, and humility all show our kids that Haverkamps finish what they start—that includes marriage.
  • ·      When Brent and I have an eternal outlook, rather than a temporary one, our kids understand what we value highly.  If we deal with difficult situations and bruised egos with grace, we demonstrate that we believe God’s design is best—even better than our own comfort.  If we have this view—the eternal one rather than the short, “now” view, our kids learn that sticking with marriage makes much more sense than destroying the family to gain quick and easy relief. 
  • ·      Choosing to value the marriage relationship, we’ve found, even when you don’t feel “in love” is so crucial to your kids’ futures.  Here’s an analogy that we can relate to since we are a hiking family.  Maybe you will understand.  Marriage is kind of like a really long walk—together.  Sometimes that walk is exciting and fun—carefree, effortless--and sometimes it gets tedious, tiring, boring—and you want to give up.  But just as in hiking, you can’t give up because you have chosen a campsite and you have to keep going to get there.  No other viable options exist because, even though it would feel good to stop right on the trail and take the load off of your back, stopping would mean only temporary relief.  By nightfall, you will be wishing for a place to retire and a river to replenish your water supply.  So, you just keep hiking until you hear the sound of a rushing river and see a flat spot to lay your tent.  In hiking, it’s all about the shared sufferings and surprises of the trip.  It’s usually way more fun to talk about afterward because you survived together.  Kind of like marriage, don’t ya think? 

So, I guess what I am saying to all you moms out there is, be a disciple of Jesus first and love Him enough to do what He says.  Then be a great wife to your husband, even if it takes lots of energy and the walk seems long and you feel like your pack is heavier than his; work at being a servant to him—this is how Jesus lived—and be interested in his journey too--not just your own.  Then, finally, work at being the best mom you can be to your kiddos by serving them also, and find joy in being needed.  And tell those same kiddos your story; the story about the sacred history that you are creating with their daddy.  And choose to keep creating that very sacred story day after day after day. 

 I think this is the way to become a great mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18