On the Camino we will have three mountains or mountain ranges to cross. The first will be the Pyrenees, on the first two days. About 2/3 of the way through we’ll go over the Cantabrian Mountains and finally about a week from the end, the mountains of Galicia, known for their cold, wet and foggy weather. None of the mountains is over 5,000’, but they can have cold weather. Last year, a couple who left St. Jean the last week of April, only a week before we will leave St. Jean, ran into a blizzard going over the Pyrenees (where Martin Sheen’s son died in the movie “The Way”). They had to turn back, and the authorities closed the pass for three days! Pilgrims had to take the lower route. Of course, many other years it was fine.
But we want to be prepared for cold weather and wanted to test out our layering systems. That’s a little hard to do when you live in a place where the ‘winter’ temperatures don’t get much below 55. That’s been especially true this winter, as we have had an unusually warm winter. Temps have mostly been in the 60’s and 70’s.
So during the past couple days a cold winter storm came in, leaving us much needed rain along the coast and snow in the mountains. We decided it was a perfect time to go to the mountains and test out our gear.
It was about 60 when we left the beach at about 9:30, heading out route 8 for the Cuyamacas. It remained about that until we got past El Cajon and began climbing. Then it began dropping very quickly! We made the turn off for 79 and started up the mountain where we began to see a light snow covering on trees and ground especially around Stonewall Peak.
As we pulled into Paso Picacho Campground the car’s reading for the outside temp read 37 degrees! Yikes! We paid our fees, and went looking for johns. The first were closed, but we passed a number of tent campers, snow still surrounding their tents, most packing up and heading out. We couldn’t remember when we’d last been in weather that cold! There was also a strong wind, so the wind chill factor made it even colder than the 37.
I hadn’t been in this area since the huge fires a number of years ago and was shocked and saddened to see the burned out and barren hillsides. After we’d walked about a quarter of a mile or so we saw a dark and ominous cloud quickly approaching.
Brian wasn’t sure if he had his pack cover and I didn’t want to overdo it with my ankle, so we headed back to the car, very happy to get out of the wind. But basically we learned that our layer systems worked. Brian decided to bring Chris’ warm jacket and I decided to leave mine at home.
And where else would you head after getting chilled in the mountains….off to ‘Mom’s’ in Julian for home made split pea & ham soup, half a sandwich and, of course, a famous apple pie to take home!