Walk completed August 28, 2011

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The late A. Wainwright commented that he especially liked the English Coast to Coast walk because it had a definite beginning and a definite end. It was that simple explanation that made me understand why I enjoy walking across islands. In the Sierra Nevada, I’m never quite satisfied. No matter where I am, no matter how spectacular the scenery, there always comes a time when I must stop and turn around. I must retreat. I must deny myself the opportunity to explore further. If only I could see over the next ridge…. And the one beyond that. There’s no satisfaction in turning back.

Ah, but there is magical satisfaction in walking across islands. I start with my toes in the ocean, turn 180˚ and walk until my toes touch water again. There is a sense of accomplishment. No retreat. And since I’m a walker and not a sailor, I’ve gone as far as I can possibly go. There’s nothing left to explore.

But what am I exploring? I could see much the same scenery through a vehicle windshield. Not totally the same, mind you, because legs can travel to places where tires cannot. But sometimes I walk along the same paths that vehicles follow. So, it’s not the scenery that I’m exploring.

It’s the people. You can’t meet people when moving along inside a metal cocoon. Motorcyclists know that. Motorcyclists waving to one another seems universal – a fleeting moment of contact with a fellow traveler not normally experienced from a car. But it’s still a fleeting moment.

Walkers have time to chat. Meet a fellow walker on the trail, and a simple greeting as often as not turns into a 5-minute conversation. Sometimes longer. And for the long-distance walker, the conversational opportunities multiply with folks met in pubs, B&Bs, or campgrounds. When we walk we explore not only the land under our feet, but the people we meet.

The solo walker is an island in the sea; isolated, but not lonely. Like islands everywhere, we are constantly swept by waves – waves which, grain by grain, deposit experiences and expand our personal shores. And as we explore geographic islands, we discover more about the islands we are ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Ken, good luck on your new adventure, will be following you. Have fun.