For the walker, every second of every day yields a new, unfiltered experience. Except for seeing a few familiar faces along the trail as walkers’ paces ebb and flow during the day, and except for special events like my reunions with Roger and Pauline or with Bob and Pam several weeks after we first met, the solo walker deals with each scene, each encounter, each challenge, anew.
Those of you who followed my blog know that for me, making new acquaintances was the highlight of every day, and I treasured every new encounter. Only three times in 1200 miles over three months did I encounter anyone who I considered potentially unsafe. I didn’t write about them, of course, and perhaps my security senses were raised unnecessarily, but one learns never to leave home without those senses.
Nor did I write about one of my most delightful encounters – but for a very different reason. On the very last day of my 1200 mile summer, I was in the Sea View Hotel in John O’Groats finalizing arrangements for my return to Heathrow, when a wind-blown lady with a backpack larger than herself walked into the hotel’s reception area, dripping wet from rain. I knew instantly that I was in the presence of greatness. Charlie Lee was at that very moment completing her incredible five-month, two thousand mile solo walk of Britain’s eight points. I had been following her humorous mis-adventures on and off since April as she related them in her delightful blog, and I was more awestruck by her presence than if I had encountered Queen Elizabeth, herself. Summoning all of my boyish courage and assuming my characteristic lost puppy look, I timidly invited her to join me for dinner, and was honored that she accepted.
Of course, I couldn’t mention any of this in that day’s posting, because Charlie was much more conscious of her own security than I was of mine. (Her own blog postings were always delayed a week or two so that potential stalkers wouldn’t know her location at any given time. I wasn’t as concerned about potential stalkers as I was about whether they would buy me a beer.) But it certainly wouldn’t do for me to have disclosed her location in that day’s posting.
Nor can I post the picture of Charlie and me in the restaurant, because she hasn’t posted her picture on her own blog – again, presumably for security reasons. Even if that weren’t a concern, I wouldn’t post the picture anyway because it shows a lovely young lady, positively glowing from her 2,000 mile achievement, standing next to a bedraggled old man weighing 25 fewer pounds than he did at Land’s End, and looking totally exhausted from 1200 miles and nearly as many beers. No, it’s not a pretty image, but I’ll always remember having had my picture taken with one of my idols.
The following day the rain let up, but strong, cold winds continued to blow. No matter, because I was finished walking. I took the bus from John O’Groats to Inverness, where I caught a train to Edinburgh. After a relaxing day with my friend Ann of the Tartan, I flew to London.
My mingling with celebrities continued in London when I had dinner with Mark Moxon and his wife, Peta. Every End to Ender knows Mark Moxon as the webmaster of the premier website for walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Mark is also a world renowned travel writer, and I was delighted to meet him in person.
My third personal idol is Ernest Shackleton, the polar explorer of Endurance fame. “The Boss” (as Shackleton’s crew referred to him) and I have a lot in common. Several years ago I had the good fortune to retrace his footsteps on South Georgia, the Antarctic island he crossed in 1916 to rescue his men who were marooned on Elephant Island. In 1909, Shackleton had failed in his first attempt to reach the South Pole, turning around barely 95 miles from the goal, but still he had trekked more than 1200 miles across Antarctica. I, too, did not quite reach John O’Groats on my walk, but I’m sure Shackleton would understand. Yes, we have a lot in common.
|The James Caird|
I flew home the following day. I continue to hike in Yosemite and Utah. I’ve resumed my role as a highly trained lawyer, although in a semi-retired mode. Semi-retirement has given me the time to prepare a slide show of my End to End walk and to publish a book entitled (what else?) My 1200 Mile Summer. If I can get the required permission to include the copyrighted music which accompanies the slides, I’ll add the slide show to my blog. The book will soon be available for purchase at Blurb.com, but I can’t imagine why anybody would buy it since it merely repeats the postings and images from the blog, which can be accessed for free.
I’ve already presented the slide show to several groups; invariably, the audience asks about my next adventure. I don’t yet know, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End. After all, I did fail to walk 19 of the final 20 miles of LEJOG, and it would only be right to try again. I think Shackleton would make a second attempt. And we DO have a lot in common.
© 2011 Ken Klug