Somehow I can’t get the idea of an epic walk out of my head, though the reality of such a journey seems beyond my capabilities and even inclination. I can walk, that’s not a problem, especially since there would be no speed or distance requirement. (My journey; my rules!) But carrying several days worth of food and water, along with sleeping essentials and emergency supplies is a bit much. Even though the backpacking products today are gossamer weight compared to products made a couple of decades ago, the packed pack, no matter how ultra light, would be more than I could deal with. The improbability of such a journey is what prompted me to get my car restored (or rather, try to get it restored. They are still working on it). If I am going to make a trip by car instead of on foot, I’d prefer to look like a near-classic woman in a near-classic car rather than like a bag lady in a rattletrap. At least, that was the plan.
So why do I continue to dream of and research/prepare for an epic walk? For the longest time, I didn’t know the answer to that. I thought a desire for adventure was fostering the idea, but there are all kinds of adventures, one of which I am on now — housesitting for a friend and walking the three miles from her house to the dance studio every day. (It doesn’t sound like much until you add in the two to four hours of classes.)
The truth is (as I have recently discovered), I feel at home on foot. The easy swing of arms, the push/thrust of first one leg and then the other is comforting. I can feel each step as it connects to the earth (or sidewalk or road or whatever) and I know where I am even if I don’t know where I am. Seeing the world at a walking pace suits me just fine — I can feel the nuances of a place as well as see the small details. And, as Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” (Well, it would be if there were bridges over the ocean and other major waterways.)
I especially like the simplicity of walking. There are no engines to start, no doors to climb through, no dashboards and rear view mirrors to watch. All I have to do is go outside, and there I am, walking.
What I don’t always like about walking is the return trip. I can’t go as far as I want because I have to save enough energy to get back to my starting point, but what if I didn’t need to get back to my starting point? What if I could keep going? It’s those “what ifs” even more than a desire for adventure that made me wonder about taking some sort of long distance walk.
I could always do a yo-yo hike, which is probably what I’ll do for a while — just go out to a national park or BLM land where I can camp by my car, walk or hike with a minimum of gear, and then return to my car camp site for the evening. That way I’m never far from access to civilization. But then, there would always be the return trip to the car, having to gauge my distance to make sure I could get back to the car where my camping gear would be. And so I dream . . .
Meantime, there are my small walks — the walk to the studio, grocery stores, out in the desert. There might not be any epicness to such adventures, but at least for the time I am afoot, I feel at home, and that is no small thing.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.