Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lessons from the Wall

Somewhere years ago I got the idea that I'd like to walk across England. I'd look at maps of England and dream that the Peak District would be a great place to make the big hike. (You'd think the name "Peak District" would have been a big tip-off for me. Funny thing about maps though - by nature of their flatness, they just don't give you a good feel for the real thing. Unless you're talking about Charleston, of course...)

After our Russia trip last year (yes, I still haven't finished the stories on that trip yet), Kathie was trying to figure out what a good next trip might be. Truly, it's tough to beat Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a river cruise on the Volga, but I gamely suggested walking across England.

Kathie did some research. The distance across England at the level of the Peak District is roughly 200 miles; at the level of the Lake District, it's a bit less - more like 160. Since I could only take a couple of weeks off, neither of these routes would work. Being a history lover, Kathie thought the Hadrian's Wall Trail would be a good option, and the distance of 84 miles was doable. I thought sure, I could do that. We can do it in one week, Kathie said. 7 days. I must have been on acid when I agreed.

In July, Kathie, her friend Hisako and Hisako's husband Tetsu, Joan, and I did walk the trail. The entire length of it.

I learned a lot about myself on that trip. For one thing, I learned that I'm not a hiker. Sometimes I'm a walker. Often I'm an ambler. But on this particular trek, I was a stumbler. I stumbled on rocks, stumbled on uneven ground, and stumbled trying to avoid cow and sheep poop. I stumbled going uphill and then stumbled on the other side going down. I tripped over my own feet. Fortunately, I was usually the sweep - so usually no one saw me tripping and stumbling.

I also realized (yet again) that, when faced with adversity, I am able to do what I gotta do, even if it means stumbling twelve miles through hill and dale in soaking wet sneakers. (I kinda wish I'd had a chance to enjoy them - brand new $95 Mizunos - a bit before getting them caked a half inch thick in mud and manure, but what the heck? They're only shoes.)

I'm sure there were other lessons that I kept muttering to myself as I stumbled, trying to keep up with the group, but these are the two I remember. The rest are justifiably lost; what I'll always remember is the wonderfully chilly wind, the soft rain, the heavy gray clouds, the awe-inspiring vistas, the friendly people, the cozy bed and breakfasts, and the great pubs. Oh, and the flowers! Magnificent!

This is my absolute favorite photo of the whole trip. Joan took it in Stanley Plantation. The light was magical, the colors surreal, the textures delicately exquisite. If you look closely, you can see fairies and leprechauns peeking out from behind the trees and ferns.

Stay tuned for more from the trail.


Sonnjea B said...

What a cool trip! I'm not a hiker, either, and I don't enjoy wet/cold, so it's probably not a cool trip for ME - but I do appreciate the beauty of it.

Katharine said...

Absolutely in agreement. This was the most magical trek I've done.

Now I know why you're always looking down at your feet in all those photos.