Country Walking 101

A thick bank of fog hovers over the Chiltern hills. I can see roving tendrils curling toward slope and toward sky, but I can’t tell if they’re expanding their territory, or seeking the oblivion of evaporation. On the hedgerows of the Icknield Way, the sun is shining.

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They’re tall, these hedges, and lined with blossoming hawthorn, which looks very much like our American tree, but smells distinctly less like hot garbage. It’s 6:00 am, and immediately we encounter another early riser. A red fox – or just a flash of her, really – cuts us a startled glance, then her molecules dissolve into the wall of foliage. Was she really there? My memory might be making things up. Raised on English literature, I know what sort of animals an Oxfordshire hedgerow ought to contain. I’m aware I may be too keen to see England the way my favorite books have painted, but so far I believe I have observed what there is, and that it matches, enough. Of course, I haven’t been here long.

Dawn began at 4:10. I was listening from my borrowed couch – awake since 2:00 this first morning after a transatlantic flight. I heard the first roosters go off at 3:00, then fall silent, chastened by ongoing darkness. They called again, confidently now, at 4:00, and then the first songbird trilled from his tree next the door. I couldn’t even guess his identity. English birds are known to me by name, but not yet by sight or sound. Ten minutes later, the sky began its shift from black to blue, and the field out front began to fancy itself green.

Now, the day feels well-advanced. Gaps in the hedgerows reveal sunswept fields of yellow flowers, and the brick and spires of Wallingford, two miles distant.

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I’ve brought along one of our host’s maps, and identified a shortish loop trip to introduce us to the real countryside. It’s doing that, in short order. Leaving the morning glory of the Icknield, we made a right turn in search of a dotted green line that tells me it’s part of the Chiltern Way Extension. We nearly missed it; in practice the junction revealed nothing like my imagining of a National Trail. A mere shadowy opening, in crowded trees pressed close by the road, it did bear an official sign, though that took some finding, lifting aside untrimmed branches in full summer leaf. The path beyond it…

I forget how everything here is already owned, closely parsed through centuries. The same density of past and present that allows the Ordnance Survey to minutely map every stone home and churchyard and tended copse must have presented challenges to the making of a national network of trails guaranteeing the public’s right to walk them. In this case, the right of way is well-defined – much more clearly than some others we’ll encounter in the coming days.

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It’s kind of gross, though. We’re walking a sort of earthbound tightrope between a junk yard piled high with the bramble-grown bodies of dead tractors, and a barbed-wire fence freckled with rust. For the first several yards (this is immediately off the road, recall), the property opposite the dump has piled its horses’ leavings two feet high against the fence – which, as you might imagine, hasn’t too much power to halt the tumbling of turds into the trail. This is all fair enough, I suppose. You take your public right of way where you can get it.

 

At the end of this slightly creepy section (overgrown with nettles, and hung with hazel and horse-chestnut, spiderwebs strung between) a well-maintained stile leads up and over the property line, dropping us into a field of deeply green stalks that cling mid-calf. In the time it takes to survey this new territory, the fog bank sweeps in – there’s my answer – obscuring Oakley Wood on the field’s opposite edge.

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It had not occurred to me that yesterday’s rain has soaked those rich green blades. Nor that my boots, veterans of six years and many dripping miles, would chose this moment to declare their retirement from the business of waterproofing. It’s our first day in Britain, and I’ve ruined shoes, socks, and pants (trousers, if you like), before 8am.

We cannot see the way ahead, and there is the possibility here of turning around. I prefer loops – they show you the same place from two directions, and closing one cements an understanding of immediate geography that out-and-backs never quite achieve. Jeremiah gestures the decision to me. In an unknown landscape, I probably don’t deserve his faith. I pray to the Ordnance Survey, which does.

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The fog lifts as startlingly as it settled, after we have forded the great gray-and-green field without a visible goal. It was quiet out there, just our wet clothes swishing and slapping, like waves against the bow of a mist-bound boat. And just like that, the shore appears, a stile into Oakley Wood, and sun trickles, then streams upon us as we cross another boundary.

The path, very suddenly, looks familiar. Oakley is a bluebell wood, for one thing – although the flowers are on the wane now, and the whole appearance of the place is slightly tatty because of it. A dilapidated bluebell wood, faeries flown, but still my imagination knows this place.

This part of the Way also backs onto private property on every side; evidence of horses and timber harvest lies all about. No longer menaced by cobwebs and stung by encroaching nettles, I find I rather love this contradiction of the public footpath system: how you can feel lost and wandering somewhere that’s clearly well-used.

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The Way leaves the wood to cross the A4130, disappearing through a dripping gap in the roadside hedge. Though the sun has bested the fog, it’s guarded now by large cumulus, shouldering through the blue with an air of bellicose importance. I suspect them of hatching a mid-morning shower. Despite its lack of shoulder, we elect the road instead, and close the loop cheerily waving to the few cars heading toward London so early on a Sunday.

I’m struck, even roadside, by how alive the country seems. Not just how human-adapted, but how…well, wild. Rabbits, foxes, noisy rooks in the horse-chestnut trees, a hundred songbirds I don’t know, and these gorgeous fork-tailed kites wheeling overhead…The thickness of life here baffles my Oregonian sense of the outdoors. I’m used to thinking of wilderness at home, and I see it as both vast and thinly populated. Even in what I call countryside, plants and animals seem to give each other space, humans included. It’s very quiet, often. Here, every inch is known. Perhaps it is the centuries of intensive English settlement that have done that: layered their blood and their sweat over every seam of land, pressing other creatures, too, to claim their corner.

I know very little. And what I can observe is the surface layer. This is almost literal – the Icknield Way is an ancient trade road, documented as early as the 10th century CE, and variously thought to be one, two, even four or more thousand years old. Britons are perhaps used to encountering this sort of temporal continuity when they walk out their front doors. It dogs my American footsteps, though. I stop every time I remember it, turning around to imagine, for example, the rumble of cart wheels overtaking us, as a Saxon family brings their goods to market.

It’s a difficult conjure. In truth, there is only the morning – sunshine on yellow-flowered fields. Sometimes it’s hard to separate yourself from a lifetime of fantasy novels and Romantic ideas. This vague longing to sense the past has only ever been, for me, a wish. It’s 2016. I can’t shake it.

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I am not disappointed. Skirting puddles and studying the map, pointing out birds and listening for their voices (all things I might have done in any year upon this road), I’m pleased in a way I associate with the pure happiness of childhood. We are successfully navigating someplace new, coloring in our mental maps. We are introducing ourselves to a landscape I find wonderful, and I cannot stop smiling. I am content exactly where, and when, I walk.

***

Last Minute Pleasures

I was supposed to go to Vancouver. Why I didn’t is not the most interesting thing about this weekend. The part worth knowing is that I’ve come to Boise instead, and this was an excellent decision.

It was a last-minute one. The Vancouver trip was planned, itineraried, anticipated. When it fell apart, my husband and I did something entirely foreign to our natures: we chose a new destination, booked our lodgings on impulse, and lit out the next day for parts unknown. In almost 11 years in the Northwest, we’ve rarely vacationed east of the Cascades, and Idaho was somewhere we’d only been in the middle of a frozen, snow-tossed night, driving white-knuckled down I-84. That was the first leg of an epic 22-hour straight-through drive to the Grand Canyon in January, with Boise merely a welcome exit to stop for gas. Now we have a friend there, and a weekend suddenly free. Why not?

Our rented townhouse sits unobtrusively in an older neighborhood near Boise State University. It’s also less than a mile from the Boise River Greenbelt. I had no preconception of this public feature, and no idea of needing to walk it specifically. I found it because my legs itched from the 8-hour drive, and because I was doing my research late, scrolling through our Airbnb hosts’ notes as we pulled in. We stopped at the house long enough to dump our luggage and lace up our boots, and I practically dragged Jeremiah out the door, north toward the river.

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The Boise River is wild. True, it runs through the center of a fast-growing metropolitan area of more than half a million. And for 9 metro miles on either side, there’s a paved path system quite near its banks that locals call The Freeway, and use accordingly. Somehow none of this takes away from the fact that it’s also a true northwest river: fast and full of life, running cold and exuberant out of the mountains, the color of unpolished jade. On our first evening, late in May, ducklings peeped in the shallows, and wild yellow flags waved at the muddy margins. Not a few people fished intently from the banks, or stood a little way into the flow. I glimpsed a beaver-gnawed stump in my first 10 feet of trail.

There had been thunderstorms earlier in the day, but the sunset was clear and fiery. Yesterday the sequence repeated, but it took the storms longer to clear. I wouldn’t wait: sunset on the greenbelt had been a pleasure too perfect not to turn into tradition.

So our second evening walk began in blue and gold stormlight. Thunder cracked overhead, twice following immediately on a brilliant white flash. Cottonwoods rustled in the rising wind, throwing golden bits of drowning sun from their fluttering leaves. Verga streamed above the foothills, purple curtains not quite closing on a long summer evening. We were heading to dinner downtown, taking the long way. When the rain began – sudden and drenching – we made like the herd of deer on the island opposite, and just kept foraging.

Most of Boise is flat, and I’m learning this weekend how much my sense of direction relies on elevation. I keep getting turned around and having to reorient by the sun or Google Maps. I want to get up into the hills, where I know how to navigate.

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Our local friend sent us a website listing the various “Ridge to Rivers” trail systems. I’ve picked a trailhead at the north margins of the city, and we’re there by 7, ahead of the day’s sullen heat.

The area called the Camel’s Back is a preserved tongue of the adjacent foothills extending down into the neighborhoods, and directly connected to wilder country to the north. It’s a western paradise dreamscape: sage-scented hills and canyons, traced by packed sandy paths and bursting with more colors of cornflower than I knew existed. I point them out over and over to Jeremiah until he’s saying courteously “yep! Cornflower!” every time, and I realize I’ve forgotten to explain aloud that it’s the colors that excite me: white with purple centers, pure white, light pink, deep porphyry, and a soft lavender. The usual vivid blue, when I finally spot it, seems a discovery in itself.

Red-winged blackbirds trumpet from the hidden marsh at the center of the preserve, quail bob and skitter along the path in front of us, and falcons float above on early morning thermals, urging us higher. Views of the modest city skyline from the Camel’s Back Ridge are well worth the climb.

It’s high desert vegetation and open skies up here, but the oasis below, pooling like rich green skirts at the feet of these mountains, is truly the City of Trees.

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This is pure saving grace in summer, when the air lies limp against the foothills, heat rising by 9am. The torpor makes hiking a heavy push by mid-morning, but I imagine after only three days here that I have found the secret. Maybe I have – one of them, at least. Rise early, and go out to the hills in time to smell the sagebrush waking up. Rest indoors in the heat of the day, then wander in the evenings along the river, watching for trout and listening to kingfisher chatter.

Why didn’t I go to Vancouver? I don’t even remember. I’m busy in love with Boise.

 

Guessing With Maps: A Walk (Probably) on the Wales Coast Path

Well, this is awkward.

England’s National Trust (also Wales’, though I’m not sure how loudly I can say that around here) provides all kinds of thoughtful extras for travellers who arrive to stay at one of their many historic holiday cottages. They leave you little flammable bricks for the fireplace, a helpful book containing the property’s history, an Ordnance Survey map if you’re lucky, a tasty casserole if you ask them to. And they suggest a walk, so you can get to know the immediate area. I have an OS map and a tiny book of walks with me already, but the Trust’s directions promised me gorgeous views and Neolithic tombs. Sold.

So, our first morning here, we took the laminated half sheet, and off we went. The first direction led us immediately astray. How is this possible? We must have read it wrong. We consulted the map, and still there was no “stream crossing on your right.” Retracing our steps, we figured out they want us eventually to go up the hill on the road that leaves the cottage, so we climbed. And climbed. If you were thinking about going there, be warned: North Wales is steep.

At the top of this tiny mountain, the promised views have unfurled, and they are grand indeed. Our lodging sits just above the Llyn Peninsula’s southern coast, atop the wide elliptical sweep of Cardigan Bay, and more specifically overlooking an utterly beautiful encirclement of ocean called Hell’s Mouth. It’s named that for its history of shipwrecks, but today’s weather is unlikely to produce one. It’s almost aggressively perfect, and – people keep telling us – atypical. Under an enthusiastic sun already high at 8am, the bay lies lazy and cornflower blue – the very shade of summer. A cacophony of crows converses in the wood behind us, and below, the rock-walled fields and farms fall away to the sea.

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And then there’s this farmyard in front of us. There’s a road here, except it’s actually a driveway, and it goes right between a house and a set of outbuildings, with no room to spare. We’ll hardly be able to avoid a look in their kitchen window.

It’s entirely possible this is the correct route. Public rights of way in Britain – as we will continue to learn by uncomfortable experience – often arrow straight through private pastures and down personal drives. We’re nearly sure we’re in the right place, but our west-coast-American personal space makes us shy. Back to the B road we go.

From the safety of the public domain, I pull out my book of walks. I passionately love to read guidebooks, especially tiny, clever books like this, with enticing photos and and color facsimiles of the relevant section of OS map, and numbered directions with authoritative indistinctions like “go through a gate and bear left onto a path beside the wall.” I have been thumbing through this thing for months now – this morning included, when I slipped it in my back pocket just in case. Because, as of course I already knew, one of the walks is right here.

It begins in the village of Rhiw, which has to be close, because the property we started from is Plas yn Rhiw – the hall, or country house, in Rhiw. I figure we can just saunter over there, take off on the promised 5 mile jaunt, and then wander back – not more than a mile or two out of our way. I have a map. This cannot be difficult.

The map shows Rhiw just up the hill, where you pick up the Wales Coast Path. We walk back past our lodging and turn right onto the road, and there’s the Path heading off at a right angle, clearly not anywhere the map says it should be. We stand about at the junction for at least five minutes, arguing with it, until we finally decide that the Path will be more interesting than the road. We can detour a little and pick up the walk midway; we’ll go right through Rhiw a bit later. Besides, look at these signs, it’s clearly marked, we can’t get lost. I study the map again, wave my hand vaguely uphill. “Rhiw is over there. We’ll swing around and come at it from the southwest, see?”

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This first section is sheep pasture. Only one inhabitant bothers about our intrusion; the rest glance up once and phlegmatically look away. I don’t know anything about the emotional range of sheep, and how this may or may not reflect in their voices, but from an anthropomorphic standpoint, this lady is cussing us out.

Her hill is not a gentle one, and we’re cutting across it on a traverse, angling down towards a stile at the edge of a wood. My foot – inexplicably injured last week and still sharply painful – dislikes walking on lumpy, unpathed pasture. It does somewhat better with a method of locomotion that just barely qualifies as a walk – a sort of sideways, crabbing gait, catching myself on the downward lurches with the help of a cork-topped stick I’ve shortened to use as a cane. I’m very slow. It’s a lot of time to spend getting bawled out by a belligerent ewe.

The wood is hazed with withered bluebells, and the barest ghost of their scent remains in the still air. At least, I imagine that last, because I’ve never sniffed a bluebell wood in full bell. Tiny pink flowers I don’t recognize fluff up prettily in their place, and invisible doves call from enclosing branches.

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Out the other side, the Coast Path signs have wandered astray. Reasoning that Rhiw is far above us, we chose the track charging straight up the hillside, and for the first time we realize that today is hot. The headland we’re climbing could be the very birthplace of stone walls and springy ferns and foxglove in magnificent magenta, and on all of these the sun pours its questionable benison, generously and without cease.

Later, we’ll be in England, and a man in a pub will complain about the “nasty weather rolling in from Wales.” “What else is new?” the barman will sigh, while we exchange smiles. The only rain we’ll experience on this trip spatters down the very moment we cross the border – to the east.

For now, it must be 70 degrees Fahrenheit – which, to a Portlander in full sun, toiling up a slope graded more like Dog Mountain than something the tiny book of walks labels “easy” – is very warm indeed. There’s a single stunted oak tree at the top, twisted protectively over nothing in particular. Its pool of green shadow feels very like an oasis, a cool relief from this enormous prickly heath, this endless sky and sea gone flat with heat.

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The flies up here are massive and they look hungry for blood, although I may be profiling them unfairly. None have actually attempted to pierce my skin, yet. The map – which doesn’t know where the Path is, and upon which we cannot accurately locate ourselves – is good for this one thing: fly sweeping. Not swatting – they just hum lazily out of its path, shepherded by gentle buffets of warm air.

Before us lie three choices. It’s technically four if you count the one just climbed, but we’ve no intention of wasting that onerous ascent. None of them are signed. One runs into a wall and someone’s backyard, without apparent right-of-way. Another fizzles into vague indentations in the grass within a dozen yards, going exactly the direction we want. Jeremiah consults the map reflexively, then says that the trail pointing precisely the wrong direction must be the one to Rhiw.

“That makes no sense.” I pause. What is the alternative? “Let’s do it.”

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***

We do, eventually, reach Rhiw. All morning, we have walked in a landscape utterly changed by humanity, and seen no humans. Sheep are fenced in by stacked stone; a quartet of chestnut horses gallops about on a hillside three hundred yards off; ruined buildings squat at a crossroads of confusing paths. Unsilent, it is yet the quietest human space I’ve ever known – empty of human voices, transport, industry, or recreation. In the village, half a dozen people send a single wave from a doorway, nod without comment as they help an elderly friend to the car. No one is in a hurry to compete with the song of sunshine and wind.

The trail did not exactly get us here, but it led us by roundabout means to an unsigned road with houses on, and it was these that allowed us to confirm the route. You could never do this at home. Naming a house that’s unlikely to last fifty years seems an exercise in pre-meditated sadness, and adding it to a map is practically asking for someone to tear it down. We don’t go in much for permanence in the States.

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The center of the village isn’t far from the outskirts. I can finally ask my clever little book for directions. Instead, I pocket it. We haven’t, almost certainly, walked more than a handful of miles. But our adventure was greater than the sum of our footsteps, and I’m leaning heavily on my stick with each of those. What I really want is to find my way “home,” and sit in “my” garden, and have a nice reflective glass of wine. I’m quite the extreme explorer.

Later, I will learn that the Wales Coast Path in this section was recently moved to conform more closely to the coast. Usually, when the map is wrong, you’re not reading it correctly. This once, we are vindicated. This territory has strayed from its topographical portrait.

I prefer my public paths to stay where the map put them, but I cannot complain. Today is paradise. This wild peninsula seems small, but offers worlds to explore within its close contours. My best friend walks by my side. I know how to get home.

Under such circumstances, I can hardly begrudge a little getting lost.

***

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The Wales Coast Path is a relatively recent long-distance trail around the entire coastline of this beautiful country. We touched only a few short segments, including the one above. If you’re going to walk it yourself, I recommend checking the route changes, no matter how recently you think your OS map was updated.

 

Only Good Days

I’m sitting on the floor of a darkened Boeing 767, a few hundred people sleeping around me while we arc over the North Atlantic, en route from London to Seattle. By the grace of a bulkhead seat, I have space to turn around and shift about just a bit, creating the sort of private corner I need to think and to begin the writing process.

I’ve recorded plenty the last two weeks, traveling in England and Wales – scribbling in my journal on the regular, noting encounters with new places, walk details, bird sightings, unforeseen events. But it’s only now I’m forced into 10 hours of inactivity that my brain begins to pick up these thousand threads and sort them, choosing the colors and preparing the pattern of the cross-stitched story they will become.

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The story is the part I get to keep. An experience while I’m having it is just that. A long walk, for example, wayfinding in unfamiliar territory, with a two hour break in the middle for lunch and a pint, and a spot of reading. It’s in the processing that I construct how I will recall this, how it will connect to the rest of my life, and what it means.

Jonathan Rosen says that the writer’s dilemma is precisely this: we’re “drawn to experience, but need to be stationary to make sense of it.” I connected instantly with this statement the first time I read it, though I imagined a rather gentle process of “making sense” – creating a quiet space and just letting the memories and connections assemble in their own time, patiently sorting my threads and waiting until I can see the pattern clear.

Most blocks of time – a day, a week – contain some combination of the novel and the familiar. Two weeks of vacation in another country means back-to-back new experience, which takes all my attention, pushing off the processing I normally do throughout a given day. Now it’s over, and I’m on an airplane – familiar territory. And suddenly the need for pen and paper and solitude is like desperately having to pee.

I’m trying to read – about walking, no surprise here – but every other page ticks something in my brain, and I keep frantically digging out my journal so I can spill the waterfall inside me out onto the page. I finish a thought, or lose it, and go back to my book. Until I read a bit about walking with friends, and that trips something else I want to explore and I rustle through my bag again. My husband asks if he can help and I shake my head too curtly – Don’t talk, I’ll lose the thread. This is the beginning of my process. Not so patient or calm.

I would add to Rosen’s observation the following: the writer’s burden is to be the type of person for whom experience is rarely enough – we’re always thinking about meaning and connection and how we will communicate those things in written form. I’ve been fortunate these last two weeks to let that go for once – my MacBook did not make the trip with me. I haven’t been able to start sense-making, even if I wanted to. My mental life has been refreshingly simple – a true vacation.  

My journal is not a place for polish, but it will serve to ease open the floodgates. I can feel the tumbling water pushing at the dam.

***

If you put the events of this trip into columns labeled “positive” and “negative,” you’d have some pretty strong contenders on the bad side. A good friend with whom we shared some time in-country had a difficult funeral to attend. Just after arrival, I developed an unknown injury to my right foot, and was unable to walk for several days – on a trip planned entirely around long-walking. On our last day, someone smashed the window of our rental car and hauled out my suitcase, stealing nearly all of my most useful, favorite clothing.

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So on the face of it, it’s not true that I just spent two carefree weeks with my favorite person and some wonderful friends, walking many miles each day through the British countryside. And yet that’s exactly what this trip looks like in my memory. The song that’s playing over my headphones right now bursts into an exultant chorus that goes:

On my way home/ I remember/ Only good days.

I start crying, silently, in the dim cabin. They’re complex tears – exhaustion, ambivalence, disappointment, happiness, recognition. Gratitude.

***

It’s comfort music that’s coming through my headphones. An older cousin introduced me to an album called Watermark when I was about 13. I fell hard for the push and pull of the music: driving drumbeats soaked in longing; soothing woodwinds conjuring elemental comfort. In the years since, Enya’s body of work (with the exception of that one album we won’t mention)* has become for me a true and lasting love. In moments of high emotion – I’ve got those to spare – it’s the soundtrack of my life.**

So this is what I’m playing right now, wishing I was walking, but also pleased with my time-less little processing cave. I’m thinking idly about how walking is so blissful with a soundtrack. How it would add so much to the emotional experience to have “The Humming” accompany my footsteps over lonely fells on the Coast to Coast Walk, or “Book of Days” push me to the next summit on the Pennine Way.

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And how, in my recent experience, this would never work. Because walking in Britain – or, I suppose, anywhere with a dense network of trails of varying ages and in varying states of clarity – is rarely that straightforward rolling away of empty miles I remember from well-marked trails I didn’t have to wayfind. Walking the scrubby, stone-figured shore of Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake, comes to mind – with my bum left knee newly acquired and dragging behind the rest of me, Sigur Ros spiraling through my headphones, and somebody else identifying the correct trail.

These past few days – bloody grateful to be walking at all – I’ve had nothing like that tranquil sort of mountaintop experience. For one thing, so much of even a major National Trail cuts through private land. More than once, we found ourselves ankle-deep in a cow-trampled mud slick, or pausing to ascertain the intentions of curious livestock. Even on firm and cow-less ground, we’ve stopped every few minutes to consult my Ordnance Survey map, arguing precise direction and landmarks. A pasture might only have a right of way, not a visible path, and it’s up to the walker to figure out which direction continues the proper route. At least twice, we’ve been lost, except for the sun – except when there was no sun.

The point is, it’s not simple, walking in the British countryside. The exercise doesn’t lend itself to long contented hours of meditative strolling. It’s a mental, as much as a physical activity.

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OS maps are huge and ungainly until you fold them to the proper quadrant. Even then, they’re too big and bulky to stash comfortably in a pack; you’re always just wrestling them out again, anyway. You can walk without them, but I wouldn’t. So unless I have a pocket guidebook with the relevant section copied, I’ve always got the map itself, in my hand or on a string around my neck, my own personal albatross.

It’s an oddly appealing burden, though. There’s pride in the struggle to find your own way, even if you do it wrong the first time.

It’s not as if you’re working with a vague sketch. No map tells the whole story, but the OS certainly tries. OS maps, if you’re not familiar, mark every damn thing: topography, extra-steep grades, houses, farms, disused quarries, woodlands, moors, bridleways, you name it. Once, on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, my map was wrong about the location of a specific trail, which has been moved since the map’s last publication. But it was right about the westward beacon of Bardsey Island, and the more immediate presence of a specific named house at the junction of a nameless path and a numberless road. And so, with a little effort and some semi-educated guesswork, we found our way just the same.

Of course, I had to ask the map repeatedly if we were on the right track, confirming locations once I’d passed them. The poet Simon Armitage, also a way-walker, notes that “…it’s important to keep checking, and in some ways more essential to know where you’ve been than where you’re heading.”

Solid advice for the rest of my life as well.

***

Footnotes

*Fine, it’s Amarantine. It was okay, I guess. 

**A slightly embarrassing love, in which I recently learned I am not nearly as alone as I had always imagined.

 

Works referenced, in case you’d like to read them

The Life of the Skies, by Jonathan Rosen

Walking Home, by Simon Armitage

Both good!