A couple of years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Walkin’,” in which I detailed the pleasures of short walks around town. In that post, I also mused about long-distance walking, and even about its popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. One of my readers and subscribers even noted the construction of The Palmetto Trail, a five-hundred-mile trail that cuts diagonally from the Upstate (the northwestern corner of South Carolina) down to the Lowcountry (the southeastern side of our State’s triangle), of which roughly 380 miles are completed. That trail wends through State parks and towns, offering a variety of landscapes and scenes.
In listening to John Taylor Gatto excessively over Spring Break (and nursing a bad foot-and-ankle sprain), he frequently mentioned stories about famous individuals who completed massive, almost absurd tasks, often with little training. For example, he frequently told the story of a six-year old Richard Branson walking home in London after his mother drove him around for a few hours, and then asked, “Richard, do you think you can find your way home?” When the child responded yes, the mother told him to get to it, booted him from the car, and drove home. Branson (per Gatto) said that after that experience, he was never afraid of anything again, and could face any challenge.
I’m not advocating we drop six-year olds off in the middle of nowhere and make them walk home (my niece is six, and while she is brave and confident, I shudder to think what might become of her if my brother pulled the same stunt). But there is a real need for adventure in our lives. There’s also something to be said for the benefits of taking on and conquering—or even just attempting and failing—a large-scale undertaking.
I am a confessed capital-R Romantic, so I tend to look at these endeavors with rose-tinted glasses. “Of course it’s better to just grow our own food and walk everywhere” sounds nice while eating a DiGiorno pizza in an air-conditioned home. That said, I think undertaking a long-distance walk—even to just a nearby town—could be a great form of conditioning, and fulfill a bit of wanderlust and need for adventure.
What initially sparked my interest in walking across South Carolina was a book I picked up in Ireland in 2006, Michael Fewer‘s Walking Across Ireland: From Dublin Bay to Galway Bay. In it, Fewer details his route across Ireland, detailing many historical details along the way. In my conception of this grand quest—there’s that Romanticism again!—I would do the same, compiling bits of local lore and history into my own tome, Walking Across South Carolina or the like.
There are a few key differences between Ireland and South Carolina, though. The chief difference is the weather: where Ireland enjoys mild summers, summers here are brutal. Seeing as I’m a schoolteacher, the only time I could really attempt such a journey would be in summer. Given that I frontload my summer with camps in June, that leaves July, one of the hottest months of the year.
There’s also the lack of right-of-way laws here. In Great Britain, for example, there is long legal precedent that established trails must be maintained not just by the UK government, but by the farmers and landowners through who’s land the trails run. Ireland, while lacking some of the same legal supports for walkers as Britain, still has some protections, per Fewer. Here, we love our quasi-allodial land rights here, with “No Trespassing” signs tacked up all over, so walking long distances becomes very difficult outside of hiking trails in State parks.
That would mean a lot of walking alongside rural roads, many of which are very dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. They often include very little by way of a shoulder, much less sidewalks. I’d have to chart out a course, even for a shorter walk, very carefully.
There’s also the matter of the gear. I definitely do not have the shoes or boots for it at this point. I’d also have to figure out how I would manage room and board along the way: would I stay in local motels, or camp? Would I attempt to bring along rations in a rucksack, or just eat at places along the way?
These are all interesting technical questions that could be hammered out. I also think I’d like to attempt any longer walk in more temperate weather. November or March would be nearly ideal, but those months can either be quite hot or very cold and wet.
For now, I will look forward to resuming some morning and/or early evening walks once the school year ends. I’ve grown quite corpulent over the past school year, a combination of stress, overwork, and poor discipline.
Well, back to the DiGiornio for now. Ciao!