Revisiting Walking Across South Carolina

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!


17 thoughts on “Revisiting Walking Across South Carolina

  1. Thanks for this piece, Tyler. 🙂

    I do like walking stories. On a decent long distance walk, you’ll pick up stories, past and present, and it’ll make for easy chronicling.

    My favourite walking book is Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, in which he and a friend take on the Appalachians. There’s some great stories in it, some humorous anecdotes and you can picture, even breathe in the scenery. It certainly made me want to go, even though I’d be a little nervous at the prospect of bears and mountain lions.

    I read Around Ireland with a Fridge many years ago and even though I enjoyed the book, it didn’t make me want to hop on a ferry and go over. Ireland is my ancestral country anyway (my birth father was born there) so it’s inevitable that I’ll find my way back some day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • During the first lockdown in England, Birtwistle brought me on his walks via the camera in his cell phone. Oh – the little ancient houses and buildings and flora and fauna! It was such fun. Every day a different route.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m taking the tablet out on today’s walk so I can show you the journey we take to get there and the walk itself. I recorded the dawn chorus on the tablet last year but couldn’t seem to get it off the tablet. Now I know how, I can do it.

        I miss Birtie. We don’t see him on the site anymore and unless I email him, nothing. I guess he’s very busy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Birtwistle posts on Face Book quite a bit and he and I email almost every day. He works in London and says things are much improved work wise as there’s more traffic and more sales.

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      • I’d love to post any pictures or videos you take along your walk, Ponty. I’ve actually gotten ahead on the blog a bit, with posts done through next Tuesday. Your pictures would make for a great Wednesday morning post!

        I hope Birtie is well. If you can reach him, suggest he join us here in the comments.

        Liked by 1 person

    • In my mind, it would play out like some kind of medieval fantasy roleplaying adventure: wandering from town to town, meeting interesting individuals, steeping myself in local lore, and maybe even completing a fetch quest or two (odd jobs—ha!). In reality, it would be a grueling, even lonesome experience. But I think it could be a bit of both. I will definitely fashion a strong walking stick to assist on my travels.

      I do love Bryson. I read _In a Sunburnt Country_, his book about Australia, years ago, as well as his book about the world itself (I think it’s called something like _A Brief History of Everything_ or the like). His writing crackles with life and energy and humor, and I’d love to be able to develop a style like his.

      I will check out _Around Ireland with a Fridge_. Sounds like quite the tale!

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  2. I think planning a big event is more fun the actuality. You may be happier just figuring out how you would go about your great walk than actually doing it.

    I have a ‘great undertaking’ in mind. I bought a book about Thomas Cranmer – it’s huge! I was daunted by the size of it and it’s been sitting on a shelf since but I’m thinking it’s time to pull it down and open it.

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    • I think you are right—the preparation and planning is a big part of the appeal. I’m picturing a huge map of South Carolina sprawled out on my table, with all sorts of notes and charts and books strewn about it.

      Yes! Give your big Cranmer book a go. You’ll certainly learn a great deal, if nothing else.

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  3. When you talk to him again, tell him Tina and I say hi. 🙂

    I can only email him once every so often. At the moment, lms2 and I are sorting out the next CW pub meet so I’m keeping an eye on my separate account.

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  4. I loved living in Salt Lake City because I could walk from my downtown apartment literally to the top of a mountain. South Carolina doesn’t have any conception of such quality of life.

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    • That is incredible! The Palmetto Trail sounds very interesting, but, yes, it’s just not feasible (well, not safe, anyway) to walk in some of our rural areas.

      The first “distance” walk I am contemplating is ambling down the road to Lee State Park. The problem is that Lee State Park Road is very treacherous, and does not seem safe for pedestrians at all. There are a number of blind curves, and folks drive at breakneck speeds through there (I should know—I’m one of them).

      Liked by 1 person

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