From Firsthand Mistakes and Blunders
I love a good, long walk.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I didn’t have a car but I did have a hankering for some adventure. I had that itch to just be somewhere else, breathing different air, seeing different things.
Since I couldn’t drive somewhere new, I developed a taste for walking to new places. I don’t mean hiking, either. Hiking is an art-form. The breed of people that call themselves hikers are like ethereal human-gazelles that use words I don’t understand like “killameter” and go bounding up mountains every weekend. I admire these people from afar but they also frighten and confuse me.
I’m built less like a gazelle and more like six meatballs stacked on top of each other in a trench-coat pretending to be a real boy.
I don’t hike. I walk. Or “plod” even, but let’s stick with walk. It sounds so much more dignified.
I’ve been on a great number of long distance walks now. I’ve wandered down highways from the Pacific Northwest to Maine and it always surprises me how many people I come across that say, “I would love to do that.”
Well, I’ve got good news. You can walk pretty much anywhere. Short distances and long distances, both are great. Just pick a direction one day and go see whats down that road. I mean, don’t go down any dangerous roads. I don’t know where you live, I can’t tell you how to do everything.
I can, however, tell you something I wish had known before I started wandering 10, 15, and 20 mile days: don’t walk out your door empty handed.
Some of these suggestions might seem obvious. Even amateurish. Well, let me address that right up front: Yes. They are. And each and every one is something I have had to learn the importance of the hard way. Because apparently I am a stubborn bastard that would rather bleed for myself than read about others.
Don’t be like me. I’m an idiot.
When you get a wild itch on your brain and you want to shoulder your pack and take a 20 mile stroll down some back-woods highway, do yourself a favor and remember to grab a couple things…
1.SNACKS: It seems obvious… until you forget them. On long walking trips, you will get hungrier faster than you you’d think and it pays to have something to munch that doesn’t require a long stop and digging through your pack and on short walking trips its just quite pleasant. Pick something light and with a lot of protein and you’ll be glad to have it further on up the road.
On a three-day walk from Bellingham to Arlington in Washington State, a friend and I stocked up on lightweight snacks for our day packs. We got the usual crackers and instant oatmeal, but the real delight of the weekend were Tuna pouches. They didn’t need to be refrigerated and we could step off the highway and mix up a meal very quickly by squeezing in a few mayonnaise packets from the grocery store deli. Kept us on our feet all three days.
2. HAT: Keeping of sun, rain, sleet, and useful for swatting away insects, dirt, and over-talkative walking partners, a hat is a useful item as well as fashionable. A crush-able adventuring hat doesn’t take up much space, is light, and while you might not wear it all the time, you’ll be glad you have if it gets too sunny or too rainy.
Indiana Jones wears a hat, after all. What more do you need?
3. PLASTIC BAGS: Ah, the humble plastic bag… unsung workhorse of the modern world. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of these little guys. They can carry most light items like food, bungee cords, twine, and trash without straining while also being incredibly lightweight themselves. They are waterproof (until they develop holes of course) so they can keep the rain out and shampoo or toothpaste in (double-bagging helps increase longevity). If your backpack is full, these little troopers can be tied or bungeed on to create temporary extra carrying space.
Truly a marvel of modern engineering, you really just never know when a thin sheet of plastic will come in handy. Do the world a favor, though, and don’t leave them lying around when your done… though considering how many of them you can cram into the tiniest pocket of a backpack even that isn’t asking too much.
4. CAMERA: Walking, by its nature, involves a lot of looking a stuff. Depending on where you’re walking and the reason for walking you could drastically different stuff, but stuff nonetheless. The best way to chronicle the stuff you have seen is to have a camera with you when you do it. This may seem unnecessary, since you were there to see the stuff, but at some point you will look back and say to yourself, “I wish I could see that stuff I saw again.” If you had a camera with you, its no problem. If you didn’t… well… you’ll have to trust to your memory. In the course of walking, memories will be made and much stuff will be seen, do yourself a favor and capture some of it to take home with you.
And yes, I know: “Phones have cameras now.” I’m not that old. If your phone is your camera that’s just dandy with me. However… some of you may not want to take a phone. Or you may not want to risk draining your emergency phone battery to take pictures. The point is, have something to take some pictures with.
If you do want to use your camera phone, then you can get a portable battery bank for a very reasonable price on Amazon that won’t weigh you down much. Then you can snap all those fancy iphone pics you want and not worry about not being able to call for help if you get attacked by bears.
5. WATER!!! (OR WATER FILTER): This may again seem obvious, but that doesn’t stop a lot of us from pausing as we walk out the door, holding the water noncommittally in our hand and thinking, “Do I really need this?” Maybe you’re only going a short ways. Maybe you don’t want to worry about carrying trash home. Whatever the reason… stop it. Yes, you do need the water. Or a least a way of getting water when you need it (water filter or cash if you’re going to be in a town) because you will most definitely get thirsty. Even if you don’t get thirsty, water is the epitome of the maxim “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” Trust me, as soon as you don’t have water and you get thirsty, walking is a lot more work and a lot less enjoyable and who really wants that? Do yourself a favor and bring the water bottle along. Or maybe two or three.
On one of my first “adventure walks,” a friend and I decided to walk from one town to another one in a single day… a route about 25 miles long. We weren’t stupid, though. We knew to bring water. So we brought one bottle each.
Turns out we were actually very stupid. But we didn’t figure that out until about thirteen miles out the door when our bottles were bone dry and we were heaving and cursing like Santa Clause on a treadmill. Don’t make that mistake, just bring the water.
Well, there you have it. A few little tips to get you on your way. Of course, if you’re anything like me you stopped reading at about paragraph three so… good luck to those guys. Oh well.
The most important thing is getting out your door. Get that part down and everything else will fall into place. Your Most Obedient Servant, - Dallas Alexander