Last year I progressively cut back on my hiking/bushwalking (whatever name is preferred). This year I’ve barely hiked at all. I still walk instead of driving, but my journeys afoot are short, a couple of kilometers at most. Consequently, my feet have lost their callouses, their handy toughness. My legs are fit for running and half-hour walks, but are no longer conditioned for fifteen or twenty kilometers.
Our bushwalking club is running a late August hike in Western Australia, carrying tent and food on the seven-day Cape to Cape walk near Margaret River. Average daily distance is fifteen kilometers, with a full pack, and even now, four months beforehand, I’m terrified. There is nothing worse than embarking on a multi-day hike and struggling mightily, perhaps even suffering blisters.
So yesterday, we walked through and around Royal Park, just north of Melbourne city. It’s a surprisingly vast area for an urban landscape. I enjoyed the showcase views of the posing cityscape. I lapped up the open air and rhythm of aching muscles. But most of all, I realized I’d forgotten some of the wonders of the longer hike: the stretching of time; the emptiness of mind into which clarifying thoughts creep; the companionship of fellow walkers on the same quest.
Notwithstanding the clear imperative to avoid losing half or full days willy-nilly to hikes, I’m now determined to find ways to squeeze in modest hikes, say ten kilometers, looping from the apartment to avoid having to drive, venturing out once or twice a week. Quite how and when is something I haven’t resolved.