We recently returned home to Maine after completing a Coast to Coast walk/hike across England from St. Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. Our route was based on the 190 mile walk devised by British writer and outdoor enthusiast Alfred Wainwright in 1973 to encourage others to get out and experience the diversity and beauty of the English landscape. It uses public footpaths, tracks and minor roads as it traverses Northern England and passes through three National Parks, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. Although our route was somewhat shorter it nonetheless captured the spirit and intent of Wainwrights guidebook. Averaging 14 miles a day we completed our journey in just over a week and a half and have memories that will last a lifetime.
While it is possible to complete this walk on your own, the logistics of identifying and securing lodging and meals, transporting luggage, and miscellaneous support made using a specialized tour company the right decision for us. We elected to go with National Geographic based on their reputation for attracting some of the best guides and tour leaders in addition to a long history of making unique adventures accessible to regular people. Our group, in addition to me and my husband, included another married couple and six single ladies from Texas. Our youngest hiker was 55 and our oldest was 73. Along with our two guides, we all dipped our toes into the Irish sea and picked up a small stone on the beach to carry along with us on our journey. While a few took advantage of the support vehicle to skip short portions of the route, everyone walked the last day into Robin Hood’s Bay, and as tradition dictates, dipped their toes and tossed our stones into the North Sea.
Although it goes without saying that walking 140 miles in a week and a half over hills and dales, farms and fields may seem a bit daunting, even to those that get regular exercise. But it is certainly something that folks in reasonably good physical condition can prepare themselves for. In addition to our thrice weekly cardio and weight workout at the student fitness center we added increasing weekly long walks/hikes in the Maine woods working up to 12-14 miles as we neared our departure date. Still, I hadn’t anticipated the cumulative effect of the milage on the balls of my feet. Thankfully a couple of Aleve in the morning dulled the pain enough that I was able to complete the entire course. The feeling of accomplishment at the end was well worth any discomfort felt in my feet.
Probably the most important lesson I learned from this experience is that you are capable of much more than you realize and that you are never too old to try something new. So get out there and discover a new adventure.