Going For A Hike

Created on 27/9/2008

I found the solution for spending too much money going out that we debated in this column recently. It is called a ramble in the UK and a hike in the US. After another week in which it seemed like the world might meet its financial Armageddon we need to take to the countryside to get some sense of reality. Somehow the world remains magnificent and calm despite the temporary and stupid tumult man causes.

As a non-hiker I did have some faults in my attire that I was not aware of until one foot stepped in front of the other. Although it was a dry, sunny day and I was wearing substantial looking hiking boots, I had not realized that these should be wet proof on their top as well as their soles. I soon found this problem when the still wet grass managed to infiltrate the tops of my socks with consummate ease.

However I was confident of my fitness to face the proposed 4 miles of our intended journey. I had, after all, long been exercising almost every day for about an hour, and therefore was confident of my muscles and aerobic capacity. I sat in the car taking us to the start point in the countryside but was a little disconcerted when we couldn’t find the mapped starting point.

Plan B was to revert to an already known alternative walk starting from the famed national scouting centre at nearby Gilwell Park. That seemed fine to me, despite the fact that this walk was 6.5 miles, rather than the originally planned 4.

I was about to discover that although I was quite used to the occasional romp on a walking machine of this type of distance it is not the same thing as a walk containing three or four very large hills!

Before I lament the variety of small indignities of a lengthy walk let me praise the sheer virtuosity of the British autumnal countryside for nothing is more profoundly pretty or charming.

There are sections of this particular walk in which you are walking through hikers paradise, so beautiful are the landscapes, the views fair take your breath away, both literally after you clamber up a hill or two, and metaphorically because you might as well be walking through a Constable painting. It is so beautiful that it is food for your soul.

As we walked we talked about things inconsequential and profound, of children and politics, economics and turmoil, but nothing seemed to be more important than the lay of the land, the bend of the horizon, the bushes still full of berries on our seldom populated route, and the sun dappling through the natural green umbrella of the trees forming an arch over much of our pathway.

Time drifted by and I found myself striding along, with a sudden infusion of shocking, boundless energy as I loped along, ahead of the group downhill towards the end of our delightful journey. Soon it arrived and I felt wonderful, which, I guess was the result of the adrenaline kicking in to get me past the imaginary finishing line.

We piled into the car, which took us home, and there I began to realize the foolhardiness of my exertions as I examined damp feet and felt my aching parts warm through under the hot shower I immersed myself in. But, surprisingly, although there were a collection of aches and pains the benefits far outweighed them.

Now a little time has passed, other walks are being mooted and I shall remain positive as long as I arrange the correct footwear.