Along the canal on the way to Espalais, France, 2009.
Training ~ Weekend Walking
Shortwalking your way to the long-distance trails
Wherever you live, if you’re planning to walk one of the world’s long distance trails, you need to get ready by walking at home. Training is so important, it’s hard to over-emphasize it. In fact, before finishing the rest of this article, you probably ought to get up right now, and go wander around your neighborhood for an hour. I think I’ll do the same …
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Before my first European trek, I decided to take a little tour of my hometown. I mapped out a route to a string of my friends’ homes, which were each a day’s walk apart. Then I called them up and asked if I could take them out to dinner in exchange for a night on their couch. Of course they all wanted me to sleep in the guest room, but I wanted to try out my sleeping bag and some of my other gear, so after they went to bed, I crawled under the dining room table, and slept like a log.
I spent an itinerant week roaming from the San Gabriel foothills, down across the Los Angeles basin, back north over Mulholland Highway to the San Fernando Valley, with a last wonderful day working my way down the Los Angeles River in pouring rain. It worked out great, I got to test just everything, and had a lot of fun – especially (according to them) the taking my friends out to dinner part. All I needed, was more.
Another approach is chronicled by Jamie Stringfellow in her story, Walkabout, which first appeared as the cover story in Westways magazine. (You can download it, here.) It’s the story of two friends spending a few days walking along the California coast, eating good food and sleeping in nice hotels – a lot like longwalking across Europe, only shorter. What a great way to try it out, test your gear, and train for the long haul. Chances are, you’ll find at least something you’ll never carry with you again.
Her adventure lead to WeekendWalk, a website about just such things. Check it out for some great ideas about walking trips you can make. There are stories of walks in all sorts of places, urban and rural, East and West. A little inspiration can take you a very long way. Recommended!
… on to the Pyrenées, beyond the Pays Basques. Chemin du Puy, France, 2005..