A New Long Walk – Hadrian’s Wall Way and the Cornish South-West Coast Path
We are living through strange times. Covid-19 has attacked the human race and, therefore, taking another long walk seems to me to be “not imminent.”
However, I still feel the need to write a post for a couple reasons. First, because of the coronavirus, being hunkered down in rural Michigan, under a “shelter-in-place” order from the Governor, has put some spare time on my hands. Second, for reasons beyond my comprehension, since last November, I have had close to 50 new subscribers to my blog. That’s great, but I don’t know where they all came from. I haven’t written a blog entry since last June 28 (see How Three Weeks Turned into Eight Months) – that’s June 28, 2019, for future readers. I don’t know any of these new subscribers personally, but they (you) are all welcome. Maybe, I updated a “plug-in” or a “widget” in there among my blog software programs and this made my blog suddenly more visible on the World Wide Web. I have no clue.
I wanted to write a blog post at the New Year. New Year’s is a natural time for new plans and resolutions. However, then, I got quite sick (I am better now). I’ll explain. Since my second stem cell transplant for leukemia in January, 2019, I had been undergoing an elective outpatient chemotherapy. I decided to do it, because I am a leukemia relapse case, and there is some chance – no one knows for sure – that this chemo drug would mop up any lingering cancer cells left in me, if there are any. These could cause another relapse. My leukemia, which I thought was cured with a first stem cell transplant in 2015, returned in fall of 2018. Now, I am one of very few people in the world to have had TWO stem cell transplants. Well, lucky me to be so special! In fact, it is lucky to have survived them. I understand from my doctors that that is not easy – and I noticed, of course, myself, that it is not easy, because I went through it. My blood group after this transplant even changed from A+ to B-. I find that eerie. I also have two sets of DNA in me – my new blood system is one and the rest of me is another. I am not quite bionic yet, but getting close.
A few days into January this year, I started not feeling good. Then, in late January, in the middle of the night, I basically collapsed on the floor of my bedroom! My sister Jennifer has superhuman hearing and my thud on the floor woke her up halfway across the house in another room and she hurried to my rescue. I am chagrined to admit that I stubbornly argued that I did not want to go to the hospital. Jennifer persuaded me – I actually have learned, deep down, to agree with my sister’s instincts on such matters, but only after putting up a mandatory fuss. She drove me to hospital emergency in the wee hours of the morning (I managed to get up and walk to the car under my own power). The doctors thought that I was close to being sepsis (in which case, one is generally a ‘goner’). My temperature was 104⁰ and my blood pressure was about 75 over 40. For the next two days, they looked for the underlying infection and couldn’t find it. Blood samples, swabs, urine samples, a CT scan – nothing found.
In the end, they decided that I must be having a reaction to my chemo drug, even though I had been taking it already for 7 months. I was released after three days and have not had a repeat occurrence since. I also stopped the chemo drug.
After getting home from the hospital, I couldn’t see how I could write a blog post about planning a new long walk, when even grocery shopping was putting me out of breath. But, I have been walking every day on a path that Jennifer and her husband Joe cut through their property, and it meanders around 11 acres. It is a good length for a short walk. I walk around once, and then make an about-face and walk it back. At roughly the mid-point of the path is located the “Drinking Tree” (see photo). I stop there every day to sit and think, but not drink, though I intend to drink there sometime, too. Every day, the walking goes better and I am getting my strength back in baby steps.
So, I modified my plans for my next long walk – that is, I changed completely the walk, and decided to write this blog post to present it.
There are some challenges for me in writing a blog about hiking, when I am not in a condition to hike even a short path, downhill. So, then, when should I take this next walk? Could I be ready already by this coming fall? That hits me as ambitious, but postponing it would put a whole lot of time between writing this blog post – plus any subsequent pre-walk blog posts – and the walk itself, maybe even a year or more.
However, as I was sitting down to write this, lightning struck the planet, at least us humans on the planet. The coronavirus has spread across the globe like a wild fire. That sealed it. There could be no long walk this year, whether I was fit for one or not. The walk would have to take place next year, and I will need to find ways to keep at least some of you, the readers of this blog, interested for a year. I have some ideas for that.
After I returned from the Coast-to-Coast Walk across England (a day-by-day account is on this blog site, if you didn’t follow it then and are interested – there is a link to all of my posts in my bio at the bottom of this), I wrote a post called A Pre-Walk Post! In that entry, I set out my plans for a next and very famous long walk, the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, which runs 500 miles long cross the top of Spain. Over a 1000 years ago pilgrims began making their way along this route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which is supposed to house the re-interred bones of St. James, brought from the Middle East in 812 AD. But, as I wrote above, I nixed this walking plan as maybe too ambitious for my first post-recovery walk. Maybe, I will get back to it in the future.
My new idea is a two-part walk, returning again to England. The first part of the walk is another coast to coast walk across England, but at a narrower point, the Hadrian’s Wall Way. This walk is 84 miles long, starting at Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast of England to Wallsend on the east coast, and follows the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans against the Picts around A.D. 122. It passes by remnants of Roman settlements and forts, not to mention surviving sections of the wall itself. The walk claims to have “history at every step of the way”, along with cozy pubs, bustling market towns and great views. Now, how could I say “no” to that – I mean cozy pubs!
However, 84 miles is a bit shorter than the Coast-to-Coast Walk that I did with my friend Joel in spring of 2017. That walk was 204 miles long, with an accumulated 29,000 feet of climbs and equally 29,000 feet of descents (and I took that walk after my first bout of leukemia, proving that I am, in fact, capable of such craziness). Anyway, I decided I could prolong this new walk – after the Roman wall trek is over – by training it down to Cornwall in the southwest of England and walk a portion of the Cornish South-West Coast Path. That path is nearly 300 miles long, so I will need to chop it down to about 4 days. My criteria for selecting a segment of this route will be the number of ancient monuments along the way (I like history), which fortunately are quite abundant in Cornwall, AND, it goes without saying, the number of cozy pubs.
So, again, when will I take this walk? Well, as I learned on the Coast-to-Coast Walk, the number of bed-and-breakfasts on these routes are limited, and the walks are popular. That requires advanced planning of about six months – I know this by experience. Then, there is the question of how quickly I get my strength back, and how quickly we will put this coronavirus behind us. I wrote above that this fall will be too soon for these reasons. The following spring is more realistic. I will take shorter walks until then, and write about them and about my preparations, plus maybe a surprise trip I am thinking about. Anyway, I will try to be interesting. But, you can tune in or out, as you please – it is a free country, sort of.
Well, that is now settled.
We are living through strange times, and the psychological advice out there during this period of social isolation is to stay connected to family, to friends, and to the outside world, remotely. This blog will be one way for me to do that. There is of course a comment-making capability on the site, so you can connect too. I do have to okay the comments before they post (though I might change that feature), but, if it goes like my last long walk, that takes maximally a half day – and I nearly always respond to comments (and I have never not okay-ed any). Meanwhile, stay safe and practice your social-distancing until medical experts – and not politicians who think they know better – tell you to return to normalcy.
Be well and Happy Trails!