I’d like you to think today about the longest walk you’ve ever made. Maybe some of you have never walked more than a few kilometers, maybe some of you are backpacking fanatics who have walked hundreds of klicks, camping and taking in the fresh air.
Well, I came across an article about a guy who puts us all to shame. It’s about a dude who goes by the nickname “string bean,” and he walked the entire Appalachian Trail (some 1700 miles) in forty-five days. Forty-five days. The forestry service recommends that you set aside four or five months of your life to walk that hike, and this guy did it in a fraction of the nominal time.
Amazing. In his final leg of the journey he walked for thirty-seven hours straight, some 117 miles non-stop.
Holy crap. His example goes to show you what humans are actually capable of- I think of twenty-five miles as a good day’s pace- and this guy walks over a hundred.
And he did it over broken, arduous terrain carrying all of his own equipment.
I bow before the master.
Yeah, I’ve done some long hikes loaded down like a mule, that’s why I included the pic above. Not to admire my ugly mug, but because this is the one photo I have of me that shows the bottoms of my feet clearly- the lugs are worn off of my desert boots, those things saw a lot of walking over there. (BTW, I still have those boots.)
So yeah, I have a little feel for where this guy is coming from. But I can’t fathom walking over a hundred miles without a pause. The article talks about his recovery from the hike, he talks about swollen joints, battered feet, and a ravenous appetite. No kidding.
Funny enough, but the worst walk I can remember was during training, not combat. I was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had to make an assault at dawn. We started walking at sunset on a frigid evening and we moved all night long to our jump-off point, a nameless point on the map. We walked up and down hills, through streams and swamps, we thrashed through brush and generally humped our gear beneath the cruel stars. I was carrying the 240B, my arms went entirely numb. At some point a dude went crazy, he started screaming about his feet. My canteens froze shut, no hydration for me. It was a pretty miserable experience.
But like many Army experiences, I learned from it. The lesson was that no matter how heavy the load, no matter how far or pointless the walk, you can persevere.
Just keep setting one foot in front of the other.
It was an important life lesson.
I’d like to hear from you all about similar experiences, your own version of the long walk. It need not be a vignette that involves physical movement, but rather a journey either physical or mental that helped to build character.
We’ve all had those moments in our lives.