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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Long Walk

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz is the tale of a man gone walking-crazy.  Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish officer, escapes from a Siberian labor camp in 1939 with some pals and spends a year walking across the Siberian arctic, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalyas with next to no provisions and handmade shoes.  He makes it all the way to British India to recuperate from his trials and near starvation in a hospital where he can't stand staying put and tries to walk off every night.

Well, Sean and I just completed The Long Walk.  In our version we walked with a group of forty other people 40 miles over three days from Kenmore, just north of Seattle, to Snoqualmie Falls, mostly along former railroad beds, camping for two nights in King County Parks.   On our Long Walk we experienced blisters, sore muscles, mosquito swarms, relentless sun, and unmarked trails, along with dangerous highway shoulders and speeding SUVs.  Our hardships were countered, however, by a U-Haul truck carrying our camping gear, other walkers with GPS devices and cell phones, stops at restaurants and a natural food store where we were give Odwalla products galore; plus free pizza each evening, a party with a keg and formal wear next to the Snoqualmie River, not to mention pastries and coffee in the morning.  Ah, roughing it.

Though the hike's organizers had done a lot of work to put the event together, they obviously hadn't walked or biked the route ahead of time.  This led to some unnecessary walking (as well as plain getting lost) on busy arterials, that were also construction sites, when a trail through the woods was only a short distance away.   Sean and I  learned to scout our own alternate route with our equally renegade pal with the GPS after that, and walked on quiet roads through horse ranches and on a powerline trail while the group trudged along a major highway wearing bright orange safety vests.  Throughout the trip, the sun was glorious (okay, it was hot) and we passed through some beautiful farmland, wetlands, and woods, including through my hometown of Carnation.  Sean and I are good walkers--it's one of my favorite activities, and I like to organize "urban hikes" with groups of friends--but by the time we reached Snoqualmie Falls all we could do was collapse on a grassy knoll, take our shoes off, and fall into a delicious stupor until we were taken back to Seattle on a "party bus" (with dance floor and the remainder of the keg) with our fellow long walkers.  A day's rest, and I'm ready to do it again...

Reading Notes
It's been a while since I've posted what I've been reading.  I finished a couple of entertaining, not particularly remarkable, novels in rapid succession:  The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan, and Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom.  I'm also almost finished with A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright-- a book from the Massey Lectures (which also gives us Margaret Atwood's Payback:  Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth).  This is a great book for getting a perspective on the place of humans in the world:  how young a species we are; how much and how quickly we've grown in population; and how we really have no clue as to what we're doing:  "Nature let a few apes into the lab of evolution, switched on the lights, and left us there to mess about with an ever-growing supply of ingredients and processes.  The effect on us and the world has accumulated ever since."

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