The last day of walking: the melancholy and the celebration of it.

It’s hard to write this post. I keep starting and can’t keep on. There’s so much more to it than finishing a walk. And it is hard to compartmentalize it into paragraphs. Throughout the walk we’ve made friends on the trail, which has been a lovely lovely intimate connection with strangers. We’ve truly had an intimate relationship with the countryside — the smells, the way the light changes and the mist coming and going, the sound of the water. In many ways, it is hard for me to imagine that I actually did this in my real life. It was not just a read, but a real life experience.

This walk reminds me that healthy-ness and love are a big picture. The paths to finding ease, or letting go are very winding, slow, swift and unexpected. It includes things We don’t even consider until we experience it. Things we aren’t searching or asking for. Things like the kindness of strangers, the feel of soft fields under your sore feet, the blackness of peat soil that exaggerates the other colors so dramatically, the relaxed and loving face you’ve never recognized on your husband, the easy breathing when there’s no hurry or worry.

The morning we began our last day, it’s lightly raining. The first day of rain we’ve seen. We sat at Beck Hall breakfast room in Malham and enjoyed a few chocolate croissants with our coffee. Yep, a few croissants. We’ve been eating like crazy — like 3000 calories a day while we’ve been walking! I said this earlier, but it is also a snacking holiday. And a cheese sandwich holiday.

Today was my strongest day. Considering My baby toes had some nasty blisters, my feet were lighter. The steps up Malham Cove cam easy and the walking was really delightful actually. It was odd that as we walked we have felt like our packs were lighter even though it holds the same amount of stuff. Partly, we’ve gotten used to what we’re carrying, partly, I’m the one who is lighter, not my pack. I think that sometimes we don’t even realize what we’re carrying. We’ve been carrying it so long that it just becomes part of us. But then, we let it go. Maybe we just let go of part of it. But there’s some shift.

It feels a little new age to say it, but it’s really quite practical. We cannot hold everything and so some things just have to be dropped and left behind. I do believe that can be a painful process, especially if we carry stuff just because we’re used to it, or afraid to not.

Over the last couple of years, I have made deliberate effort to let go of things that keep me from being healthy. But walking, of my gosh, the walking has shown me new kind of lightness. My body simply has had to let go of things in order to be light enough to walk 20 miles. And then do it again the next day. The feeling is a strange elation, an almost child-like giggle that goes on and on.

It is an odd feeling. We are about to achieve a milestone that I thought might not be possible. And I’m so sad to be finishing. I’ve gotten stronger and easier as the days have gone on and it seems a shame to stop here. But, that’s how life works, I guess. So the day begins.

Malham Cove

Malham Cove is a famous spot. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow filmed here. The Witcher filmed here. And I’m the rain and fog of the morning, it felt very medieval and ghostly as we walked.

It was the day of the Queen’s funeral. We walked by a farm and the BBC radio was blaring across the valley. The music of the funeral procession helped keep our pace for about 1/2 mile. Maybe that farmer was playing it for the cows too. Who knows? But it was a funny feeling as we walked in the mist.

And then shortly after we came across a couple out for a day hike. She said we should be glad we’re not in London, but she was please that the “old baked bean” gave her an additional holiday to hike. While the cafes and businesses were closed, it seems that folks were enjoying a day out and about.

Pen-y-Ghent, one of the highest peaks in England. We hiked it at a towering 2200 ft.

When we arrived in Horton-in-Ribblesdale we went to a pub where families were sharing dinner together. We were the interlopers, us Americans and another couple from Canada who we met on the trail. We also shared the trail with a couple from Lancashire. They had wanted to do the Pennine Way since they were young and so they took a holiday close to home to walk the first third. We all walked together for the last five days. We celebrated the end of our walking with a couple of pints.

Our last look at the PW in Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

So, what now? My mind is holding onto this question all night. What now? You did it. You found new contentment. And for now, I have to let the last five days, 97 miles settle in.

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