One of our favorite topics at BoomerCafé is achievement — achievement by active baby boomers of endeavors our parents probably wouldn’t have undertaken at all. So it is with Joyce Zonana’s walk across England … A walk she makes all of us want to take.
I’ve always believed that life is a journey, but it wasn’t until I embarked with a friend upon Alfred Wainwright’s 190-mile “Coast to Coast Walk.”
It took me across the north of England this summer, so that finally I fully understood what that phrase “coast to coast” means. For twenty nights, every night, I went to bed exhausted, crammed with the complex experiences of a long day’s walking. For twenty mornings, every morning, I woke up filled with energy, eager for the adventure of the day ahead: what sights would we see, what challenges would we encounter, whom would we meet, where would we end up for the evening?
I had studied the brilliantly mapped-out route in advance—beginning on the west coast of Cumbria in northwest England, beside the Irish Sea, then moving through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors, all the way to the North Sea. But nothing could have prepared me for the variety and drama of the walk itself; nothing in my previous experience equaled either the struggles or the sense of achievement that were mine each day as I ascended magnificent peaks and descended into lush valleys, visiting ancient monuments, quaint villages, and crystalline lakes and rivers.
We walked among sheep and cows and horses, through pastures and fields of golden barley, discovering ripe raspberries, bursting rosehips, and fragrant honeysuckle in overgrown hedgerows.
The sweet scent of heather, mingled with the salt of the sea, accompanied us for our last few days as we clambered over stiles and squeezed through kissing-gates, following the meticulous (though often ambiguous) directions in our guidebooks and maps. Only once did we get good and lost, and then it was on our last day, within sight of our destination, the North Sea.
Along the way we met other walkers—some traveling solo, some in organized groups, but most like us in pairs, friends or siblings or spouses (and most, not incidentally, baby boomers well over fifty) — from Australia and Germany and the Netherlands and Japan as well as England and America. It was always a treat to meet someone more than once; for much of the journey we were crossing paths with Mike, a retired accountant from Derbyshire celebrating his 66th birthday, who cheered us with his unfailing good humor and enthusiasm.
About halfway through, I became almost crippled with pain—huge blisters on both feet from well-loved old boots that were now too tight, and a swollen knee that screamed at every downward step—and so I opted for an easy day, walking in sandals twelve miles along a lonely tarmac road rather than through a boggy hillside.
After a rest day during which I bought new boots, applied blister plasters, and found a brace for my knee, I was ready to go onward—and so I continued for the next ten days with renewed enthusiasm and much less pain. By the last day, I was saddened to find that we had come to the end. I wanted to keep on walking. And so I will, wherever the road may lead.
Read Joyce’s story about the start of her walk across England. Click here.