Personal Journeys


April 03, 2005|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A hundred miles on foot in Scotland



Last summer, my husband and I took the longest walk of our lives.

In July, we flew to Scotland and, after one night to recover from the trip, a van service drove us to Milngavie, just outside Glasgow. The driver gave us a map, a guidebook and his good wishes for success walking the West Highland Way, a broad dirt path that travels along village roads, through woods, past farmlands, over stiles, up hillsides and across moors from Glasgow to Fort William, 100 miles to the north.

As our luggage was transported to our next stop each morning, we set out to hike from one village to the next.

We walked the length of Loch Lomond, visited the ruins of a sheep cropper's hut, hiked across Rannoch Moor and saw the mountain Ben Nevis in the distance. Highland cows, sheep and a feral goat shared the path with us, but only one lamb noticed us, hiding behind a signpost and peeking around it as we walked past.

It rained nearly every day. Usually we had enough time to dry out before arriving at our destination, but once the rain was so relentless and heavy that we were soaked in spite of our rain gear and waterproof boots. That evening, we used the hotel hair dryer to dry our boots.

Though the path is well-marked with signposts blazed with a thistle, we worried that we would lose our way and did suffer some moments of confusion before consulting our guidebook and map and checking with other walkers. With 10-15 miles required every day, we couldn't afford a missed turn.

We had just enough clothing. I washed most of it at night, and we wore it again the next day. Our photos show us in the same outfits day after day. Since we eat only kosher food, we had also packed bowls, cutlery, mugs, water bottles and most of our food. Life was simple, a matter of fundamentals.

Though the landscape was beautiful and serene, it was not easy to get up every morning and take a long walk. But we had no choice. We had to walk to our next night's lodging.

Just as our food, clothing and tasks changed from our typical diet, wardrobe and daily activities, my personal prayers also changed over the course of our hike. At first, they were filled with my usual specific requests, but eventually they became more basic, more focused.

And we did it.

In eight days of walking and one day of rest, we reached Fort William stronger and prouder than when we started out. When I got home, my wardrobe became more varied and my diet more interesting, but I have realized that my prayers today are fundamentally the same as my prayers on the West Highland Way: that I find my path well-marked, and that I merit the strength and endurance to complete each day's journey.

Nechie King lives in Columbia.

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