Last week I wrote about two self-propelled travel memoirs, and how the travelers seem to have spent almost as much time being driven around as they did on the water or the trail. As I've written before, if I'm going for a walk I want to walk. I don't want to be driven to one trailhead and picked up at the other end. This is not some misplaced authenticity fetish: I know that even before cars, walkers got rides on horses and oxcarts and boats. It's just a matter of taste. I don't like being driven around. I find it infantilizing.
Here's the kind of "civilized walk" that these books make me long for: a long walk from one interesting place to another, taking several days. Ideally, it would run through a mixture of cities, suburbs, parks, countryside and small towns, with some long quiet stretches where I could walk for an hour or two without encountering too many people. It would have a comfortable indoor place to stay every night. Since I don't have the kind of connections that David Morine had, that means a room in a reasonably priced inn, hotel or bed and breakfast.
A civilized walk would not require climbing mountains or crossing large wilderness areas, although it might be nice if there were optional side trails to do those things. It would not involve camping, lean-tos, youth hostels or couch surfing.
For me, a civilized walk would also not require being picked up or dropped off in anyone's car. It would not involve walking on the side of any busy roads or stroads. That means that the entire trip would be on car-free trails, sidepaths or sidewalks, with maybe a few short bits on small streets, country back roads and driveways. It also means that both ends of the walk would be accessible by transit.
You can also have civilized day walks that are transit-accessible at both ends, entirely on trails, sidepaths, sidewalks or pedestrian-priority streets. There are plenty of these in the greater New York area, but they've been covered, at least in part, so I won't focus on them.
I don't know how widely my preferences are shared. It's pretty clear that some people don't want to own cars, and just about everybody hates walking anywhere near a stroad. Beyond that, do other people feel as uncomfortable being driven around as I do? All those Appalachian Trail hikers don't seem to have a problem with it. Do other people mind walking down paved country roads where a drunken tourist might come around a corner at fifty miles an hour? It's not clear.
In future posts, I'm going to explore some of the possibilities for civilized walks like this. There are lots of incomplete options, and some promising leads, but I haven't found anything yet that really looks like it would work.