It Is Solved by Walking
An amble through various kinds of very long walks
What is the point of a very long walk? It doesn’t generally count as exercise, or maybe it could but that’s usually not what it’s really about. A long meandering walk is almost the opposite of the way most of us work out—those carefully timed-out accumulations of moves meant to be as efficient as possible. Walking isn’t efficient. It’s slow, and unflashy, and either stolidly utilitarian or annoyingly whimsical. (A walk has also become, in pandemic-times, all there is to do — both great and not-great for Long Walks’ PR.) What, actually, is the point?
A few years ago I read a New York Times article about The Great Saunter — a group stroll around the edge of Manhattan — and became slightly obsessed with the idea of joining myself. “To walk the streets of New York is to walk a symphony by Gershwin — a tumbling, clattering, harmonic joy. To find its edges, those leafy enclaves and rocky riverbanks, the dense overhang of branches in the woods, is an unexpected lullaby amid chaos,” wrote Caroline H. Dworin of the spring day on which she joined 1,500 other walkers on the 32-mile journey. After 12 hours of walking, she was exhausted but had found what she came for, “that cinema of movement and emotion, sidewalk vanishing into woods, and then gorgeously reappearing, the solitude of nature within a city of millions.”
I’ve always loved a good urban stroll. One particularly golden pre-kids day, my then-husband and I decided to walk the entire length of Manhattan on a Saturday, just because, you know, why not? We started in Fort Tryon Park, a rocky cliff on the northernmost tip of the island, and by sunset, we were waving to the Statue of Liberty down in Battery Park City. Our legs pounded pleasantly with blood, and that night lying in bed I could feel the motion in my body as if my legs were still moving. I understood the city differently, after that trek — knew in my body how small that bristly island really was. I want to do something like this again, so after I read Dworin’s article I signed up for the next Great Saunter but then came the pandemic, and there hasn’t been one since.
Of course, I could just cross the river to Manhattan and follow the route myself but somehow I think that’s not exactly what I’m looking for. Or maybe it is…