Maybe it’s time for the Chiltern Hills

My hikes can be more vicarious than real. It’s a nice two-for-one benefit of hanging with adventurous folks who like to get around.

Sunday, for instance, I caught up with Howard for the first time since he’d returned from hiking  a section of the Camino de Santiago in June. I was especially interested because Howard’s plan was to average 15 miles a day for 7 days; Howard is in good shape and a strong hiker, but that’s the kind of mileage AT thru-hikers aspire to — after building up for a month on the trail.

“It was good,” he said, a bit subdued, I thought. In the ensuing mile of discussion it turned out that the hike itself was beyond good, but the daily mileage took its toll in the form of one injury I had heard of (planter facitiis) and one I hadn’t (something involving the big toe).

I hadn’t seen Phyllis for about the same amount of time, during which she had done two trips, one in the Swiss Alps, one in the Canadian Rockies. In the seven years I’ve hiked with Phyllis, it seems she’s been just about everywhere. In fact, having done 34 trips in 10 years she’s pretty much run through every trip Roads Scholars offers.

“There is the Inca Trail,” she said, “but my time for that may have passed.” Less a physical thing, explained Phyllis, who is in her late 70s, more to do with altitude. 

I spent a good deal of time hiking with Jennifer and quizzing her on her and hubby Dan’s October trip to Patagonia. 

“Are you looking at Patagonia as an excuse to get new gear?” I asked. “Like rain gear? Could be an issue that time of year down there.”

“Actually, we’ve got good rain gear, from our trips to Iceland.”

Ah, yes Iceland, plural. 

I will admit there’s a twinge of envy when I hear these tales. In large part because what I do is limited to the Southeast, especially North Carolina, my hiking is mostly in the region. Which certainly is nothing to complain about: if I have to be restricted to one area, this is it. In my mind, with the Appalachians, the Piedmont and even the coast, North Carolina is indeed the Great Trails State.

After Howard shared his injuries I asked if he would do it again. He’d done about 90 miles on the Camino, and there are many miles more to be done. “Oh, yeah,” he replied without a thought. “We’ll, maybe not the Camino. But another hiking trip.” He mentioned the famous Hadrian’s Wall hike across England, and Scotland as destinations.

That got me to thinking about motive, about whether I’d yet to find a hiking trip I really wanted to take, one that provided sufficient motivation. And that got me to thinking about WildBeare. 

Wild Beare is a YouTube adventure blogger, of which there are many: got a smartphone and like to hike? You’re an adventure blogger. Wild Beare is different. She uses quality video gear (including an efeectively-used drone), has a great eye, and with every video seems to visit the most inviting spots on the planet. And all are in her backyard of the Chiltern Hills of England.

Chiltern Hills? 

Of all the hiking tours I’ve scouted online, I don’t recall one mentioning the Chiltern Hills (her adventures also spill into neighboring Wales). Yet Wild Beare’s adventures up it’s 700-meter moonscape peaks, into it’s vigorous waterfalls, and beneath it’s starry moonless nights has catapulted the Chiltern Hills to the top of my must-visit list. 

Perhaps more importantly, the tales shared by the globetrotters I hike with makes me realize such a trip can be done. My friends do it all the time: they leave, they hike, they return. And they return with tales of great adventure.

Another thing I’ve learned from my globetrotting hikers: Now’s the time to start planning for next year. Hiking trips, by their nature, are limited in size and they fill up fast. Time to start doing research.

Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be the one returning with tales of great adventure. And possibly a well-earned injury.

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Plan your big adventure

Motivated to plan your next — or first — hiking vacation? Here are 5 popular guide operations that popped up on a Google search. Note: These are not, obviously, recommendations.

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