Steph’s Day Out – The 12-Hour Walk

story and photos by Stephanie Staples – 

Have you ever walked the Saanich Peninsula? I mean, I know you’ve probably walked on it, but have you really walked it?

Well, I’d lived here for seven years and I had never walked the Peninsula like I did this spring. I did a 12.5-hour, unplugged walk. That means my phone was on airplane mode, no calls, no podcasts, no music, no audiobooks, nothing but me, myself and I trodding along, alone … alllll day.

After reading the book The 12-Hour Walk, I knew this was a challenge I wanted to take on. For months leading up to the walk, as we often do with new and frightening things, I built it up in my head as such a hard challenge, telling myself stories about the perceived difficulties. It wasn’t so much the walking for so many hours that scared me; it was the “being with myself” for so many hours that had me worried.
I chose April so I would be in daylight the entire time (that was a good call). I left at 6:45 a.m. with a loose idea of where I would go and a plan that my husband would pick me up, instead of me trying to time a circular route. I just wanted to walk without having to be somewhere at a certain time.

I am almost always listening to something on my walks and this felt strange (but wonderful) from the get-go. My usual 25-minute walk to town took me an hour. My usual one-hour walk took me three. I dilly-dallied like a toddler, stopping to admire the flowers and every other little artifact that caught my attention. There were so many things I’d walked by dozens of times but had never noticed. Was I always in a rush? Must every walk be for exercise?

The sun came out in time for lunch at The Bluff at John Dean Park. I was about four hours into the walk and it felt good to take off my hiking boots for a bit. My salmon sandwich tasted extra good, and I was able to enjoy the view and watch the birds soaring below me.

By 3 p.m., the wind had picked up and it was chilly. Luckily, I had lots of layers and I found a little driftwood shelter on Island View Beach to have my snack in. My feet were feeling it at this point, and it reminded me of my long nursing days run off my feet. I braved the opportunity to refresh my tootsies in the ocean here and while it was indeed chilly, it was just the revitalization they needed!

Here on the Peninsula, I was able to walk the beaches and put my feet in the ocean, explore new trails in the forests, summit a wee mountain, pass farmers’ fields with newly-planted crops, walk through both privileged and underprivileged neighbourhoods, and enjoy the wild spring flowers in all their glory. I saw eagles, deer, horses, sheep, squirrels and rabbits. Without the clutter of noise and interruptions, every sound seemed louder, crisper and sweeter.

What I loved about this challenge was giving myself permission to take the time to just explore. I also loved:
• Being alone
• Making all the decisions and doing exactly what I wanted to do
• Not being in a hurry
• Not having a destination or a certain amount of mileage to get in
• Not being worried about the clock
• Having the freedom to stop completely and/or stop to rest anytime.

I was picked up 12.5 hours after I began, not having been bored for even a moment! I felt very grateful to my body for allowing me to do this feat, extreme appreciation for where I live and the beauty that surrounds me every day, and proud of myself for completing this goal. I also finished with a renewed appreciation for people who work on their feet 12 hours a day!

Will I do it again? You bet. It was a win all around, but the new challenge for me will be not taking pictures along the way (I feel I touched my phone too much because of the photos); next time I just want to take in all the beauty the old-fashioned way.

What would your version of The 12-Hour Walk look like?

What do you want to see Steph do next? Email with your ideas or an invitation!

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