Walkers on the beach at Tynemouth
Okay, here we go. It’s time for a full accounting of my recent walk across England.
Or, at least, a semi-coherent accounting of 89 miles with a 30-pound backpack and not enough water.
The adventure began with a short pre-walk, which is why this first day doesn’t officially count among the 6 days of the walk. One of the walkers had the grand idea to meet up on the beach at Tynemouth, a good 5 miles from the actual start of the Hadrian’s Wall Path, for a little Sunday afternoon warm-up. Just so we could say we really did walk from one coast to the other. About half of the 34 walkers were able to arrive a day early to participate in this easy trek from Tynemouth to Wallsend.
I’ll call it Day Zero. Or maybe it should be known as Day Less Than Zero.
I’ll have to back up a few hours to explain why.
The night before, I was in London worrying over a suitcase full of souvenirs I’d picked up for myself and the kids at the various museums I’d been to visit. I was packing and re-packing to avoid damaging any of these little books and trinkets. By 2am, I had things wedged together just right and could get some sleep.
Four hours later, I was up and out of my B&B for one last walk around the neighborhood, including a 10-minute stroll to Buckingham Palace. An appropriate place to be on the morning of the 4th of July, I thought.
Facing east, the palace was brilliantly lit up by the morning sun, so I lingered with my camera, eventually finding another tourist to take my picture. I even wished the policemen at the gates a “Happy 4th of July.”
Idaho Dad at Buckingham Palace
Whatever good feelings I had just then were masking three serious problems: sleep deprivation, dehydration, and jet lag. All three would soon rear their ugly heads. But for a moment, I felt ready to walk across England all in one day!
After a long train ride north to Newcastle, and a short train ride out to Tynemouth, I found myself face-to-face with many of my fellow walkers for the first time. It was an exhilarating moment as we marched across the sand to lay hands (or feet) on the waters of the North Sea. I still felt like I could take on the world, as evidenced by my Superman pose on the beach.
Super Idaho Dad takes on the North Sea
I was about 20 minutes from meltdown.
We said goodbye to the seaside and started walking along mostly urban streets, on level concrete and asphalt.
It was supposed to be easy.
I fell behind quickly, as I knew I would (I’m a determinedly slow walker).
What I didn’t expect was the sudden drop in my energy levels. At first, I thought something was wrong with the beef pasty I’d picked up at the convenience store right before we met up. It had tasted rather suspect, and was probably well past its expiration date.
Ten minutes into what was supposed to be an easy stroll along the sidewalk, and I had nothing left. Like I said above, it was less than zero for me.
Of course I didn’t know it at the time, but what was happening to me was the perfect storm of jet lag (affecting my body clock), sleep deprivation (I’d been averaging 4 hours a night the week before), and dehydration (London was in the middle of a heat wave).
The streets of Tynemouth
You can imagine how incredibly stupid I felt, watching all these people in front of me happily carry on while I was starting to go fuzzy at the edges (both visually and mentally).
I’m not sure how I finished that 5 miles. I don’t remember most of it.
All I remember is finding myself back in my hotel room at 6:30pm, laying down on the bed, and then waking up at 6:30am.
Amazing how a solid 12 hours of sleep can make everything right. Well, that and guzzling a pot of tea, two glasses of orange juice, and a liter of water at breakfast.
So, Day Less Than Zero was an inauspicious beginning to Hadrian’s Walk.
Thankfully, this was not a sign of things to come. My one good night of sleep in Newcastle had revived and energized me.
I was ready for the next 84 miles. Okay, maybe not all in one day. But the pre-walk from Tynemouth had shaken out the cobwebs and taught me some valuable lessons about sleep and water (one of which I would still have trouble with, unfortunately).
The next 6 days would be an amazing adventure for this newly humbled walker.
I’ll be back soon to tell you about Day 1 of the walk.