Feet Off the Trail But Still Feeling the Path

It felt more than a little strange to leave my pack in one place for a few days, even more strange to trade in the dirt path for the urban streets, cows for crowds, and small tea shops for coffee shops & eateries on every corner.

I had not planned to leave the path when I did–short of my goal but longer than I’ve ever hiked in one go. I think it wound up around 260 miles, but I still need to put pen to paper for that confirmation.

What I do not have to confirm is my desire to come back and do more. I could say, my desire to come back and finish,but I can’t say that and honestly do not want to. Part of me never wants to finish now and part of me understands that you never really finish a trail like the south west coast path, because it is always changing–due to landslides, diversions, and of course getting turned about off course.

I have always been enamored by the path, the area, and England in general but now there is a bigger draw, pulling me back to the coast. I don’t think I can find the adequate words to give the complete reason why. Perhaps it is the people–the kind souls like Sharon who left her post at St Michael’s Mount to give a personal tour just because of a few inquisitive queries, or Sheila in Lizard who made cheese sandwiches for the day’s journey, or Janet who greeted me at her farm house, taking my wet clothes to dry by the oven and setting me up with hot tea and her special homemade scones.

It might also be how the path can make me feel completely isolated with no one in site for miles enjoying uninterrupted thoughts with only birds calling to one another and waves calmly lapping the rocks. Or it might be how my solitude can be swept aside as another walker and her dog accompany me for a bit and share her tales of being on holiday or pausing to exchange abbreviated histories with the couple who have returned to Cornwall where they were married thirty-three years previous.

It might also be the beauty which can catch my breath at surprising moments or, as one woman told me, the sky. “The first thing I noticed was how big the sky is here. It goes on and on, uninterrupted.”

But if I were to define it in one simple word, it would be the word that came to me on one of my first days, those days when my feet, my shoulders, even my skin was getting used to the physical demands and I was learning the best way to pack by re-packing, and appreciating the act of making a few reservations. These experiences, these surroundings, these feelings I had gave me contentment.

The path has given me great joys and moments of abundant happiness and certain gratitude. But overall, and underscoring everything, is this steady feeling of contentment. It happens, I believe, when both the mind and body work in harmony, in an easiness that is comfort but not complacency.

Perhaps this is why I return and why I know for certain that I will be back to the path again…to walk the dirt trail, the open fields, the rocky beaches, and to meet more of the people who make up this landscape.

I am struck at how amazing it is to discover this contentment… that, and of course, a hot pot of tea.

May you be well. May you be content.

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