A brief history of Shanks’ Mare

Peter Warland on walking … and walking, and walking …

“Henry Worsley died after almost walking solo across Antarctica. How come he didn’t take a ride?” George

Peter Warland

Walking is very good for a person if he or she doesn’t walk into trouble.

After our ancestors descended from the trees they could no longer swing about from branch to branch so they walked. It was their modus operandi. Except for the times when they were forced to run away or after things, they walked and, apparently, it was good for them; they reproduced like mad and walked out of Africa and spread out all over the world.

We, their descendants, are very good at walking and so our leaders got us hiking all over the place, far too often into war whilst they had invented for themselves new modes of transport like horses, yaks, camels and such. Hundreds of Celtic warriors, coated tastefully in blue woad, hiked after their queen Boudicca as she led them in her brand new chariot against the Romans, who slaughtered them. Later, Henry V encouraged his followers by yelling “Once more into the breech!” and, they, obedient and true, rushed in on foot and got massacred. Ulysses S. Grant, mounted safely on a horse, persuaded his followers to go and get dead on foot too. It was the fashion.

Then the offspring of the survivors of those fiascos decided that they too would ride, but horses are inclined to be a tad messy in the streets, and so they invented vehicles. Thence the cart, the wagon, the omnibus and the automobile: walking became a symbol of poverty, the means of transport for the poor and disenfranchized.

So, when my lovely spouse and I first lived in Prince George — named after he who often rode a horse just to show off — we were inclined to walk. We denied poverty and claimed that we were endeavouring to get fit and possibly get back to being bipedal human beings, but nobody would let us. Every time we stepped out for a breath of air, we’d be picked up by some embarrassed stranger and hauled off to somewhere indoors, out of sight.

But things have changed over the ensuing sixty or more years. All sorts of people are out striding hither and thither and, recently, probably because of the surfeit of snow and ice, they are often seen standing around in groups comparing foot-gear. They look like so many comatose storks.

I was out footloose and fancy free — and incidentally illegally because I wasn’t with a dog — in Cranbrook’s Communist Forest today and so joined such a group. Most of the people were not actually comatose; they were admiring one woman’s footwear; she was sporting some sort of anti-skid material on her shoes.

I had already run into a covey of storks up the St Mary’s valley the week before They were standing around on the trails, some with one foot up, and I thought they might be discussing the proposed rezoning of those lovely Marysville Benchlands but no; they were studying the soles of an older man’s boot.

Many years ago I was shown some instep crampons that folk wore in Nova Scotia so that they didn’t slip-slide off into the chilly Atlantic and they’d intrigued me. I had used full length crampons for climbing on glaciers and ice-falls and so I purchased some but, somehow, they got themselves lost.

However, such things are au fait to many these days; they’re fashionable; I am going to buy some.

Last Christmas my friend Paul persuaded me to climb to the top of Lone Pine Butte near Wycliffe. I had been suffering with a corn on one toe and was unable to wear my nailed walking boots with any sort of comfort, so I’d donned softer shoes. For me, it was a calamity. I slipped, I slid, I stumbled and tumbled. There was fresh over the vegetation and I barely made it back to Paul’s house. I was exhausted. I needed crampons so, as I said before, I am definitely going to buy some, but realize that making a decision is going to be hard.