My Big Walk

Doug Wallace Issue: Section:

My Big Walk
As I am a Native Son of Inverness, San Francisco was always my "Big City" for culture where we went to check out the King Tut exhibit, see Star Wars on opening day, and freeze watching the Giants. Recently transferred back to San Fran from abroad as an adult, and tired of mooching my parents' car for weekend trips home, I suddenly spawned an idea: what if I walked from SF to Pt. Reyes? More, what if I walked it in one day? Being half English, what if I walked it in one day and dedicated my glory to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee? Even better done with a British relly, which conveniently arrived in the form of Cousin Justin during one of the longest days of the year in late June to maximize our sunlight.
 

41 miles divided by 4 miles an hour would easily get us into Pt. Reyes by teatime. Fueled with hearty Guinness from the night before, we set off from my apartment near Alamo Square Park in the City at 04:35AM on June 20th. Five blocks down Scott St., my back already started hurting! Stiff upper lip, as the Brits say. We arrived to the bay and found ourselves befogged and dripping, the Golden Gate Bridge's fog horn beckoning to us like the Eye of Sauron. 
 
Once on the bridge, we proceeded north, suicide prevention phones appearing every 20 yards. "There is Hope" written on each one. Hope appeared in the form of light, the sun's rays reflected off the bay waters under the dense fog bank to the east. We ascended the Marin Headlands, and the sound of passing vehicles sounded like increasingly distant waves crashing on the coast. 
 
Later, at a more reasonable hour for Saturday morning strollers, we consumed our first Snickers bars, and lo and behold I passed a woman who shrieked "Doug Wallace?!?" There was Lara, my old pal and date for the Junior Prom 20+ years ago, now on my trail, doing her Saturday constitutional. After a brief reminisce and promises of dinner with new spouses, Justin and I tore off down the trail. We were now 10 miles into it.
 
On the Miwok Trail, my soul had submitted to my body, which had become a walking machine at this point. Rhythmic motion, blood pumping, regular breathing, my mind was almost devoid of thought. Down the trail I found myself alone. Running back, I found Justin. "Gettin' a bit nackered, mate." Do the British still in fact do things in the name of the Queen, I wondered? Alas, we staggered up to the Pantoll ranger station and campground and consumed lunch: Bread. Humus. Snickers. Apricots. Off with the wet socks; on with the moleskin. 20 miles in and a liter of water in my belly, we set off again along the ridge above the ocean. I recited to Justin a little Henry V, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he who walks to Pt. Reyes with me today will be my brother!" He quickly fell behind.
 
Throughout the afternoon, the Pacific fog gently buffered us from direct sunlight, and the round yellow grass hills shrouded in puffy fog gave me the illusion of walking upon a massive golden cloud. Ever onwards, the Coastal Trail did not want to stop. Out of water now. One apricot left. We trudged northwards in our body machines, finally onto the Bolinas Ridge Trail, through beautiful live oak and eucalyptus groves, the afternoon sun coaxing us ever faster. Down the wretched McCurdy Trail of decomposed granite scree we scurried to the Shoreline Highway.
 

30 miles in, out of water, and thirsty, I took my empty bottles to find one of the rare denizens of Dogtown. "Just bang on the door and yell" a kind, elderly lady tells me as she pulls out of her driveway. "He's hard of hearing, but he'll give you water", she says of her husband. I gingerly enter the garden and knock on the door. And call out "Hello, Sir?" No answer. The sun continues to set in the west. And I still have over 10 miles to go, with three blisters and a wiped out Cousin from Surrey. Screw it. I turn the hose on, fill my bottles, and leave before someone with a shotgun appears.
 

On the Olema Valley Trail which leads directly to home we plod. Tea time becomes happy hour which becomes dinner time, and the bright blues and yellows of day turn to purple and ocher. Mosquitoes appear. Rustlings of night creatures. "You go on ahead. I'm bloody tired." It was 8:30PM with five miles still to go. I realized our Long Walk had to end. But 36 miles -- SF to Five Brooks Farm -- in one day is laudable. And I bet the Queen would have deigned to share a Snickers with us had she been there.
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