Can we ever know when the moment is ripe and we are about to embark on something epic?

Perhaps you have a dream that you feel can become reality. More often than not it will remain a lovely dream. From time to time we all set out with determination to achieve something, take a few steps before other issues arise and deflect us from our goal. The future for everyone will remain a mystery, no matter how carefully we prepare there can be no certainty of the outcome.

Throughout my life things seem to have just ‘happened’. I firmly believe that you should follow your heart and the future will take care of itself, but don’t quote me on that, I am sure there are lots of people who disagree.

Heather and I had been walking in the English Lake District, occasionally reaching the summit of notable hills. There had even been semi-serious banter of walking the Wainwrights. It took me 20 years to ‘do’ the Wainwrights and I  hankered to walk them again with Heather. However most of our walks had been tempered by Heather’s fear of heights, vertigo seemed to grasp at her randomly, we frequently aborted the more difficult sections. Sometimes it  bamboozled me how the attacks developed. Crossing a stream via stepping stones could generate an anxiety attack, once the seed was set her mind could interpret minor green slopes as the North Face of the Eiger, we would turn back. She was fit and accustomed to walking, but only at low levels. Heather has something in bucket loads, determination, she insisted that we continue to walk regularly and conquer the wobbly demon.

Hillwalking, mountaineering and rockclimbing have always been my passion. Memorable days on the hills continue to live as jewels in my mind, I so wanted Heather to experience something similar. Getting a natural ‘high’ on a mountain, for me, is one of life’s essentials. Most of the time I would walk solo, quickly getting into the flow of a walk. As the last gate to the fell closed another less tangible gate would open up in my head. My eyes would scan the path ahead, then the slopes and the skies. I learnt how to look into the distance, how to feel at home in all weathers, and how to become one with my body and the mountain. Every walk was epic for me, it delighted me to use my body and savour every moment, my senses on alert. I learnt how to be sure footed and agile. I learnt how my muscles and tendons functioned under pressure, and learnt how to relax during prolonged periods of strenuous walking. It would be an entirely different challenge to encourage Heather.

I pondered various options, most of them unlikely to improve the situation and decided to add the incentive of completing the Dales Way, an interesting long distance trail approximately 80 miles. I had walked many sections with my children when they were small, so anticipated that Heather should have little difficulty and the sense of achievement would build confidence allowing us to attempt progressively adventurous walks.

The following articles break our walk down into day sections, the majority were completed on a Sunday, occasionally we would walk both Saturday and Sunday. A healthy, moderately fit person can complete this epic and hold down a regular job, but don’t blame me if the bug bites and you feel the need to plough on, once started this walk will draw you in and on.  The whole journey is on footpaths or bridleways avoiding civilisation as far as possible. It will be possible to select a day walk at random or if you feel so inclined attempt to walk the whole journey from beginning to end, be warned, we have covered almost 1,400 miles of continuous linked walking and have a long way to go. I have an end in mind, but all endings are simply the beginning of something else.

Should you decide to attempt any of the walks, please be sure to take adequate food, appropriate clothing and footwear, inform somebody of where you will be walking, when you intend to return, carry a map, compass, whistle, torch and phone. Above all, take your time, this is a journey to be savoured.

If you walk quickly you may catch us up!

Good luck. John

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