A Misty path on Mont Royal, Montreal, on a rainy day.
February 27, 2009
page of the month:
Have a look at Talking Walking, a site that
highlights people who use walking to inspire them in
their work and in life.
Some other cool stuff:
Remember Laurie Anderson? Here's a YouTube of her spacy
song "Walking Falling."
Too out there? Try Robert Johnson from the 1920s playing
course, no walking site is complete without a reference to Monty
Python's Ministry of Silly Walks skit. View it
here . Remember
to take notes.
The text of Thoreau's "Walking" is such a classic that I have
included the full text on this site.Check out my notes. They
are ongoing, but at this point the early sections are
One of the irritating aspects of the Internet is the
unacknowledged borrowing that goes on. It's
easy to find dozens of identical pieces of writing plus
photos with no clear idea who did the original work.
I try to acknowledge sources and provide appropriate
links. Unless clearly noted, all writing is original to this
site. Please, if you use any of this material, acknowledge
me (Peter R. Snell) or the credited writer if it is
not me, and vishwawalking.ca. Photos without credits were
taken by me.
Perambulations of Poncho Pete (and Other Diversions)
Some parts of this site will
forever be unfinished. Its pages are constructed as strolls,
which means some sections are not as easy to get at as
To access information on trails
I have described (mostly in southern Ontario), click on the
"Vishwawalks" or "Parks, etc." links on the left toolbar.
Algonquin Park, Ontario
I walked the entire Highlands
in one day on August 21, 2013. It's a
35-kilometre trail in Algonquin Park, but with the extensions it
ended up as a 40-kilometre walk for me. Read my report here
. I have also posted my late September
walk in Algonquin's Eastern Pines Backpacking Trail
I have created a page containing some lessons I learnt on my
recent hike in the Appalachians. It deals with preparing for a
longer hike. While it focuses on the Appalachian Trail, the
tips are helpful for preparation of any hike. Preparing for a hike
I am presently writing my impressions of the first 200 miles of
the Appalachian Trail
from Amicalola Falls State Park (the approach trail at the south
end) to the start of the trail on Springer Mountain (both in
Georgia), then on to to Clingmans Dome just inside the border of
Tennessee, with North Carolina to the south. I walked this section
in the spring of 2013. I've completed a description of the
approach trail and the first 60 miles. See here for my Appalachian
The village where I live:
Thomasburg, Ontario. Coming home after a walk in September.
"Walking, ideally is a state in
which the mind, the body and the world are aligned, as though
they were three characters finally in conversation together,
three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in
our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them." -
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust (p.
The U.S. government is cutting off its nose to spite its face, as
my mum used to say.
Here's a piece from the Knoxville Daily Sun
describing cutbacks to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and
similar parks across the country. It's killing a thriving tourist
industry and depriving millions of Americans of a cheap and
healthy way to relax.
A view of the Blue Ridge
Mountains from Rocky Bald on the Appalachian trail (127.5
miles from Springer Mountain).
A photo cannot do justice to the breathtaking
splendour of these mountains: after hours of long, exhausting
trekking, the top of
a mountain is reached, or there is an opening in the trail's
forest canopy, and you
cannot fail to be awestruck by the grandeur of these ancient
hills. Photo: June 5, 2013
In Canada, the federal government and the Ontario
provincial government (and likely other provinces) are slashing
programs too. It's somewhat more muted than the American version,
but it's slow and steady and it's eroding our parks and natural
spaces. (See this Globe and Mail
report for federal park cuts;
this Toronto Star article
for Ontario park cuts.)
Same end effect: a nasty jab at affordable recreation for the
middle and lower classes, a devastating kick at the livelihood of
tourist operators, and the elimination of hundreds of research
programs, youth programs and the like to generally lower our
standard of living. False thrift.
The latest from Dr. Andrew Weil's monthly health emails:
"Walking: There is a "Right" Way!
Walking is an ideal way to get daily exercise - it strengthens
almost every major organ in the body, promotes optimal bone
density, and boosts the immune system. But have you considered
how to best put one foot in front of the other? Your walking
habits can have an impact on how much benefit you get from each
outing. Keep the following in mind when walking:
- Walk with your head erect. Train your sight 10 to 20 feet
ahead of you. If you need to check the ground to avoid
obstacles, lower your eyes, not your head, and try not to
thrust your trunk forward or let your arms dangle listlessly
at your sides.
- Keep your back straight. Stretch your spine so your
shoulders are level and square, and tuck your buttocks in.
- Bend your arms. Flex your elbows at close to 90-degree
angles and let your arms swing at waist level.
- Take shorter, measured steps, with your feet striking the
ground with the heel and pushing off with the toes. An
unnaturally long stride can throw you off balance.
The admonition in #1 to lower your eyes and not your head is a
tough one. It works on garden paths, but not on really rough
While their language can be obscure, the U.S.-based Performing Mobilities Network
They apparently use performance artists to investigate aspects of
"mobility" including walking. If they could get a tad further from
the foggy artistic/academic doubletalk, they could be onto a good
thing. As one of my careers includes performance, it seems a good
thing could be developed here. Of course, gypsies and the like
were on to this years ago, but still, a formal (practical)
investigation of art and walking could be exciting. Sign me up!
Camping in the air. This is from the Daily Mail
. Slackwalking and now
camping on nets and ropes. Definitely out there! Take a stroll
with nothing but 420 feet of air between you and the desert sand.
on nets and wires in Moab, Utah. The feat took
twelve daredevils to haul up the supporting ropes.
Daily mail photo by Andy Lewis
"But the slightest rise and fall in the road,—a mossy bank at
the side of a crag of chalk, with brambles overhanging it,—a
ripple over three or four stones in the stream by the
bridge,—above all, a wild bit of ferny ground under a fir or
two, looking as if, possibly, one might see a hill if one got
to the other side of the trees, will instantly give me intense
delight, because the shadow, or the hope, of hills is in them.
— John Ruskin, The Mountain
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, 1853, Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford, England. Pen and Ink and wash with Chinese ink on
paper. Photo: From John Ruskin Wikopedia page.
Art of Walking: A conference will be held
at the the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon,
October 10-12, 2013. It looks like the window for submitting papers is over (April 15,
2015), but the conference could be interesting if you're
academically minded. In fact, the above link to a "Walking and
Art" blog has some interesting reflections. The conference will
papers that "engage the conceptual,
cultural, textual, and visual dimensions of walking."
near Thomasburg, Ontario is my "home park." This ice and water pictorial essay of a little
seasonal falls and creek that flows in the park, eventually
pouring into the Moira River, describes one of my favourite
might not technically be walking, but it's known as "wing walking." Pretty crazy stuff. A
professional wing walker died in late June 2013 when the plane
she was performing on crashed.
the Daily Mail (see link above).
I can't have a front page
without regular news on nude hiking. (See Interesting
stories concerning hikers who get a charge out of walking in
the buff in Germany and elsewhere. For places to do this and
general news, check out Hiking Naked in America and Around the World.
You have to read the forums. Here's a sample: "I
left my house this morning wearing only my trusty loincloth/kilt and
my VFFs [Vibram
Five Fingers, a type of "barefoot" shoe]. The loin
cloth must be passing muster with my fellow Bostonians on my local
trails, as several people, men and women alike, pulled me aside
today and started chatting with me about my VFFs, how do I like?
It's because they're embarrassed that they're looking at your feet,
Stephen Gough is trudging across
Britain as we speak (unless he's in the clink).
He has spent an incredible amount of
time in prison for his efforts, but continues his hobby with
passion. See this June 19, 2013 Guardian
for details on his latest jailing.
In February, 2013, the courts ordered him to cover up
he obviously didn't abide.
Prudery, attention-getting, psychological warts and so on aside,
it's more about the right to be eccentric. The Brits, of all
nations are experts at that.
hiking in Scotland. See the full Guardian (on the link to the
left) article for more. Photo from the Guardian site.
In late June, the Appalachian has a nude hiking day. Here's a
really bad cutline from the Christian Science Monitor in
. Apparently the governor of South Carolina took off
unannounced on nude hiking day. The CSM made the connection,
except that it was simply a coincidence. The governor may or may
not be a really naughty guy, but the supposedly humorous
connection may fool some into thinking he really did hike nude!
Some years ago, the Canadian
Federation of Podiatric Medicine
, declared Vancouver the
best Canadian walking city. (By the way, the CFPM site is pretty
cool if you're looking for advice on foot care.) Second was
Fredericton, followed by Nanaimo, Brantford and Peterborough. A CNW article
(which looks like it's actually
a CFPN news release) provides more information, including a list
of the top 15 cities. Westjet airlines has a 2010 list
that's interesting, although
a check of where the judges live indicates some bias in city
walking -- not a good idea.
Here's a CBC report
on texting and walking. Some U.S. states are considering a
ban on texting or listening to music while walking. Recently,
after a decline, there's been an increase in deaths while
walking. Some say this is because of inattentive walkers,
listening to music or texting while walking. CBC filed a report
from New York.
In Fort Lee, New Jersey, cops are Handing out $85 tickets for
texting and walking. You are warned: in Fort Lee, just walk and
chew your gum. Stop at a bar for a couple of beer before texting.
to walk faster.
An article in the Post Chronicle
discusses a study in which it claims older people who walk slowly
will die earlier than
those of the same age who walk faster. A report last year
(2012) links slower walking
with the greater chance of getting dementia in later years.
On the other hand
, some claim that walking
slower burns more calories. Be careful here: an often-cited
University of Colorado report
by Ray Browning actually makes a
more subtle point, which is that obese people, who may like
walking at a more leisurely pace will make more strides within a
weight-loss management program than if they push themselves.
The Human Body is Built for Distance
out this New York Times article. It's mostly about running,
but there are arguments here for walkers to ponder.
I like the pitch for lower tech footwear. I'm testing out a
very light pair of Vibram Five Fingers
2013). It's too early to tell, but I think at the very least
they'll make a light second piece of footwear for fording creeks
and sitting around a camp in the evening giving my boots a rest.
August, 2013 update: my "VFF's" are great for teaching my toes not
to overlap (which they do). However, I have found that they don't
work for me in camp. After a tiring day hiking, spending a long
time to put on shoes that are not particularly comfortable is a
big negative. My pair is also very thin, so stumbling on any rock
or root could damage my foot (and stumbling is much more likely
after a long day).
Also, after not too much use, they stink. Washing with soap helps,
but that's another job that's a drag. I'll stick with something
that protects my toes a bit more and that I can slip into quickly
to give my feet a break from boots.
"Vishwawalks" and "Day walks" links to the left
will lead you to the walks I have chronicled so far.
The former are
generally long-distance trails (which I break down
into day walks) and the latter are parks and more
listed are mostly local to central Ontario where
I live. I trust this will expand with time.
Some parks are more
than day walks and some shorter trails can be
done in a day; check them both out.
For those who are a
little more daring, check out my "Get Lost" link to
the left. Follow the links and you'll find my
investigation of abandoned buildings and the like.
(These adventures are not for the timid.)
site map page has a standard index that may help. A list of
towns near trails and parks may also help.
"Funky places" will lead you to some great
not-so-mainstream places to wander around.
"Future walks" is an ongoing exercise in which I build up
information on walks I have not yet taken. In this section
I am presently checking out a 19th-century book by C.G.
Harper, tracking his travels through England and
adding more contemporary information.
Stories and links that have
graced the front page in the past can be
found here. Cool walking sites, mechanical
legs, naked hikers, we'll keep you posted.
World walkers: It seems that many world
walkers either weary of their walks or weary of the
business of updating their websites. A casual stroll
through several world-walker sites reveal bold plans,
but no clue as to whether they were completed. Still,
have a look at the sites of Hawk McGuinness, Jean Béliveau, Darren Wendell, William Bryan
Schlackman et al., and the walkers in the column
to the right. Amazing stuff.
started walking around the world in November 1998. His
last Internet message seems to be April, 2012, so where he
is now is anybody's guess. The above site has nice
graphics but poor information.
Gary "Walkingman" Hause"Keep on
Walking, Life is Amazing, Singing Zippity Do Dah , All Day
Long." — quote from House, who has completed his Australia
leg walking and biking around the world. Apparently, he'
headed out of Arizona in November 2012 walking toward
Barclay-Allardice, 1779-1854, the Celebrated Pedestrian.
He once walked 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours — a walker
to be reckoned with. Peter Radford has a book about
him called The
Celebrated Captain Barclay, Headline Books
Publishing, London, 2001. Check out this Guardian Review of the book.
(Photo from the Wikipedia website: Photo by Robert Adamson
David Octavius Hill in
the National Galleries of Scotland. Check out the
Wikipedia links about the artists; they're a
but one or two persons in the course of my life who
understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking
walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering,
which word is beautifully derived "from idle people
who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and
asked charity, under pretence of going a
la Sainte Terre,"
the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There
goes a Sainte-Terrer,"
Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to
the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are
indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go
there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I
to right: Matt Snell and Peter R. Snell,
Vanderwater Park, Ontario. Photo: Carol Snell,
(or vishva) is Hindi for "world."
site is a chronicle of rambles, both long and short.
There is a section on odd or out-of-the way sites of
interest. You will find various ruminations on the art of
walking and some practical information that will make
walks more fun. There's lots of impractical stuff too, to
keep things lively.
Vishwawalking is both the physical act of walking and the
mental act of dreaming an exotic walk. I make no apologies
for the wordiness here; this is not a find-it-fast
The planned walks I have not
done outstrip the ones I have chronicled. It's a game: the
virtual trips unfold until there's nothing for it but to
attempt it in reality.
Both virtual and real trips are always works in progress.
Real walks need to be taken with a care for observation;
virtual walks are a meander through endless sources. They
too should never be rushed.
The larger dream: just as road maps connect highways and
backroads, so "vishwamaps" could connect walking routes in
a fantastic web across nations around the world.
an opportunity here for those who are willing to take the
road less travelled to find attractions that are not
in many guidebooks.
Vishwawalking can be undertaken by anyone with a love for
walking, whether it be a quick half hour at lunch or four
months on the Appalachian Trail. Its more particular
meaning involves creating walking "threads," which I
go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit
of adventure, never to return, — prepared to send back
our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate
River, below Vanderwater Park. November 2008
Walter Benjamin, in
One-Way Street (1923-26):
power of a country road when one is walking along it is
different from the power it has when one is flying over it by
airplane. In the same way, the power of a text when it is read
is different from the power it has when it is copied out.
"The airplane passenger sees only
how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds
according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only
he who walks the road on foot learns the power it commands, and
of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the
unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings,
prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying
soldiers at a front. Only the copied text thus commands the soul
to him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never
discovers new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the
text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing
behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind
in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it
to command. The Chinese practice of copying books was thus an
incomparable guarantee of literary culture, and the transcript a
key to China's enigmas."
I am walking; it is enough.
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Ice grass, Nesowadnehunk
Appalachian Trail, Maine.
February 3, 2009
Updated: October 29, 2013