A Walker’s journey
You can follow William Walker’s journey at www.williamtimothywalker.com.
It just makes sense; Carpenters build, Painters paint, Millers mill, a Carver carves, and, a Walker walks. Eventually, we all learn the meaning of our last name. It is guarded, handed down, revered, respected, and for some it bears witness for a pilgrim to embark on a pilgrimage.
Such is the case for 33-year-old William Timothy Walker of Canada. Actually, William wasn’t always called William; he went by his middle name, Timothy, until the fall of this year when he had a powerful dream and he interpreted that he must not only use his first name, but also honor his name, William Walker, by doing as his forefather from Orange County did, and walk.
It was 219 years ago, in 1793, that William Walker walked from Orange County to Lincoln County, Ontario, a distance of more than 1,000 miles.
Walker researched and found that his forefather actually walked the journey three times: the first to settle land, the second back to Orange County, and the third to lead his family of nine children, wife, and cattle to land granted by the Royal Government.
According to Walker, his forefather served under Lord Cornwallis and pledged his allegiance when in Canada and was granted 1,200 acres of land on Lake Ontario.
“I’m the ninth William Walker in a long line of Walkers and I feel it is my rite of passage,” Walker said the evening before his journey. Walker and his father, William Wilfred Walker, began exploring Orange County to retrace the lineage of their families. They began at the tourist bureau for Orange County, were directed to the farmers’ market where they met a Walker who turned out not to be of their family, but this Walker directed these Walkers to Norman and John Thomas Walker of Caldwell.
It was here that the Walkers of Canada united with the Walkers of Caldwell and they began to explore the roots of a very old family tree. According to the Walker family, the earliest Walkers were from Ireland and settled this area in the early 1700s.
Near the intersection of Kiger Road and Norman’s Road in Caldwell, the Walker family cemetery sits, along with one of the original homes that was built on this land. It was here on Monday that William Timothy Walker stood by the tombstones of his descendants and he inhaled the first breaths of what he calls a pilgrimage.
The setting is something of history. It is foggy, damp and it is mild for December. There are horses in the pasture and it is quiet and William Thomas is standing somewhere near where a forefather stood, upon deciding to walk to Canada.
On this hallowed ground for Walkers, history and rite of passage and a quest to know the path in life and the purpose of life, was about to begin, through the determination, will, and legs of a 33-year-old from Canada.
“My pack will weigh about 40 pounds and all that I will need is contained in this pack,” said William.
From Caldwell, William would journey to Highway 86 North and then to Danville, Va., to Roanoke, Va., and eventually to the Appalachian Trail, where he would course to the north, through Pennsylvania and to Buffalo, N.Y., and ending his journey at Walker Hall, the homestead his forefather built in Canada.
“I have two changes of clothes and will eat high energy meals, mostly made from powders and such. I have two propane tanks to power my stove and for the most part I will camp and stay on the trail,” William said. According to his father, William is an experienced camper. “He camped in Cambodia and has traveled the world. Though I am concerned as a parent, I trust he will be all right and I trust his ability to do this,” Walker said.
The day before William left for Canada, he attended services at Little River Presbyterian Church, where he stood in the shadows of other tombstones. There are Walkers buried here and descendants and young William Walker is surrounded by cousins, of various ranks, and all are inquisitive about why a man would want to walk from here to there.
“We think they left in early spring and arrived the summer. Along the way cattle died, but he and his family arrived to a new beginning and established home and a life in Canada. Of being a Walker, I think it is about finding your way. It is about trusting and knowing what to do that is right and to connect in that in a visceral sense is really amazing,” Walker says.
According to Walker, he hopes to average about 40 miles per day and he planned for the trip to take about one month. Time will tell if Walker accomplishes his pace and how much of a factor the weather will play as he journeys from the mild South to the harshness of winter’s North. He will be alone. He will be cold. He will be hungry. He will go days without another human to hear his words or to look upon his face. He will struggle. He will encounter challenges and eventually, the propane that fuels his stove will run low and he will have to enter a town to gather provisions.
Two hundred years ago, his forefather set forth on a similar journey and he did so for reasons that are personal and he did so because of the man he was. He was also a Walker. And, for William Timothy Walker and all of the Walkers in his family and the Walkers that will follow and the Walkers that are yet to be known or born, this William Walker will walk this pilgrimage because of his name. Somewhere between here and Canada, a man is walking because he is a Walker. It is, as it has been since the 1700s, a Walker’s journey.
Do you have a feature story idea? Contact Jason Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.