A Walker’s rest
It was a mild December day in 2012 that William Timothy Walker took his first steps toward Canada. Walker started at the original homestead in Caldwell surrounded by, well, Walkers. It took young Walker 67 days to journey from northern Orange County, up N.C. Hwy 86, into Danville, Va., and then to the Appalachian Trail, and to Buffalo, N.Y., and eventually to his rest place at Walker’s Hall in Canada.
Walker wanted to claim his name on this pilgrimage to Canada. His family had walked from Orange County to Canada, not just once, but twice, and Walker felt inspired to honor his family name by walking his own journey, as they had done.
“I didn’t just claim my name, I earned it,” said Walker this past week. At the other end of a video screen, somewhere in Spain, Walker paused and I could tell his words humbled him, even now. Walker is writing a book about his journey and he is working on the manuscript while in Spain.
He says the idea for the book was a seed before the journey and once it was over, he realized the seed was sprouting and that he had a message to tell about his quest to not just be a Walker, but to walk for his own life-name.
Walk, he did. “That first night was hard. I had walked from Caldwell and at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I could not walk any farther. So, I went off into the woods, made camp, and thought all night about what I was doing,” Walker says.
It was a moment of not just truth, but reality, too, for Walker. “My feet hurt and I bargained with myself that if I got up the next morning and my feet did not hurt, then I would walk farther,” he says.
Immediately, Walker knew his pack was too heavy for the journey to Canada. He mailed some of his excess pack-weight at a local post office and continued on his journey north.
There were challenges along the way and there were moments of inspiration, too. When Walker would happen upon a stranger that inquired of his journey, he was welcomed and befriended, and given inspirational wisdom and provisions to continue forward. Still, there also was the reality of the elements and his ability to survive within them.
“There was not a lot of heat. It was cold and wet and then when I got to Pennsylvania and New York state, I encountered ice and snow,” says Walker. At one point, Walker plowed through snow that was knee-deep. He also admits to having to pour boiling water over his boots in the morning, during the coldest of nights, so that they would loosen and he could wedge his feet inside.
When he needed to, Walker would leave the trail and re-enter society to buy provisions or to rest so that he could continue his journey, forward. “I think the longest I stayed on the trail and headed north, was six days in a row,” Walker said.
Along the way, he would update followers on his website and blog and keep in contact with family and friends, to let them know he was surviving and advancing. Though Walker did not encounter any trouble, he did have a somewhat intimate encounter with a bear. “I woke one night in a shelter, where I had made my tent, and heard the heavy sounds of something moving about. I could hear the animal breathing and then it went into my pack, in search of food. Eventually, it left without incident and I know my heart had migrated to my throat,” Walker says.
Yet, while the walk and the epic tales that he encountered were symbolic of this journey, Walker discovered truth and identity and lessons within the lesson, too.
“Follow your truth,” Walker says of the message his book will convey and the manner in which he lived then and lives now. Walker believes that when we follow our purpose and our honesty, then we will not stray off a path that is reflective of who we are as people.
“When I had to enter a town for supplies or rest, I could not wait to get back to the trail and to step away from society. Being in that spirit was just so powerful,” Walker says.
I asked Walker if during those days and nights on the trail if he ever thought he had crossed a path that his forefathers might have walked, too. Again, he pauses and he looks into his own personal reflection and he seems to be genuinely elated with is own response. “Yes, I know there were times when I felt their presence and I knew we had connected in some manner. I don’t know that I actually crossed a path they might have walked, but I did feel them with me,” Walker said. Though he admits to surviving on chocolate, salami, noodles, and lots of peanut butter and the occasional hamburger when he entered a town, Walker knows that the food that has provided the most sustenance then and even now is his humility. “I am both willing to receive and willing to offer my humility as an example of how I learned to live my life then and now,” said Walker.
When he crossed into Canada in February, his family and his friends greeted Walker and they celebrated that night his passage on this journey to claim his name. Yet, for Walker, his name was not necessarily something he claimed, it was a named earned, that being Walker.
Do you have a feature story idea? Contact Jason Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about William Timothy Walker’s journey at www.williamtimothywalker.com.