In June 2022, I completed the 700 km Island Walk, around Prince Edward Island. You can read about that walk over several posts, starting with this one.
This was before Hurricane Fiona caused so much damage on the Island, impacting many of the places which I had visited. Some of what I describe below may have changed by the time you do the Island Walk, but please, don’t let that stop you. PEI needs your tourist support as it recovers.
This post is about how I planned the walk, deciding on things like the pace to follow and gear to use; where I stayed and how I found accommodations; how I worked out logistics like getting to and from the route each day; and what lessons I learned along the way.
Forgive the wordiness and lack of pics – this is full geek mode for me.
Once I’d decided to do it, I fell into my project planner mode, and started to figure out how I was going to walk it. How many days to take? Follow the route closely or ad lib in parts? What to take, and what to carry? Where to stay?
One of the good things about the Island Walk is that the PEI government has adopted it under its tourism umbrella, so the route signage is pretty good. The official website has a good map, and you can download to print out the route directions stage by stage if you want.
As well, the route has been added to map sets like Open Hiking and the Back Roads Map Books Canada Trails, which smart phone apps such as AllTrails or GaiaGPS can use. I used GaiaGPS on my walk, with a premium subscription so that I could trace my route and add waypoints. I did that in advance of the walk, to have markers show up for each of the 32 suggested stage end points as well as for each 30 km of the Walk.
There are other sources too. For example, the Island Walk website will point you to the official guide book which you can order online. I didn’t bother with it, to be honest, but it’s there. A few hours of Googlewhacking found several blog posts, Facebook pages, and YouTube videos about the walk, including one by the original founder of it, Brian Guptil, and I am sure that since I looked in the spring of 2022, there have been more posted.
There’s also an official Facebook page that’s linked to the Island Walk website, and that has a private message blog for which you’ll need to request access. That official blog is handy, because it lets you pose questions to other walkers and get advice on things like places to stay or eat, or transportation options.
While doing my research, I quickly determined that I wanted to do the walk in less than the suggested 32 days, partly to save money on accommodation and partly because I just didn’t want to be away from home that long. The stages as marked on the suggested route are mostly between 20-25 km, and I knew from experience that I could handle as many as 35 km in a day, so that led me to aim, initially, for about 30 km per day so that I could finish in about 23-24 days.
Based on that idea, and the notion that I’d walk from accommodation to accommodation each night (see the section below), I created a walking plan where each daily stage targeted about 30 km of the route, plus whatever distance I’d need to walk to/from accommodation each day. I used Google Maps to trace the route and scoured for places to stay – hotels, B&Bs, holiday cottages, and camp sites. I reckoned that I could take camping gear with me and use that for some of the nights.
The result was a plan that did get me round the Island in about 23 days, but which didn’t look very appealing. There were a number of pretty long days, approaching 40 km when I took the walk to/from accommodation into account. Also, in some cases there was only one B&B or holiday resort that would work given the stage lengths, but I was planning to do this starting in late May, and some of these didn’t open for the season till mid-June.
So Plan #1 went out the window.
For Plan #2, I went back to the drawing board. After more research, I saw that people on the Island Walk Blog were talking about using some of the towns as a base for several days, and arranging transport to/from there. That sounded like a better idea, so taking into account that the town I chose as a base had to be on the route and have some grocery stores and shops, I decided to use Summerside, Tignish, Kensington, and Murray Harbour as my bases. I rejgged my planned stages and was able to reduce the daily walking average to about 30 km, since with pickups and dropoffs I could stick closely to the route. That would get me to the finish in 23 days.
After talking it over with my wife, we also decided that she would join me for the 2nd half of the walk, so that she could explore the Island herself while schlepping me to and from the route each day. She had initially planned to be with me for the first couple of days anyway, so that gave me transport coverage for about 18 days out of the 23. Given that I could start or end a few stages in my base town, I assumed I would only need transport help for a few days.
Plan #2 survived the start of the walk, but hit a wall on Day 6.
I was slogging and foot sore, and everything felt like a grind, as I struggled up the west coast of the Island towards Tignish. I managed 20 odd km that day of a planned 32, and took a rest stop at Mimnigash, and then I basically couldn’t get up. After 30 minutes of self-pep-talk, followed by 30 more of now-what mental meanderings, I called my ride in Tignish and asked to be picked up early.
When I got settled into my hotel that afternoon, I called my wife and we talked through where I was at. I listened to her chuckling, as she said she had been wondering when I’d realize that 23 days was too short, and we agreed to lengthen the trip.
Looking at the official stages, I realized that I’d ended my Day 6 at the end of Stage 8, at Mimnigash. That put me 2 days ahead of the official 32 schedule already. To finish in 27 or 28 days, I just needed to pick up another 2-3 days over the rest of the walk, which I reckoned I could do by adding a couple of km per day to each of the remaining official stages. That approach allowed me to reduce my planned daily walk length from an average of about 30 km down to about 25-27 km per day, while increasing the duration to about 27 days in total. This became Plan #3.
In order to make this plan work, I needed to adjust my accommodation bookings. I had a place lined up in Kensington, and they were able to move my dates by a day, so that worked out. After that, however, I wasn’t sure where to go. B&Bs and AirBnBs were filling up fast, and were getting more expensive with the high season starting. Plus there was a festival of some kind in Charlottetown for the weekend I planned to finish, June 26-27, and hotels there were sold out.
Thus Plan #3 quickly evolved into Plan # 4, as I ended up booking a place in Murray Harbour, and then a final one in Vernon Bridge. This changed my stage plans, and I added one more day, so that I’d finish in 28 days. My daily average distance dropped a smidge more, and more importantly, things now looked doable.
And so parts of Plan #2 combined with Plan #4 became my actual as-walked plan. I ended up averaging 25.5 km per day, with a longest day of 34 km, and a shortest of 15 km. I started on Wednesday, June 1, and finished on Monday, June 28.
With all of that learned, my advice on Planning is simple – you should make one based on as much research as you have time for, and then you should expect and allow it to evolve as circumstances change. If I had tried to stick rigidly to my original plan, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the walk as much because I would have been more tired and possibly would have injured myself in pushing too much.
While I may have adjusted my plans a few times, in the end I did follow the official route quite closely in terms of the roads and trails followed, only deviating a bit around Summerside. I also had a few days where I walked the described route for a stage, and then added several km to it in order to get to/from that day’s accommodation. This added a few km to the overall total distance walked – it came to about 718 km compared to the official route length of 690 km, making my overall daily average of actual walking come to about 26.6 km.
Also, you will find that for the most part, the whole of the route is sign-posted quite well, with directional signs telling you when to turn onto this road or that.
The signs are placed with the assumption that you are walking correctly, and safely, facing oncoming traffic, i.e you are on the left side of the road with cars on your right. They are generally on the right side of the road – that is, on the opposite side of the one you should be walking on.
The signs are only on one side of the road, so this sign-posting practice also assumes that you are going clockwise round the island, following the sections from 1 to 32 in order (i.e start in Charlottetown, head to west Summerside, then north Tignish, etc). If you do the route the other way round, or a la carte in chunks, you may have to look over your shoulder for the signs.
There were a few places where I could have added a short detour to my day, to take in a place of interest. The official stage descriptions point out these sorts of things. For me, generally speaking, I didn’t do that. The only exception was the walk through Prince Edward Island National Park up around Cavendish and into North Rustico. There the official route follows the park walking/cycling trail, which is inland a bit beside the road. Instead, I cut down onto the beach and walked along it parallel to the road. It didn’t really change the distance but it was far more satisfying.
Over the course of my walk, I got into the habit each night of reviewing each day’s route as-walked, marking where I finished using my map app, and then scouting the next day’s route using Google Maps in satellite view to get a sense of the directions, sights, and possible rest stop options along the way. This became quite handy, particularly on road sections, as I quickly learned that finding a comfy spot to sit and rest was a challenge.
Later in the walk, when my wife joined me in PEI and drove me to/from the walk every day, using the map app and Google Maps also let me geomark the next day’s start and end points, and put those into my wife’s phone, so that she could just follow the directions in the car.
As you can see based on how my planning evolved, finding accommodation drove it as much as the route itself. While the Island Walk is referred to in some places as a “Camino” like walk, the reality is that it would be quite difficult to do it in the manner of the Camino de Santiago. You simply can’t walk from accommodation to accommodation expecting to find an inn or hostel or B&B more or less on the route every 5-10 km. The tourist accommodation on the island is concentrated in a few places (Charlottetown, Summerside, the Cavendish area, the Stanhope area, etc.), which leaves long sections at the west and east ends of the Island where there aren’t any B&Bs or hotels conveniently near the route.
It’s also important to realize when planning your accommodation that PEI has a short but intense tourist season. Many places only open after about mid-May or Victoria Day weekend (3rd Monday in May), and shut not long after Labour Day (first Monday in September) or at latest Thanksgiving (2nd Monday in October). But July and August are peak tourist – the island’s population doubles or even triples in these months. That leaves narrow 4-week shoulder seasons in June and in September, which can work as I found in June.
So all of that said, if you make your plans well in advance, e.g. in January for a walk in June or July, then you probably could book things out so that you could walk more or less from place to place, as long as you accept that you’re going to have more than a few days where you’ll need a lift as well as some extra distances to/from the route.
An alternative to that is to try to camp your way round the Island. There are some provincial parks that offer campsites as well as several private campgrounds, relatively near the route. In a few cases these align with the suggested stages, but for the most part they don’t, so you’ll have to improvise your stage lengths as needed. Even then, there aren’t formal campgrounds near the route in all cases.
For example, walking the Confederation Trail between St. Peter and North Lake covers more than 50 km, with essentially no nearby campsites. You could try knocking on doors and asking if you can camp in a field, and Islanders being pretty hospitable, you might be able to make that work. I wouldn’t try to stealth camp, though. There is essentially no crown land along the route, so if you try to stealth camp you’ll be trespassing on private land and that’s not just illegal, it’s downright rude.
By the way, another thing I learned in my research is that while there are many cottages for rent on the island, many of them are in holiday resorts where they only rent by the week. It was frustrating because some of these were right on the route, but since I only needed one night I couldn’t use them.
All of this is a long-winded way of explaining why I ended up replanning a couple of times and settling on a base-accommodation approach. In the end, I spent 5 nights in Summerside, 4 nights in Tignish, 6 nights in Kensington, 11 nights in Murrary Harbour, and finally 3 nights in Vernon Bridge. These places were a mixture of AirBnBs and inns. Since I had left it late, I had trouble finding AirBnBs around Montague and around Souris, which would have been a lot more convenient for the east end of the island than Murray Harbour, but on the other hand the place in Murray Harbour was great. If you book a few months ahead of time, and if you avoid peak season in July/August, you should be fine finding something.
Practicalities and Logistics
I met just a few fellow walkers on the trip, but in chatting with those few people a consensus emerged on a few things to keep in mind when planning this walk. In no particular order, I’d list them as follows.
- Road walks = no place to sit down, no place to pee
- Accommodation needs to be planned well ahead
- Since accommodation is likely to be spread out and not near the route, transportation to/from the route is key
- Timing is everything – you’ll have a short season to do the walk if you want things to be open but avoid the tourist crush
I think if I was going to do the walk again, I’d seriously consider packing a small portable stool or chair, which would be a blessing especially on the road walk sections. There are many stretches where you’re multiple hours between towns. Scouting each day’s route the night before using Google Maps in satellite mode helped me to spot community centres, public parks, churches, schools, post offices, and even cemeteries, where they might be a bench, as well as toilet facility candidates like gas stations, cafes, bakeries, and ice cream stands.
This let me make notes for myself about distances between these landmarks, so that, for example I could start on a morning knowing that after about 8 km I’d come to a church where I could sit on the steps for a break. Even then, I had a couple of frustrating days where I’d find the church I’d seen on the map but realize that it’s wooden steps had been removed because the church had been closed. On a rainy day when you don’t want to sit on the ground, that’s a real pain.
For most people, the other key is that while you need to stay hydrated, doing so usually leads to the need for a bio break every so often. If you are discreet and careful, you can sometimes find a conveniently located little stand of trees or bushes just off the road. Nevertheless, it always seemed that I had been walking for hours without seeing a car and then the moment I stepped off the road, 3 of them would trundle past. Or I’d walk along a promising stretch of road with houses on one side and fields on the other, only to realize that every stand of trees or bushes was exactly opposite someone’s house.
I did meet one fellow walker who’s strategy was simply to walk fast, drink little, and hold it all in. She would hydrate and pit stop before leaving, and then plow through each stage non-stop, only looking for a toilet when she had reached her destination at the end of a stage. That might have worked for her, but it wouldn’t work for everyone, and it certainly didn’t work for me. All I can say is that if you do need to “go”, al fresco, you need to be respectful of others and of private property and follow the backcountry rule – leave no trace.
Since getting to/from the trail and your accommodation may well require transportation, you’ll have to figure this out ahead of time. There are some options. If you’re near Summerside or Charlottetown, there are several taxi firms that you can book and they’ll drive you for 50 km or even 100 km if you need it so that you can be dropped at the start of a stage and picked up at the end. But that convenience will be pricey – expect to pay up to $2 per km.
An alternative is the T3 bus network, and it’s a good option in some cases. It’s very inexpensive at $2 per ride (as of June 2022). It runs from several of the towns you’ll pass through, on routes that lead back to Charllottetown but pass through several places, e.g. the route between Summerside and Charlottetown passes through Kensington. To use the service, you need to make a booking on their website, which can be same-day but is better done the night before.
Through careful planning, you can arrange these rides to get from your accommodation to your drop-off and pick-up points. The drawback is that the buses are on fixed schedules and run only 2-3 times a day, so there might be 4-5 hours between runs, thus you’ll have to time your walk to catch the bus. And, at least as of June 2022, the buses only run Monday-Friday so on weekends you’ll have to find alternate methods.
One of those alternate methods is to do the Walk without walking – ride a bike instead. I met several people who were doing the route this way. By riding, they could not only go a bit faster and do the route more quickly, they could also find accommodation as much as 10 km off the route, and they could adjust their daily stage lengths to go from town to town. The route is easy to cycle as the Confederation Trail is firmly gravelled, and the rest is on roads.
If cycling is not your thing, and buses don’t work, nor taxis, then one other option is to find a sherpa – a person to drive you to/from the route each day. This in turn takes several forms.
One is to use one of the private tour companies in PEI that have started to offer Island Walk packages combining accommodation arrangements as well as transportation, so that your luggage is schlepped for you and they take you from B&B to B&B. You can find outfits that do this by doing some research on the blog that goes with the Island Walk website.
A similar idea is to stay at one of several resorts, inns, and B&Bs which offer transportation to/from the route. You can usually book this at the time you book the accommodation. As the Island Walk becomes more popular, I suspect that this type of thing will grow. You can find these kinds of places by doing some research on the blog that goes with the Island Walk website.
One method I used was to ask for advice at one of the inns I stayed at, and they pointed me to a private tour operator named Stanley MacDonald. He runs custom small-group tours for cruise ship passengers coming into Charlottetown, and in between he’s happy to pick up Island Walkers like me and take them to/from anywhere on the island. There are several operators like this, and again, using the Island Walk blog can help you connect with them.
Finally, there’s the Little-Help-From-Your-Friends approach. In my case, my wife stayed with me for about half of the time I was doing the walk. She would drive me each day to/from my route, and in between she explored the island, visiting museums and shops and beaches and cafes and just generally chilling. Similarly, you could also walk with a buddy or two, and use two cars where you both drive to the endpoint to leave a car, then drive back to the start and park the other car, so that at the end of the day you can drive back and pick up the 1st car again.
There is one other way to do it, and that’s simply to plan your accommodation and your daily stages so that, as with the traditional Camino, you walk from place to place each day. A combination of camping (including asking people to stay in their field) along with B&Bs or hotels might well work, if you’re able to do the detailed planning required. I didn’t meet anyone on the Walk who was trying this, but I suppose it’s doable.
Food, Snacks, and Hydration
I’ve done all-day walks many times, and I’ve learned what works for me regarding nutrition. First of all, I focus on hydration – I’d rather carry the extra weight of an additional water bottle than run out on a hot day. For this trip, most days I started with about 1.5L of water and I tried to fill my bottles whenever I could at a store or coffee shop. On a few hot days, I also carried an extra 500ml water bottle, just in case. In addition, I always tried to include fruit with my snacks and lunches, since oranges, grapes, cherry tomatoes, etc. will provide a lot of hydration and electrolytes.
Regarding food, I try to eat lightly during the day while I am walking, saving the larger meal for the end of the day. That means starting with a simple breakfast – yoghurt and toast, a bagel and cream cheese, or oatmeal with honey, that sort of thing – and then carrying snacks and food to provide short bursts of calories every couple of hours during the walk.
I try to avoid junk foods like candy bars or high-sodium chips or jerky, and instead eat healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggie snacks, sandwiches with lean proteins like smoked turkey, whole grain breads, and so on. I’ll carry a few protein bars, as well as a nut-free (I’m allergic) trail mix of raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds, raisins, and dried fruit. I avoid things that need to stay cold – no tuna salad with mayo – so I can skip heavy ice packs.
On this walk, I also tried to limit caffeine during the day. I just had one cup of coffee in the morning, and then waited till I was done for the day before I had any more. Caffeine is a diuretic (it makes you pee), so limiting it made sense to me.
There were a couple of occasions where I was able to buy lunch along the route, but I think that only happened about 4-5 times for me. So the rest of the time I packed a lunch. You could adjust your route a bit I guess and hit a few more places, but you’ll need to pack a lunch at least half the time. I have seen that a number of the B&Bs and inns that offer Island Walk transportation and stay packages will sometimes offer to make you a packed lunch as well, so that’s up to you.
One other tip is to choose accommodation that’s near grocery stores – that’s in part why I chose to stay in Summerside, Tignish, and Kensington. It was much healthier to buy fresh food and prepare it myself for snacks and meals, rather than eating out all the time, and it was cheaper to boot. 30+ years of travelling on business taught me that there’s much to be said for home cooking.
As for what to wear and carry and take, I think there are only a few essentials.
- Comfortable shoes
- Comfortable walking clothes suitable for the day’s weather
- Rain gear
- A knapsack or day pack
- Snacks and often lunch
- Bug protection
After that, it’s up to you. I carried a little inflatable seat pad, for example, and it came in handy several times when I couldn’t find anywhere to sit down. I also carried some spare clothes in a dry bag, tailored each day to the weather and conditions. It was great to be able to change out of a sweaty shirt before getting into the car for a 45-min ride back to my digs, or to have a warm fleecy handy, or a complete change of clothes when I knew I’d be walking in the rain. And the dry bag for these clothes was key as well. Despite the fact that I had a rain cover for my pack, there were a couple of all-day walks in the rain that would have soaked anything I was carrying.
On the other hand, I did not carry sunblock or bug spray. I don’t like putting chemicals on my skin (and suffered bug torment accordingly), but other walkers I met did have that on hand. It’s a personal choice, and of course the time of year will factor in as well. Peak mosquitoes are in May and June.
What else? Well, many people use walking poles, and I started with a set as well. I had used them previously on a 1-week 200 km walk from Niagra-on-the-Lake to Toronto that included part of the Bruce Trail, and they were essential gear there. However, after the 2nd day of the Island Walk, I gave them to my wife to take home, since the road and trail conditions were fine, and I wasn’t carrying a big pack. You decide.
A word on the foot wear – really, you could wear just about anything, as long as it’s comfortable. I wore mid-weight hiking boots, which I was careful to break in before the Walk, and they worked pretty well. I had some blisters early, and near the end of the walk I had a little bit of muscle/joint/ligament pain in the soles and ankles, but mostly that was just about walking for 6-7 hours a day. Overall I was quite pleased with the boots.
Other walkers whom I met wore running shoes, hiking/trail shoes, and in one case hiking boots, and I’m sure their respective choices worked for them too. Just keep in mind that if you’re doing the whole walk in one go like I was, you are going to exercise your feet more than you’re likely to have done before. Shoes that work for a 1 or 2 hour hike may not hold up for multiple 6-hour days of walking. Keep that in mind, and don’t wear either brand-new footwear or old comfortable-but-not-enough-mileage-left footwear.
As for clothing, it’s really about the weather. I walked in June, and at the start on June 1st the day’s high temp was about 10 C, with some rain showers and a cold wind in my face. I started the walk carrying a light touque and runner’s gloves, just in case. By the end of the walk, the daily temps were up in the mid-20’s and peaked around 30 C, with hours of blue sky above. I knew going in that I’d get a range of conditions, so I focused on lightweight layers that I could add or subtract as needed.
Also, since I had a few days where I’d be carrying all of my clothes and gear from one night’s accommodation to another, I kept my clothing selection small and focused on lightweight items – just 3 pairs of trousers, 3 wick-away fast-dry T-shirts, 3 pairs of underwear, 4 pairs of merino wool socks, 1 wick-away fast dry long-sleeve T-shirt, and 1 lightweight fleecy, and of course each day I’d wear part of that. All of my clothes fit into a 10L dry bag and I could get that plus everything else into a 38L overnight pack with no issue.
In addition to those clothes, I packed and often wore two bits of rain gear, a jacket and a pair of pants. The rain jacket also gave me another outer layer if it was cold, and it served well as mosquito defense too. As with most rain gear, you’re going to sweat under it if you’re working hard, GoreTex or not, so the jacket I used had underarm zips so that I could ventilate a bit as I walked while keeping out moisture. But even so, it’s hard to balance staying dry vs staying cool. Accept that rain gear helps but you’re going to get wet anyway.
The final piece of essential gear for me was my hat. I actually had 3 of them – a full brim Tilley hat for sun protection, a baseball style hat that I could wear under my rain jacket hood to keep the rain off my glasses, and my bug hat.
The latter was picked up at a dollar store in Alberton in the 1st half of my journey, after battling mosquitoes along the Confederation Trail, and it turned out to be darn handy. Your head, your choice, just keep sun, rain, and bugs in mind.
I ended up using two different packs on the trip. I have a 55L multi-day pack that I really like and I used it for the first half of the trip. During this part, my wife wasn’t with me, so I had a few days where I had all my clothes and gear with me as I left one accommodation and moved on to the next, so I had to carry stuff that I didn’t need during the day on the trail – all my spare clothes, my indoor sandals, toiletries, snacks, electronics chargers and cables, an iPad. Altogether, with some extra snacks, lunch, and full water on board, my pack came in at roughly 11kg. I could have left a few things out of course, but the pack made carrying that weight all day quite comfortable.
During the 2nd half of my journey, my wife joined me so we had a car available, eliminating the need to carry everything. That let me switch to a lighter 38L overnight pack. This was, to be honest, still a bit bigger than I really needed, and I also own a 22L day pack which would have worked, but using the 38L pack meant that I could just chuck stuff in and not worry too much about packing carefully, and that way I always had spare clothes, rain gear, first aid kit, sitting pad, snacks, lunch, and water all to hand.
You could of course get by with a much smaller day pack, especially if you have someone able to sherpa you around each day. I met a walker during my journey who carried a little 15L day pack, with just a rain jacket, some water, and a light snack. You decide what works for you.
Let’s see, what else? I did carry a first aid kit every day, though fortunately I never needed it during the day while walking. I went through a bunch of blister bandages, though, and the associated alcohol swabs and antibiotic cream that you need to pop a blister while reducing the risk of infection. My first aid kit also had tick tweezers, and thankfully I never had to use them.
Outside of all that, there was other gear that I used at night, rather than carry on the trail. Toiletries of course – toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, etc. Also an iPad for entertainment, and that meant chargers and cords. Plus I had indoor sandals to wear, and what a blessing that is when you finally take your boots off each night. I had thought about adding a fancier shirt in case I went out for dinner but in the end didn’t carry that. I did carry a little sewing and repair kit, but never needed it. Your choice.
- Gregory Balto 55L multi-day pack – used for the 1st half of the trip
- Gregory Paragon 38L overnight pack – used for the 2nd half of the trip
- Oboz Yellowstone hiking boots
- Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) Hydrofoil rain jacket
- MEC Hydrofoil rain pants
- MEC seat cushion
- MEC 10L dry bag
- Outdoor Research 5L dry bag
- Tilley T3 sun hat
- Outdoor Research baseball-style hat
- 1 pair Black Diamond carbon fibre walking poles
- Phone charger cubes and cables
- Toiletries kit
- First aid kit – lots of blister bandages, needle & antiseptic, moleskin, tweezers
- Repair kit (sewing needles, thread, buttons, safety pins, duct tape, and light parachute cord)
- Medium sized MEC quick dry trail towel
- 1 L Nalgene water bottle
- 600ml squeeze water bottle
- 3 pairs pants (all quick-dry synthetic material, 2 of them convertible into shorts)
- 3 wick-away stay dry T-shirts
- 4 pairs merino wool socks
- 3 pairs underwear
- 1 long-sleeve wick-away stay dry T-shirt
- 1 lightweight zip fleecy
- 1 pair slides as indoor shoes
- 1 merino wool lightweight touque
- 1 pair runners lightweight gloves
Training and Fitness
It’s a bit of a cliche, but really, how do you know if you’re ready to do a 700km walk without actually doing it? Do you train for a marathon by running a marathon?
In my case, I knew beforehand that a) I wanted to cover around 30km a day, and b) that I would be carrying clothes, rain gear, food, water, etc. each day that would add up to something like 6-8 kg. So I did a few training walks of 10-20 km around town and nearby areas, and then after a few such walks where I’d carried nothing, I started to add a full pack with between 10-15 kg of kettle bell weights in it. By the time I started the walk, I’d done a couple of 25 km hikes carrying more weight than I was planning for on the actual trip, so I reckoned I was good to go.
What that didn’t prepare me for, however, was the repetitive stress of walking every day. It’s one thing to work out, it’s another to do it over and over again. Your body is, literally, made for walking, so you will adjust and get used to it, but you’ll find that it takes some time. The first few days of walking, I had a fair amount of muscle and joint stiffness on top of tender feet due to blisters. By about day 7 or 8, however, I’d walked myself into decent shape and was generally fine each evening. But then, by day 25 or so, I was starting to feel new aches and pains, and I put those down to just long term wear and tear.
One thing I’d do differently in future would be to plan for a couple of rest days. I think taking a rest day every 10-15 days would be prudent, and as I get older will probably be essential. As it was, I walked every day and just used a couple of 3-hour/15 km days as a way to rest a bit, so that’s another way to do it – mix up your daily distances to give yourself some short days once in a while.
Everyone is different, of course, and while you definitely don’t need to be a high-performance athlete to do the Walk, you are likely to find that you do need to push yourself on this if you plan to do it in one continuous journey as I did. Some of that will be mental and some physical. As long as you let your body dictate your pace, and are honest with yourself, you’ll be fine. I did this at age 59, and wearing a spare 5 kg around my belly, and not only survived but enjoyed it.
One of the reasons I decided to do the Island Walk was because my bucket list of walks includes a number of long-distance, multi-week journeys – things like the Camino de Santiago, for instance. I wanted to use the walk to learn what works for me. In that sense, it was a great test, and more than anything I learned what might be the most valuable thing I could have learned – simply that I can do it. There were times when I felt like bailing out, and I didn’t. Just knowing that I am able to push through that mental wall is important.
But more than that, If there is one key takeaway for me, it’s that this kind of journey is like a knife that pares away your preconceptions and strips you down to essentials. You walk, you eat, you sleep, you walk some more. Repeat. It’s an energizing feeling, that sense that you don’t need to worry about anything else. Just walk.
Other Posts About this Journey
- The Island Walk (a summary)
- The Island Walk Part 1 – Charlottetown to Summerside
- The Island Walk Part 2 – Summerside to Tignish
- The Island Walk Part 3 – Tignish to Kensington
- The Island Walk Part 4 – Kensington to North Lake
- The Island Walk Part 5 – North Lake to Murray River
- The Island Walk Part 6 – Murray River to Charlottetown
- The Island Walk – Plans, Gear, and Lessons
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