17 Apr 2018

Long Walk On Nantucket

Photo courtesy of Nantucket Historical Association
Revered Mass General cardiologist, author and professor, the late Dr. Paul Dudley White once said, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” If you’re someone who enjoys walking, you likely well-know the truth to these sentiments. There really is no medicine like using your own two legs to explore the great outdoors and all five senses to soak in what nature intends to heal what ails us. Henry David Thoreau concluded, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
It’s amazing how far our legs can carry us when we’re using them for the sheer enjoyment of just being one with our surroundings. I’m a lover of long walks and try to venture four or five miles a few times a week. My husband will often humor me and tag along, but he doesn’t love my fast pace so often opts for his own abbreviated version. So, we were both surprised when a spring trip to France last year found us both energetic and enthusiastic to tackle the country on foot. We used one of those fancy walking apps to calculate our distance and discovered we were logging 7 or 8 miles a day without flinching…one day even topping 11 miles! At the end of the 10-day trip we had covered 57 miles on foot, while experiencing some amazing scenery, quaint hillside neighborhoods and a few dozen guilt-free croissants.
While it’s undisputed that walking is good for our health and happiness, it’s also widely known as being good fuel for the soul. I get most of the inspiration for these vignettes while I’m exploring the quiet sand roads or wandering through the bogs of Nantucket. It’s impossible not to feel creative when you’re surrounded by so much natural artistry. From the acres of conservation land, to the multiple species of birds, to the rolling dunes. And, that’s before we ever dead end at the Atlantic Ocean where on any given day the vision of the crashing waves against the clear blue sky simply takes your breath away.
The National Heart Association declared the first Wednesday in April “National Walking Day.” To celebrate the day, the Nantucket Historical Association shared the amazing photo above of a group of “Nantucket Neighbors” (circa 1932) walking in Hollywood Farm. It seems this hearty group of islanders had only one goal…the pleasure of spending the day meandering along a narrow path off Polpis Road. No rush, no deadlines, no cellphones (sigh). A simpler time to be sure, but those private paths and the ability to commune with friends is still offered for free by our beloved island.
Lace up those walking shoes, phone a friend or step out solo to soak in the beauty of Nantucket on foot. You can choose any of the network of island bike paths, stride into nature at Ram Pasture or Squam Swamp or use my preferred method which is to drive to any off-road sandy path, park the car and just starting trekking. No fear of getting lost. You can only get so far before you run into the ocean, where the travel guidance is simple – turn around.
Take a hike.

Shellie Dunlap  

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