For seven days in July, I and eleven other dads hiked 90+ miles along England’s historic Hadrian’s Wall. We walked to fund a camp for kids whose parents had been touched by cancer. We walked to honor our friend Oren Miller, who had died of cancer the year prior – and for whom the camp would be named. We walked for those in our own lives impacted by the disease, including several in our group. But we also walked for ourselves.
The experience was exhilarating and exhausting, thrilling and tedious; breathtaking — both literally and figuratively. It was the undisputed apex of my year, and near the top of any other.
Until now, I’d only shared about the walk on social media. Life and all its complications — and my perfectionist tendencies — kept me from documenting it properly here.
But in light of the announcement that the University of Maryland Camp Kesem will officially come to be this fall, I thought it high time I collected my thoughts, memories, and images from that life-changing week in a more permanent fashion.
I still haven’t decided if this can be done in one post or seven (or something in between), so bear with me as I return to the rolling hills of Northern England and allow this epic outing to re-unfold.
PREPARING TO WALK
The days prior to the most adventurous part of my adventure consisted of traveling to London, pulling together final supplies, and connecting with my fellow dads/walkers. The pre-walk highlight: dinner hosted by a family in Camden, followed by drinks at a local pub. However, it wasn’t just any family or any pub.
The location of our trek had been chosen without knowing its significance to the man we walked to honor. In 1997, Oren was living in London, where he met Beth (his eventual bride) at the Dublin Castle pub; she was visiting her aunt Marlene who lived nearby in Camden Town. Breaking bread with Oren and Beth’s family and raising a pint at the spot where they met — we couldn’t have planned a more perfect sendoff for our journey.
The next day was more travel, this time by train and by bus. Our destination was a wet and dreary seaside town, Bowness-on-Solway. We unpacked into a musty community center, our bunkhouse for the night. Between the weather, the accommodations, and the jetlag (and perhaps too much beer the night before), anxiety crept in.
“What the hell am I doing?”
“I don’t belong here.”
“I have nothing to contribute to this group.”
“How am I going to make it through?”
These were just a few of the thoughts soggily trudging through my head.
Yet in a rare moment of clarity, I remembered that I had spent too much time, money, and effort to get here. This trip was important to me, to Oren and his family, to all those supporting our cause. I wasn’t going to let a bout of loneliness and discomfort ruin any part of this.
While that night was filled with too much snoring and too little sleep, I made it through just fine, ready to face the long, long path ahead.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stop by soon to read further about the walk, or subscribe to receive Designer Daddy posts by entering your email at the top of this page.