The weekend of March 10-11, I went to Oregon to attend a movement retreat with Katy Bowman, who has started putting on weekend retreats that center around movement, how we move while getting life done, and a long distance walk. This one took place at the SoftStar shoe factory, in Philomath, OR, close to Corvallis. It was weekend I’ll never forget, filled with new friends, taking part in making my own moccasins, and walking probably three times farther than I thought I’d be able to since my injury last Fall.
WORKING AND MOVING FOR SHOES…
The first day of the retreat, held at the SoftStar shoe factory, consisted of movement – lots of it! There were classes with Katy in the loft of the SoftStar factory (which made for an intimate setting with 35 people!).
We also worked on our shoes – cutting parts and designing the buttons, turning – with the help of the elves. They did the sewing and harder parts!
We walked a long (at least a mile) walk to lunch to The Gathering Farm as a group. I learned a new word – cordwainer (and you though a shoe maker was a cobbler), and I learned much with Katy – she is brilliant with her words and teaching!
THE BIG WALK…
How to walk 15 miles when it’s been a long time… I wasn’t sure I would be able to walk even the first 5 miles of this hike because last September (when Katy had her first retreat) I couldn’t walk across the room without pain. I had developed a pinched nerve that sent pain down my leg and in my hip. Gradually, though, I started getting my walking back. Still, downhill was a challenge and could bring on pain, especially when I was fatigued. Enter hiking poles along with the downhill pelvic list . With two bail out points, and three legs, each at 5-6 miles, I had options. I decided to hike it all in my SoftStar Run Amok Dash shoes, since we’d be on trail or logging road the whole time. Irene, who designed the hike, did a fantastic job keeping us in the woods as much as possible. It was all on trail or logging road.
The hike started before dawn. The group met, we got logistics covered, and took off. The first part was up, uP, UP to a saddle, about 5.5 miles long. We enjoyed a sunrise through the trees and the dawn chorus of birds. We took regrouping breaks at junctions, and the conversations flowed within each group (it always amazes me what the trail does to free up thoughts). I also enjoyed moments alone where I could listen to the birdsong , and practice identifying plants along the way. I loved getting to know the other people, and really enjoyed joining a couple other hikers in a silent hike for a mile or so as we headed into the lunch pick up and first extraction point.
Debbie and Margot were there with our lunches and snacks – a welcome sight! I even saw a familiar face from the ultrarunning community – so fun to catch up! I felt great so far – no hip or leg pain and good spirits. My host, Jenn, had driven to the saddle to meet us and hike the middle five miles. She wasn’t sure she could hike more than that due to an avulsion fracture in her foot eight months prior. We picked up our lunches, and hike up, uP, UP to a view point – Dimple Hill – overlooking Corvallis. The sun was out and we all warmed ourselves after being in the cool forest all morning. One person dropped their lunch on the rocks, breaking the glass jar, and scattering the lunch. The response of our little community was amazing – people added a small portion of their lunch to make a huge lunch for him. All this while another person told us the ORIGINAL story of Stone Soup. So fitting! We got a group photo (the one to the left is mine) for Katy’s follow up – thank you anonymous couple who rode their mountain bikes up there with their toddler in tow! – and headed back down.
More good conversations ensued, and eventually we were back at the saddle, where we dropped off our lunch containers. I decided to drive Jenn’s car back to the start (she was feeling great and wanted to hike the last part) and join Margot (who had to drive lunch stuff back down), Jenn’s husband and Michael (Katy’s husband) and kids for more hiking. Ironically, the only time I had hip and leg pain was when driving that car – confirmed my decision to sell my 27 year old car and get one with an automatic shift!
Back at the start/finish, we took a leisure hike up, uP, UP, stopping to look at plants, pee breaks, and snack breaks. We met the front ‘go-getter’ group coming down, and finally, met the others. A series of back-and-forth animal calls between Michael and (I am assuming) Katy confirmed they were the people we heard coming down the trail. We all headed back together – more conversations, enjoying nature, and finally the finish. I found out later I covered about 15 miles over the course of the day. That blew me away, since I could barely walk across the room just a few months earlier!
After spending the night at the house of one of my favorite couples Margot and Wally, I headed to Portland to spend the day with my god dog Pixie and my friend Madi. I packed my Brompton, though I’d barely ridden since my illness in September. It was just too painful with the hills. But Portland, for the most part is flat! And Madi is know for family biking and not bent on getting the miles/distance done in a given period of time, much like long distance walking at Katy’s retreat.
Over the course of the day we did coffee outside on Mt. Tabor (the only climbing), got the kids from school, explored a restoration area, and rode to dinner. This was peppered with plenty of rest and snack breaks. I never felt tired or unable to keep up – it was so fun! And ironically, we covered 15 miles over the course of the day. I always tell my clients you should balance your biking with walking…..
The amazing thing to me, besides the body’s ability to heal, was how walking with community made it go so much easier. I am sure I would have stopped at 5.5 miles had I been on my own. I also would not have taken breaks, and therefor not paced myself very well. The trail has a way of opening up conversations that most likely would not have occurred under ‘normal’ circumstances. Is it the walking and moving and not looking face to face, but side by side? This is how our species moved for millennia, nomadic and working together to keep the community alive. This is how we were able to cover long distances, resting when we needed, conversing, and, at the same time, noting our surroundings. It was an amazing experience I won’t forget, and one I would love to return to time and time again.
I am beyond grateful to Katy, Debbie and Margot, and to the staff at SoftStar shoes for such an amazing weekend!! And to Madi and Pixie for a good recovery day! The biggest lesson I learned is you can move and listen to your body, and walk your own walk, or ride your own ride. And doing this with people that get that, too, drives home the mantra (a saying by Ram Dass) ‘We are all just walking each other home.’