IF I could inspire ten wide-awake young fellows with a fondness for pedestrian exercise, I should be quite satisfied to jot down some hints on walking tours, suggested out of an experience of many excursions, aggregating several thousand miles of walking.
A self-reliant lad of good constitution should be able to get along by himself for a week or two, and to find his way through almost any part of the United States without other assistance than civil speech and a small map; and if he is not a self-reliant lad, I know of few things that will do more to develop his pluck, and cultivate a habit of thinking and acting for himself, than walking. Mind, I do not mean walking about a sawdust ring with the object of scoring a higher number of miles than some other contestant; for, while admitting the value of non-professional track-athletics as an educator of nerve and muscle, it is to be remembered that nerves and muscles are kept on a strain that often produces bad effects when the walk is over; then, too, in plodding over dull ground or empty floors the thoughts are tied down to the work and the surroundings, instead of being free to roam, as when the walker is in open air and in the midst of beautiful scenery.
In the first place, you want at least a week for your trip. If you have more time to give, you will be in better trim the longer you walk, as you should aim to increase your distance a little every day. Many people unaccustomed to long walks are exhausted by a ten-mile tramp; but by beginning, say with seven or eight miles, and increasing a mile or so daily, walkers become able to pace off forty miles a day and to be none the worse for it. The object of a pedestrian trip is not, however, to ascertain how much or how fast you can walk, but to see the country, gain new experiences, and enjoy yourself. Of course, in order to do this you must attain a reasonable degree of speed and endurance, otherwise you will find walking a poky affair. To find yourself at night near the place you left in the morning is discouraging, for you will begin to consider life too short to see much without the assistance of horses and railroad trains.
Lay out your route before you start, calculate your expenses, and supply yourself with money enough to meet them, as well as to provide for contingencies. Arrange for the reception of letters at various points, allowing two days between the time of writing and of receiving, for distances over one hundred and under five hundred miles from home. By planning your trip before starting, as you may with the aid of maps and guide-books, you will know exactly what you are undertaking, and will avoid mistakes and confusion. Be sure that you know where you are going, and that you are posted as to the points of interest along the line of march.
Do not encumber yourself with useless luggage. If you carry more than three or four pounds of "traps," you will be tempted to turn about and take them home before you have been more than two hours on your journey. If you intend to camp out every night, you must be content to go heavily weighted, and to put up with many discomforts. You will sleep cold, you will get wet, you will be obliged to carry a tent, hatchet, pan, pot, cup, knife, fork, spoon, and some provisions; and you will be inclined to doubt if the fun equals the trouble, unless you accompany a jolly party, and have the whole summer before you. Here is my whole equipment for tours of any length; it is all I took on a trip across the continent, and were I to visit Europe I should add nothing to it:-
(1) A soft leather satchel, about ten by twelve inches, slung from the shoulder by a strap. It contains (2) a gossamer rubber overcoat, (3) a nightgown, (4) a collar, (5) a neck-tie, (6) a guidebook, or map, (7) postal cards, (8) comb, (9) toothbrush, (10) "telescope" cup; and room is still left for packing small minerals or photographs of places that I visit. In my pockets I carry (11) a watch, (12) sketch-book, (13) pencils, (14) knife, (15) diary, (16) toothpicks, (17) handkerchief, (18) money, (19) and a book for reading during bad weather and at inns in the evening. I also carry (20) a stout cane, which gets to be a companionable sort of thing, and may be of service as a weapon. It is worth carrying for the sense of protection you receive from it, if for no other rea-son. The rubber overcoat is more than a comfort in showery weather. The nightgown should be indispensable to everybody; for it is unhealthful and uncleanly to wear the same clothing day and night. Even when compelled to sleep in barns - and there are worse beds than a hay-mow - I laid aside at night every vestige of clothing worn during the day, allowing it to air and dry thoroughly until morning. It is a luxury to slip out of your dusty clothes, damp with perspiration; it is pleasant to find them fresh and serviceable when you awake. Clear water is the best adjunct to a toothbrush in the care of the teeth. Soap and towels you find everywhere, so there is no need for taking them. By all means carry a note-book, or diary, and make a daily jotting of your distances and adventures. Though you write but five or six lines a day, those little hints will serve in after years to strengthen memories of what will probably be classed among the happiest days of your life. So with the sketchbook. The roughest and hastiest of my sketches, though of interest to nobody but myself, calls up a hundred circumstances, and puts me back among the hills in a twinkling. Be earnest in your sketching, and let your drawing, although but an outline, be as true as you can make it. My sketch-book is carried in a large pocket inside my coat.
Now as to clothes. It is plain that you should not set out upon a two-hundred-mile walk dressed in broadcloth, kid gloves, and patent leathers. Take your every-day suit, see that all the pockets are sound, and the buttons sewed on tightly. Be sure that your shoes are thick-soled, well oiled and broken in; and, if you are going to climb mountains, tell the cobbler to put soft iron nails into the heels instead of hard iron or steel, for the latter become smooth and slippery, making your footing unreliable on steep ledges. There is no need of suggesting that you may paddle about barefooted now and then. You will be sure to do that before you have been a day from home; but take smooth roads for it. Bathe your feet every night, and if they are a little tender put soap on your stockings. You will see from my inventory that I carry no stockings except those that I wear. It is more convenient to wear out the pair you start with, washing them now and then, than to carry extra ones. When they are no longer serviceable, throw them away and buy new ones. You may buy them at country stores for fifteen cents. Wear a flannel shirt with gauze underclothing next to the skin. Let the shirt be one of those convenient arrangements with a rolling collar that you can turn down your neck on state occasions, placing over it a linen or paper collar, and a scarf. As the collar and tie conceal all traces of the shirt, nobody knows that you are not arrayed in the finest linen. How do I get my shirt washed? In this way: my nightgown is arranged with collar buttons, and I conceal the front with the collar and scarf, wearing it in place of my shirt while the laundress is scrubbing the dust out of that garment. Flannel shirts need washing but seldom where underclothing is worn, a good shaking often sufficing to get the dust out of them. The night-gown, collar, handkerchief, and underclothing should be washed and ironed for you within eight hours, if you make the laundress understand that you can wait no longer for them.