Long distance hiking has always held a significant allure with outdoor enthusiasts, offering both a great adventure and the chance to reconnect with the natural environment. But during the pandemic, long distance backpacking has only soared in popularity as many of us have sought solitude and serenity on a remote trail.
This has proven to be true in the United Kingdom as well, where more people are embarking on long-distance treks along the country’s coastal routes than ever before. By stringing several of these trails together, it is possible to circumnavigate the entire country, covering thousands of miles in the process. As you can probably imagine, such an endeavor is not an easy one, a fact that was underscored recently when one hiker had to be rescued less than three miles from her starting point.
Embarking on a Big Adventure
The story began much the way any long-distance hike would get underway. Looking to add a dash of adventure to her life, an unnamed 28-year old British woman decided to set off along the 630-mile (1014-km) South West Coast Path (SWCP) in England. Her goal was to eventually walk the length of the entire coastline in the U.K., beginning and ending in the small town of Minehead on the southern bank of the Bristol Channel.
Such a trek can cover anywhere from 2672 miles (4300 km) to 6213 miles (10,000 km) depending on the path that is chosen. There are numerous routes for backpackers to take along this journey, requiring weeks and months of travel. Much of the route follows rugged and remote coastlines with rocky trails wandering along sandy beaches and towering cliffs.
This is exactly what awaited this anonymous backpacker when she set out last week. But her big adventure—filled with hope and promise—soon ran into a roadblock that should put a premature end to the trek and result in an ignominious rescue.
Rescued Three Miles In
The trek began simple enough, with the solo hiker saying goodbye to friends and family near the start of the trail in Minehead. From there, she set off on the walk, carrying a large pack filled with all of the necessary supplies and gear she would need for the journey. In fact, according to reports, the pack was so large and stuffed with gear it was a wonder that she could carry it at all. Still, undeterred the hiker embarked on what promised to be an epic adventure of a lifetime.
Not far into the walk she made a crucial navigational error that caused her to stray from the official course of the SWCP. Her errant route took her 800 feet (243 meters) down to the beach below where a rapidly rising tide cut off her access to the trail and left her stranded. She was just three miles into the hike and already she found herself in serious trouble.
Fortunately, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was alerted to the woman’s predicament and soon leapt into action. A boat was dispatched to rescue her from the beach, although she reportedly had to be convinced to give up her large backpack in favor of donning a lifejacket instead. Rescuers were able to get her to swim out to the boat, while also retrieving her pack. Once the woman and her belongings were safely onboard, she was quickly returned to dry land.
Becoming More Common
One of the members of the RNLI team that retrieved the hiker is a woman named Karla Thresher. She tells the BBC that these kinds of rescues are becoming more and more common. “”Lots of people have just read books about coastal walking and think: ‘Oh, I’ll give that a go’ but just don’t realize how tricky the tides are here in Minehead” Thresher says.
The incident was said to have left the hiker “shaken but unhurt.” In fact, once she was safely taken back to shore, she indicated that she planned to relaunch her round-Britain adventure the very next day. Presumably this time she would make more of an effort to stay on the designated trail and possibly learn to read a tide table too.
It seems likely that there may be more stories like this one coming our way. With an increasing number of people heading outdoors in search of an adventure, the possibility of inexperienced hikers and backpackers potentially needing assistance is likely to go up as well. While we shouldn’t discourage these individuals from seeking those experiences, perhaps it would be wise for them to wade into these challenges slowly rather than diving in head first. Thankfully, this story ended well and now provides a bit of a chuckle. That may not always be the case however, so remember to use caution when embarking on such a big journey.
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