Hiking & Trails

Explorers of the Month: Meridian couple hikes British countryside

Connie and Ron Whitney of Meridian are planning their fifth long-distance hike in Great Britain for 2017.
Connie and Ron Whitney of Meridian are planning their fifth long-distance hike in Great Britain for 2017. Courtesy of the Whitney family

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The first time Connie and Ron Whitney embarked on a long-distance hike through the English countryside, he was concerned about her fortitude.

Two miles into the trip, Connie started to cry.

“I’m just so happy I can’t stop crying,” his wife said.

“I had that feeling of joy, deep in your heart,” Connie says 11 years later. “I couldn’t contain that. It still brings that on.”

The Whitneys are planning their fifth long-distance hike through Great Britain — known as walking tours there — for 2017. The Dales Way is a 77-mile trek spread across eight walking days. They add extra nights in some of the towns along the way.

They enjoy that they can fly to Britain, take a train to the trailhead, hike to the end, take a train back to the airport and fly home without ever setting foot in a car. The terrain isn’t overly difficult — mostly rolling hills — but the weather can be a challenge.

“You get up every morning, and you don’t have a choice,” Ron said. “If you’re going to spend the next night, you’ve got to walk to get there regardless of what the weather is. The Brits are the ones that confirmed, there is no bad weather. There’s only bad gear.”

Carrying the right gear has become easier since their first trip. They carried their belongings on their backs, like backpackers, even though they were staying in rooms each night (locations over the years have ranged from a pig farm to a hotel). Ron teased Connie about packing too much while she lamented her lack of dress shoes for a planned trip to the theater in London.

Ron seemed to be right when they ran into a pair of young women with small packs on the trail. Then they saw a van deliver a large suitcase to each of the women one evening.

Turns out, the women knew the trick. The Whitneys now use travel company Contours Walking Holidays to book rooms and transport luggage from town to town.

When they reach their stopping point many days, they celebrate with a trip to the nearest pub.

“And you start again the next morning,” Connie said.

The Whitneys, who are 67, have hiked all over the world. They like to do day hikes in the Italian Alps. But they do their long-distance hiking in Britain.

“They’re the pros,” Connie said. “It’s a hiking country.”