Last weekend (July23 – 25), Trails Project artists Susan Robb and Stokley Towles led a group of intrepid walkers on The Long Walk. For a glimpse into their shared adventure, Beth Sellars, one of the walkers, describes.
By Beth Sellars
The Long Walk inspired as many personal responses as participants. Forty of us hiked 40+ miles through landscapes that many of us had only driven. We all participated for different reasons, but were united in a collective goal of “reaching the end.” The 40 individual participants ultimately morphed into a most unique art form; one of cohesive, but diverse group interaction with the spatial experience of the environment. Along the way, we met old and new friends, shared in new experiences and dealt with physical suffering, always assisting one another.
Susan Robb and Stokley Towles, with Tamar Benzikry-Stern’s constant assistance, masterfully organized the incredible complexity of the project and were strikingly agile in revising problem areas. Jed Dunkerley, self-titled “blister medic”, earnestly repaired wounded feet and kept everyone on the march. PA Jana Brevick was pivotal in the success of the event, driving a rental truck filled with our gear, food, and water to every stopping point, repeatedly loading and unloading the confusing array of goods we had entrusted to her. She was unflappable, and remarkably upbeat.
Although we walked along highways and byways, and through occasional construction, we primarily walked along the lush undergrowth of rivers and creeks, over bridges, continued along sun drenched or tree lined trails and roads, and along the railroad trail that hugged the hillside in an ever-increasing grade into the Cascades. Mt. Rainier hovered on the horizon above the green expanse of corn fields in the Snoqualmie Valley. Beavers silently swam alongside our stride, disappearing under water only to catch up with us further upstream. Back water of vibrant green and pools of lilies yielded the sounds of competing frogs while eagles soared overhead.
The welcome shade of trees was enhanced by the sounds of songbirds. Golden light of the full moon flooded the camp ground each night. During the second night at the Tolt River campground, I listened to the long trill of coyotes howling.
Numerous bats living in the tall bat houses at Tolt McDonald Park swooped in a flurry through the dense swarms of mosquitoes that virtually disappeared as we enjoyed dinner in “high dress.” The evening ended with the captivating film Der Rechte Weg by Peter Fischli & David Weiss that paralleled our hike in surprising ways.
The combined resources of 4Culture and King County Parks Department made this project possible through a summer-long commission to three artists, including Susan Robb and Stokley Towles.
With the project, forty people gained new perceptions of the environment that surround us daily. Let’s hope this type of collaborative project can be made possible in the future for even greater numbers of participants. It brings significant new meaning to the art experience.
Aligned with the collective culture-building that was part of this experience, participants’ documentation in a variety of media will be combined to create an image slideshow and composite video piece. Stay tuned.
Image © various Long Walk participants:
Group shot by David White
Jed Dunkerley by Sara Edwards
Jana Brevick by Rebecca Cummins
Mount Rainier above the Snoqualmie Valley by Beth Sellars
Beth Sellars and Rebecca Cummins in “formal wear” by Rebecca Cummins
End-of-walk group soak by Beth Sellars