By Janet Wight
After visiting England more than 20 times over many years through Books Afoot adventures, part of the BookWomen readers’ community; Mollie Hoben had already logged hundreds of miles exploring England’s countryside.
Hoben had walked across Kent from Dover to Whitstable, along the Cotswold Way and on the Thames Path. She does not recall how she came up with the idea to undertake a 70-mile walk to celebrate her 70th birthday, but Hoben ended up doing just that in England 10 years ago.
At that time, Hoben, of St. Anthony Park, wasn’t sure she would be able to complete another milestone walk in her lifetime.
But as her 80th birthday approached in November, Hoben wanted to try another milestone walk. Although she would have preferred to go to England again, possibly to walk the 80-mile Dales Way, she was not able to make the trip this year.
Then, the idea for an 80-mile meander in St. Paul was hatched when Hoben decided to try an urban route rather than a stroll through the English countryside.
Initially, Hoben thought she would carefully plan her daily itineraries, but later she decided instead to simply wander through one or two neighborhoods each day. Her goals were to visit every branch library and independent bookstore in St. Paul, along with as many parks as possible.
In total, Hoben visited nine branches of the St. Paul Public Library. This excluded St. Anthony Park (which she regularly frequents) and Hamline (which was closed). She also checked out five independent bookstores and wandered through many parks.
Hoben made her 80-mile trek over a nine-day period in October, which included eight days of walking with one rest day.
“Knowing I could do it, giving myself that challenge and having the opportunity to try to meet it” was her favorite part of the endeavor, Hoben said. Hoben also found value in making unexpected discoveries and looking at familiar places from a new perspective.
Memorable highlights included hidden gem Willow Reserve in the North End, stumbling upon Walk for Water Twin Cities at Upper Landing Park and Phalen Poetry Park, a community space where local residents are encouraged to write and submit poems. Also, she relished the opportunity to be outside all day regardless of the weather.
After completing the walk, Hoben realized that each St. Paul neighborhood has wonderful offerings as well as people who are engaged in their communities. This journey provided her with a richer sense of the city of St. Paul, she explained.
Janet Wight lives in the Como neighborhood and is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.
Photo:Mollie Hoben walked 80 miles to celebrate turning 80 years old. Photo by Lou Michaels.