Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn couple’s innovative project: A marathon walk every weekday

They’ve explored every area of the borough — and the city

January 20, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Many people, including this writer, go on walks or hikes for recreation. But can you imagine going on a walk every single weekday, Monday through Friday, and not only that, a 26-mile, marathon-length walk?

That’s what Brooklyn couple Jessi Highet and Mike Varley, who go use the name Highley Varlet to publicize their innovative projects, have been doing since last year.

Their marathon walk project, in which they change walks every week, is known as “Total Clarity.” And several of these walks, which take place in all parts of the city, are in Brooklyn.

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In particular, an upcoming walk, in the last week of January, will take them through streets in Brooklyn that were once Native American trails, as detailed in a 1946 map published by the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, “Indian Villages, Paths, Ponds and Places in Kings County.” Among these streets are Flatbush Avenue, Fulton Street, part of Atlantic Avenue, Division Street in Williamsburg and Kings Highway.

The Kosciuszko Bridge is one of the many bridges Jessi Highet and Mike Varley have traversed in their walks. Photo courtesy of Jessi Highet

Highet, who also owns a textile studio, told the Eagle that the couple were in California when they decided on the spur of the moment, to walk from Los Angeles to San Diego. Later, they walked through the Pacific Northwest.

“Then, since we’re from New York, we thought, `Why not do it here?’” she said. “We saved up enough money to do this for a year.”

They do a new walk each week, and repeat each walk Monday through Friday. They publicize these adventures through their website, social media and on YouTube, where they post videos detailing their trips. While occasionally they’re joined by others, only one person so far has walked the full 26 miles with them, Highet said.

The month of October was totally dedicated to Brooklyn walks. “The Coast of Brooklyn” went from the couple’s home in East Bushwick west to the Greenpoint waterfront, then all the way down to Coney Island. “First Impressions: Upper and Some Lower Bay Brooklyn” went west, then down Prospect Park West, down Third Avenue to Bay Ridge, then to Coney Island and north through Bensonhurst and Borough Park.

Taste and Toast in Borough Park, taken on a “Total Clarity” walk. Photo courtesy of Jessi Highet

“First Impressions: Lower Bay Brooklyn” went south through Kensington and Bensonhurst, east to Manhattan Beach, then north through Sheepshead Bay, Midwood and East Flatbush. Finally, “First Impressions: East Brooklyn” traversed Brownsville, Flatlands, Marine Park, Canarsie and East New York.

A more recent Brooklyn marathon-length hike, “The Battle of Brooklyn,” explored Revolutionary War sites in Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Sunset Park and elsewhere.

This scene, under the BQE, should be familiar to anyone in Southwest Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Jessi Highet

Several of their walks that are not exclusively Brooklyn also go into the borough. For example, their “Three Bridges” walk, which took them over the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, started in Bushwick, went over the Williamsburg, proceeded down Hudson River Park to the Battery, went temporarily uptown and then onto the Brooklyn Bridge, looped through Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Park Slope, then went back into Manhattan over the Manhattan Bridge.

The maps the couple provide to illustrate their walks show many local landmarks, such as the Old Stone House, Bartel-Pritchard Square, Grand Army Plaza and the Kings Theatre.

“Why walking?” they write on their website. “On reflection, we came to the following conclusions: Walking is the intersection of environment, community and actual reality, and; Walking defines the New York experience, and New Yorkers set the standard for pace.”

 


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