A road trip through a foreign and exotic land had been long on my Travel List, so when I had the opportunity to combine a road trip from England to Wales with a full day hike through a national park, I immediately jumped on board. After  12 hours spent driving on desolated narrow roads that took me from southern England to the very west coast of Wales, I found myself at the doorsteps of Snowdonia National Park.

Accompanied by two National Park guides, our hiking team of twenty set off on an overcast Saturday. For six hours we trekked on farmland, through forests, and past abandoned churches. Besides the odd farmer herding his sheep, it was just us and the elements of mother earth. We saw nobody for miles.

When you’re walking through fields, with no immediate end in sight, your mind starts to wonder about all sorts of things. I’d been reading Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life on the drive to Wales and wondered what it felt like to be alone on a bike, in some of the most brutal of road and weather conditions, for days at a time. We walked past charred bushes that had been burnt the week before and sheep whose ownership was marked by spray paint on their backs. I tried to imagine a livestock auction, where a good sheep would sell for £30 and a prize ram, £10,000. Sometimes we were walking through valleys; sometimes we towered over the coast.  I wondered what it’d be like working on one of the farms and not seeing another soul for days. The guides told us, sadly, that rural life here was starting to collapse. I tried to imagine what the National Park would look like one day, without tractors on the side of the road, without the farms and the livestock…

By the end of the 7 miles, when we emerged onto the road from a piece of the national park that had also belonged to someone’s backyard, I felt an air of satisfaction – I had experienced the  genuine  countryside and absorbed Wales, in vast proportions.

This article originally appeared on Just-In-Time Travels. Get in touch with the author @tracyzhangphoto.