Mountain Brook local walks every street in the city—hear his unique story

Ralph Yeilding mapping out his walk.
Ralph Yeilding mapping out his walk. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Everyone has their own path to follow, and for Mountain Brook local Ralph Yeilding, it was to walk them all.

Venturing out

Ralph Yeilding
The intersection where Yeilding begins his walks. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Ralph Yeilding has lived in Mountain Brook his entire life, watching the city transform over the past six decades. Working as an attorney at Bradley Law Firm, Yeilding kept busy with work. But when COVID-19 hit, he needed a way to find a sense of normalcy and keep moving.

While millions of people remained indoors, traveling only a few feet within their homes, Yeilding decided to walk every single street throughout his city.

“I guess I was one of those folks who was knocked on their heels by COVID. And I was a bit in a COVID funk, you might say. It’s an effort to get myself back into some semblance of a routine and improve my mental health. It just struck me that it would be interesting to walk the streets of Mountain Brook, and there were certainly a lot of areas I hadn’t gone to.”

– Ralph Yeilding

Mapping it out

Pointing at map
Yeilding maps out his path. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Strategizing is an essential part of being an attorney, and Yeilding carried the skill with him when it came to making a game plan. He combined a good-old-fashioned map, like from his Boy Scout days, with modern day technology to optimize completing his mission.

Yeilding printed out a map of Mountain Brook and marked where he planned to walk each day.

“I would go out and walk an area from my house, and then come back and use a red magic marker to mark the streets that I walked that particular day. Then, I would take a screenshot of the map on my iPhone, and would take that to be able to figure out the best way to walk a particular area.”

– Ralph Yeilding

While the red marked the streets he walked, the blue outlined the streets he encountered multiple times.

Discovering his hometown

Ralph Yeilding walking
Mountain Brook is one of the few cities with wide sidewalk coverage. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Yeilding estimates he has walked 250 miles, which is about the length from Birmingham to Lexington, Kentucky. In order to achieve his ambitious goal, Yeilding walked seven to 14 miles several days a week, most of which occurred between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

Though Yeilding knows more about Mountain Brook than most, he expanded his knowledge on the city while completing his walks.

“I have determined there are 175 miles of streets in Mountain Brook. There are 494 streets and about 7,000-8,000 houses. One thing I learned in this whole endeavor is that the effort to put in sidewalks around our city really was jump started in the early 1990s. At that time, I understand, there were only about four miles of sidewalks in the city. Today, there are 46 miles of sidewalks in the city, which cover the major thoroughfares between all the villages.

– Ralph Yeilding

Being in the moment

Standing outside his home
Yeilding outside his home where it all began. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Not only is Yeilding unique in the fact that he has walked every street, but he did so with no music, podcasts or other distractions.

“That was an intentional decision on my part, so that I would be more in the moment and paying closer attention to my surroundings. I wanted to pay attention to the the environment that I was walking through. I learned just how how interesting the different neighborhoods are, and the different types of architecture and how well maintained most homes are. And so that was very enjoyable–to just be more in the moment.

– Ralph Yeilding

A new adventure

Planning next adventure
Planning his next adventure. (Sophie Higby / Bham Now)

Though Yeilding has officially walked every street in Mountain Brook, he continues to explore greater Alabama. He uses the book Five-Star Trails: Birmingham: 35 Beautiful Hikes in and Around Central Alabama to plan his next adventure.

Once he walks the trail, he marks the finished date on the side. It must run in the family because while he tracks Alabama, his brother is hiking the Appalachian trail.

Yeilding’s story is one of great inspiration. Here’s to getting out and exploring our community through a new lens.

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Sophie Higby
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