17 Day Itinerary

Our walk begins in St. Bee's on the West Coast of Great Britain at the Irish Sea. Almost 200 miles later, we will find ourselves at the North Sea in Robin Hood's Bay.

Day 1 - Moor Row, 9 miles The Jasmine House
Day 2 - Ennerdale, 8 miles Low Cock How Farm
Day 3 - Seatoller, 14 miles Seatoller Farm
Day 4 - Grasmere, 10.5 miles Town Head Farm
Day 5 - Patterdale, 7.5 miles Grisdale Lodge
Day 6 - Shap, 16 miles Brookfield House
Day 7 - Orton, 8 miles The Westons
Day 8 - Kirby Stephen, 13.5 miles The Black Bull
Day 9 - Keld, 14 miles Keld Lodge
Day 10 - Richmond, 14 miles The Old Brewery
Day 11 - Danby-Wiske, 14 miles Old School House
Day 12 - Osmotherly, 12 miles 32 South End
Day 13 - Clay Bank Top, 11 miles The Maltkiln House
Day 14 - Blakley Ridge, 8.5 miles The Sevenford House
Day 15 - Grosmont, 14 miles The Station Inn
Day 16 - Robin Hood's Bay, 16 miles The Raven House

Of course, these distances don't account for getting lost and doubling back a few times, avoiding an aggressive herd of heifers or navigating the moors.... or wandering off in search of a pint.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Clay Bank Top (Urra) to Blakey Ridge

We have a light breakfast of toast and tea/coffee before piling into the car with Wendy and her boarder collie, Endora.  Wendy is obviously used to flying a broom not driving a car and I almost shit myself a few times on the crazy drive into town (19 miles away).  I kiss the ground when we finally get out and after hitting up the ATM, my worries fade away into nothing.

We get back into the car and enjoy a white-knuckled drive back to the farm.  We pack up our gear and as I'm looking around to make sure we've gotten all of our belongings, I find a bird skull in the sitting room.  Nice.  Wendy the Witch strikes again.

Wendy takes our picture - probably to use with a spell later that night.  We hug and kiss them both and try to express our sincere gratitude for their generosity. They tell us its nothing and as we climb the very steep mountain at the back of their property, they patiently stand in the yard waiting for us to reach the top.  They make us promise to turn and wave when we reach the top.  They explain that it's their tradition.

We honor their request and give hearty, over the head waves.  I blow kisses to boot.  Then we're off again.  Our walk is rather short today; only 8.5 miles and mostly flat.  We're crossing the moors and they are VERY flat and very desolate.  Lonely, in fact.  My calves are the best they've been in several days and we're moving along at a pretty good clip.  The landscape is barren and boring and we both seem to just want to get  to where we're going and get out of this lonely, moonscape environment.  As we're crossing some boggy areas, I stretch extra far to prevent slime from filling my boots when it happens.  I hear and feel a pop in my right butt muscle.

I holler loud enough for Lauren (who is listening to her Ipod), to turn to see what's wrong.  I'm stuck.  My right glut is cramping and on fire and I think I'm gonna go face first in the muck.  Left leg to the rescue.  I pull myself out of the muck and stand there wondering what the hell I'm gonna do now.  I tell Lauren I'm fine and she believes me.  She's off like a shot and I stand there worried about the rest of the day.

I soon learn that my normal stride is completely out of the question unless I want to scream every time I move my right leg.  I find that if I shorten my stride (considerably), that I can quicken my gait.  I'm still not able to keep up with Lauren but I can move and that's all that counts.  Every so often, I think the muscle is fine and attempt to go back to my normal stride.  It is then that I scream and stop walking for a few moments.

After 8.5 miles of nothing to see, a red tiled roof appears on the horizon.  Instincts tell me that it's the Lion Inn.  I am able to move faster and within an hour or so, Lauren and I step inside a most welcome pub.  We run into a British foursome that spent the night at the Vane House the night before.  They didn't like it either.  We banter and tease and promise to catch up with each other the next day.

We enjoy the best lasagna we've had since Shap and after a few pints, I call the innkeeper in Rosedale.  He comes to collect us and our bags and take us to his mansion; the Sevenford  House.  This is the nicest home in which we've had the pleasure of staying.  It's truly a mansion with a grand staircase and 12 foot ceilings.  Every room, including our bedroom, has a fireplace.  Our beds are decked in the most comfortable of covers and we know it's going to be a great night.

After a shower and a pot of tea in the library, we walk down the hill to the Grey Horse Farm for dinner. Lauren is limping badly and the short walk takes a long time and it begins to rain.  It's a busy pub with a fancy dining room.  We opt for the pub (we're still wearing muddy boots) and who is sitting there but the group from the Lion Inn.  We talk and laugh until they wander off to the dining room.  Lauren enjoys a bowl of soup with crusty bread and I devour a cheese board.  We're not really that hungry but know we need to eat something.

As we leave the pub to walk back to our mansion, we see some ponies in a field.  Neither of us can resist and in spite of the rain, we're soon at the fence cooing and reaching to pet our furry, four-legged friends.  The rain encourages us to hobble home and since it's uphill, my butt and Lauren's knee/hip make that a difficult walk.  However, once back in Wayne Manor, we have the best night's sleep we've had in a few nights.  We are almost to the end of this adventure and it just doesn't seem possible...where has the time gone?  I've been planning for years and here we are just days from Robin Hood's Bay.  It's a happy feeling and I know I'm a lucky girl sleeping in a mansion's bedroom with a beautiful fireplace.

I can hear Lauren's breathing deepen and I know she's asleep.  I smile and drift off to join her.

Osmotherly to Clay Bank Top (Urra)

We couldn't leave the Vane House fast enough.  As I already said, they have too much on their plates and simply shouldn't be in the hospitality business.

We set off north out of town, ready to tackle about 12 miles or so.  We know we'll have a couple of climbs today but don't expect it to be too bad.  (This is when our strategy of not reading ahead comes into play.  Had we actually read ahead and studied the maps, we'd have known that today would be pure and utter torture.  Because we didn't, we are happily ignorant.)

The walk lets us wander through wooded areas with small streams that happily remind us of Arlington's bike path and Lacey Woods.  Lauren and I love these parts of the walk and our imaginations run away from us and we see trolls and ents and fairies everywhere we look.  I love the fact that Lauren's still young enough to enjoy this kind of thing...seeing fairies and trolls and hearing elves singing in the trees.  Even when no one else does.

We begin a very steep climb and in no time at all, Lauren is far ahead of me.  My calf simply won't let me keep up with her speed.  She's part mountain goat it seems.  She waits at the top and is fully rested by the time I arrive, huffing and puffing and cursing like a sailor.  She patiently waits for me to pull myself together before she's off again, leading the way and taking a big lead.  I'm impressed by her strength and stamina.

We climb mountains again (I thought this stage of the game was over) and descend only to climb another.  We are looking forward to reaching the Lord Stone's Cafe, which is famous in this neck of the woods for cream teas, coffees, cakes and delicious bacon rolls.  Knowing that a wonderfully delicious treat is looming ever closer, I keep going.  Imagine our frustration when we arrive only to find it abandoned!  It hasn't been in working order in quite a long time based on the look of the place.  We stand there anyway...just looking at it as if our stares will force it back into operation.  After several minutes, we give up and continue on our way, if not a little more slowly.

To light a fire under our butts, I break out into "The Bare Necessities" from the Jungle Book.  In no time at all, Lauren and I are singing at the tops of our lungs about the bare necessities of life and having a grand old time.  Who needs the Lord or his Stones?  Not me and my bear cub!

Our enthusiasm is lessened by yet another climb.  When we reach the summit, we sit down to enjoy a sandwich and crisps.  A nibble of a sweet and we're off again.  I'm chilled at this point because the sweat has dried and the wind is blowing like hell at the summit.  My calf has grown cold and because I've been overcompensating, the other calf is now pissed off too.  Lauren's knee and hip are causing her distress and we finish our meal with handfuls of Motrin.

After hours of climbing up and down, we reach the Wain Stones (a favorite place of Alfred Wainwright's).  Lauren is regenerated and climbs like a billy goat.  I'm sputtering "please be carefuls" and "please slow downs" but she's soon out of sight.  I call to her and when I reach the top, I find her standing atop the highest stones, looking down on the walk we've accomplished.  We've actually climbed four separate mountains and it's an impressive view from here but I'm still worried she's going to fall to her death and leave me there alone.  She tells me to sit down and chill out while she carves her initials on a stone.  I do my best at chilling, the whole time silently praying.

Eventually, we're off and Lauren's happy again.  She loves climbing and scrambling over rocks.  If the entire 200 miles involved scrambling over rocks, she'd do this again and again.

Another two hours finds us at an actual road.  We hang a right and know that we only have another mile or so to the place we're to spend the night but it's a very long and painful mile.  Everything aches and we just can't seem to get there.  We finally find their driveway and then climb another mile uphill before the property actually comes into view.

When we knock on the door (per the posted instructions), a bent over woman with stringy grey hair opens it and cackles.  She squints at the light and waves us inside a dark, damp entry way.  She instructs us to remove our boots and gaitors and we obediently do as she says.  She leads us toward a stairway and asks us our names.  As I introduce us to our hostess, we learn that her name is Wendy and I notice that she has two large moles on her cheek from which long, black hairs are growing.  She's wearing an old grey sweater without a bra, the sleeves and hem are dingy and her finger nails are caked with black earth.  She cackles away about hosting two Americans and leads us upstairs to our quarters.  She's generously given us a bedroom with two twin beds as well as an entire sitting room and private bath.  She flicks on a fake fireplace that puts out meager heat and tells us that dinner will be served at 7pm.

Before she leaves us to shower and get comfortable, I ask about an ATM.  I explain that although I planned out how much cash we'd need, some B&B's that would take credit cards when I booked have since gotten rid of their card machines due to the high fees and would only take cash.  Our pounds are running out and while I can pay our host and hostess for tonight, I'm concerned about the next few nights.  Wendy cackles that I shouldn't worry and things will sort themselves out.  Easy for her to say, I think, as she hunches down the stairs.

She returns with a pot of tea for Lauren and OJ for me, plus two very large Kit Kats.  We thank her and she simply cackles and leaves.

We are in the midst of discussing how she MUST be a witch.  Wendy the Witch.  Moles with hair.  Dirty nails.  Cackling.  Suddenly, her husband Gerry comes upstairs to introduce himself.  He is a character too!  He has the stereotypical enormously bulbous red nose of a drunk.  It takes up 2/3 of his face but he is genuinely sweet when he says that he understands that we are worried about money.  He tells us not to worry because he's going to phone ahead to the next town to see the local pub will do a cash advance for us.  He insists that we shouldn't worry.

He returns later to say that the pub will advance us at least 100 pounds and an enormous burden is lifted.  I didn't know how we were going to pay for our next couple of nights.  Then he drops a bomb shell.  We now owe him our souls.

Just kidding!  I just wanted to know if you were paying attention.  Rather than taking our souls, he tells us that Wendy is going to take us into town right after breakfast the next morning so that we can go to a bank.  Town is 19 miles away....we are so very grateful but we don't want to put them out or take advantage of their generosity.  They don't want to hear another word and tell us that they're just doing what makes them happy.

Dinner starts with a glass of sherry and then red wine.  Wendy brings soup, followed by chili con carne over yellow rice and finally rhubarb cheesecake.  Lauren is exhausted and between her knee and her hip, she has no appetite.  Wendy makes her white toast with butter and jam and I put her to bed early.  I crawl into the bed next to her and hope that the toast and the motrin will send her off to an early sleep.  I hope Wendy doesn't eat us in our sleep.

Offical Rest Day #2 - Osmotherly

Since it's our day of rest, we arrange for a late breakfast (9am) of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast.  We have a great view of their backyard garden and chickens while we eat.  Since its our day of rest, we think we're going to nap and read and eat.  After about 20 minutes of rest, we realize that a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  We need something to do.

We hop a bus to nearby Helmsley, a picturesque market village.  What a find!  It has loads of bookstores (we both lose track of time in a bookshop), gift shops, cafes, specialty food shops and pubs (oh darn).  There's a beautiful old church and we oohhh and ahhh our way through an ancient graveyard with stones so old and worn that the inscriptions are no longer legible.

We buy Lauren a few really nice rings and a gift for her BFF.  I buy a couple hunks of local cheese to nibble on and some treats to take home for Dougie.  As we're wandering the streets, Lauren nudges me and points up.  We stare up into what's left of Helmsley Castle.  Wow!  It's so inviting but the sky is about to let loose and I'm kind of tired of being stinky wet.

We bounce from pub to pub until we find the one that suits us best; The Feathers Inn.  As we tuck into a pint, the skies open and we smile at each other.  We each enjoy a hot bowl of tomato basil soup with crusty bread and butter.  By the time we decide to leave the pub the rain has stopped.  We pass a fairly uneventful but very enjoyable day of window shopping and strolling.  

Although we're spending another night in Osmotherly, we're staying at a different B&B. We go back and pack up and head off to find our new home for the night.  Suffice to say that we should have stayed put.  The proprietors are in way over their heads.  They have two babies that are obviously consuming the mom and the dad is well....old.  They don't have any patience left and shouldn't be in the hospitality business.  

One example: the man asks us when we check in what we want for breakfast.  I ask him if we can let him know in a few minutes because we haven't given it any thought yet (its not even 4pm).  In less than 15 minutes, there's a knock at the door as it opens!  What?!  Yep, the man knocked as he entered our room, pen and paper in hand, asking for our breakfast order.  What a creep.

At some point, I realize that we didn't make arrangements for packed lunches.  I knock on the door connecting the B&B space to the owner's private quarters, which they said we could do at any time should we need anything at all.  The mom answers and barks at me, asking me what I want.  She's so rude that I tell her that I don't want to put her out, we'll buy something at the village store in the morning on our way out of town.

Considering the number of places we've stayed, we have been very lucky.  Everyone has been welcoming and kind and so many of our innkeepers have gone out of their way to help us with anything we needed.  We can't complain...these people just have too much on their plates.

We have an early dinner at the Queen's Hotel.  Lauren misses her dwarf and is sullen.  Her lasagna arrives and we discover that it's not really lasagna.  She decides she's not hungry anyway and doesn't eat.  My spinach and ricotta ravioli tastes a little odd but I assume it's just the cheese.  About 2 hours later, when I begin vomiting, I decide it was more than just weird cheese.

It's a lonely night and we go to sleep early, knowing that tomorrow we walk alone.  I remind myself to find ways to cheer up Lauren tomorrow and hope that she'll have fun again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Danby-Wiske to Osmotherly

We sleep as late possible and stumble down to breakfast, which we know we need to eat but don’t really want.  As wonderful as each B&B has been at making our morning meal, we never want to see an egg again.  I want leftover pizza for breakfast, dammit.  Or pasta or Mexican or Chinese or anything but eggs and tea.

No sooner do we step into the parlor and the gentlemen with whom I’d shared a bathroom moment the night before pulls me aside.  He’s the proprietor who washed my undies the night before.  This guy knows way too much about me.  He apologized and I told him not to give it another thought.  Really, don’t.  Please.  I step away and sit myself at the table and try to avoid eye contact.

We eat a lovely breakfast with two other couples (which we’d met the night before and then saw again in the pub) and enjoy some nice banter.  After breakfast and attempts at goodbye, Mr. Proprietor tries to help us dress and kisses Lauren and I both on the mouth.  I want to punch him in the crotch but assume that wouldn’t be appropriate behavior so I turn a cold shoulder and push Lauren out the front door. 

We’re off again with the rain and again I don my rain pants.  I hate these things because it rains in my pants all day and that’s not a nice feeling but it keeps my calf warm and pliable. 

We set off with Lauren in a bit of a funk because today is our last walk with her dwarf and she’s already sad.  Today’s walk is again filled with finding ways around angry and aggressive cattle and short-cuts from our dwarf that don’t pan out.  I’m thinking of having Grumpy replaced with Dopey or Happy but then I realize that they probably aren’t any good at navigating either.

Near the end of our walk, we cross into the North York Moors National Park.  To be honest, I didn’t really care.  I was so very tired and my calf was screaming.  Lauren’s hip and knee were screaming at her and our dwarf stunk.  I just wanted to find the Golden Lion, a pub at which we’d agreed to meet Mic Dundee and the Aussies. 

We finally get there (the details aren’t worth telling) and Mic is eating a GINORMOUS bowl of mussels with bread and butter.  We buy a pint and join him.  The rest of his group is at a Tea House (ick) and he’s the only smart one.  He tells us that he’s made reservations for all of us for dinner at 6pm.  We kiss his cheek and run off to find our B&B.

Turns out we are in a lovely home in which the owners raise bees and make honey.  We have a separate entrance and are more than comfortable.  We shower and watch a couple of game shows while waiting to go to dinner.  (Turns out the damn Brits have more game shows than we do. Ridiculous.)

We set off and find we are the first to arrive.  Too bad.  We have to have a pint whilst we wait.  Lauren’s dwarf arrives in shorts.  What a sight.  His legs are VERY hairy and I’ve never seen skin so pale.  I don’t get too close in case it’s catching.  The Aussies and Mic arrive and we’re seated at the very last table in the back.  Do you think it’s on purpose?!?! 

We enjoy a very nice meal of bruscetta and calamari and blue cheese soufflé and cheesecake and cheese plate.  And wine.  And perhaps some more wine.  I’m not sure.

We say our goodbyes to the Dwarf.  We don’t expect to see him again but it’s possible that we’ll catch up with him in Robin Hood’s Bay.  Lauren is very sad and it breaks my heart but there’s nothing I can do.  The dwarf doesn’t really know how to handle the situation but does his best.  He makes an early exit and we stay a bit longer with the Aussies.  We realize that we’ll arrive in RHB about the same day and agree to meet at the Bay Hotel at Wainwright’s Bar for a pint.  We hug and kiss goodbye again and set off in different directions.

It’s a bit of a sad night because yet again, we’re saying goodbye to people who’ve meant a lot to us over the past few days, especially Lauren’s dwarf.  She sheds a tear or two and I do my best to act the fool to cheer her up although I too am sad to see him drift away.  He has been very kind and very protective and very good to us.  We can never repay him for his kindness and generosity.  Thank you Owen.  You are an amazing dwarf and one of a kind.  We are in your debt.

We walk back to our B&B knowing that tomorrow is a day of rest but wishing that we were plodding ahead with our friends.  Funny this walk.  You forge strong friendships very fast that end even faster.  It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.

We Did It!!!

I hate to ruin a surprise but....we made it to Robin Hood's Bay a day early!!!!  We arrived yesterday afternoon (June 28th) and even though I was grinning like a mad man and so proud of what we'd accomplished, Lauren was quietly annoyed at my child-like excitement.  Then it occurred to me that we hadn't eaten since breakfast, which was only toast, and that was before 9am.  By 3pm, I had an angry elf on my hands.  Once properly fed, she was happier and we wet our boots in the chilly waters of the North Sea.  We threw the rocks that we've carried since St Bee's and I felt more than a huge sense of accomplishment.

We walked from one coast of Britain to the other!!!  We walked about 200 miles in 16 days and we bought the Tshirts to announce it to the world.

Since we have an extra day on our hands, we plan to check out all of the shops here this am and then hop a bus to nearby Whitby (another seaside fishing town) where there's a Goth Festival all weekend.  Dracula events and such.  Right up our alley.

I'll continue to update each day's walk but I was just too excited about our arrival to keep it a secret!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Richmond to Danby-Wiske

It seems that we’ve been doing 14 mile days for weeks on end.  Please humor me while I repeat that until this adventure took off, Lauren had never walked more than 5 miles at one time and never more than twice a week.  She’s been cranking out high mileage days without complaint.  I am amazed by her resilience.

I start my day with a handful of Motrin as they are my new best friends.  My calf is screaming at me as we descend the stairs to breakfast but I know from experience that it will loosen up and feel a little better after I’ve moved around a bit.  We linger over breakfast longer than we should but I had the option of a “French Breakfast”, which was genoa salami, ham, brie, sharp cheddar and a nice blue with crackers, grapes, apples and a croissant.  This is by far my favorite breakfast yet and I don’t want to rush.  Once I’ve licked the plate clean, we hobble upstairs for the last minute packing.  I rub Icy-Hot all over my calf as I’ve done several times during the night and we set off.

The minute we step outside the Old Brewery Guesthouse, the rain comes crashing down.  I don my rain pants (a promotion from Frogg Toggs), rain coat, knit hat and gloves.  The wind is whipping about and we are cold at the outset.  Our boots aren’t quite dry from yesterday but there’s nothing to be done but laugh and remind ourselves that we’re on holiday.  I smile knowing that this is a dream come true.  Lauren sets off in quiet way, following her dwarf.

Within minutes, it feels like it’s raining inside my pants!  The condensation is building and these pants aren’t breathable so it can’t escape.  In spite of the nasty feeling similar to having pissed one’s pants, I realize that these pants are keeping my calf muscle warm and pliable – the best possible thing for it.  In fact, I probably pulled/tore it because I was wearing cotton pants that were soaked through and I was very cold.  My muscles were tightening up and I probably just overextended it to the point of a small tear.  Now that it’s raining inside my pants, the muscle is warm and moist and flexible.  I will have to live with a soggy bottom for 14 miles.  I’ve suffered through worse no doubt so I try not to complain.

This is a good time to point out that you’ve not read anything about blisters, have you?  Knock on wood, we have somehow escaped the doom of blisters, which is probably one of the biggest reasons people quit this walk.  Our feet and our hiking boots have bonded and aside from the unavoidable discomfort after a long day on our feet, we can’t complain.  I don’t know how we escaped the blister disaster but I am very glad indeed.

As we cross Richmond Bridge, which crosses the Swale, we have a breathtaking view of Richmond Castle.  Or at least, what’s left of it.  Its pouring buckets (sideways) but Lauren and I are staring at the falling down castle walls wearing big grins on our faces as buses and trucks and such cross the bridge on their way to do important work things.  We are in our own little world of castles and knights and dragons and completely unaware of the noise around us.  Until Lauren’s dwarf breaks the spell and reminds us of the challenge ahead.  (Who invited this guy anyway?)

After a couple of miles, we realize that we’ve taken a wrong turn.  Blame the dwarf.  Because I don’t have a penis, I don’t mind asking a stranger for directions but the dwarf doesn’t want to listen to the stranger and although the stranger probably sends us off in the right direction, the angry dwarf doesn’t agree.  We cross mud hole after mud hole and off to our right, we can hear target practice going on at the nearby military base.  Excellent.  We encounter more unfriendly cows with their calves and have to take the long way around a shit-filled, boggy mess of a pasture.  My Dad would never have let our cattle stand in such filth and I curse this farmer’s name under my breath and hope that it rains inside his pants harder than its raining inside mine, although at the moment I can’t be sure that’s possible.

After some serious doubting on my part that the dwarf can actually read a map, we accidently bump into the Coast to Coast route again and he claims victory.  Knowing how dwarves can turn on you, I let him celebrate while I pop some more Motrin.

After about four hours of walking, we realize that we’ve only actually covered about four miles of the route.  Between missing a turn and taking detours to avoid angry cattle, we’ve made no progress.  Lauren’s dwarf angrily announces that if we don’t start moving quickly, we won’t arrive in Danby-Wiske until 8pm.  I kindly remind him that he doesn’t need to wait for us and that he’s more than welcome to go at his own pace because we are doing the best we can.  He insists that he won’t let us go on our own because today is a tricky day in terms of navigation.  I give him a shrug and we’re off again. 

We bump into a town named Cattrick Bridge and Lauren and I tell her dwarf that we’re leaving the route to find a pub in which to warm up.  We find the Bridge House Hotel and tuck into lasagna and burgers and pints.  I don’t take off my rain pants because I’m afraid my calf will cool down and tense up.  Lauren is using the hand dryer in the Ladies Room to dry out her clothes….at least until she blows it up from too much continual use.  We can’t delay any longer so we pay our tab, put our wet clothes back on and again we venture out into the deluge. 

As always, after a couple of pints, I need to find a tree.  We see a sign that the local church offers refreshments (via an honor box) for walkers.  Lauren and I figure that if they offer refreshments, then they must also have a lou.  We head for the church.  Quickly.  The dwarf stays outside the gates of the cemetery.  Further proof that he is in fact a dwarf, if you ask me.  We enter a dark and deserted church.  It’s cold but dry inside.  There’s no head to be found.  Desperation sets in and we both pee in the cemetery.  I made sure not to pee near anyone’s headstone and Lauren peed on the cornerstone of the church.  Definitely not my proudest moment but we were desperate.  The dwarf is shaking his head when we rejoin him at the gates.  He’s disappointed in my mothering skills again but I don’t let it bother me.  Dwarves eat their young, don’t they?

Immediately after this Norman Rockwell scene, we cross a stile into a pasture with cattle at the far end.  No sooner do we enter when they begin to stampede in our direction.  They are butting heads and kicking and snorting and running straight for us.  I tell Lauren to turn around and get back over the stile.  I attempt to follow her but my calf won’t stretch far enough for me to get my leg that high.  The dwarf can’t wait for my fat ass to get out of the way and jumps the fence, landing right on his….well, his junk.  Lauren mentions how that’s gotta hurt and so on and again, he shakes his head at our frank manner of speaking.  The field was actually made up of 16 or 20 bulls, probably less than 2 years old, each with something to prove.  We hung around for awhile but they wouldn’t move and were just waiting for us to try to cross the paddock.  We gave up and looked for an alternative route.  An hour later, we found where the path would have come out.  The dwarf was steaming from his hairy ears and getting more frustrated with every moment. 

We pressed on and the details are too boring to post.  Suffice to say that it was a very long and tedious day and the town simply wouldn’t come into view.  Those damn Brits with the signs about the town being only ¾ mile away…then the same sign would appear 2 miles later.  We finally arrived in town and I’ve never been so happy to see a B&B.  We parted company with the dwarf and Lauren and I headed to the Old School House where we were to pass the night.  Upon knocking, we were welcomed into a converted garage turned drying room.  Our hosts were Frank and someone.  They insisted on stripping us down the bare minimum and putting all of our wet, muddy things in the wash.  (This would be the first time we’ve had properly cleaned clothes in almost two weeks.) 

As we walked through their living room, we met two other couples staying there for the night.  We said quick hellos (not very nice no doubt) and hobbled upstairs.  We each took a long, hot shower.   It never felt better to stand under a very hot waterfall of water and sort of fall asleep.

We dressed again and went a few doors down to The White Swan Pub.  The two couples we had just met at our B&B were there and we went over to apologize for seeming unfriendly.  They understood only too well and told us not to give it another thought.  The dwarf was already seated with a beer (he was camping behind the pub) and Lauren went over to his table and gave him a big hug.  We sat down with him and ordered dinner and before long, the Aussies and Mic Dundee were seated behind us.  Everyone had suffered a long day but now all was well.  By the time we left the pub at 8:30pm, Lauren and I knew all but two people there!  How amazing is it that we can be in a different country, in a strange village and know 90% of the pub clientele?  I love this walk.

We got “home” and before crawling into bed I decided to rid myself of a pint or two.  Our bathroom was not en suite but next door.  Our innkeepers assured us that this lou was just for me and Lauren because everyone else had an en suite.  I didn’t turn on the light and didn’t bother to lock the door.  (Remember that the two other couples were still at the pub and the innkeepers were downstairs.)

As I sat on the commode, recycling my pints, the bathroom door opened.  I assumed it was Lauren so I wasn’t very worried.  Then I realized that it was actually a man who’d walked in and was standing next to me while I was on the john!  I screeched and he said something similar to “Oh, dear.  I’m gone.  I’m gone, don’t worry.”  Well, the truth is that he wasn’t gone.  He was standing next to me!  I guess he felt better after having explained that he was gone and went on to ask me to close the bathroom window when I was done.  He then touched me on the shoulder and bade me goodnight.

What just happened?  I was so embarrassed but what could be done about it now?  No sense locking the barn door after the horse gets out.

We had barely crawled into bed before the rain came down worse than ever.  We fell asleep listening to it bang against the house.  I hoped to slip out of the house in the morning without seeing the gentleman who’d been in the john with me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reeth to Richmond

We discovered that our waterproof clothing and backpack covers are, in fact, not.  Perhaps they are waterproof if you are in the rain for only short periods of time but when you are walking for 8 hours a day in constant rain for a couple of days in a row, they are most certainly not waterproof.  I first learned this ugly fact when I attempted to turn on our new camera.  There was a whole pint of water sloshing around in the display.  I think that's bad.  I put Mr. Camera away and hoped that we'd manage to somehow get him dry and working again but I wasn't betting on it.  My cell phone and GPS were all waterlogged and angry too.

We packed them in the driest places we could find and set off in a driving rain from the King's Arms on our way to Richmond.  As I was beginning to accept as routine, the day's walk started with an annoyingly steep climb out of town.  We were quickly overtaken by the 3 Aussie's and 1 Brit who walk so damn fast that they go by in blur.  I've grown to like this group of people now.  The wife is still a bit demanding but she's actually quite nice and the two husbands are regular characters.  I call the Brit "Mic" as in Crocodile Dundee.  He's actually the only Brit among 3 Aussies but he looks the part and he makes me laugh.  I've never met someone who laughs harder at his own jokes.

I won't spend too much time describing the next bit but it was gross.  We walked the sloppiest, stinkiest path I've ever seen.  The stench was almost unbearable at times and I breathed through my shirt.  We struggled to keep our foothold in the uphill track through muck that covered our boots and gaiters.  This went on for quite a long time until we finally broke out onto tarmac.  The rain was still coming down in buckets so we didn't take any pictures of the Priory we passed.  We barely even glanced at it in our push to get under some cover to take a short break.

As we left the tarmac over a style into yet another pasture, I somehow managed to pull my left calf.  I've torn my right one twice and am only too familiar with the sound it makes as it tears and the pain that quickly follows.  My speed dropped dramatically as my range of motion was cut by probably two-thirds.  Lauren and Owen stopped and waited for me to catch up.  I told them what I'd done and asked them to slow down just a bit because I knew I'd have difficulty with the next climb.  We huddled under a tree by the Swale, which was swelling over its banks.  Lauren ate a sandwich and I downed 4 Motrin.

We were off again.  Uphill.  In deep mud.  I unintentionally shouted out several times because of the pain in my calf.  I was using my walking poles to pull myself up but the mud was making it virtually impossible to keep solid footing.  We soon found ourselves in a field on a hill full of heifers AND calves AND bulls.  What??  Why is this farmer putting bulls in a field that is a Public Footpath?  Regardless of the reason, we have to find a way through them and to the top of this pasture.  As we're planning our route, knowing that I can't go very quickly, a bull steps right onto the path and stares at us.  It seemed like he was daring us to approach.  We made a few starts only to have him cut off our path.  We retreated and tried other directions, each time he cut us off.  A nice British couple were waiting at the top of the pasture to make sure we made it safely through and using their walking sticks, pointed a route that seemed safe.  From their vantage point, they had a better view of all of the players.  With their help, we made it through the cattle and to the next style.

I was really hurting and slowing everyone down.  We were soaked through to the bone and I was beginning to worry that Lauren was going to catch the cold of a lifetime.  I told her and Owen to go ahead to Richmond and I would meet them there.  There was no reason for the three of us to get even more wet and chilled.  They were able to cover about 3 miles an hour while I was probably able to do about half that.  Lauren didn't like it much but Owen told her that I was right.  I trusted the dwarf to take care of my girl and keep her safe.

They were soon out of sight and it became quite lonely.  The going was very slow.  Uphill and down through ankle deep muck.  The rain never let up.  The last 5 miles were hell so I'll spare you the details.  I made it to Richmond and found Lauren and Owen at the Old Brewery Guesthouse.  Lauren was outside in the beer garden wringing out her socks, standing on cold concrete in bare feet.  Duh.  We stripped down as best we could while being decent and were shown to a lovely room.  The bathroom had a floor to ceiling heated towel rack.  I took all of Lauren's wet things and my own into a very hot shower.  I scrubbed everything and wrung it out.  After cranking the towel rack to max, I hung everything to dry.  We shoved newspaper in our boots and put them under the rack, praying they'd be dry by morning.

As we stood there shivering in towels, dying to find a pub and a pint, we realized that our bags hadn't arrived yet!  We had nothing to wear but our towels....so we waited and waited.  About an hour later, Sherpa delivered our bags.  We dressed in warm (not clean) clothes and set off in the rain again to find a pub.  Thankfully, Richmond is full of them!

What a great village!  A clock tower in the village square and the remains of the castle on the edge of town.  I hobble as best I can to the closest pub but we see some more interesting sites a few streets away. The Unicorn won't let Lauren in so we charge ahead to the Castle Pub for a pint.  Lauren and I like it there and they have horse racing on the tele.  Lauren's drwarf is in the outdoor store next door to buy a new rain jacket because his doesn't work.  He meets us awhile later with a new rain jacket that doesn't work any better.  He doesn't like the Castle Pub because the owner of the outdoor store told him its a rough place and he doesn't think Lauren should be in there.  I laugh at this because I know she's been to the Whistle Stop any number of times but I appreciate that he's trying to keep her safe so I finish my pint and we find a more respectable place for our little group.

We have a delicious meal and couple of pints and hobble back to our guesthouse.  The rain is still coming down.  I flip all of the things hanging on the towel rack and say a silent prayer to the Coast to Coast gods to please let our things be dry for morning, please don't let Lauren get sick, and lastly, please let my calf magically heal overnight.

We tuck into warm beds with thick feather ticks and listen to the rain clicking on our windows.  I'm thankful that we're warm and dry with a safe, comfortable home for the night.  I drift off remembering how lucky I am.

Keld to Reeth

Since leaving home almost two weeks ago, Lauren and I have been together.  Either walking together, sleeping in the same bed or sleeping in different beds in the same room or eating at the same table.  We haven't been apart and (at least from my perspective), we haven't needed to be.  Last night we had separate rooms at different ends of the hallway.  I won't spill all of the beans but all I will say is that one of us snuck into the other's room in night because we didn't like being apart.

As we are packing up to leave Keld Lodge, which is a converted youth hostel, it begins to rain.  Again.  We unpack our stuff to pull out the rain gear and off we go, knowing we have another 14 miles to cover before we can sample some more TEA (Traditional English Ale).  I love TEA but don't like tea.  Lauren, on the other hand, has become quite the regular Brit and loves her tea but doesn't like TEA.

It is after starting out that I remember we have a choice today.  We can take the high route along abandoned lead mines (doesn't sound very exciting) or the low route, which wanders through a couple of hamlets that have pubs!  For the first time since we started on this walk, we have the chance to stop into a pub along the way for a pint and bite, the way God intended walking to be.  This is what I practiced for all those months back home.

Lauren wants the low route too because like her Momma, she loves pubs.  Good Girl.  Now if only I can get her to drink TEA.

Its about 2 1/2 miles to the first pub opportunity but since we set off about 9, I'm worried we'll get there too early to find the pub open.  I begin walking more slowly.  We're in lovely country - crossing farmer's fields.  Some full of sheep, some full of my favorite (cows) and even a field of nosy ponies.  In one field, there were some crazy antics that could have kept me entertained for hours but for the pubs calling my name from afar.  A small lamb had squeezed under a fence from one paddock to the next.  The sheep in the paddock he'd snuck into knew he didn't belong and they were bleating at him to get the hell back to where he came from.  He was frantically running back and forth in front of the fence, calling to his mommy.  As a couple of rams were about to butt him, the police came into assist.  This particular officer was a young heifer and she put herself between the rams and the lamb and mooed a lot.  Although I felt badly for the poor lamb who couldn't figure out how to get back where it belonged, I enjoyed watching the scene play out.  The heifer kept her vigil and did her best to moo directions to the lamb who apparently isn't fluent in bovine.

Lauren and I agree that sheep/lambs have about a 3 second memory.  They are not the smartest animal God created nor do they smell the best but they are sometimes quite funny.  The lambs have stolen our hearts and as soon as we get home, I'm going to convince Dougie that we should be sheep farmers.  I'll keep you posted on that.

The ponies were all gathered at the gate we were trying to open and close behind us but they wouldn't move.  We didn't want to open the gate and have them make a great escape because I didn't pack my lasso.  We told them to shove off and pretended we were going to poke them with our walking sticks.  They finally got bored of us and mostly wandered away.  We went in and closed the gate behind us and made our way across the field.  Owen had apples in his pockets and apparently ponies have an excellent sense of smell.  He became the source of great interest so Lauren and I simply walked to the next gate without a problem.  He didn't have such an easy time and when we finally made it through the style at the other end of the field, his pants were wet.  He blamed it on the water bladder in his backpack and said that it was leaking but I think he was afraid of the ponies and pissed his pants.  I wouldn't have imagined that dwarves were afraid of ponies.

We finally made it to the first pub.  Yay!  It was closed.  Boo.  It's hard to gather energy to keep going after such a disappointment but it was either go forward to find the next pub or tackle the ponies again.  Onward! Only another 2 miles to Gunnderside, home of the King's Head Pub.

Our next encounter with cows was not the cute, cuddly experiences of the past few days.  I was raised on a farm with cows so, although I respect their size and power, I'm not afraid of them.  We entered a field and immediately felt the tension in the air.  There were several milkers staring us down and standing in the middle of our path.  I told Lauren and Owen to just keep walking, be as quiet as possible and mind your own business.  That usually works.  Not this time.  They were visibly agitated and I could read their vibes loud and clear.  It was then that we noticed half a dozen young calves behind them.  Aha!  It then made perfect sense.  They were protecting their babies.  We honored their wishes and went along the perimeter of the field to stay as far away as possible from the calves.  This required walking through crap (literally) that almost went over the tops of our boots.  You are welcome, ladies.  I wouldn't do this for just anyone.

We finally arrived at the pub, which was scheduled to open at noon.  She opened at 12:30 but no matter.  The sun was shining and there was a cat who wanted our attention.  We had a delicious lunch and a couple of pints and set out again.  Funny how I don't walk quite so fast after a few pints.  I also had to find a tree more than once.  Good thing Owen and Lauren were far ahead because they never noticed me stopping to pee behind a tree.

A few miles later, we had the opportunity to cross the Swale River (we'd been walking next to it on and off for days) into another small village with a pub.  Lauren and I thought it was smashing idea but Lauren's dwarf was cranky and itching to get the day over with.  We pressed on while I muttered under my breath about the whole thing.

Why do we have to climb and climb just to descend and then climb again?  That's how we finally arrived in Reeth.  We walked into the King's Arms (another pub and our home for the night) and sat down to a pint.  We showered and changed into clothes that were less dirty than the ones we were wearing and went back downstairs for dinner.  Owen joined us later and we bought him a cider.  I read somewhere that dwarves like cider.  I'm not sure though because he was still a bit cranky.

We said goodnight and fell instantly to sleep in our twin beds, knowing we had yet another 14 mile day facing us.  It's easy to sleep when you've been outside in fresh air getting stinky all day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kirby-Stephen to Keld

Another long, 14 mile day.  We have breakfast and are seated next to some Brits who are also eating breakfast and quite honestly, I find them sort of annoying.  This is odd because I've liked EVERYONE we've met.  The wife is very demanding about how her eggs should be cooked and her toast should be thus and such and I just want to shove my wheatabix up her nose.  Shut up and enjoy already!

We pack up and as we're heading out the door, here comes Owen.  He's been wearing the same thing since St Bee's and ummm, well.... he smells like a barn yard.  Rather than speak the obvious, I stand upwind and let Lauren stand downwind to enjoy his bouquet of stink.  We're going to walk together again, which makes Lauren so happy that she and Owen soon leave me behind.  I really don't mind because they are in sight and this leaves me to day dream rather than navigate.  Although I resent (more than a little) that this stranger has stolen my daughter's loyalty and he's deciding where we go, I enjoy being able to simply wander.  I listen to the water trickle, the birds sing, the lambs call to their mammas and the cows moo.  I pet every cow I can and there are hundreds and hundreds.  It doesn't take long before I'm way behind because one milker or two likes me almost as much as I like her and she nuzzles her head in the crook of my arm and I pet her until I realize that I need to reach Robin Hood's Bay at some point this year.  I kiss her nose and tell her I love her. (It's not a lie. I love all cows.)  Then I scramble like mad trying to catch up with Sacajawea and her dwarf friend.

Did I mention that it began raining the minute we stepped out of the pub this am?  We donned our rain gear and set off with smiles.  It rained all day long.  Only a couple pictures of this leg of the walk because Mr. Camera doesn't like the liquid sunshine.  To make this lovely rain even more enjoyable, we are crossing the Pennines today!  They are the backbone of the UK and we will cross the watershed.  From today's summit at the Nine Standards Rigg, all rivers flow eastwards to drain into the North Sea.

We cross Frank's Bridge (he was a brewer) on the way out of town.  The water is amber and Lauren thinks I could scoop it up and it would taste like beer.  It's pretty early in the am so I'm not very tempted....yet.  However, we follow this for quite a while.

We begin to climb and we continue to do so for what seems like forever.  It's a nasty climb and again I wonder what in the hell I was thinking when I decided I could do this.  Lauren is way ahead of me, talking and laughing and I feel like crap.  13 years olds are annoying and yet I am proud of her.  She is so strong in ways I never knew before this adventure.

After climbing for about 2 hours, the path splits into 3.  One is the low route and recommended when the weather is wet.  Lauren wants to take the high road so that we can climb to the summit to see the Nine Standards Rigg (this means nine piles of stones).  Is she sick?

We took the high road, which was steep and muddy and the wind was blowing like hell.  We were so cold and felt ultra exposed to the elements.  We finally made it to the summit and found the Nine Standards Rigg. It was impressive and Lauren commented that at any other time in my life, I would have spent hours ooohhhhing and ahhhhhing and taking a thousand pictures.  We took two quick pictures and beat feet to descend to warmer temperatures.

The way down was a maze through peat bogs.  What a mess!  We had to make our way down several hundred feet of mountain by walking through and around bogs.  More than once, we were in above our boots in greenish-brown yuck.  The stink was unique.  Don't think of stealing that.  I'm making it into a T-shirt to sell at the bottom of the Nine Standards Rigg.  It took forever to navigate around these stinky holes of mess that you don't realize are there until you step into one.  I hate peat bogs.

After a couple of hours of soaking ourselves in peat, we hit tarmac and walked and walked and walked.  After hours of passing abandoned stone farm houses, barns and outbuildings, we finally hit the booming town of Keld.  It has a camp ground, a church and a pub.  Guess where we stayed?!?!  Of course - the pub!

We had a good meal and two glasses of wine followed by a hot shower.  We crawled into bed knowing that we faced another 14 mile day in the morning.  I love warm feather ticks and open pub windows that let in chilly night air.  We snuggled under our covers and drifted off to a happy, tired sleep.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 9 - Orton to Kirby Stephen

13.5 miles loom in front of us but after having done a 16 mile day, we know its entirely doable.  We decided to walk with Owen (he has a big boy map not a Little Golden Book map like ours) and Lauren seems to have bonded to him.  I frequently call him an angry elf.  He's actually more dwarfish.

The sun was with us again as our innkeepers dropped us off back in Orton and we were again off on our westward track.  We walked along seemingly endless stone walled fields and my mind wanders and tried to imagine who built these amazing things.  They have stood for hundreds of years without any kind of mortar or cement of any kind and they are things of beauty.  I day dream as I walk and the miles tick away.  Lauren sings like a bird.

We reach Tarn Moor and after a few more miles we find ourselves along Sunbiggin Tarn (a tarn is a lake), which is apparently a really important sanctuary for ground nesting birds.  The stone fences continue and there is an actual path to follow so the map checking diminishes greatly.  According to our guidebook, we walked right by the "Severals Village Settlement", which is said to be one of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain.  We never saw a damn thing but again, I already told you that I was day dreaming and Lauren was singing.

We've learned that the Brits are nasty bastards when it comes to posting mileage markers for upcoming hamlets.  For example, we found ourselves facing a wooden sign reading "Kirby Stephen, 2 miles".  Oh, how nice.  After more than an hour of walking and no civilization in sight, we happen upon a different sign reading "Kirby Stephen, 1 3/4 miles".  Bullshit.  After about 3 hours, we finally stumbled into the town, foot sore and suffering from a powerful thirst.

We are happy to find our home for the night at the Black Bull Hotel.  How convenient, it's also a pub.  We have a pint with Owen and then wander off in different directions to shower and change and do laundry in our bathroom sink.  We enjoy a yummy dinner and some wine and tuck into bed early.  (Funny how this walk has affected our schedule.  Lauren the Night Owl now gets up by 7:45am at the latest and we are both asleep before 9:30pm.)

We walk 14 miles tomorrow and we are still aching from today.  Sweet Dreams.

Day 8 - Shap to Orton

Margaret fed us until we were bursting at the seams.  We exchanged emails and hugs and more hugs.  I was honored when she said that she felt like we were "old friends that would meet again".  She was such a kind-hearted lady.  I do hope she is right.

We set off out of her back garden, down a lane that went under the railroad.  We followed the map but found ourselves facing a fence that was all tied up with barbed wire, which is a sign that the resident farmer doesn't want walkers going across his fields. (I'm late to explain that England has "public footpaths" that criss-cross all over the country, even through private farms and fields.  The Countryside & Rights of Way Act of 2000, or "Right to Roam" as dubbed by walkers, came into effect in 2005.  It allows greater public access to areas of countryside but with this access comes responsibility.  Walking through a farmer's fields of crops or cattle is a privilege and Lauren and I do our best to make sure to leave every step of land the way we found it.)  Rather than piss off a farmer, we looked for another way and a neighboring sheep farmer gave us permission to wander through her fields to an old quarry road until we could again meet up with the Coast to Coast.

Are Americans this accommodating?

The day went on quite nicely.  The sun joined us again and the going was not difficult.  The terrain was certainly changing with every mile.  I've never seen miles and miles of green fields void of trees.  We talked to a couple other walkers but as always, they soon left us in their dust and all alone.  At some point, I sensed the presence of another person and noticed a lone walker approaching from a few miles behind.  I told Lauren and we began to pretend that the walker was a zombie.  I made some disgusting remark about pooping on the trail as a zombie repellent but then we began to joke that the walker might be a turd-eating zombie.  (This is how we pass the time.  If it bothers you, don't read any further.)

We eventually stopped to eat our packed lunches from Margaret.  (She is such a generous soul.  She had tucked a Coast to Coast pin inside the package of Lauren's sandwich!) The zombie approached ever closer so we gathered our things and set off a bit faster.  There was no one else in sight....just my baby girl and me and the turd-eating zombie.  He grew ever closer until we could hear him behind us.  We were walking as fast as we could when the guide book tucked in my belt fell and I had to go back to get it.  The zombie was looming over head as I stood, ready to stab him with a walking stick.

It was only Owen.  To our knowledge, he does not eat poop nor is he a zombie but we don't know him very well so time will tell.  I'm keeping an eye on him, just in case.

He walked with us into Orton.  We visited the Chocolate Factory (Lauren and I don't really like chocolate and didn't buy anything but Owen spent many, many pounds on truffles that were gone before I could get my pack back on) and then we went next door to the King's Head Pub.  I headed straight for the lou and when I came out, Lauren was animated and jumping up and down.  Guess who had come from Shap to make sure we'd made it???  Yep.  Margaret.

She and Les (her husband whom we'd not yet met) had driven over to "drop off luggage" but we didn't buy that story.  She came to make sure we were safe.  Les told me that she hadn't stopped talking about us since we arrived and he needed to meet us just to shut her up!  We talked awhile and promised to be safe and keep in touch.  Margaret was so pleased to see that Lauren was proudly wearing the pin she'd been given.  More hugs goodbye and they were gone.

We had a pint or two and then said goodbye to Owen (again) and wandered off to our B&B, which wasn't really our B&B but we didn't know that at the time.  After some confusion and pulling out of confirmation emails from my pack, we discovered that we were actually booked in a place 3 miles out of town!  The innkeepers were so happy that the mistake wasn't theirs, they gladly drove us to the right place where we were happy to find we had an ENORMOUS tub in which to soak.  Our new innkeepers were happy to have us and after we each had a long, hot bath, we were again off to Dream Land.

Day 7 - Official Rest Day

The rain just wouldn't stop pouring down but since we've been going, going, going for a week or so, the idea of just sitting around on our "day off" wasn't palatable so we hopped a bus to Penrith.  It's a city by comparison to anywhere we've been since Manchester (which is kind of yucky grey and perpetually dirty wet).

We bought some gaiters to protect our legs from the onslaught of mud we're sure to encounter in the Moors.  I found an incredible cheese shop and bought a few ounces of a local blue and some biscuits.  We checked out some bookshops and gift stores and bought Lauren a souvenir or two.  After a pint and a snack, we headed back to Margaret's house.

She was eager to hear about our day and fussed some more.  We tried to share the computer and I snacked on some blue cheese.  After a shower, we headed to the Greyhound one last time for some of the best restaurant-made lasagna I've ever had.  We loved on Biscuit The Tabby Cat some more and headed home to Margaret.  We knew she wouldn't go to bed until we were safely tucked in/lights out.

We repacked in anticipation for another day on the trail.  Shap to Orton is an easy 8 miles and a good way to slide back into the walking-every-day routine.  I slept the very best of any night since leaving home.  It may have had something to do with the incredible feather ticks and high thread-count sheets on the bed or perhaps it had something to do with knowing that Margaret was guarding the door and standing by to baby us just a bit more.

I thanked Lauren again for being my walking mate and tried to tell her how much I appreciate and love her.  My only wish is that Peanut and Dougie were with us.  Within minutes, I was fast asleep.  A happy girl to be sure.

Day 6 - Patterdale to Shap

By everyone's reckoning, Patterdale to Shap is the most difficult day of the entire walk.  It's 16 miles of pure hell.  It involves a very long, 5 mile climb to Kidsty Pike and a very intense, steep descent to Haweswater.  This day's walk causes more lost walkers and injuries than any other section of the Coast to Coast, even among the most experienced walkers.

It began raining about midnight the night before we were to set off for Shap and continued raining all morning.  Dark, ominous clouds were obscuring Kidsty Pike and much of what we would walk was not at all visible from the ground.  Our innkeeper, Chris, at the Grisedale Lodge told us that the weather was only getting worse and that they were recommending that all walkers cancel for the day.  Everything I've read and been told about the difficulty navigating over Kidsty Pike in good weather was coming back to me.  Chris said that she wouldn't want her daughter up there.  That's really all I needed to hear.  The British doctor sitting next to us said that even though we hadn't asked his opinion, he didn't think we should attempt it.

We took the bus to Penrith and then caught another to Shap.  The bus driver was kind enough to drop us off right in front of our home for the night - The Brookfield House - even though it wasn't an actual stop on his route.  The rain hadn't stopped for a moment all day long and he was trying to keep us as dry as possible.  Unfortunately, our innkeepers weren't home so we hightailed it about 1/4 mile up the road to The Greyhound.

What a perfect English pub!  Lauren had hot chocolate(s) and I had, well, what do you think I had?!  A pint, of course.  Within minutes, Biscuit, the resident tabby was curled up in Lauren's lap.  We sat in warm, comfortable sofas around a small table for a couple of hours, talking to the bartender and petting his shy German Shepard, Glen.  A sorry name for a dog to be sure and no doubt a large part of his confidence problem.

We got soaked going back to the Brookfield House but were pleased to find Margaret expecting our arrival.  Margaret is exactly the sort of person you want waiting for you on a cold, rainy day in strange place.  She swept us inside and instantly made us feel like we were home.  She gave us the best room in the house and immediately had hot tea and biscuits (cookies) for us.  She fussed and fussed and it seemed to make her happy.  No matter how many times I told her were perfectly comfortable and happy, she found something else that made us more comfortable and even more happy.  Margaret is one of a kind.

We went back to the Greyhound for dinner and as we were finishing, the British doctor from breakfast came through the front door.  He looked like hell.  He said it was the worst day of his life and that if he had known how bad it was really going to be, he never would have attempted to do it.  He said it was raining sideways, very hard, all day long and that for part of the afternoon he had to deal with sleet and hail.  The route was not visible and if not for some other walkers with a hired guide, he never would have made it down.

Although I regret that there's a piece of the C2C that we didn't walk, I know we made the right choice.  My daughter's safety comes first and my pride somewhere after that.

We walked back to Margaret's (it was still pouring) and we were lucky enough to talk to both Zak and Dougie before sacking out.  That made our day and even though we hadn't walked and shouldn't have been tired, we were asleep by 9pm.

Stayin' Alive

We just strolled into the Vane House in Osmotherly (our last day of rest) and are happy to report that 1) we're still alive, 2) we finally have internet again, and 3) there are only about 60 more miles to North Sea!!!

I'll work on updating the blog and posting pictures this afternoon and evening.  Suffice to say that the word "adventure" doesn't really describe the past two weeks.  I'm luckier than most people in the this world and I can't adequately express my appreciation for all I have and the amazing opportunities I've been given.

Yeah, I know.  Enough mushy shit, let's get on with the updates!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 5 - Grasmere to Patterdale

We slept in until 8am, a rare luxury on this adventure.  Lauren and I were extremely sore after yesterday's marathon and our spirits weren't very high.  We talked all during breakfast about taking a bus or hopping into the Sherpa Van with our luggage for the trip from Grasmere to Patterdale.  We finally decided to scrap the day and catch a lift.

I went downstairs to ask our innkeepers if they would mind taking a call from the Sherpa people. I'd managed to get through to them with my cell and they were going to figure out about what time the van would be around and then call the house phone to let us know.  Farmer Donald was the only one in the kitchen and when I told him we'd decided not to walk he asked me if I'd mind some advice.  I told him that I'd welcome whatever he had to tell me.

This very kind man (who had ears like my Dad) told me that Lauren and I had already done the hardest parts of the entire C2C.  The worst was behind us and that the walk from Grasmere to Patterdale was "nothing" compared to what we've been through.  He described the terrain and the views and in very little time he'd convinced me that we just had to walk.  "That's a good lass.  Now get packed and get out on tha' trail."

I broke the news to Lauren.  She didn't argue or complain.  She hasn't complained a single time during this entire ordeal.  I can't tell you how impressed I am with her strength.  Remember - this walk wasn't her dream; she's just here to allow me to live mine.

We were off and although it was a steady uphill climb up "The Tongue", Farmer Donald was right and it wasn't nearly as difficult as previous days had been.  We knew we could do this as long as we kept a slow but steady pace.  We often think of ourselves as the tortoise while those passing us in a great hurry (and forgetting to look around and appreciate the landscape) we consider the hare.  Slow and steady wins the day.

Once over the ridge, we had a choice to make.  There were three paths from which to choose.  To the left, there was a switchback that climbed Dollywagon Pike, a high climb that was very exposed to the elements.  No thank you.  To the right was St. Sunday's Craig, a steep climb diagonally up a mountain and then along the top - also exposed to the winds that were blowing.  Not really interested.  In the middle was a gentle stroll through the valley.  It was uneven and rocky and the footing was tricky most of the time but it was the shortest, most safe and the easiest.  It was definitely our path of choice.

After a couple of hours of steadily heading through the valley between two very high mountains, we found the perfect rock to stop and have a bite to eat.  As we sat in the sun eating ham and cheese sandwiches and homemade cakes, we spotted a lone walker.  We both shouted "Owen!"  We almost gave him a heart attack.  Once recovered from the shock, he joined us on our rock and told us that he couldn't believe that the two of us were actually AHEAD of him on the trail.  We didn't take offense because we couldn't believe it either.  He was surprised to see us walking and was betting with the Brits that we'd pack it in and quit.  Oh no.  Not us.

The three of us walked into Patterdale together, arriving early in the afternoon.  It had been an easy walk indeed!  We found the pub and shared a pint.  We ate an early dinner (Lauren had .....fish and chips, of course!) and went back to our B&B to do laundry.  I washed out all of our stinky clothes - and there were heaps of them - in the sink with hand soap.  I wrung them out the best I could and then used the hair dryer to help them along.  After 3 or 4 hours of washing and hair drying, I crawled into bed in anticipation of the hardest day on the trail.  The walk from Patterdale to Shap, over Kidsty Pike.  The name Kidsty Pike should make you tremble.

Sleep if it will come.

Day Four - Seatoller to Grasmere

Neither Lauren nor I were the least bit worried about today.  We have an interesting strategy that no one else we’ve talked to would endorse; don’t read through the maps the night before because they might scare you.  We prefer to be surprised at how awful the terrain is rather than worry about it the night before.  Makes perfect sense to us!

In our happy ignorance about what the day had in store, we set out from Seatoller Farm to Grasmere and had over a mile to go just to get to the official start of the day’s walk by our guide book’s measurements.  That’s fine.  We’re iron women so what’s one more mile?  We set off early and had gone just a couple of miles along Stonethwaite Beck (another stream) between stone walls when we were overtaken by our British guy team.  We were actually IN FRONT of them for once but it didn’t last long.  They were very happy to see us heading out again and told us that there was a bet among our loosely knitted group that Lauren and I would soon quit, pack it up and head home with our tails between our legs.  Apparently, our British counterparts were each betting on when exactly we’d quit.  Oh really?  I do love a challenge.  Thankfully, Lauren is more pig-headed than I and there’s no way on God’s Green Earth that we’ll quit.  Their betting game only made us more determined to kick ass.

Our friends briefly went over the plan for the day and told us how proud they were of each of us.  We thanked them for the hundredth time and said goodbye (again) and wished them well.  I am very sad to say that we never saw them again.  Their pace was far quicker than ours and in a day’s time, they were two towns ahead of us.  However, we do know that they’ve told EVERYONE along the walk about us and when we arrive in town, we are often expected.  They continue to watch out for us from afar and it gives great comfort.

We continued to make a steady climb up Lining Craig, Greenup Edge Pass and Helm Craig with no relief in sight.  The sun was out and the bugs were too.  Sheep shit was everywhere and the conditions were perfect for Lauren and me to become Super Bitches.  The C2C gods were still watching over us and kept the bitchiness at bay…. At least for now. 

We climbed and climbed and climbed past gorgeous waterfalls of all sizes.  When we finally made it up and over the ridge, we started the long descent into Grasmere.  Although we’d been walking for hours, the village was nowhere in sight.  The last three miles or so into Grasmere were pure torture for us.  Our feet and shins and knees and hips were on fire and every step was painful.  I felt so guilty for putting Lauren through this.  It was hell and seemed like the stupidest thing we’ve ever done.  We hobbled into town, grunting and moaning in pain.  We found our way to the Lamb’s Inn, walked through the door only to find Owen tucked into a steak pie with a pint.  He joined us after he’d eaten and we talked about the next day.  Lauren and I were giving serious consideration to getting a lift to the next town because of the extreme pain we were experiencing. 

Owen went over the next day’s walk on his map and encouraged us to sleep on it and decide in the morning.  He said that the walk from Grasmere to Patterdale was a mere 8 miles and a very easy walk compared to what we’d already done.  We told him we’d decide in the morning although I was ready to take a bus. 

We had to set off from the pub early because our farm was more than a mile from the pub and we weren’t sure how to find it.  Long story short, a stranger called the farm on our behalf and our innkeepers came to pick us up.  We showered and fell into bed hoping never to experience anything like this day again.

Day 3 - Ennerdale to Seatoller (Another Farm)

We rose to an early breakfast knowing we had a 14 mile day ahead.  Remember that until now, Lauren’s never walked more than 5 miles at once.   We found ourselves seated with the two British gentlemen that we’d met the night before.  We had a very nice breakfast conversation about their holiday adventures in the western U.S.  Then one of the farm dogs came dashing into the parlor, put its front paws on the sideboard and licked out of the “clean” cereal bowls and then pissed on the floor.  Lauren and I promptly decided we weren’t having cereal.

We ate and bade adieu to the Brits.  We promised to be careful and we wished them a safe journey.  Lauren and I were the first of the overnight guests to set off to Ennerdale.  We went the wrong way.  After only a few hundred yards, I decided to actually look at the map.  Lauren never complained about my poor navigation skills but we agreed that before a decision is made regarding which direction to go, we should both consult the book and agree.

We did a quick course correction and headed back in the direction from which we’d come.  By the time we made it back to the farm, our British guy friends were heading out.  They said something remarkably British such as “All has gone well thus far, right?”.  I honestly explained that Lauren had taken a wrong turn at the get-go but we were now just fine.  They quickly described the route to make sure we knew where we were headed and they quickly left us in their dust.  This was becoming a routine.

The first stage of this day was lovely.  A shaded walk between two stone fences, lots of wildflowers and a nice sun.  We made it through town and after another couple of miles, we were facing Ennerdale Water (a beautiful lake) and we had a choice to make; take the north route around or the south.  Our innkeeper George from the night before (I could write pages about him alone) suggested that we take the north route because its shorter and more safe.  Sounded reasonable to me so that’s what we did.  The first couple of miles around the lake were simply beautiful; a mostly shady stroll on a dirt path by the water’s edge.  We stopped often for water and “bathroom” breaks.  I’ll spare you those ugly details…  and they were ugly.

Suddenly the path was gone and Little Sacajawea was scrambling over boulders, hopping from spot to spot.  Mind you, I was carrying a lot more weight in my pack than she.  I made sure that I always had more to carry because she’s just a baby and blah blah blah.  Little pisser is fast.  Next time, she carries all of the water and rain gear and first aid and change of clothes and packed lunches.

The path was gone but I blindly followed Lauren who was in her glory.  She loved that part of the walk and I was simply praying that neither of us would be hurt and that we’d make it around to the other side of the lake.  We came to a clearing with a picnic table and decided to drop our packs and have second breakfast.  As we were enjoying our cheese sandwiches and water, a cute British couple came into the clearing.  They were out for a walk around the lake and we told them about our coast to coast adventure.  We talked longer than we should have and probably lost a good 40 minutes there but they were so nice and so interested in our adventure.  We packed up and followed them out of the clearing but soon, they too, left us in their wake.
We finally made it around the lake and found ourselves on a track of chunky gravel that went gently uphill.  Gently, that is, until you’ve been walking it for hours and hours and hours on end.  It became hot and buggy and there was no end in sight.

I won’t bore you with the boring details of the next many miles.  Suffice to say, they sucked.  Each and every one of them.  We walked and walked and walked without making any progress it seemed.   We finally made it to Ennerdale Youth Hostel just before my bladder burst open all over the English Countryside.  Lauren and I sat on a sofa, took off our boots and tended to our blisters for a bit.  Before she fell asleep, I forced her to get her boots back on and we were off again.  Our sweaty clothes were starting to dry and we were chilled as we set off again.  Almost 4 miles later, we came across yet another youth hostel.  Déjà vu.  The same scene repeated itself and we pushed on again.  About 3 miles later, we found ourselves at Black Sail Youth Hostel where Lauren made a cup of tea and I began to worry about catching a serious cold.  I was wearing all of the layers I had available but I was still chilled.  The tea seemed to give Lauren a little energy and we set off again.

Not far from here, the British couple for whom we'd taken some photos on the cliffs of the Irish Sea on Day 1, came up behind us.  They were so impressed that we were still plugging along.  While Lauren and the wife talked, the husband showed me his map (a real one) and explained about this and that and where not to go and so on.  After more words of encouragement and big smiles, they were gone and soon out of sight.  I was surprised to learn that the wife had told Lauren that we had become "celebrities" on the trail and that we had several groups of people looking out for the mum and her 13 yr old daughter.  What a wonderful feeling that gave us!  Complete strangers were passing information about us from town to town, looking out for us, ready to help us should we need it.  We will never understand this phenomenon and never be equipped to repay the kind generosity of our walking mates.  My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of them.  May the wind be always at their back and the sun forever gently on their brow.

Although this encounter boosted us for some time, I soon found myself hitting the wall.  I really didn’t care if we ever finished this stupid walk.  I just wanted to lie down and sleep, I didn’t care where.  It was at this most challenging point in the walk that we faced “Loft Beck”.  This is English for “ridiculously steep climb up a mountain, along a river of gushing water with no marked path or seemingly safe climb to the top”.   That’s a no-shitter.  This was an almost straight climb up the sheer face of a mountain with a river gushing down.  I was not confident but we pressed onward because there was no other choice.  There was no one to ask for help and nowhere to go but forward.

Sacajawea went first and was obviously quite happy without a 50lb pack on her back.  She scrambled over boulders and squeezed through crevices while I tried to find the least slippery place to put my boots and pull myself ever further uphill.  About the halfway mark, I realized that there was a man standing and watching us.  I told Lauren that I thought he was waiting for us.  We looked up and he began telling us the best route to climb, telling us where to step and what to avoid. The ascent took well over 90 minutes and not far from the top, I was so scared that we were going to slip (it was wet and muddy and the rocks were slippery) and fall to our deaths that I became paralyzed with fear.  I thought it was over.  I couldn’t move forward or back.  I couldn’t sit down.  I couldn’t move and began to cry.  Lauren calmly talked to me during the several minutes it took to pull myself together.   When we finally made it to the summit about two hours after we started to climb, I looked for the man who’d helped us and I walked right over to him.  “I know you don’t know us but…”, and I wrapped him in a bear hug.  I squeezed him so tightly, he groaned.  I told him that if it wasn’t for him, we’d never have made it up.  He was humble and made some comments about paying back others for the help he’d received during his first C2C attempt.  I was barely listening because I was still hugging him.  This man turned out to be Owen, one of the walkers we met on our first day out of St. Bee’s.
We talked for a few minutes (I’d finally let go of the man) and he was off again at a pace we couldn’t maintain for more than a few minutes.  Within no time, we were alone again and hoping to reach Seatoller very soon.  We were completely spent.

That’s when Mike, Amsty and baby Max made a reappearance.  They cheered us on and told Lauren how proud they were of her.  They tried to make sure we knew where we were headed and I told them that they didn’t need to wait for us.  They were so kind that they would have slowed waaayyy down to escort us into town but I didn’t want to ask them to do that.  We said goodbye and promised to be safe.

About an hour or so later, a couple we’d met at the first hostel out of Ennerdale appeared.  They had a much better map than we did and we really didn’t care to try to figure out where we were going anymore so we just followed them.  When the four of us finally reached Honister Youth Hostel (about 2 miles from our final destination), we decided to call a cab and split the fare into town. 

It was the best 10 lbs I’ve ever spent!!!  We simply couldn’t walk another step.  The taxi dropped the four of us off at the Scafell Hotel.  We hobbled in, ordered pints and fish and chips and within an hour or so we were feeling mostly human.  Pretty soon we were joined by Mike, Amsty, baby Max and father-in-law.  They’d already checked into their rooms and showered.  We still smelled like sheep dung.  They didn’t seem to mind.  We talked a bit and accepted their additional words of encouragement.  On our way out, we ran into our British guy friends and they were so very happy to see that we'd made it safely.  They too offered words of praise and encouragement.  Given the speed at which they walk, we knew we'd never see them again and wished them a wonderful journey.

To make up for cheating earlier with a taxi, Lauren and I walked the 1 ¼ mile to our B&B.  We showered and instantly fell asleep, grateful for our kind and generous compadres.  The C2C gods have been taking most excellent care of two novice walkers for sure.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day Two - Ennerdale Bridge (Almost)

We got an early start knowing that this day would be our first real taste of the Lake District.  We could see our challenge off in the distance - Dent Hill.  We knew we'd have to tackle it eventually and climb over it to the other side but until then, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through fields of sheep and horses and the sun was shining.  Another amazing day to enjoy an amazing adventure.

Then the map didn't match the terrain.  Hey!  What's going on here?  We weren't lost...we were just unsure about where to go.  Like magic, Mike, Amsty, baby Max and father-in-law appeared with a real map in hand.  We discussed where to go and when we showed them our guide book, they were taken aback and made awful faces.  They couldn't believe that the book we were carrying was our only map.  They showed us their topographical map and we ooohhhed and aaahhhed at the detail and happily followed them.  We made our way to the base of Dent Hill.

Please allow me to stop here and complain about the dumb ass who named Dent Hill.  It is not a hill.  It is a mountain.  We are pushing for a change to all of the maps of the world to change "Dent Hill" to "Dent Mountain".

Mike and Amsty were careful never to get too far out of sight so that they could make sure we were on the right path.  More than once, they stopped and waited for us to catch up and cheer us on.  The climb from the base to the summit took us about 90 minutes and the view from the top was breathtaking.  We had a 360 degree view of the world and what a view it was!!!  We stood there, mouths hanging open, in awe of what we'd just accomplished when the temp began to plummet and the sky looked unfriendly.  We gave Mike and Amsty our heartfelt thanks and pushed onward in order to make it to the farm before the skies opened.

Mike and Amsty broke out their stove, made a pot of tea, changed and fed baby Max, repacked all of their crap and still managed to catch us and leave us in their dust yet again.  Lauren and I are convinced that they are both part billy goat.  Nothing could slow them down.

It turns out that the descent of Dent Mountain proved harder than the ascent. We didn't see that coming. It was very, very steep and in no time my shins were on fire and my toes were so crushed into the toe box of my boots that I thought I'd never uncrinkle them again.  Mike and Amsty hollered back to us that it would be easier on our feet and legs if we zig-zagged back and forth across the slope.  Their advice was helpful and after 45 mins or so, we finally made it to the valley floor.  When we looked back behind us, we couldn't believe that we had actually made it down that slope. Unfortunately, Mr. Camera was still on strike so you'll have to trust us on this.  It was unbelievable!!

After a couple hours of a fairly flat walking along Nannycatch Beck (a little stream) among the sheep, we began a slow climb out of the valley yet again.  Just out of the valley, we found Low Cock How Farm, where we spent a very nice night.  It's not actually in Ennerdale Bridge - it's about a mile and half shy, which means that we would have to make up that distance the next day.  Since we arrived so early in the day, we had the chance to look around the farm, meet some horses and make friends with a few dogs.  It's a working farm with all of the smells one would expect...thankfully we were pretty tired.

It was this night that we met two charming British men also doing the walk.  They were doing it in only 12 days and had done various parts of the walk on several occasions.  They were professional walkers and sort of kept to themselves.  They weren't rude by any means but...they knew they were out of our league.  We also met "the old guy" who had set out that morning from St Bee's on his own.  Turns out, he's 80 years old and is doing the walk all alone.  I was pretty impressed to say the least.  We sat by the fire and watched a football game with him (soccer).  He drank about 10 cups of tea in 3 hours.

So, our evening was consumed sitting by the fire eating pizza that we had delivered.  (That in itself was unbelievable.)  The old guy didn't have anything to eat so Lauren shared her pizza with him. We had a nice night and tried very hard to ignore the sun as it came through our sky light at 11pm.  We finally drifted off and had dreams of mountains and pizza.

Day One - St Bee's to Moor Row

After a mostly sleepless night for me (the anticipation was keeping me from a much needed night's rest), we had a filling breakfast and set off later than I had planned. We lingered over tea and toast smeared with butter and strawberry jam.  (I discovered an amazing breakfast creation of buttered toast and bacon sandwiches.  I named it a “bacon butty” only to discover that someone already named bacon and butter sandwiches just that.  Oh well, thank God I’m walking 200 miles because I eat these every morning…)  After pushing away from the bacon butties, it took way too long to figure out what to leave behind and what to take on our backs.  Finally, we were off!

Although its only 8 miles from the start of the walk to our first stop, our hotel was at least a mile from the starting point, so there we were - facing the first 9 miles of The Coast to Coast.  By UK standards, it was a beautiful day, which means we were in several layers and wearing hats and gloves.

We found the coast (another happy moment) and headed for the white foam in which to dip/baptize our boots.  The problem was that the tide was out so far, we'd have had to walk another 1/2 mile just to get to the surf so we cheated and wet our boots in a small tidal pool of sea water.  We decided it wasn’t really cheating since everyone would have wanted us to get moving…it was now after 10am.  We selected two stones each (one to throw in the North Sea and another to bring home as a souvenir) and found ourselves in a lively conversation with two older gentlemen about our walk and where we live.  They kindly offered to snap a photo of us standing in front of the Coast to Coast sign but our camera went on strike and refused to cooperate.  We thanked them for trying, promised to be careful and said goodbye.  We hoped that our nasty little camera’s bad behavior was not an omen of things to come, shoved it in my backpack, and headed for the cliffs.

The next problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to GET to the start of the path.  We could see walkers already scrambling up the cliffs and almost out of sight.  Lauren saved the day by hopping a fence or three and I blindly followed.  We were on our way!  Years of planning and day dreaming and we were really doing it!!

Within minutes we were shedding layers and stopping to catch our breath.  We were sharing our walk with lots of sheep and even a few cows and it was the perfect start to a great day.   The view was…well, stunning would be an understatement.  Never before have I seen such beauty.  Lauren and I were both stunned and our appreciation of the view certainly did slow us down.  Thankfully, she was able to get some pictures with her iPod, which we’ll upload later. (Her computer battery/power cord did a marvelous display of electrical flames in St Bee’s and died a quick death.  Since she can’t use her computer, we’re trying to share mine and after a week of no internet, neither of us is very good at sharing.)

We were maneuvering a sharp, uphill turn when we were passed by a group of three Brits.  The man was carrying an 8 month old baby on his back (no kidding) and was still twice as fast as we were.  Mike and Amsty and their baby Max, accompanied by a father-in-law, were regular characters in our walk for the first 5 days or so.  They were expert walkers with very big hearts and took it upon themselves to babysit Lauren and me through some of the more difficult passages at the start of the walk.  We’ll never be able to repay them and since they were only doing the Lake District portion of the walk, we’ll likely never see them again.  Let us announce here that we are greatly in their debt and we appreciate all of their kind help.

After a couple of hours of walking and being passed by every single person who had set out to walk that morning (and there were several), we stopped at “The Loneliest Bench” to enjoy some lunch that had been packed for us by the bartender at the Queen’s Hotel.  We sat near the edge of a cliff looking down on the Irish Sea as it crashed onto the shore below.  Off in the distance we could see the Isle of Man.  The sun was shining, it was fairly warm and we weren’t lost.  What a great moment to savor.

As we were packing up and getting ready to start off again, another British couple happened by.  We took some pictures for them with the Irish Sea in the background and talked about our plan to complete the walk in 17 days.  They said that they were impressed with our tenacity to attempt such a challenging walk without having done any destination walking before this.  (This means that they thought we were barking mad.) Like Mike and Amsty, they became another cheering squad and gave us words of encouragement every time they left us in their dust.  That was frequent.

After several hours of walking and eventually turning inland, we figured we were only a short distance from the village of Moor Row, where we were booked for the night. We were still in the middle of fields of sheep with no civilization in sight.  This is when we learned an ugly and scary truth:  our guide book’s scale is hosed.  What should have been a ¼ mile stretch was actually over a mile.  We wasted about an hour going back to where “we went wrong” trying to figure out how we missed the turn-off.  I eventually was frustrated enough to say to hell with the book, let’s just follow this semi-path.  45 mins or so later found us back on track and Lauren saved the day for the second time in less than 8 hours.  I was prepared to head off in the wrong direction but Lauren convinced me that she was right and I followed along like a good little lamb.  She was right and we finally stumbled into Moor Row to find our innkeepers waiting for us.

We were shown to a comfortable, en suite room only to discover that our ginormous bag that we’d left in St Bee’s to be picked up by Sherpa (a luggage service) was nowhere in sight.  Long story short, our innkeepers drove us back to St Bee’s and dropped us off at the Queen’s Hotel (where we’d stayed the previous night).  This was when we finally understood the saying that you can walk 5 miles out of St Bee’s and only have gone 2 miles.  We walked 9 miles from The Queen’s Hotel to Moor Row but by car it was a mere 3 miles!!

No matter, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of fish and chips, retrieved our bag, and were collected by our innkeepers and taken back to our B&B.  We showered, watched a little tele and drifted off to sleep.  Well… we tried but the sun wasn’t cooperating!  We are sooo far north that the sun doesn’t set until after 11pm and it rises before 4am.  What????

Aside from the sun’s refusal to turn off its light, we passed a very nice night and I finally fell asleep feeling a sense of great appreciation for being able to fulfill my dream.  A huge thank you to my family for indulging me in this crazy endeavor.