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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Destination: Ireland!

Lauren and I completed our amazing journey exactly a month ago and I find myself eager to plan the next big thing.  Speaking of big things: Lauren will be 14 years old in two days.  Holy crap.  How did that happen?  She left for Argentina a week after we returned from England, the poor thing.  She'll be there for her birthday and won't come back until a few days before school starts.  Our little globe trotter.

So while she's off adventuring in Argentina, I can't stop thinking about what's next.  The walk across England was overwhelming (in good ways) and the planning/sponsorship chasing consumed me for months.  It was such an amazing experience physically, emotionally and spiritually that I'm greedy for more.  My boots are sitting in the closet, caked with England muck, and they are calling my name.  They want to go on another adventure and schlepping up and down route 1 isn't satisfying them at all.

I haven't told Dougie yet but I want to walk Ireland next summer.  I'd like to do something very similar to what we just did but I need to find a more economical way of pulling it off.  We spent a disgusting amount of money of course.  Three weeks of hotels and eating and playing added up to big bucks.  We won't need to buy any gear, which cost us a grand or so this year in spite of the sponsorships we managed to land but we'll still need a place to sleep at night and three squares.  And pints.

There are walking trails all over Ireland but I don't think there's anything resembling a coast to coast.  I'm interested in the southern portion and am researching the trails along the coast.  I definitely need to visit County Mayo, which is in the northeast, because that's where my Dad's family came from.  He never had the opportunity to visit Ireland and I'd like to do it in his honor.  I want to wander through castles, listen to local musicians in pubs, stroll along the sea cliffs, and soak up Ireland's history and culture.

I've ordered some maps with which to begin the planning.  Stay tuned.  There is likely to be a link to another blog for our next adventure!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This New Reality

Lauren and I are trying to adjust to this new version of reality.  We're both having difficulty with the time change and are awake well before 5am, which means we're usually ready to call it a day by 8pm. The view here is gorgeous of course; we're in the Keys.  But there's a lot to be said for green mountains and wooded hills that hide gurgling creeks and the accompanying paths covered with fragrant needles from the overhanging evergreens.  We both loved the paths that wandered through the woods and along the Swale.  You simply can't find that kind of beauty on this piece of coral rock.

However, surrounded by beauty we are; albeit a different kind of beauty.  Our yard changed quite a bit in the month we were gone and the transformations are wonderful.  The banana trees I planted to screen the house from the hot tub have completely filled in and are doing the job well.  The pineapples are taking off, their fronds a very dark green.  The tomatoes are looking like something from one of my favorite childhood stories, Jack and the Beanstalk.  The gardens are filling in and the baby palm tree is flourishing.  Although I miss the temperature and beauty of Great Britain, it is nice to be home.

Lauren has moved on from the walk.  I don't think she gives it a second thought unless someone asks her about it.  It's different for me.  I find myself remembering conversations I had with Lauren and fellow walkers, I see very specific images (such as Whitby Abbey and Dent Hill) with great clarity, and I remember the biting wind and jolting chill on top of The Nine Standards Rigg.  I enjoy these rememberings and although I know its inevitable, I will all too soon forget the details.  The demands of every day life and the routine of work and cooking and laundry will unfortunately push away remaining images of mountains and babbling brooks and friendly heifers.  Until then, I will happily take these memories out while they are fresh and enjoy them often.

When the memories aren't quite so strong and I have to read the blog to remember the little details, then it will be time to plan the next Big Adventure.  I hope you'll come along....

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's Not Over Yet!

We slept hard last night with the windows wide open with feather ticks to keep us warm.  After a light breakfast (no more bacon butties since we're no longer buring 4,000 calories a day!), we hopped a bus back to Whitby where we spent a really great day.

I've always loved the idea of quaint, sea-side fishing villages and this one doesn't disappoint.  Winding cobblestone streets with odd little shops and pubs everywhere.  We cross the swing bridge into the oldest part of the village (our favorite part) and soon wander into a jewelry shop that's having a retirement sale.  Yay.  We bought too much stuff but it was so much fun.  I bought garnet earrings and a ring in sterling silver for the equivalent of about $28.  I love them.  Lauren bought some necklaces and a gift for a friend and while we were spending Dougie's money, the rain started again.  It wasn't kidding either.  We didn't really care and while lots of people huddled in shops or crowded under awnings, Lauren and I just walked along as if the sun was shining.  Silly village dwellers.

 Our next stop was a coffee shop.  I had the first Diet Coke in weeks, which tasted funny.  It was warm, of course, and there wasn't any ice.  (That's the other thing I'm going to do:  Teach the Brits to love and use ice cubes.)  Lauren had a milkshake, which we learned is not a shake made with ice cream because that's an ice cream shake.  Oh well.  I caved and had a bacon buttie but I didn't eat all of it.

The next stop was our favorite and was named "Incantations".  Lauren summed it up best when she suggested that we just buy the whole damn shop.  More of Doug's hard-earned cash down the drain.  When I finally forced us out of there, we just wandered in and out of places.  We stopped for a pint and a hot chocolate at the Duke of York (no, not the one in Yorktown, VA) and then we stumbled upon a photo shop that does those silly portraits in which women dress in Victorian gowns/hats/gloves and the men dress as soldiers.  I begged Lauren until she caved.  We had so much fun for the next hour or so and the people who work there were a lot of fun.  The photographer was an odd little character and it was easy to see that his wife adored him.  He and Lauren were acting out Monty Python scenes.  The picture is pretty cool and Lauren looks about 18 or 19 years old in it.  I do not.  I look like Gooma (my maternal grandmother) and that's not cool.

We wasted away the day until we realized that we really needed to get back to RHB to meet Mic Dundee and the Aussies for a celebratory pint.  As our bus pulled into RHB, I thought I saw the foursome on the street.  Probably a coincidence, I thought, but we hurried around the corner and it was them!  I whistled and Lauren shouted.  They had just called a cab, which would arrive in 20 minutes, to take them to Whitby where they were spending the night.  Apparently, the last time we were all together, we agreed to meet in the Bay Hotel around noon.  Huh...Lauren and I didn't remember it that way!  They'd already had a few pints while waiting a couple hours for us to show up and now they had come to the Victoria Hotel near the top of town to get a cab.

Mic realized we had time for one more and bought a round for everyone.  We sat outside in the sun and tried to wrap up our wonderful journey in less than 15 minutes.  That's not long enough to say all of the things that should be said at a time like this and we all felt a little frustrated.  I was very sorry to have misunderstood about our meeting time but all of us were happy that we managed to bump into them before they disappeared forever from our lives.

More pictures and hugs.  More promises to keep in touch via email.  Perhaps a tear or two.

And then it was just me and Lauren again.  Deja Vu.

Robin Hood's Bay It Is!!!

During my flea infested night, I decide to try to book us on the train to Whitby (another coastal town north of Robin Hood's Bay).  If I can find accommodations in RHB for tonight (this will be very difficult), then we could train to Whitby and then walk the 6 or 7 miles to RHB.  That would eliminate a very short walk followed by a very boring day with nothing to do and replace it with a very interesting day full of things to see and do and a very nice walk along the cliffs.

Lauren says she's in.  She still doesn't look quite right but she's in favor of the busy day plan over the boring day plan.  That's my girl.

The C2C gods haven't let us down yet.  I call the Raven House, in which we're booked tomorrow night.  They've had a cancellation and can accommodate us tonight as well!  I leave Lauren in the room to shower/dress and run over to the train station.  I speak with a very helpful conductor who tells me that we can catch the 10:10am train to Whitby and it will indeed be a lovely old steam engine but not the Hogwart's Express.  Our locomotive will be the "Green Knight" or some such nonsense.  I'm very happy and think we can pull this off.

I dash back to the pub and finish packing.  We dine alone (surprise, no one else slept in this dump??!?) on cereal and toast and head off to the train station.  As we're on the platform talking to the same conductor I spoke with earlier and one of his railway compadres, we hear "You're cheating! You're cheating!" being shouted.  We turn to see who's causing all of the commotion.  Guess who?

There's Mic Dundee, decked out in his walking gear and wide brimmed hat, stomping towards us shouting about us cheating.  He's wearing his usual wide grin and we do our best to defend ourselves.  It's not cheating.  In fact, if we didn't take the train, we'd only walk 4 miles today but by taking the train, we're going to walk 6 or 7.  It's not cheating.  Alfred Wainwright himself said not to follow in his exact footsteps but to make your own way.  We're making our own way and some of it is made up of railroad track!

Allen joins the three of us and doesn't accuse us of cheating.  The guys had put their wives on an earlier train to Whitby where they plan to shop the day away while the guys walk.  (Michele and Kathy walk every few days and shop/visit tea rooms the rest the of them!)  After some more hassling about cheaters, we hug and kiss goodbye yet again and promise to see them tomorrow in RHB.

We find a very comfortable seat on the train and both grin like little kids when the whistle blows and we hear the chug, chug, chug.  We can see the steam rushing by our windows and we enjoy a very easy ride to Whitby.  No sooner do we leave the train when the sun goes behind some black clouds and it begins to pour.  We pull out the rain gear and try to tuck away the camera/phone/gps in the middle of our non-waterproof packs.

After checking at the information booth, we know that if we climb 199 steps the the Abbey, we'll find the Cleveland Way, which we can take along the cliffs of the North Sea until it hooks up again with the C2C.  Sounds perfect to us.  We dash into the co-op and buy four small baguettes to get us through the short walk to RHB.  It's only 6 1/2 miles and we'll be there in time for a pint and some lunch!

The walk through town is a challenge because we're passing so many great looking shops and the streets are cobblestoned and windy and very Diagon Alley-like.  We agree that we HAVE to come back here tomorrow to have a look around.  The rain can't bring me down.  I'm smiling in spite of it because my daughter and I are now setting off on the LAST walk of the The Walk.  We're going to do this!

The abbey is breathtaking.  It's on top of the highest cliff over town and only a few walls remain intact.  It's easy to see where the stained glass windows used to be.  The abbey is surrounded by old, crooked graves at odd angles and this would be the most perfect setting for a Halloween party.  It's spooky and wonderful and inviting and I could spend all day poking around.

We turn away from Whitby and head towards RHB.  The views of the sea and the cliffs are reminiscent of St. Bee's from 15 days ago.  Lauren's spirits are pretty high and I'm happy to find myself exactly where I am.  The going is sloppy.  Very sloppy.  There's been a lot of rain and the path is thick with mud.  I realize that these 6.5 miles are not going to be fast.

After only 25 or 30 minutes of walking, we look back and see the Abbey, faintly visible through the fog that's  begun to settle.  It's a stunning image and I try to capture it with the camera but it's not the same.  It's errie but inviting, this falling down abbey on a cliff by the sea, shrouded in mist and rain.  These kinds of images hold me and it's hard to turn away and keep walking but we're getting more and more drenched.  We walk on and in only a few minutes, we are alone except for two small barns off to our right.  The fog has cut us off from everything.  Whitby and its stunningly Gothic Abbey are no longer there, the sea and it's sheer cliffs are not visible and the horizon in front of us has also vanished.  We stop and listen.  The only sounds are those we make and even those sound muffled and odd.

Lauren remembers a comment her dwarf made when we had a similar encounter on the way to Richmond.  He said that the world took on a video game quality.  I prefer to imagine creepy Halloween kinds of things like vampires and werewolves and witches but to each his/her own.  I leave Lauren to her thoughts and she to mine.  We plod on.

We pass a lighthouse, which makes me think of Doug.  I take some pictures of it for him while Lauren talks to the horse and two ponies in the adjacent field.  The going gets slower and slower as the mud gets deeper and deeper.  We stop to um...attend to some things behind a tree and as we're putting our gear back on, two British guys come up behind us.  We stop to chat and they love the idea of a mom/daughter team doing the C2C.  That's when Lauren tells them I'm her grandmother.  I consider tossing her over the cliff but she's got my passport in her pack so I resist the urge. We talk with them for awhile and while I was really hoping we were only about a mile from RHB, they burst my bubble by telling us that it's at last another hour of walking. (And as fast as they walk, that means miles and miles.)

The mood starts to dip.  Lauren is hungry; the baguettes are gone.  I only ate part of one and she had the rest but her tape worm is screaming for more.  We have nothing but water and some ginger cookies that she doesn't like.  I tell her that we just need to walk faster so that we can get her fed.  She doesn't want to hear that and becomes very sullen.  I keep going, knowing that the only way our situation will improve is by getting to RHB and feeding her as soon as possible.

As we come around a bend, the two Brits are taking pictures.  There it is!  RHB is down below, hugging the coast of the North Sea.  I'm ecstatic!  I turn to Lauren and can see by the look on her face, she doesn't want to hear what I have to say.  She's hungry and mean.  I smile and keep walking.  We're almost there and once she's been fed, she'll be nearly human again.

The walk into town is glorious.  We stroll through vine covered archways, along the property line of some beautiful homes with even more beautiful gardens.  The sun is out and I'm on cloud 9.  I try to get a high five out of Lauren.  I get a death stare.  I smile at her anyway and tell her we've done it!  She couldn't give a fiddler's fart.  I try not to let that diminish my happiness and pride at our accomplishment.

We know that our bags can't be here yet; it's too early.  Unfortunately, the stones we've carried from St Bee's are in the bags on the Sherpa Van so our stone-throwing/boot dipping ceremony will have to wait.  We walk the steep hill down to the bottom of the village (and man, it is really, really steep).  Lauren's knee is giving her a hard time.  Between that and her empty belly, I'm trying to keep my distance.

Its tradition to have a pint or 6 at the Bay Hotel, in The Wainwright Pub, upon finishing the walk.  In we go.  I order a pint for me and water for Lauren and ask for a menu.  Oh shit.  They just stopped serving lunch.  I buy two bags of crisps (for you Americans, those are chips).  I try to get Lauren to smile and enjoy the moment.  She's not having any of it.  I smile anyway, which irritates her all the more.  The two British guys from earlier sit down next to us and their conversation brings her out of her gloom more than a little.  We have a nice chat and as I'm about to have another pint, Lauren cuts me off.  She's leaving.  NOW.

I say our goodbyes and congratulate them on their walk and we head back uphill to our B&B.  No surprise the bags haven't arrived but I can't wear these smelly walking clothes another minute.  I rip them off and head for the shower, after which I have to sit in a towel for over an hour waiting for cleanish clothes to arrive.  I dress while Lauren showers and then we head back down Hell's Hill to find some dinner.

It's actually quite hard to find a nice place to have a celebratory meal in RHB.  I've read that before but now I know it to be true.  This town needs such a place.  Seafood and pasta and great appetizers and drafts and wine and champagne.  That's what I'll do when Lauren graduates from HS.  Relocate to RHB and open a proper place for End-Of-Walk Celebrations.

We find a decent place and because we're so early, they can seat us.  (Apparently, you have to book a table in this town for every meal because they are so few.)  Lauren has chicken kiev and I have fettuccine alfredo with salmon, bacon and mushrooms.  I'm full and happy.  Lauren is back to herself pretty much so we head down to the North Sea to dip our boots and throw our stones.

To say I'm proud of us just doesn't seem to fully explain how I feel about what we've done.  Lauren and I have grown closer and I've learned that she has a quiet strength beyond her years.  We've tested our physical boundaries and exceeded what I thought was possible.  I'm eternally grateful for her generous gift of being my partner in this journey.  I couldn't have asked for better counsel or companionship from anyone.  We've spent way too much money, made friendships that will never be forgotten and made memories to take out and savor for many years to come.

Lauren, I hope someday you will read this and understand what a wonderful gift you've given me.  I am so very impressed with your tenacity and endurance and courage.  I thank you and I love you like you can't imagine.

To all of our family and friends, thanks for the support before and during this crazy time.  You kept us going.

To Dougie....I know that staying home wasn't what you really wanted.  Thanks for letting Lauren and me be big girls and do it all by ourselves.  I missed you like crazy and I'm so happy to home with you again.  Now, let's celebrate the anniversary we had on 6/30 but I wasn't home for!!  I love you!

An Unplanned Day Off

I get up first, as is our routine on this adventure.  I begin to pack things up before waking Lauren for breakfast.  Most of the laundry I did in the sink last night is still damp.  Nothing to do but pack it in plastic and hope we get to our next stop before it's too stinky.  Lauren wakes but she's not her normal self.  She's flushed and her eyes don't look right.

I know she's sick when her breakfast is delivered and she just looks at it for a few minutes.  Then she looks at me and asks if it's okay if she goes back to bed.  I feel her forehead and she's a little warm.  I send her back upstairs, eat some toast, drink some coffee and then go up to check on her.

After some discussion and more forehead feeling, we decide that Lauren's just not up for a 12 mile walk, although it's our only downhill all day walk of the whole adventure.  I call the Sherpa Van and they confirm that they'll have room in the van to take us and our bags to Grosmont.

It's settled then.  We're taking the day off. Lauren is much relieved and curls up in bed.  I, on the other hand, am restless and eager to burn off steam.  I know she's not feeling well and I'd never expect her to walk 12 miles while she's sick but I flirt with the idea of sending her in the van while I walk.  I give it serious thought and decide it's not the most responsible choice and my place is with Lauren.

I finish packing and expect the van to pick us up about 10:30am.  About 10:15, we drag the bags down to the foyer and sit in the library to read until our pickup.  The rain starts coming down in thick sheets.  We're cozy on a sofa in a beautiful home.  (Guess what?  I still want to be out there walking.)  After two hours, the innkeeper stops in to check on us and brings Lauren a pot of tea.  It's chilly in this old mansion and she's wrapped up in two of her sweatshirts and one of mine.

The van finally arrives at 2pm and we pile in.  The driver has obviously been exerting himself today plus he's been rained on quite a bit.  He smells worse than sheep dung.  The van's windows are all closed and his bouquet fills our nostrils.  He drives like a mad man, whipping around sharp corners, driving in the middle of the road until the last possible second when he jerks the van to the shoulder to make room for oncoming traffic.  His right foot does only one of two things.  It either slams on the gas pedal or it slams on the break.  He knows nothing in between.  Within a few miles, I am so car sick that I hear myself moan.  I look at Lauren, who normally doesn't suffer from motion sickness.  She is WHITE.  She tells the driver to pull over. He doesn't.  I shout "You gotta pull over!".

She gets out and...well, she just isn't feeling very well.  She's never been this shade of pale before and she's clammy and shaking.  The driver's itching to go because he's behind schedule.  I don't give a fiddler's fart about his schedule; my daughter is sick.

We finally make it to the Station Tavern and half fall out of the van.  As we walk into the pub to check in, we see Mic Dundee and the 3 Aussies having lunch.  We "pssstttt" and then "pssstttt" again.  Michele lifts her head and breaks into a huge smile.  Pretty soon we're caught up in their embraces and laughter and they realize Lauren's not well.  We go upstairs to drop our bags and promise to come down and join them shortly.

I realize that Lauren hasn't eaten anything today and that's probably half of the reason she's feeling so crappy.  We join our buddies for a pint and I order Lauren a bowl of soup with bread and butter.  The rest of us share a pint and joke about Mic stepping in a bog upto his crotch.  I'd have given a lot to see that!  There are jokes about how the muck is restorative and regenerates skin to youthfulness.  Since Mic stepped in up to his crotch, well.... you can imagine the conversation.  Before long, we have half the pub in on our laughter.  It feels good to be with friends again and Lauren is looking better with every nasty joke.

Mic and the Aussies have to go but we promise to meet in Robin Hood's Bay in two days time.  Hugs all around, more pictures and they're gone again quicker than we'd like.  Lauren and I decide to poke around town and hope to see (if not ride on) the Hogwart's Express (from the first Harry Potter) movie, an old steam engine.  We do see and hear a couple of trains pull into and out of the station but not THE train.  Looking around the rest of town takes about 30 minutes.  We spend most of that time in a bookstore and about 5 minutes in the co-op.  That's it.  Now what?

We head back to our room.  There's no internet so we pass the time reading and talking.  Lauren's still not quite herself but she's better than this morning.

While packing up and planning for tomorrow's walk, I make an amazing discovery.  Tomorrow's walk to Littlebeck is only 4 miles.  What?  That's not gonna work.  If we were in a place like Richmond or Grasmere, we could spend half the day looking around town and shopping and then walk but there's nothing here.  Even worse, the only thing in Littlebeck is the farm at which we're booked.

We have an early dinner and try to get to sleep early.  Sleep won't come for me.  I have fleas in my bed.  Enough said about that.  I spend the night trying to come up with a better plan for tomorrow.