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Week 9 - Coast-to-Coast Part I

August 7 - 13

In 2002, when Kelly was eight, we did a 55-mile circular walk in the Cotswolds region of England. We really enjoyed this different approach to travel and the opportunity to intensely experience a beautiful area of England. We also enjoyed the physical challenges of this type of vacation. The following year we did a 50+ mile walk in the Alsace region of France, along the Vosges Mountains and the Route du Vin.

When we began to plan our Grand Tour of Europe, Charley and I decided we wanted to include one or two long distance walks… ideally the types of walks we would not be able to do on a typical vacation from work. We read about the190-mile Coast-to-Coast walk across England and decided this would be a great way to conclude our summer in Great Britain. We didn’t tell Kelly for some time that she would be walking 190 miles across England!

The Coast-to-Coast walk was developed by Alfred Wainwright in the early 1970s. Wainwright was a noted walker, guidebook writer and artist who lived in the Lake District of England. He designed a route across northern England that began at St. Bees on the Irish Sea and ended at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. A pure linear route across England between these two points would be about 125 miles. Wainwright’s route was 190 miles… planned to incorporate unique and sometimes challenging environments, not always the shortest route. He also designed his walk in segments that allowed for overnight stays in or near specified towns or small villages. About two-thirds of the route is through national parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. The Coast-to-Coast walk isn’t an official path like some other well-known walks in England like the Pennine Way or the Cleveland Way. The Coast-to-Coast Walk takes advantage of existing footpaths, bridleways, tracks and roads that have public right-of-way. It’s estimated that approximately 7000 to 8000 people a year complete the Coast-to-Coast Walk.

Although some people plan their own walk and some even carry full backpacks and tents, we did what’s called a “self-guided tour.” We worked with a tour operator (Sherpa Walking Holidays) who made our accommodation arrangements and transported our luggage each day to the next destination. Sherpa also provided us with maps and directions. Since Wainwright (now deceased) developed the walk some 30 years ago, various aspects of the route have changed. We had a small guidebook with an updated version of the original walk, special Coast-to-Coast ordinance maps, and supplemental information provided by Sherpa. I also had the original Wainwright book, which I read at night—it provided great perspective on the natural and historic features that we passed on the walk.

The “pure” Wainwright walk is designed in 12 segments of 11 to 23 miles a day. We opted for a less-aggressive version of this program. We walked 16 segments of 8 to 20 miles a day with a rest day in the middle.

We haven’t been a very physically active family… although we live near the mountains, I’m sorry to say we rarely go hiking. We’re not very interested in camping out in a tent. But we have enjoyed these walks—and especially the Coast-to-Coast walk. None of our walks have been easy, and all of them have included the unexpected. We’ve liked the feeling of purpose and of accomplishment. And we enjoyed the ultimate in slow travel… walking through another country in places that most tourists never go. Charley and I were especially proud of Kelly for doing the C2C walk… such an achievement for an eleven year old! And not bad for a 48 and a 59 year old either!

Saturday, August 7

After the excitement of the Military Tattoo last night (and perhaps the spicy Mexican dinner), I didn’t sleep well last night at all. My mind was racing, especially about the walk. About 4:45 am for some reason I was thinking about Charley going to Brussels on his own to pick up our leased Peugeot… and all of a sudden I realized I hadn’t paid the remainder of the money for the first car lease yet. I got out of bed to rummage around in the front of the computer case and found the papers relating to the car lease. The rest of the payment is due on August 11… this week. How in the world did organized-me let this detail slip by?? I decided to go ahead and just stay up… the sun was already rising and I could see the Forth Bridges in the distance… another incredibly clear day in the Kingdom of Fife. Too bad we didn’t have such a beautiful day when we tried to walk on the Fife Coastal Path.

We planned to leave around 8:00 and had set the alarm for 6:00 am. I made my tea, showered, and got dressed… then got Charley up. We cleaned out the kitchen and tried to get the bags organized. Although we’ve depleted most of our food items, we ended up throwing out several things and leaving a few others for Yvonne. We had twelve apples, which I put in a grocery bag and stuffed in Charley’s backpack… these will come in handy over the next few days of the walk. Charley checked the electric meter and figured out how much we owed for electricity for the week (about 9 GBP)—this is the only place where the electricity has not been included, but it’s also one of the cheapest place we’ve stayed so far. We’ve really enjoyed this little house a lot.

About 7:15 we got Kelly up, and she took a shower too. She took a few minutes to write in the guest book on behalf of our family, something we have always asked her to do. I added a few comments I thought might be helpful to future guests. This has been the hardest packing-up of all, because we had to consolidate bags and everything had to be packed… even the Harrods bag. Kelly’s big turquoise bag is now absolutely crammed full and must weigh over 60 pounds. I find myself embarrassed by how much stuff we have—but then I remember we’re away from home for 14 months. (And we took at least 80% as much stuff when we went to France last year for just two weeks!) We carried everything out to the car, and Charley managed to get the three big bags, two of our backpacks and all of our hiking boots in the trunk of our trusty little Vectra. The other backpack, the computer bag and the infamous fan box were in the back seat with Kelly.

We were later than planned in leaving… but were on our way just before 8:30. The ViaMichelin directions said it was 83 miles to Carlisle… about two hours. We had to return the rental car at 11:00 am in Carlisle to avoid paying for an extra day and then our train was at 1:06 pm. I also now had to find some internet access in Carlisle so I could send some e-mails and electronically request a check for Auto France. The logistics of managing finances is a bit more complicated away from home. We had never been to Carlisle before and hoped that we could easily find the National Car Rental place and the train station… and that they were fairly close to one another.

Our trip was short and very easy… the M road to Glasgow and then down toward Carlisle was just wonderful—three lanes each direction in some places. We did notice that once we crossed the border back into England (not far from Carlisle), the road suddenly wasn’t quite as good. It was a pretty drive through mountainous countryside. We saw a couple of “windmill farms” on the hilltops. We think they’re very pretty, but the windmill farms are very controversial in Britain… and I know that if some utility company wanted to put a windmill farm near my home and ruin my beautiful view, I’d be very upset too.

I read that Carlisle was actually once a part of Scotland, then at some point was made a part of England. It’s very near the border and sits near the Firth of Solway on the west coast of Great Britain (probably the origins of the name of the Solway community and bridge near Knoxville where we live). Carlisle turned out to be a bigger place than I had realized… we found our way to the train station, but had to ask a parking lot policeman where the National Car Rental was. Charley felt confident he could then find it, so he dropped Kelly, the luggage and me off in front of the train station. It was kind of a mid-sized station… big enough that there was a line of taxis queued up nearby. We waited in the sunshine… suddenly in mid-August summer has arrived in Britain. While we waited, Kelly went into the station to ask where we might find internet access and returned with a map and directions to the library.

It took Charley about 20 minutes to turn in our faithful car in (3500 miles in six weeks) and find his way back to the station. I went inside and bought our tickets to St. Bees, a total of 20 GBP for the three of us for a seventy-minute trip. We struggled inside with all the bags and found a place out near the platform where Kelly and Charley could wait while I ran off to use the library internet and take care of the car payment. We can just barely manage with the bags, which is not a good situation on the train… or walking with bags from a station to a hotel. We all have assignments: Charley has his backpack, the super-heavy turquoise bag and the bag of walking sticks. Kelly has my blue bag with the pull out handle and her backpack. I have my backpack, Charley’s duffel bag, and an odd combination of the rolling computer bag, Charley’s fan box, and Kelly’s hiking boots all stacked together. I also have my shoulder bag slung over my neck. We managed to make it through the station and out to the waiting area on the platform.

Once they were settled, I hustled out to the street with the map and headed in the direction of the library. Carlisle had a very busy downtown with a big open pedestrian area. A band was playing in the bandstand on the main square and there were lots of shoppers—a nice Saturday afternoon. I would have liked to look around… there was an abbey and a castle—seemed like a nice place. I stopped at an ATM machine to get money for the next week or so—apparently we may only find ATMs in two places over the next 18 days, and we can’t be in a situation where we don’t have cash. I had to ask a couple of people for directions… the library was in a downtown shopping mall called The Lanes…. actually up an escalator. I was able to use the internet for a pound for 30 minutes… sent off my e-mails to Auto France and the agent who had helped me, and requested my electronic check. We don’t think we will have internet access for over a week, so I hope this will all work out. Kelly and Charley think I will have withdrawal pains to go without the internet this long. They may be right!

I got back to the train station with 30 minutes to spare, and we hauled all our bags to our platform—which of course was on the other side of the tracks. We had to pull the bags up a ramp, then walk across a bridge over the tracks and then down the other side. Fortunately this was the origination point for our train, so we were able to board about 20 minutes before it left and had plenty of time to get our luggage organized. Also, the train wasn’t very full, so we could take over the entire luggage rack at the front of our car to stack our big bags. We enjoyed the seventy-minute trip… Charley especially enjoys train travel in Europe. I read the Times… good article about Colin Firth, one of my favorites. Long live Mr. Darcy! At Maryport the train reached the coastline. The tracks ran right along the coastline… it was really really pretty. The route went along the Solway Firth, and we could see the coastline of Scotland on the other side. A bit further down we saw the outline of an island quite a ways off the coast… the Isle of Man. We passed several little coastal villages with harbors and rocky beaches. Charley talked to the conductor and he suggested that at Whitehaven (10 minutes before St. Bees) we should start getting organized with our luggage. This plan worked well, and we managed to get ourselves and all our luggage off the train when we arrived at St. Bees.

We are doing what’s called a self-guided tour, working with a tour operator based in England—Sherpa Walking Holidays. We did our Alsace walking tour last summer through Sherpa as well. Sherpa has made all our hotel arrangements (which includes breakfast), provided us with maps and detailed instructions about the walk, and will transport our luggage each day to the next hotel. Because our package only includes luggage transport for one bag each, I had coordinated with the woman at Sherpa over the last couple of days to arrange for two of our big bags to be stored in Richmond during our walk and then delivered to Robin Hood’s Bay at the very end. During our walking trip we will have with us only my big blue bag (now a “family” suitcase), the box with Charley’s fan, and the computer bag. The laptop is hidden inside the blue bag, where hopefully it will be safe. I have my fingers crossed that our other bags will really be there for us in Robin Hood’s Bay at the end of the walk.

Our information for this first night directed us to the Queens Hotel in St. Bees, fortunately just a short walk from the cute little station. The walk was mostly uphill, so we were glad there was just a short walk up St. Bees little main street.

The Queens Hotel is a 17th century hotel with 15 rooms. We have a really big “family room” with two double beds (unusual in England)… and plenty of floor space to finish the organization of our luggage. The room is lavender color that Kelly likes a lot… very lavender… with two windows that open out onto the main street. Poor Charley carried the three big bags up the small flight of stairs and then down the hall—he was exhausted and then very hot in the room. This seems like it might be the warmest day since we were in London many weeks ago. Charley immediately hooked up his fan, but then suggested going across the street for a beer… to a place called appropriately The Coast to Coast Bar. There were picnic tables out front, and we sat under an umbrella and had cold drinks and potato chips. A woman we had seen on the train was at another table… Charley had spoken to her on the platform, and she was meeting a friend in St. Bees for the C2C walk. I talked with her while Charley got our drinks… she said she recently walked 50 miles over two days. She was overweight and was smoking… Charley was skeptical of her claim.

We walked down the street to check out the few shops (two to be exact) in St. Bees and their opening times so we could buy provisions for lunch tomorrow. One shop had very good looking baked goods, and we promised Kelly we’d go in the morning to get a couple of baguettes. We won’t be going through any villages at lunchtime, so we need to carry lunch food with us. We decided to continue on through the village—quite a few houses really—and then took a footpath that ran beside some houses and across the railroad tracks to the shore. Kelly really wanted to put her feet in the water. The beach was very rocky… nothing like the sandy beaches we’re used to at home. We looked across the Irish Sea and could still see the Isle of Man in the distance. Charley and I sat on a big rock while Kelly splashed around. I saw another path that looked more interesting for our return trip… it ran along some cliffs and by a golf course. This turned out to be the Cumbria Coastal Way.

It was a very sunny, almost hot day. We walked about 20 minutes along the cliffs and came to a big public beach area, complete with picnic area and ice cream/tea room. I can’t imagine having a cup of tea at the beach, but we are in England where people want tea in any weather. There were lots of people in the water and lying out on the rocky beach—much busier than the first rocky beach where Kelly had waded. We also saw a couple of boats and jet skiers. Kelly and Charley got ice cream, and we headed along the sidewalk about half a mile back to the village. We’d walked about two miles. We decided this was a good warm-up for tomorrow’s long walk.

At this point it was about 5:30 pm and our room was stuffy. Charley and I went down to the hotel pub and took a couple of beers out to the nice “beer garden” behind the hotel. Kelly stayed up in the room to read. I had told Charley earlier that I think I’ve been outdoors more in the past eight weeks than I’ve been in the past two years— as we chatted in the beer garden, he said he and I have talked more in the past eight weeks than we have the past two years. Hmmmm… says a lot about our life before and the demands of my job. The time together is definitely another big positive of this experience.

Kelly came down to join us and we had dinner in the sunny beer garden. It was surprisingly crowded. We tried to pick out any other C2C walkers… didn’t really see any, but then we probably don’t look like C2C walkers either! Kelly and I had roast chicken, and Charley took a risk and decided to try lasagna again… not the same as lasagna at home, but much better than what he’d had up on Loch Ness. Our roast chicken was not very appealing—Kelly said it looked too much like a real chicken (half of it anyway), just lying on our plates. It seemed like it might have been stewed… definitely not the crispy outer crust we had expected.

We decided to go to bed early and get plenty of rest for our big day tomorrow. We finished organizing our suitcases and got our backpacks ready for the walk. We have special tags for the three bags that will travel along with us on the walk (big blue bag, computer bag, and fan box)—we will mark these each day with the information on our next destination. We also marked the two big bags that will go on ahead of us. We each have a daypack we’ll carry on the walk. My pack has my rain jacket and rain pants, rain cover for my pack, fleece pullover, bandana scarf, hiking hat, first aid kit, sunscreen and lip balm, waterproof map case, camera, little hairbrush, my credit and ID cards, and our passports. I’ll also carry the Coast-to-Coast guidebook, special Ordinance map, and special instructions provided by Sherpa. We’ll carry lots of water and our lunch each day. Kelly has decided to carry a book, just in case she has some time to read.

Sunday, August 8 (St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 14+ miles)

We were up early, excited about the beginning of this big adventure. I’ve been worried about Kelly on the walk, given her reaction on a couple of the other day walks we’ve taken. So we’ve offered her an incentive plan: 50 p each day if she makes no more than five complaints. Hopefully this will keep her motivated.

We had breakfast in the little breakfast room at the Queens Hotel, a full English breakfast: eggs, “bacon” (we would call this ham), sausage, mushrooms, a broiled tomato, and toast. Cereal and juice were available on a sideboard. Our order was taken by a boy about Kelly’s age. Over breakfast we met a very nice couple about Charley’s age the next table—also on the C2C walk , though through a company called Contours instead of Sherpa. They are just doing the first half of the walk and will be at the same hotel in Ennerdale Bridge tonight. Their names are Mike and Sue Minton, from a town called Rugby in England. We told them about the English village of Rugby in East Tennessee. Mike is a training person specializing in project management training, and Sue teaches psychology at a private girls school. We liked them a lot.

We left the hotel a few minutes before 9:00 am so we could be at the shops to buy lunch provisions when they opened. I bought a Sunday Times to read tonight, which I carried in my backpack. We bought cheese and bread for a picnic. The lady in the shop that sold baked goods took our photo. As we walked back down the street, we saw the Sherpa van picking up our luggage and had a chance to talk with the man. He was surprised about the two extra bags and didn’t seem very happy about the weight of our bags.

And so our 190 mile walk across England began. We walked past the old church and down to the main beach where we’d been yesterday. The Coast-to-Coast tradition is that you walk down the beach right to the sea and get your boots wet. Then you get a rock that you carry with you across England. When you reach the North Sea, you get your boots wet on the other side of the country and throw your rock into the sea. Charley says over the years the coastline of England will gradually move westward. We saw several other walkers making their trek down to the sea, some carrying full backpacks. The couple we met at breakfast—Mike and Sue—were walking down to the beach as we were leaving . We took photos of each other on the beach.

We headed up the steep path leading to the cliffs at St. Bees Head. Our family isn’t fast going up steep paths. We let at least 10 other C2C walkers pass us as we headed up the steep stairs, including a group of five men with backpacks. Everyone was very friendly and in high spirits. The last people to pass us were Mike and Sue—we told them we’d see them in Ennerdale Bridge. We kept them in sight for quite a long time.

It was a clear, warm day and we were all wearing shorts. The views across the sea from St. Bees Head were beautiful. Sometimes the path was very close to the edge, which made Charley nervous. We circled round the St. Bees lighthouse (built in 1866). Wainwright designed this part of the walk to show off the beautiful coastline…it definitely wasn’t the fastest route east! For the first 3-1/2 miles, we actually traveled west, then north, though our ultimate destination would be east! The Coast-to-Coast path was well-marked, sometimes with handmade signs. We stopped several times to admire the view and take photos.

We could see Whitehaven with its industrial areas ahead on the coast. Finally the route cut inland by a couple of cottages. We stopped at a picnic table on the square in the small village of Sandwith to eat an early lunch. The pub across the street was called the Dog and Partridge. On the back of a sign outside Sandwith we got some sobering news: “185 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay.” At Bell Farm we had a brief conversation with the farmer who directed us on the proper route through his farm. He seemed very welcoming to Coast-to-Coast walkers trooping through his property. We found that the route could sometimes be tricky and the directions a bit unclear. While we were making our way through Bell Farm, we saw another walker wearing a New York Yankees cap. He didn’t speak to us and headed a different way. We re-read our directions to make sure we were going the right way (we were), then decided perhaps he was on a different walk or knew a shortcut.

The route went under the railroad tracks and eventually into the village of Moor Row. We got a bit turned around in the village and had to ask directions. I think the villagers were used to pointing walkers in the right direction. Coming out of the village we got a glimpse of the mountains of the Lake District… where we’d be walking the next few days…. big mountains we’d be going over! Our little book said there was a shop in the next village of Cleator. As we walked down the street we saw a Walls Ice Cream sign on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, the shop closed at 2:00 pm on Sunday and we were there at 2:20 pm. Kelly was so disappointed. Charley went in a nearby pub called The Three Tuns to get some soft drinks and came out with a liter bottle of Pepsi. We sat on the curb and drank the good Pepsi. While we were there on the curb, the walker with NY cap came by, walking very quickly. He did say hello this time. We decided he must be on C2C after all.

The next part of the walk took us by a farm, through the woods, and then up a very steep fell (hill) called Dent, the highest point of the day… about 1250 feet. Charley carried Kelly’s pack part of the way, in addition to his own. Kelly had been struggling but got her second wind and went on ahead to arrive first at the large cairn (a big pile of rocks) on the summit. It was extremely windy at the top, but the view ahead of us was excellent—layers of mountains… quite a contrast to the coast behind us.

We made an error coming down… there was a big hand-painted sign that pointed the direction for C2C and took us down a long forest road. I realized later that I should have followed the directions in the book instead and gone a much faster – though steeper—way down. We eventually came down into very pretty valley by a stream – Nannycatch Beck. A “beck” is a small stream or creek. We had also now arrived in the Lake District National Park. After crossing the stream several times on little bridges and rocks, the path took us to the end of the little valley. We arrived on the road to Ennerdale Bridge, and another walker pointed us in the right direction. It started to rain the very last part of the day and we had to put on our jackets and pack covers. We got to the village of Ennerdale Bridge about 6:45 pm…. we’d walked over 14 miles… a very long day.

Our hotel for the night is the Shepherds Arms, a nice hotel and a good, very welcome room. The village doesn’t seem to contain much more than the pub/hotel and a shop. We changed clothes, and Charley took our wet things off to a warm drying room. We went on down to the pub for dinner. Charley and I had a great steak-and-ale pie, and Kelly had lasagna. Mike and Sue were at the next table eating with the man in the Yankees cap, who had arrived not long before us. We shared our stories about the first day. Mike and Sue had also made the mistake of taking the forest road off of Dent. And the Yankees cap man had taken a wrong turn at Bell Farm when we had first seen him. We found out his name was also Mike (we later nicknamed him “the Lone Mike,” to differentiate him from “Mike-with-Sue”), and he turned out to be extremely nice. He had planned to walk half the route (to Kirkby Stephen, like Mike and Sue) with his two teenagers, but there had been a scheduling mix-up and they had ended up going to the beach somewhere and so he was on his own. We also saw the five men who had passed us at the beginning of the walk. Charley went upstairs to take a shower while Kelly got dessert, and I talked to the group of men for a while. They are all members of a Ramblers Club—doing the walk together… carrying backpacks… staying mostly at hostels. They aren’t staying at the Shepherds Arms, but the owner of their guest house had dropped them off here for dinner.

When we came upstairs, we watched the miniseries we’ve been watching now since Week Four of our trip—Islands at War. The reception wasn’t very good and the program was very intense. Charley absolutely crashed and missed most of it.

Monday, August 9 (Ennerdale Bridge to Black Sail (walked about 12 miles)

Our walk today was to take us up into the heart of the Lake District—by the lake of Ennerdale Water, then across the mountains to the village of Stonethwaite in an area called Borrowdale.

We awoke to rain. I didn’t sleep well after the intensity of Islands of War, and I had blisters on my feet. Although I’d walked at least 40 miles to break my new boots in, somehow something went wrong on the first day of the walk. I don’t think I did enough hill walking, which pushes your feet differently in your boots. I covered my problem areas with moleskin and hoped for the best.

We had the full English breakfast at the hotel… though I’ve decided to start skipping the bacon/ham. There were four other guests, all on the Coast-to-Coast walk: Mike and Sue, the Lone Mike, and a woman from Belgium hiking by herself. Everyone else was on a walk through Contours and weren’t staying at the same guest house where we would be tonight. The woman at the hotel wasn’t very friendly… maybe it was her husband’s dream—not hers—to own a pub miles from anywhere.

Our trip today was to involve going about 14-1/2 miles, including over an even higher mountain than yesterday. The rain added another complexity. Although we had wanted to leave early, we were slow getting out of the hotel. I looked out our hotel window and saw Mike and Sue head off in the rain. We had ordered packed lunches from hotel but wanted to get Kelly some kind of treat from the little shop. The shop didn’t open till 9:00 am and there was a line of other walkers waiting in the rain.

We walked about a mile out of the village on a paved road to a pretty lake… Ennerdale Water. A couple of other C2C walkers passed us, including the Belgian woman from breakfast. The path ran right along the shore of the lake for about three miles… we had to climb rocks, cross small streams in several places, and find our way along big rocks. At a big point called Robin Hood’s Chair, our directions said we could go down the rocks along the shore or take a path up above the rocks. The way down wasn’t clear. There was a young man in a yellow raincoat with green Wellington boots on the rocks. Charley was maybe three feet from him and asked him which way… the young man didn’t answer and seemed almost in a daze. Twenty minutes later we could still see him in his yellow raincoat sitting on the rock in the rain.

The rain stopped briefly, and we took a break to eat our lunch on some rocks by the water. A final group of walkers passed us at that point. Then somehow at the end of lake… out of sight of any other walkers… we missed something in the directions. We should have been on the left bank of the River Liza, and we realized about a half-mile later that we were on the right bank. In hindsight, we should have turned around and corrected our mistake, but we decided to use the map to find our way along the right bank and cross over on a bridge. Instead of an easy stretch on a forest road, we walked along a series little trails in the woods, fording rain-swollen streams in several places. Eventually we found the bridge and crossed over to the forest road. We had lost as much as an hour. The forest had been planted densely and was not attractive… especially the areas where trees were being cut.

At about 4:00 pm we reached the Black Sail Hut. Black Sail is a small, extremely remote youth hostel, situated in a valley and surrounded by mountains on three sides. Wainwright described it as “the loneliest and most romantic of Youth Hostels.” We sat on a bench outside the hostel and chatted for about ten minutes with a man and a woman who were staying there. The woman’s daughter filled our water bottles. As we rested, we watched the fog move in across the valley… surrounding the mountain we now needed to cross. The man seemed to know the mountains and was concerned about how far we had to go in the fog before dark. We still had about five miles to reach our guest house for the night. We left the hut headed on the clear path straight ahead, but unfortunately within five minutes the path wasn’t clear at all and there were no markings. We hadn’t seen a Coast-to-Coast sign all day. In the fog we saw three men sitting on a rock… we asked them if they knew where the Coast-to-Coast path was… they pointed in a direction they said they had seen other walkers going earlier and warned us to be careful because of the fog.

We headed up the mountain on what seemed to be a path, using our guidebook to try to locate a beck we were supposed to follow up the mountain. It was very tough… we would follow what seemed to be the path, then all of a sudden there wasn’t a path. Perhaps we were following paths worn by the sheep we saw grazing on the mountain. Finally we almost pulled ourselves vertically up a steep bank holding onto the brush. Then unexpectedly, near the top, we were on a clear gravel path marked by cairns and we headed along it. We tried to use the map, the guidebook and the compass to determine where we were, but we were too disoriented in the fog. We could only see what was immediately around us. A few times the fog lifted for just a few minutes, but we still couldn’t properly identify our location. The instructions in the book didn’t seem to make sense. We hadn’t seen another person since we started our climb onto the mountain. Charley and I were both nervous, but we acted very confident—we didn’t want Kelly to know that we were lost… that her parents didn’t know what to do. It was almost 6:30 and we were still on mountain with long way to go and less than three hours of daylight. Our little guesthouse served dinner at 7 pm.

I have re-lived these few hours many times in my mind, reviewing the map and the instructions. I know now that we had at one point actually been at the right place… where we should have crossed over to Honister Pass and worked our way down to Borrowdale. But we didn’t realize we were at the right place because we hadn’t taken the right path up the mountain to begin with. We weren’t experienced enough to deal with the heavy fog, and we had lost valuable time for various reasons throughout the day that might have enabled us to follow other walkers.

The fog lifted briefly and we saw a beautiful panorama… a lake down below, off to our left. Our nice gravel path headed down the mountain. Suddenly Charley realized that the path we were on was taking us back down the side of the mountain we had just come up—back down to Black Sail. We were actually headed down the path we should have gone up. It was almost 7:30—we had been on the mountain over three hours. Rather than turn around and go back up the path to find our way on the five remaining miles, we decided to go back down to Black Sail. Hopefully they would take us in for the night. The way back down was extremely steep on a rocky path… almost stairs at times… and it was very difficult to ford the wide, fast-moving stream near the bottom. Kelly was tired but very brave. We were worn out… wet, hungry and weary… when we arrived at Black Sail about 8:00 pm. Later one of the people there told me how surprised he was to see us emerging out of the fog that late in the evening.

Our night at Black Sail was almost a surreal experience. Black Sail is a very unique youth hostel… it sleeps sixteen people in three bunk rooms. There’s a commons room with trestle tables and benches and a big fireplace. A “warden” is in charge of the facility and cooks a dinner and breakfast for guests, who all help with serving and cleaning up. There’s no electricity… just gas lamps and a gas stove. The warden that night was a tall younger man… looked almost like an American Indian (or perhaps a bit like a taller Johnny Depp)… with combat pants and boots, a long black ponytail and bracelets on his arms. He asked if we were hungry… Kelly said she wasn’t, but then he said he had made pasta for dinner and could heat some up for us. Pasta-lover Kelly decided she was hungry after all. It was one of the best meals we’ve ever had—great chunky bolognaise sauce, served over spiral noodles in big earthenware bowls… enormous servings for each of us. He also had made sticky toffee pudding. Guests could also buy wine and beer. I was still shaky after our experience on the mountain and decided to stay away from any alcohol.

There were 15 other guests that night at Black Sail. I thought that youth hostels were primarily for young people backpacking through Europe… not so at this hostel on this night. (One of the other guests told us that young people nowadays head for big cities and beaches… the more-remote hostels are used mostly by families and serious walkers.) There was a family with two girls, two families traveling together (a mom and dad with a daughter and a dad with a son), an older father and his adult son, a father with a young son, and a couple. Most of them were just there at Black Sail for one night. Our little family huddled together, feeling like intruders, but everyone made us feel very welcome. The man we had talked with earlier in the afternoon was especially kind—he helped us figure out a possible plan for the next day. He said the C2C route over the mountain was difficult even in good weather, and he suggested we hike out an alternate route to Buttermere, then take a bus onto our next destination of Grasmere. It would not be possible for us to walk the rest of today’s walk plus the entire walk of the next day (which involved even more strenuous crossing of mountains).

The warden let me use his satellite phone to call the Knotts Guest House, where we had been expected that night and where our luggage was waiting. The reception on the phone was very bad, but Mrs. Jackson was glad to hear from me and said she’d been very worried. I’m sure she was especially concerned because we were walking with a child. I’m not sure what they do when walkers don’t show up…. do they send out search parties? She said she would make sure our luggage got to our hotel in Grasmere.

There was one available bunk in a room with two women and a girl. Kelly didn’t want to sleep in a room with people she didn’t know, so I took the bunk and Kelly and Charley slept in the commons room. Kelly was quite comfortable in quilts on a wide padded bench built in next to the fireplace, but Charley was too tall for the built-in area on the other side, and ended up sleeping part of the night on one of the dining tables. As I lay on my top bunk, I found myself reliving those hours on the mountain…wondering where we went wrong with the directions. I couldn’t get comfortable on the bunk and was very conscious that every time I adjusted my position, everyone in the room could hear me. And my poor feet were throbbing… really hurting. None of us slept very well, but at least we weren’t sleeping up on the mountain.

Tuesday, August 10 (Black Sail to Buttermere – about 6 miles)

I got up about 6:30 am, pulled on my hiking pants, and went to look for Charley and Kelly in the commons room. It was still rainy and foggy outside. Charley and Kelly were already awake after our strange night. Kelly had bites of some sort on her forehead, legs and arms, and she said she had an upset stomach. There was just one women’s toilet (marked “Lasses”), so it wasn’t really a good place to have stomach problems. The other hostel guests began to straggle into the commons room, fixing coffee and tea. One little girl asked Kelly to play a game with her, which distracted Kelly from her stomach for a while. The warden fixed what looked like a wonderful English breakfast, but Charley and I just had cereal and Kelly didn’t have anything. We talked with the other guests… really nice people, with the exception of one rather bossy woman (one of my roommates) at Black Sail with her husband and daughter and another father and son. She said her family wouldn’t let her hike with them because she was too directive. She was going to hike out that morning a different way than them. She didn’t understand our trip at all… especially taking Kelly out of school for a year, and was quite direct in saying so!

My feet looked terrible. I applied bandaids and moleskin the best I could, and hoped that no one else saw how bad my feet looked. My boots and socks were still damp from the day before.

We left Black Sail about 9:00 am, and went out over Scarth Pass, the way the nice man had suggested last night. He and his girlfriend were going that way also, and he had suggested that we could hike out with them. We hated to slow them down, and so we started out on our own, but they caught up with us and we ended up hiking over the pass and out to the road by Gatesgarth Farm together… about four miles. Our Good Samaritans were named Ian and Pam. Kelly didn’t complain once, even though it was a steep hike and it rained most of the way. She went ahead of Charley and me, working hard to keep up with Ian and Pam. When we reached the top, we could see the beautiful lake Buttermere below us… the lake we had seen yesterday from up on the mountain. Ian was the man we talked with at Black Sail when we first stopped there… before we tried to cross the mountain… he was worried about us even then. He was determined to make sure we got safely on the road to Buttermere. Once we got to the road, we said goodbye—they headed to the right up to Honister Pass and we headed to the left to walk two miles along the road to the village of Buttermere. I loved the name Buttermere, especially the way that Ian pronounced it… he said something like “Buttamare.”

We planned to take a bus from Buttermere to Keswick, the major town in the Lake District. From there we could apparently catch a bus to Grasmere and get back on track with our walk. After such a disaster on only our second day, I found myself questioning whether we were up to the rest of the 190-mile walk. Hopefully a not-too-strenuous day (and some good weather) would get us back on track. Although there was a path along the lake, we walked on the road, hoping the bus would come by and we could flag it down. As it happened, we got to Buttermere about ten minutes before the bus. We had just enough time to stop in the shop to buy Kelly a drink and something to eat. If we had more time, we could have visited the pretty village church. I later read that this church has a memorial plaque honoring Alfred Wainwright, the creator of the Coast-to-Coast walk. The window above the plaque looks out over the fell of Haystacks, his favorite mountain. His ashes had been spread on Haystacks, one of the mountains surrounding Black Sail.

We sat in back row of the bus… we were a pretty sad sight in our wet, muddy clothes with our packs and walking sticks. The bus went up the narrow curvy road to Honister Pass and then on its way to Keswick. We saw the signs for Stonethwaite, where we should have spent the night. Keswick was a big, bustling town with a lot of shops and a central bus stop. We had forty minutes until the bus to Grasmere, and there were at least five outdoor (hiking) shops. Kelly’s raincoat had turned out to be too small and had a big rip that couldn’t be repaired with duct tape—this looked like our best chance to get her a new coat. She and I went into a couple of shops, and we found a great deal on a beautiful new teal raincoat. We put her old coat in a dumpster on the street. After all our difficulties over the past 24 hours, she had been a brave girl and deserved something special. She just loved the coat.

I asked Kelly how she had liked hiking with other people, because she really seemed to enjoy walking with Ian and Pam that morning. She volunteered that she hadn’t complained because she didn’t want to complain in front of them. We hope that we can find some other people to walk with occasionally!

The bus to Grasmere was a double-decker bus… it seemed odd for such a big bus to be going to a small village, but apparently the Lake District is a big tourist destination in the summer. We got to our hotel about 3 pm. The Glenthorne Guest House is a lodge owned by the Quakers, formerly the home of a leading Quaker who had bequeathed his property as a retreat center. Today it is a small hotel and conference center with beautiful grounds. The famous poet William Wordsworth—who lived for many years in Grasmere—stabled his horses here. Our luggage was waiting for us, and we had a big room with a double bed and bunk beds. Our room is named Helvellyn, which we didn’t quite understand. We made hot tea and coffee and all took long, hot showers. It was really a great shower. Charley took our wet things off to a drying room.

We had afternoon tea in the lounge and then went out to look around Grasmere about 5:30 pm. We liked Grasmere a lot—there’s a central core of shops and restaurants, maybe about 10 places to eat. It’s really a very pretty village and would be a nice place to base for several days. We saw Sue and Mike on the street… Kelly went running up to them, so glad to see them. We told them about our adventure (or misadventure) and our night at Black Sail. They had two tough days too, and fortunately had managed to connect up with some other people. After all the rain, it had been very difficult today crossing the streams and Sue had taken a hard fall. We also saw the Belgian woman out on the street and greeted her.

I wanted to see the grave of William Wordsworth, and after circling the village we found the church and the graves of William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and various family members. There’s now a daffodil garden adjacent to the church, appropriate for the author of the famous Daffodils poem. I was really sorry that we didn’t have time to visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home.

We couldn’t decide on place to eat and circled the village a couple more times looking at the posted menus. Kelly’s limited menu interests tend to drive our choice of restaurants. It would have been much easier if there had been only one option available! We finally decided to eat at the pub where they had pizza on the menu, but we had waited too long and the crowds had arrived. After 20 minutes we gave up our efforts to get a table. We did see Lone Mike (the guy in NY ball cap) at the pub and visited with him before we gave up on getting a table. We finally ended up at a nice cafe called the Dove and Olive Branch at the Wordsworth Hotel. We sat next to Mike and Sue who were eating with a father and son they had met on the walk. Tim (the father) and Duncan (the 13-year old son) live in Ingleby Cross, which is actually on the C2C route. They are backpacking and tent camping, though tonight they decided to stay in a hotel to dry out. We were very impressed with Duncan—a very mature, open young man who interacted comfortably with adults… kind of like Kelly. We had a really good meal—Charley and I had steak and ale pie and Kelly had a good pasta dish. We also had dessert… Charley and I shared sticky toffee pudding and Kelly had ice cream.

We were so glad to have a good night’s sleep in real beds!

Wednesday, August 11 – Grasmere to Patterdale (8-1/2 miles)

We had a strange breakfast at the Glenthorne—they had just a half-hour period that breakfast was available, and so all 40 or so guests were there at the same time. I felt a bit like we were in an assembly line. The only type of egg they were serving today was a fried egg, so we didn’t have eggs today. Charley and I sat with an older English couple and chatted with them. Kelly just came down for only a few minutes and had a few cornflakes without milk—she really isn’t a breakfast person, and seems to be starting every day with an upset stomach. Fortunately, once she gets started, her stomach is fine. It must just be the idea of walking…

We walked down to the village shop to buy provisions for a picnic lunch. The weather was really beautiful… especially welcome after the rain of the past two days. We hiked about a mile from the hotel to the base of the mountain, Grisedale House. We had a steep climb… from about 500 feet above sea level to 1936 feet in just two miles. We chose to go up the right side of the “Great Tongue,” along a stream. We were determined today not to bring up the rear of the C2C walkers, but I was moving more slowly than usual because of problems with my feet. It was a tough, steep climb up the mountain with several water crossings, but we were rewarded with phenomenal views behind and ahead of us. We crossed in front of a waterfall—we heard it before we saw it.

At the top of the mountain was a small lake (called a “tarn”), where we had a choice of three different routes to Patterdale. Two of the routes involved climbing other mountains (Helvellyn or Saint Sunday Craig), so we opted for the direct way (the easy way) down through Grisedale valley, despite the fact that our room last night was named Helvellyn. We ate our lunch on some rocks at the top of the mountain, enjoying the wonderful views and the sunshine. I hiked in a tank top today, and wished I had worn shorts like Kelly and Charley.

Sue and Mike arrived at the top just as we were packing up, and we turned our picnic spot over to them. Sue was moving slowly after her fall yesterday and showed us a terrible bruise. They were spending the night in a village near Patterdale called Glenridding, but we would all be at the same hotel the following night in Bampton Grange.

We really enjoyed the walk down the valley. I detoured off the path to see the “Brothers Parting rock,” an inscribed rock where Wordsworth “bade a final farewell to his brother John,” according to the guidebook. I couldn’t read the inscription, and I still need to find out why Wordsworth and his brother would have been saying a final farewell up on the top of the mountain.

The path went down the mountain, by a little stone hut called Ruthwaite Lodge and alongside Grisedale Beck. Kelly was in great spirits and really enjoyed the walk. Near the end of the valley we passed a cottage where an older gentleman was sitting on a terrace drinking a beer in the sunshine. Charley asked him if we could fill a couple of water bottles, as we were almost out of water after the climb in the hot sun. We also passed several people headed up into the valley, including a family with children in swimming clothes and sandals. We were obviously near Patterdale. It was nice to be arriving in the mid afternoon for a change.

Patterdale is just a small village nestled beneath the mountains with two hotels and a shop. The village is named after St. Patrick—according to the local legend, he took refuge here after being shipwrecked in 540 AD. Our hotel is the White Lion, an old pub/hotel where supposedly Wordsworth heard the news that Nelson had triumphed at the battle of Trafalgar. The hotel didn’t have a triple or family room, so we had two doubles. Kelly and I are sharing a room, and Charley is down the hall. Our room is named Helvellyn again and Charley’s room was Saint Sunday Craig, the two mountains we had passed.

It was such a gorgeous day that we didn’t want to stay inside. We walked down to the shop to check out their opening hours and order sandwiches for the next day. The shop had a few Coast-to-Coast souvenirs, and we went ahead and bought t-shirts in anticipation of our completion of the walk. We were definitely feeling more confident about our abilities today! There were picnic tables across the street from the hotel, so we bought beers (a drink called J2O for Kelly) and sat outside reading the Times and enjoying a successful, positive day. We needed this! Kelly was still exuberant from the walk—it was good to see her enjoying our walk.

While we were at the table, the father and son from the night before—Tim and Duncan—came charging by with just a quick hello. They returned in a bit, apologizing for not stopping to talk… they weren’t sure what time the shop closed and needed to get food for breakfast. They were camping just outside the village. We told them what time we planned to eat dinner at the pub. The Lone Mike also came by, quite wired from his walk. He is also staying at the White Lion—in the room just across from Kelly and me. He got a beer and sat with us. Mike had decided to take the hard route down, across Helvellyn with a famous stretch called ‘Striding Edge” where you apparently walk along the crest of the mountain on a path just a few feet wide. He said there were all kinds of people there doing crazy things. Kelly excitedly told him that we’d stayed in two rooms named Helvellyn, and she made arrangements for him to get a sandwich from the shop the next morning. Mike is a builder from Manchester, and we talked about the differences in housing prices in England compared to what we are used to in East Tennessee. We read the high real estate prices in the Times—something else that helps us better appreciate what we have at home. Mike was still wearing his New York Yankees cap, and while we were sitting at the picnic table, I saw another person in one of these caps. I’ve seen lots of people in England in New York Yankees caps… they seem to be very popular. Mike hasn’t ever been to New York.

We took our showers and changed into our non-hiking clothes. We had dinner at the White Lion pub with Mike, Tim and Duncan and really enjoyed our dinner companions. I brought down our book about our trip, and we told them about our Grand Tour. We had a great meal too, including our usual sticky toffee pudding. Kelly and Duncan both had enormous banana splits. Duncan was especially interactive with Kelly… he is really a nice young man, very enterprising with several different jobs. He will have his 14th birthday while they are on the walk. They will actually pass through their own village on the walk, but plan to pitch their tent in their backyard rather than sleep inside. Duncan asked Kelly a lot of questions about living in America…. what did she do on weekends, what was Christmas like, did she watch Friends on television.

The pub was crowded and very lively. We saw lots of other C2Cers, including the rambling club men we had talked to in Ennerdale Bridge. Duncan told us that word was spreading among the walkers about the Americans who had spent the night at Black Sail Hut. Many walkers will follow Wainwright’s standard route tomorrow and go onto Shap and from there to Kirkby Stephen… 37 miles in two days. We will break this into three more manageable days instead, as will Mike and Sue. We exchanged e-mail information with Lone Mike and Tim and Duncan, since we won’t likely connect with them again on the trip. They have been fun friends on the trip, and we wish we were going further with them.

Kelly had an especially great time tonight… actually we all did. We kissed Charley goodnight as he headed down the hall to his own little room.

Thursday, August 12 – Patterdale to Bampton Grange (16+ miles)

We woke up to a very rainy day again… oh well, at least we had yesterday. Our Sherpa information strongly advised a longer, alternate route in the event of rain and fog… instead of the normal route over Kidsty Pike (2558 feet). After our problems at Black Sail, we decided to take the less-risky approach. I packed my digital camera in the luggage today… even though I have a zip-lock bag, I didn’t want to risk ruining my camera.

We had breakfast at the hotel with the Lone Mike. Since he is going all the way to Shap today and planned to go over the mountain (16 miles), we won’t see him again on the walk. We have really enjoyed being around him. While I was waiting for Charley and Kelly to come down, I talked to a German couple who were doing part of the walk… but headed west to east. Wainwright designed the walk west to east, so that the wind is supposedly behind you. Unfortunately, that means the most challenging mountains (the Lake District) are very early in the walk. Most people do walk west to east.

Our route took us all the way down one side of a big lake called Ullswater. It was absolutely beautiful, even in the rain… surrounded by mountains, it seemed almost like Switzerland. Steamer boats crossed the lake. The rain was very heavy at times, so we weren’t sure how many tourists were cruising the lake today. We trudged in the rain on a clear and muddy path along Ullswater. This would have been a very easy route in good weather.

We used a supplemental copy of an Ordinance Map today, provided by Sherpa. Although our C2C guidebook briefly mentions this alternate route, it isn’t officially part of the Coast-to-Coast walk. We were navigating totally by the map without any supplemental directions, and tried to be very careful that we didn’t get lost. We saw only two other walkers, headed in the opposite direction. According to the map, the village of Howtown had an inn. Although we had a packed lunch, we desperately needed to get out of the rain, so we hoped the inn was still there and that it had someplace to eat. As we approached Howtown, we began to encounter a stream of other people… maybe 20 of them… in separate groups, and some not well equipped for walking in the rain. We later realized that Howtown was a port for the lake steamers, and that these people must have just gotten off of one of the steamers.

We finally got to the road leading to Howtown and stopped a family in a car to confirm that we were headed in the right direction. At one point the road was basically flooded—we were afraid to go across the big puddle because we were certain it was higher than the top of our boots. We held onto the top wire of a fence and pulled ourselves along the narrow strip of grass next to the road—I’m sure we were a sight. We found the inn in Howtown, and Charley located a tiny pub around the back. He called Kelly and I inside—and there was Mike and Sue! We were so glad to see them. They had also taken the alternate route, though they were considering hiking up to Pooley Bridge at the end of Ullswater and taking a taxi the rest of the way.

We were a wet mess with rain clothes, packs and walking sticks, and I felt we almost took over the tiny room in the pub. The family who had given us directions out on the road were next to us in the pub, and I know they felt sorry for us and wondered why in the world this American family was walking 190 miles across England. We ordered cheese sandwiches and drinks… it was so nice to be out of the rain and these were the best cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had. Mike and Sue had been about to leave when we arrived, so we wished them well—we would see them at the hotel in Bampton Grange.

We hiked out of Howtown, almost to the end of beautiful Ullswater. Our route circled the base of Asham Fell, then cut east across Moor Divock—an enormous contrast to the lush area of the Lake District, which we now left behind. And finally… it stopped raining. We took off our rain jackets and pulled them through the back of our packs to dry—our clothes underneath were absolutely soaked. The moor was barren and desolate, with clumps of purple heather. In the distance we saw a group of people on horses and then some people walking. We weren’t too far from Pooley Bridge, but we headed in the opposite direction. We spoke to a woman out with her small children to confirm we were headed on the right route to Bampton Grange. We followed a bridleway across the moor, passing an ancient stone circle. According to the map, an old Roman Road passes across this moor. Eventually we reached a road leading to Bampton, which we walked along for a couple of miles. We had to navigate around another flooded section of road, once again teetering on a tiny strip of grass on the side while clinging to a thin wire. We hoped a car wouldn’t come by and send a huge tidal wade up against us! We passed by several fields of beautiful shaggy black horses and colts. The horses had shaggy fetlocks and what seemed like black beards. They were quite friendly, and several came over to the fence. The “Country Code,” which Kelly had studied for us, says not to interfere with farm animals, so we had to resist feeding them or giving them apples.

We rested for a while on a bench on the side of the road and shared the sandwiches we had bought at the Patterdale shop that morning. A mobile store was making its rounds, passing us several times as it stopped at various houses along the road. We found this an intriguing way to shop… almost like the country peddler in days of old. At the village of Bampton we crossed the River Lowther to the neighboring village of Bampton Grange. Tonight’s hotel is the Crown and Mitre… really just a couple of rooms above a pub. The village was very small… a cluster of houses, an old church, and the pub…. the closest shop was in Bampton. The people at the hotel are very nice—a man, his sister, his brother-in-law and his mother. The mother actually suggested that we could have taken a steamer down the lake!

Mike and Sue and the Belgian woman—whose name we learned was Michele—are also at the Crown and Mitre. The owner said that almost all their hotel guests are walkers on the Coast-to-Coast. He has a small clientele of locals who stop by in the evening. We learned that in these small villages, the local pub almost becomes the community center. He sponsors a darts league, hosts various meetings, and serves some special holiday meals—it must be tough to make a pub in a small village like this financially viable. His dream is to move to Scotland.

We had an inexpensive, good meal at the hotel—cooked by the proprietor’s mother. The menu was quite extensive, surprising for a place this small. Charley and Kelly stuck with their old standbys—steak and ale pie for Charley and pasta for Kelly. I was more venturesome and ordered the chicken curry—way too spicy for me though! We shared sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Mike and Sue and then Michele were seated at separate tables, but we chatted while we ate. Kelly threw some darts, and Mike even took a turn.

We all hope for better weather tomorrow!

Friday, August 13 – Bampton Grange to Orton (13 miles)

My feet are better, though I’m covering the bad spots with moleskin and bandaids every morning. Kelly also has some bad spots on her feet. With both of us using the supplies, our first aid kit is emptying quickly. Kelly is also still dealing with the bites she got on her forehead and arms at the Black Sail.

Unfortunately, the stay started off a bit rainy—wet enough that I wore my rain pants. Charley has decided he doesn’t like the rain pants, and it’s hard to force Kelly into hers when he doesn’t wear his. We had our English breakfast at the hotel and chatted with Mike and Sue and Michele. We learned that Michele is a history teacher and has done several walking trips by herself.

We started out hiking separately, but very quickly joined up with the other three. We ended up hiking most of day with Sue and Mike and were with Michele until we reached Shap. Mike had a complete ordinance map and was very good with the directions. It was nice to have someone else take the lead! Kelly enjoyed walking with the others… she worked hard to keep up and didn’t complain at all. She likes the interaction with other people. I find that we stop less frequently when we are walking with other people. With just the three of us, it’s too easy to stop to do various things—get water, look at the map, put a rain jacket on or off. One of us will stop to take off a rain jacket… then ten minutes later another person will finally decide to take theirs off too. When we walk with others, we go at least 30 minutes without a break.

The weather really cleared off, and we were able to stow away our rain gear. We hiked through farmland to the larger village of Shap, passing close to the ruins of Shap Abbey down through some trees. The abbey was founded near the end of the 12th century. When we reached Shap, Mike and Sue stopped to make some phone calls. Several miles back, Mike had apparently left his cell phone on a fence post. They decided not to go back to look for it, but needed to make some calls canceling the phone. We stopped in a local shop to buy some snacks, and Michele went on ahead at that point.

Just outside of Shap, we crossed a busy interstate-type highway—the M6. A footbridge crossed over the highway. It was quite a thrill to go up over the highway, and at least one car honked at us. On the other side of the M6, we passed through a field of more shaggy black horses and colts… like the ones we’d seen yesterday, though this time we were actually in the field with them. Kelly was entranced. One of the young colts came right up to her and practically nuzzled her. As we were saying goodbye to the horses and colts, Mike and Sue came up behind us. While they were in Shap, a car had driven up alongside them and honked—it was Tim and Duncan, the father and son walkers we had enjoyed so much. Tim had gotten very sick (perhaps the tent camping in the rain?) and they had to give up the walk. Tim’s wife had driven from Ingleby Cross to pick them up. We hated that they would not complete the walk that Tim had worked so hard to plan, but at least they live in the area—they will be able to finish it more easily than someone like us who has come a long way.

We ended up walking the rest of the day with Mike and Sue. The route went near another stone circle (oh, just another stone circle…), past an old Roman Road (oh, just another old Roman Road), and across the moors almost glowing with the purple heather. We stopped at some rocks to eat our lunch. On Crosby Ravensworth Fell we detoured to see “Robin Hood’s Grave,” appropriate for this walk given the final destination. Apparently Robin Hood has many gravesites around Britain, and the Wainwright book says that this is not the real one! Still, it was an interesting fantasy, though just a pile of rocks down in a little gully.

We passed by the cliffs of “Orton Scar,” then walked along a stream to arrive at the village of Orton and the George Hotel. Orton is one of the prettiest villages we’ve seen… it reminds me a bit of the Cotswolds. There’s a chocolate shop next to the hotel, and Charley and Kelly visited it before we even checked in. We’d done well today and Kelly deserved a treat.

We like the George Hotel. We have a small room with three twin beds, but a very good shower—after a long walk, we enjoy our showers before dinner. We had made plans to meet Mike and Sue for dinner and Michele joined us as well. The George had a busy pub that seemed to cater to locals and a separate non-smoking dining room where we sat. We had a beer with Mike and Sue in the pub before dinner and brought our trip book to show them. We are getting to know them quite well and really like them a lot. The last couple of years Sue has taken groups of students on international trips to do community-service type projects. She’s been to some pretty exotic, third-world countries. She told me that Mike’s sister had been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and had died pretty quickly, without having done many of the things she wanted to do in life. As a result of this, Sue and Mike have put a much higher priority on making sure they follow their own dreams. Travel seems to be something they really enjoy. We certainly understand this approach!

The dinner was very good. I had lamb, Charley had steak-and-ale pie, and Kelly had pasta. We joke that Charley is doing a study of steak-and-ale pies in British pubs. Likewise, we’re also doing a study of sticky toffee puddings. Kelly was encouraged by Mike to try a new dessert—a banana pudding-type dessert called banoffi. She really enjoyed the group and was very conversational. It was another very good evening… and a very good day. We are settling into the rhythm of the walk and having a good time. We enjoy the physical exercise, the beautiful scenery, and the camaraderie with the other walkers with whom we’re sharing this unique experience.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 16, 2004 10:13 AM.

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