192 miles or bust!

  • Our blog:
  • Our stated objective: to each safely transport a pebble from the Irish Sea to the North Sea
  • Our hidden agenda: to maintain our youth, heal our hearts, and justify our beer consumption
  • Our route: the Wainwright Walk from Saint Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay
  • Our timetable: kicking off 16 days of walking on the morning of June 6, 2015
  • Our RSS feed:

Map by James F. Carter (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5]

You are bonkers!

Not a bad last day of being thirty-something.

Laura and Nigel fed us breakfast and sent us packing with a bag full of sandwiches and other goodies.  (Thanks for your endless hospitality, as I slowly fill up your guest register!)  Most of the drive north we had gorgeous blue skies and only a fleeting glimpse of Proper British Drizzle.  I introduced Ma to the music of Ingrid Serban & Forest Sun & Alisa Rose.  Given the nearly 300 miles from Bath to Carlisle, we even had time to discuss the oh so simple topic of religion and faith, where mutual respect and open minds allowed us to at least get a better understanding of our different perspectives.  We don’t waste time with idle conversation in this car!  No siree!

We reached Carlisle, filled the rental car (an Audi A4 Avant very reminiscent of my old A6), practiced a few right turns which always feel weird here, and then dropped the car at Hertz.  I think Ma’s had enough adventure already from my driving.  It’s an automatic, but it disengages the engine whenever we’re idle in traffic, and she thinks it’s stalling out every time.  So I suspect she was relieved to be a pedestrian once again.  (192 miles of it should fix that!)

We raced down the cobblestone street to the train station only to miss the penultimate train (carrying Moe and Eric we later learned) by only 5 minutes.  It was an hour’s wait for the last train of the day.  The countryside and especially the first views of the Irish Sea were stunning, and we determined via the map where we’ll be crossing those train tracks tomorrow.

When we arrived at St. Bees Station, Seth, Moe, and Eric were there to greet us at the platform and help with bags.  Stonehouse Farm is right next to the train station, but we spent only a minute in our room since dinner had already convened at Manor House, a short walk.  Fashionably late we were, but how nice to embrace our fellow Pebbles at last, all but Charles who will join at Kirkby Stephen, and of course Laura at Grosmont!

What decade of life would be complete without a polar bear swim in the (not technically) freezing Irish Sea, on a dare from one’s wife, Jessica, back home?  A local passerby walking his dog and wearing a winter coat saw our towels as we walked toward the beach and said, “Going swimming?  You are bonkers!”  Ma and Ealish documented, while Maurice, Eric, Tim and I disrobed to various extents, entered slowly, submerged, then exited post-haste.  Seth, fully clothed and dry, watched with amusement, “you idiots,” broadcast in all but words.  At least the relentless cold wind dried us off quickly!

The pebbles representing us Pebbles shall be selected in the morning, and begin their migration to the North Sea, first by way of Ennerdale Bridge.  Onward!

Breakfast of champions

Today I woke up old, and received this breakfast to commemorate the occasion.

The hike today really chewed us up and spat us out.  We set out from St. Bees at 9am this morning, collected our pebbles from the Irish Sea, and dragged ourselves across the Ennerdale Bridge finish line 15+mi later (plus thanks to deviations aka “Moe-cuts”) in small bloody clusters around 6:30 – 8pm.  It was gorgeous, worth the struggle, but hard work!  Only 15 more to go…

I’m left too tired for a full blog post.  Maybe that’s just the age?  But I will say that I was fueled today by the scores of birthday wishes.  Thank you!

Sucking bits through a straw

I’m sitting in a narrow hallway upstairs in a house that Wordsworth once owned, where a chair is set up next to the WiFi router.  It is surreal.  The wallpaper is exactly the floral pattern you’re imagining.  Hell, I’ll post a photo.  The data is trickling by.  I really wanted to watch the WWDC keynote!

This is how it’s been every night: sitting in just the right spot to even negotiate a connection to the world’s shittiest uplink, and then sharing it with every other person in the building.  A dedicated 9600 baud modem would be more responsive.  Welcome to the boonies of Northern England!  Not great for blogging.

Yesterday was a tough 15 mile slog up Haystacks and down through some slate quarries.  Tim and I waited at Honister Hause (which closed moments after we arrived) for 1.5 hours for the last hikers to persevere down from the old tramway, and we didn’t get to our lodging in Stonethwait until 9pm.  Luckily the others ordered dinner for us before the kitchen closed!

Today was much more reasonable.  3 rode the bus, leaving 8 Pebbles to go a mere 8 miles with similar elevation profile as yesterday.  We enjoyed the late morning (10am!) hike from Borrowdale to Grasmere, and arrived at 4pm.  This is more like it!  I finally had time to put my beard in the trash bin, but only after treating it to a last request (Cornwall’s Beard Oil, courtesy of Jenny Jen Jen).

Who knows whether I’ll get real broadband at any point which would permit sharing some real photos, or if I’ll get some “free time” from this sleep/eat/hike/eat schedule to make it happen.  But I’ll at least share one anecdote here.

We were parked on the side of the trail for a late morning break yesterday when one of the hikers, name withheld to protect the guilty, borrowed my portable shovel to “take a walk in the woods.”  This shovel, formerly known as Bertha, but renamed to Raoul the Trowel on this trip, has been hiking with me for years as a sort of insurance policy, but has never been used.  Yesterday it was to be finally christened.  Only the user returned with an unsullied Raoul, and a mortified facial expression.  “Mission accomplished, but I couldn’t find… it!”  Clothing was inspected carefully, but it will hopefully remain an unsolved mystery of Ennerdale Water.

Tomorrow we’re off to Patterdale.  My new aerodynamic profile should afford me a personal record on this trek.  Here’s hoping Patterdale’s Internet can follow suit!

Van Halen

Yesterday we split up after Grasmere, with 5 Pebbles taking the low road from Grisedale Tarn through the valley, 4 taking the medium road up St. Sunday’s Crag, and Moe and I undertaking Helvellyn.  Except for some reason Moe is incapable of remembering that name.  He insisted we climb, “… Van Helen is it?”  It quickly evolved, and now we simply refer to it as Van Halen.  “I hear it’s rocky,” Seth added.

Van Halen is the 3rd highest point in England at 3120′, less than 100′ shy of the highest, Scafell Pike.  But it’s the highest along the coast-to-coast Wainwright Walk we’re doing.  And since Moe and I are used to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we’ll take what we can get.  The two edges heading down from the summit, of which we chose Swirral rather than Striding to avoid a backtrack, are breathtaking knife edges that I’ve not seen anywhere in the Whites.

Finally having uploaded all the photos from the first 5 days off my camera, including today’s hike over Kidsty Pike to Bampton Grange, I’ve noticed something peculiar.  There are more photos of sheep than of fellow Pebbles.  So in lieu of a photo of Moe and me on Van Halen, I hope you appreciate the more representative sheep who accomplished the same summit perhaps only moments before us.  Or he lives there.

Onward to Orton tomorrow, with a stop for lunch in Shap on the way!

How to anger the mountain gods

Another long day on the trail (from Bampton Grange), another long night at the pub (in Orton), another short blog post.  I think a bullet list of random thoughts — not unlike the headlines at the Shap co-op, where we also bought random lunch items — is warranted.

  • I’ve hiked over 71 miles in the 6 days so far.  Some Pebbles have opted for alternative trails (or even boats, buses, and hitch hiking) at various stages, but then Wainwright himself took a lot of buses, too.
  • Eric stayed in the room that Wainwright slept in for 40 years at the Water View Inn in Patterdale.  Eric claims to have slept through any ghostly visits, but I don’t think we’re getting the full story.
  • Ealish’s father, Charles, will join us in Kirkby Stephen tomorrow, after being delayed by some unavoidable work in the Middle East this week.  He is fashionably late, but now the party can start!
  • Seth worked crowd control as we crossed a pasture full of cows and calves (and one white bull with giant nads) that had blocked our exit from said pasture.  The bull hid himself in the center of the herd, trying to go unnoticed by us, while one of the more curious cows came up close to check out my camera.  Only after we were all safely over the stone wall did the bull come out of hiding and show that cow the back side of his pimp hoof.  He was seriously pissed at her for coming over to say hi to me!
  • There was a treasure chest of refreshments, a sort of honor bar for hikers, at the entrance to Shap Abbey.  I got my drink on (a £1 Strongbow cider) earlier than ever this morning, and in the heat I really felt it!  Buzzed but still able to navigate…
  • I can’t say Shap except in my “Shaft!” voice.  You’ll have to ask the other Pebbles if it’s getting annoying yet.  …  Shap!
  • I had a lot of time to practice the guitar today while waiting for he group to recollect.  I also got sunburned a bit on my knees and arms.  Did I mention this is the best string of gorgeous weather ever experienced in Northern England?  (By me at least.  Everything else is irrelevant.)  This weekend we may get to see what it’s supposed to be like up here.
  • I ate a Terry’s chocolate orange for lunch.   Despite the thousands of exercise calories burned every day, I’m still gaining weight, I just know it.  It’s the over-sized breakfast, normal lunch, après-walk beers, and pudding that seem to be implicated.
  • There is no end to how cute lambs are.
  • Boobs do not anger mountain gods.  But maybe they better caught your attention than a photo of more sheep?

Well equipped by my personal outfitters

We made it to Kirkby Stephen today, 7/16 of the way to the east coast, and where Ealish’s father, Charles, joined us.  Starting tomorrow morning we need to have our suitcases packed and ready for pickup by 8:15am instead of the usual 9:30+, so I need to go to bed and wake up early!  But I did want to give a shout out to my personal outfitters for this journey.

Harry and Felicity provided me with the following items for my birthday to ensure my success on the trail:

  • compass, green, leaf-shaped
  • flashlights, LED, assorted colors
  • length of rope, black
  • journal, with pre-written prompt

Our innkeeper in Patterdale told us about his daughter, Rachel, who has hiked the C2C three times, first at age 7.  I think it’s too much to ask that my children be as passionate about hiking as I am, but I do hope we’ll share some hobby that brings us together like Ma (their Nanny) and I are now.  In the meantime, they’re so sweet for supporting me in my hobby.

I love you, kiddos!  xoxox

Mid-hike crisis

All is well in Keld, so don’t let my link bait headline worry you.  This is the view out my bedroom window, so you can imagine the worst crisis being that telephone booth lit up all night.  It was an adorable nightlight, really.

Yesterday when we stopped at Nine Standards on the way from Kirkby Stephen to Keld, where nine giant stone cairns had been placed perhaps as a medieval scarecrow to keep marauding Scots at bay, I realized that the hike was nearly half over and I hadn’t accomplished everything I had set out to do, such as write a paragraph long sentence into this blog.

I also meant to collect my thoughts about the new non-profit to which I intend to dedicate time this year, and I hadn’t even started that yet.  I have books to read that have sat in my pack untouched.  The guitar has only made a few brief appearances during particularly long hiking breaks.  Something had to be done!

I made a run for it after lunch, quite literally if you ask any of the hikers I passed on the trail, and arrived at Butt House in Keld at 3pm.  (Compare that to 8 and 9pm arrivals on other days in the Lakes District.)  After bathing, I got right to work in Keynote starting a pitch slide deck for the non-profit.  Then after dinner I read for 3 solid hours, a book I adore called Us by David Nicholls.  I skipped blogging last night because I couldn’t put the book down.  And on the guitar front, I at least memorized some chord progressions while speeding down the trail, even if I can’t play while in motion.  (Maybe I can work up to that skill level?)

Crisis averted, my life (oops, I mean my hike) is back on track!  Half done, and having a blast.

Welcome to my dorm room

This is not posed. It’s just what my side of the “dorm room” looked like when I woke up this morning, and Ma said it should be a blog post.

Seth, Tim, and I reached Richmond early today, with pints in hand before 2pm, a new record! Now to find a post office so I can show my grandmother in Richmond, Virginia her city’s namesake…

Trail tech

Internet has been hideous on this trip, including the lodgings’ WiFi and the villages’ cell networks.  The exceptions are surprising and delighting.  In Richmond the WiFi was good enough to download Rushmore from iTunes so I could introduce Ma to her first Wes Anderson film.  For £20 I bought a SIM card from an airport vending machine that gives me all-I-can-eat data, and it worked great up until I reached the boonies of northern England.  Now when I get 3G walking through a small village, I drink my fill from the hose while I can.

On one occasion I had an amazing signal at the top of a hill while we stopped for lunch, and had the best unexpected FaceTime chat with my kids back home.  So I’ll stop complaining now, but I wouldn’t mind another opportunity like that to present itself!  Last night I held my iPad high over my head in just the right position trying to get any web page to load, managed to trade a few iMessages before my arms got tired, and then I just gave up and fell asleep.  It’s amazing how much more sleep you get with inconvenient Internet!

While on the subject of technology, let me give a shout out to Viewranger, the mapping app I’m using on my iPhone and iPad.  I was able to download the high detail Ordinance Survey maps (£20) for the Wainwright Walk, as well as routes contributed by other hikers for each day’s segment.  And they have a watch app for it, too, so at a glance I can see which direction to go and how far to the destination.  It’s been great!  I also have a backup battery in my pocket, but I’ve only needed to use it twice in 11 days.

Off to Osmotherly now.  May the broadband gods smile upon us…