Friday, November 30, 2012


I am going to keep going with this blog, and there will even be one more tale about the Pennine as I'm going up to Kirk Yetholm to meet Chuck on Sunday.  I am looking forward to hearing about his journey. It will also be my first trip to Scotland.

I've been back in civilization for about a week and a half now.  It's been hard. Back to work since Monday - a week of too many people, too many noises, too much sensory stimulation.  Even at the best of times, I've always been impacted by the noises and sights/lights of a populous area. I have traveled to Hong Kong a few times for work. Although I love seeing my colleagues from work and spending time with them, the city itself complete overwhelms me.  There's just too much going on, and my poor little brain can't handle it.

The job itself is just the job; nothing new there.  I guess after spending so much of my life at work (and at one company), slipping back into that pattern is not much of a challenge. Sometimes it's almost like I never left, except that I did and everything is just slightly different now.

Aside from the familiarity of work, there's nothing else about this that is easy.  I miss walking all day.  I miss Chuck. I even miss the muck.  My flat seems cold and clinical, or maybe it's just sparsely furnished as it always has been.

Chuck has called a couple of times to let me know how he's doing.  But he can never talk for long, and usually we have connection issues. Mobile phones don't work where there is nothing around for miles.  His journey continues, and I am jealous.  

This "re-entry" process has brought me to some of the worst lows I've had in years.  My brain doesn't know what to do with all of the input, and it's coming up with some wacky and disturbing images I can't shake.  And so I write them down, hoping the act of putting pen to paper will cause these demons to lose their grip.

Tomorrow I take a train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where I'll spend the night.  I am looking forward to the chance to see walls built in the time of Queen Elizabeth I to keep the Scots out of England!   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Heading back to Harrow

Today marks the end of my Pennine journey.  The plan: I will take a bus from Bowes to Darlington and then a train from there back to London.  We packed up our things and switched packs so that Chuck could carry a lighter load.  We had our last meal together (at least for while) and settled the bill.

But, before I started on my public transport odyssey, we planned to go have a look at Bowes Castle.  For those who don't want to go read the history, Bowes Castle was built around 1187 on the site of an old Roman fort at the request of King Henry II.  We had seen the castle from afar as we approached Bowes yesterday, but rain and exhaustion had kept us from exploring.

It is mostly in ruins now. But as you probably realize, this makes no difference, as I love this history stuff. And I loved Bowes Castle.  It was the oldest building I'd seen on the journey.  I was dying to get inside and explore.
Guarding the fort
Unfortunately, we were not very sure when the bus to Darlington was going to arrive. From what we had been able to tell, it only goes through Bowes twice a day.  So, rather than explore the castle, we headed back to the bus stop.  Chuck hung out with me for a bit, but I could tell he was itching to get underway.  And so, I watched him with envy as he headed back to the castle.

I probably could have gone with him for a bit.  We'd uncovered a bus schedule from a couple of years ago that said we'd just missed the morning bus, and it was four hours 'til the afternoon bus.  But, I was too worried that the schedule was out of date, and I'd miss my ride. There was absolutely nothing to do in Bowes and no little shops to hang out in while I waited (not that I'd have gone into one anyway what with my concerns about schedules).  Funny how the prospect of returning to society brought an almost instant level of anxiety and pressure that I hadn't felt for weeks. Thoughts about work and bills and every day tasks started popping unwanted into my head. "Away! Away!" I thought and focused on willing those thoughts back into the recesses of my mind.

Throughout my long wait, which was almost exactly the four hours promised, and then the long journey back to Harrow, I tried to focus on the spirit of the trip instead of on what was awaiting me.  I scrolled through my pictures on my camera; I wrote in my journal; I read some Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island).  I watched the landscape pass by from the windows of the bus and the train.  I thought about what I might see when I go up to meet Chuck in Kirk Yetholm in a week and a half or so. For the most part, I managed to keep the unwanted thoughts at bay.

Overall, it was an uneventful journey, and I won't bore you with the details. This walk was something I will always remember and of which I will always be proud.  Had you asked me as a child or a young adult if walking 130-ish miles was something I could picture myself doing, I would have given you a resounding "NO!" My younger self has often been wrong, and I'm glad I was.  I've got the walking/hiking bug, and I don't think I want to be cured.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tan Hill Inn to Bowes

The Tan Hill Inn has the prestige associated with being the highest inn in Britain.  It's a whopping 1732 feet above sea level.  Of course, that doesn't seem like a huge height to those of us from the Mile High City, but in Britain, it's pretty high. It's a lovely inn.  Cozy fire, warm drinks, gentle music. The fire, in fact, is there every single day of the year.  The bartender, who was adding coal to it at the time, told us it hadn't gone out in "years."  

We spent the evening down in the pub - eating, playing Scrabble, enjoying ciders.  Chuck even got one of the guitars down off the wall and played me a tune or two (even though it was missing about half its strings).  I keep the video for future blackmailing purposes!!!
The serious Scrabble player
Needless to say, we loved the Tan Hill Inn.

The morning of my last day on the trail started with breakfast in the bar.  The landlady was feisty!!! We ordered two coffees, and she brought a tea and a coffee. Then she continued to insist that we'd asked for the tea, and a number of breakfast misadventures ensued.

We shared our table with a young couple.  Well, we thought they were a couple, but they were a couple of cousins.  They were very young.   He was a photographer and she was a journalist, both freelance.  They were doing a piece on, of all things, the weather for a magazine called "The Weather."  More specifically, they wanted to interview the landlady of the Tan Hill Inn about the unique weather conditions around the inn.

We didn't really see anything unique about them.  It was raining and cold and a little windy - nothing new.  We kept trying to convince the young man that a picture of two crazy Americans setting off into the rain from the inn would be perfect for their article.  I think he took a few pictures just to stop us from pestering him.

Our morning's walk was through mushy moors, Sleightholme Moors.  There were posts sprinkled periodically along the way.  Someone had gone along and placed a lost dog poster on the top of each post. Poor dog.  We think it must have been swallowed by the moors. After all, what else could get it?  It was a bigger dog.  Maybe the sheep ganged up on it?

Frumming Beck was running alongside us all the way across the moor. In many places it had flooded the path, and we were ankle deep in water.  The beck would meander its way right up to us and then dart away, like an animal trying to check us out but not get too close.  As it was raining again, we weren't feeling too disappointed by the beck's reluctance to jump up and say hello.  The rain was coming from our right for the first time the entire trip.  In fact, the right halves of our bodies were soaked and our left halves were completely dry.  It was a bizarre sensation.
After a couple of hours of slogging through mud, we reached pavement. Just in time - I was afraid the mud would swallow us as it had surely swallowed countless sheep before us!  The rain seemed to be letting up too.  We crossed over a "railway sleeper bridge" where the Frumming Beck met the Sleightholme Beck.
It was shortly past the bridge where we had the worst argument of the trip. I chalk it up to stress about my last day and being cold and wet for too many days in a row.  It was a stupid argument about a plastic bag and my clumsiness with said bag.  I apologize now to the Earth for whatever damage is caused by the bag that blew out of my hands and out onto the moors.  We yelled at each other for a bit. I thought maybe it was a good thing that today was my last day on the trail.  Eventually we settled down and got back into our normal rhythm.

Speaking of rhythm, at some point in the last day and a half, my body had finally figured out this walking thing.  Throughout the journey, Chuck had pointed out "opportunities" for me to improve my walking technique.  He tried to make parallels or give me things to think about. It hadn't sunk in.  My uncoordinated self just doesn't pick up these kinds of things very easily most of the time.  But, I realized that my foot falls were smoother and lighter.  I was rolling from heel to toe, walking carefully like a cat.  I GOT IT!!!! I couldn't believe it.  It wasn't completely second nature, but I was definitely walking "better."  It felt so different when I thought about it.  I felt like I could keep going for days now.  Too bad I had only a few miles left.

After Tan Hill Inn the Pennine Way branches into two paths.  The original path kept going through the moors, but there was an official alternate, called the Bowes Variant.  And so we left the moors and went back into farmland.   We got lost a couple of times, as the path was none too clear.  Several times, we stopped and gazed off into the distance, looking for the Pennine signposts. Fortunately, we were heading back into civilization, and so we couldn't get too far off track.
The Pennine walker is fearless!
Although the rain would continue all the way to Bowes, we were again walking beside (and over) a lovely stream, Sleightholme Beck, and the pleasant sound of running water made us forget the rain.
But the mud was hard.  Sinking to my shins with each step was getting old. Worse - it was messing with my new found stride!  It's hard to roll through a step when you have to pull on your knee to get your foot out of the mud.  We finally emerged onto pavement near Lady Myres Farm, but it was all too short.  We decided, for the second time in as many days, to bail on the Pennine Way and walk on the road.

The road into Bowes was more of a quaint country lane.  With picturesque barns and cute post office boxes/drops, we decided that our deviation from the Way was an even better decision than we had originally thought.

All too soon we reached Bowes.  There were a couple of men working on the roof of a building we passed.  They yelled something at us. I'm sure it wasn't a wolf whistle. Who would wolf whistle two people bundled like Michelin Men?  I think maybe it was something about how cold it was.  The northern accents were hard to understand.  I rarely struggle with any London accents anymore.  I lived in London for four plus years, and I spent at least half of 2012 there as well. But my ear was unaccustomed to the northern UK accents.  We just kind of mumbled something, nodded, raised our hands, and hoped they wouldn't climb down from the roof and come after us!!!

Our destination for the night was a pub called The Ancient Unicorn.  What a great name!!!! I love creative pub names - The Slug and Lettuce, The Duck on the Pond, The Olde Cheshire Cheese, Oddfellows Arms (my old local), The Rat and Parrot.  Imagine a unicorn... now make it ancient.  In my mind it has a beard down to its knees.

The landlady (Joanne) had left us a note on the door telling us where our room was and inviting us to join her for dinner and drinks later.  So nice!

We cleaned up, hung everything out to dry and played a little Scrabble while we waited for the pub to open for dinner.  A plaque near the entryway informed us that Bowes was 128 miles from Edale - the halfway point!

I was humbled, I was amazed, I was overwhelmed.  I walked 128 miles.  Or close to it. Let's say 123 miles to account for my bus day through Keighley from Haworth.  I thought back to the start of our journey. I thought of all the hardships I'd experienced.  I thought of the fun.  I thought of the liberation I felt. How could I give all this up?

Going back to work seemed like the worst possible thing I could do. However, I'm not independently wealthy, and so work is a necessity.  My hope was(is) that I could hold on to the feelings, the exhilaration, the joy.  We'll see how that goes!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thwaite to the Tan Hill Inn

We awoke to dreariness.  But, we were in a warm hotel room, and most of our things had dried overnight. Warmth and comfort do a lot to mitigate dreariness.

I admit, I was slow getting ready.  You see, this was my second to last day on the trail, and I didn't want the walk to end.  We'd originally planned for me to continue until the end of this week, but we hadn't made as much mileage as we'd thought we should.  Chuck wanted to reach Kirk Yetholm by 1 December, and we weren't even half way there yet.  

Chuck was definitely ready to get going, and I could only repack my backpack so many times. So, we stocked up on candy bars and bags of nuts as we checked out (the hotel bar offered our best and really only choice for supplies in a town with no stores) and got underway.  Our path out of town was through a farmer's fields, and the sheep we passed were especially cute this morning - such expressive faces.

Reluctantly (at least for me) we left the sheep behind and immediately started climbing up into the hills - Kisdon Hill, to be precise.  I turned to look back at Thwaite.  The village that stretched below me looked timeless.

I imagine that Thwaite hasn't changed much in many years.  I can only hope that it will stay like this well into the future!

The wind was blowing fiercely from the side as we made our way north, pushing us into the slope itself.  It was blowing my legs over with every step, and I tripped over my own feet several times. "Not an auspicious start," I thought to myself.

Chuck on Kisdon Hill, trying not to be blown over
Eventually, we rounded the corner, and the wind was now at our backs.  We were blown away, but this time by the glorious views which appeared before us.  The guidebook had let us down once again, although the "let down" was less disappointment than pleasant surprise. It (the guidebook, that is) had spent barely a sentence describing the walk from Thwaite to Keld, and yet, we both felt these were the best views of the trip so far.  We were looking down into a beautiful valley containing the River Swale. The hills across from us were filled with greens, reds, and browns, and tiny silver ribbons of waterfalls snaked through them.
The River Swale

We ooh-ed and aah-ed and took loads of pictures.  We even saw our first live hare running across the rocks up ahead of us.  Kisdon Hill was filled with interesting limestone outcroppings and lots of little nooks and crannies - perfect for hares or maybe for sheep.

Perhaps I had been wrong when I worried about the day ahead.  For a day that started with wind and gloom, things did seem to be looking up.  I changed my mind; this was a marvelous day!

We descended into the valley, towards Keld.  As we lost elevation, it started to sprinkle and then rain.  But, we didn't really care.
Here comes the rain again...
At least we didn't care for a little while...  Keld itself was deserted.  We wandered around a bit, hoping for a place to get a warm drink, but even the visitor's center was closed.  There wasn't really a place we could sit for a rest either.  Chuck suggested we duck into a small shed on the edge of a property on the edge of town. But even on the edge of an edge, I was nervous.  I've never been a rule breaker.  The door didn't move easily, and this was even more proof to me that we weren't meant to enter.  Chuck persevered and finally opened it.  I stepped anxiously inside while he explored the shed and took off his pack.  I couldn't handle more than a couple of minutes standing there before I felt like I should leave.  Any minute I expected some angry farmer with pitchfork in hand would come barreling in the door and start yelling at us. "And what then?" my rational mind asked.  My law-abiding brain said something silly like "you could be in trouble!!!"  Nothing more specific than that... just "trouble."

Chuck said he wanted to leave his pack in the shed and go further into the village to see a place called the Butt House.  Funny as the name was (and is), it wasn't so amusing that I wanted to go trudging along in the rain and leave our packs behind in somebody's shed.  Strangely, I was now willing to stay by the shed where Chuck's pack was now trespassing.  So, I "stood guard" and huddled in the doorway, hoping the door frame would provide a small amount of shelter.  It really didn't. How quickly had my mood changed once again! Now the rain was a nuisance again, and the day was no longer quite as marvelous.

When Chuck returned, we headed back to the trail and had a few minutes of relative rain-less-ness as we passed a small waterfall called East Gill Force.

As with much of the water we had encountered so far on our journey, there were patches of brown in the Force.  We'd found that despite the color, if you filtered it, the water was drinkable. At least for now though, we were in no need of MORE water.

The trail quickly turned back into marching through grassy, mucky, muddy pastures far above the valley. Unfortunately, at that point, Mother Nature decided we really did need more water. And more wind.  The rain was falling in slanted sheets, and the wind was frigid.  At first, I didn't think it was much worse than any other day on the Pennine Way.  But, slowly, my fingers were starting to go numb.  This was a first for me.  Chuck had problems with cold hands on most days, but I was generally fine. I hadn't yet needed to tuck my fingers (inside my gloves) against my palms for warmth, but I did now! It must have been the combination we faced. You could wring water from my jacket, my wind pants, my hat, .... maybe even from me.  And then, the cold wind quickly chilled to the bone.

I now decided this was worse than our day on Great Shunner Fell, and I had absolutely no sense of how much further we had to go.  The Tan Hill Inn was definitely not in sight. The landscape was pretty much deserted.  No animals, no people, few buildings. Chuck suggested we use one of the few buildings, a barn, to seek refuge for a bit. This time, I had considerably fewer qualms about "trespassing." Note, however that I said "considerably fewer qualms" - that's not "no qualms."

Back into the wind and the rain!  I got to the point where I was slamming my hiking poles into the ground as hard as I could with every step.  I was hoping that the jolt would stimulate some circulation (and thus warmth) for my poor hands. Chuck was generally about 20 - 30 yards behind me most of the time, but now he caught up and said we should make for the road below us as soon as we could.  The road had been paralleling us from Keld, and our guidebook showed that it went all the way to the Tan Hill Inn. So, when we got within about 300 yards of the road, we stumbled our way off the path, down the hill, and through the shrubs and long grasses to the road. Phew!

Although road walking was never really intended to be part of this day's trek, it made such a huge difference.  We were down in the valley, and so we had some shelter from the fiercer winds. It felt warmer, and we didn't have to fight with the ground for every step.  Not a single car passed us.  Our moods improved once again.  

When we finally reached the Tan Hill Inn, we had a moment of panic wondering if it would be closed until later in the day (like many of the other pubs we'd seen). But,we were in luck.  They were not only open, they had a room still available for the night. The entryway and the front room of the pub had stone floors, and so we didn't even have to worry about dripping all over their carpets.  Best of all, there was already a fire in the fireplace.  We had to share it with one of the dogs that lived there, but we didn't mind that too much, as long as he didn't complain about our dripping.
Two wet & weary travelers & one content dog!
I will save our Tan Hill Inn experience for the next post, as I'm sure that you, my readers, are as exhausted now as I was then...  I'll leave you with this. We were safe, we were warm, and we were happy!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hawes to Thwaite

We awoke to sunshine, bright sunshine. The breakfast room in Ebor House was, as was everything else there, lovely.  We sat there listening to music (great classic 80's tunes on Stuart and Janie's iPod - like House of Fun by Madness), munching away on our Full English breakfast.  We tossed around the idea of hanging out in Hawes for another day.  But, if Chuck was going to make Kirk Yetholm before it got too cold, I would likely need to leave the trail a few days earlier than planned.  We needed to get me to a town where I could get to the trains.  So, it was time to move on.

We packed up, a bit reluctantly on my part, and as we headed out the door, Stuart asked us how far we planned to go today.  We gave our usual response, which is essentially "as far as we get."  He informed us that Thwaite was easily within our grasp, as he had friends who run there and back before breakfast.  He then cautioned us against sleeping on top of Great Shunner Fell.  Stuart is a volunteer search and rescue guy.  He mentioned that unprepared folks end up needing to be rescued when the temperatures drop.  We assured him that we would not be those folks.

The sun was out, and although not the warmest of days, it was glorious.
If you look really closely, you can see a rainbow in the background.
There were a few clouds in the sky, but we weren't worried about them.  Seeing clouds was pretty normal at this point.  As we headed out of town, we ran into an elderly couple out for walk, hand-in-hand.  They lived near Liverpool but loved Hawes - and who could blame them - and visited frequently in their camper.  It turns out that they live right near the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, and I spent a minute imagining us looking up this couple on our journey through the canals in 2014 (although that would be difficult as we didn't know their names).  For the most part, they held hands throughout the conversation.  A couple of times, the man let go of his wife's hand to reach in his pocket for his handkerchief.  She would leave her hand in the same place, patiently waiting for his hand to return to her, which it always did.  I knew I would remember that image always and hope that one day I would have someone in my life whose hand I could always count on returning to mine.
The site of our conversation with the elderly couple
Eventually, we continued on, crossing over the River Ure on our way back to the pastures and fields.  I kept thinking "what a beautiful day!"

We began climbing Bluebell Hill towards Great Shunner Fell, and I spent a few moments worrying about the descent later on.  My knee had been much less of a problem in the last few days, but I was concerned that a steep descent could bring all the pain back.  But, there was no way of avoiding it, short of quitting the walk, so on I went.  

The climb was steep, but I was managing it.  We were just talking about stopping for a break when Chuck pointed out the seriously dark clouds to our left.  They were headed our way and quickly so.  We stopped and bundled up to the best of our ability. All too soon, the rain/sleet was upon us, and it was not a gentle rain.  The wind was blowing and the sleet was stinging.  The ground beneath us was, as usual, bogs galore. Trying to negotiate bogs while you are being blown every which way is neither easy nor fun.

As the fog descended, the sleet was replaced by snow. At first it was just a few flurries, and we joked about what the English consider a snow storm to be.  But, I guess Mother Nature doesn't like to be teased.  We soon could hardly see in front of us and the snow was accumulating.  It was COLD.  We passed a couple of guys bundled up with huge packs.  We thought they were hiking the Pennine Way south to north, but they were just out for a day hike. Clearly we were unprepared based on the amount of clothes and gear they had brought with them.  They warned us that the stone slabs ahead were sunk in 8 inches of water.  Great!!!!

The slabs were slick, and as mentioned previously, my boots are not great on smooth stone.  But, the alternative, sinking 9 inches or more into the muck with every step was not really an option.   So, I slowly slid my feet across the surfaces of the slabs and braced against my poles for every step/slide. Chuck's hands were so cold, that he packed up his hiking poles so that he could keep his hands next to his body for warmth.  I didn't envy him, but it did make us about equal in the pace department. Now we joked (only sort of joked) that we would be the silly unprepared hikers who would have to call 999 for search and rescue.  We imagined the call "We are up on Great Shunner Fell, and we need help. But, PLEASE, do not let Stuart know!!!"  And then we imagined the message out to the search and rescue people "Attention, attention all personnel except and rescue needed."  
Not a lot of snow, but VERY slippery!

There was no longer any question of camping.  Thwaite was our goal.  Fortunately, once we had crested the peak of the fell and started down, the wind disappeared (blocked by the hill) and the temperature warmed. Although it was still slippery and a little snowy, it definitely was easier walking.  And because we'd been going so slowly, my knee was absolutely fine. No pain. :)
We were completely soaked and now very tired.  I couldn't wait to get to Thwaite and to take the hottest shower I could stand.  Thwaite was the smallest village we had been to yet.  There appeared to be only one business - the Kearton Country Hotel. Good thing that was where we were headed!!!!  We couldn't get checked in quickly enough (in my opinion). Shivering, we turned the radiators on as high as they could go and I jumped right into the shower, while Chuck used the blow dryer on his hands and feet.
Relieved to be near our destination
Finally warm we headed downstairs for what could almost be considered a gourmet meal.  I even had crème brûlée for dessert!  We finished our evening with a game of Scrabble and then, as it continued to rain, we settled in for sleep.  

A hot shower, a warm dinner, and a cozy bed!  What else could you need?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cam Farm area to Hawes

After a soggy and fairly uncomfortable night, we awoke to.... (drumroll, please)... clouds and fog.  Oh wait, did I mention the cold? Yeah, it was cold too.  Despite our attempts to find a flat spot last night, we ended up sleeping on a slope, a soggy slope.  Everything was wet, and we were not well rested.

It was no real surprise then that we started bickering early.  I believe comments were made about how one of us was "not walking properly" and "walking too heavily."  This caused the heavy walker to stomp off for a bit on her that person's own.  Chalk it up to lack of sleep and of dry clothes.  Fortunately, the nice thing about Chuck's and my friendship is that we never argue for long.  Movement soon lifted our spirits, as it usually does.  We both find walking to be its own form of therapy, although sometimes it's only temporary therapy. Still, relief even for a short period of time from the traps of your own fears and insecurities can be a blessing.
Muddy but happy walking
The area below us and to our left was called the Snaizeholme Valley and on our right was Dodd Fell. I fell to wondering where Snaizeholme Valley got its name.  Was it the home of a person named Snaize?   Holme is actually from a Middle English word (holm) which is derived from an Old Norse word  (holmr) and means small island.  I have no idea what Snaize might be.  But, the valley below looked nothing like a small island to me.  So much for etymology.  I'm going back to "the home of Mr Snaize."

Other than the trail itself, there were no blatant reminders of civilization to be seen - no buildings, no wires, no antennas.  Just lots and lots of hilly ground and limestone rocks.
Snaizeholme Valley
We knew the town of Hawes couldn't be far away because early in our day we'd been passed by three guys on motorcycles (who didn't look as though they were out for a lengthy journey), but for a while, we were on our own with Mother Nature.  And Mother Nature was apparently pleased with us because as we made our way around Dodd Fell, the sun came out.

Despite the sunshine, it was still cold and windy.  As we headed down Rottenstone Hill, we had to huddle by a stone wall while we took short snack break.  Rotten with mud, rotten with mire and muck, Rottenstone Hill was aptly named. The descent was a struggle. There was so much mud that with every step we went from slipping to sinking and back to slipping again.  By the bottom of the hill, I was so covered in mud, I wondered if I would ever be clean again.

Finally we reached the end of the rotten hill and emerged onto tarmac and grassy meadows on our way to the tiny village of Gayle (which didn't seem to be a distinct municipality from Hawes - they just blended together).  
Instructions provided for crossing the field
As instructed, we walked single file through the meadows to Gayle, after passing through an extremely narrow stile.  In fact, we had to go through a number of stiles that were clearly not intended for those with backpacks.  Chuck worried about me damaging my pack (which is actually his), but fortunately, the pack (and I) made it through unscathed.
How skinny are the people of Gayle?
As we entered Hawes, I realized we had arrived at my favorite town on the journey. Hawes is quaint and lovely -  cobblestone streets, old churches, tiny shops, a small bridge over a rushing river... oh, and at least four pubs within a block of each other.

We made our way to our B&B, Ebor House.  Our hosts for the night, Stuart and Janie McLoughlin, were gracious and friendly. Stuart met us at the door, gave us a place to put our muddy boots to dry and even took the trouble to learn our names (a first on the trip).  Ebor House would be, in my opinion, the nicest B&B of the trip.

After a shower, we strolled around town, where we visited every outdoor gear shop we could find (and there were at least 4) in search of mittens for Chuck, stopped by a used book store (where we picked up some new reading material) and then found a place to have some lasagna for dinner.  Sated but exhausted, we returned to the comfort of our room and watched one of the DVDs the McLoughlins made available to guests - a new BBC version of Wuthering Heights.  It was all a little too "interpreted" and "artistic" for me, but Chuck at least got a sense of the story, and the images of the moors were all too familiar.  As I snuggled under the covers, I knew I would sleep well.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Cam Farm area

Our night at the Golden Lion Inn passed uneventfully.  The first view out of the window in the morning was of the church across the street, cloaked in grayness and fog.  With a graveyard in the front and some black ravens flying about, it was decidedly spooky.
Horton-in-Ribblesdale's ancient church
As was becoming typical on our journey, we were short on supplies.  It's hard to carry a lot of supplies when the only means of transporting them is your back. With the Pen-y-ghent Cafe closed and the other store referenced in our guidebook no longer in business, our chances to restock didn't look good.  We asked the chef who prepared our breakfast (who was also last night's bartender) whether there were any shops nearby.  He thought for a while and initially told us that we were out of luck. Our hearts sank... Then he remembered a little "mobile shop" and told us how to get to it. Little did we know how accurate his description would be.

We packed up and headed out in the direction we'd been given.  We were soon doubting ourselves and our friend, the chef.  The street we were told to turn down looked exclusively residential in nature.  We were both a little cranky, but somehow I persuaded Chuck to proceed on faith.  Sure enough at the end of the lane, there was a silver camper with "Mobile Shop" painted in red on it. There was a handwritten note on the door stating that the owner had gone to Settle (a nearby town with a strange name) to get bread and would be back in around 10:45/11:00.  Chuck was not inclined to wait.  He hates waiting even at the best of times, but in a town that smelled of chemicals and exhaust (which we assumed were from the quarry nearby) there seemed to be no point.  But I used all my charms to convince him we would be happier sticking around for a bit longer.
"I hate waiting!"
Fortunately for me, when the owner came back and we got a chance to explore the shop, it was (again) worth the wait.  Fresh fruit and veg, biscuits, dairy products, juices, the aforementioned bread, all the basic supplies were there.  Maybe the Mobile Shop didn't have quite the selection of Aladdin's Cave or Gordale Gifts, but we weren't in a position to be picky.  We stocked up (at least to see us through the next day or two)!!!

Somehow, even though Horton-in-Ribblesdale is at best a one-street town, we got a little lost on our way our of town.  We did get to see some lovely chickens living in the town park though.  I wondered what the townspeople did when they wanted to use the park for something other than providing chickens with a home. Maybe they just played a complex version of football that had obstacles in the form of chickens...

Eventually we figured out where we needed to go and started climbing back up into the hills.  We passed a lot of old, abandoned stone buildings and outcrops of limestone and even place called "Calf Holes."  The guidebook didn't say much about this stream/ mini waterfall other than "Calf Holes - Water falls into a sink hole." But it was scenic, so we stopped and looked for a bit. It was definitely pretty, but I couldn't figure out why there was a wall, a wire fence, and a stile to climb over to get down by the water. Chuck and I figured maybe it was for people wanting to picnic by the stream.  (I've since learned that the sink hole is a deep cave and people like to go spelunking in Calf Holes.)
Calf Holes
We didn't tarry long; there were still miles to go before we would sleep.  Ahead of us was a deep ravine called Ling Gill, with a beck (stream) flowing through it.  The Ling Gill area has been deemed a "nature reserve,"  and the signs promised landscapes and flowers and wildlife galore.  In November, the flowers and the wildlife are no where close to "galore."  But the scenery was beautiful.  I tried to take pictures to capture the allure of the gorge, but unfortunately, they do not really convey either the depth or the loveliness.
An unimpressive picture of an impressive place
Past the ravine we walked along the beck and over a bridge with an unintelligible stone plaque on it.  The guidebook told us that all it said was that the bridge had been repaired in 1765.
A very old bridge

Ling Gill Beck
If it was repaired in 1765, when was it built? Neither the book nor the bridge gave us any clues.  I had to content myself with imagining it to be over 500 years old.  Pretty amazing. Definitely older than anything in America. I've seen lots of old things in England, but this bridge out in the middle of nowhere sparked the imagination.  Why would they build a bridge here? What happened to the roads that must have led up to it?  Were there towns nearby that don't exist anymore? Who used the bridge?

Often times in my past I've thought that I should have followed my gut back in college when I wanted to quit studying physics.  Every year that I was in college I would have a minimum of one (and usually many) "what am I doing?" moments which would lead me down the path of exploring a different major. Sometimes I went and talked with other potential academic advisors. Sometimes, I'd just start planning out what other courses I could take. I actually started my senior year in college trying to figure out if I could switch majors and still graduate on time (mine was a school that didn't allow you to take more than 3 classes at a time or spend more than 4 years).  I wanted to become an anthropology major.  The sad thing was I had one required course outside of my major that I still needed to take in order to graduate, and this made me one course short of being able to major in anthropology.

I wonder, had I been able to persuade someone to let me take four courses in one term, would I have ended up doing something I could be passionate about, like maybe archaeology?  I suppose one could have switched from physics to archaeology in grad school, but anthropology to archaeology seems like they fit together a bit more naturally. I've always been fascinated by ancient cultures - Egyptians, Mayans, Incans, Celts, etc.  History is so inspiring to me.  How late is too late to start your life/career over?

Anyway, back to the Pennine Way, I contented myself with simply wondering about the bridge and its "life."  We were now walking towards an old Roman pathway, and we were supposed to be able to see the Ribblehead Viaduct off in the distance.  Of course, we would have no such luck with the views.  The fog and rain were descending again, and our view of the viaduct is below:
Can you see the hint of a structure way off in the mist? That's the Viaduct
How disappointing!!! I guess that's one of the reasons not to walk in November. We trundled on, and were soon on Cam High Road. It was nice to walk on pavement for a while. We passed a couple of girls, walking with their dog.  We asked them how they were, and their response was "sore."  Chuck and I replied politely, but as soon as they were past, we asked each other "Sore from what?"  Neither of us had experienced any soreness so far on the journey.  Was there something far worse than our worst climbs ahead of us?  The guidebook hadn't indicated so...  Oh well, perhaps they had climbed up from the valley floor to the path.

We were getting close to the end of the day. The mist was descending quickly and the rain was starting to come down.  The ground on either side of the road was decidedly damp and soggy.  We kept looking for a flat spot to camp.  Finally, with darkness approaching, we decided that the best we were going to do was to camp directly on the road in the corner of an intersection.  The intersection seemed to have been designed to allow cars or trucks to turn around in each of the corners. So, we picked the flattest and least puddle-ridden of the corners and set up the tent.  It would be a long and wet night...