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?

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