Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why this? Why November?

For those who don't know, the Pennine Way is a 268-mile walking trail (the mileage may be more/may be less. The various sources don't seem to agree about this) in the UK that begins in the Derbyshire Peak District (the village/town of Edale) and ends just over the Scottish border at Kirk Yetholm.  Most people complete this walk in late spring to early fall. One can walk north to south or south to north, but the most common is south to north. The average time it takes a person to walk the entire trail is 21 days (note that this requires an average mileage per day of about 13 miles).

Those who know me are likely asking themselves two questions at this point - "Why would she even consider something like this?" and "Why November?"  At this time in my life, I am not known as an outdoorsy or even athletic person, and 21 days to complete implies a considerable amount of time off from work (which is also not something most would think I would consider).  Then, there is the challenge of the time of year. I don't like to be cold, and although the UK is not as cold as Iowa or even Colorado can be, nights in a tent in 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit will be cold. 

So, how did this all come about?  Well, for the better part of this year, I have been travelling back and forth between Denver and London for work.  Aside from a two-month stretch in London at the start, I've essentially been switching locations every 3 weeks.  The work entailed taking on more responsibilities and duties in an area that I am not particularly experienced with - sales.  Whether it was the combination of these things or something altogether different, I entered the last half of 2012 feeling exhausted all the time.  The workload has also taken its toll on my psyche. In short, I had worn myself out physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

At around the same, an old friend, Chuckie V, re-entered my life.  We had first met in 1994, and although we weren't in contact for long back then, he has always been someone I remembered.  He contacted me through Linked In, and we soon began a lengthy email exchange about life, love, loss, dreams...  Once we were both back in Colorado at the same time, we started spending time together.  One of the things we particularly enjoyed was going for short hikes in and around Boulder.  I discovered that unlike some other athletic endeavors I've begun, I really like walking/hiking, and starting to do it hasn't exacted the same pain and sore muscles as other sport.  Having a companion that I find it easy to talk to and who I really enjoy conversing with has kept me wanting to continue. (Thanks Chuckie!)

Chuck read a book called "Pennine Walkies" by Mark Wallington years ago, and he had long held a dream of walking the Pennine Way.  He has already walked the Pacific Crest Trail twice and plans to walk the Appalachian Trail next year. It didn't take long for everything to coalesce:
  • It was an adventure that Chuck had always wanted to do
  • I was seeing some benefit in my moods and overall well-being from our hikes in Colorado
  • Both Chuck and I love the UK
  • I'm tired and, dare I say, I bit burnt out from work - I need a break
  • I have one more trip to the UK to complete
  • The doctor, after numerous tests, was pretty much only able to say "keep walking" as a possible way to beat the exhaustion
  • Chuck had the time available (as did I, in terms of vacation time), the enthusiasm, and the experience to make the trip a possibility.
So, here we were, planning to walk the Pennine Way in November.  We are prepared for mud, rain, cold. We know it's late in the year. We know many of the places along the route may be closed. We know that given the amount of daylight available and my inexperience, we are unlikely to be able to make the daily mileage indicated above. We are prepared for the challenge and even excited!  

We entered into a flurry of planning and preparing, as we made the decision barely three weeks before we were to start and two weeks before we were leaving for London.  Considerations/questions included:
  • Do we bring a winter tent? A 3 season tent? 2 tents? (we went with 3 season, two person)
  • Should Chuck buy a GPS? (the answer was yes, for peace of mind)
  • Which guidebook(s) were the ones to get? (we ended up buying two)
  • What was the weather really going to be like?
  • How much time could Ruth really get off from work? (3 weeks - quite a coup)
  • How much time after Ruth leaves the trail will Chuck need to complete the walk? (the plan is to complete by end of November)
  • Should we take a train to Sheffield or Manchester to start and should we leave on Friday night or Saturday morning? (We elected Sheffield on a Saturday morning - for a fifth of the price of Friday night)
  • How many Scrabble games can Chuck really win until Ruth's luck starts to change? (to be confirmed....)
Of course, my biggest question of all: "Could I really do this?"

We shall see!

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