Friday, November 9, 2012

Hebden Bridge to just below Gorple Cottages

After a deep sleep with the sound of the River Calder in the background and in my dreams, Chuck and I headed down to breakfast (Full English of course). The menu informed us that the White Lion included black pudding in its Full English.  Making an assumption, I informed the waitress that neither of us would want the pudding.  Chuck immediately told her that I had to be crazy, and of course he would have it.  I was pretty confident he had no idea what black pudding was, but after asking if he was sure, we ordered one Full English with and one without.  When the plates arrived, he dove right in, only to get very wide eyes and a funny expression on his face as he took his first bite.  "That's not chocolate!!!!"  I dissolved into laughter. It's good to start your day with a chuckle (and with Chuck).

Once we were full of Full English, we decided we had a little time still to explore the town before we headed off on our day's hike.  We were specifically trying to find mittens for Chuck.  Chuck's hands get cold very quickly, and unfortunately, the gloves he had brought were not sufficient to keep the chill at bay.  There were a number of outdoorsy shops in Hebden Bridge.  We had checked a few of them out the night before, but there were still a couple to go. 

Although we found no mittens (for adult-size hands anyway), I did end up picking up another fleece, some gloves for inside the tent, and a neck gaiter.  The most important of these was the extra fleece.  So far, each night we had camped, I spent most of the night with a chill.  It was a strange feeling. Between the layers of clothes and the sleeping bag, I had plenty of warmth (and was often sweating), but I had a constant chill on my arms.  I hoped one more layer on my arms would do the trick.  Now the question was, could I fit more into my already over-stuffed pack?  I made it work.

Part of me wished we could spend more time in Hebden Bridge, but I knew we needed to keep moving.  We headed back along the towpath, and this time Chuck got to snap pictures and gaze to his heart's content.  The canal was definitely lovely and calm, and we went back to dreaming about our next adventure! 
Waterfall along the canal
Far too soon, we left the towpath and headed back onto the Pennine Way.  We crossed the A646 and passed underneath railroad tracks, wandered through some quaint lanes in Mytholm and then began the steepest climb within a town or city I've ever done.  We went straight up along what could almost have been called a cobblestone walking path and which passed right next to a few houses before dumping us out on a little lane at the top of a hill.

We came to an abandoned graveyard.  Quite sad to see.  No one clears the overgrowth from the tombstones; the people buried there are all but forgotten.  I wanted to honor those long-gone individuals, to read their names and speculate about what their lives might have been.  Such an effort would take an entire day, and unfortunately, we didn't have that.  So, I sent some silent blessings towards the graveyard and wistfully left it as we found it.

We continued on through a wooded area that was pretty but also pretty muddy and pretty steep.  I soon regretted having donned my new neckwear, as my temperature rose with the elevation.  It was a short climb though, and we stumbled out onto farmland. 

Would you believe it's November?

More stone walls
The rolling hillside took us through fields and past many stone walls.  As we walked down one hill, we encountered a group of men, women and dogs out for a run.  The people expressed their surprise at our apparent foolishness in attempting the Pennine Way at this time of year (I suspect the dogs envied us), and they made sure to tell us that our path ahead would be arduous.  Chuck and I marvelled at how quickly people decide that you aren't capable of something.  Clearly I don't look like the endurance athlete or perhaps even the casual hiker, but I would never want to underestimate Chuck!  I wondered how often I had dismissed someone else's path based solely upon appearance and my own unfounded opinions about the relative difficulty of that path - probably more often than I'd like to admit.

This section of the path seemed to be passing through areas where the landowners must have fought about who had to allow the hikers right of way across their lands.  The solution apparently was to contruct two stone walls three feet apart at the top (and two feet apart at the bottom) and to run the Pennine Way right down the middle.   The path was overgrown with weeds and plants, and it was made slippery by the drizzle.  We had to pass through stiles that were barely wide enough for our knees.
Surely the opening could have been slightly wider!
As it started to drizzle we descended another steep hill into a ravine. The stream (Colden Water) running through it was so inviting, I almost wanted to jump in for a splash.  I was overcome by the beauty of the area.  I would never have expected such scenery before I started this journey.  The Pennine Way has been full of unexpected beauty, and I have spent at least a part of each day in awe of my surroundings.
The rocks were slippery on the way down, but it was worth it!

Colden Water

This was not a bridge over troubled waters!
For yet another time today, we reluctantly left this lovely spot and headed back up into the farms and the increasing drizzle.  The rain was starting to get us down.  Being able to wring water out from the sleeves of your jacket is not a lot of fun.  Fortunately, an oasis in the form of Aladdin's Cave was ahead of us. 

Aladdin's Cave is a little shop run by a resourceful lady called May Stocks. Mrs Stocks converted one of the small unused buildings on her farm into a place where Pennine walkers could restock. It was filled floor to ceiling with everything you could possibly imagine wanting or needing on a hike.  Apparently over the years, the people who lived in the area started frequenting this shop as well, and so now it has basic groceries, wine and beer, household cleaning supplies...  Every inch of this space was in use, and more than a few people couldn't even fit in the shop at any one time.  Although we didn't meet May herself, the staff were pleasant.  They made us large mugs of steaming hot chocolate and didn't mind at all that we were dripping all over their floors. 

Rested and reinvigorated, we headed back out and on to Heptonstall Moor.  I must admit, I was disappointed to be back on the moors even though the farmland is often just as muddy.  Moors can be beautiful, but they can also be disheartening and appear never ending, and there is not much green in sight.  We tramped along, and the rain slowly sapped our energy.  Finally, we emerged onto a gravelly road running through a farm.  We were definitely ready to find a camping spot, but there was another reservoir ahead. After our last experience, we were not too keen to camp near it.

The farmer was out using a small construction vehicle to perform maintenance on the gravel path through his lands. He was a friendly guy and stopped to chat with us as we passed through.  Once he confirmed his suspicions about our nationality (only Americans would be silly enough to walk the Pennine Way this late in the year), he reminisced with us about his visit America almost ten years ago for his 40th wedding anniversary.  I think he would have been happy to talk for hours, but we were getting colder by the minute, and so after a suitable period, we went on our way down through his bright green gate. 

Now it was getting dark, and we wondered how far from the farmhouse we would have to be in order to camp on his land without attracting attention.  Fortunately, we headed down a hill and into a beautiful little spot where two brooks meet.  It was the perfect place to camp, sheltered and flat, and in keeping with our trend, it was right by a form of water.  We gratefully pitched the tent and settled down for the night.

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