Monday, November 12, 2012

Between Ickornshaw and Lothersdale to East Marton

We woke early to clouds and drizzle. My knee was a little sore, but the brace seemed to be helping some. All too soon we were back on our feet and on the Pennine Way.  A short but quite pretty walk brought us to the village of Lothersdale.  We were hoping to be able to stop at the local pub - The Hare and Hounds - perhaps for a bit to eat but at least to fill our water bottles.  No such luck.  The pub didn't open until noon, and it was only 10:30.  Had it not been raining, we might have considered waiting around... 

There was literally nothing else in the town in the way of a shop or public building.  We must have looked lost because an older lady in her car pulled over to ask if we needed help.  After we assured her we knew what we were doing ( much as you can say that when you are hiking the Pennine Way in November), we asked her about a place to find water.  She sadly informed us that there wasn't anywhere in Lothersdale. Had she encountered us only a few minutes earlier, she said, she would have taken us to her house, but now she was running late.

I was regretting not having thought about buying some water in Keighley yesterday.  But, there wasn't much we could do but keep trudging.  We walked through fields and up and down hills. And as always, there was mud galore and the skies were grey.  Although much of the walk could have been scenic on a sunny day, it was hard to muster up much enthusiasm for pictures in the dismal weather.
We finally reached Thornton-in-Craven.  Our hopes for a shop or other public place where we could get some water were soon dashed, although we walked around for a while trying to find some sign of life.  Thoroughly disappointed and thoroughly thirsty we decided that as we headed out of town, we would have to look for outside taps on the sides of houses. This introduced a certain amount of fear in both of us.  Would someone see us? Would they care?  Would they call the police?  But, thirst can make you daring.  The first house we saw that seemed to be in a somewhat isolated area was a no go. We couldn't turn the tap; it was rusted. Other houses seemed to have people in them, and we were too chicken to approach a house with people in it (thirst only makes you so daring, it seems).  It was increasingly unlikely that we'd find water in Thorton-in-Craven.  

Fortunately, just as we were about to leave civilization and head back out into farmland, there was a house with a faucet on the side at the top of the lane. It was sort of a strangely shaped house. The side facing the lane was quite narrow in width, and the actual front and back of the house both ran away from this side at an angle. It almost looked like an optical illusion or like someone's attempt to draw something with "perspective."  I think it would have looked like a trapezoid on its side if you looked from above.  But, the architecture was not of interest to me.  No one was about, and so we gratefully filled and refilled our bottles from the tap in the wall. 

Refreshed we headed back into the mud.  As we left Thorton-in-Craven behind us, I saw such a pretty grouping of trees and bushes.  A small pine tree was next to two bushes whose branches were each vibrantly colored - one yellow and one red.  The picture I took is one of my favorites from the walk, even though it is from a landscaped area as opposed to the "wild."
For the next hour, we were back into the pastures with the sheep.  The walking was relatively easy. Or at least it was easy for me.  Chuck's boots were not good on wet grass, and he had to walk slowly and carefully anytime we were headed downhill.  My boots were fine on grass, but give me wet stones or stone slabs, and I will slip easily. So, for once, I was the more confident walker of the two.  Chuck decided to try to make me laugh by pretending he was skiing through the grass.  This backfired as his feet went right out from under him, and he ended up on his ass.  I couldn't laugh though because it looked like a pretty hard fall (well I couldn't laugh much...).

The grassy paths led on and on. They seemed never-ending. And with the pastures came the sheep.  Sheep worrying was on our minds as we tried to be as non-threatening as possible.
Our constant companions - the sheep
This day seemed destined to go down as relatively unremarkable.  We were nearing the end of the day, and I was prepared for another night's sleep in a pasture.  But, it was not to be. We climbed up a hill and literally stumbled out onto the towpath for the Leeds-Liverpool canal.  I think we both audibly gasped. I hadn't really looked at the guidebook all day, and so I was not expecting a canal at all. Chuck had been looking at the maps periodically, but even he felt as though it just appeared out of nowhere.  

The water was peaceful and smooth. It was tree-lined and gorgeous, even on a dreary day.  As mentioned before, canals are a passion for Chuck, and it was easy to join in his enthusiasm.  It was idyllic.

All our tiredness was forgotten as we strolled slowly along the towpath.  We didn't even care that the rain was starting back up again.  We talked happily about plans to paddle the canals in 2014.  We imagined coming along this very canal in the summer and pictured the leaves in the trees.  

There was still more to come.  Ahead of us was a unique sight - a bridge upon a bridge. 

The reason for this strange sight was apparently to make the bridge match the height of the highway that was running up to it.  But, I couldn't figure out why the highway was so much higher than the original bridge.  It didn't really matter. I liked looking at the bridge.  

My lack of concern regarding the reason for a bridge-upon-a-bridge made me think back to my grad school days.  I was studying physics, and my class was getting ready to take our oral exams.  These exams would mean that we effectively had masters degrees and were ready to start working on our PhDs.  As part of the preparation, my classmates were throwing out hypothetical questions.  One asked if anyone could explain the fountain found in the entryway at McGuckin's Hardware in Boulder.  The fountain was a stone ball on a pedestal.  The water came out of the top of the fountain, and the sheet of water followed the curve of the ball.  So, the question was, "Why does the water curve?"  My answer: "I don't really care; I just think it looks pretty."  And thus, my academic career was over.   Okay, not that quickly.  But, I had to admit that everyone else was much more interested in the actual answer (surface tension) than I was and that maybe physics was not a passion for me, not something to build my life around.

Since that time I have struggled to define what my passion really is.  I studied physics because it was the most challenging thing I could find, and I thrive on challenge.  I've spent most of the time since then trying to find passion.  Passion at work, passion in relationships, passion in life.  Passion is an elusive target for me. I sometimes wonder if I will ever find it in any arena. 

Despite (or perhaps in conjunction with) these internal ramblings, the trail moves on. Soon after the double bridge, we came to East Marton and a delightful little cafe called Abbot's Harbour, an unlikely looking oasis, but an oasis all the same.  The ladies working at the cafe welcomed us in, and we had our pick of tables.  We ordered large steamy mugs of hot chocolate while we perused the menu.  A staple on most pub and cafe menus in Britain seems to be lasagna, and Abbot's Harbor was no exception. From a caloric perspective, it really can't be beat, and so of course we ordered that.  It was one of the best I've ever had - huge portions, tasty spices, warm.  We stayed as long as we thought we could, savoring the lack of rain, the radiators and the food.  Eventually though, we had to move on to find a place to sleep.
Home of the best lasagna of the trip
We both decided that nothing would be better than to sleep along the towpath, and so that's what we did. We walked along until we were suitably out of sight, and we set the tent up in the middle of the path.

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