Tuesday, November 13, 2012

East Marton to Malham

Last night was a rough one for Chuck.  Something he ate did not agree with his stomach, and he was up and down (and in and out of the tent) all night. I blame the brussel sprouts he insisted on eating with his lasagna (in fact, he buried them in his lasagna to disguise the taste).  His unsettled stomach and digestive issues were pretty much finished by the time we were ready to leave our campsite.  Well, we weren't really ready to leave, and we debated not even walking along the Pennine Way to the next town.  We thought that maybe we could just continue along the towpath.  But, we had no map of it, and no guarantee that it would continue all the way to Gargrave, and so we decided we should stick with the original plan. We'd save the Leeds-Liverpool canal for another trip.

Finally we set off, and immediately we were back to farmland again.  The first field we walked through had cows that were so strangely colored, I almost thought they had been painted. 
I've seen a lot of cows over the years (I grew up in Iowa), but I'd never seen striped cows.  I had to take a few pictures just to prove I saw them.  I wondered a little how this type of coloring came to be - genetically or evolutionarily - but the only answer I could come up with was "nobody knows" (at least for now).  The cows left us to our walking, and we left them to their grazing.

Our walking quickly devolved into slogging (I'm sure the cows' grazing suffered no such problems). As we approached the stile at the bottom of the field, the mud just got wetter and, well, muddier.  There was no point trying to avoid it.  We just went straight through it.

Will I ever be dry or clean again?
But, despite the mud, the scenery was splendid.  We passed through wooded lanes and along quaint little roads.

Soon we reached Gargrave.  We planned to find the post office in town and send some of our more foolishly-selected items home: umbrellas, sunglasses, the camping stove (who can cook when it's always raining), etc.  Chuck was consulting the guidebook to determine which way we needed to go, and he informed me that soon we would be passing a pub called "Mah Son's Arms" (which I've spelled semi-phonetically for full effect).  He started to make a little speech about the funny names they use for things in Britain when I realized what he was saying. I had looked at the guidebook on the way into town, and I remembered the name of the pub.... "You don't mean 'Masons Arms' do you?" I asked and dissolved into laughter. Chuck quickly started to explain that the guidebook had a space between the "a" and the "s" and then decided it was better to blame his lack of reading glasses, but it was a little difficult to hear him - I was laughing too hard!
A full five minutes later, I had composed myself enough to allow us to continue on into Gargrave.  We found the post office, packed up a small box of things and sent them back to Harrow, and then restocked some supplies at the local Co-op store.

Before continuing on our way to Malham, we decided to stop to have something nice and warm, maybe a late breakfast. After our adventures yesterday, there was no way we were heading out without full bellies, plenty of water and maybe some more supplies. We ended up at the Dalesman Cafe.  Inside, we encountered two men, one in his 70s and one in his 80s, who were bicyclists.  Chuck settled into a happy conversation with them about all things "bike" while we ate breakfast.  I didn't have much to contribute to that conversation, but I was happy to watch Chuck enjoying himself.  I sat in the warmth and reflected.

A fingerpost (which is a type of signpost in the UK) outside of the cafe told us how far we'd come from Edale - 70 miles - and how many miles were left to get to Kirk Yetholm (the end of the Pennine Way).  I wasn't interested in how far we had to go to finish (186 miles).  I was frankly just astounded with myself.  I walked 70 miles... SEVENTY MILES!!! I don't think that I had really believed I would actually be able to walk this far, much less feel like I could walk farther.  
I still had a week and a half left on the trail, and I wasn't exhausted.  I didn't feel terrible. If anything, I felt pretty good. Aside from the knee pain two days before, I physically felt maybe even better than good.  I couldn't remember the last time I felt this "alive."

Being athletic is not something that has ever come naturally to me, but boy did I wish it would have when I was younger.  I was always good in school; although I enjoyed the process of learning, it wasn't particularly difficult for me, and thus I had the previously-mentioned (see day 10) need for intellectual challenge.  Challenge in any form brings a kind of thrill that is hard to beat.  When I was younger, the biggest challenge I could find was for me was to overcome my God-given lack of athletic ability.  And it wasn't just a lack, I was clumsy and awkward in the extreme (I still can be).  I started playing soccer in 10th grade, and I played all through college (at a Division 3 school).  When I got to grad school, I switched to bike riding.  But none of it was easy, and although I know that athletics are not supposed to be "easy" for anyone, I'm sure I never made it look easy either.

But I couldn't handle the athletic challenge for long periods of time.  It was too...challenging. When the season was over, I was not one who would be constantly trying to improve my skills for the next season. I would be tired and ready to rest for a while. It took 5 seasons of soccer for me to finally "get" it. I remember clearly the day I could actually see how a play should go, where I should kick the ball, how to feint to get around an opponent. It was exhilarating, but it took so long to get there. My only real strength is that I can endure. I keep going. I may have raced behind the pack of cyclists and by myself for the entire race, but I managed to stay approximately the same distance behind them for most of the race.

Walking is about endurance, or at least I think it is.  If you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, you can walk a long trail. It may be slow going, but as Chuck is always telling me, the slower the better.  Anyway, as he and his two new friends discussed the world of cycling, I was reflecting on how maybe I wasn't the worst walker in the world and about how good this walk made me feel to do it.

Eventually, we knew we had to move on to Malham.  We shouldered our packs, zipped up our coats and headed back out into the countryside.

Sated and satisfied from our stop in Gargrave, the couple of miles of farmland and moor passed quickly and uneventfully. We chatted away and strolled through England without a care in the world.

About three miles from Malham, we encountered the River Aire (again).  We had first crossed it in Gargrave, but we would not leave it again today.

There is nothing quite like meandering alongside a river. Even in November. I think I will always remember this part of this day as one of my favorites.    The only thing that could possibly spoil the experience was the ever-increasing amount of mud.  And it was really increasing.  The mud was  well above my knees on the insides of my pant legs.

We knew we were close to Malham, and for some reason, we were worried about how we'd look to our B&B landlord. So, several times during the remainder of the day, we stopped by shallow spots in the River Aire. We walked right into the water, trying to wash as much mud off our boots and clothes as we could.  The water was frigid, but it seemed important to be less muddy.  Here are a few more of pictures of our lovely river walk:

You can see the muddy path.

We continued on, sometimes right next to the river, sometimes up in the hills just above it, but never leaving it.  As we crested a hill, we finally caught a glimpse of Malham and Malham Cove right behind it.
Malham in the distance
We stopped for a short rest on a hill overlooking the landscape.  My knee was starting to plague me again, and I worried that it was a more serious injury than I might want to admit.  Chuck told me to just take it slow and reminded me that it didn't matter how long it took us to go the last mile to our B&B (Miresfield Farm - an appropriate name).

I followed instructions and just as it was starting to get dark, we reached our destination.  The landlord took one look at us and offered to rinse us off with a hose (this was despite no fewer than 3 attempts to get clean in the river).  Somewhat less muddy, we headed up to our room and began our nightly ritual of drying most things and rinsing some things out.

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