Glad you're here!

Welcome to my personal blog. Squirrel(!) is such an appropriate title for this spot on the Internet. This began as a way to share the journal from my walk across England with hubby Jan. That trip is archived here for you to enjoy (June of 2012), but now when you visit you'll read my crazy musings on everything from horses, to cars, to grammar, to books, baseball, or weasels. Don't get whiplash trying to figure out a theme; just watch out for the squirrels!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 16 - Rainbow's End

To Robin Hood’s Bay (16 miles)

There are some experiences that simply require superlatives to describe – our last day of walking on the Coast to Coast path was one of those experiences. 

Astounding, amazing, hard, fun, bittersweet. Perfect.

The day held a little bit of everything. We had sun, rain, bogs, pavement, grass, cliffs, trains, sheep, and mud. Lots and lots and lots of mud. And rainbows.

The wet road to Grosmont
Jan and I started our walk in Egton Bridge, about a mile from where Andy, Joy and Jeri Ann were staying. It was rainy but not windy and we made good time to Grosmont (Gro-mont), a lovely little village famous as a stop for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The bridge to Grosmont

We reached our hiking mates just in time to watch a coal-fired steam engine pull into the station and hook up with waiting passenger cars. It was just plain fun to watch the beautiful engine arrive. Fun to watch the engineers and fun to sneak peeks into the posh cars.
The steam locomotive  we got to see before heading out.
Eventually, though, we had to set off again and we had a rude awakening leaving Grosmont. The next mile was a 33% grade uphill climb. It was actually fairly brutal even though we were on paved streets. Pretty much everyone (except Andy, who rarely gets tired) decided we’d done enough for the day and we needed to hitch a helicopter ride to the end of the walk. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. We reached the top of the huge hill and found the fortitude to face the next 14 miles. The good thing was, the rain had stopped and we had sun in the sky.
The hill out of Grosmont was diabolical. Joy and I wanted a helicopter.

Our route took us through the beautiful Littlebeck Woods where we got to enjoy sunshine glistening off the leaves. We also came to our oddity of the day – The Hermitage. In 1790+ a school teacher carved the tiny cave into a rock for what purpose is unknown. We made many jokes about how this teacher’s neighbors and wife must have felt about his project, but we also used it for a photo op—so maybe the joke was on us!
Joy and Liz in The Hermitage
Andy and Jan - because we made them sit for a picture.
A bit further on we came to a truly beautiful, 30-meter (95 feet) waterfall, Falling Foss. Right beside the falls was Midge Hall, a formerly abandoned Victorian home that’s now the focal point of an outdoor tea shop. We all ordered scones with cream and jam and I ordered ginger beer—a British fizzy drink I’ve always wanted to try. 

Gorgeous Falling Foss
The scones were indescribably delightful and I really liked the ginger beer too. We had a wonderful break, but to our surprise the sky opened up on the canopy over our table just as we were ready to leave.  We waited for the rain to let up a little, then left the lovely tea “room” and trudged into the mud.
Check out the rain pouring off our "tea room" canopy.
After making it through the woods we had dry pavement for a little while. Then we hit The Moop (see Day 15’s blog post) – definitely the right word for a water-logged, boggy moor. Three out of five of us slogged through pretty well. Jeri Ann and I, moving a little more slowly, lost the path (if you can call it that) and got stranded on various grass islands several times before giving up and letting the bog water slosh into our boots so we could reach the others.  
After that, it was time to be done with bogs. We found a road that would skirt the next moop and headed that way – and into more rain. 

Yeah. Rain.
After another hour or so we were in high spirits when we finally saw the North Sea. The sun chased off the rain and the sky turned beautiful blue.  Andy pointed out the seaside town of Whitby in the distance where the Abbey ruins still stand – the Abbey where Dracula came ashore in England and the church where the tradition of setting Easter by astronomical means was set.  Super interesting.
We saw signs for Robin Hood’s Bay – our destination—that heartened us: 2 ½ miles.  Little did we know how MUCH the difference was between getting there on the road in a car and getting there via the seaside cliff walk. Hours later when we’d gone about five miles to get to the village, we remembered that sign and cursed it.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? No. To RHB - 21/2 miles by car - 6 by foot.

Our first real look at the sea.
The final push to the end was a cliff walk that was spectacularly beautiful, but horribly muddy. If I haven’t said so yet, Yorkshire mud is made half of dirt and half of killer slime. I think they maybe distill the dirt from it to make Crisco oil. And, once it dries, it could repel nuclear weapons. There weren’t many sheer drop offs (that I noticed), but Jan felt the pressure of high-walking for about an hour while we slogged our way to town.
The North Sea coast
Jan on the last bit of trail.
More cliffs
We were somewhat disappointed when the sun once again disappeared. Too quickly for our pace, the rain caught us and just as we came upon the first views of Robin Hood’s Bay, the beautiful blue skies had turned completely gray. We couldn’t do anything but laugh as we slipped and slid our way into town. Sixteen weary, wearing, amazing days were coming to an end, exactly the opposite of how they’d started, rainy rather than dry and in great company rather than alone.  And we were determined not to be gloomy or disappointed.
Robin Hood's Bay - just as the storm was passing.
Still, as we walked with very, very tired feet through the town toward the water where we had to drop the pebbles we’d all brought from St. Bees, it was hard not to wish the sun had stayed out just a little longer.
The very, very last downhill street to the sea
And then the amazing, glorious thing happened.  As we cheered our success, a huge, bright rainbow arched across the sky. Gobsmacked, we could only stare, and as if that weren’t enough, the huge, yellow ball of the sun broke completely free of clouds right behind us. It was as if the Lord was looking down on our small company and saying, “See? See what I had planned for you children all along?”
A full rainbow!
Happy Finishers - insufferably proud!
I didn’t just get misty-eyed, I balled and sobbed. Joy and I were jumping and dancing. Jan and Andy were shaking hands and slapping backs. And Jan was kissing my slobbery cheeks saying, “See, I told you we’d do it!” 
It wouldn’t have been nearly as good had there been blue skies and bright sun. The rainbow’s promise was, as Joy put it, “completely biblical.”
We finished the day by sloshing to the Wainwright Bar (named after Alfred Wainwright, who created this walk) and signing a log book for those who’ve completed the Coast to Coast. We picked up official, numbered certificates and we ordered drinks all around. It was one of the most worthwhile toasts we’ve ever made!
Signing the Coast to Coast finishers' logbook.

The Wainwright Bar on the bottom of the Bay Hotel
And so the long, long, slog came to an end. Are we different for having completed it? I actually think so. Who knew we could do this thing—a tougher, longer, more mentally challenging undertaking than we’d ever imagined? Who knew it would take 5-8 hours of walking a day for 16 days to get me to relax enough to stop caring about Facebook, e-mail, and the telephone? Who knew Jan could climb mountains and conquer his fear of ledges and heights? 

Who knew what an unbelievably wonderful, wonderful trip it would actually be?


  1. Liz, I have so loved sharing this journey with you. I'm completely in awe - of the scenery, of your accomplishment, of the whole kit and kaboodle. Can't wait to see you back in Minnesota. Safe travels.

  2. Hey, Liz: did you use a sherpa service to transfer your luggage, etc. so all you had to carry was the knapsack? we've thought about doing a trip like this and wondered how the service worked. The last 2 trips we made to England, we did by car, staying at farmhouse B&B, which was a lot of fun. We thought maybe for our next trip, we'd do half a walk, half a drive ...

  3. You had mist in my eyes at the end of the story. Did you notice in the first rainbow picture there is a double rainbow? Thanks so much for taking everyone on this journey with you. Here's to a safe journey home. Cheers!

  4. Very excited for you and also relieved the trip is over. What an amazing accomplishment! So pleased for you. You're an awesome adventurer!

  5. What an awesome journal and experience, Liz. I'm sure this has changed your outlook in many ways. I can't imagine the norm being that you must go out into the rain and mud and steep roads with no options. Wow, you are amazing! Thanks so much for sharing your special trip. And btw, I cried when you described the end and the rainbow. WOW.