To Keld (the first Crap Day) - 13 miles
(NOTE: We haven't had Internet for three days so there are three new posts. Read on below for Days 7, 6 & 5 if you missed any of those!)
There has to be one bad day, right? Today officially goes into the books as a crappy, crappy walk. It started with rain, it progressed to being windy and advanced to being cold. Not only all of that, but we were crossing the Yorkshire moors—an area where the watershed changes from west to east. I don’t believe I’ve ever walked through more difficult, wet, sloppy, ugly terrain. If Wuthering Heights took place on moors like this it’s no wonder Heathcliff killed himself -- or did he just disappear? Either way, I get it.
|Beautiful gorse bushes and hawthorne trees look pretty even in the rain.|
|This is the ground we had to walk on for several hours.|
The guidebook said, “Once you get past The Nine Standards (more on them in a minute) the road gets a little boggy.” Saying that the nine miles of moorland we trudged today were boggy is like saying Hurricane Katrina was a little thunderstorm. Our boots, rain pants and gaiters paid for themselves today. But, eventually, the water and mud even got to them.
|The only good thing about today -- we've made it half way!|
Our guidebook said there are stories of hikers sinking hip deep into puddles. I didn’t get that deep, but I did step in sucking muck up to the knee at least three times. We got in over the ankles countless times.
There are a lot of pictures you won’t see on this blog—because we couldn’t take the cameras out of the waterproof sacks. These include Frank’s Bridge leaving Kirkby Stephen, a beautiful wood-lined creek leading out of town, the many looks back on Kirkby Stephen as we ascended to the Pennines (the mountains dividing Cumbria from Yorkshire) and a Swaledale sheep with the greatest horns we’ve ever seen—they curled around his ears in nearly perfect double circles!
You also won’t see a whole lot of The Nine Standards – nine three-meter-high stacks of drystone. These could be county boundary markers, but there’s also a theory that they were a decoy to worry the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie because they can be seen from so far off. We did make it to the site and managed a couple of pics with my cell phone, which is small enough to keep dry in a pocket and pull out in a Kodak moment.
|The Nine Standards. They're incredibly impressive--but this doesn't remotely show the ugly state of the weather.|
At first the rain was annoying but funny. Our rain gear was doing its job and we hadn’t had a crappy weather day yet, so we were due. But then the wind started whipping the rain in our faces. All we could hear was constant blowing around and against our hoods, and the rain was dart-like. I felt like Gulliver with an army of 100,000 Lilliputians spitting blow darts at my face.
We were able to follow our path all right, but we hit more mud drops, running streams and boggy peat than Carter has those proverbial liver pills. And the terrain was hard on sore feet and knees. If it’s tough to negotiate downhills, try pulling a foot out of sucking mud—tweaks the joints pretty well!
Several hikers passed us – we get passed on the best of days by pretty much everyone, including a group of eleven middle-aged to early senior Australians on a group tour. One set had three dogs with them-a small Jack Russell, a leggy yellow lab and a border collie. The dogs were sopping but exuberant. For every mile their owners hiked, they ran at least three! As one of the men passed he smiled and said, “This is perfect Pennine weather. A pretty typical English summer day, actually.” These guys are NUTS!
|Whisundale Beck -- it's supposed to be a babbling brook -- instead it had teeth!|
Our high (or was it low) point came when the “picturesque” Whitsundale Beck, which was raging in an anything but picturesque way, trapped us on the wrong side of where we wanted to be. At one point, the three hikers ahead of us were close enough to lend a hand, literally, and help us across a “sort of” narrow spot. Their border collie was having none of any help – he literally jumped full on into the stream, went under water and clambered up the other bank. He made it look so easy. But they all disappeared shortly after that and we were on our own when we reached a spot that was clearly a normal fording spot. Today, not so much – we were forced to wade through water well past our knees and even our gaiters couldn’t keep water from filling our hiking boots. The three mile slosh that followed was not all that much fun. Ah to be a border collie that loves water!
|Yeah, it looks sweet once we're on the bridge with soaked boots|
Fortunately, the sun graced us for about half an hour as we slogged into the village of Keld – the halfway point of the walk and one of the tiniest villages on the hike. As we waited for a ride to our B&B, I warmed up with hot chocolate (Jan had his daily Diet Coke (on ice, no less)) and a seat by the heaters at The Keld Lodge – where the owners took such good care of us that we wished we were staying there!
|Little Birkdale -- we were just up the stairs|
Our B&B tonight is about 2 ½ miles from town on a remodeled farm called Little Birkdale. Our hosts are Cath and Gary Ramsden—a fabulously friendly couple who took away all regrets at not staying in town. Cath picked us up in her green Land Rover, and as we navigated the unbelievably steep and rocky and muddy path to her home, it was clear why she needed such a vehicle!
|This is our travel packet from Contours--these pages that tell us where to go each night were soaked.|
|Kath, Gary and "Too Early Bob" (In their accent it sounds like "Twirly Bob")|
We have a really unique set up here tonight – our “room” is actually a three-room apartment with a wood-burning stove in the sitting area, a stovetop and kitchenette areas, a cute little bath, and a king-sized bed. Cath left chili and fixings in the fridge for us to heat up whenever we were ready for dinner. We also have all the breakfast food (cereal, eggs, bacon, bread) we need to cook for ourselves in the morning. All we have to do is be ready for her or Gary to bring us back to Keld in the morning so we can continue the walk.
|The view out our bedroom window.|
At the moment the wind is howling outside our cozy little apartment, but from what we’ve heard, the weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow. Believe me, we are PRAYING for no rain! In truth, we’ll look back on this as an amazing experience, but today while we were tripping and squishing through the moors, we are slightly ashamed to admit we both used a few naughty words. Even so, Jan hasn’t threatened to divorce me for having this idea. Yet.