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!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Days 13 & 14

What a difference a night makes.

We just finished two really awful rainy walks on the moors. For once, sadly, the forecasters were 100% correct. Still, we did get to experience more of the windswept high moors that England is so famous for. What better way than in the relentless rain? (Don’t answer that question.)

The moors in the rain.

 Day 13 – To Clay Bank Top (12.5 miles)

We’d been reading in our book about today’s walk and it sounded like, on a good day, this was one of the best, most beautiful walks on the whole trek, with gorgeous views from the moors and our first look at the North Sea. Well, that may well have been, but we sure didn’t get to see much of anything.  Our landlord, Ashley, promised us we’d love today’s walk even in the rain. “A short six-hour stroll,” he said.  When our B&B mates, worried that it was “up and down and up and down” Ashley said, “Well it is, isn’t it? But this isn’t the Himalayas.” 

Mist was about all we saw most of the day.
Love this little guy who popped out of the mist to watch us pass.
We set out hopefully. But, although the climb was an adventure for me, this ended up being Jan’s toughest day—almost his worst nightmare of a walk, vertigo-wise.  We climbed quickly and found ourselves walking with a group of four Americans we’d met several days before in Keld. Jo, Mary, Bruce and Bill – four friends whose “spouses would rather have root canals than do this.” They were strong, quick walkers and we kept up, making the first hills through “Arncliffe Woods” go by quickly.
Mary, Bruce, Jo and Bill.
We continued up and up over places with great names: Scarth Wood Moor, Live Moor, Carlton Moor, Cringle Moor and Kirby Bank. The cool thing was that this part of our Coast to Coast walk shared the trail of an official national path called The Cleveland Way. The way across the moors was actually paved with huge stones laid to protect the moors It made traversing the boggy landscape much easier than a few days ago.
The problem was, it was raining and windy and whenever we went up, we had to come down.  Jan asked early on if he was the only person in all of England who hates hills. But what he hated more were the descents. Most of these were steep and rocky and on the very face of ridge sides. 

Jan bravely climbing up a nearly vertical stone pathway.

Looking up at our hiking companions.

What comes up must come down -- the descents were hardest
We were passed at one point by two local gentlemen out for a lovely summer stroll – snort. They told us we were on one of the most beautiful parts of the walk and were “just unlucky with the weather.”  That might have been an understatement, but on the other hand it may have been a blessing that we couldn’t see where we were really walking. Had Jan been able to see to the valley floor, he might have stayed on the moors!

Jan on flat ground, happy to hug a gate!
But, he did GREAT on the steep stones and we made it to lunch at an old inn (newly closed) in the middle of the moors called Lord Stones Café. We stuck with our American companions and were grateful to have their company on this wet, cold day.
Wandering around the Wain Stones looking for a path.
We were on good course to Clay Bank Top (another ridge on the moors) when we hit the crazy tumbled rock formations known as The Wain Stones.  They were impressive, but I have to say, they kicked the butts of six relatively intelligent people who could NOT find the way past the rocky maze. The map showed an easy, straight shot to more paved paths.  Oh, hah!

Finally, in a group decision, we decided to cut our own path through the grass in the direction we thought we needed to go. This way eventually led us far off course. Jan and I left our four companions in a moment of stupid bravery and headed back, cut up a very steep hillside to a ridge we thought held the right path and prayed to find the right way. 
Cutting our own path through the grass. We wimped out and turned back.
 As He has done all along, the Lord sent us angels – twice—to prove we were in the right place. First we met our breakfast companions, a Massachusetts couple who were heading for the same B&B we were.  We followed them for a while and then second-guessed ourselves again. 
We hesitated for two minutes trying to decide what to do, turned around and were unbelievably overjoyed to see our friend Andy’s face appearing out of the mist. He and Joy were not lost, but also not sure we were all on the right path, so the four of us retreated again, made a human chain across a short stretch of moor and found the correct path – complete with paving stones!

We almost kissed the beautiful paving stones when we found them!
As it turns out, everyone we’d been following eventually found the right point on a main road where our B&B hosts were scheduled to pick us up.  We ended up at Dromonby Bridge B&B with David Wray, a fun, friendly North Yorkshireman with shoulder-length gray hair and a hippie-esque head band. He was organized, welcoming and took care of us and our wet clothing with barely a blink.  He also took us to The Black Swan pub for dinner and introduced us to the locals.   
The Black Swan pub - one of the friendliest we've visited.

Dave Wray - a fabulous host!
We had dinner with six other Americans, our four from the day’s hike and two, Tim and Jane, our breakfast mates from Massachusetts. Another set of new friends!
We returned to Dromonby and snuggled in for the night, hoping against hope the forecast for morning would be wrong.

Day 14 – To Blakey Ridge (9.5 miles)

Jan started his day with biggest bowl
of porridge we'd ever seen!
 The forecast for today was definitely not wrong. When Dave dropped us off at our starting point he apologized for the weather. “Not that I can do anything about it,” he laughed. “Hope it clears up for you.”

It didn't.

Here's what the weather looked like as we got out of Dave's diesel Mercedes. His "old Merc."

We climbed first then we found ourselves on a long, flat trail.
But, what saved this walk was that, after an immediate long climb, the path leveled off and never changed. Jan got the line of the day today: “If I’d known the walk would be like this, I’d have slept a lot better.”  But he was perfectly happy that the ridges and steep descents he’d had nightmares over never materialized.
Instead the walk was long, straight and drenching. With a few moments of humor and a touch of brightness if not sun for about ten minutes total.
An ancient boundary marker called The Face Stone with a friendly face.
Who could resist? It felt like my Moor Twin.
You can't tell the wind is whipping, but it is - despite the sun in the valley.

The colors were beautiful even in the rain.
The track up to The Lion Inn
The required sheep picture of the day! They don't mind the wind with all that wool.
We walked quickly but we were nearly blown from the path by 26 mph steady winds. Fortunately, about the time we were about to seriously curse the wind, our destination showed up on the misty horizon. Our B&B tonight is the Lion Inn-an unassuming building from the outside, but one of the most charming places we’ve been in so far. And, Joy and Andy are also here (as is pretty much every walker on the Coast to Coast who’s stopping here at Blakey Ridge, since this is the only inn for the next seven miles. 
A very welcome sight!

The Lion Inn - a true haven!
We had a fantastic time at dinner with Andy and Joy. We shared family stories, laughed over Andy's fabulous imitations of him mum also named Liz, ate lasagne and bread and butter pudding (Joy had spotted dick-which looked delicious) and generally just truly enjoyed great new friends. They are gems!  
The Lion Inn bar is a proper pub, but the dining room is rich, cozy and classy!
 Now, back in our room, the wind is frighteningly strong at our window, gusting like there's a good old thunderstorm nailing us -- without the thunder. We can only hope it lets up a little by tomorrow. The forecast is for 50% chance of rain and warm temps. It's only got a few hours to change the tune it's playing out there right now!


  1. Hope the weather improves for your last two days. You'd be loving it here today! First super sunny Solstice I've seen in a while. Clear and hot. Loving being able to share your journey from afar!

  2. I'm very impressed with how tough you and Jan are, to make it through this epic journey. I think I'd have collapsed long since. Hang in there! We all want to see you safe back again in Minnesota.

    ~ Laramie

  3. I'm with Laramie. I don't know if I could do it. Here's to dry sun filled days for the remainder of the trek.