Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day3: The Knife Wielding Lady

Writing is laborious.I don't like to dwell in the past. I'm in the present or forced to prepare for the future. I put off recounting my days on the Pennine way. I f I can trick myself into thinking I have an entire free day to write, perhaps I can write for an hour.
So Johann, my collie, and I hiked up the the mountain beside Jamestown, to our favorite spot of shade under a one tree with views of Porphry mountain and field below with yellow weeds and taller pines, one farmstead in the distance....
The Knife Wielding Lady
My first bad luck day. Just waiting,waiting for the next minute when the weather will show improvement. Seems like a few days ago, but it was only this morning that I woke in the field behind Greatwestern Inn. My guidebook suggested camping at Withins Gate. What Gate? I was hoping for some kind of roofed shack or ruin left for the benefit of a water-logged Pennine Way hiker. The landmark titled "Withins Gate" in my guide book suggested some regal structure,perhaps a magnificent stone archway. That's what drove me on in the rain. In search of the wonderful oasis from wind and water. A little cove of comfort to cook dinner and sleep on my own, arising the next morning to clear skies.

At A640 crossing, I run in to two acquaintances from the Crowden Youth hostel, Graham, and the Dutch chap. Without plan we all plop down for a rest with forlorn look at the pigeon transport truck parked in the exact spot where the CHIP Van should have been! Too much rain even for a lunch truck!
The rain began light and nice at first, then growing harder and didn't let up like it had in the previous two days.
By the time I got to the WhiteHouse for lunch I was soaked. Hadn't discovered the benefit of rain pants yet. I started making plans for a B&B for the following night since I would be camping in my oasis tonight and would probably get a little wet. The barmaid was helpful phoning some numbers for me since I couldn't get my phone to work. But either they didn't answer or they were full. Still haven't found a pay phone or was able to get WIFI or cell phone signal anywhere. I should have used the only pay phone in the whole country back at the hostel.
Turned left at the Aiggen stone. Now this is something worth traveling across the ocean for! It's a 600 year old boundary marker. How many Wayers have missed this turn and ended up in peat bogs not to continue down the packhorse road?
Easy miles now around several reservoirs. I marched onwards and upwards , destination :Withins Gate. Surprise, it's a dilapidated short stone wall. Stoodley Pike looms up ahead in the mist. Would this monument to Napoleon's defeat provide shelter for a night? I'll never know. I wasn't in the mood to risk life and limb trudging another 3/4 mile. With tail between legs I retreat downhill into Mankinholes sorely hoping to find asylum for this weary traveler. No luck.The hostel was bustling with kids and surely it had no 6 X 6 dry floor space for the likes of a middle-aged drenched hiker. So down the road trounces I looking for a room--anything so that I might not die in this stormy English night.
She's chopping and busy preparing up a lavish meal. She points her knife in the direction of the garden and camping field. I can pitch a tent down there. She spoke of a toilet and shower behind a door on the way down to the field. Coming upon it , I find it locked. Too exhausted to trudge back up to the house, I continue down the path, through the tall sheep poop filled wet grass looking for any bit of overhanging tree branches . I pitch under a holly bush. I don't know if it provided anything of a wind break, or just added more water dripping rain upon my tent. My boots,hat,pants soaked , I change into the only 2 dry shirts and underwear I have left. I must reserve my down sleeping bag ensconced in it's waterproof sack for last. Now I remember the life saving space blanket that Cheyenne gave me as a parting gift. Wow, 20 minutes of entertainment to unfold the thing. I feel like a piece of candy wrapped in this cellophane cocoon. This was the emergency blanket , the last resort of hypothermia protection and I'm using it on my third night on this 30 day adventure.
A melodious bird is singing as if to say, "the rain will stop soon."
I get to work cooking the freeze-dried chicken and rice dinner, and tea. I 'm getting warm now.
I will ask the knife wielding lady if she has a room tomorrow, or get in to Hebdon Bridge to book a room there. I would accept the 70 pound family room now! I could dry out and then pick up the trail out of Hebdon Bridge.
Turns out Stoodley Pike is one landmark I'll miss encountering on my Pennine Way hike. Looking back, I wish I would have gone for spending the night there. But then I would have missed spending the following 2 days with the knife wielding lady and I would have missed the time I spent in Hebdon Bridge.
Nice breeze and sunny skies under our favorite tree above Jamestown. As I recount, I wonder if it could have been that bad? This was a summer that lingered. I am not longing for fall. I have come back home relishing the warmth and dryness.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 2: Crowden to Standedge Wed. June 6 2012

The unopened waist belt buckle continues to be a detriment to my enjoyment. I encourage everyone at the hostel to give it a try at prying it open. Desperately we search the tool shed for plyers, and find a hammer. A wack sure does the trick but breaks one side prong. One measly piece of plastic now secures it. Stays shut, but I 'll have to bear the load on my shoulders.

Do I sense blisters? A note in my journal mentions "nice rain." Ha
The rain is spoiling my view,trudging over Laddow rocks. Amazingly, mountain bikers are out here lugging their bikes , hopping from rock to peaty rock. " Nice summer weather," they suggest.Thus begins the pattern of pouring rain and the delusional population along the Pennine Way.

Another pattern sets in; I get off trail every day. Somehow I end up entering upon a quite dreary looking village. Could have been Standedge. It's not like I come across villages within view of the trail all the time. My radar said "must get to village." Passing through a gate ( they are everywhere) an older man walking a sheepdog, ignoring the rain , sets me right on directions. Two or three miles uphill road walking is in store. I am beat, and even moan about it but the chap encourages with "oh you can do it!"

Thank god for pubs, especially the Best Western Inn. Not the hotel chain.
Chicken and chocolate cake are served, and I pitch my tent around back. I am the only camper.

I ask about the sheep and why it's not on the menu. Baby lambs are shipped to menus yielding higher prices.The pub's owner tells me the wool is burned- of too low a quality to use for anything.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day One: Edale to Crowden 16 miles

Arriving via train from Manchester to the mystical village of Edale,I was welcomed with a serene stroll up the tree -lined lane ,past B&B sign inviting muddy booted hikers in for dinner.I heard the sheep and the melodic birds.I took it all in and repeated out loud ,"this place is amazing."

It was Jubilee weekend and the school,church, and public house were strew with flag banners. It was about 8:30 but still pretty light out.Fieldhead campground posted to "pitch and pay in the morning."

Morning: After a quick breakfast at Cooper's cafe, I wait for the village store to open in hopes of a fuel canister for my jet boil backpacking stove.I delay my adventure one half hour for an apple. That's all I could find in the store that I needed.

Start on trail for 10 ft. And I hit a road block: "Private Fence" The path obviously went straight and through,but I take the next obvious Rt. turn and walk up to a little cottage.Out pops a head ,and my first query-- which will be repeated to many encounters in the next 30 days, "Do you know where the Pennine Way Trail is?" The cottage dweller fetches his shoes and insists on escorting me to the smaller gate just to the left of the big private gate. I'm off, feeling like an idiot.

First tragedy strikes.The waist belt buckle will not open. To retrieve something from my pack I'll now have to be loosening the webbing ,drop the pack to the ground,and step Free.

I hardly recall that first day's walk.Upwards across the first of a million sheep fields,hamlet of Upper Booth,packhorse bridge,the ascent of Jacob's Ladder,a steep rocky climb I knew so well from the Staniforth videos,KinderLow and Kinder Downfall. Wandering around the peat gullies of Bleaklow Head,not recognizing a clear path,I meet another lost wanderer,but,this one has a map.He had come from Holland to get as far as he could in 11 days. So with team of native English speaker and Dutch guy with a map,we navigate Clough Edge with the directional assistance from the wiser day hikers in the area.

I had booked a room and meals at the Crowden Youth Hostel about a week or two before my trip.My plan was to wild camp or stay in campgrounds for most nights.I considered the unknown terrain I would face,not knowing how my body would hold up, and thought the assurance of a comfortable bed and prepared meal at the end do the first long day a wise choice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At The Start

I now plan to recount each day of my 268 + mile walk along the backbone of England,the Pennine Way,the semi-marked trail beginning in Edale in Derbyshire and ending in Kirk Yetholm, Scotland. Three years ago a friend and I planned the trip of a lifetime to England and Scotland. That trip included a few days residence at White Lea, a 16th century stone farmhouse just outside the market village of Alston in Cumbria, England. In our wanderings in the area we were curious about the "Public Footpath" wooden signposts : where did they go? And,much more practical- was there a possible short cut for lugging our groceries between village and White Lea? We trampled through cow pasture and embarked on Issaac's Tea Trail, but we never did find the passageway. Ends up, the P.W. skirts the center of town,crossing the River South Tyne at the youth hostel. Keeping to the west. In the three years since, I became a fan of P.W. youTube videos by Daniel Staniforth. He recaptured his through- walk in day hike sections, often in lousy windy cold weather. Hey, I thought,can't be that bad if he's lugging tripod and nice camera equipment out there. Doesn't seem too uncomfortable even in Oct,Nov, or Jan when some of the episodes were filmed. I was intrigued. My sister-in-law , a bicycle lover, suggested Bettina Selby's RIDING NORTH ONE SUMMER. Selby's adventure as a middle-aged solitary female wild camping in England just had me hooked. Hey,I now had the inspiration and incouragement. I could wild camp by myself along the Pennine Way.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Arrived in Edale on Monday.Sheep everywhere.Walking up to the Nags
Head pub and a herd of sheep being moved down the middle of the road. Hiking's been hard these first 3 days. Buckle on waist strap broke,could find no internet that worked or a sim card,rain heavy for 2 days now,heel blisters. Other than that, the scenery is lovely. After last night's near hypothermia (space blanket yeah)wash out
I am recovering in a b&b and a trip to Hebdon bridge. Found some caribiners to Gerry-rig my waist buckle,plasters and the closest Boulder-like cafe with squash soup and a pot of tea.Also found a sim card for my phone and WiFi. Ive heard the first 4 days are the hardest walking.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My gear

This is all the gear I will be carrying on my walk. The Pennine way is the oldest long distance trail in England established around 1965. It' about 270 miles.I'm sure I'll be doing more looking for a camp spot, food, and the correct path when I get lost. I forgot to include my guide books and journal in the photo.