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 harder.it 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.