Coast to Coast: Days 3-6, Half Way There

Yes, I’m still alive! It’s been an exhausting last few days but I’m still at it.

Day 3: Rosthwaite to Patterdale

I was spent at the start of day three. My trip up and over the fells on the alternative route on day two left me with very little in the gas tank.

Nevertheless, I started out Saturday morning in drizzly rain that never quite dissipated. Right out of Rosthwaite, I started to climb, gradually at first but ending with a scramble up a short rock face. Up and over, I was headed down the secluded rocky valley toward Grasmere.

I visited Grasmere in September during my Dales Way walk. The village is known for three things: 1) the burial place of William Wordsworth, 2) awesome Victorian style gingerbread, and 3) ungodly amounts of tourists.

It was the last village feature I had in mind when I decided skirt Grasmere and just head directly to my next fell, thereby skipping any chance of lunch. I managed to lose one of my trekking poles near Grasmere. Up, up, up in the rain. On the top of the fell was another tarn but as soon as I arrived, the wind pick up and the temperature dropped, so I decided to get off the mountain ASAP.

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After a rocky but relatively gradual descent down, I trudged into Patterdale, very tired and very hungry. Total daily mileage: just over 16.

Patterdale is a tiny village but a jumping off point for a number of popular Lake District fell hikes. I stayed at a pub full of walkers. Unfortunately, I was so spent I ended up back in my room and asleep before 7:30.

Day 4: Patterdale to Shap

Not surprisingly, I woke up early on Sunday morning, 5:30 am, but I had to wait until 8am to get breakfast, pick up my packed lunch (there was no place to stop that day), and settle my bill. I discovered shortly after I woke up that the entrance to the pub was locked until breakfast, thereby effectively confining me to my room with no internet.

After the long awaited breakfast, I headed out of Patterdale to tackle a, you guessed it, another big ol’ fell. At this point, I was very much tired of going over peaks every day. It’s just not the kind of walking I enjoy and it’s something I could easily do at home in Arizona if I wanted. But I knew it was the last fell, so I approached it with a good attitude. The good attitude was rapidly diminished to self-doubt and a little bit of fear when I almost reached the top.

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It had started to rain. So much rain that I was drenched through, despite decent rain gear. Then the wind kicked in, literally blowing me off the path at times. With 20 feet or so of viability, I wasn’t able to distinguish landmarks making my maps next to useless. Worst of all, my GPS system became unusable when my phone became drenched.

I struggled for about an hour and a half, not being sure if I was on the path, not seeing anyone else. I was considering turning back. But just as I was at my worst point, when I had lost the path completely, the fog floated away like a lost balloon in the wind. All of a sudden, I found myself at the very peak of the fell I was aiming for and I could see the reservoir I needed to get to.

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Feeling better, I sat down behind some meager cover and ate a bit and wrung out my soaked socks.

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The path down was rocky and steep. It was a feet and hands descent. Without both trekking poles, my knees were taking a beating. By the bottom, I was in pain and walking awkwardly but as the trail flattened out the pain dissipated.

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After a long hike around the reservoir, I found myself in a delightful mossy and stream-laden forest that graduated to wonderful pastoral grasslands. My days on sole slamming rocky paths were finally over.

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I strode into the village of Shap, passing the ruins of an Abbey on the way. Had lunch with a guy who passed me on the way down to the reservoir (commenting on my gimpy gait). Smoked a cigar, went to bed. Total mileage: 17.5.

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Day 5: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

I was looking forward to Monday’s walk, despite it being my longest distance yet on the trip: 21 miles of flat grassy trail.

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The weather was forecasted to be cloudy but rainless so I left the inn in high spirits but didn’t make it a mile until I was in distress. I assumed the flat trail would mean no more knee pain. I was wrong. My knees, particularly my left knee was worse. Much worse.

Insult to injury, I managed to get lost in the first couple of miles, adding at least 1.5 miles to an already long day.

Every step was wincing pain; balled fist, white knuckled pain. Took some ibuprofen and trudged on trying to get my mind off of it. I started to wonder if I would be able to finish, I decided music might help, and it did. After 8 miles the sharp pain was merely a dull ache and after 18, I was barely thinking about it.

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At a total of 22 miles, I strode into the town of Kirby Stephen, checked in and headed to the launderette to do some laundry.

Kirkby Stephen is a wonderful town. It’s the type of place I loved to stay at on these walks. History and tradition are everywhere. Morris dancers, Norman churches, I love it all. Unfortunately, Monday evenings in Kirkby Stephen mean few open restaurants. I ended up eating a terrible doner kabob and paid the price with a fitful night’s sleep.

Day 6: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

Weather forecast: mostly sunny and mid-60s. Perfect.

I was very worried about today’s walk. While, at 13 miles it was considerably shorter than my previous days, it consisted of a moderate ascent and worse yet miles of muddy bog covered trail which require a lot of jumping, both stressful for my knee.

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Or I should say knees because they both hurt like hell now. Nevertheless, I made it up the hill to the Nine Standards and was delighted to discover that the moorland was not as boggy as described. It hurt but it was manageable and best of all, I managed to get to beautiful Keld in 12 miles and by 1pm, thereby giving my knees the rest they need.

I’m officially out of the Cumbria and in Yorkshire. It’s beautiful gentle country. Half way done.

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Tomorrow is supposed to be an easy day. I honestly don’t know how far I will get with my knees. But I’ll take it mile by mile and do what I can. I’m optimistic, and despite the pain, I’m happy and loving life. The restaurant downstairs is about to start serving food. Two flights of stairs here I come!

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