2/20/13

Cloud Pennine: A Pennine Way Journey

October 29th, 2012
High above Hurricane Sandy
Man invented airplanes so that he could travel vast distances in an instant without seeing a single thing en route. I am seated in one such aircraft and all I can see is the back of the seat in front of me. It’s not difficult to detect since it’s a mere six inches from my face. The passenger strapped in it has reclined that seat so that even if I were Harry Houdini I could not escape. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do much else but suffer.

And suffer, I do. While passing the time has always been a favorite pastime of mine, sometimes there are times when that time doesn’t pass in a timely enough manner. To be sure, this is one of those times. It’s an eight-or-so-hour flight from Chicago to London’s Heathrow Airport and I began counting the minutes within minutes of boarding. Thankfully, I’m seated beside my close friend Ruth, whose soothing words help to remove me from my immediate environment. A game of Scrabble might do the same, but we’d have to set the board down between us, since there’s no room to bring our trays down in front of us. Close friend indeed.

Despite the claustrophobia, I’m happily content.(1) We’re crammed onto this Boeing 767 for good reason: we’re off to hike the Pennine Way in England.(2) Beneath us, Hurricane Sandy hammers the US’s eastern seaboard. We could have just as easily routed ourselves through New York City instead of Chicago, on our way from Denver. Had we done this we would have had to wait a few more days.

Officially completed and open for business in 1965, the Pennine Way follows the Pennine hills, the “backbone of England,” tracing them from a quaint parish called Edale southeast of Manchester all the way to a township called Kirk Yetholm, just inside the Scottish border. It is England’s answer to the US’s Appalachian Trail, albeit at two hundred and sixty five miles, merely a fraction as long. But the challenge remains much the same, and may in fact even be greater, given that we’re planning to tackle it in November, far from the ideal time of year and the path’s usual peak season. Most hikers(3) take a crack at the trail during the summer months, not whilst winter looms. While winter in England is generally not as harsh as it might be elsewhere in Europe, it can, nonetheless, be rather rude.

To combat the rude, cold, miserable weather we expect to hit (or expect to hit us), we’ve come up with a pretty good plan: to “camp” under any available roof en route. Fortunately, rooftops (and their cozier undersides) are in no short supply. There are bed & breakfasts, hostels, hotels, bunkhouses and farms lining the route every handful of miles. And when there aren’t, they’re not too terribly far off-course. The trail is not necessarily a wilderness path and even in November, it’s safe to say that the Pennine Way is pretty safe. We’re just not going to be the ones to say it, at least not until journey’s conclusion! We’ll see what we have to say then, and of course along “The Way.”

We hope you enjoy the ride, just as we hope we do!

("Foot"note of the Day #1: For one thing, we're flying over Hurricane Sandy and not through it. Departing from Denver, we could've easily been routed through NY instead of Chicago.)

("Foot"note of the Day #2: Due to her work situation Ruth will only be afforded the time to hike about half the path. Due to my work situation, I will be afforded the time to hike the entire trail and, if inclined, to continue walking on to anywhere else I want.)

("Foot"note of the Day #3: Approximately five to six thousand loonies attempt the Pennine Way each year, almost all of whom do so during the summer months. We expect to see approximately no other hikers, give or take a few. It is suspected, however, that we will see enough sheep to make up for the scarcity of humanity; so many so that we won’t likely need to count them in order to fall asleep.)

2/19/13

Prep Day

November 2nd, 2012
The Pennine Way!
Harrow, England, another of London's many suburbs.

It’s Friday, November 2nd, six years to the day since I completed my last thru-hike. That one was along the world’s longest and most magnificent continuous path, the Pacific Crest Trail. Tomorrow, Ruth and I will be setting out for a much shorter version (just 1/10th of the Pacific Crest Trail’s length, in fact), a Thru-Hike Lite. Fewer calories, but presumably with all the aftertaste! For what it’s worth, post-epic-journey aftertaste is always a sweet one, and I look forward to it again, so long as I can digest the whole experience. Rarely do I attempt anything without the intent to finish it in its entirety. And even though I wrestle with the whole notion of what precisely an “adventure” is, I know the longer it tends to last, the better chance I have of attaining one.

Sticking to a specific route or path is not necessarily an adventure, certainly not one that hasn’t been accomplished before. But the whole premise of “adventure” is an individual thing---an inner journey, not an outie---and so while others may have already had their experiences, similar as they may be, they do not and will not affect ours.

Ruth is a first-time backpacker and is anxious about getting all caught up with work before tomorrow, and about the odyssey ahead. I assured her that despite my experience I’m nervous too, which helped add to her nervousness, which in turn helps add to mine. In all truth, the nerves are really just a byproduct of our excitement. We’re eager to see what’s ahead---we both love England, maybe even more than our own country---and to see whether we can weather the weather or whether we cannot. There’s only one way to know for sure and tomorrow, by being out there, we’ll start to find the answer out.

The forecast calls for fun...


And this is for a substantially lower elevation than where we’ll generally be.

Gulp.

2/18/13

Day One

November 3rd, 2012: Harrow to Edale via train; Edale to the top of Kinder Downfall via foot (5-ish miles) …

I had been hoping the forecast might suddenly change overnight, but no.
Sleep is not a strong point of mine. Never has been, probably will never be. So it wasn’t too terribly unexpected that I was unable to sleep last night. Usually, it’s emotional turmoil that keeps me lying there awake("Foot"note #1), tossing and turning, but last night it was excitement! Pure, untainted, child-like excitement.

Like most grown-ups who get to decide for themselves, I had gone to bed late. It was around midnight when I finally hit the hay. This wasn’t too unusual in itself. What was unusual was that as soon as I laid down I remembered ten more things to do. Rarely do I have ten things to do during a given day, let alone ten more.

Most of what needed to be done involved tending to the details of our hike. Ruth was an absolute beginner with what we were about to attempt and I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave her out to dry(2). It was my role to be sure she was going to be okay. I told her in so many words that I could not guarantee my work, but that I’d take care of the gear needs and whatnot. But I assured her that she also needed to help me help her by helping herself, whatever that meant.

Gear needs generally aren’t too terribly extensive for the act of walking. Expensive, perhaps. Extensive, no. Shoes and clothes are about all that are needed. But we were to hike the Pennine Way, and during one of the wettest years England has experienced in over a century. A failure to bring something needed could equate to a failed hike, or worse. Gear had become important.

Some of the necessary gear
It turned out the lights never went out, so I pulled an all-nighter and waited for the alarm to ring, signaling to Ruth that it was time to begin our quest. Our first priority was coffee, so we wouldn’t end up sleepwalking all day. Our second was to catch the train. I took care of the coffee making (even I can manage making instant coffee without too much trouble) and left the logistics of the second task to Ruth; I’d simply stick to her heels as we disembarked on our journey, agreeing to take over when we hit our pay dirt: dirt.

The passengers seated across from us
The wheeled means of travel went without too many hitches and, after a transfer in the industrialized town of Sheffield, where the movie The Fully Monty was filmed, we arrived in little, old Edale, where nothing has been filmed. Well, nothing but videos of hikers starting their respective Pennine Way sojourns. It was just after 10am. I’d been up for more than thirty hours straight and was no longer seeing straight.

Edale's train depot
Still, the excitement was strong, just as the coffee at the Sheffield Railway Station had been, and we scampered through town like a couple of runaway freight trains. Surrounding hills were steep and high and swathed in sunshine and sheep. This would be our introduction to an animal we’d soon grow tired of. Indeed, it was hard to take a photo without a sheep in it. Who knew that sheep liked to ham it up? I thought only pigs did that.

Sheep hamming it up
A few minutes into our amble toward the path’s southern terminus, we stopped in at the Yorkshire National Park visitor’s center. Like most visitor centers, this one sold all kinds of ornamentals for those who’ve gone mental. But it also contained some more useful items: snacks, maps, books and even a small museum-like exhibit showing educational videos. Knowing though that the best way to be educated about the outdoors is to be outdoors, we continued on our way.

Home for a while
We were soon face-to-face with The Old Nag’s Head, the town pub. Pubs demarcate the human hub of the English countryside; the Old Nag’s head doubles its duties in that it signifies the unofficial starting point of the Pennine Way. Or at least a large sign on the side of the building told us as much. Another sign, alas, told us the pub was closed, so we were unable to sign the visitor’s book inside, the one intended for Pennine Way thru-hikers. Our guidebook told us about the visitor’s book, else we might not have known. It also mentioned that the building in which the pub sits (and in which we wished we could sit) was built in 1577. Gulp.

The unofficial start of the Pennine Way
We touched history and began walking. The quest for the Holy Grail had begun! Our excitement was so piqued that we had forgotten to take the requisite photos of the odyssey’s commencement. We’d also overlooked filling our water bottles, though we wouldn’t find this little detail out until we were well out of Edale and in the hills that enveloped us here. No matter, I was equipped with a water filter; if there was one thing we knew already, it was that water was not going to be hard to find. (It’s always hard to filter, but never mind that.)

We’d each fallen in love with Edale (population: missing) and not without reason. It was so picturesque and quaint, like only a rural English parish could be. I’d even come to learn that my very inspiration for this journey, an author named Mark Wallington, resided here. He still does. Wallington wrote a number of hilarious books chronicling the long walks he took with his trusty mutt Boogie, including Pennine Walkies: Boogie up the Pennine Way. It was this very account that planted the seed in my head, a seed that lay there dormant for years. Today that seed was about to sprout.

A hiker soon realizes that the Pennine Way commences with one of its most demanding stretches: the traverse of the Dark Peak to the peat moorlands of Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Black Hill. Ruth and I would come to learn all this over the next few hours and the next few days. The terrain is excessively tricky, whilst the footing is excessively messy. And of course, then there’s the weather. Prior to leaving the States I’d read an online journal that stated, “in bad weather the trail is unpleasant at best…and hazardous at worst.”

The sky, no less than fifty shades of gray, started menacing us soon after we departed the pub. We were prepared in that we had all the necessary gear and clothing. But we were equally unprepared in that we didn’t quite possess the physical or emotional strength to contend with the conditions, even though we expected no less. A mutual stubbornness would egg us on and we were each resolute to stand behind our decision to hike this path.

I love the narrow lanes!
Not even one-car wide, near Upper Booth!
Truth is, we’d have stood behind anything if it meant we could get out of the wind and the rain. But stand we would not. Instead we walked in determined fashion throughout the day. Any uneasiness we harbored was overshadowed by our enthusiasm and excitement for things to come…or things we’d hope would come. Armed with the understanding that good things only come to those who don’t sit around waiting, we continued in search of those things.

Farmland in the Edale Valley
For an hour or so the path wandered through fields, skirting a couple of farms before arriving at the bottom rung of Jacob’s Ladder. It was at this point we began climbing, that dreaded task of overcoming gravity, knowing you’ve got no possible chance at victory. The trail’s first real assignment had been served, a series of awkward steps apparently named after some chap called Jacob, the same guy I would curse through the ascent. It was baptism by flame-thrower, and despite not knowing him, I hated this Jake bloke immediately. He’s clearly a friend of the devils.

Ruth on the ruthless Jacob's Ladder
Yours truly on the same climb
The Ladder led us up to Dark Peak, where parts of the poor adaptation of Pride and Prejudice were filmed, and then eventually up to a knoll called Kinder Scout. Kinder as in a childish, not as in more kind(3). At 2,087 feet, it’s the uppermost peak in both the Peak District and Derbyshire, the county in which it sits. For us it meant an incline of about 1,200 feet, of the 32,000 we’ll need to scale to complete the Pennine Way in its entirety. That’s slightly more than climbing to the summit of Mount Everest from sea level, for what it’s worth. Not kind at all, but at least there’s less than 31,000 vertical feet to go!

Enjoying the sun while it lasts
At a nameless intersection adorned by a giant cairn (aka: huge pile of rocks) there was a fork in the trail. I jotted down a quick poem about it…

Two paths diverged in a moor, and we…
We took the one more traveled by,
And that had made all the difference

The only difference it made, however, was that it was the wrong fucking path. We made the assumption that the path we wanted veered to our right. Henceforth, we carried on in that direction. The path we wanted veered the other way. Not unlike Robert Frost, trails are often vague.

Luckily, it wasn’t a huge error and only cost us a few months of backtracking before we had to resort to some cannibalism and an attempt at crossing the English Channel; all told, we would survive after being adrift at sea for seventy-six days. Okay, okay, not really!

Thanks to a levelheaded hiking partner of mine it was only about a ten-minute excursion. But I’m sure had I been in charge all of the above would have been true.

Ruth atop Kinder Scout
Kinder Scout was shockingly crowded with weekend hikers. Most these were decked-out adults with all the kit, but a surprising amount of them were kids. These kids ranged in all ages too, from the littlest of pipsqueaks to pimply, gangly teenagers. It was actually quite nice to see and Ruth and I smiled that maybe the future of mankind might not be so bleak after all. We were once kids, after all.

Two more kids atop Kinder Scout
The maze atop Kinder Scout made it almost impossibly hard to find the Pennine Way proper, so we pulled out the fancy GPS unit I’d recently purchased (after donating a kidney to afford the device). It worked a charm, as did the interrogation we directed at oncoming hikers…

“Which way does the Pennine Way go?

“The way you’re going, mate.”

Thanks, you little pipsqueak…

These sorts of responses offered some relief, but there were paths in all directions on top of Kinder and none of them looked all that promising, other than holding the promise they’d likely lead us astray.

Had we not done so many circles up top it probably wouldn’t have been dark when we reached Kinder Downfall, a stunning chasm complete with waterfall (thus the name). 

Kinder Downfall
It was there we decided to halt, just four or five miles beyond Edale, but the perfect spot to call home for the night. Our choice was further reinforced when it began to snow. Camping is expressly forbidden in the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales, but we had no intention of letting a minor detail like that dissuade us.

Dome Sweet Dome
("Foot"note of the Day #1: “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” ~Charlotte Brontë

("Foot"note of the Day #2: Leaving her out to dry might’ve ended up the nicest gesture I could’ve bestowed upon her, as it would be one of the last times she’d be dry for weeks.)

("Foot"note of the Day #3: The truth is, no one knows the exact derivation of the name ‘Kinder Scout,’ but it is believed to be of Norwegian provenance. Interestingly, the hill and nearly all of England’s natural habitat was once closed to the public, but in 1932 a mass trespass was led by 20-year-old Benny Rothman and ‘The Right To Roam’ legislation was soon considered and ultimately implemented. Rothman spent four months behind bars for his little stunt, but is rightfully revered as a hero today.)

2/17/13

Day Two

Saint Peat, My Ass!

November 4th, 2012: From the top of Kinder Downfall to Devil’s Dyke (5-ish miles) …

Kinder Scout
“I’m not your steppin’ stone.” ~ The Monkees

“Day two!” I exclaimed to Ruth when daybreak disembarked. “We should go for a hike!”

Already, the two of us have learned a few things about this Pennine Way. Its name suggests a certain clarity of direction, but this is far from reality. Way is definitely the most apposite label for it. It is not necessarily a path or a trail; it is a route, a bearing, a trend. “Go that way!” it beckons, even when The Way or your reasons for hiking it aren’t clear. There are times when The Way is a road, others when it is a trail. Sometimes it’s grass, other times it is sand. Quite often it is rock. Mostly though it is bog. Wet, algid, muddy bog. 

A Better Way to Travel
“What exactly is bog?” you might ask. (Or perhaps you might not, in which case I shall tell you anyway.) Bog, as any old Merriam-Webster dictionary will testify, is wet spongy ground; in particular, poorly drained wet spongy ground. Just how spongy depends on where you dare stride. Here in England it’s less spongy and more sinky. Spongy implies you bounce back after placing your foot down, but this has not been the case. Not yet. The stains from bogs are also known to remain with you longer than many contagious diseases. 

Bog is also a six-point word in Scrabble, but if you were to ask either Ruth or I, the stuff is pointless. Absolutely pointless. Bog always spells trubble, whether it’s spelled correctly or not. It’s nice to know we only have about two hundred and fifty miles of it left, two hundred and fifty moor miles.

Perhaps the worst part of bog is that it is, in effect, man-made. You’d scarcely guess it now, but the entire countryside was once covered in trees. Today the landscape tries to pull one over on the unsuspecting Pennine passerbyer, coming across as a natural wilderness habitat untouched by human hands. But, in fact, the formation of the peat bogs is the result of early man clearing woodland in order to graze his animals and, perhaps, to beat other cavemen over the head with the clubs he’d carved from all the leftover wood. All that manly axe-wielding gradually impoverished the soil, and when a colder, wetter climate moved into the British Isles around 600BC, the two events led directly to a decreased potential for any sort of tree growth. Good, ol’ man…ruining his environment from the onset, clear-cutting and shortcutting his way through evolution(1). We are, no doubt, Planet Earth’s worst nightmare. The future will look back at us angrily.

As I swam on, I thought of the irony: cursing the bogs is really just cursing ourselves.

“Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down 
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground...”
~The Talking Heads

Danger: Deep Bogs
My favorite tread along The Way was already becoming plainly obvious: anything but bog, and specifically the slabs. In place to help limit erosion, these stone slabs tend to be loved or loathed by the Pennine hiker. Ruth and I decided immediately that we loved them. I even thought about making love to them, but decided against it, figuring it was probably best not to freak Ruth out just yet.

Erosion on the Pennine Way is a major problem and as long as walking remains a popular pastime it will continue to be. Thousands of hikers hike the Pennine Way each year and the placement of the stones, it’s hoped, will result in a Pennine Way that is a pleasure and not an eyesore. It’s a far cry from what the route’s founder, one Tom Stephenson, had envisioned way back in 1935---an undefined route requiring a compass to navigate---but such is the case as more people take to the hills.

Yours Truly atop the Slabs
The slabs would spare us much grief today, that is when they remained above ground or above water. As we headed down Kinder Scout, past the junction to Hayfield and onto the slab superhighway at Featherbed Moss, we’d come to learn that they too could sink, just like a misplaced foot might. So many had drowned, since the surface upon which they’d been placed was never really all that stable or secure.

In all, there were miles of slab today. I think the Romans would have even been impressed. It was quite the sight and as we strode along, we each clutched our cameras. Never before had I witnessed a trail made almost completely of stone. Most these were about two feet wide, three feet long and eight inches thick, like a big sofa cushion, though not nearly as soft. There was roughly a two or three-inch gap between each, but often times the slabs would be laid down so that each one kissed the next, laid out before you like a seamless yellow brick road.

Ruth on the Slab Causeway
Mind the gap, I thought to myself as I strode on, fearful I might fall in one. The stones weren’t always stable, of course. Some sunk as you’d step on them, others would rock side to side. Many were off-kilter and leaning heavily to one side of the path or the other. Most offered a good grip, but quite a few were cut too smoothly and as slick as ice. But even the rough cuts could play host to lichen or moss, increasing the slickness. All told though, the slabs allowed us to strive, to seek, to find, and not to sink too much.

Like the people who strode atop them, none were uniform is size or shape. But there was little doubt that each of these steppingstones was big and heavy. I’d reckoned that each weighed in around five hundred pounds. How they got there was beyond me, as most concepts are. Helicopters likely did the job, but these things were so hefty, and there were so many of them, literally thousands, so it had to have taken hundreds of helicopters or hundreds of helicopter trips.

“What do you do for a living?”
“I haul rocks.”
“Oh, by truck?”
“No.”
“By hand?”
“No.”
“By oxen?”
“No.”
“Then how?”
“By aircraft.”

Not the safest of jobs, I’d surmised.

My only real contention with the whole scenario was that my gait never really changed when atop the slabs. Obstacles present modifications to the stride and these changes allow different muscle groups to be called into play, dispersing the workload. But stone walking entailed the same stride over and over, and it didn’t take long before we’d break down and require a break.

More Bog-n-Slab
We took our break along Snake Pass Road, a narrow strip of pavement not much wider than the slabs. The cold driving rain assured us that there’d be no rest for the weary, and although it was getting late in the day, we continued on. There was nowhere to camp on the desolate windy stretch and I felt it important to hide from humanity. England doesn’t have the plethora of psychopaths that the US does(2), but it’s always wise to pay heed to the old proverb: better safe than slayed.

The path to the north side of the road was a study in contrast compared to the south. The slab causeway gave way to wide gravel footing. The gravel had been crushed into tiny pieces and, had the weather cooperated, the walking would’ve been pleasant. Naturally, the weather did not cooperate. Instead, it operated on its own accord, its main mission of which is to subjugate those stupid enough to subject themselves to it.

Our own undertaking was to take cover under anything hanging over. But as we ascended away from the road and the waves of cars that continually appeared and disappeared, no such protection presented itself. This was pure, unadulterated moorland…open, bleak and merciless. As we walked, I remember wondering how the hell the road didn’t sink into the peaty abyss. Saint Peat, my ass.

“As you value your life or your reason, keep away from the moor.” 
~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr. (creator of Sherlock Holmes)

It’s a weird thing to walk without any idea of where you might be nesting for the night. The thing is I’ve always thru-hiked in such a manner. I figure it’s impossible to know just how I might be feeling in the future, immediate or otherwise, and so I let the rhythms of the trail run the show. To plan where you should stop hiking for the day not only ignores your body’s needs, it also contradicts the whole spirit of adventure. Adventure is best when unplanned and life should not always be scripted.

Of course, when the shit is hitting the fan, as it was now with the rain and the wind, it’s nice to know that, soon enough, you’ll be okay. Plans provide hope and hope, as per Shawshank Redemption, is a good thing, maybe the best of things. We needed more of it as we trudged upward, onward.

Looking South from Snake Pass
Oddly enough, we’d find protection in a gully known as the Devil’s Dyke. In moments of darkness, it appears the devil can be a good friend. We were going to take whatever help we could get. Barry Pilton referred to the Dyke as a “giant’s crotch” in his book, One Man and his Bog, but we thought the area quite accommodating. Quickly, we threw the tent up and swiftly dove in, wet clothes and all. We’d shiver much of the night, and man how the tent stank, but it was the best we could hope for. It wasn’t hell, but it was close(3).

(“Foot”note of the Day #1: Or de-evolution as it may be. There have been numerous predictions over the years as to when the world will end; in fact, the Mayans had predicted it in just over a month from now, on 12/12/12. My prediction is that the world will end when we’ve killed it off.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #2: Some might argue, however, that the Pennine Way wayfarer befalls such a description or even that the Pennine Way itself is a psycho-path.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #3: Though Devil’s Dyke is never mentioned in the bible, we presumed it safe to assume that it couldn’t be far from hell.)

2/16/13

Day Three

November 5th, 2012: Devil’s Dyke to Torside (5-ish miles) …
Last Night's Digs
Upon waking, Ruth and I realized that it was November 5th, otherwise known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day/Night. The day, and more specifically the night, originates from the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes and other terrorist conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The detonation was to take place on State Opening day, when the King, Lords, and Commons would all be present in the Lords Chamber. The precise motive for the plot is unknown, but it is speculated that it was to unseat the king(1). In the immediate aftermath of the arrest of Mr. Fawkes(2), who’d been caught guarding an accumulation of explosives in the cellar, the king’s council allowed the public to celebrate the ruler’s survival with bonfires, so long as they were “without any danger or disorder.”

It’s been celebrated ever since. Public firework displays are organized with effigies of Fawkes burned on bonfires; smaller parties take place in backyards throughout the land. The previous night we had been dreaming of bonfires, and here now they were completely legal to light. Of course, in the bog, there’s nothing to burn. And even if there was, nothing could burn. But if all went right, by evening we’d be out of the bog and down near civilization, wedged between moonlight and firelight.

As it turned out the day looked to be absolutely glorious. The only clouds that could be discerned were so far out on the horizon that for a second I thought I might be in the Atacama Desert. A single step from the tent proved otherwise, as the squishing sound quickly brought me back to my chosen reality. I joked to Ruth that it’s also a dangerous thing buying a light blue tent; every morning looks good from the inside. We’d rise without a care but to be out there. Until was saw what was really going on.

But what was really going on today was, well, really going on. Surely this couldn’t be the same England we’d experienced yesterday! We gathered our belongings, eager to make tracks.

Blue Sky!
The first task, however, was to collect some drinking water. Devil’s Dyke had a small rivulet running through it but the water looked tainted, not in the typical microbial manner, but in the sense it was as dark as the peat it leaked from. Sure enough, no matter how many times I tried pumping it through the filter, it came out looking like coffee. Had it tasted like coffee things would’ve been all right, but it did not. It tasted like water. This was surprising; there was actually no taste to it whatsoever. We deemed it safe for consumption, but only time would tell.

After the Filtering
Not long after leaving our nook for the night, we stood atop Bleaklow Head, another large peat-plastered pile. We had no idea we were camped as close to it as we were. The Head afforded us unobstructed views in all directions, most of which were below us, as its acme, at 2,076 feet, sits nearly as high as Kinder Scout’s. There were a few sights nearby but most lay well beyond the reach of our legs. One of the sights was the Wain Stones, a rock outcrop with a pair of refrigerator-sized stones facing one another, looking to be smooching. We headed over at the recommended bearing (west) and checked them out, hoping not to interrupt their little tryst.

Bleaklow
The Kissing Stones
To be honest, kissing stones are not terribly high on my life’s ‘Must See’ list. I grew up at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and few rocks can ever compare to what we had there. What I really wanted to see nearby was the remains of a plane crash, an American B-29 Superfortress that had gone down in 1948, killing all thirteen passengers on board. There were apparently no fewer than fifty plane wrecks that have taken place in the Peak District over the years, many of which left wreckage behind that still adorns the moors today. It seems the Peak District is a sort-of Bermuda Triangle for planes. I blame it on the bog. Bog is responsible for all things bad. There’s good and there’s bog. 

Our guidebook told us we’d find both the Kissing Stones and the plane debris “nearby,” but after searching for nearly an hour I’d still come up short. Nearby could’ve been anywhere. Was it nearby for other aircraft or nearby for the walker? Ruth assured me she was content just waiting atop Bleaklow while I kept hunting. 

Twenty minutes into the second round of rummaging, I met a middle-aged couple on their daily amble. They told me they’d never been to the wreckage site but described where it was. The site they described was within my sights but each of them was too short to see over one of the hills between where we stood and the aircraft ruins. We backed up a few paces to higher ground and they laughed, “that’s the spot, all right.” I was off and running toward it a few seconds later.

The site showed much more devastation than I had imagined. There was wreckage strewn about in an area almost the size a football field, with complete sections of aircraft intact. A plaque gave a brief account of the story:

IN MEMORY
Here lies the wreckage of B-29 Superfortress 
“Overexposed” of the 16th. photographic reconnaissance 
squadron USAF which tragically crashed whilst descending 
through cloud on 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 
crew members. The aircraft was on a routine flight from 
RAF Scampton to American AFB Burtonwood. 
It is doubtful the crew ever saw the ground.





What an Intact B-29 Looks Like
Each Dot = A Plane Crash in the Area
No one will ever know for sure what brought the plane down, but it is certainly a sad reminder of just how quickly life can end. I sat there for a few minutes wondering how many lives the crash affected. Death leaves behind it a trail of hurt.

Speaking of trail of hurt, soon after paying homage to the lost crew, I returned to the Pennine Way, where Ruth was patiently waiting. 

We hoisted our homes and started toward Torside Reservoir. The walking was challenging but nothing out of the ordinary. The scenery lining the path was spectacular. The sun still shone and its light only enhanced what would’ve been stunning even had it been a cloudy day. A cornucopia of colors appeared on hills both faraway and near. We crossed Wildboar Grain, an inviting brook bordered by exposed rock, before climbing up beside the deep, steep ravine of Torside Clough. There, we snapped photos like we might never see the sun again (note: always a possibility in the Pennines).

Ruth Crossing Wildboar Grain
Sheep clung to the steep canyon walls with little regard for gravity. Ruth raised an interesting question when she wondered aloud how the ranchers roundup their animals in places so remote. No horse could ever negotiate these walls, nor could a four-wheeler. A border collie might be ripe for the task, but then it too might run too great a risk of falling to its death. No dog should ever die in the interest of a dumb sheep. The animal is so dim-witted that it can’t even come up with a better name for a singular one (sheep) or a flock of them (sheep). One sheep, two sheep, dumb sheep, screw sheep.

When we got to Torside we made a quick side-trip to The Old House Bed & Breakfast, home to many a hiker during warmer, saner months. Most Pennine hikers take a single day to pull in here from Edale. It took us three. Ruth worried we were going too slow, that she was holding us back, but I assured her that if daylight lasted three times longer, as it just about does this far north in summer, we too would have made it here in a single day. 

“And anyway,” I added, “Our goal isn’t progress; it’s pleasure.” 

So far, so good.       

(Footnote of the Day #1: Personally, if I wanted to unseat someone, I’d simply ask them to stand. If that failed, I’d stand near them and fart in their nostrils’ immediate vicinity.)

(Footnote of the Day #2: All conspirators but one were arrested within a week. They were then tried for high treason, convicted, and sentenced to death. The executions included drawing and quartering, a punishment reserved strictly for treason, as it was deemed more heinous than even murder. They included the drawing of the convicted to the gallows, usually by horse, then the hanging of the body until near death, then castration and disembowelment, followed by the beheading of the body. Then the corpse would be “quartered,” basically divided into four remaining pieces and hung like artwork at various points around Westminster and London. The punishment was carried out in public and applied only to males; women found guilty of treason were burnt at the stake.)

2/15/13

Day Four

November 6th, 2012: Torside to Diggle (13-ish miles) …

Last night, after some appetizing pub grub at The Peel’s Arms in nearby Padfield, we laughed that our routine in a Bed and Breakfast was not like that of most B&B visitors. Most B&B guests read, eat and sip tea(1) and otherwise enjoy slow-moving days. Not us. We hang our dirty socks out to dry; we shower in our clothes; we drape our tent over the curtain rod; we blow-dry wet clothes and our wet boots; we restock our toilet paper reserves. And that’s not even the half of it.

Drying Clothes
Chores are a big part of thru-hiking. The main task is of course walking, and it dominates the day. But there’s also the need to eat, poop, brush teeth, comb through the knots in your hair, navigate, pop blisters, tidy up yourself at every given chance, and so on. At the Old House B&B, we did all that and then some. 

It is algid and damp in England. The sky is often just a body of water. So too is the ground. So, when you get the opportunity to out-think Mother Nature and all her pissing and moaning, you take it. I turned each of our radiators in our room to ‘5’ last night, the highest they’d go. (There was no ‘11,’ alas.) I left the blow-dryer on for hours, after propping it up so it didn’t create an inferno (this, despite it being Bonfire Night). I even soaked my poor old feet in the bathroom sink, in the hottest water my toes could stomach(2)

Upon waking this morning I showered yet again, unsure when the next one was to come. Or the next warm one, anyway. One look outside told us we’d be showering all day.  The newspaper in The Peel’s Arms last night said it might just storm indefinitely, though I had a tough time getting past the page with the boobies...



Our walk began slowly, our bodies seemingly on strike. The effects of the first few days had caught up with us. When Ruth slipped and fell in a mossy tunnel beneath an old abandoned railway and the Trans-Pennine Recreational Trail, we knew we needed to watch our step more closely, all of them.

Her boot soles seemed to have her more at risk on hard surfaces, while mine had me slipping on softer ones: grass, mud, my backside. A check of our soles showed why. Hers were aggressive---full of ridges and knobbies---while mine were flatter and more suited to, say, bowling. I’d purchased the footwear only a few weeks prior to our hike and already they were worn thin. Such is the effect of the Pennine Way. It makes a mockery of shoes.

Near Torside Reservoir’s southwest corner, we crossed a gate with a warning sign… 

SHEEP WORRYING 
IS AN OFFENCE,
PUNISHABLE BY 
DRAWING AND QUARTERING

Okay, I made the ‘drawing and quartering’ part up but indeed the sign told us not to worry sheep. It wasn’t just intended for foreigners hiking the Pennine Way, of course. We knew this because smaller print below the warning mentioned, “dogs caught offending will be shot.” Now, I don’t really know much about canines, but somehow I doubt they could’ve read the sign. It had been placed way too high.

Up atop the reservoir’s dam, we got a better feel for what we’d be facing all day. Though that particular sense dominated, it wasn’t just feel we experienced; the dam was exposed and allowed us to see what the trees had smothered to that point. The whole area appeared to be on the brink of a winter-long coma, though I got the feeling the coma was a permanent thing here.

The reservoir is part of the Longdendale chain of reservoirs supplying water from the River Etherow to greater Manchester, if Manchester can be considered greater than anywhere else. (Remember, these are the same folks who humbly call it Great Britain.) There are no less than four dams within spitting distance of the Torside one, each trapping a comparable amount of spit. The dam took about a minute to walk over and by the time we’d done so we were soaked.

Too stubborn to know any better, we persevered and carried on carrying on to greener pastures. Wetter, greener pastures. If summer in England can be considered wet---and believe me, it can…and should---then November is downright underwater. The spit becomes rain and the rain becomes a steady stream of water flowing from the sky. It was as though we were walking beneath a faucet. Or a fire hose. Maybe it was Ma Nature’s way of putting out all the bonfires.

The water found its way into just about everything we carried, but we were smart enough beforehand to envelop all our belongings in plastic garbage bags. This served dual purposes. One, it would keep all our possessions securely dry. And two, since all our belongings were already in garbage bags, it would be that much easier for us to throw them all away if the thought came to us. 

The thought came to us, all right. Each of our packs weighs way too much. Mine hovers around forty pounds, or roughly twenty-five percent of the rest of me, whilst Ruth’s tips the scales at about thirty pounds. We’re not sure what these figures means in stones, just that both packs feel like they’re laden with stones.

Schlepping everything you need to survive crappy weather for weeks on end is not simple. Well, it’s simple…it’s just not easy. And the task is made that much more difficult when the ground upon which you walk more closely resembles an obstacle course than it does a path. The Pennine Way is not the Easy Way, that’s for sure. It is the path of most resistance.

Leaving the Longdendale Valley it was actually tolerable. Pavement led us up to gentle farmland, before the vindictiveness of Laddow Rocks kicked in. There, Ruth really began to struggle. The path was muddy as per normal, but it was its gradient that was doing her in. I began to suffer too, not because she was whining---she wasn’t and she doesn’t---but because I had to wait for her every few minutes. Cold set into my core and my digits lost all dexterity. Had a piano and a gunman suddenly appeared, and he forced me to play said piano, I’d have had to play it with fists. Thankfully, that did not happen.

Laddow Rocks might have been lovely, but we couldn’t see them. This disturbing trend was already quite common along The Way and I dreaded the thought that I might have to hike it again one day, just to spot a few things en route. We knew the rocks were below us, and that the trail was clinging precariously close to their abrupt edge, but the nearest we got to glimpsing them was when we looked at their image in our guidebook. They looked nice.

Rock climbers frequently use Laddow Rocks to hone their skills, the guidebook revealed, but none could be seen today. Again, they may have been there; we just couldn’t see them. It’s unlikely we would’ve even heard them, as thick as the atmosphere felt. Water, after all, is a thousand times denser than air.

Not quite as dense, I decided that, since I had to wait for Ruth, I’d do some push-ups, to help keep warm. One usually does the trick, as I don’t possess much upper-body fitness; the effort generates enough strain, which in turn creates energy in the form of heat. Truth is, I cannot do any more than one. Ultimately, I decided to skip doing even that. The ground was much too messy for the task. 

Instead, I partook in a little deep-knee-bend routine. This was more to my (body’s) liking, and it began to carry out its intended goal; I even began sweating. The problem though was my hands. No matter how much heat I produced, my hands still remained ice picks. But I expected as much; I suffer from an ailment called Raynaud’s Disease, an exaggeration of vasomotor responses to cold stress. Basically, my brain decides to redirect blood from the extremities to my body’s core, to help keep it warm. I guess it saves me from hypothermia, but frostbite always seems to be nibbling at me. 

It’s gotten to the point where at social gatherings I’m fearful of shaking hands, self- conscious I might come across as a girlyman. So now I go to parties wearing boxing gloves, so no one thinks I’m a wimp. I’m also a severe germaphobe and the boxing gloves prevent me from having to come into contact with anyone, so that’s good. Plus, if a fight ever breaks out, I’ll be prepared.

Interestingly, my feet never get cold when walking. The work creates more than enough heat for them, I guess. It’s always just the hands. My note-taking often reflects their plight. This very journal entry was scribbled in haste in my own adaptation of shorthand, and this is how it originally read…

…midmorning start, mourning ab0ut weather
…weather = shit. Rain.
…Ruth falls in tuNnel
…                           Sheeep worry1ng
…Tor$ide dam, Laddow unseen
…COLD!!!
…Hanbs R scRewed

It’s the stuff of a Pulitzer-winning author, I tell you.

Not every entry is so curt of course, usually only those taking place on cold days. When my digits do their job I always end up writing more, often times filling in the blank spots from a previous day’s hike or scribbling grandiose ideas for my future world domination. 

When we topped out above Laddow Rocks and onto a misty moor called Black Hill, visibility was at an all-time low. We could each see our feet and, more importantly, where we’d place them, but beyond that, not much. It seemed Black Hill was aptly named. The wind threw its usual fits of fury while giant flakes of snow were starting to fall (horizontally) and stick to us. We didn’t stick around long.

The descent from Black Hill was demanding and dangerous, but with each downward step we began to flee the ferocity of the wind. Slabs helped us find our way in the misty conditions, a beacon of eventual breakdown but hailed here.

All afternoon we’d hike head down. This is the worst kind of hiking, but sometimes necessary. We weren’t hiking for hiking’s sake, but to get somewhere else, anywhere else. When the fog would recede, long stretches of slab would make itself known. It was nice knowing we weren’t going to get lost but equally as depressing seeing just how far we had to go, just to reach an empty horizon. When we’d reach that horizon more of the same would spill out before us. It was as much an emotional struggle as it was physical, but all we could do was battle on. Despite the barrenness, there was nowhere to camp.

Like the moisture, night fell swiftly and heavily. If our visibility was limited when it was light out, it was now altogether nonexistent...lights out. Earlier on we’d passed a reindeer farm at the Wessenden Lodge, which wasn’t a lodge at all but someone’s private residence(3), and I joked how nice it would have been to have them leading the way now, but with the storm, Ruth couldn’t hear me. Or maybe she chose not to.

This was our first real foray into the dark. We’d skirt a number of reservoirs and empty hillocks as we went, but there was nothing to see, alas. To combat the fog, we held our headlamps down low, rather than wear them around our noggins. I worried Ruth might get mad because of the absurdity of what we were doing but she was an absolute trooper. We decided we’d hike until we reached a roof we could sleep under, no matter its state. Ideally it would have a bed beneath it, but we weren’t about to get picky.

It was bordering on 6pm, almost two full hours past sunset, when we stumbled into Standedge, which was less of a town and more of an area, if even that. Standedge marks the north end of the Peak District National Park and the Peak District itself. It also demarcates the location of the Standedge Canal Tunnel, a three-mile-long tunnel snaking its way about four hundred feet beneath where we stood shivering. I wondered if it was warmer down there than it was where we were.

Perhaps a little too hastily, we plodded on and crossed the A62 Highway with no real plan. We just wanted to be dry and warm and off our feet. Hiking hard took care of the warm part; standing around did nothing. But because of our haste we would end up making a series of not-so-comical blunders that had us wandering around in the rainy night for nearly two more hours. Eventually, we came to our senses, numb though they were, and found a roof at the New Barn B&B in a uniquely named settlement called Diggle. An older couple ran the place and was none too happy we didn’t make our arrangements earlier (they’re big into arrangements and schedules in England and the older someone is, the more imperative they become), but we pulled out our best Dumb American accents and earned their pity. I didn’t want to test our luck but for a second I pondered inquiring about their weekly rates.

“Why don’t you hand us your wet clothes,” the old lady suggested, before we tainted the place. 

“All of them?” Ruth asked.

“Yes.”

Had we done that we might have been arrested for indecent exposure, so instead we just removed our jackets and boots and made our way upstairs to our room, where we’d each take turns showering with the rest of our clothes on.

“Thirteen miles,” I yelled to Ruth from the shower, removing my balaclava. “That’s a half-marathon.”

I was pretty damn proud of her.

(Footnote #1 of the Day: In England, tea can mean dinner or the drink. Yes, they’re weird here.)

(Footnote #2 of the Day: Most people aren’t aware that toes have stomachs, even some respected doctors.)

(Footnote #3 of the Day: Houses in the UK are often named and not just numbered. Often times they’re named for what they are or were or for what look like or possess or simply wish they were. We’d already passed an Old House [last night’s B&B in fact], a Rose Cottage, a Rusted Barn Door House, a Dead Mouse Chalet, a New Barn B&B, and so forth. Our house, I decided, would be called 'Tent.')

1/31/13

Day Five

November 7th, 2012: Diggle to Warland Reservoir  (10-ish miles) …

Though the bed we slept in was as saggy as the moors are soggy, I slept surprisingly well. My head had remained quiet for once. This, in spite of my deep concern for the presidential election back home (read: sarcasm). The truth of the matter is I could not have cared any less, so long as the colored guy didn’t win. Okay, I kid. He’s whom I’d have voted for had I been home and had I been a registered voter. I’m not much the patriot, I dare say, except of our planet. Countries don’t interest me; only countryside does.

Climbing from the amorphous lump of a bed, we’d soon be enjoying another FEB, a full English breakfast, not unlike the one we had had yesterday at the Old House B&B (the one I failed to bring up until now, though I was worried I might bring it up yesterday). A full English breakfast is occasionally referred to as the Full Monty and consists of the following…

  • Bacon (the English kind, which is like American ham)
  • Egg(s) (usually poached or fried)
  • Sausage (usually a mystery meat but nonetheless tasty)
  • Fried mushrooms (not hallucinogenic, alas)
  • Black pudding (WARNING: this is NOT chocolate pudding!)(1)
  • Hash browns
  • Baked beans (they’re not just for dinner anymore!)
  • Bread (usually toasted or fried, often served together)
  • Fried tomato (red, never green)
Also served…
  • Coffee
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Milk (whole)
  • Fruit
Altogether, it’s entirely feasible to consume three or four thousand calories when ingesting a FEB, and it’s hard to do much of anything once the predictable postprandial effects kick in. The first order post-meal is of course the loo. The second is water. The need for the loo should be obvious enough; the need for water perhaps not quite so much.

The full English breakfast is named as such because it’s full of sodium and cholesterol, both of which conspire to kill you, given enough time. Sodium in itself isn’t all that harmful---it’s found in every single cell in the body---but too much of it, or too little, can wreak havoc. The FEB, without question, has too much. To balance any increase in salt intake, the body requires water. And lots of it. Ruth and I joked that we could probably just hike with our mouths agape and our tongues hanging out and be okay, but our thirst was almost immediate and the rain, heavy as it is, doesn’t always fall quite so quickly. Nor does it always fall where you’d like it to. We’d let thirst be our guide, as it’s generally a pretty precise mechanism, not unlike hunger(2).

Fully stocked with liquids, calories and sodium, we thanked our hosts and dug ourselves out of Diggle, but not before we’d walked into the tiny town to lay our eyes upon the Standedge Canal Tunnel’s west end. Turns out that New Barn B&B was just a stone’s throw from it and likely much closer in a vertical sense, though no one I’ve ever known has been capable of throwing stones through the ground.

As we grew closer to the tunnel, our appreciation of the magnitude of the task of its construction grew keener. It took legions of men to build the thing, with little more than picks, shovels, candlelight and the need to earn a living. Fifty men would lose their lives during the process (never to find them again, so dark was the tunnel). So it didn’t matter to me if it was merely a hole in the side of a hill; its appeal wasn’t for the eyes, but for the imagination. I envisioned, perhaps with only a paltry measure of success, what the men must’ve endured; how the engineers accomplished it with only basic surveying techniques; what those on the first boat through felt (besides cold)(3); and so on.

The project began in 1795 after Parliament gave it the thumbs up (I’m assuming an elevated thumb was a good gesture in Europe in those days, though an American never really knows). As it was with all canals in those days, its completion would enable great amounts of goods to be transported, primarily building supplies and coal (though the railroad would soon abolish the need for canals). Not surprisingly though, tunneling was hampered by much larger quantities of water entering the workings than had been expected. By the middle of 1799, a thousand yards of the tunnel had been finished, and a further thousand had been excavated but not completed. Construction involved a team working on each end of the tunnel, digging toward one another.

This led to its own problem, as one of the teams burrowed in at the wrong bearing. It was realized the tunnel would not end up meeting in the middle. A bend had to be created, to correct the thirty-eight feet the tunnel had drifted. Ultimately of course, it was corrected and the tunnel was completed seventeen years after work had first begun. At three miles long, six hundred and thirty-six feet underground at the deepest point, and six hundred and forty-three feet above sea level, it is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain.

The canal tunnel is only wide enough for one narrowboat for much of its length, and to save on cost, as it had been in other canal tunnels in England, no tow-path was provided. Canal boats were horse-drawn in those days, the boats had to be “legged” through the tunnel---a process where one or more boatmen lay atop the cargo and pushed against the roof or walls of the tunnel with their legs. Professional leggers were paid one Shilling and six Pence for working a boat through the tunnel, which took more than an hour for an empty boat and three hours for a full load.

I’ve never really been into manmade shit, but canals, tunnels, aqueducts, viaducts and old Roman ruins intrigue me to no end. In this vein, the Pennine Way hasn’t disappointed. (No comment regarding the bogs.) History lines this route. Admittedly, the tunnel wasn’t too terribly exciting, at least in terms of outward appearance. There was some litter floating nearby and the entrance was gated. But what it did for the imagination was beyond profound! So much so I decided my next big adventure over here will be to paddle throughout England’s inland waterway system. I know not the logistics or legality, but I will, and not long after wrapping up this hike.

We were hesitant to leave, or at least I had been, but we had a bus to catch back to the trail. After detouring all over the place in pissing down rain last night, we decided we’d avoid retracing our footsteps and instead pay someone else to leg us back to the pathway. It was only a mile or so, but the bus took just a fraction of the time that walking would have.

Back on the PW, we could see so much of what we’d missed the previous night. It wasn’t the most scenic area by any means, but what a difference it was compared to only having a few feet of visibility. The path was a muddy mess but the countryside looked inviting. The weather couldn’t decide whether it wanted us to accept the invite, raining one minute and stopping the next.

That’s exactly how we’d walk, as it were. On and off. So too would the jackets go on and off. The Pennine Way is ruthlessly undulating; one minute you could be risking overheating, while the next you might freeze, no matter the time of year. Each time you go up, you sweat; each time you go down, that sweat starts to freeze. Not unlike the quagmire, the process is wearing.

By midday we’d crossed a bustling motorway, the M62, and slaved away toward Blackstone Edge, pursued by a group of geriatric hikers. The pedestrian bridge across the motorway was built specifically for Pennine hikers---narrow and sturdy enough to withstand even my backpack. Oddly, there was no gate or stile at either end.


The M62 Pedestrian-only Overpass
The group pursuing us was a competitive bunch, in spite of of their advancing age. Incidentally, we’re all advancing in age. So old, so soon. As one of my top 73 bands croon…

“You’re older than you’ve ever been.
And now you’re even older.
And now you’re even older.
And now you’re even older.

You’re older than you’ve ever been.
And now you’re even older.
And now you’re older still…”

They were comprised mostly of men with accents that could only be understood when drunk (you, not the accents), but there were a few women too, who seemed to be a little less worried about winning and more focused on fun, like us.

Fun was not easy to come by though. Atop Blackstone the wind was absolutely howling, ripping into anything in its path. We sought shelter from a six-foot tall outcrop of rocks but continued on curtly, since even the rocks were rocking. This was the kind of wind that had you screaming at one another from just a foot apart so you could each be heard. Sign language would have helped us but we knew what we had to do, without so much as a finger point.

Doing exactly that we quickly descended from the gale and onto a peaceful canal path, though the canal was really just a small ditch and fairly uninspiring since the ditch was without water. En route we’d passed an old Roman road and the Aiggin Stone, a Roman marker dating back some six hundred years. The wind and weather had worn it down something fierce, not to my surprise, and it looked like little more than an unmarked tombstone marking the passing of the empire.

The Aiggin Stone
A mile or so down the ditch path we entered a small quarry once used by the Romans. There, we met two blokes staring intently at one of the rocks walls, as though it might run off at any point. They looked like rugged sorts and were each wearing packs so big it was as though they were in midst of migrating. We couldn’t figure out the attraction to the wall. No offense to the Romans, but it wasn’t even natural.

It turned out they were writing a rock climbing guidebook for the Yorkshire region of England, so they needed to study and map out the routes, rating them after they’d climbed each one. It was too wet and slick to climb on this day, they told us, so instead they shot a bunch of pictures and studied the walls closely, to come up with an accurate grade. Their packs were full not just of ropes and climbing gear, but also of photography equipment.

As we walked on past a steep paved roadway and a lonely restaurant/pub called the White House (for reasons plain enough), I thought to myself, it’s interesting climbs are given ratings; it seems so subjective to me. What might be hard for one guy (i.e., me) to climb might be entirely easy for another (i.e., either of them). And why stop there? Why not grade hiking trails? But then maybe no one would ever hike the Pennine Way.

Past the road and the restaurant, we started in on some of the most boring walking the path had taken us on yet. A series of flat, uninviting reservoirs lined the way and the footing didn’t even deviate in the slightest. It reminded me of the dams on the Boulder Reservoir back home: most uninspiring. Because of the topographically-challenged geography, the wind was once more unimpeded, just as it had been when we clambered up Blackstone Edge.

Wind in the hills seems more tolerable than it does on the flats. At least it comes from different directions and adds some excitement to the scene. But here on the flat ground it never really strays. In our case it was from our left, the southwest, and had only us to redirect it. There were a few hills between us and its origin, but they all stood below us, doing little to alter its course. These hills were once mountains, so say the geologists, but like the Aiggin Stone, they had been worn down to their core. The wind, the rain and the years all take their toll.

They’d taken their toll on us too, and even though the striding was flat, it was tough going. Tougher yet was our quest in finding a place to pitch the tent. Sure, it was flat and we could easily have set camp up atop one of the dams, but we desired some sort of windbreaker. None could be found. By now it was closing in on dark thirty and neither Ruth nor I cared to be upright any longer, if even at the angle the wind forced upon us, which was as close to horizontal as one could be when walking.

Without any other alternatives, we erected the tent atop Warland Reservoir’s spillway, just a mile or two shy of the distinctively labeled settlements of Mankinholes and, my personal favorite, Lumbutts. It was one of the least appealing spots I’ve ever decided to sleep and had I known I wasn’t going to come even remotely close to sleeping, I would have carried on.

(“Foot”note of the Day #1: Back pudding consists of the blood from pigs or sheep, along with grains [usually oats] and enough salt to drown out any would-be taste.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #2: Hunger, however, should never be confused with appetite. One is need; the other want.)

(“Foot”note of the Day #3: It is a constant fifty degrees Fahrenheit inside the tunnel, or nine degrees Celsius. [The Brits actually use the metric system when talking temperature, yet they still use their own currency and miles and, weirder yet, stones. Strange folk, I say.])