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.

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:

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.)

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