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.)

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