Lumbering side to side like a baboon because…
my back is so tight, I’m desperate for blankets and pillows to bolster my body. But inside the Inn’s slim amoire, there is only one teeny weeny pillow. The kind a designer would sew a bright red cover around and toss on a couch to look at.
Except it was naked-white, without any coverlet, most likely left behind by someone else— AND MAGIC.
Before we left, I had asked friends for prayers, and if they weren’t into prayers, to send good thoughts our way, please.
Part of those wishes arrive in the Perfect Little Pillow which fits in crooks, hollows, and snuggles beneath bones, keeping everything aligned as I sleep. Hallelujah! In the morn,I feel good enough put on my boots and consider walking another day. After an hour of stretching, we leave the Inn and I leave the little magic pillow in the amoire for the next person. I’m pretty sure I can handle this next stage—a supposedly easy trek over the hilltop—after all we’ve hiked bigger mountains in the States. Little did I know….
Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite–14.5 miles
These things start out innocently, like they always do. A flat walk, long walk beside a
long, long lake. The Inn packed a big, fat lunch for us, and I am already snacking on homemade flapjack which is a buttery, carmelly, chewy granola bar, and this one is packed with pineapple, raisins, dates and nuts.
But we are going to do this long walk sanely. Stop often and stretch. So we duck into the first Youth Hostel we come to at Mile 5 for a cup of tea, and there is the young, 24-year-old Kim. We’re thrilled to see she’s made it safely this far (after being lost when we met her) and that she’s found another person to hike with, so now I won’t have to worry about her getting lost anymore. (Since my own kid isn’t around, I adopt others to worry about).
After a heart-pounding climb, from the lake into the mountains, we stop at another Youth Hostel for a cuppa. “Look at that lovely stream, coming out of the mountain,” I point with my trusty trekking pole. “I hope we don’t go up there.”
(As the days of the hike progressed, I learned that anytime I looked at the horizon and thought: I hope the trail doesn’t go that way. That was ALWAYS the way the trail was going to head.)
The thin path parallels a crystal, splashing stream. And kind souls have laid stone all the way up the mountain, (perhaps 100 years ago?), so we are actually climbing on a stairway to the heavens. (There are other routes that travel even higher, but I’m just interested in keeping my heart from exploding through my chest,so we stay on what is considered the lower trail.)
The long, steep descent on the other side of the mountain is pocked with deep cavities of the slate mines. The tramway that used to haul the slate is the path, except the rails have been pulled and replaced with stones the size of grapefruits and slick from the drizzle that has started. (This is the wettest part of the U.K. Average rainfall= 185 inches per year)
The old mines (shut down in the ’80s) are now a visitors center. As soon as I make it to the curio-shop, I latch onto a hot
chocolate, a brownie, and a banana. I’m eyeballing the buses that pull up to collect the white-haired seniors on a day-trip. I’m pretty sure I can overpower at least one old gal and get on the bus in her place.
A taxi pulls away with the mother of the hiking family from Hong Kong. She has wheedled her way into the cab, her mouth going a million words a second and the driver still shaking his head. Her daughter and husband hike down the road after her.
Dallas Cowboy Fan insists we stick to the official trail. I longingly look at the hikers below us who have taken to the road. It will cut out a half-mile, especially the section in which we slip and slide past the roiling Stonethwaite Beck (river) on moss -slick rocks by clinging to a wire attached to boulders. Hoo-boy. We’re having fun now!
When we finally stumble into a settlement, Dallas Cowboy Fan asks a man getting into his car, “Is this Stone-wait?”
“Thuuh-Wait,” says the man, his tongue poised on his front teeth blowing thuuh sounds. “Thuuuh-Wait.” He pronounces it a couple more times. “It means clearing, so this is a clearing of the stones. Stonethwaite.”
“Are we there yet?”
“Yes,” he says more gently, “you’ve made it.”
The Langstrath Inn has wi-fi in a 3-foot square spot. We wait in line to stand in the spot and get our email. There’s no phone signal. Our luggage is sitting in the bar, waiting for us. But SURPRISE SURPRISE, the Little Pillow is bouncing along the outside of my suitcase tied on like a limp balloon. Someone at the Shepherd’s Arms has sent it along. (Thank you, everyone, including the Head of the Universe).
And tomorrow will be a short day.
Or so I thought. It will also be one of those “husband” days that Dallas Cowboy Fan will NEVER live down for the rest of the trip (and probably even longer).
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