Day 3: Stonethwaite to Grasmere: 9 Miles
The Magic Little Pillow helped, but it takes a bit more stretching today to get all the body parts moving in the same direction.
After a hearty English breakfast (that includes Black pudding–which is actually quite tasty if I forget about the pig’s blood ingredient), we are soon strolling along pleasant fields next to a burbling beck. The path ambles upward, the river becomes louder. Foam from the runoff of last night’s rain collects in tributaries. In a short time my legs are talking to me, series of waterfalls are are crashing beside me, and each time I stop to catch my breath and look around, the rising views are becoming more spectacular.
And then we start climbing.
Stedman’s Guide Book has a droll sense of humor (without meaning to). When it says: “the gradient picks up a notch” I am actually using my hands to climb rocks upward like a ladder, often with water trickling down over them. Ankle-rolling chunks of stone litter the trail so I watch my every footstep.
“This next section is where some lose their way,” It should read: “Start praying to St. Christopher–the patron saint of lost travelers.”
Prior to this trip, I never understood how a trail could disappear with so many people passing over it. It’s because we’re walking on soil particles loosely held together by water adhesion. Or in more technical terms: THE BOG EATS THE TRAIL.
How To Cross A Bog
Prior to leaving on this trip. I searched like crazy for this survival information. I found one short article, So for future bog-crossers, here are some handy tips:
- Lose about 100 pounds. The lighter you are, the less you will sink. There were spots I could bink-bink-bink across like Legolas the elf, while Dallas Cowboy Fan was cursing and sinking in slog-water. He soon learned not to follow my path through the bogs.
- Grow longer legs. This is immensely helpful in landing on the random rocks someone has hefted into the goop. Don’t always trust the rocks. Sometimes the bog eats them. (Short-legged people ignore this—you’re going to get wet. I soon learned not to follow my tall husband’s route through the bogs.
- Use trekking poles. I could tell the Europeans from Americans because most Euro/Brits only carried one pole-if any. Americans carried two. I used both of them with fervor.
****They work quite well for pole vaulting over smaller bogs (make sure you’re landing spot is solid.
****Stab the ground like your poles are sewing machine needles in front of every step. If the poles jab a foot or more down before you touch bottom…DON”T STEP THERE.
- Find springy plants growing in the murk and step on those. They seem to fan out and provide a bit of support.
- Go around the bog. WAY around. Of course this will put you off course, but there isn’t much of one anyway.
- Don’t expect to follow someone else. (Most days we hiked for hours without seeing another soul.)
- Pull out your Gaia GPS app on your phone. See how far you are off the waypoint and head for that.
- Carry an extra pair of water-wicking socks. A lot of people wear gaiters to keep their feet dry. I don’t. I try to scare the murk out of my way with threats. It doesn’t work, but I feel better.
Having crossed the cursed bogs, we stand at the top of the pass, surveying Far Easedale Valley with a lovely beck running through it far below. Two young German men sit next to us, singing loudly and off-key as one strums a guitar like this is a Sound of Music production.
My thought is Good grief, you carried a guitar way up here? and Crap. It’s starting to rain. I bet your guitar is gonna get wet. I’m not thinking about the split in the path and the HIGH ROUTE ALONG THE RIDGE LINE.
But Dallas Cowboy Fan is. “Think of the views,” he urges. “And the guidebook says the low route along the river may be boggy if it’s raining. You know how you HATE bogs.”
Well, that’s true. That last splash through muck-land was a test of my civil vocabulary, so upward we go.
Then it starts raining. It clears enough that we can see the people merrily traipsing along the river trail below us, making wonderful time as we climb up and down over 4 miles of crags. And it doesn’t help that we haven’t brought any pack lunches because I thought this was going to be a short trip and a rest day.
And you can probably imagine the marital discussions going on each time we top out on a peak, and there is another crag in front of us.
And when we reach Helm’s Crag,the last stony precipice, the trail plunges 1000 feet down to the valley on STEEP, STEEP narrow stone steps that were surely built by mountain goats with a mean sense of humor. It proves
exasperating—even for Dallas Cowboy Fan. I’m helping the situation by limping and whining with a falsetto voice, “Take the high road.” “It’ll be beautiful.” “We’ll never forget the high route.”
Yeah, yeah. It isn’t my finest hour. I’m hurting, ticked, and so hungry I want to eat bog grass. It’s taken us 7 hours to do 9 miles. Part of that is because I’m moving slowly.
At 5:30 when we reach Grasmere; we cannot find an open restaurant—they aren’t open until 6. But Tweedies Pub is serving ale, (no pub snacks!!!) and in a short time, the trek over GreenUp Pass becomes a sorta interesting story. And after a hamburger the size of my leg and a lot more hard cider, it becomes a hilarious story.
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