Day 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

After many months of planning, the day finally arrived - our first day of hiking!  We got up at 7 am and were in for breakfast at 7:30 am.  Our host, Carole went out of her way to make sure we had enough to eat.  She made porridge with soy milk, beans, cereal with soy milk, fresh orange juice, fruit, toast with peanut butter and jelly, and hummus with crackers!  We ate a lot!  And then packed up some Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, the hummus and crackers, and some fruit for the road.  By the time we paid our bill and headed out, it was 8:30.  We walked for 8/10 of a mile just to get to the starting point of the hike.  And then we did the traditional things one does to begin the hike - dipped our heels in the Irish Sea (we'll be dipping our toes in on the other side).  This reminded us of our coast to coast bike trip, in which we did the same with our bike tires.  We also took a few pebbles that we will deposit on the other coast, and some pebbles that we'll bring back to put at the graves of my brother and father.

And then we were on our way!  The day started off foggy and overcast - the perfect weather to start a hike in England.  We spent the first couple of miles walking along the majestic coast with breathtaking views to our left and lovely pastures with sheep to our right.  We walked on and off with a woman from Baltimore, Julia, whom we met at breakfast and who is doing half of the trail solo before meeting up with her husband in Scotland.

We finally turned inland after a few miles toward the town of Sandwith.  Today was a nice mix of hiking through a couple of quaint towns as well as through pastures and up some hills/mountains.  We got good at playing the game, "Avoid the sheep dung!"  Lots of sheep.  They kept our spirits up when we started to get tired.  As we neared the town of Cleator, it began to drizzle.  We took that as a sign to stop for a big snack and to put rain jackets on ourselves and rain covers on our packs.  From Cleator to our final destination for the day it rained a good part of the afternoon, but never pelting rain, just a constant drizzle to light rain.  From Cleator we hiked up 1000 feet over the course of 2 miles.  Normally that wouldn't be too bad, but since this was our first day and the climb happened after already having hiked 10 miles, it was definitely hard on our legs.  From there it was another 3-4 miles down the other side along with a couple of small climbs before we reached our destination - the Shepperd's Arms Hotel in Ennerdale Bridge.  

Finally reaching the hotel was like seeing the pearly gates - pure heaven.  The kids did absolutely great!  So proud of them. By the time we were in the homestretch though, Jonah was especially feeling the weight of his pack and the pounding of the hike.  He was a real trooper though and didn't collapse until we got to our destination.  I felt his pack when we arrived and noted that it was quite heavy - I'm going to transfer some of his weight to my pack tomorrow.  We heard a few people tell us we were hardcore because we are carrying our packs - most people have services transport their packs from one location to the next.  But this didn't seem like real hiking to me.  We're not camping so don't have that gear, so we can at least carry our own packs.  Our pants and socks were muddy from the trek, but everything else was in good shape.

I had been worried about the signs for the trail - we had ready that they aren't very good and it is easy to get lost.  At least for the first day, we found the signs pretty good.  Coupling that with the book I have and the GPS watch I'm using (Garmin Fenix 3) and we are in good shape.  I also have ordinance maps of the hike, but found that much less useful than the book

It's incredible how rejuvenating a hot shower can be after such a journey.  We all felt much better after we showered and changed into comfy dry clothes.  And the hotel had created a special 4 course vegan menu just for us: spring rolls with organic soy sauce, thai curry noodle soup, Stuffed peppers with aubergine, mushrooms and risotto served with potatoes and balsamic salad, and finally fresh strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar and topped with soy cream!!  It was PHENOMENAL!!!  Lara and I each had a glass of wine to sooth our aching backs.  And Lara is a very cheap date - 1/2 glass of wine and she is loopy.  Our glasses were poured to the rim and she was gone - very fun entertainment for me and the kids though.  It's now 8:30 as I finish the journal, and Lara is asleep next to me.  Up until tonight we've all shared one room, so it is nice to finally have separate rooms - and the kids like it too, I'm sure.

The rest of us will be asleep by 9, physically drained from day 1, but still excited about the journey we have begun.

Today's stats:  
Distance traveled:  15.75 miles ( including the 0.8 miles we did at the beginning to get to the starting point.

Time spent hiking: 7 hrs. 45 min.

Avg. speed 2 mph
Ascent: 2230 ft. 
Descent: 1991 ft. 

Lara's observation of the day: Stunning scenery helps with the fatigue of walking 8 hours straight!

Olivia's observation of the day:  This is hiking is harder than I thought it would be!

Jonah's observation of the day:  Today was a beautiful but tiring day!