Breakfast this morning was at 8. Usual fare except with the addition of vegetarian sausages. We ate a large portion, settled up and were on the way by 9. Popped in to the local shop to get Olivia another waterproof pack cover for her bag since her original one blew away on the mountain yesterday.
This trip is known as one of the most challenging, but also one of the most beautiful. We thought it would be about 12 miles, but it turned out to be over 15 miles! More of that later. The first few miles (about 5) were the hardest with a steady climb of a little more than 2,000 feet. Olivia took the lead today and was a machine! It was impossible to keep her pace. I referred to her as my steroid-free Lance Armstrong. The girl loves to climb! Because of her pace, we ended up catching up with our friends Julia, Charlie and Sue (from Australia), Jimmy, and the dutch couple (whose names we still haven't learned). They had left 15 minutes before us but we had caught them within the first hour. Today was the last day of mountain climbs, so we enjoyed the climbs even though they tired us. We worked our way up to a place called The Knott, which was at about 2,600 ft. Shorty thereafter we veered off the predesignated path and took Ian's recommendation from yesterday for an alternative and more scenic route - still following major pathways that were marked by occasional cairns. We stuck together with the others for the first part, but they were going on to Shap and we to Bampton Grange so we went ahead and started off on our own.
Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn at one cairn (at High Raise) and veered toward Low Raise instead of the direction we were supposed to go. I had thought we were going wrong, but did see some hikers in front of us so thought I might have been mistaken. But we reached the next cairn about 1/2 mile before we were supposed to, so I knew something was wrong. And then we met a woman who was leading an expedition of teenagers who confirmed my thoughts. We opted to stop there for some lunch (leftovers from last night's dinner) and then make our way back to the right path. We didn't have to completely double back though. Rather, we traversed over about 1/4 mile and got back on the path, which was next to a stone wall. Still the paths are really not marked at all. The only way to identify some spots is by the cairns, some of which are 1/4 to 1/2 mile apart. And there are so many intersecting paths that it is very easy to lose the way. Since the mountains are covered in grass, the only way to tell a path is by the 1 ft. wide indentation in the grass where others have treaded. We knew we needed to make a sharp right at Wether Hill and had been notified by Ian that this turn was by a cairn but also hard to find. We thought we spotted it and followed that path. Maybe that was the path. Maybe it wasn't. I have no idea. All I know is that about 1/2 mile later our indented grass path seemed to come to an end and we were completely lost on top of a mountain!
Fortunately it was a beautiful day with clear skies. I couldn't imagine being in that situation in a downpour or as the sun was setting. I couldn't use my watch to guide us because we had chosen a path not on the C2C and I had not input waypoints for this route. But I could use the compass on my watch and knew that we wanted to head east. So we started making our way in that direction. It seemed that the sheep we passed were confused as if they wondered what we were doing there. We felt the same way! We were surrounded by mountains so we just had to work our way east until we saw some signs of life. It was an adventure, but internally I was a bit concerned as I didn't want the kids to wear out before we saw a town. They were great and saw it as a fun game. We didn't want to dampen their enthusiasm.
Fortunately we soon found some farms and houses in the distance and walked in that direction. Eventually I met up with a man walking his dog. I was sincerely hoping that we were within a few miles of our destination, but honestly had no idea. I was happy to hear that we were in fact heading the right way - he gave us directions on one lane country roads to our destination. Basically, go across the field, down the path to the cow grate and over that. Then take the steel road (we had no idea what he meant, but it turns out that this is what at least he calls asphalt roads) through 4 or 5 gates and then turn left and make it down to the town. This seemed like it wasn't far, but turned out to be several miles. And unfortunately they were slow going because, even though they were the flattest of the day, Olivia got a major headache and could only go very slowly. I took her pack for a mile or two, but that didn't help her or the pace. And to make matters worse, I developed Anterior Tibialis Tendinitis in my right foot and had a hard time putting any weight on it.
We were thrilled when we finally made it to the quaint village of Bampton Grange and our lodging for the night, Crowne and Mitre. We were greeted by the hostess Wendy and Chef Lee. Lara reminded Lee that we are vegan and he cheerfully responded that he's been ready for us for the past two months, eager to give us a great meal. So gracious! He gave the kids each a soda - the Coke seemed to do the trick for Olivia and she started to feel better. We headed up to our rooms (again two rooms for the night!), showered and got our laundry together. Wendy is doing it for us and will have it back to us in the morning. We noticed that we got a bit burned in the sun today even though we put on sun block. Olivia has a funny burn on her ankles because she was wearing capri pants. But none of us were burned to the point of discomfort. I'm definitely feeling worn down all over my body. Not only my right foot is sore, but also my shoulders are feeling the weight. No major complaints though - I feel so blessed and grateful to be able to do this and share the experience with my family. Any discomfort is made up 10 fold by the beauty of what we are experiencing daily and the joy of doing it as a family.
It will be an early night though. As soon as I finish this blog and post it, we'll be dozing off, dreaming of the days so far and those to come!
Distance hiked: 15.2 mile
Total time hiking: 7 hrs. 35min.
Avg. miles per hour: 2 miles per hour
Total Ascent: 2,922 ft.
Total Descent: 2,803 ft.
Lara's Observation of the Day: The beauty of the mountains and lakes provided ample inspiration for our huge day of climbing. Already feel so much stronger in just five days!
Olivia's Observation of the Day: A nice shower at the end of the day makes everything better!
Jonah's Observation of the Day: Today we were supposed to do 12 miles, but it turned out to be over 15 miles so I felt as though my legs were going to collapse.