Day 8: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

No electricity or wifi at our place in Keld, so this blog is being sent a day late.

It seems that no matter how early we try to get out, we always end up leaving b/w 8:30 and 9!  We asked for an earlier breakfast (7:30 am) so that we could get an earlier start.  Same breakfast as always but we could tell that our hosts (Nick and Rachel) took extra steps to make sure that our vegan diets were addressed.  They got special non-dairy butter and also non-dairy yogurt (that was a first for this trip)!  They also fixed us great pack lunches.

We left the Old Croft Inn at 8:45 am and made good time at the start.  We met a couple early on who was doing the whole trek in 10 days (because of shortage of available time) and ended up seeing them on and off throughout the day.  Being with and just behind them was helpful in two ways: 1) I didn't have to look at my map very much because they knew the area well  2) We knew this would be an easy day for us (compared to them) because they were combining two days of hiking into one and going all the way to Reeth.  It did in fact turn out to be our easiest day even though we had an ascent of almost 2,000 feet.  It is amazing how perspectives can change.  When we were doing training hikes, 11+ miles seemed like a lot and brought quite a few groans from the kids.  But today felt almost like a rest day as we knocked out 11 1/4 miles in just over four hours!  It helped that today was not too hot.  It was mostly overcast with a nice breeze so none of us overheated.

The first 5 miles was a straight out climb to Nine Standards.  The kids did great until the last 1/2 mile of this section, at which point Jonah had a really difficult time.  He and Lara were a bit behind and Lara took his pack up the last half mile so he could make it.  During this part of the hike I taught the kids the first part of "Modern Major General" from Pirates of Penzance. That seemed to help as a diversion.  By the time we arrived in Keld, they both knew the first few verses.  I'll keep teaching them new verses each day - our goal is to know the whole song and be able to alternate lines by the time we get to the end!  At the top of Nine Standards we took a photo in front of the nine 8 - 10 foot slate rock formations.  They were like cairns, but well formed in columns and pyramids.  The fog came in right as we were reaching the peak.  I was a bit concerned because we couldn't see too far in front of us and wasn't sure if visibility would get even worse and we'd be lost at the top of the mountain.  Unfortunately, this was also the one section in which we were significantly behind the other couple so we lost track of them for a bit at this point.  Fortunately, there was only one path off the top so it was easy to follow and not get lost.  No need for my newly purchased compass today!

The final six miles of today's trek were mainly flat and downhill.  And as we descended the fog lifted.  This also was the section that is known to be extremely boggy - most books suggest that hikers wear gaiters in this area because there is a good chance that shoes will get filled with mud.  We did purchase gaiters for all of us - and they are resting comfortably back in Princeton!  Fortunately, the last few days have been dry so it wasn't quite as muddy as it usually is.  As we started the descent, both Olivia and Jonah seemed to get a crazy amount of energy.  They started jogging down and jumping and playing with their packs.  Jonah came up with a game called "Awesome Jumping", which entailed running down parts and then jumping over boggy sections to avoid getting stuck in the mud.  Jonah dubbed himself Master and Olivia was happy to be his apprentice, learning his advanced jumping skills.  They set a goal of catching the other couple, at which point Jonah would become Grand Master, Olivia would be Master, and I would then become the next apprentice.  With all of their running and jumping and my natural 'demonically' fast pace, it didn't take long to catch the other couple at which point Olivia kneeled before Jonah so he could dub her Master.

The rest of the hike down to Keld was pleasant.  We found a nice field of buttercups - this was the perfect setting for the handstand of the day shot.   We kept up a great pace the rest of the way and actually made it to our destination at just after 1 pm!  And we are officially half way through our hike, both in number of days and mileage!  Tonight we're staying in a yurt that was shipped from Mongolia!  I thought this would be a good change of pace and that the kids would enjoy it.  It's probably about 20' in diameter with a wooden floor.  It has a table with four chairs, a couch, a wood-burning stove, and two trundle beds.  This is basically luxury camping - it doesn't have the perks of a B & B, but is much more comfortable than a tent and we didn't have to set anything up.  We still have to walk over to the shower and toilet area that's about 30 yards from our yurt.  We all did just that to take showers one at a time and then we came back to our yurt for our packed lunches.  Great lunches that I brought from Kirkby Stephen - two cheese and salad sandwiches and two vegan sausage (tempeh) and salad sandwiches, potato chips, juice and fruit.  We realized that there was no need for me to carry all of that weight for the whole day when we didn't eat until we got here.  From now on we'll just weight until we arrive to get lunch (as long as we know we will arrive in time for lunch).  

Then I did something new to me.  It's this thing I just learned about - people call it a 'nap', where one sleeps for a little bit in the middle of the day.  I must have been exhausted from staying up late last night reading because I was out for a couple of hours - I believe Olivia also napped while Lara and Jonah read.  When I woke it started to rain and has been raining on and off ever since.  I'm happy that we are in a yurt and not a tent - not so much fun to camp in the rain.  The rain brought out the bugs, and I learned a new word.  The little biting bugs here are called midges.  People have been talking about these little bugs since we started the journey, but I misheard them and thought they were calling the little buggers 'midgets' - seemed appropriate.  Though not PC to call a little person, seems perfectly fine to call little bugs!  I saw a sign in the bathroom about how the owners are dealing with them - that's how I now know the true name.  But I'm keeping 'midgets' - I like it better! ;-)

I taught the family how to play euchre - it was a favorite card game of mine at Duke and also a game I often played back in my theatre days.  Kids and Lara started to get the hang of it - we'll probably play some more over the next week.  At 6:30, dinner was brought to our yurt on a tray. Definitely upscale camping!  We had 5 bean chili again (only vegan choice we had)- might not have been the best idea to have chili while we're all stuck in the same area for the night. Hopefully the flatulence will either be not bad, or will be bad enough to scare off the midgets!

Distance hiked: 11.26 mile
Total time hiking:  4 hrs. 11min.
Avg. miles per hour: 2.7 miles per hour
Total Ascent: 1,870 ft.
Total Descent:  1,345 ft.

Lara's Observation of the Day:  I felt tremendous gratitude today for the conditions: the weather was overcast and very pleasant for hiking.  I kept thinking about how much easier walking long distance has become.

Olivia's Observation of the Day: A great way to pass time when going uphill is singing - the only not so great thing is that it takes away your breath.  Dad taught us a cheery song called 'A Modern Major General' an that song seemed to give us energy for the day.  We floundered at first, but by the end of our hike we could sing it fairly quickly.

Jonah's Observation of the Day: I was amazed by the yurts - they look like tents on outside but a house on the inside.  They even have wooden floors and a couch!  It reminds me of the tents in Harry Potter!