Day 14: Osmotherly to Clay Bank Top (Chop Gate)

Today started like yesterday ended, but fortunately by the end all was sunny and well!
Definitely down on the place we stayed, the Vane House - only place that has been really disappointing on the trip.  Started yesterday with not being there and then not having us even listed, continued when we got our laundry and find it still had mud on it and was all damp, and followed through to this morning.  While every other place has provided good to great breakfasts, today, we only had cold cereal and beans on toast - and the toast had butter on it even though we had made clear our diet, so it was basically just beans.  We checked out at 9 am and was charged 20 pounds for laundry - that's over $30 for getting back damp and dirty clothes.  I inquired about it and was told that he had to do two loads of laundry for us.  He clearly didn't realize that he was dealing with a New Yorker who can smell someone trying to pull something from afar. ;-)  I explained that our clothes were still dirty and damp and that we had not been charged more than 10 pounds anywhere so far and that was all I was willing to pay.  He didn't have much of a choice so he acquiesced.  We used it as a teaching moment for the kids to explain that sometimes you need to stick up for yourself on principle - it wasn't so much a matter of the money itself.  We also spoke of how it was clear that we were just a commodity to him, a way to make money.  That was the difference with this place and every other place that catered to us - every other place also wanted to make money but was also interested in us as individuals and our well being.  I explained that it is one of the reasons that we are vegan.  When animals become other than just other sentient beings -when they become a commodity - the animals innate needs and happiness often get lost in the mix and decisions are made based on profit and loss rather than what is best and good for all, including the animals.  OK - off my soap box and back to our day.

Once we left the lodging the day was much brighter despite some foul weather.  It wasn't raining when we began but we knew we would be hitting some bad weather as the day went on. We had about 30 minutes of dryness before the rain started - that was about the time it took us to meet back up with the C2C - we had to go off it for a bit to walk down to Osmotherly.  It was an uphill trek on a single lane paved road - very picturesque and quiet.  Once we caught back up with the C2C, we also joined the Cleveland Way, which is another trail about 110 miles long.  Part of yesterday and all of today and tomorrow are for both of these trails, though all of the signs are for the Cleveland Way (with a picture of an acorn on posts as its symbol). 

We also are starting to deal with feet issues.  Olivia has several blisters on toes that make walking a bit painful.  We got her hiking shoes back in March and think she has now outgrown them - they just need to last a few more days.  I too have a blister on one of my toes - not much fun but bearable.  

Besides a few wrong turns early on that would make us look like drunk hikers if one were to view the GPS tracking of our hike, it was a fairly straightforward and straight hike today. The tracks were wide and often through forests early on.  Kids were doing great.  They wanted more Les Mis, so I obliged them until the weather started to turn a bit nasty with heavy winds and rain and fog.  Despite the conditions, we all still enjoyed the day - very interesting terrain.  The weather was a bit unfortunate because we knew that hidden behind the fog were some beautiful sights, but we often could only see 20-40 feet around us.  These conditions lasted for most of the entire walk today.  

Fortunately it wasn't hard to stay on course.  Not only were there other people on the trail (now that the two trails are together for a couple of days, the number of walkers is higher), but the path was clearly marked.  Signs abound but also much of the path was covered with 2 ft. wide path of inlaid stones.  While the stones might normally be seen as problematic because they are harder on the legs, for us they made things easier because they allowed us to avoid walking through boggy areas.  As we would do some of our climbs and the fog would envelope us, the stone path felt like a path to heaven. And the walk did feel heavenly.  One might think this not possible because of the conditions, but it was just one piece of the picture.  We kept talking to the kids about how this will help build their tenacity and provide a great memory.  It's one of those experiences you might not want to repeat (though I'd love to redo this day on a nice day), but one that you are grateful to have experienced once it is over.  Part of the pleasure of completing hikes like the one we are doing is the knowledge that it isn't a walk in the park, that there are some challenges that need to be overcome.   

I was so proud of the kids today.  They were real troopers.  While Olivia had pain from the very start of the day, she didn't complain at all.  And Jonah was stellar too.  He had a brief spell of dragging after about 8 miles, once he realized that we had just over 3 miles to go, he got a second wind and actually took the lead.  In fact, it was very hard to keep up with him because he was climbing at a crazy fast pace.  And this was just about the same time that we started having to go up and down on mountains and into valleys.  We kept going up and down.  So we didn't reach as many highs are lows but they kept changing so we ultimately had one of our greater ascent/descent numbers for the trip.  So Jonah took off at a very fast pace and I had to keep up with him because the wind was so strong and fog still so heavy - I didn't want him to get too far ahead.

We arrived at an area called the Wain Stones (likely named for the trail's namesake, Wainwright) and then the rain stopped and the sun started to come up.  It was a sign.  Our struggles were coming to an end and the difficulties of early in the day had been washed away and things were looking bright.  The Wain Stones marked an important spot for us - that's where we were supposed to call the Inn we were staying so that they could arrange for a car to pick us up at a destination a half hour away.  It's the last spot for a while that would have phone access so we made one of the few calls of the trip on Lara's phone and called for the pick up.  

This is the one spot on the trail that most people need to go off the trail for lodging since there is no town that is logically situated within a mile of the trail.  So B & B's often provide free shuttles from Clay Bank Top to nearby towns in the afternoon and drop hikers off back at the same spot the following morning.  We hiked down the final stretch and only waited a few minutes before Helen, the owner of the Buck Inn where we are staying, picked us up.  It has been almost three weeks since we've been in a car!!!

Helen was the antithesis and antidote for the experience we had yesterday.  So gracious.  And she was horrified when we told her about our experience in Osmotherly and that we were asked to pay 20 pounds for laundry - she charges 3 pounds.  When we arrived, she took our wet clothes (and some of the clothes that were still dirty from yesterday after getting washed) to clean.  And she took our wet shoes to dry for us.  After we showered, we went in to her pub for a great lunch - Lara a salad and the three of us some penne pasta with vegetables and tomato sauce.  Jonah had inquired about onion rings and she said she thought the batter had egg in it.  No problem.  When the food came, she brought out a plate of onion rings.  The chef went and found a vegan batter recipe and made if for us.  And they were the best ones we've had on the trip!  Can't speak highly enough about this place.  She's also baked some vegan desserts for us - we had some jam tarts after our lunch that were delicious!

After lunch we came back to read, relax, and write in our journals.  Then Jonah and I went to the cafe/pub right here at the Buck Inn to play cards (Casino) and wait for the girls for dinner.  I had my first beer for the trip - finally a place that had a vegan beer!  Pretty much all beer in England uses a by product of fish called Isinglass (bladder of the fish).  One of the owners (Helen's husband) was disturbed to find out that most of his beer uses a fish product - he's planning to stop getting those.  He's German and a purist - gets his German beer shipped from Germany rather than from England so it adheres to the Bavarian code of purity for beer.  He checked and confirmed that a few were fine so I had a wheat beer while playing cards (Erdiner Weisbier) and another with dinner (Hofbrau Munchen Dark).  That will do me fine for the trip!  The girls came in at 6:30 and we sat for dinner.  GREAT meal!  The cook had planned special meals for us - absolutely delicious and a wide variety.  We had roasted red pepper stuffed with couscous, a three bean stew with potato, and third dish - don't know what that was but it was delicious.  Then we got vegan brownies and sorbet for dessert.  I can't recommend this place enough - what a juxtaposition with our experience yesterday.  I spoke with the owner for a while - great guy.  He came over and told the kids he was going to make them smoothies as part of breakfast.  Jonah's smile upon hearing he news was like he won a golden ticket to the Wonka chocolate factory.  Well satiated (and with a little buzz), it was time to relax in our rooms and get ready for another day.  Good news - weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow and the walk will be an easy one!

Crazy fact of the day: today is the second day in a row that we hiked exactly 11.84 miles.  There is a ridiculously small chance of that happening on two different trails.  Same distance, but the weather and terrain led to very different times and elevations.

Distance hiked: 11.84 miles
Total time hiking:  4 hrs. 51 min. 
Avg. miles per hour: 2.4 miles per hour
Total Ascent: 2552 ft. 
Total Descent: 2427 ft.

Lara's Observation of the Day: This day was both spectacular and difficult- we were wet for 90% of the hike, with great winds and lots of hill climbing. But the path was great and I developed a mantra- TSBT (This shit builds tenacity!) I am tired but happy in the moors.

Olivia's Observation of the Day: Dad is known in our family as the "Moo man" because he has a way of mooing that always seems to bring the cows over to us.  Mom dubbed him that when they biked through France before I was born.  Today when we passed through a few fields with cows, dad mooed and the cows mooed back.  He said this was because he was their 'Alpha' cow!

Jonah's Observation of the Day: Compared to yesterday's lodging, today's is MUCH better.  It was so nice that they came and picked us up.