Happy Summer Solstice! The longest day of the year also happened to be our favorite day of the hike!
I’m starting to get tired of waking up at 5 AM to write my blogs but am always happy that I have them in the end. I woke the others up at 8 in time to get everything ready before our 8:30 AM breakfast. We had the usual fare but took our time since we knew the sun would be shining today and the hike would be shorter than usual. By the time we started our hike, it was 9:45 AM.
Fortunately, our lodging wasn’t far off the ODP so we quickly and easily rejoined the trail on the Llangollen Canal towpath.
We were all in good moods and shared many a laugh along the canal. While these carts were once used to tow rocks from the quarry, Jonah decided it might be easiest to have Lara tow him the rest of the way! ;-)
Walking along the canal we could see the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in the distance.
While crossing the aqueduct is not part of the official ODP, there is an alternative route that allows hikers to walk across and rejoin the route, it’s a minor diversion and doesn’t add much distance or time.
As Britain’s highest navigable aqueduct, about 130 feet above the River Dee on 18 piers, the Pontycysllte Aqueduct actually doesn’t support the canal system for which it was built. Meant to connect the Severn, Dee, and Mersey rivers, the plan was abandoned when money ran out. It now just connects two canals.
Soon after we crossed the aqueduct, we reconnected with the main branch of the ODP.
After climbing on some roads and through some fields, we entered Trevor Hall Wood, a coniferous woodland where we continued to climb.
We had such a variety of terrain and scenery today. It made for a very enjoyable hike. We had our share of fern lined trails.
And the views were generally inspiring.
We also spent quite a bit of time on farm roads.
These two gave us plenty of opportunities to break and take in the views.
Derek, who owns Glen Coed B & B, let us know that we’d have quite a long haul on paved road. The maps seemed to show that too, so we were expecting to have to deal with what is our least favorite type of path. While the road he was speaking of was long (about 2.2 miles!) and paved, it was actually quite wonderful as it was a well-paved single lane path. We only saw one runner, one bicyclist, 2 bikers, and a few people in cars. It is quite long, undulating, and appropriately named Panorama Walk.
We eventually passed to the right of Castle Dinas Bran, seen here in the upper left corner.
It was an Iron Age hillfort castle constructed in the 1260s, captured during Edward I’s advance into North Wales and eventually abandoned in the 1280s. As we continued past Dinas Bran, we came across these sheep, who scurried past us.
Shortly afterwards, we spotted the smallest lamb we have seen on the trip - so small and cute that it reminded us of our cat Toby!
On our right, we started to see the majestic cliffs of Creigiau Eglwyseg and then left the paved road and started climbing a rough track that curves underneath the cliffs.
This part provided yet another terrain for us to enjoy!
As we started to get close to 1 PM, we all were ready for a snack break of PBJ on toast and fruit that we had packed from breakfast.
While hunger was definitely a factor in the stopping, my sore shoulders were even a bigger reason to stop. The weight of my pack has started to get to me and each night I have been dreaming of future hikes with a lighter pack, lighter gear, and fewer items too. I think I could shed 10-15 pounds of weight - that would make a huge difference to how my body feels. We originally got these packs 4 years ago, and I specifically got a large one so that I could take extra weight on from Lara and the kids when they got tired. Four years later, I don’t need to take as much from them and Lara and I have talked about paring down what we take. On our last blog of the trip I’ll list recommendations for traveling lightly on a multi-day hike.
For this moment though, I was just happy to have a few minutes to lay back and relax.
And Jonah provided some tin whistle entertainment!
It’s incredible what a 15-minute break can do for the body and spirit! Jonah was confident that my pack wasn’t too much heavier than his, so I let him try mine for a bit.
That didn’t last too long! We soon switched back and headed down off the mountains and back on to a dirt trail.
Soon enough we were back on paved road and came to this spot that is called World’s End! If this is what the end of the world looks like, I’m not as worried as I thought I’d be!
And then we came across this pair of sheep relaxing at the edge of the road. Amazingly they stayed put as we went by.
Continuing along the country lane, we came to this stone sign, one of many such signs we have passed along the ODP. It says Offa’s Dyke Path in Welsh.
Jonah was happy when we next came to this stone sign as it informed us that we were only a couple of miles from our destination.
We turned off the road and were greeted by yet another type of terrain! The path had some parts with large stone slabs.
Some parts had railway sleepers providing a boardwalk across damp and dry parts of the route.
We mistook the ladder stile for a kissing gate so Lara and I kissed on top of it. Any excuse to kiss my beautiful wife is fine by me!
After walking past a clear-felled tree plantation, we entered this plated evergreen forest. It was truly magical and majestic. I took photos, but there really was no way to capture the true beauty of this part of our day’s hike.
As we came out the other side, walked by another area of felled trees. I was amazed to see these beautiful foxgloves flourishing. Somehow it gave me a sense of hope and happiness about our future. Even as things seem dire, new life and beauty always manages to spring up and promise a brighter tomorrow.
And then at about 2:45 PM we arrived at our destination for the day, The Grousemoor Inn.
While the outside didn’t seem like it was anything special, as soon as we walked in we knew that we would be in for a treat. This is definitely our most luxurious accommodations for the trip. And it seems a fitting way to end what Lara and I both feel has been the best hiking day of the trip. Sunshine from start to end, diverse terrain and scenery, amazing views, and just the right amount of elevation change and distance conspired to create the perfect day of hiking.
Howard, the Inn’s manager has catered to our every need and has made sure that there are plenty of great vegan options for us for each meal. We have a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite with a living room/kitchen that includes a washer/dryer! So we are cleaning anything that smells remotely like mildew as most clothes do after being through the wet conditions we’ve had for the past week.
After showering, we went down for a late lunch: vegan cheese sandwich, Jackfruit sandwich, a salad, and cappuccinos!
Then we relaxed for a bit in our suite.
After relaxing in the room, we were back a little after 6 for some dinner - a special gnocchi and vegetable dish followed by vegan chocolate desserts.
When we got back to the room, Lara and Jonah took baths while I wrote this blog (tomorrow is a LONG day so I don’t want to get up earlier than necessary to write it in the morning!) It’s now 9:30 PM, and time for my bath before we all get a good night’s rest.
Distance: 12.04 miles
Time: 4 hours 18 minutes
Average Speed: 2.8 mph;
Total Ascent: 1,999 feet
Total Descent: 1,482 feet