Friday, December 15, 2017

Oregon Eclipse - Path of totality - August 2017

The plan was to go visit Mike's parents in Pasco, Washington and then go down to Oregon to see the total eclipse. By coincidence, Casey and Dorothy were going to be passing through Washington State in their 1982 VW Vanagon Westfalia, so we had a family reunion in the making.

Mike and Sherry arrived in Pasco on August 17th just a few hours before Casey and Dorothy rolled in. We all spent three days in Pasco working on the van and generally hanging out. Hunter would not arrive until a few days later. Sherry rode down to Oregon with Casey and Dorothy on the 19th (the day before the eclipse) while Mike waited a bit for Hunter to arrive at the Pasco airport. Mike and Hunter then joined the rest of the family in Oregon.

View from Dick and Judy's house just before sunset

Casey and Sherry hanging out on the deck

Dick and Judy posing with the Westy

Dick and Judy, again with the Westy

Dick, Judy, Sherry, Dorothy and Casey and, as always, the Westy

Hunter and Judy out to dinner. 

Sherry's hummingbird action shot in Pasco

We drove down from Pasco to "Off the Grid Eclipse, Inc." which is about 3 hours normally
Our encampment in Oregon. One Westy, two tents. The car we borrowed from Judy and Dick is out of the frame

A few porta-johns, and a lot of flat cut grass. 

This is the campsite at the time of total eclipse. Looks like a sunset, only all the way around.

The eclipse went from around 10am until noon. After a nice lunch of Spicy Pork Bibimbap sandwiches (thanks, Casey) we rolled back to Pasco. Unfortunately, there was an accident on the only bridge over the Columbia river and we got totally slammed in traffic. It took closer to 7 hours to get home, compared to the 3 hours to get down to Oregon. We looked at this Cruise America RV for about three hours. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Coast to Coast and Edinburgh Part 2 - Happiness

So, upon waking up sick, sore and facing the prospect of another day of hiking through sheep fields to get to a small town with not much in it, we realized that we were only three hours from Edinburgh. This was a clear choice. Mike had never been to Scotland, and it had been a long time for Sherry. 

Sherry found an Airbnb just outside of Edinburgh. It was a 30-minute walk to the "Royal Mile" or a 15 minute bus ride. The red marker on the map below was where we stayed. 

In Scotland, Sherry is as tall as mike. 

Road Trip! 

We rented a car at a pretty sketchy "Easyrent" place near the airport. We got a lot of good information about Edinburgh from the very patient Uber driver who took us there. The directions to the rental location were far from clear, and he had to make a few phone calls to get us to the exact location. We then headed north towards Inverness, stopping along the way for a few sights. 

First stop - The Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk

Stop #2 - The Blair Athol distillery

Stop #3 - Inverness

We took a boat trip on Loch Ness. We started at the north end near Inverness, went south to Urquhart Castle, and back again. It was a lovely day, and the castle was very photogenic. Loch Ness is one of a series of narrow lakes linked by rivers and man-made canals which create a natural waterway. There are several forts along the way to defend this transportation route. 

After Inverness, we spent just another day or so in Edinburgh and then took the train to the train to the airport (Heathrow) and came back home again. Mike had lost a total of about 12 pounds from the hiking and the illness. Sherry was fine. 

We have a lot of other photos of Edinburgh and the Coast-to-Coast that you can see at this link. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Coast-to-Coast disaster followed by Edinburgh happiness Part 1

3 June to 19 June 2017

After hiking the Pennine Way, Mike met Sherry in London for an evening before taking the train to St Bees to start the Coast-to-Coast trail. The C2C is the horizontal red line in the picture below.

Because it can be hard to find accommodations in the smaller towns along the way, we decided to use "Mac's Adventures" to book our hotels along the way. They also arrange for your bags to be forwarded from inn to inn. Since there was no discount for carrying our own stuff, we took advantage of their service and brought a few extra nice things that we would have left at home.

The itinerary that we received from the booking agency seemed nice. We decided on the slowest, most leisurely route that they offered, and the daily mileage for the trip is shown below. 16 days of walking to cover 200 miles - not too ambitious, especially with day packs.

Day 1Arrive St Bees and overnight0
Day 2Walk to Ennerdale Bridge15
Day 3Walk to Rosthwaite16
Day 4Walk to Grasmere9.5
Day 5Walk to Patterdale7.5
Day 6Walk to Shap16
Day 7Walk to Orton8
Day 8Walk to Kirkby Stephen12.5
Day 9Walk to Keld14.5
Day 10Walk to Reeth12.5
Day 11Walk to Richmond14
Day 12Walk to Danby Wiske12.5
Day 13Walk to Ingleby Cross10.5
Day 14Walk to Great Broughton12
Day 15Walk to Blakey8.5
Day 16Walk to Egton Bridge12
Day 17Walk to Robin Hood's Bay17.5
Day 18Onward travel0

There was the plan, and then there was what actually happened. Here is what actually happened:

Day 0 - Meet Sherry in London
Sherry had booked an Airbnb in Camden Town, a section of London close to the Kings Cross train station. She had arrived a few hours before me and was settled in by the time I got there. Sherry found a street art walking tour in Camden Town, so we set off to wander around. Amy Winehouse is from Camden Town, so a lot of the art was dedicated to her memory.

Day 1 - Arrive at St Bees
All went well with our train trip from London to St Bees. The trains were on time, the hotel was right next to the train station and St Bees had a nice selection of pubs in which to eat and drink. Not too many photos from Day 1 except for Sherry on the train.

Day 2 - Walk to Ennerdale Bridge

First day of hiking and the weather was excellent. We had many miles along the ocean until the trail turned inland and started heading east. The last few miles, though, got a little sketchy. There was one unbelievably steep downhill that went on far too long, and then a few tricky turns that we were able to navigate without any real problems. We actually knew someone in Ennerdale Bridge, so we called him up and met for drinks and later for dinner. All in all, a lovely day. 

Here we are at the start of the trail

Sherry is climbing over a very, very tall "stile" to cross a fence
Our accommodations for the night

Day 3 - Walk to Rosthwaite (the beginning of the end)

Day 3 was supposed to be a point-to-point hike first going past a lake (Ennerdale Water) and then over some hills to the next town. A long-ish 16 mile day, but we have done more than that before. The trail followed the south side of the lake and, little did we know, it was nothing but rocks with lots of scrambling. As you can see from the photos, the weather had deteriorated and it was raining. The combination of the poor weather and the slippery rocks made the first four miles nerve wracking and unpleasant. We opted to just walk around the lake, back to Ennerdale Bridge (10 miles total) and then taxi over to Rosthwaite. You can see Sherry's "hiking burka" in one of the photos below.

Day 4 - Walk to Grasmere (The day that tried to kill us)

The trail that tried to kill us.

Today's hike was supposed to be an easy one. Just nine miles or so. Hike up a valley, go over a pass, and hike down the valley on the other side. Sounds easy, right? A navigational error (my fault) early on made it an 11 mile day. Normally, this would be fine, but today's trails were mostly just streams running along slippery rocks. We forded at least five knee deep rivers (I fell right into one of them) and each of us plunged into deep bog mud a few times. And then there was the wind. It actually blew us off of our feet and made walking on wet rocks and slippery mud really difficult. I found it hard to navigate in the high winds and rain. Paper maps get wet and fly around, and the phone GPS app is hard to access and read in the rain.

We were in over our heads on this one, and we were not alone in our difficulties. There was a pair of German women that we caught up to late in the hike. They were even worse off than we were. They did not have a reliable GPS, and did not really know where they were or how far that they had to go. One had fallen twice on the same wrist and had it wrapped up. They were very glad to see us and get confirmation of where they were and how much further they had to go. They had only the map that was provided by their outfitter (the same map we were given) which is not nearly detailed enough for the conditions that we were going through.

Our hotel for the night

Sherry, early in the hike when things still seemed good

Starting to get a sense of what the rest of the hike had in store

Yes, this river running over slippery stones is actually the trail. 

We have no pictures of the worst part of the hike. I think that we were both too scared to think about pulling out a phone. Being cold, wet and alone on a windy, forlorn mountain pass with only the most vague sense of being on the trail and heading in the right direction is not conducive to photography. We were both very much thinking that, if we twisted an ankle, we would be really screwed.

Slowly descending the last part of the hike.  We now know where we are and that we will survive this day. 

Day 5 - Walk to Patterdale

Sherry was pretty wiped out after yesterday's hike, so Mike hiked this section alone. The weather was really nice and the trail was better maintained. However, the element that made today so much easier was the ability to navigate. Gentle winds and clear skies allow you to see the trail ahead and use a map or GPS much more easily. Also, there were a lot of hikers on the trail today, making it much safer.
Look ma, no rain and no rivers on the trail

The mountain pass with a nice little lake

Coming down from the pass

Almost back into town

The obligatory selfie

Downtown Patterdale, about a 15 minute walk to our lovely and secluded B&B

Day 6 - Walk to Shap (and get really wet again)

Option #1 - Walk 16 miles over the mountains in the rain
Option #2 - Take the ferry the length of Ullswater and then hike 10 miles of relatively flat trails

Of course, we took Option 2. This was a "Boy Scout Mike" day because the trails were not part of the official C2C route and there was a good amount of route finding. We had picked up a number of other hikers in Patterdale with our plans of an easier route, but they didn't have strong navigational skills, so I had some ducklings today.

On the boat - the brave souls were on deck but we were down below where it was warm and dry. 

Does Mike blend, or does he clash? You be the judge. Wet and drizzly were the words of the day. 

Sherry learns the sign language for "if you make me hike ten miles in the rain just one more time, you're a dead man"

The sock weave
Here in the UK, most bathrooms have towel warmers. They are often cold but, when they are warm, they make great clothes dryers. Thick wool socks are good for hiking, but they dry slowly. I've developed state of the art sock weave technology to ensure dry and happy feet in the morning. Today was another 10 mile slog through the rain. Sherry, the smarter of the two, opted for alternative transport.

The "New Ing Lodge" B&B was really nice, but it was not open yet, so we had to wander around looking for a pub to sit in for a while before we could get into our room. At this point, we are soaked and cold and it is breezy and drizzly. Sherry is not happy. It took us too long to find a pub that was open, but finally plopped our soggy asses down on a bench and had a well-deserved cocktail.

Day 7 - Walk to Orton

Today was a nice short walk with good weather. There were a few ancient stone circles along the way and the Rookery Barn B&B was lovely. We arrived dry and happy. The owners of the B&B were not there yet when we arrived, but we just relaxed in their sunny patio until they showed up soon after.

One of the old stone circles of unknown origin or meaning. 

Good weather and nice scenery today

The thistles are starting to bloom. 

Day 8 - Walk to Kirby Stephen (start getting sick)

Sherry's knee was still hurting from the Trail That Tried To Kill Us so Mike walked alone to Kirby Stephen and met sherry at the visitor center. Our hotel was having a special menu which had sold out already. Apparently, we were supposed to contact them a few weeks ago for reservations, but that detail escaped us. However, they were very accommodating and set us up with a nice dinner in our own little room upstairs away from the other guests. Just as well, it was loud down there.
There is a castle in town so we went to the castle for a bit of walking around and taking photos. That evening, I get the feeling that all is not well in the land of my intestines. Rumors of an insurrection are in the air.

Sitting at our own little table for two upstairs

Our view from the table, looking out towards the castle in the distance.

The ruins of the castle in Kirby Stephen

Mike at the castle

Day 9 - Walk to Keld (or not)

In the morning, I realize that something is definitely wrong in my guts. I'm a little nervous and Sherry's knee is still painful. So, we are definitely NOT going to "Walk to Keld".  It just so happens that the Gypsy Horse Fair in Appleby is going on this weekend, so we walked to the station and hopped the train to Appleby.

After returning to Kirby Stephen by train, we took a taxi to Keld. The B&B was at the remote top of a long hill. From our taxi, we saw the two German women laboring up the hill and gave them a lift the rest of the way.

I had not really eaten anything today and I immediately crashed in the room. I skipped dinner but ate all of the cookies in the jar in our room, but nothing much else. In the morning, I couldn't eat breakfast - an unusual condition. I just looked at the food and couldn't do it. At this point, I have started making regular sprints to the commode.

Showing off their control of the horses by walking and swimming them through a river

The midway/mudway of the fair

Racing the pygmy ponies

More horses along the raceway. You really need to get out of the way when these horses come racing past. 

Day 10 - Walk to Reeth

It was really windy in the morning when we headed out, with the Germans in tow. The one with the injured wrist was doing OK - she had found an ace bandage and was trying not to use her hand much.

The day was a mostly flat, rambling walk following a river valley. We saw some sheep being sheared
along the way, and stayed in Reeth,  a forgettable small town with a pub.

Day 11 - Walk to Richmond, then quit. 

Another relatively flat day following a river. In addition to the usual sheep fields, there were quite a few small roads that we were following today, some gravel and some paved. This is day 3 of Mike not really eating anything and not getting any better. Sherry's knee is still painful and she is not up for walking another 12.5 miles tomorrow. Tomorrow's B&B is in a tiny town with a pub and a pay phone and we would have to take a taxi there.

We woke up in the morning and looked at one another and pulled the plug. Mike called "Mac's Adventure" to cancel the baggage transfer and the remaining accommodations and set to work getting train tickets to Edinburgh. Sherry worked Airbnb to find a place for us to stay for the rest of the days that we had in the UK. We walked to the main square of Richmond and caught a bus to Darlington and then a train to Edinburgh. We were both instantly happier once we made the decision to stop the hike and start having a vacation. The past three days were not much fun for either of us.