On Thursday night we go out for food at the Star of Siam Thai restaurant. The layout of the restaurant is somewhat unconventional, but that, my relatives explain, is because it was once a gift shop. Now parts of it seem like they could have once been in an old house and other parts bespeak of Italian food. The napkins, though, are proof that this is a fancy-shmancy place and I take several pictures of mine for later analysis.
As per usual, I go with the Massaman Curry. At Chan's, in Juneau, they made this for me with halibut and it was the best thing ever. Since then, I've had it at a variety of Thai restaurants and it always tastes approximately the same and has been uniformly good. The Star of Siam's Massaman stands out from this stream as having a truly unique, but still pleasant taste.
Afterwards, we repair to Casa Bella, home of gelatto and fine typography.
I recognise the waitress as being C., the tall girl with whom I'd conversed at the church the other night, and sit so as not to forcibly induce conversation. Later, when some of our orders go awry, my aunt chuckles, “You've got her all in a dither.” I'm pretty sure I don't have this kind of effect on women, though, and remain unconvinced.
These are random people
My longest-lasting memory of the evening may well be the chandeliers in the restaurant. Steo's cabin has a path paved in agates; here, they're shown off in an entirely different way.
The next day, I'm feeling sufficiently recovered from my climb up Barrow that I'm ready to do it again. But, since I don't like repeating myself, I head for Latrigg. Technically, I'm still repeating myself since I've been there before, but the approach will be different.
Before leaving, I take the precaution of actually looking at a map so that I have some idea of the shortest path to the base of the mountain. No hours of wandering for me this time! (Okay, so it was really only about an hour.)
The walk through town is uneventful. I follow what I think are the right roads turn in what I think are the right directions and, pretty soon, I'm headed towards what looks like an on-ramp to the A-road. I continue towards it wondering what I'll do (I like surprises), when suddenly a large yellow dog bounds past me and turns around, grinning.
“Puppy!”, I say, as I pet him. But he's moving in such a way that I actually end up hitting him. No matter, though, he continues bounding around as his owner—an older guy with a serious raincoat and a serious face with serious wrinkles on it—comes marching up. A few minutes later, he's showing me in the direction of the path I want. The dog, in the meantime, keeps finding big sticks to pick up. His owner grumbles and snaps them into more easily-dragged sizes. “Path'll be busy as the A-road today”, he grumblates as we descend down to it. And… I've been here before too.
The man tells me I should just continue on until the third bridge and that I'll find the trail across from a stone hut; I remember the hut in my mind and set off, quickly leaving the foot traffic behind.
When I get to the hut, I'm glad that I spoke with the man because there is no sign to indicate that the gate lets onto a trail or that said trail is the one I want. As I cross through the gate a couple of bikers whirr up and confirm things for me.
The trail follows a paved road at first, which turns and becomes a dirt road. Passing through a gate, the dirt road becomes a deeply-rutted trail, such as are common here. I follow this up and up and it becomes a paved road again. I consider following it, since there are no signs around, but decide instead to trust my instincts and just go up.
The country at the top of the ridge I'm following is dusky and without trees. A fog blows up from the forested lower slopes and I irrationally think of the 01957 film “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. [As of this writing, the author does not, in fact, appear to be shrinking.] The contours of the land below have a kind of austerity and vividness that, regrettably, makes one think of other epic screenplays. This is the terrain of movies, not of life. A gate at the top of the field lets me know that I'm heading the right way.
The actual summit of Latrigg is an unassuming stony bump in the path and leaves me looking around trying to determine if this is really it and thinking, “That's all?” Apparently, it is. I continue onwards until I come to the bench and wide, gently-sloping path which I knew would be there.
I look at the sky. It's not too dark yet. The trail leading back to town must be convoluted, because I cannot see where it leads to and the trail behind me is definitely going away from town in order to get down the mountain. My knees had complained for the first part of the hike, but they're feeling alright now.
However, dropping straight away from the bench I'm sitting at is another trail. A quick way down the mountain. I know, in my heart, that there is never really a quick way down. That evening thinking such a thought is absurd. But I decide to take that trail anyway. Initially, it's only about 45°, but soon it reaches a point where it simply plunges down thirty feet of muddy slope at an almost straight drop. I reconnoitre and find side trail which avoids this. Shortly, I am following some muddy foot steps (literal stair-stepish indentations in the hillside from feet) up to a fence at the bottom of the hill.
Where there is a locked gate.
Which I have the distinct feeling is meant to prevent people from coming up this way, because I can see a mass of trails on the other side.
I hope the gate and am now following very muddy paths through the woods. Not liking the mud, and not fancying following it for who knows how long, I leave the path and zig and zag down the hillside. As I'm beginning to wonder what I'll do at the bottom, I encounter another path.
The correct thing to do here would have been to turn right, but the curvature of the path and its altitude still presented the possibility of switch backs and toiling around in mud and water. I turn left instead and skirt the mud for a long time. Eventually, I leave the forest behind and am walking through fields.
This is where, in trying to follow the very narrow edge of the lane so as to avoid getting muddy, I finally do slip and sit my left hip into the mud. A rare occurrence to be sure. The neurons in charge of swearing fire, but find the neurons in charge of vocabulary are generally lacking in words, so they detour to the grumbling neurons.
Not wanting to slip again, I instead opt to balance myself with the barbed wire fence. Because this is actually safer, at least insofar as slipping might be dangerous, which it isn't.
I'm watching the A road shoot by, not far from the path and contemplate whether I'll need to cross it. But I know it passes over a bridge up ahead, so I figure I'll go at least that far.
Sure enough, bowing to the inevitabilities of terrain, the muddy path suddenly lets out onto a footbridge over the A-road. This takes me, after winding past a couple of B&B's, into town. I get an Innocent at the gas station and a taxi driver tells me I can get back home by going this way, that way, and then this way.
Unfortunately, I go this way, that way, and then that way. The road terminates at a gate at the bottom of a field. Not feeling like another off-roading adventure, I turn around. A woman taking out her bins heres my quiet crunch and peers into the darkness, I startle her anyway when I say hello. “I haven't lived here very long…”, she says, “it's kind of hard to describe you kind of go that way and take a left and find another road and …”
So she wasn't too much help. When I do go that way, I get pulled around a cul-de-sac and end up back near her house.
The gate it is. I hop over it, convince my legs to climb to the top of the field, and then hop over the gate I find there.
And everything would have been fine, if someone hadn't planted a dense hedge of prickly holly between me and the road. Not relishing trying to climb through it, I follow the gap between it and the fence, hoping for a way through.
Whoever set up the fence thought it needed some extra support, so they've strong random leads of barbed wire through the darkness to various trees. It makes for a good time dodging these. Finally, I reach the end of the space and find (surprise!) another fence. I climb this and drop into a triangular patch of land bordered by two fences and another hedge.
And am ready to climb into someone's yard when I notice that the hedge is no longer holly, and is, in fact, a bit thin. I push through and explode off the top of a three foot wall in a burst of flying leaves and branch bits. I've overshot my mark now, and backtrack along the street towards home.
Keswick can be confusing sometimes.