It's Saturday. This means that Randy's off work. This means we should take a walk… a walk up Blencathra
Patch, being the smart dog she is, knows the word for walk. She also knows "w-a-l-k" and "you know what" and, for good measure, associates congregating by the door as a sign. The thought of spending hours tromping around outdoors through adverse whether makes her big tail swish violently (if I had a tail, mine would probably do the same). We clear a space - you don't want to be hit by it!
As we head up…
…I follow Randy…
…and Randy follows Patch.
A ubiquitous problem of hiking and traveling is that of accepting someone else's leadership, be it a single person or the group collective. I've never tried letting a dog lead before, but Patch is effective. She leads us upwards, choosing without hesitation whenever the trail forks. She stops and looks back and you don't get the feeling she's impatient, but, on the otherhand, she never seems to tire or need a break herself.
|The other day, I naively asked if the trail would be hard to find and Randy told me it would be at least five feet wide. Erosion is quite a problem and is augmented by the rainy conditions, encouraging hikers to take novel routes to avoid muck.|
In Alaska, the conditions were even damper than this, but there was less foot traffic, so the trails remained narrow. The phrase "loved to death" comes to mind. This, and the constant presence of people, suggest that protection of small tracts of land, or land accessible to major populations, for "wilderness recreation" is a doomed project. Wilderness implies solitude, and there are fewer and fewer places left where you can find it. Aldo Leopold had a take on this: "All conservation of wilderness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish." There's something to be said for protecting places to which you will never go.
|As we ascend, it begins to rain heavily. The trail wends up into the clouds. Before disappearing into the gray, I glance back and see what we're not alone.|
At the top, there's a stone circle marking the moutain's original summit and, next to it, the much higher pile of stones hikers have left. We laugh at the "excellent" view we have and continue onwards.
|Randy has an idea that we'll try to find our way down a trail past the knife-edge, but, in the thick clouds, it's hard to see where we're going. The rain and wind get stronger and comment that "I'd be soaked, if I wasn't being blow-dried."|
|After making a big circle in the clouds, we come out and see the knife-edge waving gaily from across the valley. Since one peak isn't enough, we head towards Souther, which, as everyone knows, is pronounced "Sue-ter".|
|Though up till this point the trail had been mostly dry, things suddenly become marshy again. The top of Souther is flat and affords us a view back at Blencathra, where the clouds sharply divide the unseen cloud-world from milieus below.|
At this point it's about time to head back to the car, and, when we arrive, it's been a good 7.5-mile walk. Naturally, the summit is clearing as we drive away.
|Supper is at a local pub where pie means pastry and smoking is prohibited indoors (but finds its way in through the windows). I have the sausage and potatoes and follow it up with a delicious butter and bread pudding for desert (although rumour has it that Helen's is unbeatable).|
|After supper we take a drive around Derentwater, following the half-marathon route. The speed limit on the little roads is 60MPH! I think you'd have to be crazy to go that fast, but the driver requests that I don't tempt him.|
We're afforded lovely views of Derentwater as we go around…
(Bleaberry on the left, High Seat on the right)
Naturally, we need an after-supper walk, and so stop by the quarry on the way home. The local rock-climbing club has set up a few routes here and uses the Bowder Stone as a bouldering wall. The Bowder Stone is large and, seemingly, precariously balanced; nevertheless, it's stood here forever and probably will evermore. If you scrap away a little sand at the bottom, you can reach beneath and shake hands with someone on the other side.
Naturally, since it's there, we climb it.