You were made to soar, to crash to earth, then to rise and soar again.Alfred Wainwright
It’s half past nine and still the sun hasn’t set on the Irish Sea. I’m sitting at a picnic table in front of the Manor pub and hotel on St. Bees’ winding Main Street. An excellent pre-hike meal of Cumbrian Sausage, chips – fries to us tourists – fresh veggies – hooray – and a pint of Wainwright 4.1, a sour-ish blonde named in honor of the man who developed not only the Coast to Coast trail, but also through his outstanding pen and ink drawings and maps, as well as precise and loving descriptions, brought the Lake District international attention.
Now my own itinerary explicitly states I’d partake in a drink but not until the other coast. But how could I say no? This sleepy sea-side town marks the start of the thru-hike epic and the anticipation is keen. Besides, tomorrow I plan upwards of 15 miles with good pulls. It’ll burn off in no time.
On the overnight flight, I got two seats to myself but still managed little sleep. Four movies in, I must have dozed off for a bit, because I woke with a start to the almost-full moon rising above a sea of clouds, casting a silvery trail right to my perch in the night sky.
The good news is customs let me in with all my pre-made camp food, jerky, bars and various veggies. I’m confident I have a good five days of supplies for the walking ahead and a day of climbing at Napes Needle. Virgin Atlantic served awful food, so I was famished upon arrival in Manchester and not wanting to break into my supplies, I tucked into a Radisson next to the train station with a bountiful buffet selection including both “back” and “streaky” bacons as well as an English speciality, black pudding. mmmmm-mmmm
Getting to the trailhead in St. Bees is fairly straight-forward by American standards: just a walk from customs, past black-pudding-buffet and down a flight of stairs to the train platform.
But the first train drops you off in Carlisle, far north-west of the sea. From there, it’s a local train with loads of stops, passing towns with fanciful names like Aspatria, Corkickle, and Flimby. The train was packed, apparently always oversold with many standing, swaying along with their luggage in the crowded aisles.
Finally, the tracks parallel the sea, the high mountains of Scotland in the distance and Bees Head looming. Call me lazy, call me old, but I booked a room in a B&B right on Main Street, literally steps from the train. Stone House Farm is more a quaint and cozy village inn then working farm.
My gear’s been laid out, double and triple checked and I’m ready to roll. No WiFi for a few days is my guess, so stay tuned for the next installments as they come.
…and bang sticks for luck!