Coast to Coast

C2C: day 20, epilogue

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.

Cindy Ross
#blissfulhiker upon Kidsty Pike about to leave the Lakes.

Working my way back to Manchester airport from another seaside town, Scarborough. Gritty, charmless, yet full of people on a Saturday afternoon shopping in the pedestrian street, families pushing prams, tattooed singles with dogs, eating, vaping and all ignoring the cross signals, as I do too, ensuring I look right before pressing into traffic.

It’s maybe a fitting way to end this walk. It somehow seems more real than striding out on moors and atop fells, looking for a good place to pitch the alicoop, avoiding midges and cooking a meal in the Jetboil. Oddly enough I feel less sad and more satisfied than I often do at the end of these things. Maybe it’s the fact that within just minutes the train hurtled me out of the throng of humanity and right back into the green and pleasant land my feet trod, wide open and far less foreign to me now after three weeks. Or perhaps it’s that I was able to find a charity shop right around the corner from the station. The woman in charge saying yes she did have suitcases but they weren’t “modern.” Yes! just what I was looking for! A behemoth to hold my backpacking kit safely for the journey home, at just £5 and it even has wheels.

Coming out of the cloud.

Also fitting might be that the day is cloudy with some rain. Was I ever lucky, even copping rays in sun-filled Northern England. As one after another Coast-to-Coaster threw a pebble into the sea, we all commented on our good fortune, avoiding clag in the Pennines, no need for mincing footsteps in the non-existent boggy moorland, fabulous views in the Lakes.

What captures my imagination now is the variety of all I saw – fell, dale, moor and plain. Of course anyone walking the C2C would enjoy this gradual shifting of terrain as they walked west to east, but I upped the ante by adding another 60 miles and cracking up all the highest peaks plus some.

Strider on Striding Edge.

I would recommend adding the Ali-loop to the traditional trail. It’s a longer walk and once you rejoin the classic trail at Hellvellyn, the mileage remaining might feel daunting, but it’s a hell of a ride. And I would most definitely suggest backpacking. I only saw a few people carrying gear – and that’s only on the classic walk, there was not a soul backpacking in the Lakes. “Wild camping” is tolerated in the Lakes, and I was absolutely alone in every spot I chose. And when it was not convenient to be up in the hills, there was always a place to pitch at a farm or next to a pub. I found it exhilarating to have that freedom.

That being said, I mostly saw older people walking the classic trail in shorter stages with all their gear sherpa-ed to the next B&B. School is still in session in England, so it’s possible only retirees are free to walk now. It is the most lovely time with all the flowers blooming and the lambs frolicking in the fields, but it made me feel a bit out of place. It’s not to say the hike isn’t challenging, but even the French Alps with all the refuges and villages charmants, did not feel packed with weekend walkers. I’m eager for a solo hike in wilderness where the next pub is days rather than hours away by foot. Though, snob that I am, I still learned a thing or two from a few rambling retirees, like purchasing anti-blister sock liners next time and not having to tape every piece of skin on my foot after developing one nasty hot spot. No hiker knows it all, that’s for sure.

The first big pull above Ennerdale Water.

So what about the kit, how did it go, you ask. Aside from my hairband – which turned up inside my sleeping bag when i got home, nothing was lost or broken. Even the ancient Jetboil, its starter replaced and busted, the innards falling apart in my hands at Ennerdale Water on day one, held up and worked brilliantly. I’ll be looking for a lighter weight alternative to my most favorite MSR pump, which I did not bring this time and instead used pills. They worked just fine, but I was more remote than I expected and relied on them for all the days and nights in the lakes. The 4-liter dromedary was perfect, as were two fizzy water bottles, that never leaked or cracked. I always forget how much I crave a sweet energy additive for the water and this time packed a ziplock with a few weeks worth.

The alicoop, the sleep set up, my clothing – except for the terribly fitting Fits socks, the heel sliding under my foot, and my lack of full sun protection for my hands – all worked well. I kept my hair in a ponytail with a buff as a hairband. It was that hot! But also, the curls stayed under control when the wind picked up.

Slippy scree below Sca Fell Pike.

I am in need of a new backpack. I love this Granite Gear style, basically just a big bag with two pockets and a few straps, but I wear a men’s and after a week, I lose so much weight, I simply can’t tighten the straps. I’ve actually known this for some time, but have gotten too busy – or too cheap – to do anything about it. But the time has come to find a better fitting pack for the next adventure.

I did so love wearing quick drying, light weight, but rugged, fell runners. North Face even managed to patent a shoelace that never had to be retied. As one walker commented, “Brilliant! Superb!” My only concern was how my arthritis made itself known after a long day’s walk. Am I just getting older or do I need a boot next time, or maybe a more robust inner support?

Boats at low tide, Robin Hood’s Bay.

Two small things I brought turned out to be quite useful. At the last minute Richard gave me a cleaning cloth for the iPhone. It’s stuffed into a little water resist pouch and hangs off the waist belt. It got a bit wet, but dried quickly and lost none of its cleaning ability. I used it in the sunglasses, the screen and the camera lens with great results. I also packed a Sea-to-Summit mini backpack that closes into a tiny ball. I used it when buying groceries, and will use it now on the plane for the items I don’t want checked.

The compass got a workout, and everyone should carry one and know how to use it. Following a bearing can keep you from walking in circles when the mist comes down, and the C2C is not the best signed trail to say he least. I used the gps to send a bread crumb home, but a quick look at my location came in handy when everything disappeared in fog.

Resupply options.

Food was a bit of a problem. I was determined to stay on the Whole30 diet and managed to do so for the first several days, but it was far too difficult to resupply. The best meals were dehydrated eggs and tomato, potato bark with broccoli and pepper, beef jerky and larabars. In the past, I’ve dehydrated a complete stir fry meals of veggies, vegan sausage and brown rice. I think I’ll be heading back in that direction for the next hike to ensure I get enough calories. Indeed, pubs were frequented and some were better than others, but I found steak pie with mushy peas and a side of chips got a little repetitive and I longed for more variety, especially with vegetables. Though I’m not complaining at all about the selection of hand-pulled ales. Early on, I was convinced I needed the carbohydrates.

I used my headlamp once the entire walk, attempting to read just before sleeping on the first night. The sun set around 9 or so, but the sky was light til almost 11. By 4, the birds were in full song. I awoke, but usually drifted back to sleep. Every day was hours of walking, but I always felt like I had enough time and never rushed.

Lamb rumps.

Would I suggest this walk to friends? Of course. It can be taken on in any fashion that suits, guided and planned with a pint and a shower awaiting your every stage, gritty and come-what-may in my style, and every way in between. As an American it particularly fascinated me to hear the accents, see how people live and go on holiday, and discover how family-oriented this country is, even when it comes to the pubs. I never once felt in danger and it’s safe to say, I fell in love with this lovely place, as I learned on my walk to speak a bit more “English.”

Coast to Coast

Coast-to-Coast + aliloop-of-the-lakes, England – June, 2018

I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and not be merely followers of other people’s routes.

Alfred Wainwright

check out my gear list for the C2C!


England’s Coast to Coast was designed by Fell Walker Arthur Wainwright and is roughly 192 miles from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. He suggests we all find our own routes, which I did by adding another 50 miles peak bagging in the Lake District.
England’s Coast to Coast is roughly 192 miles from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, but I added another 50 miles peak bagging in the Lake District.

I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and
Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious. - Ruth Reichl With England's
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. Ernest
Everywhere is within walking distance, if you have the time.Steven Wright And so, it begins. But not so fast. It
You were made to soar, to crash to earth, then to rise and soar again.Alfred Wainwright It's half past nine
I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.Susan Sontag The morning began with the sound of birds and breakfast
Nothing is as close to magic as nature.Anastasia Bolinder It’s happened again. I’ve found myself in a pub, talked into
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as
Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.Hermann Buhl The crag gods tested me, but they must have had a
Walking: the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise.Carrie Latet There are five good reasons to hike in
Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to
It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on
There are two kinds of climbers, those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and
I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.G.M. Trevelyan What a sight to see beautiful Orton over the
You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.Terri Guillemets The alicoop is
I like being near the top of a mountain. One can’t get lost here.Wislawa Szymborska I broke two cardinal rules
Travel far enough, you meet yourself.David Mitchell Another stunningly beautiful, bright, sunny day completely out of the norm for this
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.Frank Lloyd Wright Today was the day I
Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.Henry David Thoreau Rain fell in
Desert, jungle, mountains or coast; I don’t have a preference. If I’m out in the wilderness with everything I need
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came
Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no
I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I

Created by the illustrious fell walker Alfred Wainwright, the Coast to Coast is an unofficial and often unsigned path that passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors.

The last time in Yorkshire, I ran.
The last time in Yorkshire, I ran.

Which pretty well describes my plan of no plan aside from ‘wild camping’ and catching a bus and two trains from Robin Hood’s Bay back to the airport and home mid-June.

My mantra…

To experience the countryside on fair days and never foul is to understand only half its story.

Melissa Harrison

<bang sticks for luck!>