Thursday, August 4, 2016

Day 35 -- Caldbeck to Bassenthwaite (Castle Inn), 9 miles

After yesterday’s rain, I had considered walking along the roadways to avoid wet grass that would soak my pants and boots. The Cumbria Way skirts the Cumbrian Mountains, and I was concerned that runoff from the mountains would inundate the footpath. Anne and Tim, the hosts at the Old Rectory, thought that wouldn’t be a problem. Anne said that due to the extensive mining in the area, the miners had constructed good tracks now followed by the Cumbria Way for most of the route between Caldbeck and Bassenthwaite, so it would be unlikely that mud would be an issue.

Scene along the route

They were right. The track was dry under foot, with only occasional puddles in the worst areas, easily stepped over. There was one ford; it might have been more difficult in yesterday’s rain, but easily traversed via strategically placed rocks today. Thanks, Anne and Tim, for setting me straight.

Dry track
No serious puddles

Ford at Charleston Wath

I’m told that only about 3,000 people per year walk the Cumbria Way, so there isn’t any incentive for countryside officials to properly waymark the route. Hardly any walkers proceed north to south (my direction), so what markers there are all seem to point in the direction from which I came. Picture me at a trail junction, with the finger board pointing in the opposite direction. It’s comforting to know that I’ve just walked the proper route, but there really isn’t any assistance on where I go from there.

Shortly after noon, I met the first Cumbria Way walker I’ve seen in two days. Like me, Rachel is walking solo, but in the opposite direction. She’ll finish tomorrow in Carlisle.

At the hamlet of Orthwaite, I faced a dilemma: should I continue on the road with dry feet and certainty of route, or should I climb a stile, enter a wet pasture and follow the Cumbria Way route per my map, but probably not very well marked on the ground. Oh well, I’m on an island, so how lost can I get? I easily followed the route through several pastures, over wet grass fields until I had gone too far to turn back. Then the waymarkers ceased. I navigated field to field, stile to stile, gate to gate, until eventually reaching a forest track that I followed because it seemed to be going in the right direction – downhill. (At this point I was very conscious of all the dead people who were lost in the Yosemite wilderness, and who invariably followed a drainage downhill until they expired.) But downhill seemed right. The fact that I’m writing this posting is good evidence that it was right.

Orthwaite Hall

View towards Over Water -- note wind-sculpted tree

Downhill forest track

I’m not one to normally take selfies, but I couldn’t resist preserving an image that confirmed that I survived yet another day in the wilds of Cumbria.

Rare Selfie