Coast to Coast: Part 1

May was a busy month and one that we’ll remember for a lifetime. 26 days, 207 miles (on foot), 1,003 pictures (not including all the deletes), and one fantastic 70th birthday trip! After a day of turnover with Grandma in SoCal, Meredith and I left the kids in Carlsbad (with Grandma) and hopped on a plane from LAX to Edinburgh, UK to step off on the Coast to Coast (C2C) walking trail. The C2C is a hike that runs from the west coast of England at St Bees Head on the Irish Sea and ends in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. The route was created by Alfred Wainwright back in the 1970s and links three National Parks via public rights of way and open access trails. English law is unique in that while you may own private land, land owners must allow foot passage through their land.

Wait?! Why are you walking across England again? Well, be careful when you ask Dad what he wants to do for his 70th birthday. After a few treks in the UK, it seems he has a real affinity for walking the English countryside. So when asked, he picked the C2C as the ideal way to mark the occasion. For most of the 26 days it would be Meredith, Elaine, Dad, and I; however, we were fortunate to have Laura and Gabe join the four of us for the first week.

The routine: Each day we would get up, eat breakfast, stuff our lunch into our day pack, and hit the road. No guide (we’re expert navigators right?). Rain or shine we walked east. Sometimes 8 miles. Sometimes 15 miles. At the end of the day we checked into a new B&B/pub/guesthouse, had a pint, and went to bed with a full stomach ready to walk again the next day. Fortunately our main bags were scooped up by a porter service and were patiently waiting for us at the evening’s accommodation spot.

After getting in to Edinburgh we jumped in a car with Laura and Gabe and made our way down to our “Day 0” spot, St Bees. We took a quick stroll to the beach to stretch our legs and get eyes on the starting point for the walk. Much to everyone’s delight, we were greeted by our first of what would be 1,000,000 sheep on our way down to the shore. This began the trend of stopping to photograph a sheep in its native environment which did not tire some in the group (it tired me though) for the duration of the trip. After a proper meal and some rest, we made our way back to the beach (Day 1 = 7 May) to pick some travel companions.

Tradition has it that hikers pick a pebble off the beach in the Irish Sea and carry it with them to throw into the North Sea once the trek is complete. With our rocks (of varying sizes) selected, we stepped off on our adventure. Day 1 started with a bit of climb up St Bees Head, past Fleswick Bay, staying along the coast before starting the first official turn to the east and passing through Sandwith.

After Sandwith we headed back to St Bees for the night, logging a little over 9 miles for the day. The next morning, we headed north and picked up the trail that would take us up Dent Hill and end at the famous (for the town of 220 people) Ennerdale Bridge. Just under 10 miles on Day 2 and a 1,800 vertical ft climb to ready the legs for the big climb the following day.

Day 3 (9 May) was on of the bigger legs of the trip. We started at Ennerdale Bridge and arrived in the rain at Seatoller almost 9 hours later. In between, Meredith, Laura, Gabe, and I split off on “the high route” where we clawed our way up Red Pike, High Stile (the highest summit on the C2C), and Haystacks in 30-40 kt winds. Mr. Wainwright cautioned in his book that this route was suitable only for “very strong and experienced fell walkers” in clear weather.

Despite being windburnt, a bit wet, and needing a little time to work our way through some pretty unmarked portions of the trail, we made it to Seatoller (population 420) and settled into a decent room and fantastic dinner at the Glaramara Hotel (hey, nobody said we were camping on this trip!).

Closing the books on Day 3 of the adventure, we covered 34.6 miles and already climbed a total of 8,422 vertical feet.