Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh England, my Lionheart.

I wish I had just found a way to blog while I was still on my trip. You know how you go on a trip and it's very vivid and exciting, and you imagine that the trip momentum is going to propel you right into genius blog entries, but then you get back and your usual routine so totally removes that sweet traveling momentum? That's what has happened to me. I'm shocked that we've only been home for a week.

Since then, my friends' wedding shenanigans have begun in earnest, so that the next many weekends will be occupied by showers and picnics and nuptials and such. Anna's shower/bachelorette party was this past weekend, and we went to Nye's Polonaise Room (warning! horrible website!) and sang "Chapel of Love" in obnoxious three part harmony at the piano bar. That's what happens when a bunch of opera singers go to Nye's. I was also hit on by a douchey douche who said he'd been voted "Girlwatcher" in high school. I was like, "dude I'm not sure I'd brag about that. It's only a few steps below 'stalker.'" Plus I think once you're in your 40s it's high, high time you stopped referring to your high school glory days.

So you can see that it might be a little difficult to recapture precisely the sweet feeling of accomplishment I had about 10 days ago, when the Brit and I were in the Lake District and we climbed a mountain called Causey Pike and then just decided to keep climbing over a few more until we hit Eel Crag. These are not stupendously high mountains, but you do start from sea level, more or less, so that the ascent is about 2750 feet. Your muscles feel it, I promise you, though there are scary-fit people called "fell-runners" who just jog up these things and merely knowing about these people makes you feel like a fat sack of fat. Fortunately we didn't run into any such people on our climb (although there were some Fit People with beautiful gear and a pair of beautiful sheepdogs who threw down their bags and enjoyed a snack and the vista on Causey Pike while we were up there. They had the look of people living a Good Life. I was relieved they weren't continuing on in the same direction we were.)

So climbing. I love climbing. As far as I am concerned, it is the perfect exercise. There is the uphill, the varied terrain, the rocks, the scrambling, the running if you just feel like going apeshit for a few minutes, and the payoff at the summit. (I don't love the descent, but what can you do about it apart from paraglide off the mountain? I've never tried that.) Resting and snacking are completely necessary and legitimate while hiking up a mountain, and I love that aspect as well. Where else can eating a candy bar make you feel so good?

You may have heard that it is rainy in England, and you have not been misinformed. Our first day in the Lake District was, as I mentioned, rainy, and so was our last day. Even with proper raingear the fells are tough going unless you love slippery rocks, so if you're heading north to hike you pray for a break in the clouds. You pray that if you splay your unlaced wet hiking boots across the floor of the rental car they will dry overnight. Ditto for your socks. (They won't. You will have to drive with the heat blowing into the boots in order for them to dry.)

Fortunately, Day Two was magical once my boots dried. The entire day was a break in the clouds. We did the hike we planned to do: it was nice, it felt good, it was panoramic. But then we saw this:
Day 2: the endless ridge.
It is a ridge trail. It seemed to lead endlessly on, wrapping at last around a mountain and leading down into a valley where there was a played out cobalt mine. It looked enticing and we had enough water and snacks and didn't feel done yet, so we just kept walking. Val-de-ri, val-de-ra.

On the way to Eel Crag, there was lots of this:
Day 2.
Incredibly green hills and valleys, constantly shifting light, bizarrely clear skies. The beauty of the day unfurled as our hike did: a bit uncharted, definitely unexpected, delightful at every turn. At the top of Eel Crag, we could see all the way to the Irish Sea and the Isle of Man. This, apparently, almost never happens because things in England tend to be shrouded in mist.

We chose a different path down the mountain, one that was fairly easy on the joints, took a sort of detour that left our shirts stained with heather, and stepped off the mountain directly in front of our rental car. Like I said: magic. And then directly to the pub for fish and chips.

(I know I've used this heading before, probably the last time I went to England and did a bloggy trip redux, but it's a pretty good one, right?)


  1. ooh, i love climbing too (and a pit stop for beer and fish & chips is a perfect ending). wow, your pictures are beautiful.

  2. Yeah, gorgeous views!

    Those Fit People weren't wearing the "Life is Good" apparel, I hope! I hate that stuff.

    Also I hope no branches fell on your/your families' crib/s.

  3. What are Fit People like in other countries? Are they all geared out? Lots of bandannas and carabiners?

    I had the same problem with the Nashville trip, and I think Tina did too. Once we were home, we were just home.

    Wendell, I feel a jerk hating anything that says "Life is good," but hate it I do.

  4. How can something called "Eel Crag" turn out to be so good?

    As for you "Life is Good" haters, really, what's to hate about it? When I'm rocking my long sleeve "Life is Good" t-shirt I am constantly reminded of how good life is.

    Maybe where I live people who wear the gear also live the life. Hose-bags don't wear "Life is Good" tees.

    Word Verification: boogbymz. "I grabbed my ho and tol' her 'Boo, go by my Z."

  5. I actually have a picture of the Fit People because they were sitting on the mountain when I took my 360 panorama shot. They looked like toned middle-aged people with high-tech raingear and walking shorts and two walking poles apiece. Not a bandanna in sight. And they actually lounged on the mountainside. They luxuriated in it.

    I myself have no hate for "Life is Good" gear, but maybe that's because my jurisdiction ain't saturated with the stuff.

  6. michelle/weaker vessel8/14/07, 10:30 AM

    On the "Life is Good" debate: I hate it because it feels like a conformist, overly optimistic mandate, a kind of fascist directive, rather than a personal observation. Kind of like my knee-jerk reaction to those stern reminders to "support the troops," I mean, of course I do, but I don't want to be bossed like that. I would feel much less peeved by those stickers if they said, "I think life is good" or "I support the troops."

    Anyway, on to more important things: Maven Haven, these pictures are breathtaking! I love traveling in environments that feel and look inherently different than what I'm used to, and man, this landscape is like its own gorgeous planet. Beautiful beautiful. I'm glad you were there.

  7. Super lovely! I think life is good.

  8. Gorgeous photos, Miss.

    and... awww, Nye's Polonaise.


  9. I came across your blog and thought you might like to be reminded of the English Lake District again. Having retired we find walking up steep hills a very good way of keeping fit. It's a whole body experience and the views from the top of the mountains are a 'not to be missed' bonus.

  10. My comment gave you a incorrect link to my blog. I'll try again.

  11. Cumbrian, thanks for stopping by and sharing your blog link/photos. My Brit and I were just talking last night about when we'd be able to get back, so your visit was very timely.