Day 4: Buckden to Gearstones (Part 5/9)
Total Miles Planned: 12.
Actual Miles Walked: 14.0 (includes an unexpected 1 ½ mile walk to the inn where we planned to have dinner and spend the night)
Weather: Icy wind, dark skies, mostly drizzling rain with bouts of pouring downfalls (aka “summer”)
Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day: Too. Tired. To. Care.
Day Four of our walk totally beats yesterday as the most challenging. While the rain was tolerable, the distance was our longest yet, and the steep climb intense. Essentially, the majority of the path was one long diagonal ascent to 1700 feet, the highest spot on the Dales Way. Almost expected at this point, we met some other friendly walkers along the way, which made the day more special.
Our inn keeper had kindly dried our wet gear overnight by the heat of the big Aga stove in her kitchen, and when we went downstairs for breakfast, our things were dried, folded, and lined up by the front door for us. She was also kind enough to remind us that there were no real stops on this particular stretch of the Dales Way, so she encouraged us to make jam sandwiches with the left-overs from breakfast, because we “would need the calories”, which is a sentence that I don’t hear often enough my life. She also made a fresh pot of tea, so we were able to fill our thermoses. Off we went, out into the rain.
Not long on the walk, we ran into a herd of cows, and well, you know what’s next….
Soon after, we met up with Jane and Dave and their dog Ollie. They were also walking to Gearstones and planned to stay at the same inn later. They walked at a faster pace than we did, so they went on ahead, but we unexpectedly met up with them later at mile six when we were walking past a large country house. Suddenly, the door opened and Jane stuck her head out and called to us, “There’s tea! And a fire! Come in!” So we did. Nethergill Farm is a private home, however, they have a small learning center attached to it, and on certain days and times, they open the learning center to Dales Way walkers, where they provide tea, coffee, and snacks, all on an honor system. Michelle and I put some money in the “honor basket” and enjoyed a hot cup of tea with our jam sandwiches as we chatted with our new friends. Unfortunately, though, Jane had put her wet socks on top of the wood stove to dry, and they melted!
Michelle didn’t hesitate to offer Jane the spare pair of socks that she had in her backpack. Jane was so grateful and promised to wash them and give them back to Michelle later, when we all met up at the inn. We left our new friends to finish their tea and Michelle and I hit the trail.
A mile or so down the lane, we were congratulating ourselves for taking on this challenge, especially considering our middle-age. We were impressed with ourselves for attempting to walk 80 miles! Just then, we looked down and saw that Ollie had cheerfully caught up to us, his humans right behind him. Jane and Dave walked fast, but Ollie had more energy than any of us, and at 11 dog years old, he is the equivalent of 77 human years. Now that’s impressive!
At about mile nine, Michelle and I began to lag. The muddy and slick ascent was getting harder and harder to navigate and the wind had really picked up. Michelle took a misstep and ended up ankle-deep in the mud and we each of us lost our footing several time.
A few minutes later, we stopped to take some photos of the ruins of an old barn, but when I reached into my jacket pocket for my iPhone, it was gone. By then, we had just started another long ascent, but I didn’t have a choice—I had to backtrack to the last spot I had taken a photo. Fortunately, it wasn’t very far away and after only 5 minutes or so, I easily spotted my bright red phone in the long grass. Whew!
Back on the ascent over the squidgy, wet moors, we came upon the Cam Houses, which the Dales Way guide refers to as “one of the wildest and remotes farms on the Yorkshire Dales.” I thought it was beautiful, albeit a bit off the beaten path.
We took a moment to take in our surroundings, and while we were not quite yet at the top of the Dales, a 360-degree view showed no signs of civilization.
Besides the remote Cam Houses, there was nothing as far as the eye could see, just the rolling hills and moors. It was breath-taking. But the remoteness was also a bit disorienting and caused us to start second-guess ourselves. We began to ask one another “are you sure we are on the path, still?” and “is this the right way?”. But just then, I looked down at the slick mud around my boots and saw Ollie’s paw print–confirmation that we were indeed on the right path.
We slowly made our way to the top of the moor and the highest point on the Dales Way, which was marked by a cairn at the base of the Dales Way signpost.
The wind was spectacularly icy and strong up there, but thankfully, the remainder of the route was an easy, slow descent. When we reached the end of today’s walk, we were not entirely sure of the location of the inn where we planned to have dinner and spend the night. We asked a farmer who drove past us on his 4×4. He told us that the inn was “1 ½ miles down the road.” If you could have seen Michelle’s face at that moment, you wouldn’t have soon forgotten it. I know I won’t.
We walked along a very busy road to the inn and when we arrived, we were warmly greeted. When Michelle asked for the wifi password, the inn-keeper/bartender looked at her funny and said that they didn’t have wifi, Or internet. He did however direct us to the train station, which was across the street and up a lane (up!) where we could get free wifi in the lobby. He said that while no one would be at the train station at this time of night, “if you open the door, a light will go on.” When Michelle hopped into the shower, I ran walked limped over to the station and made a quick call and sent some texts so that our families would know that we were OK (albeit tired, sore, and removed from the conveniences of modern, civilized society).
This evening in the pub, we shared a drink with our new friends, some table scraps with Ollie, and got Michelle’s clean socks back. It is now 8pm and Michelle is already asleep and I am on my way to doing the same. I will dream of Day 5 and a visit with friends in one of my favorite places, Dent Village.