South West Coast Path: Hillside Reunion

We had a bit of beach walking this morning.

Another beautiful day greeted us as we set off to our next stop – Crackington Haven. With a short 10 mile walk, we hoped for an early arrival, allowing us to do some much needed laundry. We zipped along at a pretty fair clip for most of the morning until the rolling green fields gave way to the all too familiar ups and downs.

Reg reaches the midway point on his climb up from the steep, rocky descent snaking down the opposite hillside.
There are times when it’s impossible to see where the trail goes.

What we did know about today’s trail was that, at the end of the day, it would lead us to a reunion with our dear friend Ian, whom we met several years ago while walking the Camino de Santiago. He’d booked a room in our Crackington Haven hotel, driven from his Oxford home and met us on the trail, lifting our spirits and escorting us down to where a cold drink and a hot shower awaited.

Our reunion with Ian took place when he intercepted us on a hillside not far from Crackington Haven.
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South West Coast Path: Cornwall Coast

Views from Wednesday’s walk from Hartland Quay to Bude on England’s South West Coast Path. The tough going has its rewards, indeed.

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South West Coast Path: A Ten-Hour Workout

Because we wanted an early start this morning, we ordered a breakfast tray that was delivered to our room last night.

We hit the trail at 7:30 this morning in anticipation of what our guidebook described as “one of the hardest days of the path.” We left Hartland Quay just as the sun was rising, and set our sights on Bude, 15 miles away.

This was one of our first descents.

We continued on, racking up a total of 10 major descents, crossing creeks that flowed into the ocean. For every drop in elevation, the path climbed right back up the other side of the ravine, leaving us huffing and puffing most of the day.

At the end of the day, according to our guidebook, we had conquered 4,500 feet of ascent… and as everyone knows, what goes up, must come down! The math makes my feet hurt. We have never, on any of our treks, experienced such elevation gain and loss in any one day. But we did it today, and now that this day is nearly behind us, we will sleep well, hoping that this was the hardest day for us.

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South West Coast Path: Time for a Checkup

We stumbled upon a bench and a view for our picnic lunch Tuesday.
GPS map shows our location with an arrow on the blue trail.
We looked north to Wales for the first week on England’s South West Coast Path, but have turned the corner and the sun is setting into the ocean as I write. I can no longer see Wales, nor any whales, which has been a homonym joke for us. Don’t you wish you were here to share in the fun? How’s the trail? As varied as any we have walked. Plenty of mud, slippery rocks, and more than 4,000 stairs–so far. Most of the time, it has been dry and steep. We have climbed more than 20,000 feet so far, which means we have descended 20,000 feet. Mont Blanc and Italy had steep parts, but not as consistently steep as this. If you are calculating averages, we had two quite flat days around Barnstaple. How’s the food? B&Bs offer breakfast menus now, with many choices. Even a continental breakfast tray, delivered to our room when we want an early start. Lunch is a picnic, usually a sandwich, crisps and fruit bought in the morning at a shop. However, we are in a stretch with no stores nearby, so we get box lunches from the hotel. We have learned to carry plenty of snacks. Our evening meals come in pubs and a couple of restaurants, or when there is nothing else near, our hotel. In Woolacombe, we found a place that satisfied our veggie craving. Lots of fish and chips, and last night I had a huge Yorkshire pudding with sausages, chips, and (what else?) peas. We both have tried (and liked) mushy peas. Surf’s up? Surf shops, surf lessons, and surfers, everywhere. The surf? Not so much. Americans? None on the trail, so far. Actually, not as many other trekkers as we expected. Mainly brits, others from the continent. Otherwise we go long stretches without having to share the trail. Long stretches are very remote, in fact. How far? We hope to make it from Minehead to Land’s End, 260 miles. Everyone else we have talked to is doing a day hike, or a few days. So far, no one going to Land’s End, nor the entire 630 miles. We have walked 109 miles so far, or about the length of the Tour du Mont Blanc.

The weather? Tuesday was brilliant, our third such day. Two days of rain, others were overcast, sometimes drippy.

Forest or pasture? We left the forest behind at midday Tuesday and had wide-open views of pastures, farms, cliffs, the ocean. Forest walking is not our cup of tea…climbing on a drippy forest trail is not much fun. The same climb out in the open seems so much easier.

Language? Everyone so far speaks English, making for fun conversations over breakfast, in the pubs, or on the trail. No sign language required.

Laundromats? Are you kidding? We wash, rinse, squeeze in a towel, and hang our moisture-wicking clothes. One B&B host offered to do our laundry, though! Perhaps she was hoping to get rid if the odor.

Speedy? As usual, Sue zips up the hills and I struggle to keep up. But we agree steep uphill is less worrisome than steep downhills, where one slip-up can be disastrous.

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A Most Unusual End to a Tough Day

2acd3171-3c83-4d13-924e-b1e0ee881068A most unusual day indeed!

After a grueling trekking day of steep, slippery ups and downs punctuated by more than 1,370 stairs, we found our accommodation in Clovelly after a walk down a cobblestone way too steep for vehicles.

How do they get supplies to the pub where we are about to have dinner? They slide them on sledges. And the bottles of Southern Comfort I am sipping? Same way.

Now, the question of the day: How will we make it back up in the morning with our backpacks?

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South West Coast Path: Who Cares About All Those Stairs?

Especially when we can enjoy the cute little village of Clovelly this evening!

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South West Coast Path: Westward Ho!

No, we’re not heading home just yet. Westward Ho!, our stop for the night, was named for Charles Kingsley, the 19th century author of the novel Westward Ho!. The exclamation point is always included, punctuating the seaside resort town with an expectation of excitement.

Golfers at the Royal North Devon Golf Club must share the course with flocks of sheep and a herd of horses.
This is a GPS screenshot of of our route today. We walked from the bed icon on the right, up the River Torridge, then back down the other side, wrapping our way around to Westward Ho!, where we are now relaxing (literally) at the bed on the left.

We’ve passed many harbors and rivers at low tide, so we were excited to finally see the effects of the high tide. As the tide came in, the River Torridge water levels rose, floating all the boats and creating an idyllic scene…at least until the tide raced out again, leaving boats grounded, waiting for the cycle to begin again.

Today was the last of our easy, flat days for near future. Tomorrow we will again follow the contours of the coastal cliffs. The guidebook warns of steep ups and down. Can’t wait!

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South West Coast Path: It’s What’s For Breakfast

Our alternative lodging offered us breakfast boxes for an additional £5.50…each. It’s what’s for breakfast.

A little fuel to start our day.
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South West Coast Path: A Mad Scramble for a Room

We spent two nights in Braunton, where we discovered a bustling town center.

Our restful two nights ended in a flurry of anxiety when I discovered an email last night buried in our junk folder. Our reservation for tonight (Saturday), one that had been confirmed last February, had been canceled! Madly searching for an alternative proved fruitless Friday night, everyplace we called was booked. Finally, this morning, after some determination and creative problem solving, we found an alternative and managed to avoid a night on the park bench.

This morning the path led us out of Braunton, upstream alongside the River Taw to Barnstaple where we stopped for tea, then crossed the river, where we turned and followed the same river back downstream to Instow. Not the most inspiring walk, but the sun was shining and we knew we’d have a roof over our heads at the end of the day.

I suggested we grab a bottle of gas station wine and some KFC from the takeout next to our room. I was tired, but while I was showering Reg made other plans. “We’ll have to walk about a mile, he said, but I found a pub that looks like it might be a little better than Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

I wasn’t eager to make the almost two-mile round trip walk to dinner, but the place was awfully cute and the fish and chips delicious.
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South West Coast Path: So Many Stairs

Sue climbs a flight of the 30,000 stairs on England’s South West Coast Path. No, I did not add a zero. But I am adding as we walk. So far, 2,159 stairs in five days, 64 miles, and 13,200 feet of ascent.

But this is not a story best told by the numbers.

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