I had followed all the advice on line about hiking around the Lake District. I made a special trip to the camping shop to buy new walking boots, which I then dutifully walked around the house in for two weeks before heading off on my trip so as to wear them in. I packed waterproofs for when it rained, a compass in case I got lost, and I applied sunscreen to my nose in the unlikelihood of good weather. I packed water to drink if I got thirsty, energy tablets to pop if I got tired, a ham and tomato sandwich wrapped in tin foil if I got hungry, and a bar of chocolate for.…well just in case I fancied it.
So with my walking book in hand, and the sun uncharacteristically positioned where I could actually see it in the British sky, I embarked on what my book described as a challenging hike above Loughrigg Tarn. If only I knew what a Tarn was.
Three hours the book said. Three hours obviously not accounting for the first challenge of parking in the wrong car park and spending the first hour wandering lost around the small but beautifully formed hamlet of Elterwater. Stared at by ‘proper hikers’ with what looked like ski poles in their hands, and by locals who obviously thought I had lost my mind as I wandered round and round……and round.
Clarity came through ice cream however, and finally I found my path. If only it were so simple in real life.
Nose in my book, I heeded the detailed route instructions it gave, following the overgrown grassy track which led to a meandering stream. Crossing the water using the glistening stepping stones and veering left alongside a clumsy stone wall, blanketed by moss.
Going through a small wooden kissing gate and following the path as it snaked ever upward among lush evergreens. Avoiding the sheep. Avoiding the cow pats. Climbing the rocky outcrops past a small pond which my guide claimed would have fireflies dancing above it. Ignoring the first rickety gate on the left, and ignoring the stone that had managed to wriggle its way, uninvited into my left boot. Climbing some more rocky outcrops, ascending and reading, ascending and reading.
This wasn’t the fun that I thought it would be. Concentrating so hard on the written word that I couldn’t enjoy the scenery, staring intently at every available landmark, wondering constantly if I’ve taken a wrong turn and my backpack eliciting small rivulets of sweat which trickled down my back. I’d started to wish I’d done a city break.
Thankfully, the book finally told me to stop at a point where I could ‘rest for a while and enjoy the beautiful views behind me’. With laboured breath, I followed the latest instruction, dropped my backpack and turned to see the promised vision that I had dutifully followed my detailed walking map to find.
It took my breath away.