One unremarkable day in 2008, a fellow dog-lover friend had a birthday party for her beloved pooch and I was invited. By accepting that invitation I began what continues to be an annual selection, planning, training and participation in long-distance hiking adventures. At that party, a couple was regaling others with their recent experiences hiking across England. This conversation immediately received my full attention since I was (and still am) fascinated by England; I had always hoped to spend more time in the lovely English countryside. Although I had not attempted a hike longer than twenty miles in the California Sierras, I made up my mind then and there that I would duplicate this newly discovered “Coast to Coast Path” which crossed across the entire span of northern England – and I would do it the next year!
In an attempt to keep costs down, I would plan the trip myself and carry my hiking gear. Now, I just needed to find someone to go with me. My son’s mother-in-law in Bozeman, Montana heard of my intentions and jumped at the opportunity to join up. And springtime with its abundance of wildflowers seemed to be a perfect time to go. So, by that winter I began to train rigorously, hiking near our home in the San Francisco East Bay’s rolling hills. I knew that in order to thoroughly enjoy this trek I must work out all the bumps and kinks before, rather than during, the hike.
My initial investigation revealed that “Path” is the English term for the terms walk, hike or trek. This Coast to Coast Path crosses three national parks, all with quite different terrains: the mountainous Lake District, the limestone river valleys and hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the high moors of the North York Moors National Park. I was advised to save the best, the Lake District, for last, which would mean hiking east to west. This direction does have the scenic advantage just mentioned, but most people hike this trail from west to east so as to walk with the prevailing wind at their back, a consideration when on the trail many hours every day. With this number and variety of hikers walking the same trail in the same direction, there is what might be called a social advantage, since you may walk with the same people for days at a time, or you might see the same people at the various B&Bs along the path. Good conversation and occasional friendships. I should add that the path is by no means crowded! Then, after completing the East to West route, I decided to hike in the westerly direction the following year. All in all, it is a wonderful trek either way, and I may just do it again!