Kirby Stephen to Keld

Stedman described the day to Keld as boggy. As the master of understatement, it should be note that if Stedman casually proclaims a section to be boggy, it really means that you will be slipping and sliding and up to your ears in mud, muck and other things that shall be left unnamed. Record rainfall had left the ground impassable at points and the route up to Nine Standards was shrouded in the myth of a group of walkers who were supposedly air-evacuated out the week prior. At breakfast we made the decision to omit Nine Standards. Our breakfast at White Gill House may have been one of the best; the proprietor is an excellent cook. The meal was even more pleasant because our new friends, M&G, also spent the night at White Gill House and we had a lovely and relaxing breakfast together in the dining room. When it came time to pay for our pack lunch, we were astounded. For five pounds apiece our packed lunches contained two corned beef, tomato, Swaledale cheese and salad sandwiches (two per person), a Ribena, an apple, a bag of crisps, a Mars bar and some kind of Cadbury Granola bar. It should be apparently clear, dear reader, that despite walking 200 Miles I didn’t shed a f*%$#ing pound.

Shortly into our walk we passed the half way point, a tremendous feeling. We knew that we were going to be able to make it. The weather was marvelous and we met another lovely couple who, like many of the walkers we encountered, were walking in memory of a friend who had recently died of Cancer. They were on a mission to complete in a short time frame because they were being funded per mile and per minute with the proceeds going to a Cancer research organization. They were perfect company across the boggiest bits because their speed helped us get across some of the most confusing parts of the route. The photo above is a bit of an illusion. The ground looks gorgeous, but it is all a facade. The grass just lightly lays atop the mud. With fairly little pressure, your walking stick and whole body will quickly be submerged.

Walking the final mile or so into Keld was fabulous. Keld is one of the more remote points on the route and the Keld Lodge is a welcome respite. Run by an American and British proprietor, their hotel has all the amenities a walker desires- a toasty drying room, a heated drying rack, a friendly pub, and a restaurant with an original and locally sourced menu. As a fellow American, I was excited to have the opportunity to order a FlufferNutter sandwich for lunch (again I lost no weight whatsoever).

Keld Lodge is where I first heard about the midge, as warnings were posted everywhere. I was unsure and curious as to what they were refering-I would find out the next morning.

The evening was full of pomp and celebration as we toasted the birthday of fellow walkers B&L with our friends M&G. My husband sampled many of the local brews and I found myself working my way through glass after glass of whiskey to both numb my pain and party with our friends. The gentleman who owned the Old Water View in Paterdale had commented that the friendships made on the Coast to Coast are like no other. In Paterdale, we had yet to firm up any relationship with anyone, but by Keld I felt as if I had known my compatriots for my entire life.

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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