In a truly relaxed fashion, the Royal Oak Hotel in Borrowdale had us waiting for breakfast until 8:00 AM, far later than I would wait to eat on any regular backpacking trip. It was well worth the wait, and it encouraged us to settle deeper into the relaxing nature of the Coast to Coast walk. It is not a race. It is an experience. No need to rush.
In the Lake District, Wainwright’s trail follows a distinct pattern. You start out from your lodgings in a low valley, ascend to a ridge, explore that ridge, then drop into another valley in search of your next bed. Such a schedule is wonderful for many reasons. By focusing most of your climbing in the morning, you ensure that you have fresh legs and often cooler weather. By lunch, the sun has hopefully burnt off some of the clouds and you are able to take full advantage of the panoramic vistas that Lakeland so often provides. Finally, just as you are starting to tire, you start walking downhill, all the while knowing that a hot shower lies at the bottom. What a civilized way to travel.
Today was an idyllic representation of that schedule. The weather cooperated, keeping us cool as we ascended Eagle Crag to Greenup Edge Pass, but warming up as soon as we began our traverse towards Helm Crag. From ridge line to high pass, we were constantly engulfed in the imagery of the Lakeland Fells. Bracken covered slopes, glassy tarns, murmuring streams, grazed pastures, rocky outcroppings, and sweeping valleys were impossible to avoid wherever you looked. These views were rarely, if ever, hemmed by trees or other obstructions. For photographers, such immense vistas force you to realize that a camera cannot capture that moment. It is both a humbling and exciting realization.
Our ridge line terminated at Helm Crag, a rocky edifice not unlike Tolkien’s Weathertop. In place of Ringwraiths, we were joined by hikers heading down into Grasmere. This town, famous for its connection to the poet William Wordsworth, is almost too perfect. Encircled by ridges of bracken and rock, the foundations of Grasmere seem untouched by the modern age. Despite the occasional tourist bus, the slate roofs, wandering ivy, and mossy stone walls seem to be truly timeless. It is one of those places where you feel like you are constantly walking around in a postcard. Last, but certainly not least, it is the home of Green’s Cafe, a small bistro that has a surprisingly wonderful menu full of vegan delicacies. The Vegetable Boulangere turned out to be the perfect way to end a fantastic day of wandering in Wainwright’s footsteps. Luckily, we are taking our first rest day here, so we get to enjoy all that Grasmere it has to offer.