Day 3 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – “Bog slog”

What a way to spend the last day of my 74th year on planet Earth! Mike and I departed Kirkby Stephen at about 9 this morning. There was an unfortunate waste of 45 minutes caused by a wrong turn in town and a stop at the pharmacy to find  a remedy for Mike’s congestion. But the delay was fortuitous because, on the early part of the ascent out of the village, we were joined by Sally from Juneau who stayed with us for about one third of the day’s walk. The route to Keld has three options that are largely dependent on the season and, in particular, the amount of rainfall you are likely to encounter. The reason for this has to do with the often extreme bogginess to be encountered in the upper reaches of this climb. Anyway, Mike and I had resolved to go the safest, least boggy, route called the Green Route. Sally, who had heard reports from  other walkers of the preternaturally dry condition of the bogs after the recent dry spell, urged us to join her on the Blue Route which would take us up to the Nine Standards Rig, the high point of the trek and a destination in its own right. [A third route, which is recommended in only the driest conditions but also includes the Nine Standards, is called the Red Route.]  We conquered the steeps in pretty good time to reach the Rig and we have pictures to prove it.

The ascent to the Rig was but the first phase of a day that had three distinct parts. That initial phase presented the physical challenge of a relentlessly uphill climb where the best approach is to look at your shoes moving one step at a time because to look up at the path ahead is too dispiriting. The occasional stop to look backward at your progress was a mild reward for the effort.

The second phase of this day came after leaving the Rig and it was the psychological challenge presented by the task of traversing a featureless boggy wetland where there are few to no clues as to where the trail actually goes. We did get lost briefly but with the assistance of our GPS app and having spied another hiker striding with no apparent effort along a low ridge about 75 yards away we successfully navigated our way out of the wetland and onto what turned out to be the red route but not without both of us becoming soaked by slips and dips into the boggy muck. Mike labeled this phase the “Bog Slog”.

The third distinct phase of the day was the very long trek along paved roads to get from Ravenshead Farm (the 2/3 marker) into this village of Keld. The farm is listed as a possible rest stop for walkers but it was closed for the season.  It seems that there is an off-road trail form the farm into Keld but we opted to avoid the slight back track required to reach the trail head and stuck to the roadway instead.  It was almost surely a longer trek overall but the flatness and predictability of the macadam surface was a fair trade off. As Mike said, “The last part of these walks is always a head game.” Your mind becomes fully occupied with the notion of reaching the end. And the end cannot come quickly enough. But phase 3 ended well. We walked into the Keld Lodge, our digs for the night, where we were greeted at the door by Sally who, after parting from us at the Rig, had arrived here two hours before we did.  She had already arranged with the innkeeper to supply drinks on her tab to the “two distinguished gentlemen” who would be following her in. A lovely and a welcome gesture.

I am now sitting alone in the lounge of this place to let you all know that we are tired but happy after notching another successful segment on our way to the North Sea.

The Nine Standards Rig


The Bogs

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