Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
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C2C Day 12 - 10 Miles Before Breakfast
Clay Bank Top -> Blakey Ridge

     Early morning in the Schesse-frei pub backyard. The very first light of day glances off of the still and quiet (and glisteningly wet) tents.
Mark: I suppose there's nothing for it but to get moving.
Me: But we don't have to do it now.
Mark: I wonder if we could for once manage not to be excruciatingly early or absurdly late for breakfast . . . Darby Danger, we're up!
Darby (muffled): Great. I might get up if you lie to me and tell me it's warm outside . . .
     It hardly was, but we dragged ourselves out anyway and began breaking down camp – and trying to dry it out before packing it up. (Yes, it had rained overnight again.) In the way of new innovations in tent drying, I draped ours half over the adjacent fence – on the other side of which was a livestock pen.
Darby (amused): Is this the part where a sheep eats the other half of your tent?
     So yesterday's destination, Clay Bank Top, actually just denoted a place on the trail that had various forms of accommodation a mile or two north of it, and a mile or two south of it. You takes your choice. (I told you'd we'd been improvising more.) We'd gone south. So this morning involved starting the day with a slightly improvised, but very murderous climb to get us back onto the C2C. Good thing we were still asleep!

When things levelled out, admittedly after not too long, we spilled out onto some more moor – and passed no fewer than nine stone grouse-shooting blinds tucked in the heather. I was sorely tempted, I can tell you, to take a big steaming dump in one of the blinds – because it would have made a good privy, but mainly just to stick it to the hunters. But I fairly quickly remembered that I was a guest in this country – and that I was an extra special tread-gingerly-please guest in the countryside of the north.

We then found ourselves on a truly lovely stretch of straight, flat, dry, soft road. That's pretty hard to beat, especially on this trip. I fell behind M & D, as I am wont to do. When I eventually caught them up (which I also always do, so far at least), they informed me that they had developed such an affection for this easement that they had named it.

Mark: Robert the Road – the best road in all of North Yorkshire.
     Who was I to argue? It did have quite a gentle vibe to it. Not to mention some intermittently stunning stretches of sky hanging over it. It was also very nicely waymarked – no danger of getting lost.

We soon came upon – and I kid you not here – the absolute winning cutest sheep family of the entire trip. Man. Are those lambs too cute for this world or what? These are not as good as the family portrait, but due to anticipated popular demand, here's another shot of the lambs and also another one. Here's the family portrait again, because you know you want to look at it some more.

We started contemplating a stop, and picked a crossroads up ahead that looked promising. However, I veered off into a hilly patch of heather. We had left the camp site before the pub (and its toilet) had opened. I'd had a huge dinner (as always). Now I was on a mission: The Second Triumphal Fuchs Crap on the Moors! When I returned, and began stretching against the signpost at the crossroads, I was all,

Me: Ah! that certainly lightens the load! I feel positively spry. And of course nothing says good morning like moving bowels.
     I probably shouldn't be commended for bringing such an unabashedly scatological tone to this dispatch. I certainly wasn't commended for bringing it to the trip.

While the stop was needed, these moors – playing to character – were awfully windswept, so we moved on pretty quickly. Here I am, I thought. Walking on the York Moors. Alive.

We passed this valley off to one side. From notes: "some desolate country - and windy." We stopped again later, taking shelter from the wind in a depression (Darby doing a serviceable Popeye impression). The moors got a bit greener.

Surprisingly quickly, our destination – the Red Lion, the one thing of any sort on Blakey Ridge – appeared on the horizon. We realised we would be finishing the day's walk before 11AM!

Me: Wow. Nothing like a ten-mile hike before lunch.
Mark: Before breakfast.
     Mark and I dossed out near the entrance while Darby went in to inquire about rooms. (We always sent Darby in to inquire about rooms. And meals. And basically anything where it might help for people to be nice to us, which they always seem to be nicer to girls.) Her femininity notwithstanding, the Red Lion was, naturally, fully booked.

This meant two things: 1) We were going to have to camp on the exposed hilltop. Wandering over to check it out, we saw that it was completely subject to, well, let's just conservatively call it a gale-force wind, which swept ceaselessly over the face of the ridge. (We were, did I mention, on the very top of a high ridge.) I made a mental (and, actually, verbal) note to write to the guidebook writer with a humble suggestion for the next edition of the book (warning: non-Mom-safe footnote!). 2) was that – since we didn't have rooms to hang out in, and hanging out in the tents out in the gale was a non-starter – we were going to have to kill something on the order of 12 hours just sitting around in the main area of the pub.

So, naturally enough, we got busy drinking. Luckily, the interior of the pub was really lovely, with roaring fires and stone slabs and dark wood. We ensconced ourselves in the corner – our base of operations for the rest of the day.

We continued drinking. We ordered some bar snacks. We played quite a lot of several variations of gin. Mark and I recollected that time we had to kill two days in Victoria Falls, when Zimbabwe was burning down around our ears. We talked with a few other C2Cers who wandered in and out. In particular, Darby went off and spent a lot of time with the Cowboy and the Preacher, who had turned up at some point – as well as with an elderly, eccentric, funny, lovely bloke called Gordon. Mark and I hadn't really met him at this point. More on Gordon later.

Mark and I ventured out to set up the tents (with great trepidation). For some reason – and I'm guessing it's a fast shutter speed in the bright light – this photo captures absolutely none of the experience of trying to set up tents in a 40mph wind. Suffice it to say, we staked for our lives. We staked for the center of the Earth. We staked for drawn-bowstring-like tension. We really didn't want to blow away in the night.

We went back in and carried on drinking. I took a shower. (Kick-ass shower!) We ordered dinner. We ate dinner. Darby, after much agonising, decided to move in with us for the night, because A) It was too bloody cold to be in a tent alone with that wind sucking heat out of it like a meat locker; and B) she sort of trusted us and our intentions by this point. (I mean, hey, how could our completely gentlemanly, chivalric, classically Romantic natures not show through after all this time and close proximity?) Naturally, Mark and I pumped our fists in the air and cheered. "We get to sleep with Darby!! Yeah!!"

Finally, unable to put it off any longer we made our dash across the bare ridge top. We jammed all the gear into Darby's abandoned tent. And we shacked up. Here's a video that actually more or less captures the experience of camping on Blakey Ridge: Tent Ride (596kb, realmedia)

Just as I was getting bedded down, Mark called me back outside – to look at the sky. It was doing some amazing things in the dusk: This and this and this and this.

Tomorrow: Day 13 - Blakey Ridge to Grosmont (13.5 miles through deep mud and soup-like fog!)

  coast-to-coast walk     camping     danger     dargbles     drinking     humour     photography     pitely     walking     wildlife  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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