by Will Perry
For the next five and a half hours I would not see a single person on the trail. At this point in the walk, the Moors were depressingly flat and desolate—no trees, no shelter. The tallest thing I would see were the ankle-high heather bushes. The wind and the rain intensified as I trudged on. My layers were soaked through and because I had forwarded my heavy pack to The Lion Inn, I had no spare layers. With no cellphone coverage, there was no turning back. It became obvious to me that if I stopped walking, my body would be in trouble. Hours earlier I had found a slight ditch, laying my body flat in an effort to block the wind and allow for my body to rest. Thirty seconds later, my body started to shake and I began to feel a chill spread across my body. The warm sweat underneath my jacket became cold and my core body temperature began to drop rapidly. Seriously doubting my reasons for undertaking this walk in the first place, I forced myself to think about baseball and drier, sunnier, happier summer days. I pushed on, keeping my mind strong–remembering the kids in Brazil that would soon be playing baseball with the equipment I helped send to them.
Walking across the Moors was easily becoming the most difficult physical challenge I had ever experienced. It was a solo fight against exhaustion, dehydration, wind and rain. I lost my footing on a few occasions, nearly collapsing out of the increasing dizziness and exhaustion. Augmenting my food and water intake seemed to do nothing to improve my health. I resigned to desperate measures so as to keep myself going. I played the alphabet game in my head—naming out-loud the names of different animals that started with each letter of the alphabet. I tried singing out-loud any song to which I knew the words. I couldn’t help but glance at my watch after every 100 yards or so. After the alphabet game and my attempts to sing became a nuisance, I tried writing my Master’s dissertation in my head as I walked. Luckily, the subject of my dissertation was about the role of baseball in building peace among nations and communities in conflict. My mind was carried away in baseball thoughts until I turned a corner and finally saw, as described, the isolated pub in the middle of nowhere.
The Inn appeared to me as an oasis in the middle of a desert; a figment of my imagination too good to be true. It would take me 45 minutes to reach Lion Inn after first sight. Even with the inn in plain sight, those approaching minutes seemed slower than any of the past 10 hours. The walk had dragged on and on. Because of the less than pleasant circumstances, the landscape of the fabled “Yorkshire Moors” became as upsetting as how my stomach felt. My spirits were lifted once I finally arrived at the inn, hobbling my way inside.
by Will Perry
The next morning I was on my way to Reeth, through the beautiful valleys that cradled the River Swale that connected Keld to Richmond. When I arrived to Reeth, I was able to recharge some of my electronic devices, send a postcard to my wife and even Facetime with her for a few hours. As I was searching for a good pub to eat dinner, two ladies approached me and inquired about the baseball hanging from my rucksack. I explained to them why I was walking across England and they seemed very intrigued. We sat down and chatted for a bit about the highlights of the walk thus far. They were appalled about the level of midges I had encountered and didn’t know how I could do it. Well, it just so happens that one of the ladies and her husband, not wanting me to “brave the bivy” and sleep with the midges another night, insisted that I stay with them in a spare bedroom in the B&B their family had rented out for the weekend. I gratefully accepted their offer and spent most of the night chatting with them. Staying with them meant I would have a shower, charged electronic devices, internet connection, a comfortable bed and most importantly, have a respite from the midges which had plagued me throughout my walk. It was a great night.
A reprieve from this!
The next day’s walk was the shortest of my entire journey. I walked only 8 miles to a camping barn just outside Richmond. I was grateful to have a respite from the midges inside a bunkhouse conversion from old cattle stalls. The hard mattress ironically wasn’t as comfortable as my therm-a-rest, but access to a toilet, shower, a sink for washing and a clothesline were very welcome luxuries.
When I arrived in Richmond, I resupplied and took a few hours to eat a nice sausage roll at the local bakery and pickup a package I had sent to the post office at Richmond. From there I journeyed through the flat, uneventful 22 mile slog until I reached the small village of Osmotherley on the western boundary of the North Yorkshire Moors.
The day I left Osmotherley I had woken up with a fever and wasn’t feeling very well. Even though I hadn’t slept in a bivy bag the previous three nights, I found myself shivering throughout the night despite being plenty warm. I hadn’t realized it at the time, nor did I allow myself to, but I must have contracted some sort of bug or infection from the midges and was also experiencing the onset of a flu and the beginning of a rather annoying bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea, just for the record, is quite possibly the worst thing you can have doing a long-distance walk, with the exception of a broken foot or leg of course.
As I set off from Osmotherly, and took the Cleveland Way, climbing and descending the Cleveland Hills, severe exhaustion started to set in. The fun was gone—the only thing keeping me going was the goal I had set to reach my destination for the day—The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. That goal, only four miles into my day, was still 12 miles away. 12 miles with my heavy rucksack and at the pace I had been going throughout my walk would take an estimated five hours. At this point I was on top of the windswept North Yorkshire Moors with no refuge or cover from the harrowing wind and heavy rain attacking me as I walked. Wincing as I walked, with piercing stomach pains, my two moisture wicking layers underneath my windproof and waterproof jacket seemed to do very little to protect me. I felt as though I had just jumped out of a warm pool as the layers underneath my jacket were soaked through and dripping with sweat (most likely due to the onset of the flu).
by Will Perry
The following morning I was up at 4am, hoping to avoid the midges at all cost as I walked alongside the lake into the mountainous terrain of the Lake District. My hopes were dashed as I was “midge food” for the next 6-7 hours. When I finally reached the peaks in the Lake District near Great Gable, the midges became far less present. However, while the midges became less of a problem, the arch in my right foot was developing a deep bruise and blisters were forming as a result of not being able to stop earlier to tend to my feet because of the onslaught of midges everywhere I went. As I reached the highest point of the walk thus far, I was noticeably limping with a pack probably 15 pounds too heavy and some very early foot problems.
As I descended past the Honister Slate Mine and past Rothswaite, I met a couple from Oxford that insisted I get my foot checked out in Keswick, as it would be my only chance to get medical help for the next 10 days. After a quick checkup in Keswick, my blisters were bandaged up and I switched to my Cloudster running shoes from ON Shoes who had sponsored me with a pair of shoes for my walk. The shoes were a God-send. I hung up my boots for the rest of the day.
The next day I picked the trail up again in Keswick, making my way to Grasmere, through the valley past Helvellyn into Patterdale. Along the way, I met a man who had noticed my Seattle Mariners ball cap asked if I was a Mariners fan. A big smile came to my face as I thought to myself, “finally, after one year of living in the UK, I can finally talk baseball with someone who cares!” Nearly salivating at the opportunity of talking baseball, after having been starved from its goodness for the past year, we swapped baseball stories as we marched on through the Lake District. Turns out, he’s from Vancouver, B.C., and saw ‘The Double’ when Edgar hit the game winning double to score Griffey and win the ’95 ALDS. As a kid, watching that moment on television was one of the most memorable and impactful events of my life. It solidified my love affair with baseball. He saw the baseball hanging from my rucksack and asked what it had written on it. I showed him what I had written, ‘Coast to Coast for Brazilian Baseball’ and explained that I was walking to raise enough funds to equip an entire under served community in Brazil with baseball gear (bats, gloves, balls, catcher’s gear, the works). Being a baseball guy himself, he got really excited about the cause and gave me a few pounds to help glove a young player in Brazil. It was refreshing to talk baseball again.
Patterdale was unquestionably the highlight of my walk to this point. The man who owned the post office-general store in the village was an American originally from Boston who had been living in Patterdale for years with his English wife. I told him I was doing the Coast-to-Coast walk to raise money for baseball equipment to send to youngsters in Brazil. He got pretty excited about that and wished me luck on my journey.
The walk out of Patterdale up the ridge to Kidsty Pike was breathtaking. The views in this easterly part of the Lake District were extraordinary. As I descended to Haweswater Reservoir, the rugged terrain of the beautiful Lake District chapter was coming to an end. Now I would be entering Shap and continuing on through Limestone pavement as I entered Kirkby Stephen. The next day’s walk was primarily through farmland until I reached the beautiful valley of Swaledale as I entered the Yorkshire Dales at the small village of Keld. When I arrived into Keld it was nearly dusk and the midges at the campsite where I would camp for the night were more numerous than the midges at Ennerdale on the first night of my trip. Donning my mosquito head net, I ran around trying to brush the armies of midges off my entire body before diving into my bivy bag. By the time I managed to dive into the bivy, an entire community of midges were inside waiting for me. I had no other alternative. I would later discover that Keld had a reputation for having the most midges in all of England, and gave the notorious midges of Scotland a run for their money. It was another long, sweaty, miserable night of having my body covered in bugs.