The Pennine Way IV: Tan Hill to Alston

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, June 13, 2010

For the next three days we followed the PW's brief excursion into the counties of Durham & Cumbria. After a less than promising mucky start over Bowes Moor (one of the few bogs on the PW that hasn't yet had the flagstone paving treatment), this section was by far the most beautiful of the Pennine Way. Our evening descent into Teesdale on 10 June coincided with the breakup of the gray murky skies we'd been hiking under for days, yielding landscapes and lightscapes of arresting beauty. On the 11th we followed the peaty, foaming Tees, which looks like a river of Guinness or root beer, past a succession of gorgeous rapids and falls: Low Force, High Force, Cauldron Snout. The Way then traversed a remote-feeling moor and broke through the hills at High Cup Nick, a vast glacial bite out of the east face of the Pennines, edged with sheer dolerite pillars, overlooking the lush Vale of Eden and the Lake District peaks. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful.

12 June was a succession of grand hills: Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell, and Cross Fell (at 893m the highest point on the Pennine Way). In bad weather, this would have been horrible, but this was a rare clear day, and the views west over Cumbria and north to Carlisle were unforgettable. After Cross Fell, it was a long downhill amble to the South Tyne at Garrigill, and then a final 3 miles along the river to Alston.

Our campsite was in a trailer park just off the town junkyard; the bathrooms were in a bizarre bunker reached through an old underground petrol tank that had been turned into a tunnel. We were joined there by our friend B from Tearfund Afghanistan. A fellow Yankee, she had brought red and white face paint so she and Joel could be safely camouflaged while watching the England-USA World Cup match in the town hall.

On 13 June, we had a full English at B's B&B, and then enjoyed a rest day in Alston. As with most of our rest days, this one was tipping down with rain, and we spent the whole day in a nice warm hotel pub, chatting and reading the papers.
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