Anyway, I collected my luggage and rental car, and took off to the Lake District. Down to Carlisle, over to Cockermouth, and then into the countryside to a little village called Branthwaite, just east of Workington. It took about three hours, including my stop in Carlisle to buy groceries and ice. I ate dinner at a pub in Branthwaite, while I waited for the camp to open.
I had originally planned to stay at commercial camping sites on this trip, since I wasn't leading a Scouting group; however, I had problems nailing down reservations for the first part of my trip. Eventually, I began to call campsites in the UK directly, as well as e-mail them. That's when I discovered that I was arriving on a combination Bank Holiday and school break, and everything was pretty much booked. So, I began to contact Boy Scout camps. Branthwaite Scout Camp had a group in that weekend, but they agreed to share the place with me, and so I found myself being introduced to the Scouts and Guides of St. Michael's, Workington.
The Scouts and Guides were out on a four-day camping trip, with lots of fun and games and qualifying for badges. About 15-16 Scouts, 12 Guides, and various leaders were there for the weekend. They made me feel very welcome. One little 11-year-old, Adam, was particularly forward in getting to know me. He made me feel very welcome. The leaders were all great folks, and their weekend was shaping up to be a lot of fun.
Up and Down the Pike
The next morning, I was up betimes, had my stuff ready, and left for Scafell Pike before anyone else was stirring, about 5:45 a.m. An hour later, I arrived at Wasdale Head, at the foot of the Pike. Three years ago, our Venture Crew made two attempts on this mountain. We drove two SUVs in rain and fog over Hardknott Pass (and what an adventure that was), only to decide that the weather was too bad to attempt the climb in. So we returned the next day on a do-or-die hike up the mountain in occasional rain. We were nearing the top of the crest when we paused in a rainshower to get dry and warm. That's when Hannah said she wasn't feeling well. I returned down the mountain with her and two others, while the other four completed the ascent.
This day, the weather was fair, but there was a cold wind blowing down the mountain. It was in my face all the way up. I made good progress at first, but it was hard to make myself keep going after a bit. Then I looked down on Wast Water and how far I'd come already. I remember thinking that it would be good to have a companion for such a trip, because it's difficult to pace yourself, take the necessary breaks, etc., when you're alone. But looking back gives you a wonderful sense of how far you've come – so you go on.
There's an application to the spiritual life here: It's better to make the trip to the mountaintop with others (the Church), but don't wait for others to want to go. And when you get discouraged, looking back and remembering how far you've come with God gives you strength to complete the journey.
Once I crested the ridge, the wind almost blew me off the mountain. I hunkered down and walked forward into the teeth of it. The peak was just ahead. I paused there only briefly before heading back down another way. The wind was at my back the whole way down.
Scafell Pike is 978 meters high. I set out at 7:00 a.m., summitted at 10:30 a.m., and was back in my car at the bottom by 12:49 p.m. Just under six hours for the whole hike. I didn't even have to stop for lunch.
Ave Atque Vale
Before stopping for lunch, I drove on up Eskdale to Hardknott Pass to find the Roman fort. Three years before, we had stopped at the trivia marker, only to be unable to make out the fort in the mist and murk. Now, I had a fine day to walk the ruins and survey the valley below. So, another ghost from the past was laid.
The Romans maintained a fort at Ravensglass on the coast against marauding Scots and Picts. Eskdale was seen as a natural invasion route, so their fort at the top of the pass enabled them to quickly reinforce their troops below. If those troops were overrun, reinforcements from their fort at Ambleside (on the other side of the pass) could come forward to assist the men at Hardknott holding off the invaders.
I returned to Branthwaite and spent the evening hobnobbing with Scouts, Guides, and Leaders. It was a great time of fellowship. In the morning, I helped conduct a Scouts' Own (worship service) before leaving camp. I left them some patches as a gift; they gave me some of their badges, too. They were all of them fine boys and girls and leaders, and I'd love to have any of them join us over here for a bit of Scouting.
Next: Up Against the Wall.