The Field School reserves Sundays as the students’ only day off, and after the first rigorous week of excavation it is encouraged to catch up on activities such as homework, correspondence, or some much needed rest. For some of the Field Schoolers, however, the opportunity to go on another adventure could not be turned down. This Sunday Professor Meyer offered to take a van load of eager students to hike a mountain path in the Lakes District as a sneak preview to next weekend’s proper trip to that incredibly scenic region.
The itinerary was to leave Haltwhistle at 8:00 AM GMT, arrive in the lakes by 9:30 and begin our 700m ascent on foot from Hartsop to reach the Roman road which travesreses the mountain path by late morning and finish our descent by mid-afternoon after taking in the beautiful sites of the Lakes District from high above after the morning clouds had lifted. It nearly went to plan. Nearly.
The morning started well enough; after arriving only slightly behind schedule from an impromptu stop for coffee, we began our ascent under cloud cover without any of the forecasted rain, and with low wind speeds. We were met on our path by numerous other hikers, bickers, and their canine companions. Spirits were high on the ascent, and the intense activity mixed with the mild weather had most of us down to a single layer of clothing. Yet as we approached the first high point of the hike, which still remained obscured by clouds, we put on our waterproofs and prepared for rain.
Once we entered the clouds, we would not leave them until we descended. Walking through clouds is trying; there is no shelter or refrain from the icy moisture which settles in from all around. Worst of all visibility was minimal, which not only eliminated completely the beautiful scenery below, but was also very disorienting. Only due to proper care and attention did we prevent straying from our path. Occasionally that path included glimpses of the Roman road, but sadly this too disappeared into the mist.
We lunched shortly after noon with the protection of a high point marker before beginning the descent down a steep rocky slope and then through a different valley back towards Hartsop. Within minutes of our gradual descent through the rocky path, we finally broke cloud cover and witnessed the striking views of two separate valleys. Despite the tedious mist which hindered our trek along the mountain pass, the vantage from our descent alone made the entire hike worth while. In the end we made it back to the car on schedule and even made a quick stop at a nearby waterfall. Hopefully the weather will allow for the Lake District to reveal all its beauty next weekend, but until then this will have to do.
Now we all really must get some rest and dry out our soaking wet boots before we head back to Vindolanda for an even more exciting week of excavations.