Lake District National Park

After one full day on the Isle of Man, we departed Douglas via the ferry to Heysham on the mainland. We used the 3 hour ferry ride to relax in the lounge area, since there wasn’t a ton to see in the empty Irish Sea – except for a huge wind farm.

Upon landing in Heysham, we attempted to catch a bus to Windermere. Unfortunately, the money we had gathered in change on the Isle of Man was Manx money, not widely accepted on the mainland. But of course they will take Sterling on the island… traveler beware! We were able to scrape together enough to get to Lancaster nearby. It seems like a town worth visiting, based on our brief glance as we sat down to lunch prior to catching a train the rest of the way to the Lake District.

The Lake District has lakes, it is true, but also England’s largest mountains. Windermere, the entry point to the central Lakes, is a small town with a resort feel. There are a variety of outdoor shops, our clue that this is a walker’s paradise. “Walking”, the British term for hiking, is how the locals connect with the “fells” (hills/peaks).

After our arrival we walked a short distance from the train station to a viewpoint called Orrest Head. Most of the trails in the National Park are actually on privately owned sheep rangeland, and a variety of creatively engineered self-closing gates keep the sheep where they’re supposed to stay.

Lake Windermere from Orrest Head

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Isle of Man

After 4 days over Easter weekend in London, Andrea and I hopped on a flight to the Isle of Man for the first of our two side trips. I honestly hadn’t done much background research on the island before my visit, so here’s what I figured out:

The Isle of Man is a “crown dependency” of the UK although it is not officially part of the United Kingdom. With the oldest continuous parliament in the world, IoM has a historic independent streak. The Manx language can still be found in pockets on the island. Now, the island is best known as a tax shelter for offshore financial businesses as well as the death-defying Isle of Man “TT” motorcycle races. As the locals viewed it “only 1 person died last year, we were pretty happy.”

Getting to the island turned into a huge ordeal. We flew out of London Stansted for a projected flight of just over an hour. We ended up circling over the island, waiting for a sea fog to clear from the runway. It never did before we ran out of fuel, so we diverted to Birmingham airport. Naturally, the airline’s course of action was to stick us on a bus back to London. We were unsatisfied with that answer, so we switched our flight to Manchester, got a ride with a friendly fellow passenger, and got to check out two additional British cities before our successful flight that night.

Manchester cathedral

Downtown “observation wheel”

The next morning brought a perfectly clear day. We walked along the promenade and checked out the little shopping area in Douglas, the largest town on the island. Andrea decided to brave the traditional Manx breakfast: smoked fish called Kippers. With so many little bones, eating it resembled doing surgery but she said it was tasty. Continue reading Isle of Man

Dumpster Divin’: Blowdown Mountain and Lake Twentytwo

Hiking trips aren’t always spectacular, magazine-worthy endeavors. Here are a couple of examples from a recent weekend.

Blowdown Mountain (4/18/15)

I wanted to go for a mountain run for exercise and decided to explore a little bit higher on the Mt. Si ridge without doing the slog that is Mt. Teneriffe in the snow, so I found this little “gem” on Summitpost, described as a “Peakbagger’s peak, nothing more, nothing less”. I found this peak has a lot to recommend for itself.

For one, the approach follows the Mt. Si for most of the elevation gain (one of the most crowded trails in the I-90 corridor). Here’s nwhikers poster Angry Hiker’s artistic rendition:

Credit: The Angry Hiker

From the Haystack, proceed through the trees along a faint foot/deer/old Jeep trail up the ridge. How is there snow here still?? I was, of course, in running shoes and shorts with no gaiters and promptly packed my shoes full of snow.

The Haystack

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