Through Bogs, Rain and purple Heather to the Sea - Coast to Coast Trail England II.

October 1, 2023

Coast to Coast Trail England, North York Moors National Park, Heather
From coast to coast - through rain, sun, storm and light

My face feels like an eel that has been in the freezer overnight, my feet are sponges and I don't really know which way we are walking anymore. Fog, there's fog everywhere. And bogs. We're on England's Coast to Coast Trail - three weeks of long-distance walking, 190 miles on foot from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. At least I hope so, because the rain is sweeping horizontally into our eyes, the ground is full of knee- and waist-high bogs, and visibility is zero. Are we perhaps walking in circles already?


We are standing on the Nine Standards Rigg, where nine cairns are lined up. I hide from the wind behind of one of them to take a few pictures without the storm blowing my camera to Egypt or the lens being immediately sandblasted by the heavy rain.

"I'm taking a few quick photos!" I shout to my boyfriend who is standing patiently in the apocalyptic rain. I always take photos because if we survive our shenanigans, I can write about it on my blog or Instagram afterwards. I sometimes wonder about my priorities while my feet are sinking down into the muddy ground.

How we got out of it again, overcame five days of cornfields and continuous rain and were surprised at the end with purple heather carpets and glamping by the sea—now here.

Nine standards - and the rain god has no mercy

Bogs, Coast to Coast Trail England, Nine Standards Rigg, red route, different routes, Sarah Bauer
Is this a bridge - seriously?

"We're going the green route today via the road in the valley," says a group of Norwegians we meet on the trail. "On the blue route up the mountain yesterday, someone sank up to his waist in the bog."


A warning that should have given us pause for reflection, since Norwegians are usually so tough that they eat half an elk raw for breakfast, then hike 50 miles in under 30 minutes.


We decide to take the middle path, the red route. It also leads over the mountain, but maybe the bog there is not waist deep. Anyone can walk across the road in the valley—ha!


Shortly after we start, we are standing in front of a bridge. Or what is left of it. Half of it lies under brown, opaque water. I poke my more than three-feet-long walking stick into the soup ahead and find no solid ground.

Nine Standard Rigg, England, Coast to Coast, National Trail, long-distance hiking, rain, bogs
The Nine Standards - who knows where they came from

We plod around for a while until we find a detour where we jump over rotten boards and somehow find ourselves halfway dry on the other side.


But we could have saved ourselves the trouble, because shortly thereafter a huge cloud swallows us and shoots streams of ice-cold raindrops horizontally at us for the next few hours.


On top of the 2,170-foot summit we take a short break at the Nine Standards. Nine 13-foot-high stone towers that no one knows exactly when they were built or why.


They were first mentioned by name on a map dated 1738. I strongly assume that someone put them up to beg the rain god for mercy. But the god is obviously not interested.

Descent through the moor and endless exhaustion

Bogs, Coast to Coast, Nine Standard Rigg, England, Wainwright's
An endless search for solid ground in rain and cold

The way downhill becomes quite a disaster. Hour after hour we fight our way, foot by foot, through dense, icy fog, poking around for small patches of solid earth that don't suddenly go “squoosh” and sink our feet into a three-foot-deep quagmire - a game I used to play on my way to elementary school, where I sometimes jumped from stone to stone on the sidewalk for fun (on asphalt in the sun).


I plod along trying to hop from one solid patch of grass or stone to the next. My feet are dripping wet despite waterproof hiking boots and gaiters (gaiters are something you put over your legs and shoes to keep water from running into them from above—haha). Every step sounds like I'm walking on squishy sponges instead of feet.


For more than six miles we stumble around, and a few times my boyfriend lands almost knee-deep in brackish waters.

Half way point Coast to Coast, England, Keld, Sarah and Rand
Hurray - we made it half way on the Coast to Coast!

After 10 miles total, we finally arrive in the early evening at the tiny village of Keld where we will spend the night. I'm so exhausted that as we pass the last seven houses along the way I keep asking, "Is this the crappy Inn now?".


We plop all our clothes into the guesthouse's drying room and go eat. Dude, if we had to camp and handle a gas stove now too, I'd dive headfirst into the bog in despair. I'm so tired I almost poke my eye with my fork as I try to steer my veggie lasagna into my mouth. Everything hurts, everything feels swollen.


"Maybe I'll take an ibuprofen right now," my boyfriend says majestically. Oh my God, it must be really bad then. But we made it—not only across the bog, but at this point we are halfway through the Coast to Coast Trail. Although we're uber-tired, we're also a bit proud of what we have done and, in a strangely exhausted way, satisfied.

What is a "highlight" anyway?

Rain on the Coast to Coast Trail, England, wheatfields
Wheatfields, rain, wheatfields,...

The weather doesn't get any better over the next few days, but at least the ground is stable again. From the Yorkshire Dales National Park with its centuries-old dry stone walls, ruins, and green hills, we head to the lowlands where we encounter the awe-inspiring sight of wheatfields, more wheatfields, and even more wheatfields. Each morning, after a few miles, our feet are wet again. Rain drums on our rain jackets and heads. The camera stays in the backpack as far down as possible. Along with my good mood. This part of the route is not the highlight of our trek.


But does a trip always have to have a highlight? What is a "highlight" anyway? Surely something different for everyone. A great photo, a magnificent view, an interesting person you meet, animals, a flower, good food, a cozy place to stay, beautiful weather, overcoming fears or health problems, finding inspiration or new courage.


Walking over 9 miles through continuous rain every day for five days tests my patience. Something I don't have much of anyway. I can't leave and just get in a car because that would be cheating. You simply must go through it now, we often say. Not always is that a good idea, not always should we force ourselves to do things that are not good for us in the long run. But sometimes you really do have to get through something—and these rainy days help me understand that a beautiful feather in a puddle is now my highlight of the day—and that that's okay, too. Because we get through those days too, and then the sun shines again.

Tons of Heather!

Heather bloom, Coast to Coast Trail, England, North York Moors National Park
Beautiful heather in the North York Moors National Park

Indeed it does. On the last 30 miles through the North York Moors National Park (which surprisingly does not include a moor - at least not on our path!), not only is the sun shining, but the heather is blooming.


"The app says soon you will pass through tons of heather," I read aloud to my boyfriend.

He looks skeptical. "Tons of heather?" Surrounding us there are only a few shrubs blooming sporadically.

But sure enough, it is not long before we find ourselves walking among purple carpets of shrub sprawling in a seemingly endless fashion to the left and right of our path.

"Tons of heather!" I exclaim triumphantly.

It's an expression that we constantly joke about until the end of the trail.

When I get a big pot of tea at the hotel, it's tons of tea, of course; when we discover two mushrooms in the meadow (the first we've ever seen), it's tons of mushrooms; and on the beach, tons of seagulls lie in wait for a chance to steal my sandwich.

Robin Hood's Bay - the end of the Coast to Coast Trail

End of trail, sign, Robin Hood's Bay, Coast to Coast, England, Sarah and Rand
We did it - 190 miles on the Coast to Coast Trail through England

After 19 days of walking between 8.5 and 13.5 miles a day, we reach Robin Hood's Bay. The end of the Coast to Coast Trail.


The road through the village heads steeply downhill, surrounded by tourist booths and tons of people with small, yapping dogs. It is noisy and uncomfortable.


The trail ends abruptly at the sea. The asphalt is crumbling into the 60°F cold North Sea, where a dredger rumbles by us to help shore up the seawall.


The only clue that we are at the end of the trail is something we find on the wall of a pub. A tiny wooden plaque. Hmm. We order a hot cocoa with marshmallows and cream.

"We're out of marshmallows and cream," the bartender grunts unkindly.

Coast and Camplight, glamping, Coast to Coast, hiking England
Our beautiful hut at Coast and Camplight

What were we expecting? A triumphal arch and fireworks? I don't know, but I do know I want to get out of this place. After all of the stillness and solitude on the trail, this is uncomfortable.


We booked a small cabin a few miles inland at the Glamping Outpost Coast & Camplight. Tucked away among tall grasses, with a campfire pit, hammock, and wood stove. There is silence here. The perfect place to reflect on what we just did. We actually made it. 190 miles on foot across England. Something my boyfriend has always dreamed of.

As the fire crackles and an owl hoots overhead, I feel free and light and happy.

My highlight is that WE are here. Together. And will always have this memory of this hiking adventure.


You can find out what fun and mischief ambushed us on the first part of the trail here: Strikes, Head Wounds and unexpected Mountains—England Coast to Coast Trail I.

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