The day I was most excited for arrived — Andy and I had centered our trip to England with the goal of hiking one of the country’s most well-known and extreme mountains: Helvellyn.
Located in the stunning Lake District, Helvellyn Mountain has the highest point in the Helvellyn mountain range, which is the third highest peak in England. The mountains themselves were formed from volcanic rock and its valleys, glacial erosion. That and another detail is why the spotlight is cast on Helvellyn: The mountain has two extreme knife-top ridges called Striding Edge and Swirral Edge; and atop those ridges is a trail that slopes and climbs. Literally. It is so extraordinary that I struggled to grasp the concept even while looking at pictures.
“Is this real?” I asked Andy before we planned our trip to England. I was looking at a girl barely balancing on the tip of a mountain peak — honest to God — the tip thousands of feet from the ground.
“Wow,” he said in a way that showed he was super intrigued yet retained all emotion so as not to encourage me. “Yea, it’s real. Or, I mean, I think so. I’ve never hiked it but I have ‘eard of it.” And he walked away, seemingly unfazed.
Surely he knows me better by now.
“You’ve never hiked it?!” I practically screamed at him. Not from anger but from shock. How could this glorious monster exist and he not hike it?! Who was I engaged to?!
“I mean I have ‘eard of it . . . ” He paused, knowing he had me. The only problem was he didn’t want to have me. “I ‘eard it was . . . difficult.”
“Difficult?!” I squeaked in excitement. “This is nothing compared to the mountains here, Andy — nothing! You English only say you have moors — ‘We have moors” and ‘Look there — There’s a moor’ and ‘It’s a rolling moor’. You didn’t say anything about these mountains!”
“L . . . ” He drew my name out very — veryvery — slowly. We were almost on the same page. “L . . . ”
“Let’s go,” I stated. Actually, that’s not true: I practically demanded, demanded as in let’s-plan-our-trip-now and let’s-make-our-suitcases-a-bit-heavier-due-to-our-hiking-boots.
“L, we weren’t planning to go back to England this summer and — ”
Let’s be honest here: One, a mountain with a trail leading to gorgeous views; two, danger and a tugging physical sensation to push boundaries outdoors; and three, a mountain found only in the country my fiancé happens to be from? Discussion over.
I wanted Helvellyn from that first moment. My mind became obsessed with climbing it. I focused on the hike: the scramble to the top, the walk on a knife-point trail with death on each side, the summit! I needed to conquer the massive mountain.
In my mind (warped and deranged, whatever) I had only one obstacle: Andy.
“Sure,” Andy finally said more dejected than anything. “Sure, we can go.” Let it be known the word ‘sure’ here can also be substituted with a shoulder shrug . . . which essentially means he agreed . . . and that means he didn’t fully comprehend the sheer undertaking this hike would be.
But I didn’t want to scare him off. “It cannot be that crazy,” I said in an attempt to comfort while trying to hide my smile and zeal.
So back to Day Four: Here we were — finally — headed to Windermere, neighbor to the town of Glenridding, which was home of Helvellyn.
Andy and I were riding in the back of his parents’ car after his dad and mom chose to come too for an overnight stay slash tour of the town while we hiked.
Driving up, I have never seen a more beautiful and alive area. Massive evergreens rose beside mountains that stretched for miles. Meanwhile, a dense fog covered the area as if purposely shielding it from visitors’ sight to reduce traffic there.
We pulled off the road onto the shoulder for a quick bite, eating the food we had packed before we left. Once I finished, I snuck away — dipping behind the car and dropping down the embankment to see Windermere, one of many large lakes that gives the Lake District its name.
A fine rain began to fall, rippling the lake’s waters ever-so-slightly.
Soon I felt Andy’s palm in mine, warm, and he whispered in my ear about how he, too, snuck away from his parents. There, in a quick moment alone, we laughed full and loud like school children, voices echoing among the trees.
Before we knew it, his father had come searching for us and it was time to go. I clung back — eager to breathe in more. I felt free, happy then and I was willing to forego Helvellyn, all future plans to stay nestled on that rocky lake’s shore with Andy.
But time never works that way and we had people waiting so with a last glance at Windermere, we got back into the car . . .
A few moments later and we arrived to our charming hotel, Beaumont House Windermere.
Our room came with the best view and we looked out to the mountains, eager for our hike the next day.
Without a few moments to spare still, we were beckoned again so we joined a lounging cat outside before heading down Broad Street to the small town’s center.
Describing Windermere as ‘lovely’ does not speak the volumes needed to portray the sheer beauty of the area. I fell in love with this tiny town and if I could have moved there, I would never have returned to the US. Windermere is quaint and bustling and has a heartbeat all its own.Cars zoomed around slender streets as people darted in and out of shops, bells on the doors heard — a constant chime — as we strolled down the sidewalks. Andy’s parents wanted to stop for beers but I had no desire to pause — I had never been in an area this beautiful, this vibrant so sitting in a pub and drinking was my last wish. Moving my camera into my vision again, I set off click-click-clicking away merrily.
Old-fashioned butcheries showcased specialty meats . . .
while florist shops brimmed with flowers so much so that the sidewalks became decorated with blooms.But I felt guilty for roaming so I returned soon to the pub, finding my Yorkshireman ready to invite me back with a drink.
Under a basket of cascading fire-red and pastel pink flowers, his family and I drank together before setting off again.
Windermere seemed capable of shape-shifting, forming mazes of shops and eateries so that even residents of many years found surprises in places they had not yet ventured.
Our walk soon lead us to a lazy little port along Bowness-on-Windermere where wooden canoes seemed to sunbathe.
Here, swans, seagulls, and several other birds dipped and dived in flocks while others looked hungrily at tourists, begging them to pass scraps of food.
With the sun lowering, we began to make our way back to our hotel, meandering slowly along the sidewalk in and out of the town, continuing to take in more and more and . . .
When we got back, we ate dinner in our hotel’s restaurant then, exhausted, went to our rooms. There, Andy and I pulled aside the curtains and got into bed and watched the sun melt into faint colors over the mountains we would soon walk.