Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hiking for a Cure in the Far West of Cornwall

On the South Coast Trail heading to Penzance
Going for a walk always makes me feel better. And going for a walk to potentially make others feel better was even more better! That was my goal when we set out for a 50-mile hike along Cornwall’s far, far west rugged coast.

We would do the walk to raise money for the Sarcoma Foundation in the hopes their research would eventually find a cure for thousands of people battling sarcoma cancer, including – and especially – our 27-year old son, Carey. In the end, we only managed 47 miles but have raised over $1,500 for this most worthy cause.

St. Ives our first evening in Cornwall
Day 1 – We arrived in St. Ives by late afternoon, checked into Treliska, our B&B for the night, and got an early jump on our goal by walking a brisk mile and a half around the shore. It was gray and windy, but that didn’t deter us. Neither did tucking into a hot meal overlooking the cold slate seaside.

Tourist season hadn’t started yet (that would happen Thursday) so there were only a handful of us wandering through this quaint old fishing town.

A view from the path heading south to Pendeen
Day 2, St. Ives to Pendeen – Heading south from St. Ives, we caught up with the National Coast Path and started our hike along West Cornwall’s rocky shore and windswept terrain. The day started out cloudy with a slight mizzle (mist and drizzle) but soon turned sunny and cool. The scenery was sparse but breathtaking, and we must have crossed 15 small streams or freshets burbling their way to the sea. We would later learn this 14-mile stretch is one of the most difficult on the entire 630 miles of west coast and I’m here to testify. We climbed the equivalent of 191 floors and it wasn’t the ascent that killed. It was the descent. By the time I hobbled straight-legged into Pendeen, my knees were stiff and I had the beginnings of a very impressive blister on my big toe. But a good night’s sleep at the North Inn would help mend.

Abandoned tin mines along the way
Day 3, Pendeen to Porthcurno – Here’s where the wheels started to come off. First, my knee ligaments hadn’t miraculously healed overnight like I hoped. Second, the morning clouds gave way to rain and wind which were biggie-sized by noon. And third, we took several wrong paths along the coast, one time leaving us at a dead-end with nothing but slippery jagged rock and crashing waves beneath. Gads!
We hiked past several lonely abandoned tin mines before heading inland, getting a taxi to Land’s End solely for a very windy photo op, then another ride to the tiny village of Porthcurno. Instead of the planned 15 miles, we only squeaked out six. By the time we got settled into our cozy room at the Rockridge Inn, we were too cold and exhausted to go out for a meal. Dinner was trail mix.

(I need to say something quickly about the historical significance of Porthcurno: this is where the first transatlantic cable came ashore from the United States in 1887. The area has an amazing telecommunications history and we were able to visit the Telegraph Museum which houses an eye-popping assortment of memorabilia from the early cable days, the ships that laid cable across the ocean, and even some notes on the first telecom mergers.)

Wild daffodils outside of Porthcurno
Day 4, Porthcurno to Penzance – When we woke up the storm that had battered yesterday’s Cornish coast was already forgotten and the day proved to be everything yesterday wasn’t: warm, sunny and calm. Our hike took us across gorgeous scenery, emerald waters, vast expanses of farm land and coastal cliffs. Sometimes – and this is true of the entire journey – the path was wide and smooth, other times it was narrow, or rocky, or nothing more than boulders. Sometimes it was just plain mud. But whatever it served up we loved it. The scenery was so stunning it was hard to focus on any aches and pains. And as I often tell my family, “The joy of hiking is the agony of hiking.” We completed all 12 miles for the day, including our gradual descent from the trail into the seaside town of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzle) then finally into the day’s destination of Penzance and a good night’s sleep at the Penmorvah B&B.

Fishing boats in Newlyn on a wet and windy morning
Day 5, Penzance to St. Ives – Originally we had planned to hike inland back to St Ives but once again the weather had turned nasty. We still logged miles though by  walking the coast from Penzance to the fishing town of Newlyn, then back again.
By the time we returned to Penzance we were soaking wet and ducked into the Admiral Benbow Pub to dry by the fire and knock back half a pint. The pub is nearly 400 years old, but it wasn't until 2008 that a smugglers' tunnel was discovered leading from the pub down to the beach. Oh, you pirates!
We hopped a train back to to St. Ives, walked more of the coast in the rain then settled down to a delicious dinner at the Porthminster Beach Café.

Back in St. Ives at the end of our 47-mile hike
Day 6, St. Ives to home – After an amazing pancake breakfast at Treliska, we strapped on our boots once more and got onto the South Coast trail, this time heading north. We got just to the edge of Carbis Bay when it was time to head back to our room, pack up and catch the train for home only slightly worse for wear with 47 miles under our belt.

Despite our scratches, blisters and bruises we continued our hike each day because we knew the aches and pains would end in 26 hours, or 17 hours, or 3 hours. We had the assurance our bodies would heal. Unfortunately this is not true for those battling cancer. Their bodies give no such assurance, nor often much hope. If you are so inclined, I hope you will consider donating to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. You’ll not only help fund research for a cure, you’ll be giving other people  the blessed gift of hope. And I like hope much more than I hate cancer.

Click here to donate to Hike for a Cure to help the Sarcoma Foundation of America.
And to see a whole bunch of photos from our hike, just click yourself right on here.

It's the little things

Last year my sister Pamela made me this sweet little bracelet with one charm: hope. I wore it every step of those 47 miles in Cornwall. It was a tender reminder of why I was there.