Full English? Day 1, The Bluestones of Stonehenge

We can’t get a full English in the States, they just don’t have real bacon and sausages. So I arose early at the Youth Hostel and slapped together the real thing. Coffee is a whole different subject, I bring that with me!
Today’s plan was to hike the Presili, pop in to see my old mum, and then have a real crack at the Black Mountain. This is how it panned out. I had done so much research on today that although I had a map, or maps actually, if you add the road map for getting there, that I actually never looked at one all day.
I drove from Llanddeusant through Carmarthen, noting the “Open 24x7” sign on the Tescos, and drove on through Crymych to the parking spot I was aiming at. Now OS maps are the best, but please note that the parking spot shown on map here is wrong, it is actually ¼ mile South West, aligning with the next footpath down the road. But anyway, for this little jaunt of 5 miles I had allocated myself 2 hours. That was the plan…..
I walked from the parking spot (roadside parking for about 3 cars) and walked up the short lane, passed through a gate and followed the clear path up the steep hillside to the 3 cairns at the hilltop. From there the obvious thing to do (if you look at a map) is to backtrack down the hill and follow the path to Carn Menyn. [Photo: the wrong way to the path]
From the hilltop I could see Carn Menyn the source of the Stonehenge Blue Dolerite stone, and since that was my next target, I made a beeline for it. Well, let’s just say it was a mistake, after numerous backtracks, scrambling down and up and down again I ended up wading through the marsh to get to my destination. Now on the map Carn Menyn looks like it’s the name for a group of outcroppings, which in fact are there just as marked, but imagine my horror after having done so much research to finally reach my goal, and there it was, limestone! [Photo: Carn Menyn, close up limestone, behind that dolorite]
I looked around, scrambled up a hill or two, definitely limestone, my life was shattered.
I headed for my third and final target of the day, the stone circle, Beddarther. I followed the path round slopped through some mud and soon came upon it. Well time to regroup, sit down and eat a delicious Chocolate Digestive (well ok, a few chocolate digestives) Why can’t we get good biscuits in the States? I sat on a stone. (sorry Beddarthur) and pondered, and ate, and ate and pondered. You know the Dolerite has to be there. [Picture: From Beddarthur looking at Carn Menyn(right) and the Cairns on the hilltop (left)]
I really didn’t look at ALL the outcrops, I gotta go back that way, let’s take another look. So after my sitting and my pondering I approached Carn Menyn from a different angle, and this time, as if by magic it had transformed itself into Dolerite, the famous bluestones of Stonehenge, Dark blue, almost Grey/Black dense hard stone filled with bright white stars. Sometimes described as looking into the sky at night. No wonder this was a magical rock back when Stonehenge was built. I climbed to the top of the highest peak, and sat, and sat, just breathing in what I saw. My grey colored jacket blended into the rock, and people passed by without seeing me, and still I sat, somehow mesmerized.
OK Cleansing breath!
So my 5 miles in 2 hours took me 5 hours and I drove back the way I came.
On reaching Carmarthen, I discovered that in the UK, 24x7 means Tesco’s close at 4 on Sunday, but I got in the door at 3:50, just needed some fruit for me good old Mum, was gonna browse a bit, but there you are!
So long story short, I had to skip doing the 8 mile hike on the Black mountain for that day, but there’s always tomorrow……

New Desktop picture

This weeks new desktop is the harbour at Sennen Cove, just a mile North of Lands End, and a short stagger from the "Old Success Inn"

Day 0, getting to Wales

This was going to be a day a clock watching, Indeed the clock seem to run super slow on Friday at work while I waited at my desk for the appointed time for me to leave Washington DC and catch the bus to the airport. Bus, Airport, Plane, 2 hours sleep, Saturday Morning, Customs and Immigration, another bus and into a rental car.
I got to Heathrow at 6:30AM, and was on the road by 9:00AM. My schedule gave me 45 minutes to get to Sainsbury’s at exit 12 off the M4, 1 hour for shopping, and another hour and 45 minutes to get me to Tintern Abby and then 2 hours for my first glimpse of Offa’s Dyke.
A Glimpse of Offa’s Dyke (5 Mile Circuit hike)
From Tintern Abby I walked ¼ mile North and crossed over the river on the foot bridge. The path is clear, although it’s muddy and climbs uphill fast. Bearing left and then choosing the middle of 3 routes takes you rapidly to the top of the bluff where Offa’s dyke runs along the top of the cliff, parallel to the river.
I had heard that this is one of the best examples of the Dyke so I was a bit disappointed with my first impression; I guess the years have been hard on it. None the less, although the dyke has seen better days, this is a splendid hike with some great views across the Wye valley. And in fact the condition of the dyke improves as you continue Southwards along it. At the top of the hill I turned Right and walked along the dyke for a couple of miles stopping to admire the view at Devils Pulpit with its view over Tintern Abby in the valley below. Continue past Plumwier Cliffs to the old fort then scramble down the hill and at the bottom of the hill follow the river North back to the bridge to finish the loop.
Hike distance 5 miles
From Tintern Abby I drove the 2 hours to LLandovery to visit my old Mum, then on to the Youth Hostel at Llanddeusant to check in.
I checked into the hostel just after 5:00 PM, I was actually almost an hour ahead of my schedule, but 5:00 felt like Noon, what with the jet-lag, and with so much sitting in the plane and whilst driving I still had some chinks to iron out. The Hostel is just a couple of miles from bottom of Fan Foel (the Black Mountain) So I drive over there and hiked up to the ridge, but no further. The murky sky gave no clue of the location of the sun, but my watch told me it was setting. Turning tail after one hour I retraced my footprints. Two days later I hiked the full 8 miles, so more on that later.
Hike distance Almost 4 miles.
All in all a decent Saturday’s adventure.

My Old Mum

My old mum now lives in a care home in Wales on the edge of Brecon Beacons which is a long way from my home in Washington DC. She has full blown Alzheimer’s and gets tired if you spend a long time with her, so when I visited her in September 2009, I chose to spend a hour a day for 4 days rather than spending half a day with her.
What then to do with the remainder of 5 days in South Wales?
South Wales I discovered has a great deal to offer:
• Offa’s Dyke (a 10 day hike)
• The Brecon Way (a 5 day hike)
• The Presili Hills and Carn Menyn the acclaimed source of the Stonehenge Blue Dolerite stones
• The Dan Yr Ogof Show caves
• The Roman Ruins at Caerloen
Clearly there was enough to keep me busy during my down time, in fact, more than enough so I had to make some decisions. I had rented a car for this trip, so a series of one day hikes seemed the best solution given my constraints.
So here was my Challenge, 5 hikes in 5 days

View Day Hikes in Wales in a larger map
I identified 2 sections of Offa’s dyke, two circuit hikes in the Beacons, and a route through the Presili that took in a stone circle, a Hill top fort and Carn Menyn, the Dan Yr Ogof Caves and Caerloen Roman ruins
During the rest February and March I will try to chronicle my trip to South Wales

New desktop picture

OK, enough of the cold stuff, here is this week’s new desktop.

Looking North towards the Hardy Monument as Cows guard a tumulus at Portersham Farm.

BTW that’s Thomas Hardy the Sailor, as in kiss me Hardy, not Thomas Hardy the author, although a lot of people confuse these to Wessex gentlemen with each other.

Anyway, the horizon in this picture pretty much defines this Dorset section of the Southern coastal path, which is a bit strange since the sea was over a mile behind me when I took this one.

Well The Snow has stopped.... ...for now

So DC has an average snowfall of 15 inches, but this year we blew away the all time record with an amazing 55 inches, and we might get snow again Monday, and possible Friday a week from today.
The numbers above are the offical numbers for DC, which are measured in Virginia at Reagan airport, which of course is at sea level and so gets less than elsewhere, but they are the official numbers.
For me, the two back to back storms dumped 30 inches in less than a week, and we still have not seen a snowplow in our street.

Here are a couple of pictures taken around Sunset last night while I was out walking the dogs. Day 8 since it all started.

Final count was 21 inches, but it settled down to 20 inches, i have heard personal reports of over 30

Dogs 'swim' in the snow

This message has been sent using the picture and Video service from Verizon Wireless!

To learn how you can snap pictures and capture videos with your wireless phone visit www.verizonwireless.com/picture.

Note: To play video messages sent to email, Quicktime@ 6.5 or higher is required.