There is something special about walking up a hill watching the sunrise and finding another hill to watch the sunset all on the same day. Summer is long gone and darkness hits me like a lead weight. Now I love summer and we all feel better with the sun on our backs and in Max and Paddy's case paws down in the water, but winter is here, the rain is definitely here with it the short days and long nights. I get cabin fever very easily and so do the dogs, let's face it they still need walking and stimulation. Paddy seems to get very stimulated at the moment but that's a whole different story.
Sleeping out in the van through winter is different, and you don't have to go far to start feeling like you are on a mini adventure. If you've never experienced a night out in winter, please it's an absolute must.
We stayed near Mungrisdale one night recently, it's around twenty minutes from home so no great trek.
Being a keen walker I'm a stickler for weather reports, it comes with the terrain - always check the weather before you go! This night in particular the forecast from our friends on the BBC Weather App, gave a mild night with a gentle breeze of 8-10 mph with a light drizzle gently cascading down from around 1am in the morning. So off we go after all we all trust the BBC weather right?
Our aim was to walk up High Pike, cutting back on ourselves coming down the side of Carrock Fell. This is a really good walk not too strenuous and the dogs love it, open moorland, easy to follow paths, but beware if you fancy it, there are sheep around. Some of you may remember that on the full walk or loop we tracked Paddy by GPS for Trail Magazine where I walked I think 9.8 miles and Paddy did 24.7?
The walk itself was great, heading down the 'breeze' started to pick up, nothing too bad but just enough to make you think we timed it well, and enough to make you feel slightly smug that we beat our previous time. Also the 'light drizzle started'. Rain is my campervan nightmare, there is nothing worse than wet dogs either sitting or sleeping beside you. Nor shaking their moisture enriched coats all over the interior of my beloved and expensive van. We use the Siccaro Wet Dog Supreme, Max's coat is well over two years old now and going strong. So all of us slightly damp and feeling peckish we're looking forward to creating a campervan culinary delight, enough to make any competitor of Masterchef envious of my kitchen skills and ability. 'Cooking doesn't get tougher than this'
It's just getting to around 8pm and the breeze now a chilly 'wind' the drizzle looks like it's set for the night. On with the pan and out comes my vast array of fine ingredients and cooking utensils.
Max and Paddy oversee everything, quite amusing for me to see the dogs wrapped like baby seals in their drying coats overseeing everything I do in the van, carefully making sure that I put just the right amount of water in the pot to boil, gas on, water on, every move is critiqued and monitored. Rustle a bag at your own peril here my friends. I love instant porridge, it was made for dog walking van sleeping people, just like me.
Eating in a confined space with two dogs can be a nerve wracking experience, It takes a brave person, I'm fairly certain there is a health warning for it. Dog owners will be saying 'What you ate in front of them with means of escape?" Well yes I live dangerously, this is how I roll. Once I start eating Max will make throaty grunts as if to remind you he is 30 cm from your face. Paddy will turn you to stone. His gaze would make any gunslinging cowboy shy away, his intense stare, his size and the capability not to blink for unknown lengths of time is quite, well terrifying. After I've finished Max has to sniff the pot, he looks at me as if to say "That's not meat" and turns his head in disgust. Paddy then scrambles to get the pot where upon he devours every last atom of resemblance of porridge. The pot is cleaner that a NASA clean room. In fact I'm pretty sure they could use Paddy to clean in readiness for space missions.
Dinner is finished or is it supper?
The time now is around 8.45pm and as I don't have TV in the van I let the boys out for last ablutions, it never ceases to amaze me that they think we're off on another expedition. Tails wag frantically even though they just have a pee and will jump back in the van. As they are sniffing and a snuffling I'm preparing beds. I use and Exped Megamat, not cheap but they are like sleeping on a memory foam mattress and I need it, and I throw a single 10 tog duvet over me, sorted. I tried a sleeping bag once. This a bad idea as Paddy tries to get in and Max attacks Paddy as he thinks it's a great game. I don't and still have the scars and deep tissue bruising to prove it. Drying coats whipped off. Two dry and excited pups.
Dogs really know how to live, it amazes me every time everything in their world excites them. Just getting back into the van causes jumps and flips, normally over my bed not theirs, after all my bed is for the more adventurous doggy explorer to trample over, snort on, then lie down and pretend to be asleep in a space of nanoseconds. It takes a good ten minutes to get them in their beds and this is only actioned by the promise of a bedtime treat.
I will say the first time I decided to head out in the wilderness with the van with Max and Paddy I asked my wife if she'd like to join us. it didn't happen.
So we are all exhausted, snuggled up in the van. I love reading and let's be honest in the middle of nowhere there is not a lot to do. Anyone passing by will hear the polite sounds of me shouting. "Get off Paddy, lie down" Max stop licking your bits, Paddy stop licking Max's bits and so on...after about ten minutes it's lights out and that's it, sleep
Around ten minutes later you are reaching for earplugs, dogs do snore. I'm not sure if it's a Spaniel thing but boy these two can raise the roof. Of course any movement causes more excitement and Paddy leaps to the door ready for action, Max looks wisley on...drift off to sleep.
Now some people will be taken aback that my dogs sleep with me in the van, they don't at home but will sneak upstairs to the bedroom at any given chance. Listening to dogs breathing, even snoring is so relaxing when your in the van (or Woofsporter as it's no known) Getting a paw in the face or worse a hairy butt tail wag not so. Eventually it's a game of 'pile on' 50kgs of springer on top of you is both crushing yet quite comforting. Then you air runs out and it's time to move them. The gentle breeze has also picked up, it's turning into a buffeting motion, hitting the side of the van and causing a lot of rocking (remember the sticker 'If this van's a rockin don't come knocking'" Well in my case please do, I'm probably being crushed and pawed to death by two furry assailants!
Eventually I drift off after some hours of light sleep I'm woken by someone throwing gravel at the van, I listen intently thinking who would do such a thing? More gravel hits the van. Suddenly the van lurches and rocks on it's wheels. The gentle breeze turns into a gale force wind and the gravel is actually the bouts of rain hitting the van. Worse still it's only 10pm!
Of course as I'm awake it creates the need for the dogs to head outside whilst said storm is hurtling its best at us. I think the boys went out about four times just for the fun of it.
So the night progressed. I can tell you I read a lot that night. Sleep didn't happen for me but my faithful furry companions loved every minute of it. Actually looking back I think how lucky I am to experience what mother nature was sharing with us that night. We were in no danger, and for the sake of a sleepless night, it's great experience one that you could try too?
It was a night for me spent with true friends and some porridge.
Here's my essential tips for campervans going off grid
1. Earplugs (recommended)
2. Reading material (a must)
3. Two dogs (obviously)
4. Drying coats (we use Siccaro)
5. Porridge is a great snack
6. Get out there and start your adventure!
If you are the type of person who'd love to try a dog friendly campervan experience contact Sam at Braithwaites Garage, Newbiggin, Penrith on 01768 83254. They have two fully kitted out vans available to hire. Five minutes off junction 40 M6, you can even park your car in their secure yard when you pick your van up or they will even pick you up from Penrith train station.
Or have a look at their website http://www.lakescampervans.co.uk/ why wait for summer. it's great in the lakes!
Tell them Max and Paddy sent you
However if you fancy a campervan break but your partner likes the finer things in life and prefer luxuries like hot baths, nice soft beds, spacious cottages try Lakelovers (They don't charge for dogs!) Tel 015394 88855
For drying coats click here https://siccaro.co.uk/dog/supreme-pro-wetdog-drying-robe/?SID=n1ud9nk2lms4vhpbp9452t8mj1