Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 14, May 24, 2022

May 24th, 2022

Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 14, May 24, 2022

Woke at 5:00 to the crowing of a pheasant which was soon accompanied by what I took to be a mockingbird imitating R2D2. My tent was pitched behind a corrugated steel shed in the middle of an unoccupied stonewall-enclosed pasture. Of course the sun was already high (Scotland in May)— and, surprise surprise, the sun was actually shining after a couple days of dark, damp mist and some periods of straight-up torrents. Many years ago (while in high school) I took canoe trip on the Shenandoah river with three friends. One night we camped on the riverbank in a cornfield. I remember the next morning hustling to get out before the farmer caught us. His truck was crossing the bridge as we floated past (at least that is how we all remembered it). Today I woke with the same concern— even though the Scottish right-to-roam laws should have protected me, still I hustled to get packed up and out on the road before a farmer on a quad bike with a bunch of dogs appeared to question a vagabond in his pasture.

So far there have been occasional days with the morning sun bright and low, casting fantastic shadows on the landscape. My early morning was walking out of the glen up toward a highland road to take me over the pass into the Aberfeldy valley. Unfortunately the farmsteads have become commonplace even as their incredible beauty remains arresting. Out in the wilder areas, it always give me pause to see remnants of farms and homesteads, many surely predating the great Highland clearances. Those fields are now populated by sheep, even up high where the only thing that seems to grow is heather and cotton grass. Today took me up a minor road to a long undulating otherworldly plateau that then descended by the Urlar burn slowly into Aberfeldy. Toward the end all the water rushed into a series of cataracts including the Morness falls, before finally joining the River Tay just past the town.

The day’s trek was shortened by my having extended yesterday’s, so I arrived in plenty of time to get my tent pitched at the Aberfeldy Caravan Park before the afternoon rains rushed in. I showered and did my laundry — needed some relief from all that bog water, and retired to the Schiehallion Hotel Pub to plan out the next 4 days which will involve much wild hiking and serious isolation in the Cairngorms. I also plan to revisit Nan Shepherd’s account of her walks, just to get my head right for this part of the trek.

T. Hugh Crawford