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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 2 May 12, 2022

May 13th, 2022

Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 2 May 12, 2022

When hiking the Appalachian trail, I tended to obsess over wet feet (an unfortunate obsession to have, particularly in Vermont). The trail is so brutal, it beats your feet to death, so factors like wet feet can exacerbate an already fragile constitution. On New Zealand’s Te Araroa, I quickly learned that wet feet were a requirement. On the North Island, many sections of the great path are actually routed down the middle of a stream. I remember on the South Island crossing Waiau Pass, running down a melting glacier to find a place to tent in a wild woods. There I built a fire (something I rarely do) and dutifully dried my shoes and socks. The next morning, on hiking out all of 20 yards, I had to ford a waist deep icy stream. So much for dry feet. (https://walkinghome.lmc.gatech.edu/te-araroa-walking-south-with-the-spring/day-78/).

While not nearly as dramatic as running down a glacier from the highest point on the Te Araroa, I did find myself reliving the old wet-feet anxiety when, on heading out from the Lillardsedge campground after a fairly heavy midnight rain, I had to find a way to cross a field to regain the trail. A tree line which was probably the remnants of an old hedgerow provided a guide and a path, but of course it was completely overgrown with coarse grass and within seconds my feet were sloshing in my shoes. My Appalachian trail spirit screamed “turn around” in one ear, and my Te Araroa sprit just said “sweet as.”

I crossed the field without much incident beyond moisture and found a first-rate trail winding through a lane of old beech (with the highway humming in the background). It turned quickly into a pleasant wander through fields, hedgerows, small towns with beautiful old chapels, and of course Welly-shod dog walkers— just the experience I expected. There were parts of that woods walk that reminded me of the eastern mountains of the US, except the dominant trees were beech rather than oak or poplar. You have to love a good beech forest.

The afternoon was spent following the River Tweed, with swans, fly fishermen, and carpets of wildflowers (dominated by Ramsons). Late afternoon took me through the Eildons, three peaks made famous in Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstral.” The path went up through the saddle, so I was tempted to summit, but as per the last few days, mid-afternoon brings mist and rain, so I opted for the descent into Melrose, a beautiful town with a ruined Abbey.

I checked into the Station Hotel, late lunched on a haggis burger, visited the abbey (which is where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried),  wandered the town, finally boarding The Ship—another classic pub, this time filled with football fans waiting for the game to commence. Still adjusting to time, weather, and pure physical exhaustion, I found myself returning to the Station Hotel early for some luxurious sleep on a real bed (no tent and thin sleeping pad for me): a day well spent.


T. Hugh Crawford