Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Northbound hike
DS2 Pond
DS3 Bunch of sheep
Days S1 - S20                                                                   Scottish Highlands
Day S2 - Lower Reiss to Lybster
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Northbound Home
Saturday, Feb 9, 2008

Time of departure: 8.45 am
Time of arrival: 5.15 pm
Place departed: Lower Reiss, Highland
Place arrived: Lybster, Highland

Miles: 20
Cum miles: 33.7
Percent complete: 3.5

Bed sign The Croft Guest House, Lybster ****
Cost for bed and breakfast: 30 ($60)
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Overnight, I reviewed yesterday's damage, and it wasn't bad at all. My body felt OK, and I had only one blister - a black toenail which I am prone to. My boots had felt pretty good, and the backpack hadn't felt too heavy.


However, the wind had torn away my backpack's raincover, and doubtless deposited it a hundred miles north in the Orkneys or Shetlands. Being behind me in noisy windy conditions, I hadn't even heard it let go. I felt sad about this loss, because the cover fulfilled two purposes - rain protection, and visibility to traffic since it was bright yellow. I will look out for a store that sells them. The contents of my pack are protected by a thick plastic bag liner, so I am not really worried about protecting the contents from water, but I don't like to feel that the pack itself is accumulating added weight from getting soaked, even though it's nominally waterproof.

I spent the evening in a Wetherspoon pub in Wick, which offers decent-enough food at decent prices, and washed down a minty lambburger with a pint of Strongbow cider. A nice thing about strenuous hiking is that your calorie challenge switches from "Should I eat less?" (at home) to "Should I eat more?" (on the trail).

In the morning, I jumped on the 77 bus from Wick back to Lower Reiss to walk from Lower Reiss into Wick (four miles) to make up for having hitched that portion yesterday. I left my backpack at the 
Wellington Guest House for this little jaunt, and can confirm the obvious analogy: hiking without a pack is like driving a sports car, whereas hiking with a pack is like driving a truck.

I had a cup of tea in the guest house when I got back to Wick. (Sadly, I declined a haggis and clapshot.) It was 10.30 am, and I tried to pretend to myself that I'd woken and breakfasted late, and could now walk the 16 miles to Lybster without having walked four miles in the early morning. Now, there is not a single accommodation offering between Wick and Lybster, a fact that I verified for myself this day. So Hobson had no choice but to stay in Wick, or walk another 16 miles to Lybster. I chose Lybster.

It felt like a long, long hike, but the weather was mostly calm and dry, and about 45 degF (7 degC). The sunshine, attenuated by cloud and by the sun's maximum elevation of about 20 deg, turned to evening gloaming and then to darkness before I arrived. Along the way I experienced a few of Hobson's Laws of Hiking, as follows:
  • If you hear a dog barking, he's barking at you.
  • If it's impossible for a pebble to get into your boots, it will.
  • If you think you've got a pebble in your boot, and can't find the pebble, you've actually got a blister.
  • If your landlady invites you to share her home-cooked dinner, you won't be dressed, and you'll have just finished your own stale-cheese, stale-bread, stale sandwich.
  • If you drop your glove, recovering it will be challenging.
These laws are self-explanatory, but each of us experiences them in different ways. Today, I encountered six dogs, and one of them merits a special description. He was a border collie, and he spotted me from the middle of a large field where he was herding sheep. What a marvelous dog he was! He alternately ran towards me and barked, and then ran around the herd, returning to my vicinity to warn me off before nipping at the errant sheep again and guiding the herd as a whole to an open gate at the far end of the field. He was quite unsupervised, and incredibly skilled. In short order, the sheep had been moved, and the hiker-intruder kept at bay. Then he departed the scene to return to the farmyard like a bullet from a gun as far as speed, and like a graceful cat as far as technique.

It was a heart-warming experience. But dropping my glove was much less heart-warming.

I was at Mid-Clyth, where I rested my body against the very wide parapet of a bridge. There was little wind, and in any case I took care to cover my gloves with my hiking pole when I placed them on the parapet to fiddle with the GPS in my bellypack.

But, when I was ready to go, I found I had the hiking pole and just one glove. And, looking over the parapet, I could see my other glove. No, it wasn't in the stream - not quite. But it was one foot from the water at the bottom of a very steep and muddy bank. And I wanted that nice, warm, thermally-lined, leather glove. At that moment, I wanted it badly.

Climbing over a fence, I reached the top of the bank. To my right there was a wire fence that ran down the side of the bridge to the river. Ahead, the steep and muddy bank, the glove, and then the water.

For a moment, Hobson the Hiker nearly became a human toboggan, hurtling down the bank, ready to snatch the glove and hold it above his head in triumph and pretend that his own ass-first arrival in the water was part of a bigger plan. So steep and slippery was the bank that this would indeed have happened if the wire fence to my right had not snagged my clothes. My descent thus arrested, I managed to stop myself within a foot of the stream, and maneuver the glove into my hand with my boot.

At that moment, I had only one thought, which was to resume my hike now that the nasty business was over. To do this required climbing back over the fence between the river gully and the road. I have previously mentioned that I hoped to avoid straining at my hernia wound, and I can tell you that my two days of hiking didn't seem to have done that. But climbing over that fence, I felt a jab of pain that remained with me. True, I did not hear the sound of ripping stitches and discover a lump on my abdomen. But I'll be quite reassured if the pain subsides, and Hobson the Herniated Hiker suffers no more at the hands of Hobson's law of the dropped glove.

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