I believe we’ve already discussed in a previous work my disdain for long hikes without a decent payoff. Marce assures me that at a certain point the path on Muckle Roe bifurcates making one loop shorter than the other and if we begin to flag we’ll take the low road. After all, it’s a tour of Muckle Roe Island, not a hike to anything specific. I think something about cliffs was mentioned. Now I’m nervous. I think, dear Escapees, we can all agree to call this rule #3. The hiking poles don’t come out until the payoff is identified. It’s a distance to payoff ratio thing.
Marce packed sandwiches, a banana, and water for lunch, something we’ve hardly ever done before. I said, “Surely we’ll be back before lunch.” She just smiled.
Scotland has a “trespass if you like” rule. I wonder what number that rule is? They find posting a sign redundant and they damn well aren’t going to tell you where to start. We wandered around a field, really somebody’s back yard but with sheep dung, until we found a likely looking track. It began with a steeply pitched slog up a hill paved with ballast rocks.
Heart dancing a quick tattoo, we climbed with hiking poles skidding off the rocks. Bleak desolation has a peculiar beauty and Muckle Roe has it in spades. We began to feel like we were the only two people alive in the world, an “On the Beach” moment.
A thought crossed my mind that it’s a very good thing there are no predators in Scotland because we’d be easy pickings out here. The quiet is deafening. Summiting the first major, let’s call it a mountain, we saw something awesome but terribly disappointing. The path continued to stretch out before us as far as the eye could see.
So far we couldn’t even see how far “far” was. Up and down we plodded. At every summit we faced the same awesome but spirit-crushing scene.
The path wound beautifully through the hills around little lakes and streams until bottoming out, and we trudged up again until it crested, offering another stab of disappointment.
Finally we found two large but pointy rocks to rest our shattered bodies on. It was about this time we heard something strange. Voices. A dozen or so people cheerfully gabbing while overtaking us at a relentless pace. I’m not ashamed to say we stared at them coming over the hill like they were the Wild Bunch. Turns out they were on a week-long guided tour, a kind of Holiday Walking Group. The guide stopped long enough to tell us some history of the village in this valley and admonished us that we really should have a map. We do. We also have lunch.
Not long after we did in fact miss a turn but it serendipitously led to a magnificent payoff and a sit down lunch.
With no idea which way to go, after lunch we promptly headed off in the wrong direction, due to our previously mentioned questionable turn, which took a while to correct. All we had to do now was repeat our day long slog in reverse.
You know how things look different going in the opposite direction? We knew we were close to the field where we started, but we realized we didn’t know which fork in the path to take to get back to Escape Velocity. Not being in the mood to wander aimlessly we were glad to see two young girls coming up the hill. They thought it was amusing that we could get lost so close to the car park and they got us turned around.
Boots off, feet up. Home never felt so good.