When I try to imagine why Scotland is the setting for so many epic love stories, why it triggers the myth-making minds of all ordinary people, what might of driven men to wear skirts and women to dance in circles and all the people to talk in a musically delightful cadence, I think of the Isle of Skye. It’s beautiful, yes, it’s beautiful. But MANY places on this earth are beautiful. Many places in Scotland are beautiful. But Skye, well Skye has that radiance in her eyes and that amber milk in her voice that makes her so uniquely beautiful. Skye hypnotizes you. She lays her hands on you, completely seducing that most vulnerable part of you that you keep forgetting you possess. And I’ve just been treated to 4 glorious days at her breast… beginning at the northern tip of the island and the Trotternish Ridge.
The idea to take a luscious 2 days to explore the ridge was inspired by none other than Chris Townsend and his must-have recent book, ‘Scotland’. Apparently not too many other people have that idea, because the going was mostly path free without a single human soul to be seen on a mild weather Saturday. They are missing out. We were in heaven.
We boarded the bus from Portree, a town that appears to have been actually built around the bus station, not actually knowing where we were to be dropped off. I think our plan was a oh-this-looks-alright strategy with our faces smashed against the window and our fingers poised an inch or so from the “stop” button. I decided to talk to the bus driver about it, knowing I wouldn’t understand a word he said from his thick Scottish accent, but to at least maybe give him an idea of what to do with us. The man stopped the bus, yes he really did, and looked at our maps of the route we wanted to do and then dropped us squarely upon the beginning of our track. Wow for small-town wonderfulness. I would think ordinarily that this was a good enough omen for a wonderful trip, but what happened next overpowered even that in the catalog of possible blessed-trip omens. A bit of background, I am a ditz about proper preparations for journeys. I forget things, important things, like rainwear and maps and water and headlamps. It’s not good and I’m highly embarrassed about it when I am hiking with someone else. This time, though not a survival issue by any means, I forgot my camp spoon. What I had to eat for the 2 day trip was oats and ramen, and I forgot my camp spoon. However, this time, I decided I would not bring myself to inform my partner of the oversight. I just wouldn’t. I would eat with stones or braided straps from my pack or a scoop made from my camera case but I was NOT going to tell my partner that I had done something so stupid (again). No. Within the first mile of the hike, my partner stops and says, “Look at that! In the grass.. a spoon! How on earth did this get here?” We were in the middle of a proper BOG, far from any residence or building or path. And there, delicately on top of the grass all dry and clean looking, was set a stainless steel spoon, just for me. I picked it up with a, “Oh good! I forgot mine!” and continued along the way. Gorgeously meaningful coincidence that was. Thanks, Skye.
The ridge became more and more dramatic with every step, with big sections of earth appearing to have been thrust skywards in carefully cut and sculpted portions. It was hard climbing for my not-yet trail hardy legs (I could’ve skipped up those ascents during my Arizona trail hike!), but the high of the exertion only contributed to the wonderlandish offerings, making me feel very alive and happy, even after my legs starting collapsing underneath me. I saw my first wild fox, just minutes after declaring that I had seen carnivore poo, almost as if he had been waiting in the grasses for someone to notice his incredible accomplishment. And, just as my partner was setting up an incredible campsite poised in the center of an impressive posture of cliff and hillside, a wave of golden light peeked through the sunset and bathed all dullness away into splendor. I cried. No, I sobbed. This is why I kill myself to be out there.