The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday 19 December 2008

Rhinogau Bogs and Fog: The Background

Back when I was introducing Mick to the joys of walking, he announced during one Sunday afternoon jaunt that he quite fancied trying backpacking. He liked the idea of multi-day linear walks and self-sufficiency.

I scoffed and declared that “For the avoidance of doubt, I will never go backpacking”. Then I reminded Mick that I whinged enough when carrying a daypack containing just a couple of cagoules, a couple of sandwiches and a couple of bottles of water for a couple of hours and that there was no way that I could ever carry that plus a sleeping bag, stove and such gubbins.

A while later, on our first backpacking trip, Mick suggested that we should try a spot of wild-camping.

I scoffed and declared that “For the avoidance of doubt, I will not be camping anywhere that doesn’t have facilities”.

(Incidentally, since then Mick has become nervous whenever I have used the phrase “For the avoidance of doubt I will not” followed by some ridiculous activity.)

My mind was changed a couple of nights later when a group of ignorami kept us awake into the early hours of the morning on a campsite.

Amongst these bold declarations, I did not say that I would never go backpacking and wild-camping by myself. It was one of those statements that did not need to be made. I’m a complete wuss and a scaredy cat when it comes to being by myself in the dark and even earlier this year I commented that I couldn’t even contemplate spending a night in a tent by myself. Read about my night on Cannock Chase if proof is needed – and Mick was easily within shouting distance on that occasion.

So, it was a little unexpected (perhaps even to me) when recently I declared that I was going to spend a night on a hillside by myself.

Mick was concerned about my plan, probably as much about the terrified state in which he knew I would spend the night as for the potential of me being eaten by monsters or falling down a hole on my way there or back.

I hesitated to disclose my plan to my sister and to Much (my gran). Much, in particular, is always horrified if I tell her my intention to walk 5 miles along a canal tow-path by myself, and is doubly horrified when I tell her that I walked up a hill unescorted. She seems to be of the belief that mad axe-murderers and rapists hang around in these places just in case a lone woman happens by, whereas I take the view that I’m far more likely to come to harm at the hands of a third party by walking into town than I am on a ridge in the Rhinogau.

As it went, neither my sister nor Much batted an eyelid at my plans. They told me to be careful (“Oh, do I have to be? I was planning on being really reckless”) and told me to have a good time.

Now, some people may say that half a week before the longest night of the year is not the best time for someone who is terrified of being alone in the dark to venture out to spend a night on a hill. They’d have a jolly good point. Fifteen and a half hours is a lot of darkness, and perhaps the middle of June in the North of Scotland would be a more appropriate experiment.

However, I had a need to pop to Barmouth this week and with a five hour journey each way, it seemed sensible to spend a night, so it looked like a good time to test out my ability to spend a night out with just my own company – and potentially lots of scary noises outside of the tent.

To be continued...

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