The next morning we awoke to a light on-off drizzle with barely any wind. A peek out the door revealed some cloud, but the sun was rearing to break out here and there. Perhaps it won’t be as rainy as the weather guy predicted after all!
I got up and started procuring some water (from the waterfall you see behind the tent), made some coffee, and started breakfast as the rest of the crew was beginning to stir. Moreover, some newly acquired skills were encountered this morning (does a bear shit in the woods? Why, yes it does! [think family members]). So while we take the hour or so to pack up camp, let’s recap the past 12 hours:
With renewed determination, we retook the ridgeline that we retreated from the eve before… except once on the top, we found that the winds were still 40 gust 60 mph, trying to blow you off the ridgeline that was about 10 feet from the path. With a white-knuckled grip on the flags of Brenden and Marissa as the wind forced its way to unfurl them, I realized my 22-mile Trotternish Ridge hike was going to change. There’s no way I was about to take the kids on a ridge crossing in these conditions. And then Pam’s knees buckled and down she went (not over the ridge, mind you, but she fell because she was freaked out). A quick photo to prove that we’d made it, and backtrack we did down the ridge to find a different way forward.
There was a trail that was mid-ridge and went southbound towards Portree, so we followed that. Since we were beneath the ridgeline, the winds were kept at bay for the most part. By no means did that mean it was an easy route.
We kept each kid in front of us in case of a slip or misstep; my hand was consistently inches away from the grab-handle on their backpacks – you wouldn’t believe how mentally exhausting this can be after a few hours.
I’m really proud of the kids and Pam. I didn’t have to resort to the kid’dle prods (candy bars), and they genuinely enjoyed the trail and scenery. I was most surprised by my youngest, Marissa, who at 5 years old established that she was the trailblazer of the family… she always managed to find herself at the front of the pack and took pride in outpacing the rest of us. Lead on Marissa!
Every once in a while, the wind would catch portions of the trail due to a crotch in the mountainside, but even this was handled with grace.
After a few waterfall crossings (trust me, these were my peak worries with the kids), a few drop offs, and about 3 miles on the trek, we came to a tourist road. Unfortunately, some of the coolest and most extreme areas kept the cap on the camera because I was more worried about carrying on the Snakeye genes.
I looked ahead. Our mid-ridge path met up with the (only) ridgeline path (the one I detoured due to 60 mph winds) and continued on along the ridgeline with no other alternative:
This brought us to an impasse: reacquire the plan and take the ridgeline trail south with treacherous winds, or follow the tourist road out.
To continue the Snakeye gene pool, I elected to follow the tourist road out. So we walked another 3 miles like a hitchhiker alongside the road (only we weren’t holding out our thumbs or showing leg). Then we stumbled across a general store (think: a trailer stocked with cheap food). This is where the Snickers came out to hold the beasts at bay (even for Pam).
As I gazed into big-eyed stares from everybody, I finally let go of my yearning to complete the long trek into Portree. I mean, we have no trail (ok, the road is a trail, but you know what I mean), we have no solitude… it has now devolved into hiking down a damn road and camping on the side of it? This plan sucks.
With visible relief broadcasted by everyone, I finally called uncle. We hailed a taxi and went back to Portree for an Inn. My intent was to go back out into the bush the following night, finding a different path and roundtrip to hike and camp. But then I consulted the weather forecast. You remember the two days of doom (that we’ve already plowed through) followed by the sun? Yeah well, the sun apparently lost out in the interim; the forecast was for wind, rain, low cloud, and more doom for the next two days. How awesome. I actually want my family to enjoy camping? So at this point, I called all my uncles.
After 24 hours, our multi-day, wild camp, through-hike experience was over. But this is triage. On one side, we fell way short of what I wanted to do. But on the flip side, I can’t tell you how proud I am of everybody for doing what we did with almost zero complaints… I mean, on the second day we walked over 6 miles with packs on everyone. We experienced the outdoors.
In the end, I ask what is the true goal? It was to brave our own way au naturel. In 24 hours, we did that. Had the wind and weather not put the kids in danger, I think we could’ve sustained the trail for the four days that were planned. For me, it was a confidence builder… For the fam? Well, let’s just say they’re ready for the next outdoors experience with caveats.