A Muddy Muddy Birthday to Me

Kelso Travel Blog

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The remains of Melrose Abbey.


Today is my 48th birthday. What a start.

We pick up our bus at 9 am. Everyone is 'kitted out' in the walkers equivalent of a sailors foul weather gear. They day is grey and wet. Most everyone has waterproof pants, a waterproof jacket, quite possibly a waterproof cover for their daypack, waterproof gaiters, and walking sticks.  Some even have...umbrellas.  Who hikes with an umbrella????

Except one older gent who just has sturdy shoes and shorts.  He, suprisingly, is the least muddy by the end of the day. Go figure. Maybe he's secretly covered himself in teflon.

We start in Melrose, with about an hour to see the Melrose Abbey.  It is the most intact of the 'Border Abbeys', a series of abbeys along the border between Scotland and England.

A gargoyle waterspout.
I enjoy touring abbeys and contemplating the communal life of the religious in the middle ages.

But I have to say, these places always give me a new perspective on the Reformation. As a lifelong Lutheran, I've always viewed the Reformation as a good and positive thing. While I respect the Roman Catholic faith, I have major issues with some of their theology and (with apologies to my RC friends) think it's done too much to actually separate people from the grace of God. I tend to think of the Reformation, therefore, as a liberating event. As an historical movement that brought about positive and necessary changes to the Christian church. That we Christians are all, even the Roman Catholics, better for it.

But in places like the British Isles, I'm reminded of the price that was paid for the Reformation.

Don't know what he's afraid of.
Church and state were completely entwined and the Reformation was as much political as it was religious. When it swept over England, it resulted in death and devastation. People were killed for refusing to disavow their Catholic faith. Abbeys, monasterys, and convents were forcibly emptied and the buildings destroyed or, at a minimum, left to be looted for buildng materials and treasures.

Much was lost that was precious, even if it wasn't in synch with my religious worldview. It's so sad, so pointless, and so evil.

This also reminds me why the US Constitutional requirement of "separation of church and state" was so freakin' radical and important. Even if you are not a religious American, this clause has fundamentally set Americans apart from much of the rest of the world.

It begins.
We are a very different nation than we would have been without it.  Combine that with a professional (that is, non-political) military and you start to define some of the core values that shape who we are as a country and as a people.

But I digress. On to the mud.

We start our walk. It is now raining with some determination. Our first task?  Climb a very long (very long) steep wet hill. I am quickly at the back of the pack with the other 40-something gentleman. We are both hurting. My calves are screaming (they aren't ready for this). He's a big fella and his lungs are protesting mightily.  It takes us about 30 minutes to get up this ******* 'hill'. We have to stop every 30 or 40 steps and catch our breath.

The walk leader comes down to oh-so-politely ask if we can't step it up since everyone else is getting cold waiting for us at the top of the hill.

Hiking with an umbrella, go figure.

Several evil responses spring to mind but I just keep walking. I'm so hot, my glasses are steaming up in the wet weather. The bill of my hat is protecting my glasses from the rain but also keeping the heat in. I can't hardly see where I'm going.

And this is the first half hour of the first day of a week of walking.  I'm going to die.

The day is full of rain, mud, mud, and more mud.  9.5 miles. The first hill was, blessedly, the hardest by far. But, oh, the mud.

The other walkers are a bit amused by my obsession with the mud. But I point out that the DC area is just not wet like the British Isles are. Frankly, on days like this, we just don't go walking! We wait for the weather to clear up! And we don't hike through this kind of mud because we don't get this kind of mud!  There was more than one place where I was convinced I was going to lose a boot to the mud.

Just one of the many mud bogs we had to traverse.

The worst part about the mud, actually, is how unpleasant it makes the footing. My feet slide with each step, both inside my boots and out. My legs are working double-time to keep my upright and going forward. On uphill parts, I slide back one step for every 3 I take forward.


But I can give thanks for that quick stop in Oban. I'd be .... well, it would be so much worse without the waterproof pants and daypack cover, I can't even imagine it. The pants are designed for men, which means they aren't designed for a woman's (particularly this woman's) butt and hips. I was a little worried every time I bent over and it made come of the steps across the stiles a bit tricky. But they stayed on and, amazingly, by the end of the day I'm actually dry inside all of this.

Getting across these stiles in tight pants is a neat trick!
  Unhappy, but dry.

We covered 9.5 miles in 5 hours. I thought it was pretty good time. Our leader, a friendly cheerful person, was worried that we were moving slower than she expected!

I called Jeff and my mom back at the hotel, just wanting someone to wish me a happy birthday. I couldn't reach Mom (cruising with the old folks I guess) and Jeff actually forgot it was my birthday until I mentioned it.

Good husband, that man, but he lost a couple husband points for that one.

So, all in all, one of my more interesting birthdays but not necessarily one of my most fun.

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The remains of Melrose Abbey.
The remains of Melrose Abbey.
A gargoyle waterspout.
A gargoyle waterspout.
Dont know what hes afraid of.
Don't know what he's afraid of.
It begins.
It begins.
Hiking with an umbrella, go figure.
Hiking with an umbrella, go figure.
Just one of the many mud bogs we h…
Just one of the many mud bogs we …
Getting across these stiles in tig…
Getting across these stiles in ti…
Our (relatively) dry lunch spot.
Our (relatively) dry lunch spot.
photo by: X_Drive