West Highland Way: The Night of the Midge

I was on day six of the West Highland Way. The sun was sinking low over the highland peaks, and I was hiking out of the village of Kinlochleven. I planned to walk just a few miles and camp. I climbed out of the valley, and walked along for an hour or so. Once or twice I stopped and thought about camping, but there were a fair number of midges about, so I kept going. As the sun was setting, I came to a stream, with a decent looking flat area nearby, and a spectacular view. There was a ring of stones on the flat area. I wasn’t sure about camping on the site of a pagan ritual, but it had a good view and I was getting tired. So I decided to take the placebo approach of magical power: It only works if you believe in it. (With the corollaries “It can’t hurt you if you don’t believe in it”, and “You can choose what you believe in”. I decided that for the night I believed sleeping in stone circles to be a sure path to long life and great sex.) (On closer inspection, the stone circle looked more like the sort that would anchor a tent than the sort that would attract the spirits of the woods.)

As I set up my tent I became painfully aware of how many midges there were, but I figured that once the tent was up it would be fine. I dove into the tent, and zipped the door closed behind me. I looked up, and to my horror saw that a couple hundred midges had been swept into the tent with me. I thought about trying to shoo them out, but thought better of it when I saw the swarm massing outside the door. I tried swatting a couple , but they’re really too small to swat effectively. It seemed that I was stuck with them. I watched the midges feeling rather helpless and powerless. I didn’t think there were that many midges in the whole of Scotland! The only good thing was that the ones in the tent seemed confused about how they got there, and ironically seemed more interested in getting out than in biting me.

That night I got off easy. After a couple hours a breeze came up and blew the midges away.  But in the morning the tent was swarming with midges! I don’t know if they got in under the bug net or if the were born overnight from eggs in the grass. (I have an ultra-light TarpTent, which doesn’t have a sewn-in floor. Usually  it’s fine, but not against the Midge Swarm From Hell.) But however they got in, I woke up with the damn things swarming around my face. I scurried out of my sleeping bag, and packed up as fast as I couple, pausing every couple of minutes to swat at myself. A couple hours later I dared to stop for breakfast. Maybe I had angered the pagan gods after all….

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