What to Wear to Meet a Tree

Treewoman loves her Orcas

This would be a shameless piece of product-pushing, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m definitely not getting paid for it (damn) and these boots definitely ARE the very, very best outdoor foot-protectors I’ve ever worn.

Now listen – I’ve worn a lot of boots. Everything from Doc Martens to Dubarrys, in every location under the Highland sun. And let’s not forget the outstanding occasion when I drove all the way to the Allt Cheanna Mhuir, way, way out on the banks of Loch Arkaig (google map it), to conduct an inspection along the length of a private HEP scheme, only to find when I finally arrived on site, that I’d taken my boots out of the car in order to clean it and forgotten to put them back in. The contractors managing the site were very helpful (they always are) but the smallest ‘spares’ they had were a size 10. So. I did the inspection wearing what the Americans call sneakers, in other words, the tatty canvas lace-ups I use to drive in. Well I wasn’t going to turn the car around and go fetch my boots, was I? No, and the damn inspection was going to get done.

Anyway, I digress as usual, and I shouldn’t. Back to the best boots ever.

Even the outrageously stylish, painfully expensive Dubarry Boots, of which I’ve had a couple of pairs (the black ones were super good-looking) turned out to be less robust in the field than their hype suggested. After a while, a couple of hours or so, the fine leather starts to hang on to water. This makes them really quite heavy if you’re climbing a steep bank, snow-covered and strewn with fallen trees and branches, and the totally fiendish scottish brambles can actually tear their way through the boots rendering them leaky. I was once climbing a steep hillside with a Hydro engineer in the snow, when my Dubarrys became so wet and heavy I could hardly throw a leg over a fallen tree trunk. It was truly exhausting. I made the last 60ms or so on my hands and knees and, when we finally found a promising dirt track I could lie on to get my breath back, she consulted her GPS and said, “Shit. I’m not exactly sure where we are…” But that’s another story. 

No, the brand to go for in my opinion are the Orca Bays. And not just any of the styles available, if you’re on a mission to meet trees (and I always am) you want the Storm Sailing Boot. I came across mine at Gaelforce Marine in Inverness where both my sons worked for a while (Go The Force!).

A large element of my work involves standing in tall, wet undergrowth or in thick, soggy grass, evaluating trees. Yes, yes I’ll expand on the process of evaluating trees in future blogs but for the moment let’s sink ourselves well and truly in this incredibly wet undergrowth.

Now I’ve been everywhere – formal garden grounds with collections worthy of the term Arboretum, roadside stands that go on for miles and are riven with curling brambles, nettles up to my shoulders, holly understorey that perforates everything I’m wearing including my skin. I’ve picked my way through silent woods with hidden trickling rivulets underfoot, struggled up high in the soft, peaty hills, sinking up to my ankles in an effort to reach some outlier group of skyline Birches. I’ve slogged across boggy fields and skirted the lapping fringes of Loch Ness amid gnarly old Alder. Let me tell you, rivers can actually be crossed in a pair of Orca Bays – as long as you really can see where you’re going, it’s not too deep or fast-running and you’re certain you won’t fall in (I almost want to say ‘don’t try this at home’ so that I don’t become responsible for a rash of near-drownings as enthusiasts run-in their new boots…)

And then there’s the the snow of course. Thick socks inside your Orcas and you’ll be okay, even on the upper reaches of the Allt Phocaichan Hydro Scheme, in February, having made it to the top in the Contractor’s 4×4 with 3 snow-hazardous kilometers downhill to traverse, on foot, before the daylight departs.

You know, I’ve never thought of myself as the adventurous sort. I would even tell people who had stories about back-packing across Continents and extreme camping that I simply wasn’t Intrepid.

So I’m immeasurably grateful to all the trees I’ve put my arms around to measure, every single one of them, for calling me to places I would never otherwise have discovered, and taking me a long way from who I thought I was.

The boots? Well if you get the right ones, they keep your feet dry. 🙂