About the Loon

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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 7 (Mad cows and MBE three)

Here's to them that like us
Them that think us swell
And here's tae them that hate us
Let's pray for them as well

Here's to the heath, the hill and the heather, 
The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather! 
Here's to the heroes that Scotland can boast, 
May their names never dee
That's the Heilan man's toast! 

Day 7 Loch Errochty to Blair Atholl 14.8 miles

Because I had pushed on the previous day, today's route was more like 12 miles rather than the 14 odd quoted above. 

Usual beans and sausage BiB and coffee for breakfast this morning, and again I thought it prudent to split the scarp down, a combination of rain through the night and condensation had it pretty wet this morning,  its no big deal in reality as it splits down in seconds and goes back up just as quick.

Big day today though, civilisation (well perthshire, so civilisation of a sort) on the horizon after being out and about for 4 long days, there was even a very faint whiff of guiness on the breeze as I crossed the errochty dam.

 I'm decent enough with the bigger raptors, but the wee ones leave me guessing. As i was crossing the dam this one kept buzzing me while screeching a god awful racket (so we've determined its female then........), i presume its nest was nearby and it was giving me the gypsies to keep walking.

A steep but not unpleasant drop down from the dam towards Trinafour passes under the Beauly-Denny power line, it was only a few months ago that i passed on the nearby road and these pylons were all in various stages of construction.  The original line can be seen to the left in the tiny wee clearing, quite remarkable the size difference between the old and new, I really  wish all this could be under ground though.

And right on que, the old power lines to, i wonder if these are due to be taken down?

Only twenty minutes after leaving the dam i was down at Trinafour and all ready to walk on down through glen Errochty to old Struan. Suddenly (very very suddenly) I needed to do the bear in a wood thing, this is becoming a bit of an embarrassing theme, at least this time there was warning.
Unfortunately all the woods here had lovely houses in them and  I'm unsure what the MCoS advice note is in regards to village greens and manicured lawns, hence I thought it best to just clench, turn around and waddle back up the hill, just as I thought I was safe to break out the trowel, two bloody balfour beattie vans came up the hill behind me and stopped just ahead, some got out and gazed at the pylons while the rest got the flasks and news papers out, so I trudged on.
 35 minutes after leaving the dam I was just about back at it, what do you have to do for a bit of piece and quiet around here.
And another 20 minutes later going back down the hill for the second time I gave my best smile as I passed the vans again, I can just imagine all the hilarity and comments in the vans "thats the second time hes passed us, bet hes lost", "at least hes stopped walking like a bloomin penguin" "gosh he smells a bit" "I think hes lost weight" and such like.

TGO Challenge 2014 MBE nomination No3, Seriously folks,  This really has got to be the clincher, if Liz hasn't called with the good news by Monday then im voting YES. 

Wandering down the glen happily doing stomach tightening exercises between every other telephone pole (speedos and beach holiday soon) I noticed a wee lamb by itself in this field, and heaps of ewes and lambs in the other field,  as I got closer it started battering into the fence trying to get through to its mother,  I could see that the gate was slightly ajar, with a lamb sized gap, but the daft beast kept banging into the fence. So I dumped the bergan at the roadside, jumped the fence (ok, fell/flopped over the fence) and walked down, I hoped it would move naturally down the fence line and back through the bloody obvious gap. It didn't work, it moved down ok, but between running into the fence it typically went straight past the gap. All the ewes in the other field moved away and I was left with mum on one side and the wee lamb on my side, both doing the afore mentioed female thing (non stop bleating :-)) so I opened the gate and did my Lekki shepherd impression for the second time on the challenge, amazingly it worked straight off, no messing the daft wee thing was through like a shot. I shut and secured the gate with a florish that the one man and his dog team would have been proud of, then looked around for my new pals, the pair of them had ran off off and disappeared into the crowd, no thanks, no flowers, nothing.

 My entry in the gormless of the year picture, taken walking along side the river garry,  between old Struan and Tomban. To continue the James Herriot challenge 2014 theme, this herd all came running over (stampede esq) as I passed, right inquisitive beasts, I was getting nudged and sniffed (thinking about it now, maybe they thought I smelt familiar) constantly. I actually had a full blown conversation with then for the next 10 minutes or so as we walked together, they were pretty noncommittal about most stuff tbh.
If looks could kill, this was just after we discussd the possibility of Aberdeen winning another trophy in 2014/15 season

Listening intently to me waxing lyrical on the merits of english mustard over german with certain meals, although I think we both agreed that if only they had stuck to mustard (and tea) we would like them better

I had just passed under the A9 (phase 2 complete), a decent enough path between Old Struan and Blair Atholl, better then I had hoped for  at this point both path and road were quite close,  but in a wee bit you cross over the road again and move away from it until you reach Blair.

Possibly a bit of the old/original A9 road

This section is as close as you get to the road, thankfully it only lasts about 200yds or so, then you dart across like a fleeting gazelle and head back into the low hills to the south, the thing on the right is some nutter protesting about something that obviously matters to him, I believe hes been there for months, living in his car, my car looks lived in too.

Getting closer....... Blair Atholl castle, home to the Atholl highlanders, I believe the only private army in the UK/Europe, if I dont get a guinness soon, they’ll be on peacekeeping duties tonight. After getting away from the A9 the going is really good, a couple of farm tracks initially,  then a very faint path for a couple of miles through some pleasant parks, eventually you arrive opposite the village and make your way down to the crossing point

And finally, the bridge into Blair Atholl, the path down to the A9 is easy and quite obvious, theres also a stile at both sides of the road and a wee, but quite overgrown path from the road down to the bridge, unfortunately some bright spark has put a fence across the main path, a wee bit of  jungle training is handy to break through to the bridge.
I crossed over and wandered happily through the village, at some point I happened to look left to see the best sign of the challange so far "BOTHY BAR" being old school at heart I play by the rules (if they suit) and I believe CHALLENGE Rule 1a states " a challenger should never ever ever pass an open bar, especially on a Thursday"

Thank god for rule 1a and it being a Thursday (i think)
Angus steak burger and liquid refreshment, now this is surely the real reason for walking halfway across Scotland. The secrets out, im coming back next year.
The barman in here was ace, every time I got halfway through a pint he enquired if sir would like another poured, in hindsight he was maybe just keeping me away from the lovely smelling tourists at the bar. I bet he was really chuffed i had sat down near the roaring fire too, I did debate taking the boots off and chilling right out, they will never know how close they came.

On a serious note, if you are ever through Blair Atholl, give the bothy bar a go, maybe I just like the simple things in life but I thought it was nice and relaxed, the food was really fine and the staff were a credit to the place, you might even get the pleasure of sitting beside a smelly challenger if you play your cards right.

After quite a few pints and a nice feed I headed over to the bridge of tilt to find my B&B, a bit of luxury tonight,  shower, dhobi, sheets,  ace.

Day 7 Thoughts and impressions

Glen Errochty is very pleasant, I really detest cuckoos now, I need to get a new suit for the palace investiture, the next lamb in distress is going in the bergan, Guinness is nice.


Monday, 9 June 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 6 (Snakes and Adders)

The Land of Hills, Glens and Heroes.
Where the Ptarmigan thrives
And where the red deer finds shelter. 
As long as mist hangs o'er the Mountains
And water runs in the glens. 
The deeds of the Brave will be remembered
Health and Success forever
To the Lads from the Highlands
Cabarfeidh gu Brath!

Day 6 Coille Bhienie to Loch Errochty 14 miles

 My original plan was just to walk to the west end of Loch Errochty, i got there and it was only about 1530 and tbh it didnt look the greatest of pitches,  so I just mossied on along the loch side, eventually at the far eastern end I found a bowling green esq spot. 

 Another breakfast (beans and sausages again) with a view, its a beautiful country and its looking like another great day, how lucky can you get with the weather, this is Scotland for gods sake, we want rain, we need rain or all conversation will cease.

 Another view from the pitch, it's about 4/500 yds away from the road (its just below the pine trees on the left) its a very quiet road as its a dead end about 5 miles to the west at Rannoch station.

The scarp was soaked with condensation this morning, there wasn't even a hint of breeze last night or this morning, so after giving it a token wipe down, i stripped it apart an packed it away and headed off for another day sightseeing.

I was only a hop, skip and a jump from the western end of loch Rannoch itself and it barely took me five minutes to get to the road junction at the head of the loch, as i got there another challenger (yes ive forgotten,  sorry), the first id seen for over 24hrs came along the other road. We walked and chatted for two or three miles until our routes split at the power station. We were both heading to Errochty that night but we had different routes planned.

I haven't a clue how this picture turned out like this, pretty cool I thought, but its actually been taken on a really bright still morning (as seen in the pic below)

 The views going down the side of the loch were really good with Schiehallion featuring rather prominently in most vistas.

 To be honest, I was really glad to get to my turn off just before Craiganour lodge, although it was very quiet i was a bit fed up on the road and had started looking at the map constantly, willing the miles away, it didn't work.

I was a bit worried as my turn off had a very very faded half hidden "private road" sign, luckily I never saw it and wandered along a nice track that splits away up the hill well before the lodge, a right of way was actually signposted here (so I dont know what the sign I hadn't seen was all about tbh.)

This is the marked path, slightly overgrown, it was easy going and didn't last long, there is actually one of the highest, narrowest stiles ever just up ahead, after that the path becomes slightly more distinct. The woods were also home to a herd of highland coos, they were moving slowly away from me, so I was moving even more slowly behind them until I reached my escape stile

No stile or style at this one, being a highly trained gate ninja I was over it in a flash, thankfully there's no witnesses to the flash. I can't remember if the same sign was on the other side, I really hope not, as it's only since I've been writing this up that ive noticed it says the key is beside the lock, aaaaggghhhh

It's starting to look less burn more path now, although it probably doesn't look it, this was actually another one of the really enjoyable sections, nice going underfoot, dry and so so peaceful. 

The last view of loch Rannoch. Since I had left the road it had been wonderful walking, this picture is taken from within a large fenced plantation, not the money making dreels of pine nightmares seen below,  but propper trees, really glad to say that I passed many more on the challenge and ive noticed loads on subsequent wanders around the eastern cairngorms.  The forestation is going along just dandy. I disturbed another two capercaillie here as well, wildlifes coming along just fine too it seems.

Agh, first problem of the day, to the left is a serious bog, all the way to that ridge, to the right is a deer fence that this goes under and theres no bloody way im going back. No retreat, no surrender....

Normally I can jump these or find a tuft or two to use as stepping stones, but on this occasion it wasn't happening, luckily as well as being a recently qualified gate ninja im also now a deer fence ninja, so I scaled the fence for about 10 foot sideways, fun with no solid footing, a heavy bergan and a flexing fence. It worked pretty well and I continued on with my spidey sences tingling away.

A couple of miles with no path, but there were plenty of sheep/deer tracks that vaguely went in the direction I wanted, so it was just a case of go with the flow

Eventually I got to the old sheilings,  although the ground slopes in most parts, theres plenty scope here if anyone planned to bivi up, wee crystal clear burns aplenty too.

After a wee river crossing the path starts to become quite distinct and quickly turns into a wee LR track with Loch Errochty suddenly appearing ahead.

There's got to be a reason every bridge in the country only has only one side to it.

The pre planned bivi site at the western end of the loch, it didn't take my fancy and it was still early, so onwards it was.

TGO Challenge 2014 MBE nomination No2, I had just passed a couple of 4x4s and a tractor on the track, it was lads planting another mixed plantation (that looked like bloody hard graft). Anyway I came upon this wee beastie on the track , I knew the vehicles would be coming along just after me, and as I had already seen two flat adders on the walk I decided to do my lollipop man impression and assist a snake in distress.

Two walking poles, no ladder, some careful juggling and he was relocated onto the hill. Becoming a regular Dr Doolittle.

I had been scanning about for a decent pitch while walking without joy, I stopped at the dam to read a wee cairn just inside the fence,  I assumed the dam would be secured against the public, but a "please close gate" sign is always a give away of free access, so I went through to have a look at the dam anyway and happily also found the second best pitch in the world (Kylie, already there, with her come to my scarp eyes would have elevated it to top pitch).

I crossed to the other side on a wee recce just in case Kylie had pitched over here, it also gave me a great route option for tomorrow. 

A couple of pitched up views, note boots, insoles and socks on the ready made airer. Chicken and mushroom pasta BIB tonight and very nice it was to. 

Just as I settled down for a night in with a fine pinotage and kindle book a jogger and his dug ran by with a cheery wave, pretty much confirming my "open to the public" view.

Day 6 Thoughts and impressions. 

Another fantastic day although long road walks on hot days can get a tadge tedious, cuckoo soup sounds like a plan, flat pitches are the dogs, will this write up ever end.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 5 (Bears, Hikers and a severe lack of woods)

By Definition, you have to live until you die. Better to make that life as complete and enjoyable an experience as possible, in case death is shite, which i expect it will be.
Edinburgh gadgie 1996

Day 5 Loch Treig to Bhienie 17 miles

Three sausage wraps this morning, two for breakfast and one for lunch (im a growing loon after all),  they were ok taste wise,  but It didnt take long to discover that I had picked up the wrong ones in Spean Bridge, I would have been just as well not going shopping and I'm starting to see why i never get invited on the weekly Asda jaunts anymore, (before anyone starts it has nothing to do with all those rangers and celtic cakes being accidently squished....).

Anyway it seems I had picked up richmond Irish skinless sausages, they tasted fine enough, but they were a nightmare to fry off without the skins, chunks of them stuck to everything, by the time they were smothered in brown sauce and wrapped up, they looked like the amputated bits from badly frost bitten toes. Maybe worth taking along a sachet or two of HP if you have any everest plans.

As I was packing up after breakfast, I was rather surprised to see a lad marching past in the corrour direction, he was actually on the railway line, maybe this is the done thing around here but the way I walk, (with my head in another place) the 
Caledonian sleeper would have a fancy new bumper ornament by the time it pulled into Fort William.

A swift and short wee climb from day fours bivi site opened up the views across the moor with corrour station being the odd bit out, a great view and a huge sky that just went on and on forever, corrour and Leum Uilleim always conjour vivid visions of Renton, Sickboy, Spud and rather dirty sheets (more to follow on that, literally).

Lovely light this morning, passing the hostel theres a really bonny view, but it looks like its been placed in midgie heaven. There's a lot of road "improvements" going on here just now with some heavy duty machines preparing the area and tracks for three new hydro projects.

Look at the size of that sky, the start of a pleasant climb away from corrour up to peters rock, again I was feeling really good and thoroughly enjoying the experience, remarkably enough I hadn't seen another challenger since I left last nights spot.

Just about up at Peters rock and pretty much the last climb for a day or so

A few boggy bits on the climb up to Peters rock, nothing major, I actually found the road to the isles route to be some of the most enjoyable underfoot conditions of the whole trip, the glorious weather probably helped.

Peters rock, 29 years old, far to young, I was intrigued and googled it to get the full story, unfortunately the full story will never really be known.

 A carlsberg lunch for me and a new pal, as I went to sit down a wee moose dived into it's wee lodge. I braved the wrath of the rannoch beast and sat down next to it. Boots and socks were quickly removed to get the benefit from the sun and unusually for a lunch stop I got the cooker out and knocked up a fine brew.

Treats today, the extra sausage wrap from breakfast, a spicy salami stick thing and a 6 pack of oreo biscuits, I shared the wholemeal wrap with my wee moose pal, he (or she) seemed to prefer wrap to biscuit crumbs,  its a sad day when even the mice have gone all "health freak".

Everything seems to be going just fine, lovely day and nothing around for miles, well as they say, nothing lasts for ever. Lunch suddenly decided to make a surprise reappearance, just not in the form it went in.

It's very very open up here and the distinct lack of trees doesn't help the modesty situation either. A quick check and there didn't seem to be anyone about (mind you, how many times has "no one around" turned into "furry boots did they all come from" ), clench cheeks, break track, and penguin walk/dash to a big boulder up the hill, how bloody hard is it to get your bergan waist belt unbuckled in these situations, if id had a bowie knife on my hip I would have cut it. Mind you the eventual relief is a wonderfull feeling, even if you cant actually move for ages, your thighs are about to give way and you realise your boulder is in reality an ankle high stone leaving you bare arsed to the world, literally. Thankffully nobody came along the the track and eventually I managed to get going again, albeit with a slightly different gait.

Back down to signs of civilisation again

Just before this pic I scared a couple of capercaillie beside a wee plantation, either scared or they smelt me coming.

Another of those signs, so far I could have walked the entire way by following sign posts, so no maps required in future (except in train station car parks), another great piece of weight management. Rannoch station is just up the road a wee bit, im heading the other way,  down towards Rannoch.

Three miles after reaching the road I came to the general area I had planned to stop, Coille Bhienie. I found a cracking spot well away from the road and right beside the river, I came pretty much face to face with a fox here, beautiful dark red colour, I'd seen more wildlife today, than id seen in the previous four days.

A ready made bath, after getting the tent up it was kit off and get in time, it wasn't to cold, very refreshing and much needed, everything got washed and a much nicer smelling gentleman retired to the tent for a swift glass of red (it was actually a swift swig or four from an old juice bottle). Yellow chicken curry boil in the bag and a tuna and lime foil packet for supper tonight

View from the scarp patio prior to getting the kindle out and zipping up for the night.

Day 5 Thoughts and impressions

I was expecting a wet ground day, it wasn't, in general it was very good underfoot,  that fuckin cuckoo is back, spicy sausage should be included in weight loss programmes. Bergans should have an emergency unbuckle  pull cord fitted.