Walking Faithfully

Rob Hausam's blog about walking and other means of wilderness travel, the environment, faith, and the connections between them

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Catch Up

May 20th, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This is Sunday May 20th. I’m in Braemar. I got here yesterday at about 6 PM, after a long day of hiking from the Ruigh-aiteachain bothy in Glen Feshie. Met and re-acquainted with a number of folks, including Gordon Green and Alan Sloman and a number of others. Didn’t see Andy Howell last night, but did this morning as he was camped just across the lawn at the caravan park (“campground” for the US folks). Went to church this morning at Braemar Church. I got there late, but was glad that I went. The sermon was on “use it or lose it” – referring to the gospel. Not a bad thought. After church I had “soup and pudding” at a benefit for the local primary school. Now I’m at the Fife Arms with some other Challengers having a beer. Probably will leave for Loch Callater soon. :)

Still lots to update for the other days. That may need to wait a bit. But things are going pretty well, and the weather is improving as of today. Still wearing the Vibram Fivefingers. :) I’ll try to add more and post more frequently for the rest of the trip.

Additional notes (7 June): OK. I will go ahead and catch things up now (considerably after the fact, of course).

Day 4 (Monday, 14 May): Alltbeithe to Torgyle Bridge
The wind and rain were mostly gone in the morning. It was fairly cool, but overall not bad at all. Even a couple of my paper map sheets that had gotten rather damp and soggy the day before were now dry.

And speaking of soggy maps, this was a good reminder that plain paper and inkjet printer ink is far from the ideal combination to be using for maps for a trip like this. I was well aware of that, and originally was thinking of printing my map sheets on waterproof “adventure paper”, but I hadn’t done that because I was running short on time and just using regular paper and the most accessible printer (an inkjet) was the easiest way to go. It should have been good enough, I thought, and it probably is good enough, actually, if you take enough care to to make sure that the maps always stay dry – inkjet ink and water just is not a good combination (that’s likely true on any paper, even if “waterproof”). In this case, I had pulled a couple of the sheets out of the plastic ziplock bag that I was carrying them in and put them in the more immediately accessible pocket of my windshirt, which I was wearing carefully underneath my waterproof-breathable Cuben jacket – but in the gale weather, either from some outside precipitation still coming in or from the accumulation of inside perspiration, or both, they became far too damp and the ink began to run. So, again, this was a really good reminder – I kept all of the map sheets in the plastic bag for the remainder of the trip, and I definitely need to and will take more care in the future (both with the maps and also with the camera!).

I took a look at the route possibilities and ended up deciding to essentially “bridge” my foul weather and original planned routes by walking down the track from Alltbeithe to Cougie, and then ultimately on toward Fort Augustus. I did that for two reasons – one, the weather was looking a lot better and my original route, once I picked it up again, now should be doable, and two, this plan would also gave me the chance to walk for a while with David and Tanya.

Looking back up Glen Affric (courtesy of David Lintern)

Even though it wasn’t exactly part of my planned route, it was on my (now dry) maps and this was familiar territory to me, since Lisa and I had walked this way in 2009 on our 3rd and 4th days to Cougie (where we ended our walk). Even though that trip had ended up much shorter than we had planned, walking it again brought back good memories (even though most of the footpath was just as boggy, and maybe more so, than I remembered!).

Where Lisa and I camped in 2009 - on the footpath to Cougie (courtesy of David Lintern)

This was the only dry spot that Lisa and I had found to camp along the footpath in 2009 – it worked out pretty well, even though the slope was a bit of a challenge with our slick silnylon tent floor. :)

Tanya Morgan and me, with Glen Affric in the background (courtesy of David Lintern)

The three of us went on the rest of the way to Cougie, and had a very nice visit with the owner, Val. She is a remarkable lady. Lisa and I met her and two of her daughters in 2009. At that time we had talked about their recent travels and adventure through the southwestern US, including southern Utah and Arizona. We talked a bit about that again, as well as the journey that she has gone through since that time, dealing with some very difficult and rather unusual health issues – but she has done amazingly well (which wasn’t really expected by her doctors initially), and she is going strong and looks great!

Val and me (courtesy of David Lintern)

After Cougie, David, Tanya and I continued on down the road. We took a brief detour to the top of Plodda Falls, a quite lovely spot (unfortunately, you don’t actually see the falls in the photo).

The overlook at Plodda Falls

We then continued on a short while longer to near Hilton Lodge. From there we took the track southeast and shortly thereafter left the forest. When we came to the power lines (pylons) it was time for David and Tanya to head northeast toward the Balmacaan Forest and Drumnadrochit and for me to continue southeast toward Torgyle Bridge and Fort Augustus. That’s one of the real joys of the Challenge – you (most often unexpectedly) meet up with and spend time for a while with very delightful people, and then you separate to continue on your own way and you spend more delightful time on your own. In my case I followed the power lines and the rather prominent gravel road (not just a track) toward Torgyle Bridge. I was making a tradeoff. I could have gone straight over the fairly low tops from Cougie and then meet up with the road and power lines, which is what I had planned, or I could walk a little longer with David and Tanya and then follow the road and the lines all the way to Torgyle. Generally road walking isn’t especially desirable, but in this case what won out was the additional company plus the lack of having to slog through what would have undoubtedly been very boggy ground on the tops (especially with the heavy rains the day before). I made it to Torgyle Bridge at just about 10:00 PM. Though it was beginning to get dark, I could still see well enough, but it was definitely time to stop. The caravan park by the bridge was totally quiet, and I also didn’t see any tents, so I went across the road on the other side and found a spot where I could pitch my TrailStar unobtrusively. I don’t know if this was actually “sanctioned” or not, but it didn’t seem likely to be a problem, and it wasn’t. The night was damp, but not rainy or windy, and not especially cold at that spot. I slept well.

Day 5 (Tuesday, 15 May): Torgyle Bridge to Fort Augustus – and Newtonmore
I got up fairly early and headed on toward Fort Augustus. I wanted to arrive as early as reasonably possible, as I was behind schedule and I had other plans and arrangements already made at Newtonmore for Tuesday night, and I was still thinking about how I should deal with that. The first step was to get to Fort Augustus. Rather than taking the inital jog westward on the track, I elected to follow the power lines directly on up over the hill. The climb was fairly steep, and I expected it to be boggy – which it certainly was. It might have been better in some respects to take the slightly longer path on the track, but it probably didn’t make too much difference, really. Later someone (I don’t recall exactly who) mentioned to me that they had gone the same way and saw the rather distinctive tracks from my Vibram FiveFingers – they definitely knew that I was the one that they were following! By that time several folks were already aware of my unorthodox footwear choice. :)

Once over the top it was time to rejoin the track and then shortly thereafter finally leave the power lines behind and follow the track toward Jenkins Park and Fort Augustus.  I did take one brief detour when I went down the larger track which took me in the wrong direction back toward the power line, but with only a little backtracking I got back on the smaller path toward Jenkins Park and then ultimately arrived in Fort Augustus shortly before noon.

The question then was what to do next.  I had a spot booked for the night at the Newtonmore hostel, but there was no way that I could get there by walking at that point.  My plan all along had been to mix some business with pleasure on Tuesday night, by calling in to the Terminfo sessions that were happening at the HL7 meeting in Vancouver, beginning at 1900 (1100 Vancouver time).  I felt that this was something that I should do, since I am currently a (or the) main leader of the Terminfo project, and I had to choose to miss the Vancouver meetings in order to do the Scotland walk.  I had also worked out the arrangements for remote phone-in access for these sessions (for myself and a few others), so at the very least I should try the best that I could to make it work.  My MacBook Air was waiting for my arrival in Newtonmore, as well.  I talked with John Manning at Challenge control to let them know that I was officially in Fort Augustus, and to see if they might have any suggestions about the best way to get from there to Newtonmore.  Taking the bus and changing at Inverness turned out to be the best option, so that’s what I did.

That actually worked out pretty well.  The bus trip wasn’t too expensive, really, and I got to Newtonmore in the mid afternoon and checked in to the hostel.  I first spoke with Neil Oxley, and then later with Ali Ogden.  They were very understanding and helpful, and to make my calls to Vancouver they gave me a spot in the main house (not the hostel building), which is where they live, and which had a much better wireless internet connection.  I grabbed some fish and chips from a local place providing takeaway and sat down in a chair to make my calls, beginning at 1900 and ending finally at 2300 (with a break in-between).  Somehow, it all actually worked!  Several of us were able to call in from various locations and participate.  My connection was good, and I was able to not only participate in but also to lead a good part of the discussions with the others on the line and in the room in Vancouver.  Rather successful!

At the same time that was happening I was also drying out my wet gear, including my camera, which I left in the drying room overnight.  I finally went to bed, and again slept well (which is almost always the case for me).

Day 6 (Wednesday, 16 May): Fort Augustus to Garva Bridge – and Newtonmore again!
Now that my most immediate work-related concerns were over, it was time to get back on the trail and continue the walk. I packed up early. Fortunately, after drying overnight, my camera was working properly again! I took the earliest (about 0700) bus out of Newtonmore back to Inverness, then switched in Inverness to the Fort Augustus bus and arrived there at about 1030 (as I recall).

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Fort Augustus

I still had some things to take care of in Fort Augustus before leaving, including picking up my package at the Post Office – I probably didn’t really need the food and most of the stuff at that point, but I needed to pick up the package, regardless. After sorting and re-packing, and having some lunch, I headed out of town toward the Corrieyairack Pass shortly after noon. This was again on my foul weather route – this time not necessarily so much because of the weather, which, though quite cool, was much better, but more because I was behind schedule and I felt that I should try to make up some time. I was still planning to get to Braemar by Saturday night, if possible (my original plan had been to arrive on Friday, with a rest day on Saturday).

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Outside of Fort Augustus

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Heading toward the Corrieyairack

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The way to Corrieyairack Pass

The very first part of the path looked pretty much the same as it had in 2007.

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The old path

But quickly that changed – a lot of the smaller path had been replaced by a larger road for the power line development, looking very much like what I had been traveling on for a good part of the past couple of days.

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The new (not so pretty) road, with Loch Ness in the background

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A better view looking back at Loch Ness and Fort Augustus

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Blackburn bothy

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Old and new

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The long and winding road (I wonder if McCartney was ever here?), with a wind farm in the background

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FiveFingers on the rocks!

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On the way down toward Melgarve

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Melgarve bothy

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Melgarve and old bridge

After Melgarve I kept going, but by the time I was getting near Garva Bridge it was clearly getting to be time to stop. At this point I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. The night before (Tuesday), Ali Ogden had offered for me to call and have her pick me up somewhere along the way back to Newtonmore, as I likely wouldn’t be able to get all the way there in one day (I hadn’t realized at the time that she thought that I was only going to be carrying a day pack from Fort Augustus, which actually hadn’t even occurred to me). It was looking like it was going to be a rather cold, drizzly night, and it was starting also to get fairly late – past 2100. So I decided to take Ali up on her offer and gave her a call. I’m not quite sure why I did that, really. It felt a little like cheating, though it actually wasn’t – I was going to walk all the way, regardless, and I was even carrying all of my kit (gear). I certainly could have camped at Garva Bridge, but at that moment that hadn’t seemed for some reason to be an option that was too appealing. So Ali picked me up on the road just past Garva Bridge, and I spent a second night inside the Newtonmore hostel. It was still a great place, but maybe not quite as logical a choice as the night before. Before going to bed, this did give me one final shot to do a bit with my computer before I would finally get it back in Montrose in a few more days when the walk was finished (but I don’t think that having access to it again really helped much this time).

Day 7 (Thursday, 17 May): Garva Bridge to Newtonmore – the last time!
We woke up Thursday morning to snow – in Newtonmore itself! No one had really expected that – apparently not even the weather forecast from the night before.

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Newtonmore, with snow

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The hostel, with snow in the front yard

Ali was planning to give me a ride back to the spot near Garva Bridge where she had picked me up the night before. She was also going to be driving to Montrose on Saturday, as she headed back home to England, and since she would already be going there she offered to transport my computer and anything else that I didn’t want to carry so that I wouldn’t have to post it. That would be very helpful! So I packed the MacBook and several other items back in the post box and passed them on to Ali. Before leaving I thought it would be nice to have a more substantial breakfast, so I made a quick trip to The Glen Hotel nearby. Breakfast seemed to hit the spot, and probably gave me a bit of extra energy. After that, we headed back out to Garva Bridge.

Ali is a GP (similar to a family physician in the US), and traveling with her from and back to Garva Bridge at least gave us an opportunity to talk about the state and future of the US and UK healthcare systems. As she and her husband are now part owners of the Newtonmore hostel, along with Neil and Sue, eventually she will likely be moving to Scotland, and then probably will do locum practice somewhere in the Newtonmore area. But for now she is still working in her usual surgery (i.e., medical practice) in England.

There had been snow during the night at Garva Bridge, as well as at Newtonmore. But even though I was back on the trail (or road, actually) at a reasonably early hour, by the time we arrived there whatever snow there was had already melted.

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Back to the starting place - where I left off the day before

The walk on the road from Garva Bridge to Laggan took a bit of a toll – as walks on paved roads often seem to do. That’s where I developed my only blister of the entire trip – just under the base of my third toe on the right foot. Shortly after I first noticed the “hot spot” I stopped and drained it (while it was still small, I was thinking), and it did feel better afterward and I didn’t think about it too much as I continued walking. But, unfortunately, even after draining the blister did continue to bother me over the next few days and actually for the rest of the walk. It wasn’t really terrible – many Challengers wearing conventional footwear did much worse, but still it was quite bothersome and annoying at times, and sometimes slowed me down a bit. This blister wasn’t nearly as bad as what I had with my feet in 2007, while wearing the Chaco sandals – but, disappointingly, it did mar my “perfect” record just a bit. :)

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Church in Laggan, and two ladies I met who were walking the West Highland Way

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Laggan Stores - a welcome place

Laggan Stores was a nice stop, as before – although there weren’t any other Challengers there this time. Even though it was still quite cool (there had been a “chill wind” every day so far), I bought and enjoyed a small cup of some really great tasting ice cream. :)

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Cluny Castle (the best view I could get)

Just after Cluny Castle I turned off of the the road to take the public footpath to Newtonmore via Glen Banchor. That turned out to be much more impressive than I had anticipated – actually one of the highlights of the trip, I think. I had briefly considered going this way in 2007 (it had been suggested to me by another Challenger), but that time my feet were hurting enough that I felt that I couldn’t even seriously consider it – so I’m glad that this time I was able to do it.

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The way to Glen Banchor

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Along the way - wide open country

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Moving along

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Boggy ground, and snow-capped peaks

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Ready to ford the River Calder

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Across the river, looking to the hills upstream

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Wet? Muddy? Not a problem!

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Moving on through the glen

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Nearing the end of the glen

I finally arrived back at Newtonmore. This was seeming to get a bit ridiculous – like I might continue to head back to Newtonmore forever (was this Groundhog Day?). However, this time I really was there officially, on foot, so maybe I wasn’t doomed to repeat this forever? I would actually be able to move on in the morning! I didn’t want to sleep indoors for another night, so I pitched my TrailStar on the lawn (as one of the others had done the night before). It didn’t rain much, or snow, during the night this time – again, I slept well.

Day 8 (Friday, 18 May): Newtonmore to Ruigh-aiteachain bothy
There was no snow on the ground this morning in Newtonmore. Up until this point I had been carrying a backup pair of shoes along with me, a pair of New Balance trail runners. So far I had put them on only once – briefly on Tuesday night, when I first arrived in Newtonmore. I wore them when I walked down the street to get my fish and chips. That wasn’t part of the official walk, of course, as I was actually supposed to be in Fort Augustus, so it wasn’t cheating. :) Even having them on briefly, though, I didn’t actually like the way that they felt on my feet – compared to the FiveFingers they felt constricting, and I really didn’t want to keep wearing them. But, even with the blister that had developed only the day before, by this time I was convinced that I would be wearing the FiveFingers the entire way to the east coast. So, before I left the hostel I checked with Ali to make sure that she was still going to Montrose tomorrow (Saturday) as planned, and then I passed my New Balance’s on her to take to Montrose along with everything else. No more carrying the extra weight, and no more backup for my feet – I was now totally committed!

Ali had also suggested that I just might want to head to Aviemore today and then catch the train back to Newtonmore and spend another night at the hostel, since so far over the last three days I had arrived in Newtonmore by bus, by car, and then on foot, but not yet by train – that was the final possibility! Tempting as it was (not!), I politely declined. :) Instead, I headed out and walked to Kingussie with Freddy Campbell and Giles Cooper. A few other Challengers were nearby and heading in the same direction, as well.

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Walking into Kingussie

In Kingussie I needed to get some cash and do a bit of shopping for food and “meths” (“methylated spirits”, or alcohol) fuel for the stove, so I left Freddy and Giles at that point and they went on ahead. I also decided to have lunch before moving on, so I ended up leaving Kingussie later than anticipated, but my goal was still to get to Ruigh-aiteachain on Friday.

This route again was my foul weather alternative. This time I needed to go with the FWA because my main planned route would have been over the high tops in the Cairngorms, and would have been often in probably waist deep snow. I wasn’t even considering attempting that. I did consider, however, changing my route to cross instead through the Lairig Ghru, as I had done in 2007. In 2007 there wasn’t snow, as there would be now (but instead there had been heavy rain and high winds). I was pretty sure the Lairig Ghru would be passable (which was later proven to be correct by David and Tanya, and others), but in the end I decided not to attempt it and to stick with the originally planned FWA through Glen Feshie – mostly I did that because that’s what I had told both Lisa and Challenge Control I was going to do (plus it also might have taken a little longer). I decided to play it safe.

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Ruthven Barracks - impressive, and obviously a strategic site

I had to stop and take some photos at Ruthven Barracks – it’s a fairly impressive structure, with a good bit of history.

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The track toward Glem Tromie

From Ruthven I headed southeast on the track toward Gentromie Lodge and ultimately to Glen Feshie.

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Nearing Glen Tromie

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Rather soggy path into the Inshriach Forest

Once I entered the Inshriach Forest, the navigation appeared pretty straightforward – just take the east track and turn right at the junction. But it didn’t quite work out that way. I apparently got on a slightly different track that was not actually on my map, that left the first section of the forest at a different spot than I was expecting. I crossed the small burn (stream) and followed the path across the open area toward the second forest section – things looked right, almost. But it didn’t take all that long to determine that the path that I was on disappeared and that I wasn’t going to find it again this way – I was indeed in the wrong place. So I did some backtracking, and then followed a different track through the first forest section to get a bit farther north, until I reached another junction and turned onto a good path that was going the right direction – east southeast. At this point I had lost some time, although probably not too much, but I still wanted to get to the bothy so I really didn’t want to lose any more. This track and the surroundings really did look correct to me, heading in the correct compass direction and consistent with the map, but I thought that it would be best to be sure. I fired up the GPS and the maps on my phone for the first, and only, time on the trip – the signal was good enough for the maps to be useable (I hadn’t had time to get the map tiles all pre-loaded), and it turned out that I was indeed exactly where I thought I was! That was quite comforting. So I turned off the phone (and therefore also the GPS) and then headed on forward down the track and out of the forest, across the burn and the open area, and then into the second forest section, now not far at all from Glen Feshie.

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In the Inshriach Forest, snow-capped Cairngorms in the distance

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The way to Glen Feshie

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The first sun (and shadow) in nearly a week!

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A first view of upper Glen Feshie

Once I got through the forest and into Glen Feshie I first decided to walk on the road on the west side of the river. The bothy was on the east side, but it didn’t appear that there was much of a track over there (as far as I could see). Fairly soon I walked past a rather non-official-looking sign saying something about “the last bridge across the River Feshie” (or something like that) – I didn’t really know whether I should take it seriously or not, and I didn’t! :) A while later I realized that since I really was going to have to cross the river, it was likely that I was going to have to do it without a bridge – so I found a reasonable spot and then went ahead and forded the river – it wasn’t too bad, really. Not very long after I was across, I did discover that the sign indeed had been correct – the bridge that was shown on my map at Carnachuin had been washed out a few years before. But it was no matter at that point. Not long thereafter I arrived at Ruigh-aiteachain bothy. I set up the TrailStar and camped outside the bothy, along with a few others. I cooked and ate my meal, got some water and took care of a few chores, got inside my hooded pullover and sleeping quilt and went to sleep.

Day 9 (Saturday, 19 May): Ruigh-aiteachain to Braemar

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My TrailStar at Ruigh-aiteachain

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Front "door" view

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Tent on the other side of the bothy

My goal today was to get to Braemar. That wasn’t necessarily going to be easy – it would be a long day, but seemed definitely doable.

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Leaving the bothy - with some sun and blue sky

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More upper Glen Feshie

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Climbing, looking back

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A popular path

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Some snow on the tops

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Moving on

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White Bridge

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River Dee

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Linn of Dee

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Inverey

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Victoria Bridge

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View of the Dee, near Braemar

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Entering Braemar

I ended up making it to Braemar at a reasonable time. I headed on to the caravan park, checked in, picked up my package and went to set up camp. The next thing to do was get some food. Rather than cooking my own, I decided to go into town to get some and thought I would give the “new” Hungry Highlander a chance. I even ordered the fish and chips, although that clearly is no longer their specialty. I gather that the Indian food that they are serving tends to be rather good – Willem Fox and Leendert Bakker ordered theirs shortly before me, and enjoyed it. But the orders are definitely not speedy – the wait even for the takeaway seems to be quite long. My fish and chips actually weren’t bad, although there was a mishap with them at first. They guy who prepared them asked if I wanted salt and vinegar, which I did – but while shaking the salt he somehow popped the lid off and dumped the contents of the entire salt container (a large one) right on what would have been my fish! So there was even more delay for me – but they did try to make it right and they prepared a new order as quickly as they could, so I really can’t complain. After the fish and chips, I wandered up to the Fife Arms – I saw John Smith, and some others, and then went on to the Moorfield House Hotel for the Saturday night gathering. I had a beer (or two?), saw Gordon Green and Alan Sloman and some others, but still didn’t see Andy Howell. The gathering seemed a little less active than I had remembered from 2009, but the temperature outside was also much cooler than it had been then, particularly in the unheated tent. The tent also didn’t have many chairs inside, so it wasn’t that conducive to sitting around and hanging out. I went back inside (for most of the time) and stayed at the Moorfield for a little while longer and enjoyed some conversations, but then it was time to head back to the caravan park and to bed.

Day 10 (Sunday, 20 May): Braemar to Loch Callater Lodge
Sunday morning was looking pretty good – we had started to have some sun, and it definitely was a bit warmer.

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"Tent city" in Braemar

I still hadn’t seen Andy Howell yet, but here is his Duomid.

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Andy's Duomid

And here’s my TrailStar.

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TrailStar pitched at Braemar

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And here's Andy!

Andy and I had a chance to chat for a bit before he headed out. I decided that I would try to go to church – although, with the service beginning at 0945, by the time I got all the various chores done (including washing out my socks) and had everything packed up, I was a bit late getting there (see the comments above). But after the service I again met the lady who had first welcomed me into Braemar as I was walking into town the day before, while she was also out for her evening walk at the park. She was interested in the Challenge and had chatted with me then, and was very warm and welcoming both then and again on Sunday morning. I also met the sister, Pat, of one of the other Challengers, Doug Bruce, who lives in Braemar. I talked briefly with the visiting minister, Reverend John Andrew (their usual minister was preaching at the opening of a new building in Romania that Sunday). He had some awareness and interest in Utah and the aspects of ministry in our local culture, so we had a nice chat about that. They were all aware of and interested in the Challenge and those of us who were taking part in it. I was also informed of and directed to the “soup and pudding” benefit to support the local primary school (“pudding” basically seems to mean dessert). That turned out to be quite nice, both for the food and for the friendly service and conversations from both the kids and adults. I think it’s always nice to meet and get to know local people and be able to participate in their activities, when possible.

After the “soup and pudding”, I headed back to the Fife Arms for some beer and further conversation with the group of Challengers congregated there. Most of them were planning to hang out there for a while in the early afternoon and then amble on to Lochcallater Lodge. Finally, after a not too prolonged stint at the Fife, Freddy Campbell and I headed out toward Loch Callater. We met up with most of the others along the way. Originally I had been planning to just pass through Loch Callater and go on over Jock’s Road and then into Glen Doll. But I didn’t start nearly early enough for that, nor did I feel like doing anything especially ambitious that day. I hadn’t gotten my full planned rest day, but this was sort of a partial one. It made much more sense to stay at Loch Callater for the night – plus, I would really get to experience the legendary Lochcallater hospitality!

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Freddy Campbell, as we're ready to leave Braemar

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Other "pilgrims" on their way to the Loch Callater "shrine"

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Callater Burn

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Tents and Lochcallater Lodge

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Freddy, John and ?

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More tents at Loch Callater

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Lochcallater Lodge

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Loch Callater at sunset

I must say, Lochcallater Lodge certainly didn’t disappoint! I didn’t really know entirely what to expect, but I had a reasonable idea. For the food in the afternoon and evening, my timing seemed a bit off and I ended up missing it, including the birthday cake (there were celebrations for Lynsey and Biagio’s (sp.?) birthdays)! But the hospitality and camaraderie were simply wonderful. That was aided by more than a wee bit of whisky, but I don’t think that’s the reason. People simply enjoyed sharing the time together. Bill Duncan and Ross Tennant (Stan’s son) were extremely hospitable and welcoming. I mingled a bit and checked out the groups and conversations going on in two or three different rooms. Bill offered a beer and I settled in for a while in what seemed like the “main” room. It wasn’t too long before the singing began (which again is legendary, I gather). So for the next while we sang various Scottish (and probably other) songs, and generally had a good time. At one point John Farrell played his whistle (Irish whistle, I believe it was) – very nice. The singing was ably led mostly by Croydon and JJ, with some help from Bill and a few others. The culmination seemed to be, at least for me, the whole group singing “I Am the Music Man” (video clip of Black Lace version). That song, in particular, kind of stuck with me – I found myself humming or singing bits of it as I was walking over the next few days. Once we had finished singing “I Am the Music Man”, I believe the time was somewhere between midnight and 0100, so I figured it was time to head out and get some sleep. Some of the others seemed to still be going pretty strong, though, and I believe continued on for maybe another hour or two – but back comfortably in my TrailStar, at that point I no longer was noticing.

So now I am finally all caught up – at least for this section!

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