Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Great Outdoors Challenge: Lochailort to Arbroath (part 5)

Wild camp in the morning

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Day 9.

It rained all night. I made breakfast, packed up and headed up the trail. There was an abandoned house near a loch, and the large fir trees in front of it offered protection from the rain, so I paused and made a second cup of coffee.

I reached Kirkmichael at 7:30 a.m. The shop/cafe there didn't open until 8, and so I bided my time walking through the local churchyard and reading the various notices on the shop windows. All the time, I was under my unbrella as a steady rain fell.

When the shop opened, I settled into a corner table, and enjoyed a bacon butty and an americano. I caught up on my e-mails - the first time I'd looked at them this trip - on my phone.

Tim arrived a bit after 9. This was an excuse to put off engaging with the rain, and have another coffee. We were headed in roughly the same direction once again, and eventually tore ourselves away from the cafe at 10. I'd ordered a second bacon roll to take-away for lunch, and also found a nice pain-au-chocolate for breakfast the next day.

We walked together a bit, following a right-of-way toward Lair. Tim, who was powering through a stress fracture, waved me on, and I continued across various stone walls and farm fences. I wasn't paying sufficient attention to my direction, and ended up descending a glen that was clearly incorrect. I took a compass bearing, and headed sharply left, up a hill. Cresting this, I was reunited with Tim, who'd taken the correct route.

We pushed on through a boggy expanse. At one point, my right leg went in to the bog, up to my knee. It didn't really matter - my shoes and socks were already soaked.

Eventually, we found a series of right-of-way posts, and headed in a line towards Lair. On descending to the road, I paused under the shelter of some fir trees to eat my lunch bacon roll. Tim caught up, and we headed up a B road towards the hamlet of Forter. We separated again, with the plan of different stopping points for the night.

I climbed past a loch, and then headed across the high ground on a compass bearing. It was still raining, and my umbrella was still in use.

Eventually, I crossed into a forest. It was 5, and I was wet, tired, and chilled. What I wanted most was to get out of the rain. Next, I wanted to get into my sleeping bag and get warm.

I followed the forestry roads down to a stream, and set up my tent. The rain stopped for a bit, and I cooked dinner and changed into dry clothes for the night.

Day 10.

It stopped raining in the night, but there was frost on the tent. My sleeping bag felt a little cool, and when I looked the bottom bit of my tent had collapsed sometime in the night.

Yesterday, I'd started a bit behind my previous overnight halt (Kirkmichael), and had stopped short of my planned overnight halt (Glen Prosen). However, the weather conditions had improved, so I figured I could knock out yesterday's miles quickly in the morning session of walking, and then dig into today's planned miles.

I headed along forestry roads and farm tracks for a bit, and then came to a sign for Glen Prosen (6 miles!). With what I'd done already, this meant that I had stopped 8 miles short yesterday

I'd put on waterproof socks in the morning, but slipped in a burn, so there was water in these. I switch back to my wool running socks, even though they were wet. There were some nice, flat places for pitching a tent in the forestry, but it would have been quite taxing to add these few miles on at the end of the day yesterday.

I reached Glen Prosen after 10 a.m. I took a right of way along the river, but this was more of a cow path, and it followed the bends of the river. I returned to the road, crossed a bridge, and headed to Glen Prosen village.

There I found a welcome bench, and made a ramen noodle lunch.
Glen Prosen church

Revived by my food, I had a think about my goals for the day. My schedule had me travelling 6 miles over the hills to Glen Clova, and then another 12 miles, again over high ground, to Tarfside. Realistically, I would not reach the comforts of Tarfside until 9 p.m., if that. And I was nearly out of food. Following this, I'd planned a 24-mile day to finish in St. Cyrus. Together, this plan no longer seemed plausible.

I opted instead to forgo the high ground, and start heading directly to the coast. I headed down the road through Glen Prosen, and came to a memorial for Robert Scott and Edward Wilson. It turns out that Wilson worked nearby on a grouse disease survey in between trips with Scott to the Antartic ( both perished there after reaching the South Pole).

Captain Robert Scott and Dr Edward Wilson memorial. My pack and umbrella are visible nearby.

Route of the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole

I passed through a nice wood, and headed for Forfar. A sign indicated that it was 6 miles away, but, frustratingly, I came across another sign indicating it was 6 miles away a half hour later. My suspicion was that it was somehow cheaper to print a few signs with the same number.

Forfar is 6 miles away for a long time.

Eventually, I reached Forfar, and found my way to the Queens Hotel. A room was £44, and there I showered and changed before enjoying a pint and a fish supper. For the day, the distance was about 24 miles, but I was now in striking distance of the coast.

Part 6 can be found here.

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