Photo: Nicolas and Jeroen hiking down a dirt road. Our last day together would start out with a several kilometer road walk then feature a dozen or so kilometers within the Fetteresso Forest, and I'd top it off with another ten or so clicks on a busy paved road. While the paths in the Fetteresso are often not the prettiest and the forest is clearly a working forest it is still a nice place.
The first few miles of the walk towards the sea today were on roads. The roads were not that busy which made it tolerable.. We found that we were able to cover the 7 or so kilometers to the northern edge of Pitreadie Farm near Moss-side where we took a break before beginning the lengthy crossing of the big fields that are home to numerous cows. It was starting to cloud over and what I thought was going to be a scorcher of a day was turning out not to be so bad. I pulled ahead of my companions who were taking a longer rest to get a break from their massive packs. I strolled along the wide farm path near large colorful cattle who sometimes seemed to care I was moving by and sometimes seemed to barely register my presence. I am basing this pretty much entirely on the quality and volume of the moos that some let loose as I went by. Perhaps that doesn't count for much. I am happy none really moved towards me though some definitely did look my way. At the southern edge of the farm field I found a locked gate and the only way over was to climb over a barbed wire fence. This happens now and then and I find it really annoying. The wire is just a pain to deal with especially as you worry about cutting yourself. Nicolas and Jeroen caught up to me at this point.
We quickly entered the Fetteresso Forest. We ascended through the managed forest paths as the weateher got blustery and we put our rain gear on. The paths in the forest here run from forest road to very narrow, the width of a bike tire it seems, and it can be confusing at times. You need to pay closer attention to how many intersections you have passed so you can properly place yourself on a map. If you are not used to this sort of thing the Fetteresso can be daunting but I think Nicolas had no real issues with the forest. Our biggest complaint was that the really narrow paths were often a flooded mess. But even though sometimes the going was a bit slow we made fine progress through the various types of paths and tracks. That is perhaps the single most notable thing about the Fetteresso Forest: the variety of path types. One moment you can be walking a hiking/biking trail and the next passing by a huge stack of cut timber on a logging road. This is a working forest more akin to something you might find in the Hundred Mile Wilderness (not!) than a large forest that is just allowed to grow as it would. ''In early afternoon we pass by the southern edge of Hill of Hobseat and that is about when it really clouded over and subsequently began to pour - not far from Mergie.
Photo: The Fetteresso Forest mixes wide and narrow paths with forest roads. It can be a confusing place if you do not pay attention to the map and check your location often. However, it shouldn't be feared. One thing that is notable about this working forest is that the forest itself is really quite inpenetrable beyond the paths.
Nicolas and Jeroen decided that they were done for the day. Jeroen's back was acting up so pushing on the remaining several miles to Stonehaven was not in the cards. I was unwilling to set up camp so early especially since it was dumping rain. I decided to continue on. From Mergie you have a couple of options of how you head to Stonehaven. The minor roads probably require a bit more hiking and you have a wretched highway crossing unless you walk a way north to Slug road and cross the highway using the overpass. Walking down Slug road is shorter but a slog along a far busier, though it is just one lane in each direction, road. I took the latter route and just had to pay a bit more attention to the fast traffic, especially trucks, as they zoomed on by. I walked through the rain wishing it would stop. I gaze out across the road and through the inhabited farm fields and waited for the rain to subside. Eventually it did and I just had to worry about getting splashed.
I spent about 2.5 hours walking down SLug road towards Stonehaven. As I entered the town the sun broke out and warmed things back up and I felt as though I was ending my walk on a high note. Sure I had no idea where the train station was and I was even in a bit of doubt as to where the sea actually was but I had made it. I was done. I found the huge hotel in the heart of downtown and eventually figured out I had walked right by the train station. Once I figured out where things were it was a fairly easy matter to catch a train to Montrose and find my way , with an able assist from both Challenge Control and a store owner on High Street, to the Park Hotel. I entered Control around 20:00 and was welcomed by Robin. My walk was done. The last tough bit of navigation to the George House was all that was left: turned out that was the worst part of the day. I went a bit astray a couple of times before finding the place. It's a nice enough hotel though my bed feels a bit lumpy.
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I was right that my bed was lumpy. I think it might have had a tilt in it as well. Considering that I was paying for this room I think the bed should have been more comfortable than it was (though it was hardly the worst I have ever slept on; that award probably still belongs to The Doyle or that horrid place in Anchorage that Joe and I used one night). However, the rest of the room and the breakfast were good. At breakfast I found Louise Kiernan and the rest of her family group along with Barbara Peers. We didn't have much of a chance to talk as they were getting ready to depart and I was in the midst of a cooling breakfast.
I checked out and wandered over to the Park Hotel and Challenge Control under a sunny sky. It was going to be a good final day for the last walkers to enter Montrose and check in. I had a couple things to pick up at Control that I had forgotten to fetch yesterday and once that was done I just hung out. Challenge Control can be a beehive of activity when all of the Challengers are out and I reckon it is even busier when scores of walkers are arriving. But today, Friday the final day of the Challenge, it wasn't too busy. People trickled in and signed out and were presented with the same goodies I had received the night before. I was waiting for Nocolas and Jeroen to arrive. I knew they were on their way and it was just a matter of time before they strolled in. That time eventually came and I got to congratulate them on completing their walk. That is pretty much how the day went. Chatting with people who had just arrived, others who were hanging out like me, and just killing time. Most of us were wiping out the day until the final Challenge dinner. I had decided that I would stay for the , somewhat overpriced I think, meal and catch the last train to Glasgow. Had I planned things better I'd have cancelled my room in Glasgow and stuck around Friday night so I could have the full enjoyment of the dinner and the afterglow that would surely take place afterwards. Oh well. While I enjoy the company and the speeches from people like Roger Smith are fun the food the Park Hotel provides for your £17.50 is so-so.
Location: Stonehaven and Montrose
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