Sunday, June 13, 2010

TGO Challenge Day 9: May 22, 2010 - Mar Lodge





I was right my selected spot for camping was not quite flat. I found myself sliding now and then off my ideal spot and bumping the silnylon of my Trailstar. Since condensation was forming on the inside of the shelter, a normal problem with any single wall shelter especially when their is little wind blowing through to help whisk moisture away, the outer shell of my sleeping bag was moist too. Not wet just a bit damp. This is an issue anyone using single wall shelters has to deal with. People using double wall shelters deal with it too but the condensation is a bit farther away so you can be a bit more causual about dealing with it. Since the sun was out it was easy to dry things off. I was ready to leave camp around 08:40 not that long after Lou and Phyllis had finished pulling up their stakes and departing. I caught up to them right by the good stream at the old ruined shack (which, to be honest, I don't think I ever really saw this time). We forded the stream, got water, and then continued on our way. In this area the paths appear and vanish in the peat bog mire and we actually lost the path for a while and ended up following what is probably a sheep trail. It was a definite path but not one people would want to follow. We crept along for a few minutes and then noticed that the nice easy to walk path was a couple meters to our left and just above us. Even though it wasn't much above us it was a little scramble to get to it. It just shows that you can be practically on top of a far superior route and not realize it for the longest time.



Photo: Does it look scarier than it is? Yes, it does. Much of the walking today would be through the glen with very little elevation change. You need to head into the mountains.

When we crossed the metal bridge over the fast flowing River Eidart we slowly began to spread out. The temperature was rising steadily as we walked through the rolling hills. The skies did not stay blue through the whole day but the times that clouds took over did not last all that long. It was a very nice day to be walking the paths through Feshie even though as the day wore on I did feel a touch of sun or wind burn forming on my exposed arm. It was good to just walk along the paths and enjoy the good weather. A few times I found that I would have to pause and search for the path as it had temporarily vanished from view. One time this happened at a stream crossing in early afternoon right around when I was starting to feel pretty hungry. I paused to have lunch and as I was finishing two Challengers, the couple Lou, Phyllis and I had seen the previous afternoon, came on by. They had just talked with Lou and Phyllis and I learned they weren't that far behind me. I freely admit I took advantage of watching them depart and seeing which way they went to pick up the proper path once more.



Photo: in the early afternoon clouds chased each other across the sky but I never as if it was going to rain.

Eventually I found my way to the two-tracks that start near Geldie Lodge. Geldie Lodge is, like so many places, a bit misnamed. Once, years and years ago, it may have been used as lodging for the occasional shepherd but today it is just an empty shell. No lodging here. I must admit I find it a bit depressing to see the word "lodge" on a map and then find that you can't actually stay there. I'd rather it just said "ruin" and be done with it. Had I arrived earlier in the day and done some serious searching perhaps I could have found Alan and Phil's wine and cheese party but it was not to be. Instead I continued on my way through the modestly deep and very swift flowing water that was gushing across the road (and completely flooded my shoes) on down past the properly named, actually it might lack a name entirely and just have the building symbol which doesn't inspire any thoughts or feelings, ruined building at Ruigh nan Clach towards (the not white) White Bridge.



Photo: I'm fairly sure that sign wasn't there two years ago.

Two years ago, the 2008 TGO Challenge, I reached White Bridge a little after 17:00 and found a few people set up on the windy banks of the River Dee. I decided, along with Laura and Mary Ann, to go on to Mar Lodge where I lucked out and managed to get an apartment for myself instead of taking a room in the bunkhouse. This time I crossed the green colored White Bridge around 16:00 and found myself alone. I had seen quite a few cyclists the last few kilometers who were either out for a day of riding the good two-tracks or perhaps they were going to bike close to some of the peaks and then make summit attempts by foot. It was certainly a fine day for either; far better weather (even if a tad warm) than two years ago. I treated myself to a lazy break by the river before returning to the gravel track. I still had quite a ways to go if I wanted to spend the night at Mar Lodge.

The two-track here is rather dull. It is merely the means of getting from point A to B. Their is not much to draw your attention away from the squishing of your feet in your sodden shoes or the slowly increasing aching of your feet as your pound the hard surface towards the admittedly pretty forested area by Linn of Dee. When I got there I saw, and especially heard, plenty of signs of people out having a good time. I am not sure if anyone was in the water (it is a very fast river here and paddling it could be tough if you aren't experienced) but that hardly matters as it was clear people were out and about having fun. Last time through this way we saw no one. Perhaps because this time was a Saturday afternoon, around 17:30, instead of a slightly later Friday afternoon was all the difference that was needed but I think not. I decided to walk the roads towards the front entrance of Mar Lodge. I think this was a mistake. It is definitely a longer route than going via the back route past Claybookie. It could be a couple klicks longer. It certainly felt a lot longer to my feet. I was very happy to see the welcoming sign at the estate just a little before 19:00. As I strolled up to the massive main building I could hear the sounds of a bagpipe drifting across the estate as someone practiced his or her craft. I was able to get a bed in the bunkhouse and take part in the very nicely put together dinner. Their are quite a few Challengers here though after having dinner with the bulk of them I have only seen my roommates and even them just briefly. I am pooped and my prune-looking feet are crying for a nice dry rest. It has been a good day.


YouTube Video

Video: Much of this video was shot early in the day while still about 14km from White Bridge.

Location: Mar Lodge

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