The weather today has been cold, wet, and windy......and, it reminded me a lot of the typical springtime weather in Scotland....I mentioned this to a friend today while we were having a smoke....he was huddling out of the wind and shivering...and, I was leaning against a wall...letting the wind chill me...

He said, "DAMN, this is some nasty weather!"...

....I just looked up at him....and said..."THIS is the BEST kind of weather...this is the kind of weather that can KILL you if you don't know how to deal with it...this is weather that will TRY you...to see if you fit..."

He didn't say anything else....he just finished his cigarette and walked back inside...heh..I guess he musta disagreed with me.....but, I sat there for a while....even after I finished mine....and took in the cold...and, it got me to thinking about my "walks" I used to take in Scotland...

First off...Scotland has a totally different slant on "trespassing" laws...basically, there AREN'T any...you can camp pretty much wherever you want, as long as you don't stay longer than 24 hours in one place....now, this causes a lot of gypsies and vagrants to hang around in weird places...but, it ALSO gives the "rambler", or "hiker" a HUGE amount of possibilities...

My Father-in-law owns a condo/timeshare type thingy in Ballater....not too far from Balmoral Estate...where the Royals go to get away from it all...anyway, the whole family would pack into the various cars, and go skipping up there to spend the first weeks in May...now, this place is run by Hilton...so, it is pretty swanky...but, me being me...I always felt that I should PAY a little for getting to wallow in so much opulence...so, I would torture myself for a few days in late April every year....

..so, I walked to Ballater...

...the rest of the family drove the Mercedes...

...and I WALKED to Ballater...

I don't know WHY I did it...maybe it was the old jarhead in me just SCREAMING to come out...or, maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that I still could push myself...lord knows, my JOB sure wasn't challenging me at the time....so, as a result...I would walk to Ballater...depending on the route I took, it would take 3, 4, or 5 days to make the trip...I'd end up sitting on a mountain top overlooking Ballater...coffee brewing on my camp stove...and watching Duncan through my binoculars casually stroll up the trail to collect me....he liked hiking too...but not overnighting it...and DEFINITELY not the 4 day ordeals that I put myself through every year...

It was 55 miles from Montrose to Ballater....I'd get the Wife to drive me up one of the local glens...either Glen Clova, Glenesk, Glen Mark, or Glen Prosen....and I'd set off....just me and my pack on my back....I usually had the route marked out...and, I'd know how many miles I'd have to do every day to make my rendezvous with Duncan....sometimes it was difficult to keep the pace....sometimes, you'd get to the place you had planned on camping...after hiking 12 miles that day, and find it flooded, or covered with snow two feet deep...and you'd make a decision...camp in the snow, or hike 3 more miles to a lower elevation....I usually chose to hike to a lower elevation....but hey, that was just extra penance, so, it was good for me....after all, I had warmth, Scotch, feather pillows, Bose audio, and a sauna waiting for me at the end of the trail....

The wonderful thing about my walks in Scotland....was this..I'd walk for 4 or 5 days...and never see another human being....herds of sheep...or Roe Deer...and nothing else...this wasn't a National Forest or anything....this was private land...usually part of some Lord's estate...but, I had a right to be there....and the experience was tremendous....

Anyway, like I started to say, I'd normally arrive at my final destination at around noon on the last day....there was a GREAT ridge overlooking Ballater...and I'd pitch my tent there...knowing that I was only about two miles from the road, I'd cook the remaining food that I'd brought with me....heh...I always over-packed on the food....so, the final night's supper was a total grubfest...Ramen noodles galore....and, I'd break open the little flask of Scotch I'd brought with me..you know....for snakebites and such, A'hem.....and, I'd have a wee dram up there alone....watching the sunset over Lochnagar.....then, the next morning, I'd tear down the tent....pack up the camp except for the cooker and the coffee....and I'd await Duncan....I'd see him when he first emerged from the woods at the bottom of the mountain....he was still 45 minutes away....and I'd watch him...and drink coffee....until he arrived, and then we'd head off the mountain...

You know, I just realized something....one of the finest pleasures of my life has been offering my Father-in-law a cup of coffee...early in the morning....on an insignificant hill near Ballater....

by Eric on December 19, 2003 | Comments(13) | SWG Stories
Gut Rumbles links with: too old anymore
The Brier Patch links with: A good cup of coffee
Up For Anything links with: Volunteer Tailgate Party XVIII
Up For Anything links with: Volunteer Tailgate Party XVIII

Comments so far:

Sounds like an awesome experience. And everyone should always have a flask of "snake bite cure" along when camping *winks*

posted by: Jaded Angel on December 19, 2003 06:46 PM

That's a great story. Makes me want to grab my pack and take off!

posted by: Jonathan on December 19, 2003 07:40 PM

wow, sir. thats sum fine ritin. ye had me thar rite with ye.

posted by: buddy don on December 19, 2003 07:58 PM

That was one beautiful post.

posted by: Acidman on December 20, 2003 12:03 AM

Terrific, Eric. Helluva walk. Helluva post.

posted by: Parkway Rest Stop on December 20, 2003 01:03 AM

That sounds like JULY in Scotland, not spring.
I'll have to post some pics of our hikes ( not walks ) ! ;o)
That is a great post, by the way ! ( I can picture it in my minds' eye, and that means your post did it's job ! )

posted by: siso on December 20, 2003 07:44 AM

Thanks, everyone...I'm glad y'all liked my story!!

posted by: Eric on December 20, 2003 07:47 AM

Eric, that was excellent.

posted by: BSTommy on December 20, 2003 08:07 AM

I've done my share of walking and camping, but I can't touch anything like that story. Beautiful.

posted by: Wichi Dude on December 20, 2003 12:10 PM

Eric, that wasn't a "post" at all.

It was literature, pure and simple.

Great job. Great writing.

Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

posted by: Jim on December 20, 2003 12:59 PM

Very, Very, Cool!

The Brier Patch
North Carolina, USA

posted by: Sam on December 20, 2003 02:02 PM

Memories of the Central Highlands! They are so beautiful. MB could just picture that 4-day ramble.

posted by: MommaBear on December 20, 2003 03:30 PM

Eric - in addition to what I said in the note... you made 'em envious.

Me too.

posted by: John of Argghhh! on December 21, 2003 07:46 PM