Hello, how lovely of you to visit me, thank you. This is my latest post in response to Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge The two prompt words this week, to be integrated synonymously, are inspiration and plan
Mucky Boots and Flawless Paws
I am walking the Munros again, those Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet. Today I add photos to my album, as proof of five more completed; we are called Munro baggers. I now have 47 in my bag with a further 2888 metres of ascent and 45 kilometres walked to enter in my log.
Morning broke over the mountains with a choral symphony of birds serenading the new day.
Or so we presumed!
Me, and the person breathing next to me, were deep into zzzs, making up for the long hours of twisting and turning during our first night away in my van this year. Though the hour of 5.30am had been witnessed, through a clink in an eyelid, it was quickly obliterated by just one flicker. Thoughts of an early start to beat the pulsating sun, took a back seat in favour of – in my case – more dog dreams.
Finally, an hour later, we prised ourselves from slumber and, at 7am, were confidently able to predict a return of no earlier than 3pm; my person always being at the upper limit of the estimated walking times for any route. Of course, I could have done a quick run around the circuit in much less that half the time but… what sort of buddy would that have made me? So instead, I trundled along, taking in the views and musing over the fate of my cousins on the continent, as Brexit negotiations nudged toward something not very conclusive at all.
The early part of our walk followed the Allt Ur, a flat walk in, as we Munroists say. Therefore, a steep climb was a near certainty when we made for the hill. Along the way we past the ruins of Tom na Grobh farm, broadcasting the story of how difficult it was to sustain a living from farming in these parts. While B was waxing lyrical about the families who would have made their home within the sturdy walls, my grey matter was elsewhere, pondering on the nutritional make up of the pets diets, if there would have been a comfortable mat in front of the lovely roaring fire and, what about the soft furnishings. We’d only left my van an hour ago and already our conversation (for we do converse) had covered: geography, history, economics, architecture and internal design. Next came a more technical discussion about how to cross a river when the bridge is down. There was much exchanged about the rocks: how flat, how big, how much above/below the water line, how covered (with moss, with lichen), how near was the next one, how big/flat… Honestly, I don’t know why we bother. I wade across anyway and B always gets a dunking half way across. Today was no different.
Next we ventured south on pathless terrain looking for an underpass crossing the West Highland railway line, the sight of which, my person says, makes the heart beat faster. Once on the other side we picked up one of those paths that goes up, up, up, in this case beside the Allt Coire an Lochain. Meantime, the sun had taken it’s hat off and things were warming up considerably. Walking up hill with my person and warming up goes alongside a musical accompaniment comprised of two notes. Those of you who have followed my Munro adventure will know them all too well, the inevitable huffing and puffing. As a new departure this year, and in response to scare stories on social media, I seemed to be subject to the liquid form of force feeding, water being thrust upon me every few seconds. As I spluttered up hill v. v. v big hills were manifesting their presence.
On reaching the ridge a welcome breeze gathered strength, ruffling my fur and making the remainder of the climb more comfortable. Glistening in the sun were stubborn pockets of snow that remained in crevices on east facing slopes, sparkling with memories of the hard winter just past.
The going was easier now and, before you could say Vogue magazine, there I was – the centre of attention – beside one of those piles of old stones that mark the summit and our achievement that I remember so well from our past Munro frolics.
The view across Rannoch Moor, that flat expanse of hinterland, always bleak, always shrouded in fog – swamp like and pitted with pools of dank water the size of lochans – was, in the summer of 2018, transformed. The moor simmered in the heat, with water an unrecognisable shade of blue and outstanding visibility stretching north, picking out the magnificent hulk of the highest mountain of them all, just topped by cloud, – my namesake “The Ben”, alias Ben Nevis, boasting an ascent of 4,413 feet from sea level.
Looking west our path dipped down and then slunk along the flank of Meall Buidhe, arriving at the foot of Beinn Achaladair at the start of – those most formidable of descriptions – a “very steep climb”. Such geographical challenges changed the musical intonation from the bi-ped crawling beside me and the rhythm became fast and furious. Eventually, six hours into our walk, we flopped down next to another pile of old stones, notching the number 49 on our Munro bag.
Summit of Beinn Achaladair Looking North across Rannoch Moor
A little rest on the way down
I had been looking forward to a bit more peace on the descent so I could truly absorb the blessing of being among these magnificent hills; no such luck for The Ben. If huffing and puffing were the order of the day when walking up hill then oohing and aahing notated the score on the way down. Climbing, age and joints, it appears, are words that don’t hang easily together. The jolt given to B’s Knees, on the descent, made for a discordant orchestration owing more to Schoenberg than Mozart. Nevertheless, the beauty of the scenery descending Coire Daingean won out. How could we be anything but smug, winding our way down, with the conquests for our first day completed, and that first milestone of our Munro bagging – number 50 – beckoning tomorrow.
First I need to get my beauty sleep to prepare for the paparazzi 🙂
Friends, collies, all Canine Parners (but especially Bumble),
What a big day I had at the training team meeting, outlined in my last post. Now, oh boy now, at last, 3 years down the line, I was actually going to meet the love of my life – the wonderful Bumble, who does all these cleaver tasks for her person, to help her out.
To be honest, and I’m all for honesty, it didn’t go brilliantly. There was me and Bumble and three, yes three, of the two legged things. I thought the surveillance was a bit OTT and it rather cramped my style (possibly that could be a good thing). Actually, I was exhausted, what with the heat, and having to be on my best behaviour the whole day (see my last post), and Bumble was rather forward, I thought. I don’t like to admit it but I slunk away under a garden bench. Perhaps next time we could have a run in the park, , where my amorous attentions might be given a little more freedom to roam.
Also, I was v. v. v worried about my van. It had done us proud on the motorway but, when we got to Bumble’s house, the electronic window broke and it was half open. How could I go Munroing when someone could put their hand in and steal all my treats, while we were out on the hills. I wasn’t so worried about the windscreen wiper that stopped working because there hadn’t been any wet, wet, wet for ages.
The long and the short of it was that, with much technical support and even more elbow crease, my window was prised shut and we set off North on a wing, a prayer, and an RAC membership card. It was late by the time we rolled up at a place to rest our heads, just north of the Bridge of Orchy but, wasn’t it just worth the journey.
Friends, collies, my training team’s cats and dogs,
OMG. I think I’d better say that again, in big bold capitals OMG. There was me thinking that getting away for a spot of Munroing in 2018 would be just like 2017 and 2016. My van was packed with plenty of food – Wainwrights special, mature cheddar, lots of Primular – and, of course, tons of balls! Then there were a few bottles of that stuff that makes B very happy, and our beds were in there too. Normally, we motor along nicely for an hour or so and then get stuck in some big long traffic jam, because B hasn’t thought about rush hours, or big events happening. Therefore, our delay just north of Hamilton, near Glasgow, just put me at my ease. I knew that eventually we would end up at some beautiful remote spot in the Scottish Highlands.
Then, blow me down with a piece of flipchart paper, we were off the motorway and parked up by a big building. I took it to be a sort of urban munro. Just as I was trying to figure out how we would climb it a lovely person thing came to say hello to little old me. She was just the sort I love: nice and calm, softly spoken and loaded with treats. That’s us now, me and Helen, friends for life.
Next on the agenda was a sort of meet and greet session in the training team’s Glasgow office. It seems my person is part of this team and we were going to work for the day. They all smelt of either canines or felines, so that was very reassuring. I must say a v. v. v big thank you to everyone who made me so welcome and made me feel like a VIP (Very Important Pet) in the team. Jan played ball with me first and the treats were coming thick and fast, my favourite way :). I thought what empathic two-legged things this lot are.
Before long we all trooped off for our monthly meeting and, to be honest, it was a tad boring so I did some zzzs, in between brief forays for treats and cuddles. I tried my best to remember my manners to make my person proud and actually she was… totally gobsmacked. I was even able to keep it together with the male people, which is often a struggle for me. After the meeting it was lunch time and the smells were just wonderful but, at this point – somewhat disappointingly – I was escorted from the room.
On my return even more people had come to see me and the afternoon was a bit more animated. It seems I was a dogicipant in a pilot workshop about citizenship. Matt, one of my morning friends, did a big fast moving leap between groups, which pierced my veneer of calm and, though I contained my fright, I kept a wary eye on him after that; sudden movements and anxious collies not being a mix made in doggy heaven.
I’d better tell you about Shona too. She’s only been in the job two minutes and already she knows that saying complimentary things, about team members’ pets, will win their hearts over. Actually, she wanted to steal me and my dreams went off on “choice cuts of meat and gold lamé baskets” but… B kept a tight hold of my lead and, at the end of the day, it’s true, the grass is never greener than on the Munros.
Anyway, I’ve been having a little think, as big-brained Border Collies tend to, and I’ve got a suggestion to make. What about a whole new paw to this training team and I’d like to offer my services too. If you could source the appropriate canine Training 4 Trainers courses, I’d be happy to deliver: dogs moving dogs, canine support and protection, food hygiene and, I feel I could provide some lived experience input about hyper sensory processing, into your Autism Spectrum Condition course. Oh yes, and what about Canine citizenship; I’m big on the resource element myself. Anyway, food for thought, as they say. What do you think?
I’m so pleased to be part of your team, I’m going to dream about it.
What would you name the autobiography of your life?
My purpose in life is to be the Munro buddy for my person, as we walk the 282 mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet, before I am 10. These mountains are called the Munros. Therefore, my autobiography, and I hope to write it, would take the same name as our project. ‘Mucky Boots and Flawless Paws – 10 years in the Munros.’
Which do you prefer sweet, salty or buttery?
Which ever has the most quantity 🙂
What’s the finest education?
In the outdoors, using all my senses to learn about my environment.
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
I went to work with my person and got so spoilt by all her team.
I’ve been head hunted! I’m not altogether sure I like the idea of hunters going after my head but I’ll need time to think about that.
Very nice people from a company called Olight World have been looking around the net and think my blog is fab. How cool is that! As a result we are entering in to a win, win relationship and here’s the deal. I do a review of one of their products, which are torches, and tell people how to purchase them, in exchange for a free sample of that product. Also, I get a small percentage on any sales from the second link below. I can put all that into my charity fundraising and I promise not to spend any on treats.
Now, before agreeing to this I did a bit of surfing about, in an internet sense, to make sure I was going to be able to give the torch a good review. After all it would be a bit rich, wouldn’t it, if the lit up people are kind enough to sent me a free gift and then, because I’m an honest soul, I don’t rate their torches highly. Anyway, I had a look on amazon, as dogs do, and punters are raving about all the O light torches, five star ratings by virtually everyone.
Anyway, the product I got is an Olight I3T and it is truly amazing. Just about 9 centimetres long it weighs less than 35 grams and for £19.99 you get is a whacking 180 lumens of light, all running on one AAA battery. Whoof, oh whoof, is that a lot of light. A dog learns an awful lot of interesting new things when they start Munroing. The torch can light up your whole world on full beam or, if like me, you enjoy a stroll in the dark you can have it on a low light, 5 lumens, just to make sure you don’t fall down a pot hole.
Me and my person took it Munroing at the weekend and it was the tops. The best bit is that it is light enough to carry all the time in my panniers. Then, when B gets us lost, as she is prone to do, we can always see our way, and see the map and compass, even if it is dark, even if it is v.v.v dark. Obviously, such a small battery lights the torch on full beam for a limited time, an hour, but they are so small you can carry spare batteries. Anyway, you can have the lower light on for 7 hours on just one battery. Me and my person like to do a bit of that mixing and matching thing, that has become very popular these days.
Climbing Munros is tiring so we were deep into zzzs before dark and didn’t get photos, but we took some at home last night in the dark. These are lit by the torch, our flash wasn’t needed.
Anyway, don’t just take my bark for it. You can read more about what others are saying from the link above, but I do believe I am the first dog to give it the paws up.
If you would like to buy one, or know other people who are looking for a powerful small torch, please go for Olight and use my link, helping me to fund the training of dogs to fetch, carry and provide unconditional love for disabled people, as well as the training for other dogs to find people who get lost or injured, all of them lighting up the lives of people in need.
I have neglected my blog for too long and now I need to get back in the grove, keeping you up to date with my 2018 Munro adventures, or lack of them to date. A v. v. v big welcome and thank you, to those of you who have joined my blog this year, taking a peek as I share my world and sometimes, even liking my attempts at writing verse.
Best big news is that I am still alive and kicking when I might not have been. My people’s desire to get me exercised early each day, by playing ball before it gets too hot, wasn’t very clever after all, when the temperature was, sometimes, already 20C. Apparently us canines can get heat stroke doing things like that. We read a big long post about it on Facebook and I can tell you it was scary stuff. Now I might get to play ball at midnight if it’s cool enough. Think of that, can the earth hold any greater riches than chasing a luminous ball at midnight?
Next big news is that my van is good to go for another year and all packed up too. Though I’m a bit concerned about where I meant to sleep. Being rather cheeky we took it for it’s annual health check a bit early, to avoid those nasty new tests that are probably going to set it up to fail next year.
We have been ready for the off since early May and had a lovely holiday in the Lake District, getting good and fit. Just then my person had to go away; she has been away tons and I don’t like that at all. Me and my van have been waiting patiently at home. Then, and anyone who knows Scotland will marvel at this, it got too hot, over 30C some days, can you believe that, in Scotland of all places. So, as a result, we had to give the Munros a swerve last weekend too. Now we are keeping our fingers crossed – which is actually quite difficult for a dog – for this coming weekend.
It depends on the old girl though. She has been falling further apart since her 15th birthday and her back legs have nearly gone altogether, bless her.
She does a neat line in stumbling about, once she gets a lift up, but the times when her wonky back legs won’t hold her up at all are getting more and more frequent. Soon it will be kinder to take that one last visit to the vet. That’s a day none of us are looking forward to at all. I really don’t won’t to even give that sort of thing headspace and just try and think about playing ball at midnight to help keep me positive.
For those following my progress, these are the Munros we hope to climb this weekend. Stob Dubh & Stob Coire Raineach, close to Glen Coe and then: Beinn Archaladair, Beinn a Chreachain, Beinn Dorain, Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Mhanach. All near Bridge of Orchy.