Monday, November 10, 2014

Day 10: The Hunt for Nessie!

The morning fog was severely affecting the views!
Sept 17: The fog in the morning was horrendous. Fog is pretty in its own way, but I can see fog at home. I don't go to Scotland to see fog! I wanted to see the countryside!

But on a practical matter, there was nothing I could do about the fog, so I did nothing.

Late in the morning, I walked into the small but bustling town of Fort Augustus which had an impressive locking system of a 5-step staircase. Not as impressive as Neptune's Staircase because Neptune's Staircase had eight consecutive locks, but you don't find many 5-step staircases in the world either. The difference here, however, was that tourists were everywhere! The place was overflowing with them taking photos of the boats going down and up the locks.

I had a few tasks to complete while I was in Fort Augustus. For instance, grocery shopping. And I filled up with tap water. And it was just a good time to sit down and rest my weary feet.

Fortunately for me, the fog burned off as I was wandering around the streets of Fort Augustus and the views were coming out.

Chores completed, I followed signs leading the Great Glen Way out of town and near the banks of Loch Ness--probably the most famous loch of them all. I had every intention of keeping my eyes open for Nessie, the loveable Loch Ness monster. I know he's loveable because I'd seen little stuffed animals shaped like Nessie in all of the gift shops and if they're even slightly accurate representations of Nessie, she's adorable!

Shortly out of town, I hit my first surprise: a choice. A sign marked a split in the trail--a high route and a low route. My map didn't show any splits here, but it corresponded with the low route on the sign. Reading the descriptions, I decided to go crazy and do the high route. It, allegedly, went above tree line and provided spectacular views of Loch Ness. And now that the fog had burned off, I wanted some spectacular views!

An old railroad bridge.

The low route was described as being mostly in the trees and sounded a lot like what I had been suffering from on most of this trail--and it was recommended for horses and bicyclists. I was neither!

So I veered left up the high route which climbed steeply up a set of tight switchbacks and eventually took me above tree line with absolutely wonderful views overlooking Loch Ness. Now this is what I want! This is a world-class view! And I probably took hundreds of photos up here. I couldn't stop taking photos. I even took a couple of videos which I almost never do (and thank goodness I did take those videos too, as you'll see if you watch the one I attached to this blog entry).

As all things do, though, the views eventually came to an end. The trail went back into the trees, down a steep series of switchbacks and reconnected with the low route just before entering the town of Invermoriston.

Invermoriston wasn't anywhere near the size of Fort Augustus and had only a fraction of the charm, but at least it wasn't overrun with tourists. =) I took another break by a water faucet and the restrooms in town, and when I noticed the restrooms had electrical outlets, I plugged in my laptop to recharge. Having camped every night since leaving Milngavie, it was running low despite keeping its use to a minimum.

So I rested and snacked for about a half hour on a bench outside of the toilets. My laptop hadn't finished charging after that time, but I still needed to get more miles on and had no intention of waiting until it was fully charged.

One good thing about fog... it makes it easier to take photos of spiderwebs when the webs are filled with condensation. *nodding*

Leaving town, the trail climbed a steep, gravel road and I hit another unexpected split in the trail with the same choices: the high route or the low route. The two routes were described similarly with the high route going above tree line to fantastic views while the low route stayed more in the trees and was recommended for horses and bicyclists. I chose the high route once again.

I hiked and hiked. The trail did pull above the tree line, but I was a little surprised to discover that I couldn't actually see Loch Ness which was hidden behind a ridge. The views were nice, I suppose, but I was a little disappointed with not being able to see Loch Ness. And I did like the fact that I was out of trees and could see views at all. But still... this was the best route they could find?

A few miles later, I did start getting views of Loch Ness again--but by then, fog started rolling back in. There was a sea of it below me, and I could actually watch it rolling in and climbing up the hillsides. Higher and higher, but the trail managed to stay above the clouds.

I could just imagine an old steam train chugging along this route!

Shortly before sunset, the trail climbed a steep hill to a bench with a rock windbreak built around it, but then it looked like the trail was about to plunge into some trees. On my maps, it shows the trail crossing a forested section, so that wasn't a surprise, and it should come out of the trees again. But as late as it was in the day, I figured I should stop before the trees and this bench with the rock windbreak seemed like a good of place as any.

But when I got there, I saw a man with one of those all-terrain vehicles parked up there (he drove up?! That's an option?!), carrying a large gun. A hunter? A survivalist?

I walked up and said hi, stopping to rest and unsure if I wanted to stop for good with this guy here. I'd hear what he had to say first.

He was, in fact, hunting. "Deer and stags," he told me. Sunset was fast approaching and I asked if he was going to camp out here, but no, he was just admiring the view and about to head down. Thank goodness, I thought. I hope it's soon! I didn't really want him to know that I wanted to camp at this specific location.

Just for fun, I asked him, "So have you ever seen Nessie?"

He smirked at that, then said no, he hadn't. But one time he saw something strange in Lock Ness and pulled out his binoculars to get a better view and saw seven-or-so deer swimming across the loch. He'd never seen that before or since. A bunch of "why did the deer swim across the loch" jokes popped in my head, but I suppressed them and kept my mouth shut. =)

When I took my pack off, I noticed a fresh tear in my pack. It was quite a sizable one as well. As far as I knew, I hadn't gotten it caught on anything and was surprised when I found it. More of an annoyance than anything since it meant I needed to take the time to sew the rip together before it got any worse.

The hunter drove off a few minutes later and I was left alone at the summit. I set up camp for the night. Just after sunset, a gust of wind blew fog across my campsite and it seemed like the clear skies above me where in a vicious battle with the clouds rolling in below me. I'd fall into fog, then it would blow off, then it would come back. In the end, though, the clouds won. They'd been working their way up the hillside for over an hour now, slowing climbing higher and higher, and I had no higher ground to run to. Oh, bother....

An old railroad bridge is now a trail for hikers to cross a small creek.
Lots of spiderwebs on the bridge!
Slug hiking the Great Glen Way!

Crossing the Caledonian Canal on Cullochy Lock. This is also the first lock I reached which is now lowering boats to Loch Ness. Until now, the locks raised boats to Loch Oich, but now they'll lower boats the rest of the way to Inverness. (Obviously, boats traveling the opposite direction as myself are raised from Inverness to here, then lowered from Loch Oich to Fort William.)
Controls for the loch were left open. They didn't seem too complicated to figure out, but I figured I probably shouldn't touch any of them! Don't want to get myself deported from Scotland or anything....
A man-made canal connects Loch Oich and Loch Ness, and it's utterly boring. Even without the fog, it's still boring.
Kytra Lock

This boat is being lowered from Loch Oich to Lock Ness in Fort Augustus.
"What was the name of that cute little highland shop?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
"What one?"
"That Cute Little Highland Shop!"
"That's what I'm asking!"
"But.... I'm so confused...." =)
It's Nessie, and she has a baby Nessie! On a side note, I took this photo immediately upon walking into Fort Augustus. Look at all that fog in the background!
Less than an hour later, after I did some grocery shopping, ate lunch, filled up with water and such, the fog had burned off! So I came back and "re-did" some photos like this one. Essentially the same photo, but without the fog. What a difference that less than an hour can make! For those who are really observant, you'll notice the grass is mowed in the second photo as well. I wanted to shoot that stupid lawn mower making so much noise. It's a cute little town, but the noise and people were driving me crazy. For those of you looking at this photo and thinking, "What people?"--they're all up higher on the locks watching that boat being lifted. Away from the "active lock," it's not as crowded.
Baby Nessie
Water pouring over the gates of one of the locks.
The vote for Scottish independence definitely won't be unanimous! And the vote is TOMORROW! The big day is almost here! Can't wait to see how it turns out! =)
I liked how they turned this old telephone booth into a greenhouse of sorts! =)
Trees--the bane of great views all around the world!
Loch Ness is in view! Keep your eyes open for the Loch Ness monster! =)
A decision to be made! The high route, or the low route? We'll take the high route, thank you very much! =)
Some steep, tight switchback provide some evidence that the "high route" is well-named!
Although most of the fog had burned off while I was in Fort Augustus, this thin cloud seemed to hover over Loch Ness and only Loch Ness. It would take a bit longer to burn off!

Let the Hunt for Nessie begin!

Absolutely gorgeous views of Loch Ness!

As all things do, the high route must come to an end, which it does on this steep series of switchbacks heading back down to meet up with the low route.
Telford's Bridge was the most interesting thing I found in Invermoriston.
I don't know about you, but it always makes me a little happy when I see signs for drinking water and toilets pointing in opposite directions. =)
The long climb out of Invermoriston.
The one good thing about the lumber industry--they can actually help improve views along the trail! =)
It's another choice! The high route or the low route? Hmm.... We'll take the high route again!
Well, there are views on the high route, but what happened to Loch Ness?!
It's a... giant ring of wood?
Yes, definitely a giant ring of wood. But why...?
Shadow games, of course!

These rocks looked suspicious enough that I didn't want to touch them. Heaven forbid if I go back in time to the 1700s. I really didn't want that to happen!
Troll Bridge was cute as a button!
The fog is coming back! It's battling its way up the mountain!

Nothing makes you feel better than knowing people are riding around with loaded weapons. =)
I didn't discover this rip in my pack until the end of the day when I took my pack off. I'm not sure when or where it happened, but it's large enough that I think I'd have noticed it if it was there the last time I took off my pack! So it was probably recent. And a good sign that I need to replace my pack soon. It shouldn't be falling apart by itself. This is the same pack I took on the Pacific Crest Trail and Arizona Trail, though, so it's seen a lot of miles!
Sunset was gorgeous, but the clouds would soon envelop me after this photo was taken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When you came to the trail splits, did you find yourself singing, "You take the high road, and I'll take the low road..."