Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Hiking The Cobbler (Arrochar) – July 5

As I lay in bed, I was thinking that perhaps I should order half pints next time… Which is to say, I was a little over excited to be in Edinburgh last night and that did not bode well for today’s planned activity – hiking The Cobbbler (or Arrochar or Ben Arthur or The Finger of God – which seems to get used a lot).  Still, plans are plans. So while Chad went to fetch the rental vehicle I finished packing up and schlepped our two suitcases and two backpacks down to await him. The super good news was that for some reason, the Royal Mile was nearly desolate despite it being around 9 am on a Thursday! In short order the luggage was crammed into the MG3 and we headed out to…the grocery. 

That’s right, our first stop heading out of Edinburgh was a grocery store because we finally had the foresight (Thanks Sam & Gwen!!!) to take a cooler with us. We were pretty sure that lunch would not be provided at The Cobbler, or at a lot of places we were planning on being. So off to the store we went! Those of you who know my abject distaste for going to the grocery at home, may be shocked to hear that I delight in grocery shopping abroad. But I do. 

Ok. Back to the story. In short order (there may have been napping on my part) we found ourselves having lunch at the trail head, which was a lovely place. The tide was way out. It was still lovely. 

Since we weren’t exactly getting an early start, there was no chance we were going to have a cool start to our hike. By the time we started up the trail, the sky was blue, the clouds were gone, and it was almost like hiking at home. Only less humid and starting at way lower elevation. 

I was ever so happy to have a 2.5L water reservoir for this hike. Especially as I kept stopping and wishing that all the trees that were blocking the wind, would have at least give us some shade. But nope. No shade, no breeze, only sun. In Scotland. Thanks unseasonally high temperatures. You suck. 

When we finally cleared the tree line, the breeze did pick up. Which was a tremendous relief. However, what was not a relief was looking up at The Cobbler and thinking A. It was really still far away and B. Jutted up out of the landscape in a really shocking manner. So yeah, that last bit was going to be a scramble. 

In addition to the sweet breeze, a nice little stream appeared, running along the trail, more or less. I’m sure when this area gets its usual allotment of rain, the creek is probably roaring. However, even in this drought, it was running quite nicely creating several little pools along the way. I really wanted to take off my shoes and plunge my feet into it, but the idea of motivating myself to keep moving up the trail after that was daunting. So I just enjoyed watching and listening to the water. 

After much slogging, we were getting close to the part where we would start gaining serious elevation. However, before that happened, we came to a fork in the trail. Now, we did have maps. We had trail maps. But what we did not have was the verbal description of the trail. It seemed logical that we would take the fork to the right, go around the back and pop up where we needed to be. But…that trail looked like it took a frolicking detour on the topo map. And the other trail looked to be more straightforward and quicker. We were tired. We pondered. Then we chose the left fork after talking to some other hikers. 

Onward and upward. It was going well, until we encountered some other hikers coming down that trail. They told us, no, the other trail was in fact less stupid (not their words) and quicker. Ah well, too late now. We were going to have to take the scrambling, scree approach. Hooray! Look how happy we are! 

There’s nothing quite like scrambling up a rocky path, all set up in top notch hiking shoes, hiking poles, fancy backpacks with water reservoirs….and then passing a group of teens with (I’m guessing) their grandma. And grandma is tackling the trail in sandals and using an umbrella has a hiking stick. Yep… 

As we stopped to take a breather, we could see a guy on the peak to our right coming down via rope. Not being climbers, we weren’t really sure what was going on. However, we were pretty sure he hadn’t climbed up, but had started from the top coming down. It looked like maybe he was either checking anchors or placing them. Whatever he was doing, it was taking quite some time. Dude had to be burnt when he finished up. 

So the trail scramble up was not as bad as it had originally appeared to be. From afar it looked like it was going to be a loose nightmare. Fortunately that was not the case. Not that it was a walk in the park, but it was nothing compared to what we would face in Fort William. Once on top, we gratefully ditched our packs, had a snack and pondered how exactly this thread the needle was supposed to work. 

All this time I thought that crawling through the needle was supposed to be the difficult part. It wasn’t. I scrambled through and found the 3 foot ledge on the other side. It was fine. 

HOWEVER…the next step appeared to be crawl or walk out the ledge. And I do feel like I should clarify that calling it a ledge makes it sound a little more dicey than it was. I pondered it. Took some time to go over in my head that even if I crawled out to the end, I would still have to STAND UP and scramble up onto the top. Uh, nope. It was so windy and while I was pretty sure I could have done the crawl without freaking out, I knew there was no way in hell I would be able to stand up and make the final scramble.  I’m in the photo below, if you click on it to make it big, you will be able to better understand what I described above. (MOM: You should not click to make it bigger.)

This is what our track log looked like. As you can see we chose to return to the car via the trail that descended from the back of the mountain. It was clearly the easier of the two trails. Although honestly, I would 100% rather scramble up loose rock than down. So I call our decision a good one! We also slacked and did not climb up to the North Peak – there were people there and I was tired and hungry. 

For your reference, you can check out our elevation cut away. I think the parking lot elevation was 7 feet! 

Once back to the car, we headed out to Knapp Guest House in Tarbert, which had a lovely little harbor. And a wonderful restaurant called Starfish where we feasted on fresh caught sea bass! 

Clickity on the photos below to embiggen. There are some I didn’t put in the narrative. 

chris on July 5th 2018 in Travel

Spending Rebellion Day in Scotland (July 4)

Both us and our luggage arrived in Scotland Wednesday morning.  It was hot. Not hot for Scotland, but hot. Period. Chad had decided early on that we were not messing with the bus system to get us to our lodging on the Royal Mile, since last time we’d drug three heavy suitcases up a myriad of steps, like these…

only more worn, more weirdly pitched and more of them. This time he wanted front door service, and after being greeted by a blast of hot air, I was in complete agreement about it. 

We were staying at a place called Aparthotel. Leading up to the trip I could not remember the name and kept calling it the Apartheid Hotel which Chad suggested I stop doing, lest I accidentally say it upon arrival. At any rate, the place had some interesting decor going on…

I was so taken by the very judgy red deer staring at me, that it was quite some time before I walked by, stopped, turned to look at the collage and said….”Is THAT Sean Connery?” (Which obviously I knew it was, but it none-the-less left me a bit flummoxed, until I remembered we were in Scotland he was Scottish.) 

Refreshed and somewhat oriented, we set out to explore and find some food.  

Things were hoppin’ for sure! We wandered around, just taking in the sites and sounds. And believe me, there was a lot to see. Including this lovely bit of street art which literally stopped me in my tracks! I love finding weird and random stuff like this. It’s such a fun surprise! (The art…not Chad, just to clarify.)

Not far past this high quality display, we saw this…

We sort of saw it, kept walking, and then once it registered what we had seen, we went back to get a better look. There’s nothing like seeing your country from another one’s eyes. Fourth of July = Jack Daniels & BBQ. I’m kinda surprised we got that much credit and it wasn’t Coors & hot dogs. 

We’d had a rather lengthy discussion trying to determine if we’d ever been to The National Portrait Gallery. I said no. Chad said yes. We’ve been to a lot of portrait galleries in a lot of places, but I was certain we hadn’t done so in Scotland. Chad said yeah….it was that place on our first trip. Nope. That was somewhere outside of Glasgow and required a bus transfer and it was the only day it rained on that trip. (Which is pretty good recall for me since I usually don’t even know what day it is.) And then we pulled up photos…nope, we’d definitely not been to the one here. And so we went. 

Because we were partly tired, and it was starting to sprinkle, and the museum was free. And the atrium was, as you can see from above, lovely. Just lovely! Also…some high quality images depicting Scotland’s past…

You have to embiggen this one…it took all I could not to laugh out loud at the look on this guy’s face. Oh man. 

And then there was her….

“Does he not know any other song?” The poor harpist, I’m sure it was quite difficult to get a wide variety of sheet music that wasn’t Wonderwall. 

In all seriousness though, the Gallery had some amazing pieces. Chad found me happily oogling the portraits of the early Scottish rulers. It’s one thing to see them in books, it’s another thing all together to be standing right in front of them. I was really very happy that we’d popped in. However, it had been a long day (night? somit ething) and I was running out of steam, so we had a little nap before hitting the town again. 

First stop on the pub crawl….The Jolly Judge, of course!

I’m pretty sure the gent sitting at the corner of the bar reading a newspaper was the same guy we’d seen in 2015, doing the exact same thing in the exact same spot. And I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted to do the same if I lived or worked nearby. 

We’d tried to get into the Cannon’s Gait earlier, but it was packed with tons of folks in fancy clothes – loads of hats and fascinators for the ladies – since apparently the Queen was having a garden party. In the end it worked out quite well for us. When we managed to get in later, there was a jam session going on – fiddles, a concertina, accordions, guitars, recorder, flute. 

We accidentally horrified the very nice lady behind the bar by asking here, at 10:30 pm, where we might get dinner. She visibly started and then said, well no, everything is closed. (Ok, Morgantown, you’ve got that up on the Royal Mile, but that’s it.) We did decide to take a look on some of the side streets, but even the take away places were closed. 

What to do? What to do? 

Head down to the World’s End for one last beer and return to our for a dinner of food bars. 

chris on July 4th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel

Mammoth Cave Grand Avenue Tour

In which I can’t remember the name of our tour and we do a good deed on the water.

9:00 am tour means wake up, cram some breakfast and get to the Visitor Center. Fortunately we our adorable little cabin was right outside the park entrance.

While the previous day’s tour was a relatively small group, this one was 79 people, plus a ASL interpreter and two Rangers. There were A LOT of people.  Now, yesterday our instructions from the Ranger were for all the slow walkers to go to the front, that way the group pace would be dictated by them and not get all strung out. So, going with that idea, we figured we’d stay towards the back because there seemed to be a wide variety of folks on this tour, including families and some older limping folks. (And no, I’m not being judge-y YET.)

So, we end up behind a lady with two children, maybe in the 6 – 10 age range. I mean seriously, I have no idea. I was going by size. Anyway, we end up being WAY strung out clear at the back. Chad was stopping to take photos, but mostly the folks in front of us were not going at a pace that was quick. The Ranger doing the sweep says to Chad, if you want to take photos, you’re better off being up front. Good to know.

Once the group reassembles into a group, not a line, we jockey for some space behind folks who’s appearance indicates they would keep pace with us. We were wrong. Just because you order from REI does not mean you are not slow, meandering walkers. Duly noted.  Repeat jockeying for a better spot. At this point I have seen enough of the group as it starts to stretch out to know who I’m going to run over walking at my normal pace, and where we should be for maximum walking efficiency. The key is to get there.

Somewhere between miles 2 and 3, I realize that I need to start some calm breathing because I am going to start shoving people out of my way, leaving Chad in my wake if they don’t A. hurry up and B. shut the hell up with their inane prattling about everything under the gosh darn sun except this cave. I don’t care about your boyfriend & your new job. SHUT UP! Yes, I know I have issues.

The slow walkers aside, the Grand Avenue Tour was incredible. It really way. We say huge, cavernous rooms that were on some level almost unbelievable. We walked through long tubes that had ceilings so high it was shocking to think about the water that had carved them. There was what I can only describe as a slot canyon where being my size really paid off! The Cave was in every sense of the wore awesome.

And then we got to the stalactites and stalagmites portion of the cave, Frozen Niagara. WOW! What a finale. Just so impressive and wonderous!

Obviously our photos did not do our tour justice. They could not. This was most certainly an experience where you put the camera away (which we did), and take in what you are seeing so you can remember it.

 

Intermission

Having popped down to look at the Green River by the Ferry yesterday, we were eager to put our kayaks in the water. The river looked to be moving pretty well and we’d heard there was a cave you could explore via kayak. Sign us up! The only dicey part, was that today, like every other stupid day, possible thunderstorms were on the horizon.

The livery service said they were still doing trips, which was good enough for us!

Small or not, kayaking in a cave was so very amazing! Fog rolled out from the mouth onto the river, as we drifted into the mouth. It was cool and quiet inside. Dark, but not frightening.

no images were found

Alas, that was the best part of the river, which turned out to be slow. Very slow. Sweet Jesus did was paddle hard to keep moving at a decent pace.

The livery driver, Joe, had asked us to look for a new blue cooler that someone had just recently lose when his canoe tipped. He told us it would be tangled in some roots, close to the end of the trip. I figured there was no way we’d see it. But sure enough, right about the spot he said to start looking there was a blue cooler, wedged under the roots of a tree! Chad managed to wrestle the cooler from the roots! I tethered it to his deck and we headed for the Green River Ferry take out!

We never did find out what the mystery way, however. 

 

chris on May 30th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel

Mammoth Cave Violet Lantern

In which I can’t remember Violet City and keep wanting to call it Violent City, because apparently I have issues.

Forecast for today: rain, additional rain, possibly some thunderstorms, following by high levels of mugginess. Then more rain.

The Plan

Get a virtual cache

Hike a few miles

Grab lunch

Cave tour

How it shook out

Nice little half mile hike around a pond, gathering information from the signs to complete the virtual geocache.

Drive up to a different section of the park, near the horse trailer camping area and head out to do some hiking. To get there we had to take the Green River Ferry. Which could hold 3 cars at once. It was fun! 

Light sprinkles. Rain jackets on. Sweat. Rain jackets off.  We were under tree cover, so it wasn’t that bad as far as us getting wet from the sky, as opposed to use getting wet via sweat. And then RAIN JACKETS ON!!!!  We clocked in at probably around 5 miles. Someone hadn’t properly cleared her GPS tracklog, so it was an educated guess going on a trail map and the feeling of our legs.

Lunch. This included Chad having a heated discussed with our contractor about the wall project that was going on at home. It was not the most relaxing of lunches.

Violet City Lantern Tour. If you go to Mammoth Cave, do yourself an enormous favor and take this tour before you take any others. To see the cave by old school oil lantern light is such a distinct and different experience. As our guide said, this is the tour where you don’t so much learn about Mammoth Cave. You learn about what Mammoth Cave means to you, personally; how it affects each person differently. He was right. Seeing the Cave vaguely lit by the glow of the lanterns made the full reveal the next day far more impressive.

 

chris on May 29th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel