Grouse Butts and Anti-Scouts
Trip Start Jul 12, 2010
20Trip End Aug 03, 2010
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The track brought us to a different style of stile over a fence, because, of course, there were hooved mammals to leave packages on the trail for us. Loch Turret is formed by an earthen dam, which made our first loch a fake loch, but we're working up to the real ones... Actually, it was quite beautiful, and the dam was soon behind us.
This particular walk is in an area surrounded by hills and mountains with nary a tree, lending an open, sculpted look to the landscape
The track was hard-packed, with many stones (did I mention that I love my hiking boots?), and presented an easy walk at the beginning, about ten feet above the lake shore. The lake itself is about 3 miles long, and the trail rises and falls a bit depending on the terrain and the burns (streams) coming down in gullies from the surrounding hills. The distant views of the area perceive the vegetation in swatches of green and brown, but closer examination discovers a wide collection of plants in all ranges of colors. I thought at one point to look for a wildflower guide at our home, which has all kinds of wonderful resources, but I fogot. I know there were heathers and bracken, and mosses, and wonderful, lichen-speckled rocks to lend the background colors, but there were many plants that were a mystery. There must be dozens of microclimates along the trail we hiked throughout the day, which resulted in a great variety of plants, many with small leaves and blossoms. We even saw sundews in bud, which I have only ever seen in bogs in the states. I took many photos of the small micro-gardens caused by the unique combinations of textures and colors along the way
The loch had a rocky shore and was quite beautiful to our left. To our right, the steep slopes of Choinneachain Hill (2,600 ft.), Ton Eich and Auchnafree Hill (Luckily, we didn't have to say any of these names out loud), with low vegetation, grey rocky outcrops and sheep rose above us. There was no doubt that we were in a new, exciting environment, and our lunch spot, towards the end of the lake, brought one of those moments - warmed up but not too tired, full of the view, and happy to eat for the job ahead. For job it was. We climbed 1,000 ft. in about 1/2 mile, taking opportunities to look at the views opening up below us of the loch, and even rugged mountains beyond the close mountains, rising in the distance. It was near the top of this rise that we realized that we would not soon reach the tantalizing ridge, and that we'd have to dip down into the stream gully and back up to get to the higher ridge of the mountain next to us. Although we had three large bottles of water with us, they were 3/4 gone, and we sussed that, although we had tackled the major climb, we had covered only a third of the distance of the marked trail. Although the day was mostly sunny, some clouds had come in (this is, after all, Scotland), and some of the breezes were quite stiff. Most of the rest of our hike would be along the ridge, with full exposure to the wind, and we were just not prepared.
I wish I could say that I was mature right away as we turned around to do the responsible thing and not push on, but it took me much of the steep downhill to bannish my disappointment and recover my sense of awe in the moment of the hike. As is usually the case, backtracking along the same trail affords views from another perspective, and so we continued to discover beauty on the way back.
I seem to be crossing-impared on this trip
Luckily for me, my family was supportive once they realized that one of the real reasons I didn't want to turn back was to avoid fording the burns in the opposite direction. I actually managed to find small trails above or below the streams to better crossing spots, and got through it just fine.
We ended our trip tired, footsore, thirsty (but with a swallow of water left) and were very pleased to be coming home to the AGA and a home-cooked meal.
Michael and Emily rallied to actually jump on the trampoline after dinner, and Bob tried, unsuccessfully, to tackle the lawn
Post-script: It's a good thing I started reading to edit. The promised definition of a grouse butt is a small structure built to shelter hunters or shepherds in the hills. They were circular, quite tiny, built with rocks and covered, | think, with soil and vegetation; really just a hidey-hole to crawl into to outwait a storm. We did find one near the highest elevation of our climb, and took the requisite photo of the kids posing inside.