Plans had changed and I couldn't be far away from home but that didn't mean I couldn't still get out for some fresh air. I'd pulled out of "the big meet" along with everyone else on Friday night it seemed, and then on Saturday morning the email came in. A member of the party already up there for some mountain fun had taken a tumble. As the scary details came in and I read the weather reports I decided that something low level would be best after all. Muirkirk moors and hills it was then.
As I didn't have too far to drive to my intended destination I had a wee lie in and a breakfast of poached eggs on toast. Packing was done quickly and was finished even before my bath had run. A quick wash, dressed for the occasion and me and the dug were shortly off on our way.
The sky was blue and the air was fresh with a cold bite in the breeze. I could see snow in the distance lingering on the higher tops. I hoped I wasn't missing out on anything up north but this had all the ingredients of a cracking day oot.
We set off at a brisk pace heading for the boggy lower slopes of Cairn Table. It wasn't long before the ground became sodden, waterlogged and every step was a gamble. Will that tussock hold my weight or is it just floating? I tried not to laugh as we crossed the well intentioned but pointless short sections of board walk that seem to just connect the boggy bits together. Nellie wasn't caring though, she likes splashing about and throwing herself into the wet stuff.
Before long the ground started to firm up and was becoming ever increasingly frozen. The temperature was also dropping and the breeze was getting up with every metre we ascended. I was feeling the sting of the wind every time I stopped to point the camera at stuff so I pulled my hat, gloves and wind proof from the OMM front pouch. Its really handy having so much stuff immediately to hand and I don't quite remember what it was about the pouch that I never got on with in the past? It's become standard equipment now though.
Nellie was enjoying herself, running around like the daft puppy she was not that long ago. I suspect she might have been suffering the same cabin fever style frustrations I have as her walks have been shorter these days. It was funny watching her try to pick up the snow or the bits of heather poking through and get me to throw it.
It was really starting to get cold now in the wind and I confess to just letting the camera make the decisions as I couldn't be bothered faffing with the controls with frozen finger. This was the first real outing with my new camera and despite keeping forgetting to refit the lens cap I'm liking it. I'm really looking forward to some long evenings spent playing with it on a pleasant and quiet summit. I suspect that's where and when I'll learn the most about it. I also started to worry a little about Nellie's feet but she didn't seem bothered at all by the snow. I don't think she'd like those wee dog booties either but I kept an eye on her watching for signs of discomfort.
We were hitting some deeper drifts and even though it was well consolidated we were both breaking through the crust every few steps. It was slowing progress down and becoming uncomfortable as I had no gaiters on and the tops of my shoes were filling with snow. It's been a while since I've been out in these conditions. I scanned the terrain and could see the shoulder over to my right with lots more rock and heather poking through. It wasn't as deep so we meandered over and picked our way up it.
The large war memorial cairn appeared and we were soon on the top having a good poke around, enjoying the view and exploring the older prehistoric cairns. I like it up here. The views are extensive, it's not too far away and there's a feel (and plenty of evidence) about the place that people have been coming here forever. We hadn't been there long before we were joined by a local bloke (I forget his name now) from the village below and we stood talking for a while about the local area. He pointed out a few other interesting routes visible from our vantage point which I've filed away for future reference. Local knowledge is the best and I would never have picked these from just looking at the map as some of the forestry commission stuff has changed shape slightly over the years.
It was nice chatting to the other walker and even Nellie seemed to warm to him after her initial fright. I could've picked his brains about the area for a good while longer but my feet were starting to get uncomfortably cold standing around, there was no real shelter from the biting wind and he had to get on too. I looked around for some natural shelter but the partially excavated cairn that you can usually hunker down in was filled with snow. I didn't feel like digging so the tarp went up and it wasn't long before I could feel the warmth of the Coffee spreading through me. Nothing beats a summit brew!
Warm and fed and feeling invigorated I packed up and we had another poke around the hillside. I've found references to partially worked but abandoned millstones on the slopes here but I've never found one. I wasn't hopeful though as they'd have been buried under the white stuff. The cold was starting to creep in again and it wasn't long before a pint in a warm and cosy pub held far more appeal than the frozen wastes of the moors. We soon headed back down to the Landy and the drive home. A short but fun day out and just the thing to blow the cobwebs away.
I'm glad to report that the Meet member who had the accident up north is off the hill and recovering. Has some serious sounding surgery to go through but appears to be on the mend, and by all accounts he has belter of a story to tell too. Stay safe folks.