This was just a teeny bit of a navigational challenge, or at least an observational one: a twisting turning rocky boggy humpy bumpy route with a lot of short steep ascents thrown in.
One more, in fact, than was necessary : in Garvault Woods I puffed up an extremely steep track, scooping handfuls of snow to quench my thirst.
The GPS said elevation 485m (OK, OK…. not exactly a Munro, but it was definitely a Marilyn).
Sweat dripped in my eyes. “Not doing this again”, I said to 10,000 Scots pines.
I got to the top of the path and emerged from the forest into open moorland, startling a few curlews out of the heather. The track got narrower and narrower then slowly petered out, no trace of a way to be seen.
Temporarily uncertain of my position (i.e. lost), I had no choice but to go back down to the bottom and start all over again.
Aha! There was the path! I’d been dazzled by the big obvious forest track ahead and failed to see its little brother just to the left. And the climb up that was even steeper (not doing that again…)
The day had begun through the beautiful Anagach Woods once more. Scots pines towering into the canopy and the hummocky mossy forest floor below, scattered with tangles of bleached deadwood like silver-grey carcasses.
The route passed through millions of metal squeeze gates. These sound like a punishment for fat people, but they are in fact a brilliant device for keeping out cattle, deer, sheep and any dog bigger than a chihuahua.
You open them like a gunslinger entering a Western saloon, but pushing them to the side rather than to the front. Then they snap shut behind you. There are a LOT on this section (and if I never see another one again, I’ll be a happy woman).
As the afternoon shadows lengthened, I found myself on one of the best bits of this section (the last bit! lol): the disused railway track alongside the Spey to Ballindaloch.
I like old railway routes. They always go somewhere for a start (not like my misleading steep forest track). Then there’s the sense of ghosts of the past about them, clues and remnants and relics of what they once were cast along the line if you look for them – a broken gradient marker here, an iron post there, and at Cromdale, the old station buildings and platform lovingly restored.
Reaching Cragganmore House B&B was a real joy at the end of such a bumpy section, and I got a warm welcome.
A handsome house just down the road from the Cragganmore distillery, it’s very Victorian on the inside, with stunning views of snow-covered Ben Rinnes as you sit and dine. Log fires were burning in the sitting room.
And what would you most like after spending all day going up and down hills, dodging gloopy boggy bits, legs now ready to seize up? Yep, a good hot soak in a full-length Victorian bath.
Total Immersion therapy for half an hour before dinner, and what a dinner…..