I promised Mandy a post with the pups…here it is.
It was August 2006 when The Fatdog and I first scaled the rather forgiving slopes of the Meikle Bin. It was where our adventures into Scotland’s hills and mountains began…and, on the 14th June 2012, it was where they ended. The following day the vet gave us the bad news and a month later she was gone. It had been our “home hill” throughout the years, a reliable uphill walk when the weather elsewhere didn’t suit. With its associations I was never sure if I would find myself trekking that way again. But times move on and puppies grow and I felt the time was right to make the pilgrimage to “our” hill. It was time to return to the Meikle Bin.
It stands to reason that all pilgrimages need their quota of pilgrims and appropriately it was a rather sorry looking trio who set off on their journey along the forest track from Todholes. My hillwalking gear has been suffering months of persistent dog walking degradation and is in desperate need of replacement. I peered down into the ever expanding holes in the fabric of my overused (and long needing replaced) boots and thought of days gone by when I couldn’t feel each and every tiny stone beneath their soles as I shuffled along the track. My two “associates” waded into the impressively “clarty” mud of a nearby ditch. I sighed. I suppose pilgrims should look as humble as circumstances permit.
The first half of the slow ascent was spent trying to ascertain who was actually in charge of the pilgrimage. Lottie (the nose) was the furthest in front but had absolutely no idea of how to set pace and kept wandering aimlessly off the forest road into the verges either side taking Mabel with her. Chaos ensued as the pair were either to be found 10m in front of me…or 20m behind depending on how interesting was the discovered scent. Order was finally established when I hooked Lottie up to the extending lead and let Mabel (the eyes) take point. It was just like old times with the 1 year old Mabel sitting 4m in front knocking out that 4km/hour steady pace that was so reminiscent of that of The Fatdog. It was just like old times.
The Pilgrim’s Way is now marked by newly erected signposts (though hand carved Bonios would have been more in keeping with the pilgrimage thingy), boasts path improvements and even a picnic table, all having appeared since the last visit. The Meikle Bin is becoming civilised. One feature remains unchanged…the impressive views, although those to the west from the top section of forestry road are becoming limited as the trees mature.
Once past the pretty path that replaces the old mud bath through the trees the pups launched themselves onto the open hill, the absence of sheep allowing them the opportunity to let off a bit of steam.
As we neared the summit both delinquents were leashed to prevent “misunderstandings” as they approached the young couple who had already laid claim to the hilltop. I’m pleased to report that not only did they agree to take a photo of me and the pups but they began their descent with all limbs intact.
Now, I say began because as they dropped down over the first change of slope there was a ferocious snarling and gnashing of teeth.
A handful of people and half a dozen dogs of variable “assertiveness” appeared over the rise. The pups looked on…wary. As we chatted the air was crackling with doggy edginess. Even within the new arrivals there was a sense of serious matters yet to be resolved.
The pups are confident, with Lottie best described as gallus, but they both knew they were well outgunned…by way of comparison they were packing pea- shooters!
The various parties stared at each other, eyes narrowing and shifting sharply between potential adversaries. In the background the haunting Enrico Morricone flutes cranked up the tension. Whose bottle would crack first?
No problem there…it was mine!
I grabbed the pups and sprinted off down the hill, sciatica forgotten as my natural survival instincts kicked in. Much to my surprise this affected my suspect sciatic right leg and right foot not a jot as I fled the potential attentions of the pack who were now in command of the summit.
We’d only retreated 50m downwards when we met a woman walking uphill with her two Labradors. The pups had a quick play (and customary chastisement from the older of the two) while I warned the woman of her (and her dogs) impending demise should she opt to continue to the summit. She smiled, clearly humouring the deranged idiot, and continued upwards.
To the accompanying sounds of the terrible slaughter behind us…
…the pups and I continued our hasty descent.
It didn’t take long before we almost hurtled past the next party ambling its unsuspecting way up the trail. The older boy looked incredibly nervous when passing the pups, however the younger kids seemed fine. I spoke to the parents.
“I see your son is a wee bit nervous of dogs.” They nodded.
“We’ll there’s another six just behind me. I thought I should let you know.”
They too smiled, proffered hesitant thanks to the clearly deranged, wide eyed, individual…and continued on up the track irrespective.
Oh dear! We picked up the pace once more.
Our last, and most unexpected, encounter of the day was with an old blogging buddy of mine. Scott, accompanied by Molly and the Wee Black Dug, seemed unconcerned by my by now incoherent gibbering.
“Up the trail…dogz…big teeth…growly growly!”
Scott nodded, moved to the opposite side of the track as far as politeness would allow and scarpered past, both dogs hot on his heels.
We ran. The subsequent sounds of carnage and destruction were truly awful on the ears. I felt sad that “Splendid Isolation” would never again be updated and like so many blogs before would be condemned to the never visited outer limits of the blogosphere.
Our pilgrimage was not turning out entirely as I had anticipated. Where were the visions, the alms and shelter for the needy travellers? Where was the choir of the heavenly host and the white winged Fatdog…and where were the hawker stalls selling relics of the sainted FD? Our pilgrimage had discovered none of the above. Instead we were only a gnat’s whisker in front of the Hounds of Hell and their 5km downward trail of devastation.
We slowed up, The Tank now visible in the Todholes carpark. The forest road had been quiet for some time now, the Devil’s pack probably still gnawing on the bones of The Wee Black Dug. It was odd though, the lack of bird son…