Distance: 14.5 miles (Tot: 899.75 miles)
Weather: sunshine and showers
Number of otters seen: 1 (but it was carved out of a tree; we did see a real one on the day we walked into Tyndrum, mind)
Oooh, the rain came down last night! It was the talk of the campsite (or at least of the Westfield convention that came and pitched next to us); particularly noted was the very heavy shower that started at quarter to four.
We managed to pack away between showers this morning, and with the brisk wind the tent was drier than one might have expected - good news for Mick, who carries the flysheet.
Within thirty seconds of packing the tent away, along came the next shower and off we scurried to the Laundry for shelter.
A short while later, we arrived at the front entrance to the campsite at the same time as our taxi (bang on time) and within fifteen minutes we were back at Inverlael, walking up the track to the forest.
"Will the zig zag track be more obvious" was the question on our minds. We know that we weren't the only people to have trouble locating it before, but now that the End-to-End Trail has become so popular (and we're told the Cape Wrath trail is getting more people on it too), we did wonder whether the track would now be well trodden.
I thought it was less obvious two years on; Mick thought it was more so, thanks to the lack of bracken at this time of year. Whether or not its line is still easily discernable to someone who doesn't know where it is, the trees that form a line across the point where it leaves the forestry track are bigger and completely mask the junction. For us, it was such a memorable bit of our LEJOG that we had no trouble, and went straight to it, albeit we did then have to battle along past the trees that are growing ever bigger along its path. In the unlikely event that I ever find myself with half a spare day in the area, I must remember to pop back with some pruning shears and make the going easier for everyone.
'Up' was the trend for quite a while once we left the main forestry track. From near sea-level, up to 1700 feet we went, where, on the plateau (at the edge of which the track expired) we found quite an impressive amount of boginess.
Even more impressive was the boginess in descending to the River Douchary, and once there we made a bit of a meal of deciding where to cross. Last night's rain had swollen it just enough to cover over many of the rocks across which one would ordinarily hop.
We did pick a suitable point, after no small amount of faffing, and then the real boginess began as we made our way across the valley floor (the final 2 miles out of 4 miles of wet yomping) to pick up the track on the other side.
The track varies greatly in quality of walking surface and degree of eyesoreness (it is on places horribly bulldozed, which doesn't sit well in the surroundings), as it undulates to and down Strath Mulzie. As we made our way down the glen, the gap between the showers (which had been frequent early on) became greater until we decided to risk removing our waterproof trousers. Almost immediately the edge of a shower hit us, but it wasn't until we were almost at Duag Bridge that we saw a big lump of rain approaching.
I had already earmarked the bothy at Duag Bridge for our lunch location, and it became a bit of a race as to whether the rain would reach us before we reached shelter. The rain won, but only just. By the time it was lashing down, we were inside this very pleasant (light and airy) bothy.
We lunched here in 2008 as well, but it was a week or two before the upgrade works took place, so we sat outside of what was, at the time, a tin shack in poor repair. It's hard to believe the transformation that has taken place, and it's very neat and tidy. The main room now bears a very great resemblance to a sauna, being pine clad (and Mick has made more than one reference to the Swedish netball team popping by!)
Per the itinerary, what we should have done after lunch was to continue down the track to Oykel Bridge. It's not like me to stop so far short on a day, unless the following day is a very short one - I generally prefer to walk further today and shorter tomorrow.
However, the bothy here is so nice that it was begging us to stay. Moreover, the weather forecast we saw yesterday evening suggested that tomorrow's weather will be better than today's. The wind should be lower (it's fair howling out there) and the showers lighter. So, the decision has been made: it's a short one today and a long one tomorrow.
1800 - I must have dropped off (only for an hour or so!) and the next thing I know I'm jolted back awake as Mick says "A Landrover's just pulled up". A head pops through the door, and we're warned that there are going to be a lot of people through here tonight. Our immediate fears that we're going to be joined by a whole crowd in the bothy are ill-founded, and whilst chatting a convoy of Landrovers builds up outside. It's the COTAG (Communities Offroad Target Action Group) sponsored walk in support of Macmillan Cancer Support, with 100 walkers crossing Scotland tomorrow from Ullapool to Bonar Bridge. These chaps are off up the valley to set up a support marquee. After a brief chat, Mick pops outside with them, and returns a few minutes later with two cans of soup and six bread rolls! That was an unexpected supplement to our rations.
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