I guess you could say that we have been fortunate here in North East Wales when comparing the recent snowfall at the end of last week with other parts of the country. As usual here in the U.K. the slightest smattering of the white stuff has produced the expected wailing, cursing of the gods and gnashing of teeth as areas become gridlocked by incompetence; both with the usual lack of preparedness by local authorities and by the usual huge amounts of ineptitude and stupidity shown by drivers who really should know better.
I tend to leave the roads alone at times like these, only venturing out when lady necessity dictates. So for the weekend I left the trails alone, knowing full well that with this thin layer of snow hoards of unprepared folk would be swarming to envelope the trails that I’m targeting in my labours to become a tad less rotund. As I may have mentioned before there is nothing that I love more than walking alone on the trails, alone that is apart from ol’ stinky and the diversity of nature that envelopes you if you allow it too. My good friend from across the pond Casey Harn summed up this feeling with two words when talking of this feeling in a mail to me the other day; - “Walking meditation”. The more I sat back and thought about it the more it seemed to fit with what I feel when I’m ‘out there’, that’s one of the reasons I think that a strong friendship is building between me and Casey, we feel the same way about the outdoors in so many ways, its just that Casey manages to capture the feelings with words far better than I.. Anyway enough of the back slapping, ‘cause that’s certainly what Casey is not about, and back to the narrative.
Now where was I, ah yes the multitude of once in a blue moon outdoor survivalists usually accompanied by an extremely overweight ‘hard’ dog on it’s once a year walk complete with studded collar, or if not these it’s the city guy with extended family thinking that walking on icy, snow smattered trails would be absolutely super (plays havoc with the loafers and pram wheels this white stuff). Ok maybe I’m just being a tad too grumpy about this, after all I’m no expert (remember my last walk?) when it becomes to being geared up and other folk have just as much right to the trails as I, just wish that they’d be a little more prepared and also take their picnic and food detritus home with them, it’s less heavy when you’ve ate/drank the contents – honest. And yes I don’t really like folk to much, I make friends slowly and carefully and I just cannot get use to all these Reebok clad wanderers greeting my passing with a cheery ‘hello’ and ‘is it far to the top?’(usual replies include ‘grunt’ and ‘oh not far, after all you’ve just left the car park’ and ‘can you pick up that wrapper you’ve just left on the floor’ and of course the ‘if I have to stop your dog from biting me again we are really going to have words’). Please don’t get the wrong impression of me, inside I’m just a cuddly teddy bear (ask Clare) it’s just that I’m not a people person.
Right now that little point has been cleared up you now know why I didn’t go a wandering this weekend and left it till this morning. This time I was a little more prepared than last, with ample layers, (onion springs to mind), neck snood, Berghaus wind stopper hat, water, re-waxed boots, bite to eat, mobile, Opinal locking knife, Leki walking pole and of course not forgetting Lucy. Ah ‘how ol’ tight arse claims to be poor when showing such an abundance of kit?’ I hear your disgruntled mutterings. Well truth be told my still meager, yes meager, collection of gear is the result of presents, charity shop finds and e-bay with new stuff only bought in the sales. Take the Leki Makalu pole for instance; bought for a miserly £5.00 when an outdoor shop was closing down at the local retail park the other year (and then forgotten about for a while!). Once I adjusted the height and hardened the shock for my weight (no comments here please) I’ve found this to be an excellent piece of kit with definite positive results for the stress on my knees. So £5.00 for easier knees equals further miles able to be walked – result. And then there’s the Opinal; found on a walk last winter discarded besides a fire, just required tempering and sharpening – two nil to the fatty on the trails!
So with myself feeling amply prepared, we cruised to the hills with just a tad of Iron Maiden strumming the fun cruisers sound system. Checking the temp readout upon landing the outdoor temperature was reading a positively balmy -5 degrees centigrade, bloody hell thought I, tis a tad sharp out there. Unperturbed we dismounted the cruiser and set forth, our breathes expelling clouds of what could be called steam of engine like proportions, each breath reaching to the bottom of my lungs searing all my shivering alveoli. Ah well the way to warmth is through activity and effort, so sally forth did we, at a good pace though not the mad dash of last week, prudence John boy, prudence. Evidence of the weekend’s multitudes was everywhere; the trials flattened by uncountable footprints (loafer treads included), dog tracks of various sizes (most deeper than what Lucy’s 66lb could produce!), sled tracks (oh great lets make the trail a cresta run), mountain bike tracks and the odd pram track (honest, I’m not making this up), and the usual wealth of discarded food wrappers and empty bottles oh and not forgetting the carefully bagged dog poo, thrown into the bushes, ho hum.
But these signs couldn’t dampen our mood (well just for a short while); the air was crisp and clear, the views spectacular and the silence? Well here’s a thing, usually when upon these trails there is always an underlying hum of natures song; the buzzards mewing call, the twittering of the tit marshes, blackbird’s shrill warning, the scamper of tree bound squirrels eluding Lucy’s mad dash, even the wind was still and silent. All that reached my ears was the crump, crump of my boots in the snow and Lucy’s ragged breath as she expended the weekends pent up energy. I’m not complaining (that’s a new one then) it kind of made the walk, er… special. Just standing there alone, silent and drinking in the view of natures beauty well only two words came to mind “Walking meditation”.
As we traipsed further the sign of other folk filtered down to just the odd set of walking boot tracks and ‘light weight’ hound prints. The snow had developed crystals making the snow resemble miniature forest ferns. Also in the ever dipping temperatures the snow retained its powdery texture, just a joy to walk through.
Lucy had no patience for my paltry photographic efforts today, going from disdain to a mad hurtling attempt to get my arse into gear and pick up the pace. She really does know how to raise a smile, makes you move and forget her age.
I hope that these few pictures below convey the mood, though they don’t really do this time out doors any justice what so ever.
We finally landed back in the cruiser, alone still apart from just this robin, the only other animal besides us seen upon the trails, now that’s what I call walking alone.
Thanks for taking the time to read this far, hope that you don’t mind my grumblings too much. Oh and the blue print? well it's bleedin' cold you know!