Roaming in Scotland – heading out in March

Photo by One Man’s Mountains AKA One Pillock’s Hillocks trip report on hiking The Lost Valley of Glencoe.

In 37 days I’ll be leaving for Scotland. There are other destinations, and plenty of unknowns in between, on this 21-day trip. But the first stop is 5 or 6 days in Scotland. Even though it will be early March, I’m focusing on going to the Highlands to hike (or walk, as they refer to it). So when I saw the Backpacker magazine story titled “Right to Roam: In Scotland Hikers Can Go Anywhere”,  as you might imagine, I got really excited.

I grew up on the family cattle ranch, which at it’s smallest point in my childhood was still more than a thousand acres. I grew up roaming – on horseback with my mom, flushing ducks for my cousins when they hunted, climbing the hillsides with my sister. We knew the terrain, we had our favorite spots, and many of my childhood memories are set in green pastures or rugged hills with a blazing blue sky stretching overhead. Roaming has been my right since I was big enough to sit a horse.

My family is also Scottish. Our ancestors, who were possibly from the town of Ayr, got on the boat in Greenock in 1753 to come to America. The combination of visiting the family homeland and visiting the Highlands has Scotland ringing in my veins.

Then there’s the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, with its key principles that describe how folks should behave when they’re out wandering the countryside. The Code speaks to all kinds of users – hikers walkers, cyclists, campers, hunters, horseback riders- on all kinds of landscapes, from beaches to “fields with crops”. It’s pretty simple. Here are the three key principles:

  • Respect the interests of other people
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions

I’m looking forward to getting out into the wild country side where the government has provided legal access to nearly all land and inland water. It’s like the reverse of our National Park system. Instead of designating areas where people can get out to explore the landscape, in Scotland, they only designate the places you can’t go. Hopefully we’ll meet people who are also out walking and get a chance to hear how this difference informs their attitude and relationship with the land.

As the plan begins to come together (although the plan will be minimal), we’ll focus on the Glen Coe and Fort William area of Highlands. Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s tallest peak, is nearby. With hikes like The Lost Valley of Glencoe in the area, it’s easy to get fired up about walking (from the comfort of my living room). Hopefully we’ll get incredible spring weather that amounts to some breaks in the weather and no snow/ice on the ground.

At the end of March we’ll be back with our own photos and tales of roaming in Scotland.

Welcoming in the new year

New Year’s Eve 2017 I camped outside at Sacramento Riverbend, hoping to watch the super moon rise over the oak trees and to not sit alone in the house as my husband is gone to Europe. The forecast was for a night time low of 40F and clear skies, neither of which actually happened. I missed the super moon behind a bank of clouds that held on until dawn, clearing off just in time for a 35F low in the early hours. I swear it rained for the space of a few breaths. Even so, I enjoyed myself.

I camped on the familiar gravel bar at Massacre Flat, finding my way through the deep dusk mostly because I knew where I was going. This was my fourth overnight trip into Riverbend in 2017. This also marked my 28th night sleeping outside, a few nights shy of my goal of 31 and an achievement just the same.

Sleeping outdoors on New Year’s Eve was an important bookend to me, just the way I wanted to end one year and welcome in the next. My theme for 2018 is this: I am open to adventure. Sleeping under the sky seemed the best way to affirm that. And so, to adventure, to nights outside, days on the trail, sharing it all with loved ones and being surprised.

My wish for 2018 is that each of us is filled with the things that bring us joy, that fill us with wonder.