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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The last of the challenge (for now)

Having just made it back to the states, I send out this final preview of the trip. Many things have gone unmentioned, but will all be covered by the full write up in due time!

Tuesday the 20th of May - Shielen of Mark Bothy to Tarfside.

It seems peculiar to build a stone shelter where the Shielen of Mark is. No matter which way you approach it, you have to cross at least a mile of track less heather bog, not to mention it isn't easy to spot from most of its surroundings.

To get out of the bothy and into Glen Lee towards Tarfside required even more miles of peat hags and bogs, in addition to fording the steam. For this reason our pact of seven set out very earlier. Indeed it was only 630 as we walked towards the water bank. We were somewhat relieved to see the steam was down a good 6 inches, although it still formed a formidable obstacle. With my boots strapped to the pack and my waist belt unclipped, I was in the middle of the group, with Graham last and Barbara sheltered between us. Wading out in front I positioned myself downstream. Graham stayed upstream of Barbara and we safely escorted her across. Not that she would have been unable to without help, it was just generally agreed that this would be much safer.

Once across the water and re-equipped, we began the bog hop and peat hag scramble towards our only landmark, an almost indistinguishable Muckle Cairn. Once atop the low high, we were able to pick up the track and make our way towards Tarfside.

Tarfside itself is no bigger than a small field. It consists of St. Drostains, a hostel that was staffed and open to Challengers, the attached church, some small houses, a camping field, and a Masonic Lodge that also acts as a bar. The hostel itself only held 15 people or so, but there was another 20 tucked in the back meeting room.

The playing field was much more lively, boasting some 67 tents at last count. Coupled with the hostelers, we figured nearly 130 Challengers were present that night. With so many challengers in one place, a pub meeting was inevitable. Ian and Anthony had caught me on the road earlier, and David soon rolled into town as well. A long night, and indeed a longer morning, ensued.

Wednesday the 21st of May - Tarfside to North Water Bridge.

With the smell of the North Sea, there was little variation among routes. Indeed Ian and Anthony headed further north, but I took about the fastest and quickest route possible. Following the road southeast, it has become a Challenge custom to stop in the village of Edzell for some food. And indeed there were a good few challengers there when I arrived, but I chose to pass on the food. Ahead was a 4 mile road walk along a straight and flat bit where no car seemed to notice you.
The caravan site was once again overloaded with challengers. Nightfall saw a 52 tents pitched, and refreshments bought in Edzell were passes about.

Thursday the 22nd of May - North Water Bridge to St. Cyrus.

With only 7 more miles to the coast, all of which were on roads, I took my time breaking camp. Following the random back roads and streets dropped me into the small community of St. Cyrus. Heading towards the beach, a steady stream of Challengers flowed the opposite way. Stopping to congratulate each other and shake hands, it felt like ages before I reached the cliff. Making my way down, I reached the shore in time to catch Steve Smith and Jenny Headscarf. After a short but cold swim, it was a quick lunch t the cafe and a taxi (we managed to miss the bus) into Montrose to report to Finish Control.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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