Diary of a Cragman #1

Diary of a madmanWalk the line again todayEntries of confusionDear diary, I’m here to stay

I dunno, is a 43 year old Ozzy song a good point of reference? For me, of course it is.

The Kilpatrick Hills in general and for some years now the Lang Craigs in particular are my home, it’s where I live, it’s where I play and since I’ve been back reviewing outdoor gear it’s where I get consistent testing miles on kit. Random big hill days where I have to travel tell me specifics, but you cannot beat rotating the same gear samples on regular repeated routes in different conditions to get a real understanding and reliable results. I also get good wear and tear, the terrain is rough, the weather is wild and in my time at TGO I have had some brands pissing and moaning because I’ve found that their all weather extreme gear isn’t quite as good as they say it is because of what my sometimes daily use in these hills tells me.

And of course there’s my nearly eleven years as a volunteer ranger (They changed the actual title to warden a while back which just makes me think of Patrick McGoohan in Escape from Alcatraz or Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke, it’s a shit title and I’ll die before I answer to it. Probably.) for Woodland Trust Scotland. There’s a fine expanded team these days and I continue with my deer fence following and accosting members of the public with banter and/or help as required.
It’s a battle though, neds, dirt bikes, uncontrolled dogs, fires, litter, deer, erosion, time and money are some of the many enemies of our lovely corner of the hills.
The landscape is a continued winner though, the trees’ constant growth has changed the place so much and it feels like that pace of change is accelerating. To see the site alive with actual big trees seemed too far off for me, but just maybe in my lifetime I’ll sit in the shade of something leafy that I helped one of the wonderful waves of folk we had coming here to plant.
It’s a place of contrasting emotions, there’s always hope, there’s always beauty, there’s life all around as the skies and the land attract ever more creatures to take it as their home. It’s still fragile though, and there’s anger when some arsehole breaks, burns or defaces it.

Looking for the sun, or the snow.

I’m there an awful lot, usually late afternoon or night, first thing in the morning if there’s an inversion of course. But I don’t talk about it as much as I used to or should do and I rarely take photies now, just an occasional selfie to accompany a glib social media comment.
That’s changed, I’m having too much fun to risk losing it all in a haze, it’s been stunning up there of late and it’s given me a proper wee shove so photies and stories it’s going to be so I can remember it properly, and just maybe pass some of the joy on if anyone’s still passing through these pages these days.

So: Diary of a Cragman #1

I like meeting folk, even unseasonal ones like this wee guy. It’s still February and spring thinks its had the green light. Frogs coming at us, colour sprouting from the ground everywhere and life in general shaking off the dark nights and getting ready for fun. I just hope it’s not so soon that we lose stuff when the cold comes back like it seems to be doing right now.

The wee fella is also a lesson in watching where you put your feet, there’s much to miss and step on up here if you’re gawping at the view when a few streaks of sun break through the murk and take the bare look off of Dumbarton for a wee while.

I love this path on the edge of the crags, the views are just brilliant, from Beinn Laoigh to Ailsa Craig on a clear day and you can see the whole of the Lang Craigs site, useful for spotting potentially damaging incidents in high ned season (any time the sun shines basically): that which burns never returns.
It’s a joy to walk too, it meanders, goes up and down, and feels airy all the way. Minutes from the car park too if you know the shortcuts. Hey, just ask and I’ll show you.

Rain, sleet? Loch Lomond was being refilled by something. It was dull, but not drab and the sky was moving fast above me so I was keeping my pace up to stay warm. I cut off onto the foresty road and headed for the Black Linn reservoir to swing up onto Donut Hill, maybe it would clear up by the time I climbed up.

It did not clear up by the time I climbed up. I hid behind the rocks and got out my flask for a hot cuppa and watched the forestry machinery wind down for the evening over at Knockupple. Big yellow arms were soon lying still and a white pickup truck swung it’s way north on whatever new dirt road they’ve gouged across the moor.  It’s a helluva mess over there it has to be said.
They’re replacing the clear felled areas across the Kilpatricks with more conifers by the looks of it and putting borders of indigenous tress round the edges so we can’t see them.
That’s going to look great really quickly as birch grows at 0.6m a year and sitka spruce 1.5m. Insert rolling eyes emoji.

No sunset and it was getting really cold. I jogged downhill to the corner gate and its amusing new and surprisingly deep water jump feature to “help” you get through it with thoughts of a hot dinner and well, just hot dinner and other hot stuff like a shower because I couldn’t feel my fingers. I mean at all, I left my Buffalo mitts in my pack way too long.

I should know better. The next day in fact, I did do better and so did the weather.