TGO Challenge 2014 Day 14 - Fetteresso Forest to Stonehaven- The Finish

Waking up early in the forest was a treat. It was a great night tucked in the pines. It appeared like some rain this morning but the temperatures were still very pleasant. I don't think Vicky actually believed me when I said we were only 8 miles from the North Sea as we packed up this morning

 We were ready for rain and ready to get to the coast. 
The walk through the Fetteresso was flat and easy and we enjoyed looking at the old walls that were being used to mark fields for the sheep and cattle.

Vicky looked the part of a hiker the entire 2 weeks- 

The flowers and the spring time color has been brilliant for 2 weeks
Leaving the boundary of the Fetteresso Forest for the last time.
The remainder of our walk today was along minor roads passing farms and pastures on our way to Stonehaven

Faces only a mother could love!

 Along the way we were caught up by Toby and Vicky (the elder) and they were delightful company. They had to move on faster than us as they were going to finish at Dunnottar Castle a few miles south of Stonehaven.

Vicky Grace, Vicky Gulley, Toby Grace (above left to right)
 The weather continued to look threatening the closer we got to the coast, but it held off and we made it to Stonehaven before any rain. This continued the weather success I promised at the beginning of the Challenge. It did not rain on us during the day in 2 weeks!

 Crossing over the A90 into Stonehaven proper

Now just a few more blocks or so down to the North Sea, but wait! We had to stop and get a sausage roll for me and a Mac and Cheese roll for Vicky. The bakery we passed smelled so good!

 We carried our brunch down to the sea and ate while looking out at the waves over the sea wall.

 Then it was time to go to the beach. The Stonehaven beach is rocky so we didn't take our shoes off nor did I strip down and plunge in as I had originally planned. It was actually very cold and we had on most our cloths here at the end.

 But we did step into the North Sea completing our journey across Scotland Starting by a boat ride in the Atlantic and finishing at the North Sea in Stonehaven.

 On the way to the train station in Stonehaven we stopped to pick up a bottle of Ardbeg Scotch for John Manning and we literally stopped to smell the flowers.

Stonehaven Railway Station.

The Train took us 40 minutes just down the coast to Montrose the location of the TGO Control Headquarters and were we needed to check in to complete our Challenge.

The Town of Montrose complete with red phone box

 The Park Hotel has been where the Challenge Control has been headquartered during the Challenge since the beginning in 1980. For 2 weeks the organizers stay here and track the progress of Challengers across Scotland and provide logistic and emergency services to all Challengers. 

This is only a fraction of the packs that are stacked up outside and inside the Park Hotel. The majority of Challengers finish on Thursday and by mid afternoon their were perhaps 100 packs in the hotel lobby

 Upstairs to Challenge Control to sign in and receive your T-shirt and have a cup of tea and relax.
Freddy Campbell, who had been so kind to us since the beginning

Emma Warbrick and Vicky Sore
The Ladies of the TGO Challenge in addition to a very surprised Chris Townsend that turned just as I was taking this picture. (Scottish Deer caught in headlights!)

We went and checked into our hotel. We booked our room at the sister hotel The Links, right next door.
We had a fabulous room at the top of the Grand Staircase.

 Then it was back to the Park Hotel Bar for more drinking and fun before the TGO Dinner Event.
I lost no weight on this trip. I ate and drank my way across Scotland.
Humphrey Weightman (left) and Alan Sloman (right) share stories
 The Thursday night TGO party. Many speeches describing the people and event. It was packed with Challengers and a great time was had by all.
Master of Ceremonies and Coordinator John Manning giving praise to the original coordinator Roger Smith (back to us) and John making a shocking announcement that he would be stepping down as coordinator after this year.
We are too very happy and fortunate Challengers. 

The Trip would not have been possible or as enjoyable without the help of the following people. I know I will miss a few and for that I apologize:
In the beginning whether they knew it our not:
Chris Townsend, Tony Hobbs, and Bob Cartwright.-for blogs, podcasts and videos.
Before and During the Challenge:
Andy Howell, our Vetter Colin Crawford, John and Mrs. Manning, Alan McDonald, Mike Gillespie, Vicky and Toby Grace, Emma Warbrick, Ian Sinclair, Peter Molenaar, Fred Campbell, Ken and Nina Stimson, Peter Kenyon, Barbara Sanders, Norma and John Keohane, Andrew Walker, Phil Lambert, Mike Armstrong, Mick Blackburn, Gayle Faulkner, Matt Favero, Joe Valesko, Paul (Owner of Abbey B&B in Ft Augustus)  and a very big and special thank you to: Vicky Sore, Toby Mullins and Alan Sloman.

The one person who needs to get all the credit for making this trip possible, because I would not have done it without her; Vicky Gulley. Vicky you could not have done this trip a year ago and I am so proud of you for making the effort to be able to do the Challenge and the great success I got to share with you.  looking forward now to many more adventures in the backcountry with you- Love you!

Day 14
8 miles walked
Total 127 miles walked out of 187 planned.

Elevation profile for Day 14 

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 13- Potarch Bridge Park to Fetteresso Forest

We had a good nights sleep in the park and woke up reasonably early.  The Path today would lead us on the Deeside Way again for a while this morning and then we would have to make a decision. We found out from Ken and Nina that the Deeside Way would take us with very little exception on an easy path all the way to Aberdeen and the coast.  It would be a predictable and safe route. I expressed a desire to have a little more wilderness experience for our last full day and asked Vicky what she thought about going through the Fetteresso Forest which was our intended route. There would be some ups and downs and other unknowns.  I think apprehensively she agreed with the forest track and Stonehaven for our final destination.

 Walking in the morning on the Deeside way kept us thinking about this route and the easy path to Aberdeen.

 The path away from Potarch was very nice and looked newly done.
The morning was overcast and cool, perfect for walking again today.

The path led to the Slewdrum Forest and the Deeside way would continue over to Banchory and then east to Aberdeen. We needed to split off here and do a little more road walking toward Strachan to get to the Fetteresso Forest 

The B-Roads were quiet and there were several nice farms with horses, cattle, and sheep along the way.

We made it into Strachan and had a rest in the park. We were hoping for a Co-op or gas station to get some fresh lunch and a drink, but Strachan while being a fairly large little town, with a school and some shops did not have any groceries. (Banchory is only 4 miles by road away).

We slipped across the Water of Feugh (above) and it was just a short walk on a minor road to get to the entrance to the forrest. We came in heading for Glenskinnan (a hunting bothy)
 This had originally been a very small double track into the hills but the construction of the wind farms in the Fetteresso had turned this, like the Corrieyairack Pass into a major construction road.

 At the top of the road as we where to enter the forest proper we came across a locked gate and a disturbing sign.(above) High Powered rifles regularly in use

A small step had been provided to get over the fence and around the gate (above)
 This first climb to get into the forest had been about 600'. I think the picture above sums up the way Vicky was feeling at the moment. (We took a good rest here!)

A short distance up the path we came to Glenskinnin, clearly a bothy for hunters. It was all locked up, but the important part was the rain barrels outside the hut. We needed water and we had been careful not to use the water on the way up as it had been polluted by the cow pastures along  the way. The water in the rain barrels was just what we needed
 We sat at Glenskinnen for a bit and enjoyed the views

and rested!
After we rested we continued on the forest track.
 We came across a locked gate on the path with no visable way to climb over. We had to take off our packs and hand them over as we scaled the fence.

 The path then led into denser forest and more bogs! I wanted a "wilder" experience before the end and I certainly got it. Fortunately this section was very short

It actually looks as if mountain bikes have been through this section. That would be a tough ride!

 Back on firmer ground we started to go a little higher into the forest.

Just as we got to a sign post, we dipped down to a lovely creek, you looked up and got your first view of the wind turbines here in the forest. They immediately reminded me of some War Of The Worlds scene rising up out of the trees.

 We followed the forest track in the North Dennetys, the "D" stone marking a boundry

We didn't have to walk through the actual wind farm field, as some challengers did that came from the south. the wind farms we located in the Mid Hill area of the forest. 
 We popped out of the forest and were confronted with the reality that our little single track path had been made into a huge construction road.

We finally veered off the construction track and through another gate onto a smaller path toward Stonehouse. (Above-This is what the path in the entire forest used to look like before the wind farm construction) I had assumed that Stonehouse would be a bothy of some kind in the forest. It actually turned out to be someones new house! In rural Scotland all the houses have names not numbers and they are actually shown on maps. I had no idea that someone could actually live here. To me this seemed like someone living inside one of our National Forest.
 We had come to the end of our day and so we walked a little ways down from Stonehouse to where it was obvious that their property ended (fence) so we would be well out of site and found a fantastic stealth location for our tent next to a fast running stream called Cowie Water. We had a lovely evening tucked into the pine trees. This was Vicky's favorite campsite of the trip.

After the initial climb into the forest the walking flattened out and it was downhill the rest of the day, In fact I reminded Vicky that after we topped out our elevation near the wind farms it was all down hill to the sea!
She was noticeably cheered up. At the end of the day I was glad that we had come this way into the forest. It was harder yes, but it was more interesting and diverse and I think made for a better experience.
One more day!

Day 13
15.3 miles 9 hours.
119.3 miles walked of possible 175 miles planned.

elevation profile for Day 13

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