TGO Challenge 2018 Day 14

The End
We woke up early and eager. The day for only the second time all trip was overcast and it was a bit chilly. Packing up the tent for the final time this trip. The new Gossamer Gear The Two has been wonderful, easy to set up and very roomy. We highly recommend it.

The walk out of the North Water Bridge caravan (campsite) was across a very busy and fast highway, the A90. We played our usual game of Frogger and while we were very careful a rude driver honked at us for no reason.... 
Once across the roads were quiet side streets and easy B roads.
(below) Ian caught Vicky and I starting out through the neighborhoods of North Water Bridge
The Beef didn't get any smaller today as this guy was several tons of hamburger! 
The villages are all so nice and quaint as we walk on

The bright yellow rapeseed oil plants always mean you are close to the east coast. You don't see this plant cultivated much in the West of Scotland, but it is your welcome to the East

Miles of lonely B road on the last day. It is possible to stay on some paths and off the roads, but you do run the risk of an unknown fence or gate in this area and you will end up in someone's yard at least once or twice 

A great name for a town if I do say so myself. 

Our first glimpse of Montrose and our destination of the sea. Note the church steeple on the left (below), which is the tallest structure in Montrose 

Coming through the village of Hillside, Vicky can not help it as every dog has to be petted and every person wants to have a chat with Vicky

In Hillside we stopped at a local shop/post office and they made us fresh morning sausage and bacon rolls and we made a picnic in the park in the center of town.

The path that was on my map actually didn't exist anymore. A small subdivision of houses sits on the old path. As we were looking for the best way to proceed we ran into Gordon Green going in our same direction, so we walked on with Gordon for a time. 

We ended up walking around and through the Charleton Fruit Farm, (above) which also had a huge children's play ground directly across the road. We heard later that they had good snacks as well, but we were full from our picnic just 30 minutes prior. 

A few miles on, It was a straight shot down to the beach and then the sign 

The Gorse was thick on the way up to the dunes

The final climb up the dunes was very steep and the sand made it one step forward, slide two back.

We managed to pick the highest dune on the entire beach and when we reached the top we could see other Challengers that had just finished up at Kinnabar Links and were already walking down to Montrose.

Vicky did her best downhill ski pose coming down the sand. 

Ian was one of those Challengers walking down the beach and he managed to catch Vicky's final decent down the dune

I think Vicky might be pleased to have made it to the sea.

Some congratulation poses on the beach 

Ian was again kind enough to take this wonderful shot of the two of us together. He is a wonderful photographer and if you want to see what real pictures of a trip across Scotland looks like you can see his work here: TGO 2018 in pictures by Ian Cotterill 

The whole group heads up the beach toward Montrose

The beach walk was one of the highlights of the day. 
Fantastic views out to the sea and being a Thursday not a sole about except for a us and a few Challengers

We let the others go ahead and we had the beach to ourselves
Climbing up off the beach was a bit of a struggle but the view looking back is something we will never forget 

In previous years finishing further north has taken us hours by bus and train to reach Montrose. In this case we just strolled into town

Right up to the Park Hotel to the Challenge Control to officially finish. Of course this year we only did a "partial" Challenge, but it is always a great two weeks regardless of where we went or what we did. 

Challengers dropping their packs in the lobby...

and straight into the bar! Vicky had been looking forward to her first official Rekorderlig of the trip. 

Off her feet and relaxed.

The companion hotel across the street, The Link, has been our hotel of choice for all our stays in Montrose, but the the evening gathering is always back at the Park. After going to check in and cleaning up a bit, we ventured back for the Thursday night celebration dinner as it is always the largest and one of the highlights of finishing a Challenge

There were speeches and awards for 10 and 20 crossings, special mentions of significant activities and a chance to see many others we have come to call friends that we didn't get a chance to walk with this year.

Of course there is always Mr. Alan Sloman, who is mostly responsible for our obsession with the Challenge and our 3 trips across Scotland. His encouragement of Vicky in her first Challenge gave her the courage to come back for more.
I think I have moved down another rung in the ladder: 
Keith Urban, Sam Elliott, Sean Connery and Alan. 
Your in good company sir, well done!

This years after party was quit good, although I don't think it got the attention it deserved. Andrew Walker and Humphrey Weightman performed some excellent songs and then the after-after party Andrew performed just for us.

Louise and Emma were enlisted as the backup singers/dancers.
the "Foul Weather Alternatives"  A great name for a group if ever there was one. 

After a rest day it is time to go home. Always a bit melancholy as you remember the good times you have had over the last two weeks 

Montrose Train Station

The train ride back to Glasgow was on a wonderful sunny day

One more stroll down the Glasgow Highstreet

The long plane ride home 

The familiar look of St. Louis from the air as the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers come together.
That ends our 2018 TGO Challenge adventure. Thanks again to everyone that made this trip possible and we do look forward to seeing you again someday. 

TGO Challenge 2018 Day 13

A Long Day.
We are up and packed up with lots of anticipation and some anxiety for today. In fact as the title suggests this is a rather long day for the first day back walking. It is not hard walking by any means, there is no real elevation gain but it comes in around 17 miles, which is longer than any day Vicky did before being injured. 

First things first after packing up, we again walk down the road to The Retreat for breakfast, a nice treat before starting out. 

We are not alone as soon the place is packed with Challengers. This is really the last day Challengers will be coming through Tarfside so everyone is heading out on their final days to the sea. 

If you wanted to look at all your backpack options then this would be a good morning to do it as just about every kind of pack was lined up outside the B&B. To make it easy on the staff we sat as many people to a table as we could get, even though we ordered separately, Vicky and I were one of the first to arrive and leave, so I ended up paying for every Challenger at my table as our server didn't take out just the bill for Vicky and I. Oh well they were all nice chaps! 

The first few miles are road walking, never that great, but the road was quiet and the scenery great. The path we want for today is actually on the opposite side of the River North Esk that we started on. It is usually no problem to find a bridge to cross over and get on the nice smooth dirt path. However with the recent floods many of the bridges were damaged and are actually out of service. I had checked my maps and it appeared that the one on my route was the one that was available to cross. 

However when we reached our turn off point to the bridge there was a sign that said the bridge was out. This was unexpected blow for so early in the day, mostly as it meant more road walking into busier traffic to a possible next bridge. This was further frustrating for me as I could see Challengers that were actually across the river on the correct path.... How did they get there?
I would find out later that there are actually two bridges close to each other and the sign was for only one of them. ugh! 

After walking another road mile we came to the second of the bridges I could see on my map, a black bridge on a lovely estate of Milden Lodge, We had to walk through a gate to get close enough to see that it too was out and under repair. We couldn't go back now, we had to trudge on down the road. This was not the day I was hoping for..... 

It would be another 5 miles of road walking before the next opportunity to cross the river. In the meantime we ran across Willie Todd from France, he had also missed all the bridges this morning coming from The Retreat after breakfast. 
We walked on all together and eventually came to a side road that got close to the river and promised a low water crossing. At this point I knew we were going to get wet, it was just a question of how wet. 
We followed the path, which turned out to be access to some fishing huts along the river. We passed a farm field being cultivated for potatoes and managed to ask one of the workers if they knew about any access across the river. They were actually conscripts from down south in England up plowing the fields on consignment work. They were very nice but did not know the area.

We walked on an eventually we ran out of path at the low water crossing of the river. Wide but moving slow and not too deep. 

Vicky is alway game when a decision has to be made so she was first to cross. Her favorite camp shoes came in handy to keep her hiking shoes dry and give her some traction on the slick rock underneath. 

This was nowhere near the difficulty that was the crossing of the mouth of Loch Etive on day 3.  So just a nice cold wade in the water and we are across. 

Drying everything off  before continuing. The cold water actually felt good after all that road walking. 

Once back on the proper side we continued on and then ran into many Challengers. This situation actually turned into a bit of a silver lining for me, as one of the things I wanted from today was to walk the "Blue Door" route. I did not actually know where it was or how to get there and if I would have stayed on our present route we would have missed it entirely. The Challengers today included Lynsey so there was a wealth of experience so Vicky and I just fell into step with them and decided to just be part of the pack. 

Ironically within 2 miles we had to cross back over to the side of the river we had just come from, on a new bridge, but I can tell you that those two miles were well worth it on my feet compared to the road. 

But I spoke to soon.. once over the bridge and up a hill of gorse flowers we were back on that same B road! a mile or two in a big group. 

Off the road at the Rocks of Solitude trail

So far the day had been a bit of a bust, but it was about to turn grand! 

Smooth trail, mossy trees, fast moving river. This was great walking in the woods

Fantastic walking 

We walked past the "rocks of solitude" and into many gorges as the walls of the river canyon narrowed 

I wondered out loud if anyone had ever tried this section of river in a kayak?

At the end of this first section is the famous "Blue Door." As it turns out it is just an access door that leads onto a bridge along the B road. No leprechauns, no enchanted land beyond. 

It did however lead across the road, into the county of Angus and to the second half of the path along the narrows

more great scenery. the path got narrower so you couldn't be looking and walking in some spots! 

Closing in on Edzell, a field of rapeseed oil flowers 
You remember Edzell? We waited for our school bus here. This time we arrive right on time, despite our early morning bridge issue, to have lunch and ice cream at the Tuck Inn, another Challenge institution and something on my bucket list for this year. 

More packs line the fence outside the Tuck Inn as we eat our lunch inside 

Fish and chips and ice cream and now you want us to continue to hike in the afternoon? Well yes, actually there is still 5 miles to go in the day, so it was very hard to get motivated to continue but off we went out of Edzell

The path is behind the auto garage and then another nice bridge across the river and then out into farm land as we move eastward. 

The road we needed to follow actually bisected in a farmers barnyard. How bizarre to see cars navigate around various barns and livestock as they continue on a road. 
The cattle were actually HUGE. We are talking thousands of pounds of beef! 
A series of lovely minor roads after a few hairy moments around a timber company factory with giant tractors and logging equipment whizzing down the road. 

And look we are home. I want to invite all the Challengers to come and camp on my lawn.... Ok not my home, but isn't this one spectacular! 

The Estate of Inglesmaldie 

Only a mile or so from that magnificent estate is the campground at North Water Bridge. Sunshine and friendly faces as we get into the campsite right on time and relax for the remainder of the day. 

I am sure Vicky was tired and worn out, but she didn't show it, after a bit of a nap, she was around to talk with Challengers and was happy again to see Louise and Emma turn up along with the very funny Kevin Everett. The three of them were a constant hoot and a half. Ian Cotterill and a few others from Tarfside also made North Water Bridge their final campsite of this Challenge.

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