A week of adventures at the tail end of a summer full of escapades. I think the last week is an example of my whole life, as in, it wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened that way. I wasn’t blind to the fact as the week went on it was a wee bit special, like the best getootside/stayfreakincation you could have in and around the heartland of God’s country.
The weather on Tuesday was wild and spent indoors in front of my laptop. Monday had been good fun with a paddle down to the bridges and back and a 2km swim up in Loch Lubnaig. Normally this would be considered an amazing day, however the following Monday surpassed it so it won’t be included. It seems mad now that on the Sunday before this week began I had mentioned to my wife that I thought my body was starting to get old and it didn’t seem to have the same stamina or energy as it used to have. Honestly, this wasn’t a driver for the week ahead, it just kinda came together that way.
Unlike some of my other blogs there is no real thread other than the timeline and this might read like a bad water based Craig David song but I hope you gain a hint of enjoyment I had by reading about it.
The tides on Wednesday were perfect for a blast down the Forth. I had to be home in the afternoon for an online funeral which we couldn’t physically attend due to the Covid restrictions, so the clock was ticking when I dragged Clare’s new board in its bag up the street towards the river. I packed my face-mask after checking the bus timetable from Fallin back to Stirling reckoning its about 15km down river.
Starting just before high tide, the water was heading back downhill as I arrived at bridges. There was little wind to push me East, but the river was full and steadily carried me past the other notable landmarks like the Stirling Rowing Club, the Riverside pontoon and the new 7 story student building, which I think looks like a fairly boring block of flats from the road but is an impressive building from the river. I have paddled the river a few times and knew Clare’s pink and orange board was making good time passing by the cricket pitch, St Modan’s school and then under the bypass bridge. The river gets a lot wider as you curve round the large bend passing the entrance to the River Devon on the north. It was when I paddled passed the council site on the south and the two tied up boats on the north that I realised I might have time to paddle to Alloa. It felt as though Fallin was reached easily so I continued on past the ghostly building and disused crane of old ammunition storage site
This was the third time I been through the bridgeless stanchions of the south Alloa bridge. You can read about the last time at this link https://getootside.org/2019/10/06/are-you-scared/. When I somehow found the energy and skills to survive a 12 hour solo adventure paddling from Stirling to Newhaven at Edinburgh last year.
I reached the Alloa slipway in record time and noticed just before arriving there could be an easier get out on the south side. A kind guy on the shore paused his work and helped me winch the board up the 5m wall, as the slipway would have been too muddy. Then, Wullie, the dude that was gracious enough to give me a lift to the train station the first time I paddled here, repeated his kind offer to give me a lift and we continued our chat from the last time about fishing boats. This time I in even managed to jump out his car before the train left the station.
A taxi got me home with enough time to quickly change into something bright and summery, as per my wife’s cousin’s wishes, to pay our respects watching the live feed of his funeral. I think he would have been looking down and enjoying the comedy of errors we performed as we were panicking and failing to get sound connected for the feed. We missed some of the great words describing the life of a great man, a great friend and great family member that will be dearly missed. We sat in that front room wishing we could have been down south to share the day with Angela, Sam and the rest of the family.
Here’s an auld photo of him at my wedding with his family and Clare’s dad. I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile. RIP Dave
I was allowed out after dinner for a slow swim at Loch Venachar. First time for a decent swim there maybe this year.
Thursday was spent paddling from Deanston to Stirling, past Doune Castle, also known as “The Fifty Shades of Tartan, Outlander” show which calls it Castle Leoch. I enjoyed the paddle with two experienced dudes.
One of them I had never met face to face, only spoke to on Facebook, kinda like a pen-pal but with photos for about 3 years. I spent most of the paddle behind him learning from his paddling technique as he chatted to our Canadian canoe paddler. The other dude was generous enough to give me a massive bag of freshly picked tomatoes that didn’t last long when I brought them home. I love Tomatoes. They are the sweetest thing that I allow myself to eat. He also gave me a big bag of beetroot and thanks to my good wife they were pickled into few jars and also made a big pot of Borscht soup.
Friday was spent with my wife trying to make up for the fact I abandoned her all summer. We went for a paddle as the weather was good but I kind of messed up the timing and distance, plus I also forgot the fins for one of the boards so paddling in a straight line for 3 hours became a real struggle.
We might have enjoyed the day more if it didn’t include the 1 hours paddle up Loch Voil prior to paddling along the Balvaig river section. Some of the river is flat water and some of it was fast moving water with some wee bumps.
I am loving Clare’s abilities and determination to get out on the board making me love her more if that’s possible.
When I first bought a board a few years ago I didn’t imagine Clare would be enjoying pushing her comfort levels bouncing down rivers and buying technical clothes to keep paddling through the winter.
After years of carpet fitting abuse and running, my knees are an aweffie mess. One has had surgery and the other is getting surgery in a few weeks so I kind of thought my days of bagging munros or walking to the tops of hills over 3000 feet was complete. I had convinced myself that the view from the middle of a loch looking up beats the view from the top of a hill looking down. Yeah, yeah I know, I am a dafty. The plans for the Saturday walk were laid out on Friday when I was busy cruising down the river Balvaig.
I quickly agreed to the arrangement without the slightest consideration as soon as I picked up my phone to read the messages. No thought was given to what the weather forecast was as I had plenty of wool to keep me warm and some technical gear if it rained. There was also no thought on the destination either. I wasn’t keeping count any more on the Munro bagging so it didn’t bother me if we had to travel far or if I had been on the tops before. For me it was about getting ootside and having a laugh. It wasn’t though until we missed the photo opportunity on the first Munro whilst heading for the top of the second one that I realised we were on the Lawers group and actually beside the last Munro I had climbed may years ago. (You can read about the mad mountain bike trip and sleeping under a tarp, secured over two up turned bikes, a few years ago at this link https://getootside.org/2016/06/19/are-you-sure-the-east-ridge-path-exists-aye-ma-da-says/)
My legs locked up and I struggled to get one foot in front of the other for the last couple kilometres but the pain didn’t fade the brilliant feeling of the day. I was glad I swapped the wet-suit for walking boots. It wasn’t the amazing views looking north or the vertical scramble up An Stuc that gave the heart and nerves a wee alive tingle. This glad to be alive feeling was multiplied with a quick bone numbing dip in the lochan nan cat – it looks like a Dr Suess Cat from above.
I think it was the human interaction that made the day for me, chatting to other walkers that were friendly and happy to spend a few minutes to share their day at safe distance. It was also the banter with my two friends. The last time I spent a day walking with them was on a big walk to Knoydart that lead to a massive change of direction in my life and I would not be smiling as much today if it hadn’t happened. I spoke about that walk during this blog
Sadly, it was not to be this time. I was glad when Clare revoked my free pass for Sunday. We are best friends and its rubbish not spending time with your best friend on their days off. Also, to be honest, it was also a welcome excuse as even messaging the paddlers to call off was an extreme effort after arriving home on the Saturday evening from the hill walk never mind getting the kit ready and then mustering enough energy for a massive paddle with tricky conditions.
We managed a wee walk up Ben Gullipen instead which is a small 500m hill on the edge of the Trossachs with some of our oldest friends and their sons. That lead to great conversation concerning our creation and purpose here on this big round thing. I even got a quick wee swim in Loch Venachar before heading home.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully enjoying the description of my week. Now, getooside maybe have a blether…. you know you will feel better for it