Ben Venue had me swimming up the mountain but Loch Ordie was happy to bathe me in sunshine! It was a precious time for photography and I was enthralled by the textures of the landscape—from the jagged shadows resting on the trees to the glass lochs to the flowers peeping up from the rubble.
Feast your eyes dear reader, on some of the simple wonders I found while wandering around Loch Ordie with the Tayside Young Walkers.
I was on my way to my second walk with this group, carpooling again and fully enjoying my chance to sit back and enjoy the winding back-road our driver had chosen. The thrill which always accompanied me on such a rally race drive (in my Albertan mind) eventually faded into a passing interest in the view.
As my sleepy eyes roved the changing landscape’s sprawling, golden fields were slowly engulfed by a looming forest dominated by coniferous vegetation.
A rather tummy tumbling series of jolts welcomed us as we bumped our way across the potted forest path leading to the walk’s parking lot. Each pothole felt like it’d be too deep for the car to climb out, like the front bumper would bite into the earth and refuse to retreat. But the driver stepped on the gas and we bounced on.
After we’d disembarked, shook ourselves into order and left the parking lot, the vast scenes from the road were suddenly cut into snippets of experience.
There wasn’t just a forest—there was a tree.
They weren’t just trees—they were a pack of shadows, a frozen march overlooked by three solemn watchmen.
The hikers walked on, blissfully speeding forward in a timeframe decades beyond the trees’ own, mistaking nature’s battlefield as the set for a serene day in the woods.
Suddenly, leaping into view from the shadows, a giant caught the sunlight and threw it at the ground. Its dress of green shivered in the breeze as its branches swayed in gentle greeting.
I gaped. It seemed like the kind of tree that would be draped in cloth, clothes and scarves in Thailand—like it housed a benevolent spirit patiently waiting to grant any and all fervent wishes.
Bowing slightly I grinned and hurried on to catch up with the others. Today I had no wish to make.
Greeting the Sunshine
When I found the rest of the group, they’d already broken free from the forest and were making their way under a patchwork sky.
Together we strode across the basking meadows, stepping carefully around the thistles stretching toward the sun.
The stable path we’d decided to trust had dwindled into a finicky trail ladled with decomposing branches. Our hopes cracked with each step.
We pushed on through the no-man’s land of the forest, carefully navigating around ponds of mud and treacherous sticks waiting to tangle between our ankles.
In the face of a slight misdirection we were becoming true explorers.
At one point a stone wall strung with wires stood between us and our destination, but we scampered across—each issuing a hushed thanks as we ducked under the lifted lines.
For once I was thankful I was small.
The land began to rise leading us away from the trees, shadows and stumps. Now grass rustled beneath our feet. Even the dogs accompanying our walk were catching the excitement. Or maybe we were catching it from them.
They sped across the fields, darting back and forth as though messengers on the clock.
I can see why people relate dogs and cats to children. Where the heck do they get that energy?
A creek trickled next to the path. I licked my lips. Were we finally in the clear? Was the top within our reach? Why wasn’t I on a bicycle so I could at least enjoy the thrilling ride to the bottom again?
Grumbling under my breath I glanced back. The world unfolded before me. The grumbles fled into the open sky.
I reached the top a hundred gasps later.
Alas, it was discovered that we’d climbed the wrong mountain! We swung our eyes up toward a hill towering behind our triumph and swung them just a quickly toward the packed ferns huddling at our feet.
If rustling was the fern equivalent for giggling they were cackling like mad as we waded forward.
As a short person I found myself failing at progressing through the shrubbery gracefully. The dogs were bouncing along on invisible springs. A fellow walker asked me about my homeland as he casually strode through the brush ahead. Meanwhile I flailed through each ste…lunge.
It’s safe to say that attempts to maintain a decent conversation were shooed away by my flapping, wind-milling arms. Decency had left me at the crest of the hill.
Suddenly, another wall. The map indicated a gate. One step at a time.
We slithered through the tall grass that greeted us, bending the stalks into a silent river.
I wanted to settle down, become lost and chase my dreams for a while, but talk of ticks had me wary of a chance encounter. Plus I was already the caboose of the group, no need to be an anchor.
Once more we broke free of the stage and stepped out onto a mended path. Our trials were over. The grass, the ferns, the sticks, the ponds and the ticks were behind us. No one looked back.
Lunch had us settling down beside what I believe was Loch Ordie. As we nibbled at our respective meals a couple on off-road bicycles rolled by. Their mud splattered ankles and shins strained against the pedals. A little dog accompanied them. It wasn’t a very loyal dog in the face of food though. As the cyclists headed on the dog decided to stay and crash our lunch party.
This didn’t ring well with its owners who quickly noticed its absence. They shouted for the dog. No luck. They came back and led it away by the collar. It took the dog mere seconds to zip back to us the instant it was released. We chuckled behind raised hands and sandwiches as one of the couple dismounted and trudged back to retrieve it.
Finally, leashed and pulled out of sight our unlikely lunch guest left for good.
The final visual gift of the day arrived long after the group had once more left me to my ambling.
I studied a crumbling stone wall by the path. The striking contrast between the vegetation and the stone was what first drew me in, but it was the flow of the rock that enthralled me. It crashed, it broke and splashed without a drop of movement.
Why am I so involved in these walks?
I grew up near the Rocky Mountains in Canada and they’ve always held a special mystical aura in my mind. They were close enough for a visit each summer but no more, so they were never completely familiar.
I think many of the people in Scotland have a similar relationship with their Highlands. The Highland Clearances in 18th and 19th centuries ensured a modern population widely unfamiliar with the mountainous region to the west.
In a way it seems like the rambler’s movement across the UK is the people’s way of accessing their cultural memories—of seeking a taste of the lands that fed, sheltered and inspired their ancestors. And the rambling instinct is particularly strong in Scotland.
I keep all this in mind every time I go out on these walks. I like to think I tap into that national curiousity. I’m as much of a newcomer to these trails as many native Scots.