9th November 2019. Joe the Cocker and his human dad.
Hello everybody. It’s Joe the Cocker here! This is my second attempt at a hiking blog. It’s a few weeks since we hiked the West Highland Way and this was our first real hike since. We had done plenty of walks but we hadn’t really visited anywhere interesting. So the plan was to get up early at 7:30 am (well that’s early for us) and to drive the hour and a half to Llyn Alwen near Cerrigydrudion. We were going to walk a loop of Llyn Alwen and Llyn Brenig. The route that we planned was about a 14 miles circular waymarked trail. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was for rain for most of the day. It wasn’t supposed to be windy so we thought that we would still go. We have both walked around these lakes before and know from previous windy wet weather that it can be pretty bleak up there. We set off around 8:30 and sure enough it started to rain on the way. It was pretty chilly at around 4 degrees Celsius. As we got closer to our destination it started to snow and the temperature dropped to minus one Celsius. In the lower areas the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads but the hillsides were starting to look amazing with a coating of the white stuff. Then, as we reached Cerrigydrudion at the start of the road climb to Llyn Brenig, the snow was coming down heavier and sticking to the roads.
It was time to make a decision. Should we carry on or turn back and return another day. My dad decided that we would take a chance and see what conditions were like further into the hills. The road to Llyn Brenig is quite steep and the snow was getting deeper. We followed the one set of tyre marks that led up the road. We skidded slightly a few times and took it very easy. The track to the carpark for Llyn Alwen is about 0.7 miles from the B4501 and looked completely undriveable. We decided to try the Llyn Brenig carpark instead as this is more frequented and off a tarmac road. It wasn’t easy but we made it to the parking spot.
The carpark was due to close at 4.15 pm. My dad made the decision that we should just do a circuit of Llyn Brenig which is approximately ten miles walking. We should have had plenty of time to complete the walk around the two lakes if the conditions would have been perfect but we didn’t want to be rushing to get back to the car before the carpark closed for the night. He can be sensible at times! My dad sorted the rucksack out and put on all his winter clothes and then dressed me in my harness and fleece lined waterproof coat. We were finally ready to set off. As we crossed the snow covered carpark I had a pee up as many things that I could. Then it was time for a number two. My dad said that he was going to train me to either go to the toilet or to clean up my own mess. Good luck to him with that. It will take more than treats to get me to do that. Why get a human and talk yourself I say!
Off we went. We were to walk the anticlockwise direction around the lake. It was snowing quite heavily as we left. I absolutely loved it. Under paw the snow was about three inches deep. I ran around and bounced about in the snow. I was on a long lead and I kept pulling on it in my excitement. My dad said that I was a pain in the backside. I was shouted at a few times but who cares. This was magic. We passed through a couple of gates and we came across a few sheep. Usually I am pretty good around sheep but I think that the excitement took over me. I ran toward them but the lead stopped me from catching them. I was put on a shortened lead and told off for this. I soon calmed down and no damage was done.
My dad was wearing his new Osprey Talon 33 rucksack with plenty of food for us both packed in. We had all the winter gear that we would need. I thought that it was funny that my dad had a map, a gps, my tracker, his mobile and a spare mobile to take us around a reservoir that we had walked together twice before. We also had an emergency shelter with us. Better safe than sorry I suppose. I thought that we would have no problems navigating if we had to turn back because I pee every hundred yards or so. I could just follow my nose. Leave it to me dad, I thought.
As we walked along the track on the dam wall I was running around and loving the snow. My dad said that the views were amazing. I was more excited about playing in the snow. The trout farms could be seen from the dam wall but there was no sign of people in these bleak conditions. We turned left at the end of the track where the engineering works seemed to have been going on forever and headed towards the conifer plantations. On through the gates and avoiding the cattle grids. I always let my dad through gates first. I suppose that it is an age before beauty thing. I am a good boy!
We continued on as the snow fell all around us. The snow started to ball on the fur on my legs. My dad had to keep breaking them up so that I could walk. It was like having tennis balls stuck to my legs. I think that I need a better snow coat. One with legs in to stop this balling from happening. I will get him to have a look on the internet later. My dad said that he had a couple of hot spots forming on his heels due to his boots not being laced up properly. So we had to stop for a few minutes while he sorted himself out. Hot spots! I have cold spots. He is lucky. He wants to try walking in bare paws. He checked my paws and they were fine. There wasn’t any ice forming on them so I was ok. I think that I am made of tougher stuff than him. All that I wanted to do was chase birds. I nearly caught two pheasants but they escaped. I still don’t know what I would do if I caught one. Anyway, my dad always pulls me away. My dad needs to learn how to identify some different species of bird. He calls them all birdies. I know that I am only two and a half years old but I am not a puppy anymore. He should talk to me as an adult.
We had a one way snowball fight as we walked through the forest. He threw them for me and at me. I wish that I could have returned fire but paws can be useless at times. I loved it though. We had a good time and I soon warmed up with all the running around. He started to complain that his hands were cold so he had to stop and put his gloves on. He changed his baseball cap for his thermal beanie. I hope that he doesn’t buy a hat for me with these ears. It’s the sort of thing that he would do. It would ruin my street credibility. He expected the temperature to lift a wee bit during the day but it didn’t. It was sub zero and the snow kept falling. Sometimes it was quite heavy but most of the time it was fairly light and the wind was not too strong. The conditions were really good for us and the trail was completely deserted. Peace and quiet.
Once we were out of the forest area the views opened up across the reservoir and to the mountains of Snowdonia beyond. Well that was when the clouds lifted and allowed us a glimpse. The wind picked up as we hit the open countryside and the snow continued to fall. My dad said that he needed some better waterproof gloves because the ones that he was wearing were starting to soak up the water. I was sure that he would buy some next week. The path turns right and then left as it skirts a boggy area. Just as we turned left there was a herd of cows in the field by a small building. My dad was that busy looking at the cows that he slipped in the snow and just avoided landing on his backside. Hilarious! A few minutes later on another slight bend a 4 x 4 vehicle came round the track sideways. We could see the whites of the drivers eyes. He was so lucky that he didn’t turn the landrover over. He aplologised to my dad for scaring us. I think that it was the driver that was scared. A close shave in the middle of nowhere. We reached the archaeological site of Boncyn Arian and the ring cairn but we couldn’t see any of it due to the snow cover. We did have a sit down for a few minutes on a picnic bench. Well he did anyway. He shared a meat and potato pie with me and gave me some of my food and drink. It was a bit wild and windy there so we didn’t hang around. We continued on past the small carpark and up the hill to the small cottage on the top of the rise. The owner was in his field feeding his stock. He had black sheep, ducks and chickens in there all being barked at by his dogs. We kept on walking and my dad started singing another one of his old songs. Apparently, it is called Marrakesh Express. The animals in the small holding had obviously influenced him. ‘Ducks and pigs and chickens call’ etc was what he was singing. Even though there were no pigs in the field. So annoying. Over and over again. One or two lines of the song. He needs to learn a whole song one day. Just past the cottage is a left hand turn that takes you slightly downhill along the side of the road. The traffic had cleared one lane of snow so he said that the drive from the carpark down into Cerrigydrudion should be a lot safer later.
Soon the path drops to the left away from the road and across the nature reserve. I managed to drag my dad through three streams along this section. This became the only uphill of the route albeit a gradual incline. I was chasing birds again and kept getting told off by my dad. Unfortunately for him it’s in my DNA to try to catch birds. That’s my excuse anyway. I also tried to chase more sheep but I was on the lead and there was a fence between us. My dad gave me the look so I walked to heel for a while. That usually works. And it did. He was soon telling me what a good boy I am. He does confuse me at times because the word Joe usually means that he is calling me to him or to stop me from doing someting. My Sunday name, Joseph, usually means that he is not happy with me. I also get called Joey Shark, Puppy and Monster. I sometimes wonder what my name actually is.
Anyway, back to the trail. We were soon at the crest of the hill which gave us some great views back across the lake. The Alwen Forest to our right had a layer of cloud cover giving it an eerie feel. It was downhill then to a couple of gates before we were back on a forestry track. Soon we came to a bridge crossing a fast flowing stream in a small valley. It was very picturesque so I had a pee against the bridge. Just to mark it as mine. I must own the entire walk around Llyn Brenig by now. It was here that I found my first stick of the day. It was only a thin one and broke up immediately. I spat it out and gave up on it. All these trees and not one decent size stick to be found. I was disappointed.
On we plodded through the snow. I was darting in and out of the trees looking for birds again. I spotted a few but they were too quick for me. I wish that I could fly. They wouldn’t get away so easy then. The track became a tarmac surface after a few twists and turns in the trail. It could have been any kind of surface because every part of this route was covered in snow. I know that my dad is not keen on road walking so he didn’t complain this time. He can usually complain for England but not this day. Well, apart from at me. There was some really good views across the lake from this slightly elevated point. We were both loving this walk albeit for different reasons. There was quite a few picnic benches along the lakeside at this point. So we decided to have a break at one. I had more of my food and shared another meat pie with my dad. He had a small flask of soup that he devoured as he sat on the snow covered bench with me underneath it hiding from the snow.
After our lunch we set off along the last couple of miles along the road. We passed the Boating Club before turning right towards the car. On the right was the exit from the carpark. This was blocked by a couple of gates across the road. My dad appeared to be a bit worried about this. But, soon we came across a new exit that was less steep than the old one. So back at the car we arrived. There was still only three cars there and not much evidence of many others having been there. We only saw one other person all day. He was walking his dog from the carpark to the Boat Club and back. It was a really fun hike with the peace and quiet that we love. Well, my dad does. I just love being outside. Can’t wait for our next trip.