Hello humans. It’s Joe the Cocker again. This is my report of a mixed day in North Wales with my human dad. It was on 16th November 2019 that we set out from Cheshire for a day on the Snowdonia mountains. We were on the road before 8 am with all our winter gear packed in the rucksack. We had plenty of food and drinks for a hike in the Glydderau or Glyders as we say in English. We had packed our waterpfoofs, fleeces, hats, gloves (well, not gloves for me) and matching red buffs (dad and lad versions). My dad had dug out from the shed his old Bothy Bag, a type of emergency shelter. He had his crampons and ice axe thrown in the boot of the car. So, off we set for an adventure in the Arctic – sorry, Snowdonia. I guess that he wanted to be prepared for all conditions. We knew that there was snow on the Glyders and that the weather forecast was for low cloud and showers but my dad has been hiking in those types of conditions many times before I came along. I trusted him that he knew what he was doing. Well, I sort of trusted him!
As we were driving my dad said that he felt a bit rough and he was sweating a lot. He expected it to ease off as we drove the hour and a half to Capel Curig. He had the air conditioning set on freezing. I thought that he was expecting a heat wave. We arrived along the road from the PYG (Pen y Gwryd) pub at the base of the Llanberis pass. My dad said that this is where some guy in the olden days trained from before he climbed a big mountain a long way away. But, I am sure that you know more about this. We parked in a layby a few hundred yards away from where you have to pay to park. He has always been a bit of a cheapskate!
Looking up at the surrounding mountains the cloud cover was very low and there was a hint of fine drizzle in the air. The ground leading up to the clouds looked drenched and soggy at first. Further on it looked really steep. My dad has been up this route twice before and descended it three or four times after days in the Glyders. The route that we had chosen was via the Miner’s Path. This path takes you almost to the summit of Glyder Fach then on to Glyder Fawr. It was going to be a good day. As soon as we set off there was a large stile to clamber over. I was wearing my harness with a waterproof coat over. It was difficult for my dad to get a good grip on my harness handle through my coat but he managed to successfully and safely get me over the obstacle. Immediately we realised how saturated the ground was. There were huge puddles and streams running over the mossy ground. He sank a few times until the mud was above his boots. Fortunately, he has his goretex gaiters on and he managed to keep his feet dry. Me, on the other hand, I just waded straight into it. I loved it. Within seconds I was soaking wet and covered in mud. As my dad attempted to pick his way across the bog by treading gingerly on each available tuft of grass I just bounced and ran through the water.
We soon came to a narrow footbridge over a fast flowing stream. I ran over the bridge only to find that it was even wetter on the other side. The path, what you could see of it, started to rise and was very slippery with both mud and wet rocks. My dad said that he was feeling rather unwell and had to stop a few times. He was sweating profusely and claimed that he was feeling dizzy with a headache. I was beginning to worry about him so I stayed very close to him as we climbed. We came to another stile. This was a huge ladder stile and it was really hard for my dad to man-handle me over. He had to have another rest. Climbing up the path was becoming harder for my dad and we had to stop a few times. Another stile had to be clambered over followed by yet another short rest. We carried on for a while and we soon reached the cloud base. At this point my dad said that there was no way that he could make it to the tops because he felt unwell. It was time to turn back. I know that he doesn’t like to do this. He hates to admit defeat but if you are ill you are ill. It makes sense to not push yourself beyond your capabilities in the sort of weather and ground conditions that were waiting for us further up the hill. It would probably take us an hour to return to the car as that’s how long we had been walking for. We stopped for short rests a few times on the descent while he sorted himself out. By the time we arrived back at the car we were filthy and very wet. Well, I was anyway. So that was that. Our day was a bit of a flop.
We sat in the car for a while. My dad had a coffee and a few biscuits while I drank water and asked for biscuits by sitting nice and offering him my paw. He is a sucker for this and gave me a few biscuits. Turning the car round and heading back home made me a bit sad so I curled up in my bed on the back seat of the car. As we drove my dad said that he wasn’t prepared to go straight home. He suggested that we try a walk around Llyn Alwen before we returned home. This is part of the trip that we had to abort last week due to the snow covering the track to the carpark. I came back to life and got quite excited and spent the rest of the journey sat bolt upright staring out of the window. It took us about half an hour to get to the reservoir in the Hiraethog forest. The Alwen reservoir took twenty one years to build at the beginning of the last century. It now supplies water to north east Wales. It’s a beautiful area and quieter than the nearby Llyn Brenig.
The track took us to the carpark near to the Alwen reservoir dam. As we jumped out of the car it was drizzling but there was only a slight breeze. It was cool but perfect conditions for a reasonably flat walk. The circuit of Llyn Alwen is only about 7.5 miles and we had plenty of time before darkness set in. We set off and immediately it was time for a photo shoot. I stood on the dam wall while my dad took photographs of me. I was itching to start walking and so I could not keep still. Anyway, he took his photographs of me and some of the water gushing through the dam wall overflow shoots. The reservoir was extremely full and the sound of the raging water was deafening. At the end of the dam wall the trail turned into a narrow track. I was still on my lead but it is an eight metre retractable one so it was time to run around like a wild thing. In and out of the trees and bushes I darted. I was trying to sniff out birds and squirrels. One day I will catch one. One day. I splashed in every drainage ditch, stream and puddle that I could find. My dad said that he was feeling a lot better. He had stopped sweating and felt a lot cooler. He was walking quite slowly but that didn’t matter because we had plenty of time.
The path soon led to a forestry track and the views through the trees over the reservoir opened up on our right. I was back to keeping close to my dad. I walked to heel, usually on his right by circling around his back. This meant that he either had to unhook my lead handle and reposition it or turn around so that the lead wasn’t wrapped around his legs. So, he did his twirl like an oversized ballerina. He must have done thirty twirls on this day. I think that most dog owners will know what I am talking about. He never does it when anyone else is around so I gather that he would be embarrassed. So he should be it looks so funny! Soon it was stick time. You can’t beat a good stick. I found quite a few and carried them each for a short distance until I found the right one. I carried this stick for about a mile until my jaw started to ache and I spat it out. It was time to look for birds.
It was around this time that the song of the day started to be slaughtered by my dad’s awful singing. This time it was Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. For once he appeared to know quite a lot of the words. But unfortunately for me he did his usual and sang it over and over again. Not loudly but, loudly enough to be irritating. And he wonders why I pull on my lead. It is to escape the monotone drone that is supposed to be a song. It keeps him amused I suppose. While I am on the subject of him annoying me there is something else that has been playing on my mind. He calls me monkey a lot. Why? If I was a monkey I would be up in those trees catching birds. Well I am not a monkey I am a Cocker Spaniel. OK dad?
The forestry track becomes a windy path again before we joined another forestry track and back to a path again. It is all waymarked and easy to follow. Eventually we left the forest through a kissing gate and up a slight rise into open moorland. I zoomed in and out of the tufts of grass and mounds of moss. I was sniffing out birds again without success. I can find them alright but I never catch one. My dad says that I better hadn’t catch one. Or else! I saw a buzzard soaring overhead and I stopped and stared at it. There wasn’t any chance that I could catch something like that. I also heard ravens but they too were elusive. As we reached the crest of the hill we were enveloped in the low cloud. We ended up getting soaked in the damp air. The view as you descend the hill is usually stunning. You can see along the full length of the reservoir, the long footbridge below and the distant hills and mountains. On this occasion we couldn’t see hardly anything. Just a hazy, blurry hint of the scenery. We dropped down to the water level and arrived at the 160 metre long footbridge at the northern end of Llyn Alwen. My dad let me off the lead for yet another photoshoot. I think that photographing me is an obsession. I don’t really like posing for photographs so he has started to say ‘Joe, do you want this?’ so that I will turn my head towards him. I fell for it at first. Not now though. I am not as dumb as he thinks.
After we crossed the bridge it was a short walk to the point where the trail turns sharply right into a very dense dark forest. Immediately before the forest we stopped at a small wooden footbridge to have our lunch. My dad filled my bowls with my food and water. He munched on a sandwich and a meat pie. I obviously ignored my food and sat waiting for scraps off him. Just then a Jack Russell and his owners appeared. The cheeky dog wanted some of my food. She was scolded by her mum who asked if her dog could have a few pieces of my dry food to eat as treats. I let them have some. Then the little dog started to eat my food so I squeezed my head into the bowl and ate the rest. I sort of shared my meal with her. This is the first time that I have ever shared food. Or shared anything for that matter. I suppose that I have only child syndrome. I am not a nasty dog I just think that everything is mine!
When we had finished eating we set off through the forest. It was very dark in there. The last time that we were here the forest floor was covered in a blanket of bright red mushrooms. There was still some signs of them but they had mostly died off or were half eaten. As we exited the forest it seemed like a light switch had been flicked on. Even though it was a very overcast day the world outside the gloomy forest appeared bright. The path tended to follow the edge of the lake for a while and I managed to have a good run around. The views across the lake were glorious from this side of the lake. We soon left the footpath and turned right onto yet another forestry track. This track was muddy and had drainage ditches along both sides of it. I managed to get incredibly muddy and wet. My dad just tutted at me as if to say ‘typical’. We had to be careful as there was some tree clearance taking place. Logs were piled up high on both sides of the track. I found some amazing sticks and picked one up at a time until I found a better one. It was stick heaven.
On a slight rise to the left of the track we came across a picnic bench. I asked my dad if he wanted to sit there in my usual way by walking over to it and turning to look at him. He said ‘go on then, monkey’, so we did. I finished off my food and shared another pie with my dad just as the rain started to fall. We left quickly and had a short peek at Taliesin Hiraethog’s ruined house. He was a famous bard who was born even before my dad. It was back into the forest next along the track. My dad keeps asking me if I am ok. I don’t know whether he expects me to reply or not. He would get such a shock if I did as I haven’t learned to talk, yet! It wasn’t far now to the car and the rain had eased off. And there it was. The dam wall and the carpark.
So, the day panned out differently to how I had expected it to. Instead of high snow covered peaks it was a walk around another lake. I suppose that in hindsight the route into the Glyders was a bit ambitious in the weather and ground conditions. I didn’t mind. I just love being outdoors hiking with my dad. Plus the old fellah wasn’t feeling well. He always fusses over me and we have some good adventures. To the next time!