Day 2 – Gairlochy to Laggan Locks
Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here again reporting on day two of mine and my dad’s Great Glen Way hike. Our first day consisted of a flat 10.5 mile hike mostly along the side of the Caledonian Canal from Fort William to Gairlochy. We wild camped overnight at Gairlochy Top Lock on the banks of Loch Lochy. It had been a wet and windy night but, we were sheltered from the worst of the weather by the pine trees. My dad said that he had felt the cold in the night. He had worn his merino thermals, his fleece beanie, his down jacket, his silk sleeping bag liner but, only his three-season sleeping bag. The temperature had dropped overnight to close to zero degree Celsius. His idea of saving weight in his rucksack had backfired somewhat. It wasn’t as if he was freezing but, he did complain that he wasn’t warm enough for a comfortable night’s sleep. I was warm and cosy in my fleece liner, doubled over, with his heavy fleece jacket over me and my insulated roll-mat underneath me. He did complain to me when we woke up saying that at 0233 in the night/morning that I woke him up standing over him and licking his nose. I was just checking. Ha!
We awoke to overcast skies but, the wind had dropped. The rain too, had stopped in the early hours. My dad made himself some porridge and a coffee while he fed me as we stayed in our tent. Once he had packed the rucksack he took me for a short walk around the area so that I could do my business. His timing wasn’t perfect because, just as we returned to the tent, the rain started again. This meant that the tent was soaked through and heavier for him to carry. He should have checked the sky before he took me for my little walk. So, he inspected all around our camping spot before we set off on our day’s hike. ‘Leave no trace’ is his motto when we camp and so, we left no trace. It was time to move on just as the rain stopped again. Our timing with the weather seemed to be out of sync.
My dad started his annoying singing again. Not too loud, fortunately. ‘Why Does it Always Rain on Me?’ by Travis was the day’s ditty. As usual, his knowledge of the lyrics was limited. Repetition of the chorus was what I had to suffer all day. He can be a pain at times.
Almost immediately after leaving the camping spot we joined a minor road that climbed past a few cottages into the trees. We left the road and joined an undulating forest path. It was good to hike on some varied terrain and to be off-lead. We walked through a peaceful forest of beech next to the shores of Loch Lochy. The only sounds were the rustling of leaves in the trees, the lapping of the water at the loch’s banks and the twittering of the birds. Oh yes, and the crunching noises made by my dad’s size 10’s on the gravel path. Bigfoot is in the woods! Loch Lochy is narrow, being only one mile wide at its widest point. When the Caledonian Canal was built the level of the loch had to be raised by 12 feet to assist the navigation of the Great Glen. My dad told me to keep an eye open for Lizzie, the monster that lives in the loch. I think that he was winding me up. I know that there is a monster called Nessie in Loch Ness but, I am not convinced about Lizzie.
The rain came and went as we walked through the trees as did the view over the loch. We passed over small wooden footbridges and by rushing waterfalls before we reached a minor tarmacked road. We trudged along the tarmac until we reached a small settlement at Bunkaraig. At this point there is the option of a short detour to the Clan Cameron Museum at Achnacarry. This area was used by the Commando’s to train 25,000 soldiers during the Second World War. The Commando Boat Station can be seen on the shore of the loch with the practice landing craft platform nearby. We had a short break while the rain took a short break too. It was good to have a sniff and an investigate in the gorse and ferns while my dad made a coffee. Did I catch anything? No, as usual!
We moved on along the ‘B’ road passing through more forest towards the tiny settlement of Clunes. The trees seemed even larger here than we had passed through up to now. We were amongst Sequois or Giant Redwood that formed a canopy way above my Cocker Spaniel head. To me they provided larger toilet targets. My dad was a bit more impressed with their size as he gawped upwards. As we left the small hamlet we turned right, passing the tiny forestry school hut, along a forest track. It was at this point that we saw the first humans of the day. A group of hikers had been dropped off by coach to walk from Clunes to Laggan, our destination for the day. There were about twenty hikers split into small groups or pairs. We passed them all at various points along the track. We weren’t exactly rushing but they were all taking things slowly and chatting as they walked. I think that everyone of them stopped to talk to me and stroke me. Joe was a very popular pooch for a short while. They all seemed to love my waterproofs.
The track climbed gently and descended through the woodland obscuring the view over the loch until we came to the Trailblazer Wild Camping spot at Glas-Dhoire. It is located by the loch and has a composting loo. Sadly, somebody had smashed the Perspex windows in the toilet building. We had another short break while my dad sat on a log and munched on a handful of trailmix. The next couple of miles was through Kilfinnan Wood with its dense birch trees obscuring the views of the loch again except for the odd gap allowing us to peep through. We passed a development of wooden lodges that did have good views of the landscape. A lovely spot for a relaxing break.
We soon reached Kilfinnan Farm as we left the trees behind us. We could see Laggan Locks, our destination for the day, at the head of Loch Lochy. After a short road walk we crossed the causeway through the boggy ground by Ceann Loch. As we approached the double locks of Laggan Locks we were scouring the area for a suitable camping spot with some protection from the wind, that was gathering in pace. The Caledonian Canal office was open so my dad enquired about any facilities in the area. He asked about the availability of the camping pods but, unfortunately, they were not open until Easter. The Eagle Barge, a floating restaurant moored in the lock was still not open for the season. The weather forecast for the night wasn’t looking too promising. Strong wind and rain were due shortly. My dad chose a spot in the relative shelter of two pine trees and gorse bushes on a small promontory at the head of the loch. I hoped that he had chosen well because I rely on his judgement. After all he wouldn’t listen to my advice.
After filling his water bottles from the drinking water tap at the lockside we jumped into the tent and wrapped up warmly. He made himself a Cottage Pie while I ate my food. When I say Cottage Pie he had dehydrated potatoes in one Ziploc bag, minced beef with onions, carrots and peas in another and gravy in another. He rehydrated them all separately and produced a meal for four people. Yes, four people. I watched him as he ate almost all of it until he said that he was about to burst. Oink! I fell asleep more or less immediately. My dad covered me over with my fleece while he lay down and read some of his guidebook. There was a 4G internet signal so my dad caught up on my Facebook and blog accounts. He said ‘Joe, it’s all about you, mate’. After all, he is my Personal Assistant, Porter and Chauffeur. My dad left the tent for a while to ‘water the flowers’ and to admire the view across Loch Lochy before we settled into the tent for the night. We were in a pretty spot, with not a soul around, for the night. Hopefully, we should have a good sleep if the weather allowed.