The plan had been to cycle out from the Linn of Dee car park, leave the bike at Derry Lodge and then carry on up Glen Derry to Loch Etchachan on foot, returning the following morning over Derry Cairngorm. The weather was cracking again and Derry Lodge was busy with people pitching up, presumably as a base for bagging some of the surrounding peaks. I stopped for a while to take in the view, have a drink and cool off by the Derry Burn. At this point it dawned on me that Derry Lodge on a summer’s day was the perfect place to bring Margaret for her introduction to wild camping. She’ll have to bring a gargantuan synthetic sleeping bag, but it’s not too far to carry it…

The bike, with Glen Derry, Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin beyond.

For whatever reason I decided against ditching the bike at Derry Lodge and carried on cycling up Glen Derry. A complete lack of bike fitness, heavy pack [camera gear!] and the heat ensured progress was slow and interspersed with regular breaks. The occasional unridable drainage channel and chain suck didn’t help either. But it was good to be back on the bike regardless, as it was my first ride of the year [how did we get to June already?!]. I’ll need to get myself down to Glentress for some proper swoopy downhill action soon.

Camped under Scots Pines. A badly pitched Contrail, I adjusted it later and managed a much tauter pitch

At the highest point on the trail along Glen Derry I was getting pretty saddle sore and noticed [heard] the waterfalls down below, it looked like a great spot to camp. I hadn’t noticed them last year when I had done a similar route as I had taken the low level path along the other side of Derry Burn. I made up my mind there and then to abandon the circuit I’d planned and have a low level camp down by the burn. Getting the bike down through the heather was easier than getting it back up the following morning.

The Upper Falls

I spent the afternoon and evening messing around with the camera. [note to self: bike or camera gear in future, never both together.] The falls made for a really pleasant, photogenic surroundings, the water is crystal clear and really refreshing on a warm day. I’ve never had any problems drinking the water in the Highlands, filtration or chemical treatment is unnecessary in my experience.

The Caldera Clone proved itself yet again, I highly recommend building one. I’m convinced the burner is more efficient than my old Trangia burner too. I could probably have used a wood burner of some description but I don’t like the idea of soot everywhere.

I’ve no idea what type of rock it is, but the geology that the Derry Burn flows over is a really nice colour. 🙂

The lower Falls

It was the first time out for the Tarptent Contrail, it’s a great shelter for dry, calm weather. There was only a light breeze from time to time, the weather was too good to really get a feel for how far I could push it, but I did [eventually] manage to get a nice solid pitch. I’ll inevitably be trying it in more challenging conditions at some point in future.

The internal space was much less claustrophobic than the Akto, nice and wide too. I slept with the the beak rolled away so I had a clear view of my surroundings whilst still keeping the bugs at bay. I managed to fit my pack inside, although I was using it as a pillow to be fair. I’d left it out initially, but awoke at around 4am as I couldn’t get comfortable. I’m a side sleeper mostly, and 17+ stone on a puny closed cell mat makes for sore shoulders and neck. I think I need to look at getting a Z-lite or something, maybe even a POE Ether Elite.

I’ve been thinking about doing one of the long distance trails later this year, I think the Contrail would be ideal, but I’ll need to sort out my sleeping comfort beforehand to avoid restless nights. I think coping with tiredness is easier in warm sunny weather, but I imagine it would all get a bit miserable in rain and wind in October.

Once I’d finished feeding my face in the evening, I lay on the rock by the falls and watched the wildlife, I’ve no idea how time drifts away when you’re essentially doing nothing, but I was never bored. Although I did miss the Whisky I left at home in a bid to cut my pack weight.

There was a whole bunch of other stuff I could have left at home, I’d already left my waterproofs in the car, but never needed the bug spray [no midgies in the Cairngorms yet!], or my other Platypus. In fact, I could’ve done without the stove completely, in weather this warm, I’d have been happy with muesli bars all day. If I’d have known that I’d be sleeping next to the bike, I’d have left the lock at home too. No idea how much it weighs, but it’s not light. I never needed my warm layers either, although I did resort to a windproof in the evening. In fact I could probably have been entirely comfortable with half of what I actually took…I’ll know for next time. Also, I think in future it’ll either take the bike or camera gear, but not both together, not until someone invents a Bag of Holding anyway. Frankly, when it comes to cycling up hills, [or slight gradients for that matter] I need all the help I can get.

A short video tour of the campsite, ‘scuse the quality:

I packed up early-ish after having breakfast [for once]. I was keen to ensure the car was still in one piece, having read a report on Walk Highlands last week about car break-ins overnight at the Linn of Dee car park. I reminded myself that PTC had been up here last week too and reported no such misfortune. Thinking happy thoughts I dragged the bike back up to the trail and headed back down to Derry Lodge, I even manned-up and rode most of the drainage channels [more accurately: pointed the bike at them and hoped the front fork would take care of it]. The car was fine happily.

As I was putting the bike back on the roof, I wondered about the motor caravan that pulled in, the husband got out, made for the Linn of Dee with his video camera. The wife sat in the passenger seat never raised her eye from the book she was reading. It must have been a really good book…seriously, why bother leaving the house?!? I saw them again later on in a layby nearer Braemar. Husband out, video camera in hand, wife inside, reading. A great way to see the country…or not.

The drive home was a joy, Linn of Dee through Spittal of Glenshee down to Bridge of Cally is just great [except for the Range Rover and Motor Caravan drivers who can’t keep to their side of the road]. The road was virtually empty, so it was windows down and QOTSA up, back home in time to enjoy the sun, beer and barbecue in the garden. Perfect!