May 21
Chomp! Part 3
icon1 Paul | icon4 05 21st, 2016| icon35 Comments »

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Moving on from Camas nan Geall, we drove to the base of Ben Hiant – Ardnamurchan’s highest point. On our last visit there we climbed up in the dark to catch sunrise from the top. This time we were heading up at the opposite end of the day, but one thing remained the same: it was very cold and windy at the summit.

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We didn’t hang around on the summit for long, preferring instead to walk back down to a lower point that was much warmer and gave us a very pleasant view of of the setting sun.

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Beautiful though the sunset was, it didn’t hold Beagle attention for long

Soon after that last shot we continued down the hill to the Beaglemobile, arriving just as the light was failing. My first task on getting the van open and the lights on was of course to prepare two bowls of Chappie for the pups. From this point until the bowls were put down on the floor, Biggles became Ardnamurchan’s honorary Town Crier, proudly announcing teatime to any sheep, deer and humans in a 5 mile radius. We humies had our tea also, but not having my own inbuilt megaphone I was unable to broadcast the event as effectively as my little big-gobbed boy.

By now the Corran ferry service had closed for the day, so we had a choice: spend the night on Ardnamuchan, or just accept the somewhat longer drive back to the campsite. The lure of the showers and our extraordinarily comfortable tent won out pretty easily. What’s more although the drive would be longer, we expected it to be much easier at night; there’d be less traffic, and headlights would provide ample warning of any oncoming vehicles. As it turned out we were mostly right, but a few pesky deer still managed to get the adrenaline flowing.

The next morning I took the pups for a final walk round Glencoe while Susan packed up the tent. Whenever I’m responsible for the first morning walk on a campsite I always try to get Beanie and Biggles through the exit gate before they relieve themselves, but I rarely succeed. Perhaps the urgency in my walk translates into urgency in their lower bodies. Regardless, plot number 13 got doused by Biggle pee, and not for the first time on our little holiday; I guess the number 13 really is unlucky.

After a stroll around the nearby Lochan Trails we returned to the campsite, where we encountered another Beagle. He or she burst into howls of outrage as we passed, but my two trotted on calmly without responding. It’s not often I get to play the owner of well behaved dogs, but when it happens I make the most of it. “I don’t know, some Beagles!” I said, shaking my head as we walked by.

The drive back home passed quickly and soon I was leading Beanie & Biggles through the front door. I unclipped their leads and as usual Beanie immediately embarked on a whirlwind tour of the house to make sure that everything was as she’d left it. While she buzzed around, Biggles drained the water bowl, found the comfiest seat in the lounge and plonked his big white bum on it. Once Beanie’s internal checks had been completed she requested access to the back garden. I let her out and stood watching at the door, expecting her to go on her customary mad sprint of freedom. Unusually, it didn’t happen;  she just calmly patrolled the garden borders then had a relaxing sniff round our tree.

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From my point of view our holiday with the campervan and tent had involved more doggy restrictions than previous breaks in the caravan; after all there’d been no off-lead time in the tent at all (unless you count that brief moment when Beanie unclipped her own lead). Perhaps being tethered but able to go in and out of the tent or van at will actually gave our pups a greater feeling of freedom than being off lead in the confines of the caravan?

 

May 17
Chomp! Part 2
icon1 Paul | icon4 05 17th, 2016| icon34 Comments »

On the next day of our holiday we all piled into the Beaglemobile for a trip to Glen Nevis. It’s a great place to visit on a hot sunny day; easy parking shaded by trees, with lots of sniffy walks among bluebells and mountains. And you’re never far from cooling streams if anybody gets too warm.

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Oddly enough on this holiday it was Beanie who felt the heat most, even though she has much shorter and thinner fur than The Bigglet. Maybe Biggles’ thick white fur serves as a reflective insulator, keeping him cooler so long as he doesn’t start generating lots of heat with his muscles?

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On the other hand, maybe Beanie was just the more animated of the two; certainly there was very little on the walk that didn’t get thoroughly investigated by the Beanster.

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On our return to the Beaglemobile we hooked the pups up to the handle at the side door of our van. By happy coincidence this anchor point – coupled with the length of their leads – again allowed the pups to choose whether to be in the van with us or to lie on the grass outside munching on a cow ear. There was even enough free play for Biggles to nick my seat.

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The final day of our break was a little cooler, allowing us to be a bit more active. We took the ferry to Ardnamurchan, and drove for an hour along the crazy single-track roads to reach “Camas nan Geall“.

I’d experienced driving around Ardnamurchan before in the car. Our campervan is of course a larger vehicle, but somehow the elevated driving position combined with automatic transmission made the journey easier. That said, it was still like playing a level of a nerve-shredding video game that goes on too long. You think Doom is intense? Try Ardnamuchan, BFG Edition. I was very happy finally to park up on the hill overlooking our coastal walk and have a soothing cuppa.

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After that cuppa and a change of underpants I went a little way down the hill towards the start of our planned walk. Like most remote Scottish locations Ardnamurchan is infested by sheep. Susan had taken great care to find a route that would avoid any woolly encounters and I was keen to see if she’d succeeded. It looked like the walk itself was indeed sheep-free, but the 300m between our van and the start of the walk was a single-track sheep gauntlet. I returned to the van and delivered the bad news, and Susan started up the barbeque so we could consider our options over lunch. The barbecue certainly distracted Biggles from the sheep below us; once the smoke started flowing he sought shelter in the footwell by the driver’s seat. Only when our food was served up did he feel like emerging from his little cave.

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I’m not frightened at all. But I’ll just stay here if you don’t mind.

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It turns out silica gel dry packs make a decent headrest for smoke-averse Beagle boys.

After lunch we decided to brave the gauntlet. It was just a few hundred yards after all. How bad could it be? Well, amazingly, not bad at all. I’ll probably never know why some sheep send Biggles (mostly) and Beanie  into explosive aaarrrff mode while others just get ignored, but the sheep at Camas nan Geall fell into the latter category. On the way out there wasn’t even the slightest loss of composure from either of our Beagles and we were truly able to enjoy our walk along the distinctive – at some times almost alien – coastline.

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H. R. Giger was here. And so were Beanie & Biggles.

On the return trip Biggles’ halo almost slipped, but a few well-timed biccies from Susan pulled him back from the brink and we made it through the gauntlet – only to discover that a group of sheep had wandered up close to the van. Again The Bigglet almost lost it, but recovered his composure without any aaarrffing episodes. We spent another hour or so at the same spot with sheep just yards away, and both Beanie and Biggles behaved themselves impeccably.

In the past I’ve always taken something like this as a sign that his Biggleship has finally overcome his problem with sheep. This time around I was smart enough just to be grateful for sheer dumb luck, but I do think that a few hour’s calm exposure to sheep must have done some good.

 

May 17
Chomp! Part 1
icon1 Paul | icon4 05 17th, 2016| icon3No Comments »

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When at home our Beagles rarely have problems communicating their needs to us. A paw on the arm while either of us is sat on the sofa means “I want a blankie”. If the water bowl has been emptied by a thirsty Bigglet, Beanie requests a refill by repeatedly banging the bowl against the wall and making a sound that’s a cross between a groan and a muffled fart. And if someone needs to go to the outside loo (or just snoop around the kitchen) then a bit more paint gets noisily scraped off the kitchen door. Unfortunately when we’re away from home some of those signals just don’t work.

For example, let’s say you’re a silly Beagle boy tethered to a stake in the ground just in front of The Beagle HQ Tent on a Glencoe campsite during the recent heatwave. The irresistible urge to pee takes hold of you but there’s no kitchen door to damage. What are you gonna do? Well if you’re Biggles, you whine briefly, and when that doesn’t work you go up to one of the crucial guy ropes on the tent and sever it with a single chomp.

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Yeah Dad, it wasn’t one of my proudest moments but I had to improvise. All things considered, I’m OK with it.

By a minor miracle the tent didn’t collapse; by a more significant miracle the four nights we spent in the tent went brilliantly well. Having said that, I only properly experienced three of them because at 1am on the first night I headed off for a solo ascent of nearby peak Meall Dearg.

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As it turned out I could have spent an extra hour in bed; I made the summit with nearly 80 minutes still to go before the sun appeared. Still, my early arrival left me plenty of time to check out possible photography angles and to admire the summit cairn, which looks uncannily like one of Beanie’s poos. You see Beanie’s not content with outputting simple log shapes; she prefers to create little sculptures with her number twos, and Meall Dearg’s cairn is a classic Beanie design: a curling base with the raised central column offset at a fashionable angle.

In addition to having a poo-shaped cairn, Meall Dearg is connected to neighboring peak Sgorr nam Fiannaidh by the infamous Aonach Eagach ridge. This is apparently the narrowest ridge on the British mainland, and I was happy to be photographing it rather than walking it.

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The other views from Meall Dearg weren’t too shabby either..

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It was a shame not to experience Meall Dearg with Susan and the Beaglets, but this was really a scouting mission to see if it was properly Beagle-able. Now that I know it’s just a hard slog with no technical challenges or scrambling, I think it’s a fair bet there’ll be a real Beanie poo up alongside the cairn in the not too distant future.

Back at the campsite the sun was fully up, and the heat was building rapidly. We opened up the tent for maximum ventilation and kept Beanie and Biggles tethered to a stake just at the front opening. This worked surprisingly well; the Beaglet’s leads were long enough for them to sunbathe on the grass or seek shade in the body of the tent, but just short enough to stop them reaching our cooking gear and food stores at the back of the tent. Biggles quickly took a liking to the inflatable chair we’d brought (even though it was a bit wobbly) and when tiredness caught up with me and I crashed out on the bed, he was able to join me and use my legs as chin rests.

In due course we added a windbreak at the front of the tent to form a sort of semi-enclosed “garden” area.  There are plenty of reasons for having a windbreak on a campsite: to provide shelter from the wind and the sun, to increase privacy, and to stop curious Beagles from seeing things that might lead to noisy howls of outrage. I’ll let you guess which one of those was the most relevant to us.

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By the afternoon I’d caught up on sleep enough to be semi-functional; I grabbed the laptop to check if I had any emails that needed attention. Susan was outside the tent, preparing to light our little portable barbecue. I glanced over towards the Beaglets; Biggles was on his comfy chair, and judging by her lead, Beanie had retired to her travel crate for a private nap. It was warm and sunny, with just enough breeze blowing to keep the temperature comfortable. This was one of those serene, perfect moments that happen all too little in our busy lives.

My relaxed contemplative moment was interrupted by the laptop signalling that it had booted, and I began sorting through my email. Just then, Beanie trotted happily by me, her tail raised and wagging gently with the movement of her hips. My eyes switched back to the laptop, but in the back of my sleep-deprived brain a little alarm bell was starting to ring. Hadn’t Beanie just gone beyond the limits of her leash? Had it become detached from the stake? I looked back to the front of the tent, and was relieved to see her leash still safely anchored to the stake, with the other end leading into her open crate.

Hang on! That’s not right!

Yep the Beanster had decided to go on a little solo tour of Glencoe and being a very resourceful little girl, she’d unclipped her lead just as she had done on the top of The Merrick a few years ago. Fortunately this time her multi-hour “yahoo” didn’t happen; she was quickly apprehended by Susan and frogmarched backed to the garden area of our camp. This little almost-adventure served as a timely reminder of why I wrap duck tape round the release clip of her lead when we’re out on hill walks.

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Crap! Foiled again!

Biggles has never managed to unclip his lead, but judging by his quick work on the guy rope, I don’t think he’d need to; a quick chomp or two would work just as well :)

 

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