I set a dangerous precedent on Wednesday morning: I served Beagle breakfast without a preceding walk. While the sudden and unexpected appearance of full bowls was welcome, the break from routine caught our two pupplets completely by surprise. Biggles was so thrown he forgot to make his customary, very noisy pre-breakfast announcement, and Beanie had a mad scramble to escape the covers on our bed – only just making it to her serving position in time. After breakfast confusion ensued – was this a gym day, and if so, shouldn’t they be visiting the outside loo before reporting to their crates for a dental chew and a nap?
As it turned out they did end up in their crates, but only after a couple of hours’ digestion time, and the crates in question were in the Beaglemobile as we headed to Inveruglas for a walk to the summit of Ben Vane.
On arrival at Inveruglas there was another irregular feeding as we all had packed lunches to fuel us for the coming walk. For the sake of convenience I just popped the lids off and served the lunches in their Tupperware boxes – but just as Susan had predicted this approach had a significant downside; I had to interrupt my lunch to rescue one box from Biggles who figured he would try eating it as well as its contents.
By mid afternoon – just as other walkers were heading down the mountain – we were heading up, with the intention of staying until sunset. As is common with Scottish mountains the first section was boggy, but the ground quickly firmed up as we gained height.
Ben Vane has a reputation for two things: a surprisingly steep climb, and a seemingly endless stream of false summits. In all honesty the climb didn’t seem that hard, but this was our first hillwalk in daylight this year so maybe that golden sun made things seem easier. The false summits prediction however was spot on; I could see from their body language that even Beanie and Biggles were getting a bit tired of aiming for the top, only to find yet another level beyond it. Nevertheless we made it to the true summit in due course, finding a huge puddle of fresh, sheep-poo flavored water right by the summit cairn. The puddle was a bit smaller by the time Beanie & Biggles had finished drinking from it; though somewhat tempted I just made do with slightly warm bottled water.
We spent our time at the top exploring the views from all directions, we muched our way through Pedigree Mini-Jumbones and cow ears, and then with my head torch at the ready, we started on our way back to the Beaglemobile. The descent of the mountain itself went smoothly, but things went comically wrong when we reached the boggy field at the bottom.
In the daylight it had been relatively easy to see where other walkers had trodden, but now it was really, really dark and even with my head torch at full power I couldn’t see any definite paths. Direction wasn’t an issue – I knew that we just had to keep heading right and we’d emerge by a firm, gravel covered forestry road that would take us back to the van. The problem was just getting to that road without injury; the field was covered in thick, tall, almost uniform grass, but underneath that grass the ground was anything but uniform. Time and again I put my leading foot on what I thought was solid earth only to have it plunge down into deep, sticky bog. Seeing an opportunity to get me face-down in the mud, the pups started with their time honored double-act; Biggles pulled unpredictably, and Beanie stopped dead right under my foot, always at exactly the wrong time. They succeeded in getting me over more than once, and the one time I fell without their “help”, they exchanged curious glances at each other as though to say “Hey, I didn’t even cause that one, was it you?”
Eventually of course we did escape from that horrible field. Back at the van I served water and cow ears, pulled the boots off my feet and made myself a coffee. It was now quite late and I wanted to drive us back home before I felt the call of sleep. I started assembling one of the travel crates but even before I’d finished it and installed a cosy bed, Biggles had taken up residence. Boy was he ready for a nap! I faced the opposite problem with The Beanster; she’d curled up on the driver’s seat and was very reluctant to budge. I had to pick her up, plonk her in the crate and zip it up really fast before she could escape back to the seat. The drive home was uneventful and very, very quiet (if you discount the snoring).