(Posted from North Water Bridge)
Today: 11.4 miles
Total so far: 1189.7 miles
Percentage Completed: 71.2%
(Click map to enlarge)
There was a hard frost in the night and I woke with the sun climbing over Mount Keen well before 6:00am. Before long the tent was warming up and I was packed, and walking by 6:20.
I am rarely the first away from the Shielin on the Challenge, so this was a novelty for me, but I was soon on top of Muckle Cairn looking back to views of the Shielin with Lochnagar as a magnificent backdrop.
Looking back to Shielin of Mark & Lochnagar
Clambering down the short heather I put up a grouse leaving her six little chicks squeaking madly and running in every direction. Moments later I noticed over a hundred deer standing, looking at me from a mile away down the glen to my left. One made a move and within moments the entire herd was gathering pace to follow, collecting outliers from other parts of the glen as they went. Within half a minute they had all vanished.
Having reached Glen Lee, I was then within feet of an oystercatcher sitting with her back to me the other side of the wall. I stood silently and she started, and sped off, leaving three perfect little dappled eggs on her very makeshift nest of twigs and gravel. I quite like this early start business - I have never seen so much wildlife in such a short space of time.
I made Tarfside for a late breakfast then relaxed into the rest of the day off. Before too long Challengers were pouring in from the Shielin, Clova, Dinnet, Ballater and Clova; all enjoying the camaraderie of the event. Some had not seen each other for years, but their conversations picked up from where they left off last time.
The new Challengers were welcomed into the event - by now they are hardened veterans of the struggle across the wild country of Scotland and the parties are starting that will continue all the way to the east coast.