Deer Mountain

View from Deer Mountain
View from Deer Mountain

Rocky Mountain is a very busy park! By the time we got ourselves out in the morning, and that wasn’t very late, the signs for the car parks at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead were already indicating full. We headed for the Deer Mountain Trailhead instead.

Climbing Deer Mountain is a 6 mile round trip and you end up at over 10,000 feet. Before you get too impressed, I’ll confess that you actually start around 8,900 – but some of it is very steep, especially at the end. My knees didn’t like that section one little bit.

Here are some views from the way up.

Just before the summit we stopped to get our (well, my) breath back and I made the acquaintance of this little guy. I think he was begging, but I didn’t give him anything. Too many titbits is probably what made him so bold, and animals should not be encouraged to become dependent on humans for food. But he was cute.

On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain

Pressing on to the summit, we could see right back down to our hotel on the edge of Estes Park.

Then it was time to retrace our steps, stopping for a quick picnic on the way.

In the afternoon, we took the one-way gravel Old Fall River Road which winds uphill for 11 miles and 3000 feet to Fall River Pass. The short trail at Chasm Falls made a pleasant stop on the way.

At the pass, we had a very welcome hot coffee at the Alpine Visitor Centre – it was cold up there and still had pockets of snow. Information boards told us more about the road which opened in 1920, and until 1932 was the only motor route across the park. Then it was replaced by Trail Ridge Road, our route back down.

The views from Trail Ridge were stunning.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

We were really sorry to have only one full day in Rocky Mountain, but the next day we were off to Denver  – and we were really excited about that.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where this week she takes us on a stroll around Lucca.

Red Lodge to Estes Park

Smith Mine Disaster, Montana

Smith Mine
Smith Mine
Not long after leaving Red Lodge, we spotted a ghost mine on a hillside. The Smith Mine is the site of the worst underground coal mine disaster in Montana where 74 men were lost in February 1943. Some died as a result of a violent explosion, but most fell victim to the methane released by the blast. It’s a very poignant site. The information board quotes a note left by Walter and Johnny as they waited for the gas to catch up with them: “Good-bye wives and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.” The mine finally closed in 1953 and has been left as a memorial.

Cody, Wyoming

Our next stop was back over the border in Wyoming: Cody, founded in 1895 by William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody. I must admit to being rather disappointed – it didn’t look that different to many of the other western towns we passed through, just more touristy. We admired the Irma Hotel (opened and named after Bill’s daughter in 1902), had a quick coffee and left.

Thermopolis, Wyoming

After coffee, we pressed on to Thermopolis. The statue is From this soil come the riches of the world by Carl Jensen (1999) and depicts a cowboy sifting dirt through his hands in 1897 when Thermopolis was founded. The Black Bear Café provided a good lunch, then it was back on the road again.

Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming

Hell's Half Acre
Hell’s Half Acre
Our last stop of the day was Hell’s Half Acre, a sort of mini Bryce Canyon which, despite the name, covered about 320 acres. It was fenced off, so you couldn’t get down amongst the hoodoos, but there was a good view from above.

This was close to Casper, our overnight stop. It looked an interesting place to stay with lots of pioneer history to explore. I wish I could tell you about it – but we’d been on the road for two weeks and still had another week to go. Reader, rather than sight-see I’m afraid we took advantage of a hotel with a laundry to wash out our smalls.

Estes Park, Colorado

Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
The next day was all about reaching Rocky Mountain National Park. We only made one stop, in Laramie, the very first destination on our road trip which I’ve already written about (here) way back in October. Estes Park is the main town on the edge of Rocky Mountain and we agreed with our Lonely Planet Guide that “there’s no small irony in the fact that the proximity to one of the most pristine outdoor escapes in the USA has made Estes Park the kind of place you’ll need to escape from”. As we crawled through it bumper-to-bumper our hearts sank. Fortunately, however, my planning had been good. Our hotel, the excellent Alpine Trail Ridge Inn, was on the far side of town near the park entrance and had its own restaurant next door.  When we left in two days time we could take a different road which meant we would never need to go back into Estes Park. Not only that, we had something of a room with a view (see above). Result!

Next time: we climb Deer Mountain.

Destination Red Lodge

Red Lodge, MT
Red Lodge, Montana

At the Montana end of the Beartooth Highway is the charming historic mining town of Red Lodge. We stayed two nights at the Red Lodge Inn, a simple but comfortable motel, and enjoyed wandering the main street, Broadway, with its many attractive buildings.

The first night, we popped into the Red Lodge Pizza Co. I can’t remember now if the building used to be a post office, but I do remember all the pizzas had names like First Class or Parcel Post, so I suspect it must have been. Mind you, who cares what they were called? They were delicious! That’s it on the left below. To the right is Ox Pasture, just a few doors down. As we inspected the menu, a friendly staff member came out to encourage us in. Sorry, too full of pizza – but she was so enthusiastic that we booked for the next evening. This was a real find – a gourmet restaurant, using local produce, that would not be out of place in the grandest of cities. Easily the most spectacular meal in the whole of our three-week vacation.

Well, we had to work all that food off somehow so we took the Basin Lake Trail, a pretty walk although some of it was still scarred from wildfires in 2008.

On the way back, we stopped at the Red Box Car, a century old railroad car which allegedly serves the best fast food in the whole of the Yellowstone Region. This was just before our gourmet dinner, so we made do with coffee. The location doesn’t look much below, but it was right next to the creek which runs through town so it was relaxing to sit on the deck and listen to the water flowing.

The next day it was Goodbye Montana – our visit was short but sweet – as we set off to recross Wyoming on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2017

 The Citizen’s Theatre

Citizen's Theatre

After Celtic Connections finished I had withdrawal symptoms and got on the internet straightaway to book tickets for something else to go to! As a result, we had a lovely evening at “The Citz” which first opened as a theatre in 1878 when it was known as the Royal Princess’s Theatre. The Citizens company was founded in 1943, and moved to this site in 1945. Since then it has been extended, as you can see in the photograph above, but the foyer retains reminders of the old days with a stained glass window from the Royal Princess and a collection of statues which used to adorn the façade.

The play we saw was Cuttin’ a Rug by John Byrne, set at the staff dance of a 1950s carpet factory – hence the punning title (to cut a rug is to dance really well). It was funny and had a great 50s soundtrack.

Of course, going to the theatre requires a pre-theatre meal and that, added to various dinners and lunches with friends, means that February has been almost as unkind to the waistline as January. Did we get a chance to walk it off? Not really…

Finlaystone

Clyde view from Finlaystone
Clyde view from Finlaystone

A combination of weather, socialising, both being struck down by horrible colds, and John having a trip to China meant we only had time for one country excursion. We went to Finlaystone Estate, about half an hour down the Clyde from home. The view from the highest point of the forest walk was magnificent – but you would never know from the photo above that both the busy A8 and the railway run between the estate and the river, so you never quite get away from the noise of traffic. However, the snowdrops were blooming and John got to play on the children’s boat when no-one was looking. Some people never grow up!

Woman on the Shelf

Woman on the Shelf
Woman on the Shelf

I’ve written before about my connection with Glasgow Women’s Library where I’ve been volunteering since I retired over four years ago. As a charity, it has a constant need to raise money and one way is the Women on the Shelf scheme. A single book, a shelf, or a whole section can be sponsored in honour of your chosen woman. I’m so grateful to my lovely Mum who sponsored a shelf in my name because she wanted to support the organisation where I am so happy working. Sponsored shelves are marked with a wooden block and I was excited to find mine had been delivered last week with the latest batch.

The inscription says –

To my book-worm daughter Anabel, a dedicated librarian who loves libraries and has found a niche in GWL

Thanks Mum!

I’ll be taking Mum into the library to see the block in place very soon, so watch this space.

The last bit

Last month, I introduced you to the word bawbag. Not long afterwards, #presidentbawbag trended on Twitter – nothing to do with me of course, but thanks to West Wing actor Richard Schiff. He’s just a tad more influential than I am, but I hope you were suitably grateful that I had given you advance warning of what it meant 😉

I thought I’d offer you another Scottish word this month, wabbit – partly because I’ve been feeling a bit wabbit myself, but also because it too has turned up in the news. Scientists at Edinburgh University have produced a paper arguing that people who claim to be feeling tired all the time might be doing so because of their genes. It’s probably the only scientific paper ever published to start with a definition of wabbit:

The Scots word wabbit encompasses both peripheral fatigue, the muscle weakness after a long walk, and central fatigue, the reduced ability to initiate and/or sustain mental and physical activity, such as we might experience while having flu.

So there you have it! I hope none of you are feeling wabbit, but if you are you have a new word to describe it.

How has your February been?

The Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway panorama
Beartooth Highway panorama

A candidate for the most scenic highway in America? I think so. When planning our 2016 Yellowstone vacation we hadn’t originally intended to continue north into Montana, but when I read this claim in Lonely Planet I knew we had to travel the Beartooth Highway. 64 miles of mountain pass from Cooke City to Red Lodge – what’s not to love?

Cooke City

Northeast Yellowstone
Northeast Yellowstone

We still had a large and beautiful chunk of Yellowstone to drive through before reaching the Northeast Entrance Gate, so by the time we got to Cooke City we were ready for an early lunch and a wander. It’s not exactly what I would call a city, but just look at those vistas!

We discovered that the town had a lovely little museum dedicated to the early miners in the area, Cooke City being the major camp for prospectors from 1869, so we looked at that too before heading back onto the highway to continue the adventure.

Clay Butte

Pilot and Index Peaks
Pilot and Index Peaks

After Cooke City, the road dipped back into Wyoming. These two peaks beguiled us all the way and we paused in several places to photograph them. Our next major stop was Clay Butte Tower which involved a three-mile drive on a gravel road. The tower used to be a fire lookout but now functions as a visitor centre.

Top of the World

Back on the main highway, we made slow progress because there were just so many beautiful places to stop, for example Beartooth Lake followed by a welcome visit to Top of the World Store for coffee.

After this, the road began a serious climb, until we reached Beartooth Pass, the highest point on the road at 10947 feet. It was blowy!

Summit to Red Lodge

Then it was all downhill with another couple of stops at Gardner Lake and our second Montana State Line of the day. This one claims to be the highest state welcome sign in the US.

At the end of the day we arrived in Red Lodge, another charming old town, which was to be our base for the next couple of nights. More about it next time!

Happy International Book Giving Day!

You might already have been wished Happy Valentines Day, but maybe I am the first to wish you a Happy International Book Giving Day! This takes place on 14th February each year and aims to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. If you’d like to help celebrate you could give a book to a friend or family member, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, or donate a used book, in good condition, to a local library, hospital or shelter. If you don’t have a suitable book to hand, there are many charities such as Book Aid International which would welcome your support.

I’ve also just found out today about a Crowdfunder to set up an international Directory of Independent Publishers. The founders want to make it possible for readers to discover exciting new titles, for writers to discover publishers that align with their interests, and for publishers to reach them.

I’ve enjoyed the gift of reading all my life and I want to pass it on. These two initiatives are a great way to do that.

Fife Coastal Path

Inn at Lathones
Inn at Lathones

Between Christmas and New Year we stayed a few nights at the Inn at Lathones, just outside St Andrews, with the intention of walking a few stretches of the Fife Coastal Path. It’s our third time at this historic hotel where we enjoy the cosy atmosphere and good food. This time, we had a room in the Old Forge with access to the deck overlooking the farmland at the back. This would be lovely for sitting out in warmer weather but not in December – however, it did mean we always had something to look at.

Day 1 – Crail to Fife Ness

On our first full day, we headed for Crail, a traditional fishing village with a 17th century harbour.

Although we’d been to Crail many times before, we had never taken the path to Fife Ness which we now set out to do. Near the edge of town, we passed the 16th century doocot (used to harvest doves for meat), then a children’s playground and a very large caravan park. After this it became more interesting as we entered the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve where seabirds, such as shag, eider, cormorant and guillemot can be seen.

Some colourful cottages appeared above us, then we rounded a corner to the lighthouse at Fife Ness – a squat building rather than the usual attractive white tower.

Fife Ness is the most easterly corner of Fife. Its harbour dates from the sixteenth century and was used for fishing until the end of the eighteenth. It was then converted into a sea beacon construction yard, hence the circular grooves in the stone, and lightships were also built here to guide shipping before the lighthouse was constructed in 1975.

The next part of the path skirted a golf course, and then we came to Constantine’s Cave. Local legend has it that King Constantine I (one of the early Pictish Kings) was killed in this cave following a battle with the Danes in 874.

At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock were just visible across the Firth of Forth.

In Crail, we took time to admire the buildings before heading back to the hotel.

We were particularly impressed with Penman the butcher’s Christmas window!

Day 2 – St Andrews and Pittenweem

The following day, we didn’t do so much walking. John’s cousin, Lindy, lives in Anstruther and they kindly asked us to lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beforehand, we had a quick stroll around St Andrews.

Afterwards, we visited Pittenweem, Fife’s only working fishing harbour, and the site of a cave used by St Fillan in the 7th century. The light was already starting to fade when we got to the harbour.

It gave the buildings a pleasing glow.

We saw several decorated bicycles – but only one decorated bench.

As we climbed away from the sea, it got darker and darker.

By the time we walked back down past the cave it was very dark indeed.

And the harbour looked even more beautiful with the lights shimmering in the sea.

Day 3 – Dysart to West Wemyss

On our last day, we decided to stop in Dysart, a Royal Burgh dating from the 7th century, to walk the coastal path to West Wemyss. The old Harbourmaster’s House, on the deliciously named Hot Pot Wynd, now houses the Coastal Centre Exhibition and the Harbour Bistro. Great – a coffee before we started. Wrong! Despite the notice outside, and having looked at the website before we left, the place was closed. This was 31st December so not a public holiday. I know a lot of places close for the whole period between Christmas and New Year but some information would be nice. Shame on you Fife Coast and Countryside Trust!

Undaunted, we spent some time wandering round the harbour. Donald Urquhart’s Sea Beams represent the colours of the sea at different times and in different lights.

The start of the walk took us along the shore past the 13th century St Serf’s Tower and the restored Pan Ha’ red tiled cottages, then up Hie Gait.

From Dysart the path climbs to the Frances Colliery memorial and preserved winding gear, testament to the former importance of the coal industry in the area. The colliery, with so many others, closed in the 1980s.

From Blair Point you can look down on West Wemyss.

From here, the path takes you past a walled chapel garden, the private burial ground of the Wemyss family, and some pretty mosaics.

West Wemyss originated as a planned town for workers on the Wemyss estate. At one time, it was one of the most important ports in Fife, trading in coal and salt with the Continent. It is certainly picturesque, but was almost deserted and once again everything was closed despite the local pub being listed on the coastal path information boards as a “Welcome Port”. We’d had a large hotel breakfast, so there was no danger of starving, but the wind was biting and somewhere to warm up would have been nice.

There was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to Dysart where The Man i’ the Rock was able to serve us a late lunch. After a quick look around it was back in the car and home to Glasgow for New Year.

I love this part of the coast: beautiful views, historic towns and villages with some industrial history thrown in. We’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m linking up to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in another of my favourite places this week, the Yorkshire Dales, and her cyber friends are walking all over the world. Please take a look!

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2017

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections logoIf you live in Glasgow, you have about two weeks to get over the hedonism of Christmas and New Year when – ooft! – it’s Celtic Connections! This bills itself as “the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music” and we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm, usually attending half a dozen or so gigs over the 19 days.

This year, in six concerts we heard musicians from Scotland, England, Ireland and America (and that’s quite a conservative selection) in five different venues ranging from the formal concert hall, via the Old Fruitmarket, to the iconic Barrowland Ballroom. Highlights? So hard to choose but, if pushed, I’d go for Phil Cunningham’s Highlands and Islands Suite. Phil, his accordion, and a front-row of other professional musicians were supported by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – its Traditional Musicians, Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 150 people on the stage and the music soared. When I said to John at the interval that I had been moved almost to tears I half expected a scornful look, but he agreed. It wasn’t only the evocatively Scottish music, there was also something so heart-warming about a stage full of young people working hard to perfect their art – having chosen to do so in our city.

Gluttony

Celtic Connections is pretty hard on the waistline – all those pre-theatre meals – and it’s not helpful that Burns Night falls slap bang in the middle. This year, we ate our haggis, neeps and tatties with friends in the Curlers, a local pub-restaurant. We have also been tempted by two large boxes of Chinese rose pastries, a new year gift from one of John’s Chinese colleagues. Definitely yummy – ooh, I need to walk all this off, but…

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

…oh dear, we haven’t had much in the way of country walks: only one that I can remember, in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. This time last year, we spotted red squirrels from the wildlife hide. This time they were not to be seen, though there were plenty of birds about.

Exhibitions

We managed a couple of exhibitions in January. One Glasgow museum, the Burrell Collection, has recently closed for refurbishment and in the meantime some of its paintings are on show at another, Kelvingrove. The current exhibition is of work by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913), one of a group of radical painters known as The Glasgow Boys. Girl on a bicycle has long been one of my favourites – just look at the little dachshund excitedly running alongside – but there was plenty more to see, and will be until 1st July if you are in the area.

We also saw an exhibition in the Lighthouse called A Life in Letterpress. Typographic artist Alan Kitching began his working life apprenticed to a printer, before becoming a technician at Watford College, then a teacher, designer and artist. In an age of computer design, he continues to create using wood and metal letterforms. The results are stunning! On till 5th March.

The last bit

New Year, new blogging resolution – to have a round-up post like this at the end of every month. How long will it continue? My last new series (People Make Glasgow) lasted for approximately (ahem, exactly) one post, and I’m already almost a week late with this one, so we’ll see.

I also wondered what would happen if I had nothing to round up, either because I’d written about it already or (and it does happen) I had done nothing worth blogging about. Step forward The last bit of random stuff and padding. This month – Scotland reacts to Trump, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Scotland is not impressed.

  • The sublime – Karine Polwart at Celtic Connections with I burn but I am not consumed, a poetic mixture of spoken word and song considering Donald’s Scottish roots. Favourite line: You who see nothing but your own face in the sheen of the Hudson River. (Sorry, I couldn’t get this BBC video to embed).
  • The ridiculous – Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag (Buzzfeed). Not for the easily offended. Translations available on request. (As a start, baw = ball. I’m sure you can work out the rest.)

So that was January in Glasgow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Dollar Glen

Dollar
Dollar

One of our favourite outings is to the small town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, from where we walk up Dollar Glen to Castle Campbell. We did this most recently in December 2016. Unfortunately, since the last time we visited, the hotel bar in which we usually ate lunch has closed – the horror! – but we found a more than adequate substitute in the Bridge Street Kitchen – hooray!

Suitably fortified, we made our way past some chain saw carving and up West Burnside.

Just where the footpath to the castle begins there is a small museum in an old mill building. In all our years of visiting Dollar we have never been in – until this time. It’s a fascinating collection of information on local history staffed by friendly volunteers (an extensive chat with one unearthed three mutual acquaintances). I was particularly interested in the section on Lavinia Malcolm, a woman I had never heard of but who was the first woman town councillor (1907) and the first woman Provost (Mayor – 1913) in Scotland. We noted that we must have walked past a plaque on her former home and decided to look out for it on our way back.

After the museum, we climbed up the Glen past this intriguing money mushroom – I’ve seen money trees before but this is a first – to the point where we could look back on the view you can see in the post header. Castle Campbell soon loomed over us.

We had spent so long in the museum that the castle was about to close by the time we got there, so we passed it by and returned down the other side of the glen. The lights had come on by the time we got back to Dollar making it look very festive.

As hoped, we found Lavinia’s house and memorial plaque.

My favourite kind of walk – countryside and history combined! For more walks of all kinds, pop over to Jo’s Monday Walk for a wide choice of topics.

Perambulations in Perth

Perth
Perth
Somehow our usual autumn holiday downgraded itself in 2016 to a couple of nights in Perth in early December! I’m not complaining, Perth is a beautiful city and the weather, though cold, was wonderfully bright. We spent most of our day there, Sunday, following the River Tay Public Art Trail.

Sunbank House Hotel
Sunbank House Hotel
Our hotel (Sunbank House – highly recommended) was on the east bank of the river so we started there and followed the trail through a series of parks and gardens before crossing the river and returning along Tay Street. Here are some highlights.

East bank

This was my favourite part of the trail with the tall spire of St Matthew’s Church an ever-present landmark.

Perth Bridge

We crossed the river by the Perth Bridge which is equally attractive by day and night. It was built in 1766 and widened in 1869. On the other side are the Museum and Art Gallery and the Concert Hall – we didn’t go in this time, but enjoyed visits to both earlier in the year.

Returning to the river, some of the art serves a very practical purpose as flood gates.

We passed the war memorial and regimental monument and admired the beautiful houses on the side of the river we’d just come from.

Then we crossed under the bridge to walk up Tay Street.

West bank and city centre

On the section of Tay Street between Perth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge there are ten wall carvings and several other sculptures, of which my favourite is Shona Kinloch’s chubby eagle standing proudly atop its fish.

The trail now took us away from the river into the city centre – lunch! But also more to see. The Salutation Hotel is another historic landmark, dating from 1699.

St John Street has decorative lampposts and gratings – I’m not sure if they’re meant to remind me of Munch’s The Scream, but they do. Round the corner, Walter Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth sits forlornly on her bench.

Nearby, Nae Day Sae Dark is another literary sculpture, inspired by Perth poet William Soutar. The two figures represent happiness and misery. It wasn’t possible to get a picture of the full circle because a (tuneless) busker had plonked himself right in the way.

After lunch, we continued along the riverbank, passing another sculpture inspired by Soutar, Soutar’s Menagerie, until we reached the Fergusson Gallery. Housed in an old water tower, this is dedicated to the work of Scottish Colourist JD Fergusson (1874-1961). It’s not open on Sundays, but we’ve been before and it is well worth a visit. It also has information about Fergusson’s partner, the dancer Margaret Morris, and their life together.

Craigie walk

From the Fergusson Gallery we set off to follow another trail – there was life in the old legs yet – which focussed on the life of the aforementioned poet, William Soutar. We set off across South Inch (large grassy area) – Soutar was born in one of its bordering terraces.

We then walked uphill to areas Soutar would have played in as a child, passing Craigie Waterfall and climbing Craigie Knowes, a little patch of wilderness in suburbia. In Soutar’s day, the waterfall was surrounded by malt barns, a laundry and a flock mill. Now it’s all houses, though some of the windy roads probably had their origins as farm tracks. Higher still is Craigie Hill, where you can see John striding along below. This looks like the country, but to the left of the picture is a golf course and out of sight on the right traffic thunders along the motorway to Dundee.

Descending again, we passed 27 Wilson Street where Soutar lived in the last years of his life. Here he spent 13 years bedridden with an incurable arthritis of the spine, all the time writing his poetry and receiving a constant stream of friends, neighbours and literary admirers. He died of tuberculosis aged just 45.

Finally, we returned to South Inch and amused ourselves watching the birds on the frozen pond.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks where you’ll find her on trail in the Algarve and her friends – well they’re cyber-walking all over the globe.