Tag Archives: family

Here goes….somethin’

Went home to Kentucky to see family last week.  Got in a lovely 2 hour ride with my father, who is in his late seventies, and Marilyn, a friend from the hunt club, on the two farms owned by family out in Simpsonville.



love me a sycamore tree!

love me a sycamore tree!

there is really only one way to travel through country like this-on a horse!

there is really only one way to travel through country like this-on a horse!

We also did a drive by on my Old Kentucky Home-the house looks great.  Some day we will stop in and try to get a tour of the inside (I am betting the shag carpet and loud wallpaper are long gone….).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the farm, the to do list is long!  But I am getting started on the propagation house, and thinking about fencing for the spring garden.

just add plastic....

just add plastic….

this little hoophouse will cost me about $300 for an 8×16 space-and all the materials can be repurposed into moveable animal housing or fencing…..

The garlic and leeks and walking onions are up and look great!  So far the gophers haven’t found them, but I know it is only a matter of time…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnow…off to put my seed order in!



A long walk in Caledonia, chapter 3

The next leg of our hike was the 18 mile day across lonely Rannoch Moor.  The scenery is hard to describe, but having a little undergraduate geology, it definitely felt like walking across the final haunts of an old but once great ice sheet.  The land looked flat, but really was lumpy, and covered in low heath and moor plants, lots of boggy ground, and peppered with large erratics.  One of the larger is called the Menzies Stone (pronounced ‘Mingus’), and marks the boundary of Perthshire ( I think we saw it, but the boulders all kind of looked the same).  The hike across starts at Rannoch station, which feels like the end of the world in some ways, through a patch of forest, and then out onto the moor.  The only real landmarks we had were the lake on our left and a line of power poles that we followed across the heath. On a foggy day it would be easy to lose oneself out here, and I can’t imagine what it would be like in a winter storm. We did not see the Large and Harmless Man (best monster name ever) that supposedly haunts the moor, but I did have a rare sighting of the Rainbow Sasquatch.

a rare glimpse of the rannoch rainbow sasquatch

a rare glimpse of the rainbow ‘squatch

never fear, rainbow sasquatches are generally quite friendly, especially if you feed them cheddar and oatcakes

never fear, rainbow sasquatches are generally quite friendly, especially if you feed them cheddar and oatcakes

rannoch moor

rannoch moor (and a bothy)-no country for Large and Harmless Men?

So, after our 18 mile day across Rannoch Moor, we hiked down out of the high moor and to the inn at Kingshouse.  This old building has been an Inn since the 1700s, and it has a great vibe.  It sits at the base of two great Munros with unpronounceable Gaelic names that translate I believe to the Great Herdsman and the Little Herdsman.  The Inn sits at the end of Rannoch Moor, at the head of the famous and ill fated Glen Coe, and at the junction of a major road and the West Highland Way, which looks like and is-the most popular hiking trail in Scotland.  Woe to the traveler who did not have a reservation, although everyone was welcome at the bar, even those sleeping in tents.  There was a great mix of hikers, mountain climbers and tourists of all ages.  The bar had a great selection of scotches, and I had haggis for dinner.  I didn’t know enough to ask whether it was highland (venison) haggis or lowland (sheep) haggis, but it was wrapped in pastry and very good.  I had a snoot of a well aged single malt scotch called Scapa that was excellent…..not too hot, not too peaty, just perfect.  The building is low and dark and rambling, and very comfortable, just like you would want an old Scottish Inn to be.  After so many days of hiking alone, it was rather lovely to be in the bustle of this crossroads.  For the last two days there would be lots of people hiking along with us (ok, mostly past us).

a welcome sight, Kingshouse!

a welcome sight, Kingshouse!

The next day started out dry and sunny, and we started our hike past the Great Herdsman (Buchaille Etive Mor), which is a really spectacular and uniquely isolated mountain, and one of the most photographed in Scotland.  Our hike this day took us over the Devils Staircase, our greatest elevation gain on the trip, which topped out with great views to the north and west, including our first glimpse of Ben Nevis and our final destination.  We were now on the West Highland Way, and sharing the trail with lots of hikers.  There were a few characters on the trail, including a fellow we called ‘shinsplints’, who had hiked hard to beat his own personal record and crippled himself.  We met him when we crossed the highway, where he was waiting for the bus.  He named all the prominent landmarks for us, and bubbled over with enthusiasm for “me scottish playground”.  We also heard about and saw, but never met, two french brothers who hiked the entire Way in Scottish kilts and French berets.  The word was a wool kilt was very appropriate wear for hiking the highlands….well ventilated, yet warm and reasonably water proof.  Not to mention extremely stylish and culturally appropriate. 

This is a good example of odd Scottish Highland scale.

This is a good example of the weird scale of the HIghlands.  This is Buchaille Etive Mor, which from this viewpoint looks like a large rock, but is the same mountain you can see on the right behind Kingshouse in the previous photo.  In other places objects that we thought were miles away were hiked to in 20 minutes.

at the top of the Devils Staircase.  Ben Nevis is one of those peaks behind us.

at the top of the Devils Staircase. Ben Nevis is one of those peaks behind us.

From here we hiked down to the town of Kinlochleven, a town built by an aluminum company at the head of Loch Leven.  Loch Leven communicates with the sea, and is salt.  We had crossed the Highlands!  Our last day of hiking took us over a final pass and into Fort William, the biggest town we had seen since Glasgow.  We took a brief side trail to another ancient stone age site, this one was some kind of fort or defense, that had a stunning view of Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

We spent the night in Fort William, where I had another fairly memorable meal of wild boar burger and ‘neeps and tatties’, washed down with a good local ale.  Our next adventure:  renting a car and driving to the Isle of Skye for two days.  The car of course was a stick shift, and everything was on the wrong side, which took some getting used to.  Happily there is not a lot of traffic in N. Scotland!

On the way we toured the castle of Eileen Donan (if you have ever seen the movie Highlander, you have seen the exterior at least of this castle).

This castle sits at the point where three sea lochs meet.

This castle sits at the point where three sea lochs meet.  Very touristy, but worth the visit.

Skye was beautiful.  The night we arrived we hiked out to Neist Point, which has a beautiful lighthouse that was engineered by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father.  At one point it was a holiday rental…what an amazing place to stay!

The next day we took a hike a little ways up the coast from Neist Point, round a headland called The Hoe.  This was one of the best hikes of the trip for me…ruined crofts and sheep featured prominently, along with stunning views of the North Sea and outer Hebrides.

Excellent advice, especially where my sister is concerned.

Excellent advice, especially where my sister is concerned.


Next we visited Dunvegan Castle, ancestral home of Clan McLeod (not Eileen Donan, as portrayed in the movie Highlander).  Dunvegan has a ‘fairy flag’ that supposedly when unfurled means the McLeods will defeat their enemies.  According to the tale, it could only be used so three times, and has one good victory left in it.  This castle also had beautiful gardens.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle

Food on Skye was excellent.  We had lunch at a place that specialized in local food that was spectacular, called the Red Roof Cafe.  Our vegetarian B&B served amazing breakfasts, and there was another cafe near where we stayed that made wonderful sandwiches.  Other highlights of this leg of our trip were a stop at the Crofter’s museum, a walk round the Fairy Glen, and the hike up to the Old Man of Storr.

The energy hotspot in the fairy glen.  Walk the spiral, make a wish, and don't forget to leave a gift for the fairies...

The energy hotspot in the fairy glen. Walk the spiral, make a wish, and don’t forget to leave a gift for the fairies…

Och aye, it was a lovely trip.  I’d love to go back and explore the outer Hebrides sometime, and do some sea kayaking around the islands and the sea lochs.

one last shot of beautiful Skye....cheers!

one last shot of beautiful Skye….cheers!

A long walk in Caledonia, chapter 2

After our lovely stay in Fortingall (did I mention I had a very hot bath, after a very long day of walking and sightseeing?  And the cheese plate at dinner?  I love cheese.  Wallace and Gromit ain’t in it.) we headed up over a pass to the base of Schiehallon, the Fairy Mountain, one of the larger mountains in Perthshire.  We did not see any fairies, but once we got up above treeline the weather was appropriately misty and spooky.

the climb out of Fortingall, with Loch Tay in the distance.

the climb out of Fortingall, with Loch Tay in the distance.

tramping in Scottish Fairy Mist

tramping in Scottish Fairy Mist…photo credit Kate

Once over the pass we dropped into a high valley where we found a large bothy (not sure the literal translation…a sort of unoccupied warming hut/hunting lodge).  It was open, so we stopped there and had lunch.  There was graffiti in the entrance, the oldest (a very polite thankyou) from 1927, written in beautiful script.

a commodius bothy

a most commodious bothy

our lunchtime view of schiehallon and the fairies

our lunchtime view of schiehallon and the fairies

From here we hiked down this high valley, crossed a small river and then hiked up a burn that flowed in from the north below Schiehallon, to another bothy.  This one was much smaller, but had plenty of character.  I am under the impression that Scotland experiences high wind on occasion….this hut was built into the side of the hill, and it’s flat roof was thoroughly wired to its foundation.  This was our first experience of moor and heath, it is lovely in its own way.  Hard to imagine this landscape supporting anything but sheep (of which there were several), but apparently it was common practice to bring all the livestock up to the highlands in summer to keep them out of the crops in the valleys.  We saw lots of ruined schielings, which were the low stonewalled summer houses of the families tending the animals.

the wee bothy

the wee bothy

From the bothy we headed over the shoulder of Schiehallon and down into Kinloch Rannoch.  Funnily enough, as soon as we turned our backs on the Fairy mountain, the sun came out and the mist lifted.

Day 3 we hiked along Loch Rannoch and through one of the few remaining patches of Caledonian forest…a forest of old growth Scotch Pine.  It was lovely, and we saw some magnificent old trees, including Gunnar’s tree, named in honor of one of the people responsible for saving this patch of forest.

transcontinental treehugging:  photo credit Kate

transcontinental treehugging: photo credit Kate

We were now hiking in the lands of the MacDonalds, Robertsons, MacDougals and Stewarts.  The MacDougals had a wee castle built out on the loch, on of course, a former Crannog site.  Supposedly there was a stone causeway out to the wee tower, but it was a few feet under water and a crooked path, so only those who knew the route could get to the tower without taking a swim.

fine scottish summer weather for swimming...

fine scottish summer weather for swimming…

That night we spent in a very nice guesthouse in the town of Bridge of Gaur.  We hiked past Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood home along the way, although we didn’t find that out until later….  (At the end of the trip I bought a copy of Kidnapped, which is all set in the highlands and the Hebrides, and a very swashbuckling read).  Looming ahead of us from Bridge of Gaur was our big mileage day, 18 miles across Rannoch Moor to Kingshouse, which was one of our favorite stops on the trip.  More to come soon….

Lessons learned

I hail originally from the mid-south, from a small town on the outskirts of a medium sized town with both midwestern and southern sensibilities and food influences.  Kentuckians love a good hot dish as much as any Minnesotan, and grits for breakfast (preferably topped with sorghum m’lassas) as much as any Mississippian.  One of the things I loved best about the folks in my home state is the way people visit with each other, without agenda.  If you stop in, you will be offered a drink and a snack, and you will be expected to sit down and visit awhile.  Folks just aren’t in a big hurry there, and that is something I miss.  People don’t double-book the way my generation seems to even here in laid back ole Portland.  And the best thing about the visit is if you pay attention you invariably come away with an absolutely hilarious anecdote….usually told in the best straight man dead pan manner you can imagine.  My father’s cousin who is one of the most genteel old-school-proper women I know tells hands down the BEST story about having a hummer dropped in her cornfield by the local National Guard….but you will have to hear that one from her.  The lesson there:  don’t underestimate Anybody.

I have been thinking a lot about family lately….which has brought up some amusing memories of things I have learned from my parents, my father in particular.  Now, I love my father like the sun, and he is one of the people I admire most in the world.  One of the hardest things about becoming an adult for me was discovering that he was a fallible human being, just like everyone else.  (Being a daughter I am afraid I figured this out about my mother somewhat earlier).  He taught me to love horses, and to ride.  He let me have the ice cubes out of his bourbon on the rocks at a very tender age.  He taught me how to drive a stick, and line up the center of the hood of the Suburban with the edge of the road to keep in my lane, and to hitch and back a trailer.   I am pretty sure I get my fondness for large goofy dogs from him as well.  Anyway, like many men, my father could never find his wallet, and somehow expected my mother and occasionally us kids to know where he might have left it.  He was also somewhat at sea when it came to tools and fixing things.  As a result, we had a garage door that did not function properly, and if you wanted it to stay open, you had to prop up the lift mechanism with a block of wood or other handy object.  One fair spring day, my father needed to prop the garage door, and couldn’t find anything handy, so he used his wallet.  Lawns were mowed, children were pried out from in front of Saturday cartoons and delegated various weed wacking and stick removal duties, lunch came and went, the weather stayed fine, the garage door stayed open.  The wallet of course, went missing, and despite 5 or 6 people’s best efforts, could not be found.  After a few days (this was in the late 70’s or early 80’s, a gentler time) Dad gave up and canceled his cards and replaced his driver’s license and bought himself a new wallet.  Months later, perhaps even as late as the next fall, the weather started to turn nasty, and Dad decided he should shut the garage door to keep the wind from blowing leaves and such into the garage.  Voila, the wallet was found!

So here I am in middle age, and I too have days where I can barely remember my name, much less where I last left the car keys.  I don’t have children, so I will have to leave it to my nieces and nephew or perhaps if I am lucky my step grandchildren to tell amusing anecdotes about me someday.  And I raise a glass of good bourbon whiskey with a splash of branch water (a concoction with a long history of generating many a fine anecdote), to my parents:  to my father back in Kentucky, and to my mother who is now gone but whose spirit I am sure lingers about the sand bars and beaches of New England.  I love you.