22-May-2015 -- Relegated - I've had to downgrade this point considerably...
This is only my 2nd visit to this point, the last one was over 13 years ago,way back on 12th Jan 2002 - 4878 days ago, those of you who have followed my adventures over the years will know that I often make repeat visits (including 4 to this one in Florida) as things change over time. Why the huge gap in this case? It's in a very remote area, not particularly easy to get to and over 350 miles from home...
... in my original report I detailed about the difficulty in reaching this point, 45 degree slopes that were boggy, crossing multiple stands of trees and being thigh deep in icy water on several occasions. It was no surprise therefore that there were numerous unsuccesful attempts over several years before it was finally conquered again. I've had an eye on it since and was interested in this report by Ingo Scholz which appeared to suggest there might be an easier way into here. I wonder...still, it is still a 700+ mile round trip so it has to go on hold.
Time passes, and in the intervening years since 2002 the startup I worked for was sold to Nokia, then IP stripped and shut down. Joined another startup and got founder shares, things were going great, especially with the travel - hence all my Texas and California visits - then as we were preparing for IPO, Enron and Worldcom happened, all backers pulled out and that business failed. Oh well.
What next? I dabbled in mail order and made £25,000 in a year, enough to pay the bills after costs, but nowhere near what I had been earning. I then became a mortgage broker and went self-employed, I enjoyed doing that then the brokerage I was working alongside went into receivership - the directors had been siphoning off money that was meant to pay for premiums. Switched to a new brokerage firm and ended up being Area Manager, winning a trip to New York in the process (hence the New York confluence visits). Left them when they overtraded in setting up their own call centre and worked with a brokerage nearer home in Peterborough.
Then came the global financial crash in 2008/2009 and the mortgage market just dried up. Our business failed along with many many others. Onwards and upwards, find something else to do, as they say it's not failure that defines you but how you react to it. Retrain again, this time to do Estate Planning - wills, trust funds and powers of attorney. More interesting as it turns out than mortgages anyway!
Both daughters have left home, Dani is engaged, Rachel is married (living 60 seconds walk away!) and I have two lovely grandchildren.
It is time for our late Spring / early Summer holiday and for the first time in 3 years we are going back to Scotland - this time to a part we have never stayed in before, we are going as far south as you can get in Scotland to the Rhins of Galloway. To orientate it, up the M6 as far as you can go, past Carlisle, over the border and turn left onto the A75. Keep going until you hit Stranraer which is as far as you can go before the Irish Sea. Turn left here and basically keep going until you just about run out land again. It's certainly remote and there is no phone signal for 10 miles in any direction. Peace and quiet.
I should point out that half way along the A75 you go past 55N-04W, on the way here we swung by it. Parked up by the house but didn't get out and go and ask permission, there were sheep, cows and young calves in the field. So we skipped it - another point I've only done the once - maybe on the way home as technically by parking up you are close enough.
That brings us to today, the last day of our holiday and my planned visit to 55N-05W.
Since I was last here, things have moved on technically as well. Back in the day we had MapQuest to look at, or a paper based road atlas and that was just about it - google maps was still 3 years away. Makes planning a bit difficult when the place you are going to is miles from any road.
Google Earth - launched 2005 - promises to be more help as you can get a direct overhead view of the ground and the opportunity to see if there are any tracks in existence that might be able to be used.
The images aren't the most recent and aren't as detailed as some I have seen but they do indicate that there is what appears to be what I am assuming is a logging road - the CP is in the middle of a managed forest after all - that winds its way up the hill then goes around in massive loop and back out again. This route involves starting much further South than my previous visit and starts in Croach Road, just next to the ferry terminal across to Ireland. Which opens up the possibility of doing this in the morning, hopping on the ferry and doing this point in the evening of the same day.
Drive to the end of Croach road and the road bears left and up the hill. What isn't immediately obvious is that this is a private road, the sign is small and very easily missed. Wind on up the hill, past a house on the left and you come to a very large metal barn, the tarmac runs out here and you are on a gravel road, still perfectly driveable in a 2 wheel drive family saloon. Eventually you come to a metal gate - with a sign showing speed limit to be 15 mph. Hmmm, interesting, the presence of a speed limit sign suggests that the road does in fact continue, however I want this to be challenge still so I find a side "road" - a 20 yard cutting and park up.
The gate is interesting, part of it is a gate, which I open and walk through, why is it interesting? The foot part is hinged in the middle not the edge, simply opening the other half would allow you to drive the car through. I was tempted I must admit but you don't know the quality of the track to come do you?
It's a pleasant walk and I see someone's attempt at building a bridge over a ditch, I'm going nowhere near that fortunately, and if it was on the path I think I would have climbed down the ditch and up the other side! The road is still very good quality, almost metalled in places. After about a mile I come to another gate, same design as before so you could easily drive on. Next to this gate are two water troughs, one in a state of disrepair.
Onward and upwards and I come to the first hunters hide, I am to see several more and they are all completely different. Go past this one and a small clearing has some large boulders in it - size of a small car just about. Round a bend in the track and there is another hide, opposite Loch Ree. Spectacular scenery and you can hear not a single man made sound, wonderful!
Keep going, this is turning into a very pleasant walk in the forest. I find a fire break in the forest and I am slightly North of 55 but quite a bit East so the CP is beyond the NEXT stand of trees. I decide to carry on a bit further hoping the road swings west. That was my only mistake of the day, the track only goes East from here. When you reach here [55.0.057N-4.59.067W] turn left down the hill. I didn't turn left until the next fire break. Walk along next to the trees trying to avoid the wet bits, not working too well. I reach the valley between the stands of trees and need to turn left to start going West. This bit is really wet, even right up to the tree line, there are pools of water just under the tree cover...
I see another hunting perch - a ladder and chair simply lashed to a tree. What comes next on the left, that's right, the first fire break I should have walked down, oh well, live and learn. I need to cross the valley and spot a trail across to where someone has laid down two metal tracks to cross a stream. Don't forget the useful rule of thumb, if it's very bright green, then it's probably very wet. Up the other side and to the end of the tree stand and turn left as we are just past 5W.
Walk down a couple of hundred yards to 55N.
When I was here last I had to crawl in under the trees, this time though the trees are about 35 feet high and I can simply walk into the trees, it's very quiet. Cross a lovely little stream and and wander around a bit before getting a lock on 16 satellites, error showing 13 feet or 4m, better than last time. Take all the required photos and pause a few minutes to enjoy the silence and the surroundings.
Back track my way out, when I arrive back at the first hunters hide I realise that I am above the low clouds. It is a 2 mile walk back to the car, so that's about 5 1/2 miles in total and about 2 1/2 hours.
This was so much easier than my first attempt which I had down as my equal hardest, this isn't quite a drive up given the last 3/4 mile but it is not really all that hard. The crown of most difficult lies fair and square with 57N-04W.
Things do change, this is the first visit I have documented entirely by mobile phone.
Visit number 222.
As ever a word of caution. This is remote country, there is no phone signal and not much chance (read just about none at all) of seeing anyone else. If you get hurt you are on your own, so tell someone where you are going, the route you expect to take and what time you expect to be back.