I am inspired to write this week, about a time long ago, by my friend Pauline's blog.
Last week the weather was glorious, and the smell and chill of Autumn was in the air. As I have done many times, I headed out to the nearby hills on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the Pentlands, to complete a 30 mile or so round trip on my mountain bike.
I've written of this route previously, so I won't bore you with the details again. I made good time up and down the main roads heading out, with only the odd car driver being careless and robbing me of room on the road, and within an hour was turning off into the hills.
The road is still paved at this point as it climbs and twists and turns round the two reservoirs, dotted with fishermen on the mirror-like surface, swishing their lines back and forth. As I trundled along a group of school kids were coming in the opposite direction. They were loaded up with varying designs of rucksack, badly packed with all manner of objects dangling and rattling on the outside. Each one had a thin foam mattress rolled up and inside a black bin liner, tied to the bottom of their packs. Two of the team had the tent, precariously balanced atop their packs.
I continued on, smiling at their dishevelled appearance, until I left the paved road and followed a dirt path to the base of a small waterfall and stopped for lunch. Within a half hour two other groups of students appeared, similarly kitted out. They literally dropped their packs to the ground and slumped down, grateful to be stopping. I laughed out loud as a small argument erupted as to who was going to carry the map next.
Many many years ago I used to take similar groups from the Boys' Brigade out into the hills, the Pentlands being a popular destination. Looking at these groups now it could have been 25 years ago. Nothing had changed. The packs were the same, the rolled up mats in plastic bags were the same, and the argument about the map was the same.
My kit was no better at the time, 25 years ago. My rucksack was a scratchy nylon affair tied to an aluminium frame that would cut your arms every time you hauled it on and off. I wore blue trousers that stopped at the knee, then bright red hiking socks with matching laces on my boots. On top I wore a green tartan shirt and if the weather turned chilly I had a heavy knit Arran jumper in my pack. Quite a sight.
Thankfully all that changed a few years later, and from 1995 onwards, thanks to the expertise of Pauline, my kit changed dramatically. I wasn't allowed to buy any new gear by myself for some considerable years after, in case I was ever tempted to buy another Arran jumper.
Almost 20 years on, now kitted out with the latest gear, and vastly more experienced thanks to adventures with Pauline, I have been lucky to have trekked slightly further afield from the Pentlands. From the great mountain ranges of the Scottish Highlands to places as far away as the Rockies, the Dolomites, Patagonia, and once, the mighty Himalayas.
More than 50 years ago Sir Edmond Hilary made it to the top of Everest with an Arran jumper, so I reckon I would be OK if I sneak one in my pack.