A Quick Jaunt to Heaven

Saturday started out as I expected it would: with a lie in.

But I had things to do, and other things I wanted to do so I found myself driving in Loch Leven’s direction to pick up nails and to have a wander about Portmoak Moss, on the east side of the loch.

Turned out the hardware store was closed so I had more time to wander. Perfect. However, driving clockwise around the loch I was finding thick, low cloud all the way round, and had the same cloud on the drive through from Dollar.

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Portmoak Moss last week

Portmoak Moss always gives me something to see or do, whether this is photographing the timid roe deer and brown hares that hide in the heather, or pulling out the conifers that have managed to take hold in the middle of the actual moss.

However, whilst driving through Scotlandwell I spotted the sign for Kilmagad Woods, another Woodland Trust property that stretches up the hillside above Scotlandwell. You can actually see it in the pic above, it’s all the trees on the right-hand side of the hills.

This gave me an idea, I was fairly certain I could get above the clouds if I went up high enough, so this is what I did.

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The “view”

As expected, I couldn’t see much on the journey up, but took advantage of the conditions to take some eerie, mystical photos of the woodland. It’s a nice wood, from what I could see, with plenty of new native trees having been planted amongst the remaining oaks, gorse and occasional exotic conifer.

I passed a father with his two kids who looked a little less amazed with the whole experience than I was. One was in fact enjoying spinning around and making a racket more than exploring the misty hillside, which I thought was sad. It seemed the kid didn’t know what was out there to see and do, or was not allowed off the path for safety reasons.

I don’t know if that was definitely the case but it seemed that way and I think it’s a shame. I remember, as a child, hiding in the gorse, sliding down hillsides on my knees leaving me with nice, big green stained jeans, and generally just having loads of fun. I suspect technology plays a large part in this problem.

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Figures in the mist

After a bit of running (I hadn’t run in 8 months but found myself in surprisingly good shape, if I do say so myself), I eventually started to feel the warmth of the sun making it’s way through the thinner cloud. This meant I was close to being above the cloud and fortunately still had plenty of hill yet to climb!

Having taken photos under the clouds, and planning on taking photos above the clouds, I felt I better take some as I was bursting free of the clouds…

As I poked my head up from under the cover of the clouds I had a brief search for a brocken spectre but it didn’t happen because there was no fog on the side of me opposite the sun. A brocken spectre, by the way, is when the sun casts your magnified shadow on to the fog behind you, and adds a nice rainbow halo around your shadow’s head for added effect if the water droplets in the cloud are of uniform size.

This phenomenon probably sparked the myths of the Am Fear Liath Mòr, a tall figure that instils an uneasy feeling in walkers climbing to the summit of Ben MacDhui in the Cairngorms. I can imagine it could be a bit unnerving having a huge figure appearing to stand just in sight but staying in the mist to watch you.

I, however, had too little time to be worrying about tall, strange figures stalking me through the clouds. Following the contour around to some crags that I was planning on getting on top of, I spotted some Pink-footed Geese flying over, clearly a little bemused at the fact Loch Leven and all the fields had disappeared from beneath them.

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Pinkfeet in hazy light

Then the warmth struck me. I was above the clouds, and boy was it spectacular. At first I stood for a bit just taking it in, spotting hills in the distance that had also managed to keep their head above the sea of clouds. Then I realised I had limited time as the sun was setting.

Here’s my initial view after having ascended to a higher level, probably what a lot of people imagine heaven to look like…

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A quick scramble up the crags to get to the perfect spot before I could fully appreciate what I was seeing.

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White Crags, Lomond Hills

I found myself a nice bit of rock that provided a good platform for viewing the effects of the temperature inversion. A temperature inversion is when the usual decrease of temperature with increase in altitude is inverted in a small layer of the atmosphere, so it was warmer in the hills than it was around Loch Leven.

The effect here has been that the usual mechanisms present in the atmosphere couldn’t penetrate the inverted layer leaving the lowlands shrouded in mist.

Anyway, I was up there to enjoy it and take pictures, so that’s what I did. (Please click on the pics to enlarge)

It was pretty cool, to say the least! I could see so far as well, all the way across to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs NP, and north to the Angus Glens and beyond into the Cairngorms NP.

It was like standing on an island in the middle of a huge sea, looking across to other islands like the Ochil Hills and Cleish Hills. What should have been there was Loch Leven below me with Kinross, Dollar and Stirling in the distance, and the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh to the south, but all there was was cloud.

I’m particularly pleased with that shot of the skein of geese above the clouds as you don’t often get to see that, never mind photograph it!

Anyway, the sun set and I had to make my way back down through into the gloomy woods. I took more pictures because why not.

And that was that. An impromptu wander about on Portmoak Moss lead to one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever laid my gaze upon, and I discovered I’m not as unfit as I feared.

Today, I was out ringing and thought I’d just compile a few photos from that. We were out on some farmland in Kinross-shire aiming for farmland birds funnily enough, mainly finches, buntings and thrushes. We caught 12 birds… and it turned out we were in the wrong field which one of the landowners was not best pleased about. We sorted it out though and the farmer seemed happy enough for us to ring on his land but considering the poor quantity of birds (quality was great), we may not return.

Anyway, a nice day in the snow and fog.

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A Quick Jaunt to Heaven

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