TGO Challenge Obsession

The Great Outdoors Challenge

In the last few months, I have become infatuated, maybe even obsessed, with the idea of walking across Scotland – either on my own or hopefully, if accepted, in the TGO (The Great Outdoors) Challenge.  This annual event in May organizes a two-week crossing of the Scottish Highlands for around 300 folks.  They keep the entrants to a mixture of about half new and half returning walkers.

I can’t pin down one reason this event has captured my interest, but realistically it is a combination of multiple factors:

  • Interest in going back and hiking some of the areas I walked with my grandfather in distant memories growing up in Scotland.
  • The passing of my Scottish mother last year, leaving me as the last Scottish-born member of the immediate family.
  • My love for high, open country and walking in all sorts of weather.
  • The descriptions of the hiking including bog and stream crossings, that I have “trained” for all my professional career slogging through all types of wetlands.
  • Vague memories of towns and vacations in the highlands coming back stronger when I look at maps of Scotland.
  • My enjoyment of single malt Scotch whisky and good Scottish food (especially breakfasts and pies!).
  • Turning 50 in 2018 and hoping to celebrate with the walk through my birthplace in the highlands.

I’ll try to document my progress in researching, planning, applying, and (hopefully) going on the TGO Challenge from the start.  There are many excellent blogs associated with the Challenge, including some from newcomers.  I’ll add those to the links page as well over time as I read through more of them.  I am looking forward to this journey in a way I have never felt about any other backpacking trip!

Backpacking and Alcohol

I rarely strap a backpack on for an overnight or longer trip without a flask of my favorite single malt scotch tucked in a side pocket. For this week’s trip, I have decided on The Glenlivet 12 Year.

This is a habit I got into in the 90s and don’t mind the extra weight. Having a daily dram after dinner while watching the stars is a perfect ending to a day in the wilderness.

Some say it’s dangerous to drink in the back country, and I don’t disagree if you over indulge. Excessive alcohol can impair judgement during critical situations and can lower your body temperature and contribute to dehydration. However, a small amount like I enjoy doesn’t seem to make a significant difference even after a long day and in sub freezing temps has not made me noticeably colder (in fact seems to warm me up a bit!). Note that at high altitudes alcohol has a larger effect, so reduce or eliminate it for high mountain trips.

If you are going to carry something to sip on, check out my review of the GSI flask on my Gear Review page and drink responsibly.

Slainte mhath!

Trip Report from Grayson Highlands on a cold February weekend (finally)!

I just posted a new trip report from last weekend’s excursion to Grayson Highlands in VA and adjacent wilderness areas.  Highlights include:

  • Cold and windy weather with lows near 10 and wind chills to -15
  • Beautiful views and clouds rolling through
  • A lost boy scout
  • An off-trail excursion through thickets and bogs
  • Horses, and more horses

Enjoy!