A walk with John Muir

Posted by Al Smith, Cairngorm National Park

I recently took the opportunity to complete one of the Muir Missions and go for a walk in the style of a Victorian naturalist – John Muir on this occasion.

The walk was for 3 days dressed and equipped as John Muir so kit list as follows –

  • Wide brimmed felt hat
  • Cotton shirt
  • Harris tweed jacket and waistcoat
  • Moleskin trousers
  • Boots
  • Woollen blanket
  • 2 small loaves bread
  • Small bag of tea
  • Flint and steel
  • Small bag of tinder
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Canvas shoulder bag to carry it all
  • Wooden walking stick
  • One joyous, exuberant border collie

So as to avoid embarrassment I also took a map and compass and at the last minute a mobile phone to tweet back to the comms girls in the office! (All part of sharing the experience)

On Derry Cairngorm

On Derry Cairngorm

The first day I walked in from Linn o’Dee into Glen Derry and found a nice spot to spend the night and settled down in the glorious afternoon sun.


The night was interesting! Aforementioned border collie had trouble settling in the great outdoors and would sit up growling at every noise or smell that accosted his sense, waking me in the process! It did also get quite cold and I would wake up and have to writhe about a bit to get warm. At 4am I awoke shivering, the dog was shivering and there was a light covering of frost giving a magical sparkle to the world.

So we had an early breakfast and set off up the hill at 5am bathed in early morning sunshine and blue cloudless skies, and went up Beinn Bhreac.


From there it was a great lollop across a great moss with dotterel and hare for company up to the summit of Beinn a’ Choarainn (hill of the Rowan – not one in sight!!)

This afforded great views of the central Cairngorms and has oft been said the Cairngorms are best appreciated from the tops where you can get a sense of the scale, majesty and grandeur of the landscape.

Looking towards Ben Macdui and Bheinn Mheadhoin

Looking towards Ben Macdui and Bheinn Mheadhoin

A steep drop down into the Lairig an Laoigh and into Glen Derry to pick up the kit I’d left at the camp and then back up the glen to the Hutchison Hut in blazing hot sun! I’d decided to spend the night in a bothy to give the dog (and me) some peace!

5 Hutchison Hut

Another very early start the next morning with clear blue skies and sun saw us head up into Coire Etchachan.

A very still morning with not a ripple on the glassy waters of Loch Etchachan

A very still morning with not a ripple on the glassy waters of Loch Etchachan

Then up to the summit tors of Beinn Mheadhoin in wispy ever changing mist and cloud with more hares and dotterel wandering about.  A nice little scramble up onto the summit tor –


A short detour on the descent gave great views over Loch A’an and into the Shelterstone area.




On Derry Cairngorm

On Derry Cairngorm

The long dry, hot, dusty descent from Derry Cairngorm to the glen ended in the cool lush Caledoninan pinewood before a long trek out to Linn o’ Dee. No great insights or outpourings but more of a growing sense of calm and peace as time went on.



27 miles.

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2 Responses to A walk with John Muir

  1. Pingback: We did it. We did much more! | …and we would walk 500 miles and we would walk 500 more…

  2. johnmuir2013 says:

    Reblogged this on Wild Days and commented:

    Celebrating John Muir, a father figure of National Parks. Originally written in 2013 but just as relevant now in #NationalParksWeek 2016 #shareyouradventures

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