RSPB Loch Lomond

The weather was a bit crap on Sunday morning and we were lounging around with snacks and Steven Universe reruns.
“Want to go out?” I asked halfheartedly.
Nah, I’m good.

However, the window seemed to be getting brighter. Hmm, look… ?
Hmm, maybe…
I pulled up the map on my phone. Where could we go wasn’t the question, where haven’t we been was the tricky thing. Every quickly accessible track and trail has been well worn by us in recent times.
“Here, what about the RSPB thing at Gartocharn, burds an’ that? We’ve actually never been.”
A flurry of thrown pyjamas, a filling of water bottles and we were on the road.

In my mind I’d assumed their car park was a muddy layby that the truck would get stuck in, but to our surprise there’s a nice car park not too far from the main road with a wooden ranger station and a pop up marquee complete with a ranger and a volunteer ready to greet us.
We stopped for banter and information. Holly signed up once again having lapsed for a year and immediately found herself with arms full of RSPB stuff, which I later discovered is all really rather useful and interesting.

Armed with a leaf checklist and a big marker, we headed onto the first trail, detouring into the den building area first of course. This was a theme through the site, get involved, reach out and touch, leave the path, all messages that visitors might find unusual and it shows how things are changing for the better, “Keep off the Grass” is definitely a thing of the past.

The little trail reaches a lookout point that’s in the photie right at the top, a plywood hut that frames the view, will no doubt shelter a pensioner or two and provide kids with hide and seek opportunities.
The view is outstanding of course looking north to the Loch, Conic Hill, Ben Lomond and beyond, But it’s all a little far away. Some folks will love that, it just makes me want to get closer, and you can do that if you want to. The RSPB site extends right down to the lochside and it’s just asking to be explored.
We weren’t kitted out for that and it was getting late, the ranger station was locked by the time we got back, but we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

There’s some dry stone stumps here and there and some beautifully carved benches as well as some hidden sculptures in the woods, just keep your eyes open.
The signage is home made feeling, very unpretentious which I like. Everything feels new and shiny, the structures and the path, but it’s not obtrusive and it’ll weather quickly here.

The little pond had Holly whooping with joy as she ran out on the boardwalk. You can kneel and pond dip with bug identifiers posted nearby and there’s open edges by the water, they’re relying on people to get it right. I absolutely love that attitude.

We sat in the little shelter and had lunch. We did indeed see some of the creatures on the guide, in fact that really is another theme here. The place is bursting with life.
Birds swoop down to a feeder by the hut, all colours and shapes, songs in every key. You really could just sit here and spend your time just sitting.

It was getting grey again and was that a few spots of rain? But we headed into the open country to see what was doing and within a couple of minutes you’ve left the path and huts behind and your in the wilds. All it really takes is a step or two off the surfaced path, do it people, you’ll love it.

A little group of trees had the wackiest fungal infection I’ve seen with this clump home to some spiders. Just so sci-fi.
The ground dweller below was colourful but likely deadly? I might be a Woodland Trust ranger, but I do the fence, don’t ask me about the greenery.

This longer loop through the woods and past the pond is excellent, accessible and atmospheric, it subtlety feeds you the feeling of the wilds and lets you escape to them if you just step off that path.

We loved it. The short trails will be great for folks looking for their country park fix, but I think it’ll plant a seed of wanting more, because of where it is and how they’ve set it up. For us though, the possibilities for going further are actually kinda exciting. Rucksacks packed for next time.

I’ll tell you though, we never did find a chessie tree, I think it’s a trick question on the checklist so you can’t win the prize.

Obōz Sawtooth Low Review

Obōz were a new brand to me earlier in the year and I took the Sawtooth Low’s on test.
They’re somewhere between a trail shoe and that horrible old designation, an approach shoe. This just means I wouldn’t want to run in them, but everything else is fine. They’re chunky, but the exactly 900g for a UK9 doesn’t offend me at all and they feel light on my feet.

The fit out of the box cast my mind wistfully back to the days of Montrail before Columbia ransacked them for their intellectual properties. Tight heel cup, stiff under the heel and a wide forefoot with good flex. That was pretty much my perfect shoe right there.
However, over time the heel cup has stretched out quite a bit and I have to watch for that over longer distances in case I get a hot spot from heel movement as the laces slacken off over the miles. It’s a bit of a shame really, while not a show stopper, it’s limiting the use of the Sawtooths now to wee hills, Lang Craigs kickabouts and general gadding about.

The Sawtooth soles are decent, chunky enough and grippy even as we started to finally get some wet conditions underfoot. The rubber seems to be middle ground, not so soft that it’s wearing out fast and not to hard to grip, so longevity seems likely.
The sole is chunky at the sides which works well as it protects all that fancy stitching on the upper from a good bit of abrasion.

One thing though is the heel. It’s very rounded which is brillinat for walking your steps just curve gently into the ground on ever footfall, but try and dig your heel in on a steep descent and there’s nothing there to catch you.
I’ve had this design on plenty footwear over the years and it’s a trade off which works fine as long as you adjust yourself accordingly.

The Sawtooth’s upper are light and flexible with plenty mesh around the suede for letting the water back out and letting my feet dry off. The tongue is padded just right and the lacing is smooth and comfortable, not had a single rub under the laces, even if I’ve been pulling the laces up a bit more since the heels have slackened off a bit.

Obōz have stuck in a decent footbed which I’ve never changed. It’s the right volume, has kept it’s shape, doesn’t trap water and sits there and does it’s job. Easy to just stick in a throwaway cardboard foot shape these days.
There’s a nice toe bumper, protective but not overly stiff, although the sole is starting to peel off both shoes there a little now, we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve worn the Obōz Sawtooth Low’s for a few months now, as much with jeans as with outdoor gear. They have a user friendly feel which you don’t often get from pretentious lightweight trail shoes.
I like the Sawtooth’s and although the heel stretch was a disappointment, it just put them into a different category of use for me. I had them on yesterday as the RSPB site at Loch Lomond but no more Munro’s for them and that’s fine, I’ll still be wearing these until they come apart.

I cast an eye across Google shopping and these non waterproof versions (the only one worth considering of course) are going for £60 to £70 on average and that’s pretty good.

GUNSHIP

I was a teenager in the 80’s so I know what it was really like, in those ten years I went from child to man (ish…). It wasn’t a straight line between the two either and I still remember so much of it.
’80 was a big deal, the future was here and I was ready for it with one hand slowly letting go of my Hornby train set controller and the other hand on a leather jacket putting badges on the lapel. By ’81 I was going to the Glasgow Apollo and I was set in a new direction which I’ve never strayed from: music.
In ’83 there were suddenly girls, practical rather than theoretical. ’84 I got my first electric guitar. The next two years were a scrabble for a plan for my future but having discovered girls and guitars I blew it and left school wondering what to do next.
Still, by the end of the decade I was an engineer and had hair down past my waist.
And a 32″ waist. Oof.

All through this, what folk now call “The 80’s” was happening around me at arms length. The horrendous fashion and the universal neon highlights didn’t come anywhere near me but the sound of synthesizers was never far away if you were a movie fan and in the very early 80’s synths were still a bit counter culture and unusual in popular music. Their initial other worldliness softened as new wave absorbed them into regular pop and their voice became as unremarkable as a distorted guitar had become.

So when 80’s cultural references became increasingly popular I was a little dismissive, I remember Reagan, Thatcher and the birth of AIDS as much as anything from that time and I wasn’t a fan of Miami Vice. There wasn’t much in a revival for me, the music I loved back then is mostly still alive and well.
This attitude persisted until Stranger Things gripped me and didn’t let go. Googling the composers of the soundtrack started a chain of events thanks to the hardcore spying techniques used by the popular search engine and led me discover what is called synthwave by some – new artists making new music inspired by the sounds of the 80’s.

A lot of it just sounds like Jan Hammer or Tangerine Dream but one band has shone bright and pink out of the crowd for me, GUNSHIP. They write songs, not soundtrack pieces and the vocals bring the retro synth sounds alive. With a fat modern production and an ocean of analogue tones their debut album has been my favourite music for months.
There’s lots of cues from the past in their songs, but they still sound fresh, not recycled in any way. Their videos are brilliant too, plenty of cultural reference liberties taken with style and humour.

It’s so rare for me to find new music I really love, but GUNSHIP have done it for me and I have preordered a signed copy of the second album.
Hey, I’m not 50 just yet, so what the hell.