From my hiding place in the heather I anxiously I scan the horizon for incoming walkers. I strain my eyes for the slightest movement, the twitch of a bobble hat, perhaps the glint of a distant compass needle. After a few moments I decide the coast is clear and make a break out of the forest for the hillside. Soon I’ll be safely hidden amongst the rocks and I can execute the next stage of my plan.
Keeping low amongst the boulders I take out my supplies and lay them out in the grass. There’s tins of curry, corned beef and beans. And, of course, my personal favourite, tinned haggis. Most dehydrated food has the nutritional value of cardboard. The only dried foods I ever carry are packets of soup and dehydrated mashed potato. I even have a few packets of nuts and, the greatest prize of all, a box of a rather nice red wine.
Standing there in the empty glen I allow myself a few moments to gloat over my stock of supplies before opening the large plastic storage box I carried all the way up Glen Dessary and sneaked past A’Chuil bothy dressed in my SAS style Ninja costume. I carefully pack the box with my smuggled treasure, seal down the lid and wrap it in black plastic. It slides down amongst the rocks and is now hidden from all but the most determined treasure seeker.
A few minutes later I’m heading off on the track, my mission complete. I have now become a member of that elite band of hill walkers, a kind of aristocrat of the booted brotherhood. I am no day tripper, no longer a casual tourist in the hills. I have become a man of substance. I have my own secret stash!
The only problem I now may encounter is, of course, finding the thing again. There must be many such cashes of food in the Highland hills where the owner has returned only to spend hours wandering the hills muttering, “I know it’s here somewhere.” I hid my stash a few days ago just before the end of May. As everyone knows this May has been unusually cold with the grass in the glens only now beginning to sprout and even the dreaded midge waiting for better weather before taking to the air in search of Munroists to devour. I know what that particular bit of hillside looks like now but I’m not entirely confident I’ll be able to find it once the heather grows up or, even more challenging, under a several inches of snow. I’ve made a note, it’s seven paces east from the fallen tree, just where the shadow of the skull rock ends at noon. Well, at least it might be.
I never really intended to have a stash, it happened as a result of a happy accident. Me and Mr Jones, my friend from schooldays, were planning a multi-day bothy trip and I decided that leaving some food in advance would allow us to travel further and lighter. Unfortunately Mr Jones was ambushed on his way north from his home in Blackpool by estate agents. His house, on the market for two years, chose that precise moment to sell and as a result I was left with and embarrassment of food hidden in deepest Glen Dessary.
That particular glen, it now occurs to me, is something of a hub allowing lots of routes to be explored from that one point. The glen is most accessible from Loch Arkaig although it has to be said that the drive along the loch side is not for the faint hearted. It’s a narrow switchback of a road with short steep sections and is still being repaired so there is a chance of running into an aggressive earth mover. I think the word “remote” can justifiably be applied.
I’m not sure why having my own secret stash of supplies makes me feel so smug. I think it’s partly because having a stash says, “I’m coming back,” I am no longer a temporary visitor to this lonely place.
I’m now a hill walking aristocrat, at least I am until a fox finds my hoard.