Millican Weekends are a series of stories that celebrate the people making big adventures out of small pockets of time.
"There’s a feeling that occasionally creeps over you when flicking through social media or travel blogs - that adventure can only be found a long way from home. This is nonsense of course: everywhere is a long way away for someone. Besides, as John Muir once said, sometimes a person 'needs to throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.”
Photography by Alexander Petricca | @alexanderpetricca
Words by Claire Gilchrist
So this was to be our challenge today - to uncover new perspectives: to find something special in familiar terrain that we may have previously overlooked; to discover something beautiful.
Snowdonia, after all, was a place of our childhoods, and already a well-trodden landscape of rainy drives and cold rambles in valleys, as misty as old memories. We woke at dawn, and found ourselves driving down roads we have travelled many times before, searching for something that we did not yet have the words to describe.
Our destination was Tryfan mountain, and the wider Dyffryn Ogwen - or Ogwen Valley - area, a place so deceptive and treacherous in its beauty that it necessitates its very own Mountain Rescue Organisation. This dual personality, of accessibility and underlying peril, made it a perfect place to reevaluate what we thought of Snowdonia.
The first stop was unplanned and spontaneous, trying to capture the light, and involved hopping over a drystone wall, followed by an excitable climb up a rock face. This was rather unnecessary as it turned out, as there was a much gentler path on the other side. It seemed we had very quickly got into the spirit of the thing.
We therefore heard Ogwen waterfall before we saw it, and followed with our eyes its journey along the rugged Nant Ffrancon valley to the sea. A perfect place for a slow brew and a first look at our breathtaking surroundings. And then it was another short drive and a stop for the circular walk around the lake.
Ogwen Valley is a land of fairy tales told to us as children: the lake we scrambled around here, Llyn Ogwen, is the place where Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur into the waters, to be seized by the Lady of the Lake. The knight himself was laid to rest on Tryfan, a mountain that was never far from our sight, winking in and out of existence whenever the clouds or our own boldered path dictated.
And finally, we confronted the mountain.
The start of the journey found us climbing through a great crevice. In this storybook landscape, it was tempting to imagine this was the perfect spot for an ambush overhead, but we saw no one. No one except for the odd sheep, who called across the gap and bounced surprisingly loud bleats off the walls.
The little grove at the end of this path was luscious and utterly silent. In the still pool, another reminder of childhood: frogspawn, and wiggling little black dots within. It was such a simple little thing, but a delight nonetheless.
A climb onwards and upwards, and the valley lay spread before us. A trio of hikers, wrapped up against the closing weather, formed a train of dots, heading towards the base of the mountain.
We had come here for Tryfan, yet the urge to wander was irresistible. This feeling, so indescribable before, was what we had come here to rediscover. An aimless ramble through once-familiar scenery that once held a reluctant interest as a child, was now transformed into landscapes that demanded nothing from you - a feeling so rare as an adult that it can disorientate you. We stood on hilltops without any particular direction in mind. We lay on sunny hillsides and nothing was asked of us except for the capability to be in the moment.
And then, with a happy inevitability, rain began to fall.
Fog rolled in, and swallowed us in clouds so wet as to be almost tangible. The hikers in the valley below disappeared, never to reappear. Tryfan retreated under a ghostly veil, but not before one final burst of sunlight fought through the clouds.
We were left in a different world than the one just five minutes before: one that muffled footsteps and wrapped us in cocoons of silence and waterproof jackets. It’s a type of peace that can’t be found anywhere else - a peace not just found in childhood nostalgia, but found in the gentle knowledge that you belong in this place. You were always meant to wander in rolling hills, far away from the trappings of an adult life.
The mountain, this time, had defeated us. You would think it would be a wrench to leave such a place and return home, back to the daily grind. But we knew we were lucky, and another adventure would always be so close: just a drive down a winding road and a single, joyful jump over the back fence.