Cascade River Camp

With a baby nipping at the toes leisurely camping trips which were once a welcomed chance for wifely peace and quiet home alone are now the mark of the man who not only abandons his wife and child for a night but does it at extreme distance and altitude. Thusly hiking and camping loiters on the list of weekend activities somewhere close to the bottom, just above nights out drinking with the boys. However, never say never so with some spanky new gear itching to be tested, a quick Friday night sojourn was planned and being lucky enough to also own a teenager I could enlist him as a partner in crime to aid my escape. After some musing with my NI-Wild chumleys we decided that the Cascade River (or Spinkwee River) would be an acceptable destination being easy to find in the dark, not a hard hike and most importantly, one of the many as yet unchecked spots on my camping dance card. As usual it would be a quickie Friday nighter leaving after work and aiming to be bum-on-sofa by lunch on Saturday in preparation for repaying my babyminding overdraft.

Cascade River / Lukes Mountain Route

Matt picked me up at 7ish and the car, as if guided by some sort of invisible force carried us to McDonalds on the Saintfield Road for a McMeal and all the sauce, UHT Milk and sugar we could carry. From there we blasted on under darkening skies to Meelmore Lodge where we donned gaiters and slipped off into the gloom. At the end of the lane it was already too dark to make our way unaided so we paused to rummage for headtorches. Some pre-match OS map perusal had led us to believe that the best route would be to follow the wall at the top of Meelmore Lodge Lane in a northeasterly direction where we should meet another wall leading east to our destination allowing an easy means of not getting lost in the Mournes in the middle of the night.

Having had a few weeks of reasonably dry weather the minor rivers and tributaries that run down from the mountains were easily crossed but the going was still slow and boggy as the Mourne Mountains usually are. The wall was large and simple to follow and it wasn’t long before a half wall half fence blocked our path and we knew we should be turning right. What seemed obvious from the warmth of the living room now seemed complex and we stopped and pondered whether this was a great idea. It was virgin territory for us and we didn’t know that the wall would ultimately be there the whole way, although it was marked on the map. None of us relished tramping around on the side of a mountain playing night orienteering and sometimes easy is best so instead of following the wall we hopped it and dropped into Tollymore where we knew we could trek the paths which would be easier but longer. Once into the forest we motored the waymarked trail and after 10 minutes we could hear the river in the distance. A short tear through a load of thorn bushes and a hop over a few streams and we spotted a light in the distance and hoped it was Fred our companion for the evening rather than a grumpy farmer wanting to know if we’d perhaps shortcutted (carefully) across his land.

Cascade River Campsite

With bags dropped we weren’t long in erecting our home for the night, Matts awesome orange The North Face Mountain 25, a tent suitable for 8,000m never mind 300m. Having munched en route there was no cooking to be done so we wrapped up warm, lit a firelog and settled down for a few beers and a bit of craic around the fire. The wind gradually rose but not to anything as dramatic as the forecast forecasted but ultimately when the rain came we scurried for shelter. Technically the tent is a 2 man and we were 2.5 but it was just about roomy enough and once we’d all managed to squeeze in and find somewhere to store our elbows and knees for the night it was comfy and warm. As usual I slept little and while a decent snooze would have been nice, it’s pleasant to lie and listen to the wind in the trees and rain drumming on the tent.

Come 8am we were awake and being quite tight in the tent didn’t hang around too long. Breakfast for Matt and I was porridge, not the nicest meal, I’d rather have something meaty but you can’t argue with the weight and calories while the .5 had a Wayfarers Sausage and Beans (easily the nicest meal I’ve EVER had Dad). With breakfast behind us and the sun shining in a clear blue sky retracing our steps home seemed a boring idea and we instead decided that up and over Lukes Mountain would be much more fun so bags were packed and off we set.

Lukes Mountain

The going was steep enough and between the lack of sleep and few beers around the fire it was quite a torturous ascent, at least for me and the boy. Matt and Fred disappeared into the distance leaving us huffing and puffing like a Weightwatchers class running for the train. With the summit in sight we paused for a well earned bar of chocolate, then skirted around to meet a path on the other side of the mountain which we chose not to take opting instead for the direct crow-flies route of straight down the mountainside. On the way we were treated to the awesome sight of the glacially eroded Pot of Legawherry immediately adding it to our list of must-camp places.

From here we parted company with Fred who was heading for the Brandy Pad and Glen River for a bus from Newcastle while we dropped straight off Lukes Mountain to meet the wall we had followed the night before which led us back to Meelmore Lodge and bacon and egg baps!

View from Lukes Mountain

The Cascade River will be on my list of easy access camping spots from now on. I’m guessing that in summer when the weather’s nice it would be a torturous spot with mutant midges hovering, patiently waiting for human blood but in the Mournes when it’s clement, where isn’t!

Gear Update:
I had the Jetboil Flash and Exped Synmat 7 UL with me for testing and although I did use them both, being such a brief trip I didn’t get enough of a feel to write a decent review so I’ll wait until I’ve been out again. I’ve a new Osprey Mutant 38 rucksack sitting at home forlornly waiting for an outing and a military DPM bivvy bag winging its way Northern Irelandwards – I’m hoping for a trip next week and I’ll do some more rigorous testing then.

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

One Response to Cascade River Camp

  1. whoRya says:

    That was a good wee read, thanks for posting. I fancy hitting that spot some time. Mind you there are lots of places I’d like to go and never see to manage it!

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