Friday, May 11, 2012

Made it to Dublin

We've made it to Dublin. Tina and Matthew get here tonight. We're going to have dinner and visit. Tomorrow we're going to County Cork to do some sightseeing and sample some Irish whiskey's.

We went to the Guinness tour. We ate a surprisingly delicious lunch there and got our free drink at the Gravity Bar. It does have an amazing view of Dublin - of course it's hard to see it when it's so cloudy.

Looking forward to being back in a city. Should be fun!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 7....the end is NEAR!

Day 7, our last day, was to be 14 miles long and the weather forecast was calling for rain about 3p. Thus, we decided to get an early start - leaving the hotel at 8a. I had to get up early and skip breakfast. =(

We hit the trail at 8:12a ready to kick some WHW butt! It's a good thing the guidebook didn't say you'd start immediately into a 350 meter ascent or we probably would have taken a taxi. After some moaning, groaning, and body creaking we did make it to the top and we got to see some beautiful views of Kinlochleven below.

The trail today followed an old military road. It was great to have the wide path but the rocks were the size of footballs which is quite difficult to walk on. The scenery didn't change much along the way today. We mostly walked through one long, open valley with mountains on each side.

The wind blew hard on day 7 and it was cold - probably in the 40s without the wind chill. The threat of rain loomed on us further as we walked and the skies grew darker. You could tell we all wanted to be to Fort William. About 3 miles from the end we started to get some sprinkles on us. Thankfully it never rained - just a light mist in the air.

The last mile of the trail was all paved. We actually had to walk by our hotel - the Nevis Bank Inn - to get to the official end of the West Highland Way. We made it there about 3 in the afternoon. We were all very tired at this point so we got the quick obligatory picture and headed to the pub for a celebratory pint.

On our way back to the hotel my uncle called. He had just checked in and was ready for a drink. We met him at the hotel bar and visited for a while. It's nice to have new blood and somebody to tell our stories to.

We all had dinner at the hotel. It was the first non-pub food we've had in a week and it was delicious! Oh, and the showers at this hotel are amazing. Thank you for small miracles!

My uncle, Eric, and I all decided to have a drink in town after dinner. We met two Germans, a guy from Paris, and a girl from the French West Indies. We had all completed the walk so we shared some good stories. We also got some good recommendations for places to visit in Europe. Hamburg continues to come up high on everybody's list.

I have to say this walk was much harder than I ever expected it to be. I thought it was just going to be a walk but you definitely needed some hiking skills and physical fitness. I had an amazing time and I would recommend it to anybody and everybody who is able. I couldn't have enjoyed my time with Eric, Cathy, and Jeff more. We make great travel companions!

I'm looking forward to the next stage of our journey. Can't wait to see Tina and meet Matthew. This trip is awesome!!

Day 6...back at it

After a much needed day of rest we're refreshed and ready to face the WHW again! We stayed at Kingshouse Hotel tonight. It's quite old and the age shows, but it has a good bar and doesn't that truly matter?!?!?

For about the 6th day in a row I've had the "full Scottish" breakfast - fried egg, bacon, sausage, broiled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, toast, and juice. It technically comes with black pudding but I've opted out on that front. The breakfast is quite delicious but it's also quite heavy. I've justified it by saying I needed the strength for the walk. I'm also going to walk 96 miles and gain 5 pounds. =)

We left at 9:32am and only made it a few feet from the Kingshouse before it started to sleet/snow. This is not a good sign. It continued to do that for about 30 minutes before letting up.

We're all a little nervous about today. The walk is only 9 miles but we have to climb the"Devil's Staircase"- a 550 meter ascent which is supposed to reward us with great views. It's the tallest ascent of the WHW.

We made it all the way to the top only stopping for water a few times. We saw a group of mountain bikers pushing their bikes up the staircase. They were going to ride down the other side. I've seen the shape of these thank you on the bike riding for me. Anyway, now that we've all climbed this we're convinced our next challenge will have to be Kilimanjaro. Who's in??

The second half of the day was just about the easiest of the whole walk for me. It was a gradual descent down the back of the mountain into Kinlochleven. It took us about 2.5 hours with stunning views along the whole walk. It was awesome to have a shorter day.

In Kinlochleven we stayed at the MacDonald Hotel. The innkeeper was the nicest innkeeper we've had to date. She had lived for 14 years in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She also really knew her whiskies so she helped us try something new. Jeff really liked his Edradour. It's Scotland's smallest distillery.

On a random side note, we need Scotland to figure out showers. We've had very few good showers since we got here. Most have been a trickle at best with very little ability to control between hot and cold. Is that too much to ask?!?! Hoping for better when we get to Fort William

Sunday, May 6, 2012


We're about to be 5/7th of the way through our walk...about to be. 19 miles looms ahead large! Yesterday was tough, Eric's cold is worse, and my feet issues are not getting better. The thought of 19 miles is not appealing. As if we were being looked out for we awoke to sleet and snow. Thank you, Lord!! We decided to forego our walk today and instead explore the village (Tyndrum) and the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

In all fairness we were conflicted about not walking. We had come all this way. What would people at home think? Would they judge us? Would we care? In the end we talked to enough other people who had skipped sections, we examined how we were feeling, and we felt justified. In retrospect it was the right decision! One day off put us back in fighting condition - both mental and physical - and left us ready for day 6.

After a delicious breakfast at Glengarry House B&B Jeff did decide to walk on his own. He set out in the sleet and snow questioning his decision. Within an hour the weather cleared and Jeff was glad he had gone.

Eric, Cathy, and I walked along the road into the village. We shopped for an hour at The Green Welly Stop and made time for tea while we were there. Somehow Cathy managed to pick up gifts for about 8 people while we were there. Eric and I managed to buy a couple things...for ourselves. =)

We caught the bus...thank you even rural Scotland for having a regular bus route...(why can we barely make this happen in the city's in the US??) and headed to Bridge of Orchy Hotel. We had a 4 hour layover there to get a stamp and have lunch before heading on to Kingshouse Hotel. Thanks to the hotel for having free wifi. It's become a precious commodity out here.

We waited our four hours and then headed to the bus stop. We stood there about 10 minutes before seeing the bus heading our way. Wait, wait, wait why isn't the bus stopping? There it goes!! Apparently the hotel is not an "official" stop...uhm, it's on the brochure...and the bus wont stop unless you flag it down. WTF?!?!? Eric and Cathy were kind enough to "Morillo" me as if this was my fault for not knowing (Morillo is where Eric Morey and Cathy Carillo jointly judge you). Now we're stuck in the middle of nowhere with no clear way to get to Kingshouse. We had the hotel phone a taxi who told us they'd be there in 'about' 30 minutes.

Over 60 minutes later the taxi still wasn't there but we had met some nice German's and were having beers with them. We had actually seen them several times on the trail but had never shared more than a polite hello. It's amazing how much friendlier people get as you approach the end of the Way.

Eventually the taxi showed - the Germans judged them harshly for not being efficiently ontime - and we headed the 15 minutes down the road to the Kingshouse (in operation since the 1600s). Jeff had been there 2-3 hours at that point. We all decided to get adventurous for dinner. Jeff and I can honestly say we have no need to try "haggis with neeps and tatties" ever again. Feel free to look that one up.

Tried myself a Glenfarclas 15 tonight. It was quite delicious. We're all refreshed and looking forward to the walk tomorrow!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Scotland or NW Missouri? The weather here changes quickly! We had 80s and hot yesterday. This morning it's cold and windy. We were all more tired last night than we realized so we got a later start - 9:15a for our walk from Inverarnan to Tyndrum. Everybody we meet has commented on how much harder this is than they were expecting. Cathy bought herself some walking poles to help.

Loch Lomond is behind us now. We all commented on how well the trail has done to mix up a variety of terrain/scenery in a very short amount of time. Today was really all about seeing big mountains but we walked through farms, open prairie, forests, marshes, etc.

The winds today were brutal! It was a head wind and it made the walking hard and cold! My rain jacket does a good job blocking the wind. I barely took my gloves off all day. About halfway through the day we took a side trip to Crianlarich for Cathy to get a stamp in her book (keeps track of where you've been on the Way). While we were there we stopped for soup. Turns out "veg broth" soup = vegetable barley soup.

By the afternoon we were all cold and a little crabby. We were ready to be to our B&B and out of the wind. Cathy has officially decided we're not walking across Scotland we're climbing across Scotland. She's right!! We stopped about 2 miles out for a spot of tea where we met a father/son walking the Way. Cathy asked them what they thought and she was elated when the son told her he thought it was hard - even more elated later when she learned he had recently hiked kilimanjaro!

Eric and Jeff decided to stay behind tonight rather than go to dinner. Eric is nursing his cold and Jeff wasn't hungry...even for dessert!! Cathy and I stepped into the pub and it was packed - no empty tables. Thank goodness we had met that father/son because they let us sit with them. We had a few hours of good chat over a few pints before heading back to the B&B. Thank you Andy and Simon Gerrard for the hospitality!!

Day 3...sore

Day 3 we walked from Rowardennan to Inverarnan. The walk was 14 miles and supposedly the hardest of the whole way so we decided to get an early start. We left the Rowardennan Hotel (nice place, btw) at 8:20a.

The walk from Rowardennan to Inversnaid was the easy-ish half of the day. At Inversnaid there was a ferry (aka water bus) to Inverarnan if you so chose. The second half of the day was to be extremely difficult so Cathy decided the ferry was her route. She was already here with three so what's one more? =) Cathy rode the ferry with some friendly pensioners (retirees) and several other walkers who had heard horror stories of the second half of the day. She became friends with a lovely Swiss girl.

The walk today was beside Loch Lomond the entire time. It can definitely be classified as "waterfall day". There was a new, beautiful waterfall every few feet. It was awesome! It's one of those things, though, where you start to see so many they become less impressive. It's sad but true. In addition to the waterfalls, today was the first day we saw wild mountain sheep. I didn't realize they'd all have horns. They're clearly used to people because they don't run away.

The trail today was a mix of paths, rough paths, and what can barely be described as trails. At one point we scaled a rock wall. It was incredibly difficult at points to say the least. We did get to see Rob Roy's cave. It wasn't a cave so much as a collection of boulders on the edge of a lake.

Around 5p Eric, Jeff, and I arrived at Beinglas Farm. As we walked up from behind we saw Cathy walking up the front path. With such perfect timing we decided to all enjoy a pint on the sunny veranda. Did I mention it got up into the 80s today? We were all sweating!

Beinglas Farm looks a little rough - its not so much a farm as a campsite and a collection of cabins. It only looks ok but it turns out to be the nicest accommodation to date. We absolutely loved it!

In good news my blisters aren't getting worse nor is Eric's cold. In not so good news my rash is.

Day 2

Today we're walking from Drymen to Rowardennan. No, you cannot pronounce that and even if you tried you're probably wrong. We have decided we do not speak the same English the Scottish do.

We got started this morning at 8:55am. It looks like it's gonna be a nice day. We've decided to take a break every hour to give our feet a rest. We start out in a pine forest. There are a lot of trees cut down. We're told there was a strong storm and many of them fell down. We heard a lot of cuckoo birds in the forest. I don't think I've ever heard those at home. The forest is really dense in places. Eric has committed to being a "forest ninja" in case there are bandits in the woods.

After we came out of the forest we walked through a working sheep farm. Lambs everywhere! In front of us loomed our first ascent - Conic Hill - the boundary point between highlands and lowlands. It's known as the great divide. They may call it "Conic Hill" but it appears to be a mountain to us! The 358 meters to the top of Conic Hill was a challenge. This was really the first place the trail was less than ideal. There were lots of rocks and it was wet. Walking poles would have been nice.

About 3/4 of the way up Conic Hill we met Fiona and Tressa. They will henceforth be known as British Romy and Michelle. They were a hoot! They were ill-prepared and not enjoying the climb. We passed them and after about 5 minutes we heard them calling after us - "help", "may day", etc. Haha!

The view from Conic Hill was phenomenal! It was so overwhelming you couldn't take it all in. This was our first really good look at Loch Lomond (britain's largest fresh body of water). It's huge!

After Conic Hill we had lunch and then started walking again. The trail deteriorated and we did a lot of tough up and down climbs. Turns out descent is harder than ascent. Cathy busted out her first "fuck damn shit" indicating this is much harder than we anticipated. That is officially our mantra. At some point along the way we met a random stranger. Cathy asked him what he thought so far. She was looking for an answer like "harder than I thought" but he answered "beautiful". I think she killed him with her eyes.

By the end of the day we made it to the hotel. Dustin officially has a blister on each small toe and Eric has a cold. Looking forward to a good night of sleep...after a couple pints (pronounced pin-ts) in the pub of course!