Hiking the West Highland Way, part 2

This is part of a series. For the rest of the series, click on the links below.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Day 2 – Monday, 14 miles

We woke up in a slightly damp tent – there was no rain, only condensation and we were still trying to figure out our tent.

This was a gorgeous day – we traipsed through pastures with cows and sheep grazing. We found some wild raspberries and ate them, hoping they wouldn’t come back to haunt us. We were still in more residential areas and walked on a paved road during this time.

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This made me so happy

The most difficult part about this day was hiking Conic Hill – it was pretty steep and my feet weren’t used to hiking long distances at all.

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At the summit of Conic Hill – most people dropped off their backpacks and hiked up the summit since it was a little out of the way; I just dropped myself off and Austin hiked to the summit while I slept with the sheep

After napping on Conic Hill, we got on our way and made the descent back into another town right next to the Loch Lomond region.

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Someone was playing the bagpipes in this forest. OF COURSE someone was playing bagpipes.

The weather was GREAT this day, and honestly, I’m glad it was because my feet were throbbing by the time we made it to camp at Cashel Campsite. We slept on/off for the next 10 hours, trying to get energy for the upcoming days.

Side note: camping laws in Scotland are pretty liberal, but as I mentioned yesterday there are areas where it’s more restricted. The Loch Lomond region happens to be one of these more camping-restricted areas, so we only were able to be in designated campgrounds.

Day 3 – Tuesday, 19 miles

This was the day things started getting TOUGH. We were determined to get out of the Loch Lomond region as fast as possible and so we hiked on hyperdrive. We met a hiker from Wales who was on a tight schedule, so he hung out with us for a couple of hours.

Hiking in the lake/loch region meant crossing a lot of streams and rivers – at first it was fun scrambling up and down rocks, but after crossing the 25th stream you start wondering if you actually died and went to hell and this was your eternal fate.

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Austin has been active all his life, whereas I had learned how to run that summer and was still getting used to this whole “go hard until you die” sort of thing. At one point, Austin, the human Energizer Bunny, offered to carry my backpack so I could get a break but we could keep walking. I was stubborn at first, but eventually let him so we could go faster.

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Austin carrying both our backpacks

It started raining this day, too. Most people had bought covers for their backpacks, but we were cheap/late adapters and tried to use our ponchos to cover ourselves and the backpacks and looked like turtles. We bought a cover because the wind kept blowing the ponchos up.

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After turtling our way through 19 miles, we were tired of being amphibious (i.e. wet and cold), so we stopped at a campsite called Beinglas (pronounced “Ben-glass”) past Inverarnan. We set up our tent and made our way to a warm, cozy pub that was a part of the campsite. There we gorged ourselves on potato soup and haggis and stayed inside until it was absolutely time to go to bed.

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Look at that gorgeous scenery! LOOK AT IT!!!

I wish I could say that we slept well, but honestly, we’re lucky we slept at all. We were kept awake for two hours by some extremely drunk hikers in the tent next to us, who were loudly talking, singing, and eventually barfing. Sweet dreams!

Day 4 – Wednesday, 13 miles

Those 19 miles weren’t good to me. My feet had recovered every night and I was always raring to go the next day, but due to a poor night’s sleep and doing 19 miles, my feet rebelled. They weren’t just crying out in agony; they were going through an angry emo phase and had organized their own Rage Against the Machine cover band.

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Don’t be fooled by the excited expression – I’m dying here

I broke down. It was muddy, it was rainy, it was cold and my feet were wet. I think it was the wet feet that really did me in. I just started crying and Austin, sweet problem-solver that he is, wanted to stop and talk about it. But I was afraid that if I stopped I would never start again, so I just kept sobbing as we walked.

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See this beautiful stone wall? Yep – started sobbing uncontrollably around here

I was finally realizing what we had gotten ourselves into. I had done some camping like this before, but it was for such a short period of time and there was always home nearby, even if it was a few hours’ drive away. Besides, I was from a desert – our biggest problem was getting enough water, not getting drowned in it.

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We met a few locals going in the opposite direction of us. They would smile at us, we’d say “Hi there,” and they’d say, “Horrible weather,” and we’d continue on our way. I was convinced that if the LOCALS were complaining about the weather, then okay, maybe I’m not being so dramatic.

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Austin holding our grocery bag of food

Eventually we made it to Tyndrum. Because tears are an effective method of persuasion in this family, Austin decided that maybe it would be okay if we spent some extra money to stay in one of those microlodges and dry off for the night. I even took a shower!

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See that sweet sheep on the far right? Started pissing as soon as we took out the camera.

Drying off revived my spirits and prepared me for some more beastly parts of the trail – I’ll tell you about those tomorrow, though.

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