Day 6 – Friday, 8 miles
The midges came out again this morning, resulting in an early departure. Austin and I ate breakfast on the way, eating bananas and peanut butter and some more digestives cookies. Those double chocolate cookies were amazing.
We hiked The Devil’s Staircase, which was about as steep as Conic Hill, but at a higher elevation. So what did we do? You guessed it! Austin carried my backpack while I wussed it up that hill burden-free.
Honestly, this day was a lot more chill – we hiked 8 miles and happened upon Kinlochleven sooner than we expected, so we set up camp and wandered around the town eating fish and chips.
Day 7 – Saturday, 14 miles
By the time we finished the final leg, we had figured some things out: how to hike in the rain while staying happy, and how to evade midges. Both have the same solution: keep moving always.
Continuing to move proved somewhat difficult when we wanted to eat lunch. We’d take off our backpacks and suddenly the midges started gathering, even when we were all smidged up. So we would take out some naan bread, dip it in hummus, and run up and down the trail while shoving the bread into our mouths.
It’s kind of funny how low your standards get when you hike daily like this. I developed really gross habits. I kept forgetting to use deodorant because we were always in a rush in the morning. I was doing a nifty snot rocket when an old man came hiking by, patted my shoulder kindly and placed a small package of Kleenex into my hand as he passed by. This old man was just beasting it on the trail and no matter how fast we walked, we never passed him.
There was an ultramarathon going on while we were hiking. Austin was rehashing the plot of The Godfather movies to me when this guy suddenly called, “ON YOUR LEFT!” and we jumped aside right before he charged down the trail. We saw a lot of runners the rest of the time we were on the trail.
The mountain trail ended about 2 miles before the West Highland Way did. There were two options: go and hike Ben Nevis, the local large mountain, or continue onto Fort William. I was in no mood for summiting mountains, so Fort William it was.
We walked on a sidewalk into town, looking and smelling out of place. We finally made it to the end, where sits a statue of an old is massaging his foot, signifying the end of the Way. We ran into our old man again, and he took a picture of us and joked around with us.
For the next two nights we holed up in a hostel that was owned by a guy named Cliff. Cliff was a real character – he was in his early 60’s, had a young baby girl who he took hiking on Ben Nevis on Christmas Day, and couldn’t even take public transit because he was so claustrophobic. I took a much-needed shower and we just stayed off our feet as long as we liked, only taking breaks to walk down to the local corner store to get more Digestives.
Hiking the West Highland Way was my first real foray into more intense outdoor activities. I loved it and I hated it. Austin and I still speak fondly of our time doing this, because honestly, it was amazing. It wasn’t always fun camping, I hated smelling myself, and my feet hurt. But I’m also so proud of myself for going, even as an amateur, because it opened up mountains of possibilities for me, pun completely intended.