Sunday, June 8, 2014

5/29/14 Day 133 Loch Lomand and The West Highland Way

Yesterday we attempted to hitchhike North from Edinburgh all the way to Skye, but we couldn't even get out of the city, we stood in the pouring rain for 90 minutes before we decided this plan probably was going to end in failure. So we considered our options, wrote up an emergency couch request for Glasgow and amazingly enough David came to our rescue as a host. We hopped on the next CityLink and were having pasta with him in his flat in Glasgow just a few hours later. He has done a lot of bike touring and is as into camping and outdoor gear as we are. We had a fantastic evening and he even set us up with all the knowledge and maps we could need to head out on our adventure for the next few days on the West Highland Way trail. We separated two bags of excess weight clothing to store at David's for a few days to keep our bags at a long distance walking weight. 

We woke up at 7:00 in order to be ready for the 9:00 bus that would drop us off at Drymen, fifty minutes and 4 pounds 30 pence later and we were walking through the small village of Drymen. We found the entrance to the West Highland Way and began to follow the path and way markers. The complete trail stretches 96 miles between Glasgow and Ben Nevis which stands at 1,344 meters, it is the largest Munro (mountain over 1,000 meters) in Scotland. The portion that we are walking is the southern beginning and wraps it's way around the East side of Loch Lomond for 40+ miles. 

We follow the thistle painted way-markers through miles of bluebell filled hills. Walking in and out of sheep territory we carefully close each sheep gate behind us, after all, sheep worrying is a crime. It is a pity that people are not more careful letting their dogs off leash, many sheep are killed each year by uncontrolled dogs, and uncontrolled dogs are occasionally killed by angry farmers. It is as simple as keeping a leash on your domesticated wild animal.

By the time we had walked roughly 19 miles we were beyond ready for some relaxation. We stopped at a great location for the tent on a pebbly stretch of beach and pulled out the map while still deciding if we wanted to walk on. After a minute or two we realized how many tiny little bugs had started to surround us, I began to pick them off of Kevin's face but before we knew it there were more and more. Finally we've been confronted by the midges we have heard so much about. Forget about this place we will find another place to camp. Midges are tiny, the size of a gnat, so even waving your hand is enough air to knock them off balance, you just can't stand still or they will cover you in little bites like mosquitoes. We were lucky enough to find this small meadow overhang, directly over the beach with just enough of a breeze to deter the midges, with optimal speed we set up the tent and escaped from their nibbles. 

Our subconscious thoughts were puzzled in the morning by small tapping noises on the rainfly, must be raining. Opening our eyes to realize their are clouds of midges buzzing around the outside of our tent menacingly. We jump out of the tent creating as much confusing and aggravating wind disturbance as possible to get rid of them and we are on our way in no time. 

The last stretch was easily walked crossing over the small stream at the head of Loch Lomond and into Inveroran around 16:00. After hiking the 30+ miles of the West Highland Way we were ready to head back to the city. We managed to hitchhike the 50 miles back to David's place in Glasgow with ease and enjoy another dinner with him and his other couch surfers before heading to our next host. 

The thistle shaped waymerker

Bluebells everywhere
Our first glimpse of Loch Lomond

Such an awful sight to wake up to, our midge barrier rain-fly

This poor deer got stuck on the inside of this pen, and paced a trail in an attempt to find an escape

Path improvements
Hiking shelters along the path, complete with pretty much everything you could need

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