Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

Today was another long difficult day. It had rained overnight, so everything was dripping and although the rain had stopped, there was a Scotch mist which required rain gear. My boots were still very wet on the inside.

Below: Can you see those 2 girls through the mist? I followed them for quite awhile until they stopped at a memorial bench overlooking the loch.

There were quite a few of these guys on the path.

You can tell by all the moss that we're in a rainforest.

Sometimes there was a bridge over a burn.

Sometimes fording was necessary.
And sometimes the burn was also the path.
There are probably hundreds of waterfalls on this east side of Loch Lomond, water draining off Ben Lomond. Good thing because the loch is a major water supply for the cities of Central Scotland. Up to 100 million gallons may be taken from it daily! Good thing there's an abundant rainfall.
The loch itself is 35 km long and 8 km at its widest point. The WHW follows the eastern shore for 32 km.
It's hard to capture the feeling of all these cascades, since the camera freezes the motion of the tumbling water and we can't hear the roar of the falls. Some of them start very far up the mountainside and it's impossible to photograph such height. 
Eventually I arrived at Inversnaid where there is a hotel with picnic tables out front and a dock where tourists can get on a boat for a tour of the loch. I had a quick picnic of celery and cucumber with hummous, then continued northward. I took some photos here, but they mysteriously disappeared. There was one picture of a Trossachs Search and Rescue vehicle that I was going to joke about, hoping I wouldn't need its services.
After Inversnaid the going got much tougher: a tortuous journey over rocks, tree roots, streams and muddy morasses up alongside Loch Lomond, occasionally weaving away, up and over humps.
This was one of the tricky spots, climbing up here: had to dangle my pole over my wrist and use both hands to pull myself up.

Same here, up this tree root.
This was a very steep ladder.

All along there were these giant boulders that had fallen down the mountainside both into and beside the loch who knows how many years ago. 

Even on a misty day, the loch was very beautiful! Peaceful!

It was along this stretch of difficult trail that I met a Scottish couple, about my age, coming the other way and we stopped to rest chat. They have been walking the West Highland Way each year for 15 years, in both directions. Their preferred direction is north to south, but there is no luggage transfer service in that direction, so they were carrying everything on their backs, although they had planned stops at an Inn or B & B each night.
At this point I was beginning to think that the cuckoo bird I'd been hearing since Day 1 when I thought it was quaint-sounding was actually giving me a message. The thought of making this trek 15 years in a row just sounded like torture to me!
It was also along this stretch that I met these feral goats.
Eventually the trail descended back down to loch level at this beach, where, at 400 metres wide the loch is at its narrowest. That small island out there is Island I Vow.

From here the trail bends inland across a welcome grassy open section for about a kilometer and a half. I paused to take a last look at Loch Lomond. Southwards you can see Island I Vow now off in the distance.
This view is westward. That town on the other side is Ardlui. More feral goats are living the good life.
The trail descends to this bothy at Doune where some Scots were trying to cut some wood for a fire later that night. They kindly showed me through the bothy, which is a free very basic shelter shared by walkers. First come, first served. There are wooden sleeping platforms all around the walls where weary trekkers can throw their sleeping bags. Nothing else. The guys let me take their picture before I left.
They passed me on the trail a little later on, on their way to grab a pint and some dinner in Inverarnan. Then I saw them again when I got to Beinglas Farm.
The descent into Inverarnan was very rocky. I was carefully picking my way down past some sheep who were eyeing me suspiciously when I heard a noise behind me. I immediately thought it was an irate ewe, upset that I was too close to her lamb, but no. It was a man. Running!! I don't know how he didn't sprain an ankle! Apparently there are people who run the West Highland Way*. I shouted at him that he was putting me to shame and he shouted back that he was VERY tired! Then he was gone and my hand hadn't even reached my pocket to get the camera out.
There were still a few miles to go, so I continued on and was very glad an hour and a half later at 4:15 when I reached Beinglas Farm.
I had the end unit on the left.
and very comfortable it was - lots of room to spread out.
with windows back and front and the coffee/tea making tray.

Here is the view from my front window. I had to carry my suitcase across the gravel parking lot from that shed on the right (and will have to take it back there in the morning). You can see a nice patio and inside there's a bar/restaurant and a small shop for supplies. My Scottish friends from the bothy are under the umbrella.

This is what it looked like in the afternoon......

This is what it looked like in the morning. Lots of people walking the WHW are campers.

Beinglas Farm caters to all kinds of travellers. Besides people like me who prefer their creature comforts and the back-to-nature people in tents are those who "camp" in modern bothys and structures like these called wigwams. Beinglas Farm has both.

Tonight for dinner I had a jug of water, a huge salad and Scottish salmon - always good and very welcome at the end of another long day. Tomorrow, a shorter day to Tyndrum.
*West Highland Way Race: Established in 1986: Essentially the object of the West Highland Way Race is simple.
You start at Milngavie Railway Station (7miles north of Glasgow) at 1am on Saturday 22nd June 2013 & run/jog/walk to Fort William Leisure Centre by noon on the Sunday 23rd June 2013, 35 hours to cover 95 miles including 14,760ft of ascent.
Along the way you pass through checkpoints within time limits. In order to participate you must have your own motorised backup, consisting of at least two people, one of which must be capable of covering the last two sections with you (or find you) if assistance is required or during the hours of darkness. Terry Conway (2012 - 15:39:15) & Lucy Colquhoun (2007 - 17:16:20) hold the course records.
Go to Day 1
Go to Day 2
Go to Day 4