Wednesday, 8 October 2014

WHW Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

After sleeping the sleep of a thousand wintering bears and eating breakfast like the champions that we were, it was off on our bramble crawl to our next overnight, a far-flung 14 miles away.

 After crashing through miles of misty fields and bracken and a felled forest, we came upon the first real climb of the hike:

Conic hill, a rather formidable but easy climb up and over.  I loved how you could see the trail miles ahead; this was somehow comforting to know where we'd end up.  

It wasn't a bad hike at all, and we had a cold and windy lunch at the top that ensured we would eat really fast so we could get moving again as soon as our jaws would let us.  Ah, but the views from the top:

Fantastic.  Loch Lommond stretched out in front of us, along with more conical-shaped mountains stretching on the rest of the length of Scotland.  We would be walking the entire 30 mile length of the lake in the next couple of days.

The way back down the hill was slightly mad.  As soon as we turned the corner and started the descend, about a million day hikers appeared.  Lots of kids of various constitutions, plenty of whining and huffing and puffing from all ages.  Several pairs of church shoes.  This was not a small hike!  We had most assuredly stumbled upon Sunday amateur hour, and several people stopped me, and while gasping for breath asked, "how much the top?" pant pant pant.  I also saw a woman wearing Keds take a thudding fall on her ass in the scree.  I think I am turning into my grandfather; judging those who dare to take the trail unprepared and under-equipped.

It was lovely good hiking anyway, and once we hit the town of Balmaha, with its car park and snazzy visitors centre and awesome place called St Mocha to get tea and homemade cakes and notably adorable and aromatic pub, we were back to a quiet loch-side hike with few day trippers.

We most assuredly hit upon the posh Glaswegian weekend go-to spot.  

We debated hiring a boat to take us out to an island for a hike on the nature trails, but smartly thought better of it.  Our little tea and cake (oh, there was ice cream as well, and it was fantastic and homemade and SO GOOD) and laze around the visitor centre had cost us a bit of time, and we headed down the wooded lakeside trail.  

The mountains here are tall, but smooth and inviting.  Unless you are a super-hiker, each one would day a full day to go up and get back down, so you could really spend a lifetime doing just that.

The beaches were covered in brambles, so we got about 17 of our "5 a day" in that very afternoon.  It's natures way of telling us she's hospitable and kind.

Oh, and of course, since it is Scotland:

Highland Cattle.  Those beautiful emo hairstyles, the bear-like calves.  They are just docile and perfectly beastly things.  In the unlikely situation that someone had a gun to my head and told me I had to get a pet cow, I would instantly choose one of these.

As the Lake District had taught us- while lakeside walks can be very nice and pretty, sometimes the end of the lake never materializes and you are somehow on an infinite loop.    While the first 7 miles of hiking gave us a nice hill to look forward to, the second 7 seemed to go on forever.

You kept seeing the same mountains at the same angle for hours on end, and there wasn't really much going on as far as elevation gain.  Not that it wasn't a bad hike, but I could have seen skipping day 2 as well if you want more bang for your buck further up the trail.

The best part about this bit was that we had left the road behind us at Balmaha.  While you could see and occasionally hear the traffic all the way on the other side of the lake, it was blissfully road-free.

We finally reached our stop for the night:

The YHA at Rowardennan.  While it wasn't as posh as some of the YHAs in the Lake District, it was a former private hunting lodge that had been gutted and bunks installed, and plenty comfortable if you are a foot-weary hiker.  Which we were!  I was actually kind of alarmed at how after two days of relatively easy hiking, I was tired and achy.  Ah, the PMS and debilitating cramps weren't exactly  energizing me (I have GOT to stop planning long hard hikes on "that" week!) but I just didn't really feel too enthusiastic about my chances of finishing.

Oh, the views....while the clouds were a bit low and heavy, it caused me immeasurable pleasure to walk out of the cramped head-bruising bunk room to sit out on the lawn and gaze out at this:

Tomorrow:  more Loch-side trail action.

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