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  • Monday, October 20, 2014

    The Start of The West Highland Way

    This is Ben Nevis in the morning fog on my way to start the West Highland Way.
    First opened in 1980, this 95-mile trail is the first and most popular long distance footpath in Scotland. Somehow I always find myself doing the trails backwards, so I never meet anyone else going my way.
    I had no idea until seeing this "white blaze," that the West Highland Way joined the International Appalachian Trail in 2010.

    Imagine this being your yard, walking out of your front door every day to distant views with no neighbors or development of any kind in sight.

    Also imagine running out toilet paper or pouring a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch then realizing you have no milk. 

    This is the top of what is called The Devil's Staircase, the highest point on the West Highland Way at 1,850 feet.

     It was actually nice to be on easy trail for a few days. And best of all, it's all well-maintained, well-marked, hard-packed trail with no bogs or going days with wet feet. A nice change of pace after the Cape Wrath Trail.

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    Bothy Amenities

    Bothies are shelters in the mountains of Scotland, usually old farm laborer homes, which are used today as mountain refuges for anyone who needs them. They are generally simple stone cabins with four walls, a roof, a platform for sleeping, a few chairs, table, and most importantly, a fireplace. They are all great for getting warm, drying clothes, and living out your Walden Pond dreams.

    Some of them surprise you though. One had a flushable toilet, and if you can't get excited about that then you haven't spent weeks sleeping in a tent. One even had electricity and electric tea kettle. This one had my favorite unexpected amenity, a tuned guitar and nobody around to hear me play.

    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    The Blurry Line Between Comfort and Discomfort

    I know this bothy doesn't look like much, but when I stepped inside, its metal roof turned the sound of the rain into a source of comfort rather than discomfort

    My feet were soaked from the many creek crossings, but the bothy had plenty of firewood stacked up next to a fireplace. By morning, the fire had dried out my clothes, but I woke up with the sound of rain still pattering the metal roof, so I went back to sleep. I wasn't going to leave the comfort of that bothy until it stopped. It didn't stop until 4 PM.

    So I took the day off. The next morning's forecast had a much better outlook.
    Still gray, but without rain, I finally headed toward Fort William passing first beneath the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This was made famous in the Harry Potter movies when the students are being shipped off to Hogwarts by train.

    But that isn't the Hogwarts Express.
    I met some fellow Americans at the Glenfinnan Monument. Everyone says American's don't travel abroad, but I meet as many Americans as any other nationality outside Britain. Or maybe I just notice their accents more.

    They looked at me like I was crazy. It was easily the coldest morning so far on this trip. "And you actually enjoy walking in this all day?" she said with the look of someone whose picnic was just ruined by the weather. "I enjoy it a lot more than sitting in a cubicle all day," I said. That's absolutely true, but admittedly I was also cold. In fact, I had just decided it might be time to buy one more layer of clothing.

    But a few hours later, it became one of the warmest days in weeks. It all comes down to the clouds really. Their sporadic nature determines if I'm going to be cold, warm, wet, dry, miserable...

    ...or in awe. It's hard to stay mad at them for too long.