West Highland Way: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain

September 3, 2015:
WHW_6-1090962eAfter spending a night in the lap of luxury at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, we are recharged and ready to tackle the challenges today has to offer.

WHW_6-1090958eWe cross the 18th century Bridge of Orchy and find some of the tent campers still waking up, including the group from Holland.  Wild camping is quite economical but the downside is the extra weight of carrying a tent and camping gear. Upside is extra money to spend on food and drinks at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel bar next door.

WHW_6-1090978eThe high point of this section, Mam Carriage, is marked with a cairn. A cairn is a human-made pile (or stack) of stones often used as trail markers or burial monuments. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn (plural càirn). ~Wikipedia

WHW_6-1090987eThank you to Wolfgang, a musician from Switzerland, for taking this photo for us.

WHW_6-1090994eIt feels eerily remote and I’m reminded of the Love Rock Story.

WHW_6-1090992eJoan adds a dash of color as she poses by the lone tree cairn.

WHW_6-1100017eBuilt in 1708, the Inveroran Hotel could also be named The Last Chance as this is the last opportunity for a stop before crossing the dreaded Rannoch Moor, the remotest and wildest section of the whole Way, according to Charlie Loram in his West Highland Way guidebook.

For the next ten miles we will have no escape from the elements should the weather become inclement. What have we gotten ourselves into?

WHW_6-1100013eVintage photo of the Inveroran Hotel and beautiful flowers brighten the views as we sip our hot coffee, hoping it charges our spirits for the next ten miles.

WHW_6-1100089eMichael, the Irishman, takes a moment to drink in the view. (Maybe along with some Irish coffee?!)

WHW_6-1100091eThe open feel of the terrain reminds me of South Dakota as you drive west from our home along the Minnesota/South Dakota border. The guidebooks give a warning of this awful section, but it reminds me of home and I’m especially enjoying the hike today.

WHW_6-1090976eThis boggy moorland measures 50 square miles and caused major difficulties to builders of roads and railways. When the West Highland Line was built across Rannoch Moor, its builders had to float the tracks on a mattress of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes.  ~Wikipedia

So, don’t step too far off of the path as you may sink into the bog.

WHW_6-1100113eSnack break along the bridge before we tackle the last stretch for today. Thankful for good weather…it could be rainy, windy and cold. Lucky us!

WHW_6-1100127eLodging tonight is within a couple of miles and the quiet gal that didn’t want to stay in the haunted room at Drovers Inn briskly walks by me. I haven’t gotten her life’s story yet so I pick up the pace to get the full scoop:  From Taiwan, assistant professor at a university in Taiwan.

Can’t talk… wrong turn back at Bridge of Orchy and got lost.  Must get to Kinlochleven by tonight. 

She seems a little stressed and understandably so. It’s about 3:30 p.m. and she must hike another 12-13 miles through Kings House and over the challenging Devil’s Staircase before arriving in Kinlochleven. Scary thing is that she will likely be alone since most people will not be walking this leg until morning. Yikes! Hope she has a torch.

WHW_6-1100143eTwelve miles completed today and our home tonight is in a hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort.

WHW_6-1100137eCozy quarters tonight, but we have a space heater and a coffee pot for the morning brew of instant coffee. We now know from previous experience which water bottles can handle the heat of boiling water.

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Plus, locally brewed beer is available in the ski lodge.

Atlas Nimbus Blonde  and Red McGregor brewed by Orkney Brewery. Scelpt Lug dark ale brewed by Oban Bay Brewery

Cheers to another great day!

Below is the video of our hike from Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain:

Thank you to Charlie Roth for his beautiful rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme from his Tartan Cactus Heart album. For more information on this talented gem of the Minnesota prairie go to charlierothmusiccom.

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West Highland Way: Rowardennan to Drovers Inn

August 31, 2015WHW_Day3-1090515e

A nice, bright morning to start our day as we leave Rowardennan Youth Hostel. Great breakfast, friendly hikers and slept like a rock, so all is right with the world.

westhighlandway3-mapToday we plan on hiking 14 miles from Rowardennan to Drovers Inn located at Inverarnan.

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The arrow reminds us of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.WHW_Day3-1090544e

Quick snapshot of the WHW Gang.  We always look forward to seeing Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan due to their friendly smiles and fun trail banter covering a wide range of topics. The two on the left carrying heavy camping gear started at the West Highland Way trail beginning sign in Milngavie at the same time as us, so we often see them as they pass us, they stop for breaks so we catch up and pass them and so on…

WHW_Day3-1090557eLove locks bridge meets Scotland… One of the tent campers we frequently greet is on the other side doing deep knee bends with her heavy pack on.  Now that’s impressive!

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We find a picnic table in front of the Inversnaid Hotel and pull our lunch out. I mix powdered peanut butter with water, spread on bread and we have sandwiches and top the meal off with energy bars for dessert. Easy peasy…

Public bathrooms were torn down the year before, but the hotel is very gracious to hikers and allow us to use their facilities and fill our water bottles.

We see two hikers with backpacks going up the hill from the Inversnaid Hotel parking lot and assume this is our path, too.  After hiking up the hill and around the bend, Randy comments that there haven’t been any trail markers and something just doesn’t seem right. Back down we go and, sure enough, the missed trail marker is on the other side of the parking lot. Extra credit of about one mile.WHW_Day3-1090585e

This section of the trail is described in the book, Walking in Scotland:  “The path twists and turns around large boulders and tree roots, a good test of balance and agility.”  They weren’t kidding…WHW_Day3-1090549e

We cross stream after stream when we aren’t scrambling rocks and it seems to take forever to leave Loch Lomond. There are wild ferrel goats in this section that elude us today, but we do hear the loudspeaker from a boat cruise as it comes in close to view Rob Roy’s cave since this is where the famous outlaw allegedly held his captives.

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We are still hiking well into the evening and darkness is inevitable.  We didn’t plan to be hiking this late, but the path has been extremely slow going. This would be particularly challenging in the dark and we didn’t bring any flashlights/torches. (Just a cell phone flashlight). Note to self: Always bring a head torch when hiking even if you think you won’t need it.

We finally get to the Beinglas Farm campground and the little bit of daylight left immediately vanishes and we are enveloped in darkness with our lodging located just over the bridge.  We cross the bridge only to find a massive gate has locked us out. The gate automatically closes off the bridge at night, but has malfunctioned and closed earlier at 9:00 p.m. Great… guess we’ll just sleep on the bridge. The video below has a short clip of a man opening the bridge gate and you can see how dark it really is. The campground authorities are notified and the gate is opened. Yay! It’s 9:30 and we are tired, hungry and ready to have this day completed.

We stroll up to Drovers Inn and notice familiar faces peering out of the bar window. Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan come rushing out with excited relief that we are not lost in the woods. The ghost of Drovers’ Inn must have played tricks with my camera as I thought I was turning the video on and was actually turning it off.  Thus, the clip is short, but you can hear Mandy exclaiming about how worried they were. To say we were touched by their concern is an understatement. Thank you for the legendary welcome to Drovers Inn!

Song credit:  The Henry Girls digital download purchased from Amazon. The Henry Girls are three immensely talented sisters from Donegal, Ireland. Check them out at thehenrygirls.com and discover their soothing harmonies and instrumental talents. Thank you to Charlie Roth for bringing their talents to my attention.

Now, what’s all this fuss about ghosts?