The Long And Windy Road, Part 2.

Saturday, May 20, Dunkeld

Well, I hit send a bit before I was ready in the last update. Perhaps it was in the spirit of the soap box. Perhaps it was my need to share. Perhaps it was my clumsy fingers hitting the wrong key. 

But before I move on with the day, a couple things I neglected to enter earlier. 

While staying in Blair Atholl, I was at dinner at the pub, assuming I would be dinning solo. But I spotted a couple not wearing cotton, with the lean look of TGOC’rs. And they were. Gerry and Nicole (not a couple) are on their 6th crossing. Nicole is an Austrian living in Inverness saving lives and Gerry is a Brit saving souls. 

I opted for both. 

We had a great time talking, sharing travels and the love of TGOC. Nicole was bemoaning not running into more TGOC’rs and I agree. She said we are a day ahead of the hike and that might be part of it. 

One of the great things about this adventure is meeting others doing the same thing. But alas, things unfold as they do.

Earlier that day, Gordan (proprietor of the Blair Atholl B&B) mentioned there might be another TGOC’r staying there who was having equipment issues. I didn’t see him that night but at breakfast the next day, fumbling through my maps for that days’ hike, the guy sitting at the next table leaned over and introduced himself. Geoff, a Welsh man, is on his 8th crossing, having successfully finished six.  His last unfinished hike had him tumbling down a severe foot hill.

“You roll on three sides then hit the rucksack and fly for five or six feet. Roll, roll, roll, fly. Bloody inconvenient.” 

After breakfast he stopped by my room for a chat and we compared feet. What is stopping Geoff this time is his shoes, simply have disintegrated. Literally they are in pieces. I thought of taking a picture of his ankles to share, but don’t want to put you off venison. 

Alright, back to today.

The walk was really pleasant with the exception of the constant rain. The good news is I have totally gotten use to eating in the rain. These blue/violet flowers were in bloom along my walk, and I cannot remember a more beautiful bloom to see.The last two miles, into Dunkeld, were covered in these flowers. It was raining and the path along the River Tay, was like something out of a Disney movie. Dark, moody, musky, quiet, primordial. 

I arrived in Dunkeld six hours after leaving Pitlochry to the Atholl Arms Hotel, several. Hundred years old. I fit right in. 

21 km 322 m


The Long And Winding Road.

Today was a lovely walk with the exception of constant rain. Every once and a while, it would let up to a light drizzle.

Pylons were set up for the next day along the high street.  

The town of Pitlochry was preparing for a huge bicycle rally tomorrow and cones and bikes were everywhere. 

I paid for my B&B and if you will permit me, I’d like to stand on a soapbox and complain. The couple who owned the B&B were very nice but seemed to think that the cost of credit card processing should be passed on to the holder of the card and not them. I look at it as a cost of doing business. The restaurant I ordered a pizza from the night before didn’t complain about the cost, they absorbed it. And so did every other place in Scotland I’ve used my card. Build the cost into your business model, but don’t make it my problem. Plus, and this is what really hurts, they were concerned about letting me eat Chinese food in their B&B dining room for fear of odors. How can anyone not like Chinese food? I ended up eating it on the sidewalk. Alright, that is my only complaint for the trip.

“We’re half way their, livin’ on a prayer.”

(Update from Pitlochry)

Wednesday May 17, to Blair Atholl

Thank you Jon Bon Won Ton Von Jovi.

In days, the hike is half over, if you can believe it. I haven’t added up the miles but it is close as well. My back, sadly is killing me. The legs, I believe, could walk forever. But the back, not so much. Mr. Ed is in fine spirits. 

The weather is getting better. It’s a warm day and looks like there might be no rain. The day in and day out of walking, carrying a pack and feeling my back slowly give in, is weighing on me. As is hair loss.(Leaving Blair Atholl)(Typical for the day).I knew they had blue skies here. 

I arrived in Blair Atholl and found my B&B. Down the road was a great way house with this display below in their dinning room.

The B&B is owned by Gordan and his wife, Lin. As it turns out (and I never knew this), Scotland is a hotbed for curling. Gordan’ father, grandfather and great grandfather all curled. And Gordan and Lin are the proud parents of a son and daughter who play in the Olympics, representing the UK.  Eve Muirhead I believe has been to two Olympic Games, is the captain, and her brother is off to Seoul in 2018. 

I thought it might be fun to take one of their curling stones as a souvenir, but at an average of 40 pounds, thought that might be a bit much to add to my pack. Well, that and the thought of being arrested. 

The day, 26k 460m

One Foot in Front of the Other.

(Update from Pitlochry)

Tuesday, May 16, to Kinloch Rannoch

Another gray day, with a bit of drizzle but not bad. Had breakfast at the hotel and then hit the road around 08:45.

I was out of town (really, absolutely just a train station with an eight room hotel) a few miles when I hear a car coming up behind me and not looking back raise a pole to say hello and croak my presence. I hear the car slow down, pull up beside me and see it is Scott, the owner of the hotel, holding my sport coat. “Thought you might need this.” He said. Not to look like a complete idiot I told him it was an elaborate test to see how observant the hotel was and they had passsed with flying colors. He smiled, called me a twit under his breath, and drove off. 

The weather held most of the day and the road was pleasant and windy, dipping down to Loch. Rannoch.

As I was arriving at my hotel, hours later, it started to pour one more time. No need to walk into any establishment and look like anything but a beleaguered refuge from a Gortex convention. 

Up to my room to dry off and wash clothes. Lunch in the lobby and with no TGOC’rs around, I figured dinner would be on my own. Only five minutes later Russ and his two Dutch traveling companions X (haven’t caught his name yet) and his 20s something son Melvin showed along with Peter (a Canuck, who works in oil and gas around the world). Peter had the year before canoed out of the attic circle with three friends, covering several hundred miles in two weeks. They saw it all, had a ball and ate freeze-dried food for two weeks. The canoes were the blow up kind, screwball keel, but they did the trick. But freeze-dried food for two weeks? (Peter, X & Russ).

To bed early, like most nights.

26k hike 200m climb

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

(Update from Pitlochry, Thursday, May 18)

Ronnach Station, Sunday, May 14

In short, it didn’t. Most of the day was one outburst of rain after another. 

But first an update on sad news I forgot to mention. While watching Eddie drive away to the Clachan Inn, up walked Dot and Doug. Only Doug was dragging and Dot had on the big pack. The day before, Doug being the protective husband he is, cautioned Dorothy to be careful on a particularily slippery part of the trail. Only to moments later, take a big tumble himself. 

Doug banged up his knee somehitng fierce. In his description of it, I was reminded of an Easter ham. They had only another mile to hike to their hotel and were going to ice the knee and determine in the morning. If they could go on. 

The other sad thing is, I killed a frog. Not my intention, but he didn’t croak his presence. So  I stepped on him (unintentionally) and croaked him. Had he croaked, he wouldn’t have croaked. 

Let this be a cautionary tale, let people know you are there. In line at the store, online at home or lining up for an important meeting. The world responds to those who croak.

Anyhow, the day started out gray, cold and raining, but a light one. And with no sleep, I was already one of the walking dead. 

I left for this day with Owen, from Dundee, who worked in medical research. A great guy who’s accent was so thick, I only nodded and said yes or no, dependent what I thought was appropriate. Oh, and Owen was the leader of the snoring band last night. But I can’t hold that against him. I tried, it didn’t work.Owen, Randy to hit the road.

(Again, let me interrupt this narrative with where I am right now. A pub in Pitlochry, with a fiddle/bagpipe playing guy and a woman playing saxaphone, doing Gaelic music. Beyond this in the next room, on television, is a darts competition with thousands of people at the stadium watching. One guy playing is the size of a Buick with a pink Mohawk. It couldn’t be any better.)

We set out down a working track toward the moor. It was three or four miles on the track until it stopped and the only way ahead was across the moor.  It was four or five miles which meant it would be hours. Crossing, there really wasn’t a true path, just a suggestion to follow the power lines. It is tough hiking but I enjoy it the most.

We made it through the moor/bog/wet spot and walked on a forest track, which was pleasant and led us into Ronnach Station.The guy above was enjoying dinner across the from hotel, as was I.  All in all, 19k with 394m climb. 

More later. Too exhausted to think.

Don’t Like the Weather? Wait ten minutes.

Margaret, David and I broke camp and were on the road by 07:30. Parked not far from us was Dot and Doug, still in their tent, recovering from the night. 

We hiked on may 4-5 klics (kilometers for those who don’t watch James Bond) to the new bridge, which crosses a small river, ahead of the old bridge which was taken down. 

This is the river, although no photo of the bridge, which was maybe six feet wide, made out of 2X12s. Across the bridge it was bush whacking through the bog to find the connection from the old bridge to the track. Yes, a bit mucky.

Okay let me just interrupt from the sequential entries to say that as I mentioned before I am in Kinlosch Ronnach, two days ahead for what i am writing about. But where I am, they have been playing Frank Sinatra and right now he is singing “God Bless America.” You gotta love that. And the playlist is interspersed now and then with American Christmas songs

Today is 26k with 500km climbs. And the weather up until noon has been constant rain.

The bridge crosses this (above).

Margaret and David ahead of me (of course).Ended up stepping into a bog up to my knees and this is my reward. 

Stop for a little energy. Hard to see but it is pouring rain. But not too cold. 

A pause to reflect (on what I have no idea).

Margaret and David, carried on and I met up with them at the trail head for the West Highland way, an old drovers road from 1803. Just at the gate was Eddie Nelson, from the outskirts of Glasgow. Eddie used to hike quite regularly 35 miles through the hills. He gave up cycling when he turned 80. Now he makes sandwiches, tea and biscuits out of his own pocket to raise money to stop the spread of polio. “Bill Gates, matches whatever I raise!”Bill is just finishing packing up his vehicle. “It’s got to me fun, whatever you do, and I throughly enjoy this.”

He was off to finish at the oldest way house in Scotland, where a load of hikers and bikers were going through. Needless to say, a very cool guy.

Entrance to the West Highland Way.

As I called this entry, if you don’t like the weather just wait, is true. This day–and I do not exaggerate–cycled from sun filled skies to pouring rain 20 times. Often within ten minutes. 

After several clmbs, and a great decent I made it to the Kingshouse bunkhouse. Hot shower, clean sheets and good commeraderie of the other TGOC’rs there. Ready for a good nights sleep, I was in a room with three others. And, well, they all snored. It was like a Phillip Glass concert, or something Spike Jones would invent (and now, “Ode to a Disturbing Noise). I did the best I could. Which wasn’t much.