Breakfast in Rowardennan introduces me to a lovely French woman and her daughter as well as an older German couple. These two groups have been crossing paths with me since the beginning of my own journey, and it is nice to finally meet them, get to know their names, and a learn a bit about them.
One of the great things about these walking Holidays are the people from around the world you encounter along the way, no matter how briefly. It will be the last time I see the French women, and so I wish them a safe journey as we all get our rain gear ready. The morning drizzle doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon.
The days are starting to blend together, all that really matters to me now is when the sun rises vs. when it will set, and can I reach my next destination before the sun disappears over the western horizon. I love living each day in such a structure, just as all mankind did centuries ago.
The gnarled tree trunk roots and moss covered boulders have increased one thousand fold from the prior’s day walk along Loch Lomond, and the rain that fell last night has made the trail extremely treacherous. Today’s walk will be all about patience, focusing intently on each forward step. One can not lose focus for a single second, lest injury will rise up and bite you.
The forest is eerily quiet, with the loch shores softly lapping up against the shoreline being the only sound. All the woodland creatures must be silently watching me pass by. I feel their eyes on me, yet I welcome their prescence. I find a sandy spot for lunch, under the protection of the trees from the falling rain.
I come to a beaut of a hotel about eight miles in, and mistakeningly think I’ve reached my destination. I realize that this is the hotel my French ladies are staying at, but my journey is only at the halfway point. I slog onward, finding my boots covered in mud as I trek forward. This is easily the hardest day for me along the West highland Way.
I can see what I believe to be the end of Loch Lomond ahead of me, but at this point I’m on hands and knees scrambling over boulders and climbing ladders trying to finish this part of the trail. It is taking everything left in the tank. I come to the edge of the Loch and a smile crosses my face as I think my night’s accommodation must be close.
But wrong I am. I start to climb upward, away from Loch Lomond and into the Highlands themselves. My first view is one that I’ll never, ever forget.
The dwellings I see in front of me though are remnants of the past. I trek onward into a lush fern grove that covers the hillsides. I spot a wild ram in the forage, which renews my energy. I slowly push upward as I start to climb deeper into the highlands.
My whole body is in pain, and doubt starts to creep into my mind about whether I can finish this leg, let alone the rest of the route. I’ve no doubt I need to do some major first aid on my feet tonight.
The trail never seems to end, climbing up and over one craic after another, all semblance of life seemingly has vanished.
Yet just when I am about to quit, a final descent finds me walking along a creek, over a bridge, and into the campground known as Beinglas Farm.
This area is mostly for those walkers that are tent camping their way along the trail. These people inspire me, as I check into my cabin, one of only a few to be found out here.
The pub is warm and inviting, and the homemade lasagna lifts my spirits. I hobble from the pub back to my bed, and work on bandaging up my pathetic feet.
The journey continues in the morning. I hope a restful night’s sleep will fare me well.