Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 4: Men in Skirts

September 11: I wrote this in my journal today, but I don't remember if it happened this morning, late at night, or it could have been something Karolina said during the day. I just thought it was amusing and wrote in my journal:

Karolinism: "The Big Saucepan in the Sky."

In context, I knew exactly what she was talking about--the Big Dipper--although I'm not sure how many of you would have guessed what it meant completely out of context had you read it in my journal. But for the rest of the trip, whenever I looked up at the stars on a clear night, I'd have to point out to Karolina, "Look! I can see the big saucepan in the sky!"

Non-native-English speakers are so much to talk to. =)

In any case, when we woke up in the morning, there was definitely no big saucepans in the sky because we woke up to fog. Most of it wasn't really fog per se, but hovered in a layer of clouds not even a hundred feet high, but it was definitely thick enough to block out any stars before sunrise. I expected to be drenched from condensation, but remarkably, I was quite dry.

Karolina tended to sleep in a bit later that I did, so I spent an hour or so reading my book and shaving with the lake water. I'd thought about swimming in Lake Lomond, but I threw that idea right out the window when I put my hand in the water and realized how incredibly cold that water really was. Yikes! But I would shave with that water....

Karolina eventually got motivated to wake up and break down camp. We weren't on the trail for two minutes when we reached a small, pretty beach on the lake. That beach had been our destination the previous day, and we camped a mere two minutes away from it. I had been certain it was a lot further away than that and mentally kicked myself for stopping where we did. It was a fine campsite, I suppose, but we'd have had a lot more room to spread out and this beach was easier to get to than the one we had camped at.

On the plus side, however, we were further ahead on the trail than I thought we were!

A bit later in the morning, we passed Rowchoish Bothy. Originally, that was going to be our destination for the night before, but we pulled back to the small beaches when we realized we'd be hard-pressed to make it to the bothy by dark. Then we pulled back to the tiny beach when we thought we couldn't make it to the small beaches by dark.

There was no real reason we had to stop at the bothy--it's essentially a shelter for hikers with four walls and a roof. No real floor to speak of, except dirt, although there was a small stage-like area that had a wooden floor. I wanted to stop there, however, just to see what it was like and maybe find a register to sign.

Inside was empty of people, but two people had camped in a tent behind the bothy. There was a musty smell in the building. Not a bad smell, but not a very pleasant one either. Perhaps it was mold. I found a register which I browsed through and signed, then handed it off to Karolina to browse and sign. We also found a roll of aluminum foil which I didn't think much of, but Karolina asked if that was the same stuff that I used to make the windscreen for my soda can stove.

Yes, I told her, and it turned out that she wanted to make a windscreen for her soda can stove.

"Yeah, we can do that!" Quite literally, we had everything we needed to make it--aluminum foil. Nothing else was required. We pulled off a small sheet from the roll, folded it in half, folded the edges down to help prevent accidental tears on the edges, then folded it up into her cookset. The entire process only took a couple of minutes. I rather liked the idea that we could make a windscreen while on the trail just from scavenging from this shelter. =)

But we couldn't spend the whole day there and continued the hike.

Our next stop was in the small, cute town of Inversnaid along the shores of Loch Lomond. We stopped here to get our passports stamped, get clean water, throw out our trash and rest. The hotel in town sold postcards, so I bought a bunch of those and wrote most of them during the break which I mailed as we walked out of town.

The next stop of note was Rob Roy's Cave, which was a few minutes off the trail. It's a cave! How could we knowingly pass so close to a cave without exploring it? So we did, but the trail that led off to it quickly ran into piles of rocks that had us scrambling and wondering if we had taken a wrong turn. When we found the cave, however, it was quite obvious since someone had spray-painted the word CAVE in giant letters just outside of it.

The cave itself wasn't much. It had two entrances and maybe had 20 feet of underground walking between them. I gave Karolina my keys--which included a small black light on the keyring--for spelunking. ("And don't you dare lose those!" I told her. "I need the keys for home, for my PO box, for everything!") I used my headlamp for the cave which produced considerably more light.

In the middle of the cave there was a very narrow crack that undoubtedly extended further back, but neither Karolina nor I were interested in trying to squeeze through. It was extremely narrow and there was probably a better than average chance I'd get stuck in it. In any case, it didn't look like it went back very far, so neither of us considered it worth further exploration. But for all we knew, it could have opened up into the grandest cave of all time!

I taught the word spelunking to Karolina, who then tried to work into conversations for the rest of our trip together. I think she likes learning big, English words, but it's hard to work a word like spelunking into most conversations without forcing it. She's amazing at using the word discombobulated, though! She'll sneak that into a conversation so subtly that you won't even notice! I told her that that was a $10 word and she wanted me to teach her more $10 words. I gave her $5 for spelunking, but only because it's awkward to work into most conversations naturally.

Karolina's entry in the Rowchoish Bothey.

The trail between Inversnaid and Inverarnan was among the roughest we'd seen so far. Well, technically, it wasn't as bad as the closed trail we followed or the route to Rob Roy's Cave, but neither of those were the "main" trail that everyone had to follow. This section we now followed was the main trail, however, and was the roughest of the main trail so far. Lots of little ups and down, rocks and roots on the trail and just slow going.

In Inverarnan, we stopped at a bar and restaurant to rest and eat, and Karolina asked the bartender if they had haggis. She didn't want a whole order, not sure if she'd even like it, but ultimately she was able to order a half order of haggis and a bit of whiskey. I ordered a hamburger with Coke.

When the food came out, Karolina let me take a bite of the haggis (I was curious myself!) and a taste of the whiskey (oh, kill me now!). The burger was pretty awful and I actually liked the haggis better! The whiskey was awful, but I never much cared for the taste of alcohol. It could have been the best quality whiskey money could buy and I'd still think it was terrible. But the haggis.... not so bad!

While we were there, I made use of the restrooms because, why not? One thing I had not counted on, however, was the motion sensitive lights that went out in the middle of my doing my business. If you've ever been caught with your pants down, sitting on a toilet, in pitch blackness, you know what it's like. For the rest of you, let me just say, it's a little disorienting.

I waved my hands around hoping the lights would turn on again, but the motion sensor isn't in the toilet--it's by the sinks. So I found myself stumbling around in the dark with my pants down, trying to remember how the toilet door locked (and thus unlocked) while feeling around it in the darkness. I finally got it unlocked and the door opened and I waved my hand around outside of it, hoping that nobody would chose this most inopportune moment to walk into the restroom. Nobody walked in, but the lights did finally turn on again, and I relocked the door and went about the rest of my business as promptly as possible. I wanted to finish before the lights went off again!

The rest of my restroom visit went smoothly and I finished before the lights went out again. With our tummies full, we headed back out on the trail. We still had more miles to do!

It wasn't long out of town that Karolina asked me about when I was going to wear my skirt. And I had to admit, now seemed as good as time as any so we stopped long enough for me to change my clothes.

I had gotten it in my head to hike part of the trail in a kilt because, hey! I was in Scotland! And I'd never hiked in a kilt before! Oh, sure, I've hiked naked, but in a kilt? Nope, that would be a new experience.

But one thing that made me take a step back from a kilt was when I started looking into prices and they're expensive! At least more expensive than I wanted to pay....

Which is when Amanda pulled out a plaid skirt which, if you squint really hard and don't really know much about the difference between a skirt and a kilt, could possibly be passed off as a kilt. It's actually not even a skirt, it's a skort. But it kind of looks like it could be a kilt.... And, more importantly, it was FREE! Because Amanda already had it!

So that's how I ended up with a skirt in my backpack. Amanda had told Karolina about it, which I was a little disappointed about since I thought it would have been a lot more fun to surprise Karolina with it. Wake up one morning with a skirt on and watch her eyes pop out in shock.

But, Amanda had spoiled the surprise, and Karolina thought it would be amusing to watch me hike in a skirt. And now did seem like a good time to do it. It wasn't cold, biting insects weren't flying around, it was late in the afternoon and the sun was low--less chance of sunburn on my delicate legs that hadn't seen the light of day for decades. And we likely wouldn't be passing a whole lot of people who'd be staring at a guy in a skirt so late in the afternoon.

So I took off my pants and put on my skirt. Karolina took a few photos of me (with both of our cameras) and I spent the next two hours hiking. In a skirt. I'd like to say that I was the talk of the trail, but as it turned out, we never saw another hiker for the rest of the day. I was sure we'd pass at least a few people who'd see me hiking in the skirt, but no, there was no one. Except Karolina, of course, but she didn't really count since she was hiking with me and knew about it before I even put it on.

The sheep in the fields kept running away whenever we approached along the trail, and I'd say something like, "What?! Surely you've seen a man in a kilt before!"

And Karolina would remind me that they're Scottish sheep--of course they'd seen men in kilts before, but because they're Scottish, they know what kilts really look like and knew I was really wearing a skirt. That would scare them!

She might have point....

View over Loch Lomond from the cute little town of Inversnaid.

We hiked very late into the day and actually set up camp shortly after sunset. Our goal for the day had been to reach Crianlarich, a town about a mile off the trail with the first real grocery story we'd seen in two days, but we were too late in the day by the time we reached the junction and wouldn't have been able to resupply until the morning.

I looked at my guidebooks for the next town with a grocery store and suddenly realized that there was another one, Tyndrum, about 6 miles ahead that also had a grocery store! Even better, the trail went right through the middle of the town! We wouldn't have to walk a mile off trail to get to it and another mile back to the trail. So we decided we had enough food to get through the night and the next morning and we'd just resupply in Tyndrum instead.

So ultimately, we set up camp at the junction for Crianlarich. There was a small campsite with fire ring already there, although the camp was trashed and behind it in the woods were littered with used toilet paper. As far as campsites go, it was a nice location, but its condition was awful.

"Hey!" I said, pointing upwards. "There's the Big Saucepan in the Sky!"

Long after darkness fell, we saw a couple of lights heading up the trail towards us. Karolina and I turned off our own headlamps not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. We weren't doing anything wrong or camping illegally, but there was no reason to draw attention to ourselves either.

As the two approached, we heard a woman singing. They reached a gate nearby and the singing stopped and they started talking to each other about nothing in particular and started walking down the trail into Crianlarich when they stopped suddenly and froze.

They were listening in the darkness and I was sure they had sensed our presence. Neither Karolina nor I had made any noise, but we were sitting out in plain view if they looked in the right direction, but somehow they had seen or heard something that put them on alert and were now trying to figure out what it was that put them on alert.

"Hello there!" I called out. I figured the sooner they knew what put them on alert the sooner they'd continue on. We talked for a minute or two about nothing in particular and they eventually continued on towards Crianlarich.

The rest of the night was uneventful. Karolina went to sleep, and I read a little bit before I then went to sleep as well.

I write postcards in Inversnaid. This postcard was sent to Alisa, Amanda's sister. =)
(Hello, Alisa!)

Dropping a bunch of postcards into a "letterbox" on our way out of town.

Karolina DARES to enter Rob Roy's Cave!

So do I, in fact!

The trail between Inversnaid and Inverarnan was some of the toughest that hikers of the West Highland Way would have to face.

Karolina takes a photo of mushrooms.

After she got out of my way, I took the same photo! =)

Karolina squeezes through a rock and a tree.

I told you about the Rowchoish Bothy because it was the first one we saw on the trail, but we also passed this bothy later in the afternoon: Douny Bothy. Which was more-or-less the same, except it had more of a floor to it.
Karolina's register entry in the Douny Bothy. I love the little drawings she makes!

Wildlife on the trail!
Obstacles on the trail!

Karolina climbs over a stile.

And she gets stuck in a kissing gate!

Toads hiking the West Highland Way!

Haggis and whiskey! You can't get more Scottish than that!

Oh, wait... yes... you can get more Scottish! ;o)

I know you ladies want to see more of me in a skirt, so here I'm climbing over a fence.

Here I stopped for a water break. Hey! It really is water! I couldn't stand that whiskey!

This tunnel under the railroad looks like it was built for sheep, not people!

More obstacles in the trail.... I blame the black sheep!

Some vandals apparently spray-painted this sheep! (Just kidding, I think they paint the sheep colors to mark them--nothing done by vandals!)

Sunset is fast approaching!
We'd set up camp by those trees off in the distance.


Dan said...

I made my own hiking kilt from this pattern:
(If the link doesn't work, google X-Kilt)

It was about $30, rather than the $100+ for the retail kilts, and it's very comfortable. My wife won't be seen with me in public with it, though...

Ryan said...

OMG! I'm TOTALLY going to make that for my next hike in Scotland! (Might be a few years, but I'll totally do it!)

Saving the document now! =)

Unknown said...

I'm really enjoying reading about this hike =)
It looks so pretty there.

And that sheep would like that song
"Black Sheep of the family"

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

So you say that the skirt was actually a skort, huh? I expect to NEVER hear another word about my skort again! :P

Ryan said...

Hey, now, Kristin! I'm still going to make fun of your skorts so long as you keep calling them skorts. Even I kept calling mine a skirt! Or a kilt! But a skort? Nope, I won't call it a skort... and neither should you! ;o)

-- Ryan

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

It is what it is, and it should be called what it is. SKORT!!!