First peak of the day out of Kinlochleven bagged
Long-distance hiking has a way of bringing one’s flaws and weaknesses right to the forefront repeatedly. Which is at first frustrating, but then becomes an opportunity. When you can see your shortcomings glaring at you, you can work on them.
Much in life has an abbreviated counterpart on a trail. Like a condensed life. There’s a beginning, middle and end. There are rewards all along and also pain, hardship, suffering, uncertainty. People come and people go. You find yourself in situations you had no idea were possible. There is kindess, a few “arseholes”, strategies and plans that need to be revised. But maybe the best is finding out that all over the world are wonderful people willing to smile, help, be connected along the way.
This morning leaving the lodging in Kinlochleven, the lady at reception asked where I was staying in Fort William. When I told her where, she made a face and wouldn’t elaborate. A little worried, I decided that whatever awaited it was going to be fine as long as there was some running water, a mattress, and a basically safe place to sleep. It couldn’t be worse than many of the dorm hostels I’ve stayed in on other hikes.
Today out of Kinlochleven was about an hour of incline, but none of it really problematic. There were points early in the day that were scenic, then a long slog through lumbered landscape, so hours among razed tree stumps and stubble, then the majestic Ben Nevis mountain and another long slog along a very busy road.
Yet two more sets of people told me they’d been using me as their “pacer”. I had no idea my backside was so popular.
I stopped to eat my brown-paper-bag lunch at a ruin of a bothy, went around back to “offload some fluids”, and in the process looked up to find a ram standing there 4 feet away looking at me. I was mistakenly thinking he’d behave like a goat, try to eat my clothes, and that I’d have to keep pushing him off of me if I wanted to eat lunch, but he did none of that and waited patiently for a few pieces of apple to be tossed at his feet. Then a ewe and her lamb came by but evidently decided I was too scary to get that close to. Sheep are much more polite than goats.
At another bothy ruin there was a couple, the man of which was wearing a tam o’ shanter and had a beautiful Scottish accent. We exchanged pleasantries and when I said that from a distance I’d hoped this building was a nice place to get coffee, he said it was his house and that he was going to fix it up. My bullshit meter dinged, and for the rest of the hike when we leapfrogged, his fixing up this ruin was a little running joke. Fun. But pretty much everyone on the trail today was fun and most said they were glad to be finishing.
Having a good level of fitness is really helpful. Taping your feet when you first feel pinchy points and then preventatively each morning helps. A hiking pole is useful for stability on the trickier downhills too. My thanks to Dr. Lauro for the Cortisone injection that made carrying a pack possible, and my thanks to Adam Brown for the fitness and safety training that have made all the difference. And, as always, thanks to husband Tom for staffing the Adventure-Gone-Wrong Hotline and checking on and feeding that little ingrate Louie-the-Cat.
Mountain bikers perfectly willing to mow down hikers….
Coming into the town center of Fort William at the “Sore Feet Statue” there is a corner pub called the Glen Nevis where many trail friends were having beers, some of whom are climbing Ben Nevis tomorrow. It was a happy reunion with congratulations all around, although this was such a short hike compared to the 35-day ones that I’ve done that I felt a little undeserving.
And I’m pleased to announce that the Bank Street Lodge in Fort William is fine. Kind of old-seedy-flophouse-ish in the public areas with twisty halls that have both up and down runs of stairs within the same hall, but the staff is lovely (a cheery, kind woman who gave me my key back on return from dinner: “There you are, my darling. Here’s your key”), the room basic but perfectly adequate. I showered and Norman Bates didn’t show up. And so far there seem to be lots of families from all over the world newly checking into the surrounding rooms instead of noises such as might be expected with rent-by-the-hour places. Great WiFi in the rooms. And A block off High Street.
Fort William town-center
I checked out the gym on the way in (but am considering having a “nice lie-in”, as they say here, instead), talked with the Scotrail people about the train tomorrow, did laundry in the room, and had a meh-and-terribly-overpriced dinner at Cafe Mango after stopping in at a pub and finding it too “pubby”, if that makes any sense. Judging from the looking going on, I’d say that a woman walking about on her own is an oddity here as well, but so far no problems.
View from room
So here is the end of the West Highland Way. Do it if you can! And there’s more good news: The Great Glen Way starts here in Fort William and goes up to Inverness. A next hike in Scotland is definitely on the radar – the John Muir coast-to-coast or the newer route to St. Andrews perhaps…..
The official end of the West Highland Way in Centre Town Fort William
Off to Glasgow-Stirling tomorrow and then on to Edinburgh the day after. Be there or be square.