Thursday, June 5, 2014

West Highland Way Day 6 - Inveroran to Kingshouse

Camping along the Way.JPGA few days earlier we walked through an honest-to-goodness dedicated campsite where at least one person was settling down for the day. This morning, just a few minutes outside of Tyndrum central, we would pass this tent. I'm pretty sure no one was home (or they were asleep) as I didn't hear anything from it. For the most part you can camp pretty much anywhere you want as long as it's out of sight of people. There are some notable exceptions to this including a few kilometers by Ptarmigan Lodge where people abused the privilege despoiling the area with lots of trash.
West Highland Way Day 6 - Inveroran to Kingshouse I think these shorter days happen mostly due to the nature of the trip and where we can reasonably stop or start and have our bus service pick up or drop us off. This means that days 5 and 6 are both short days while day 8 will be the longest day of the trip. That's just the way it goes and though a 16 mile day will likely feel like a drag when it arrives I have no doubt everyone can do it especially if the weather forecast continues to improve as it suggests it may. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Day 6 would start out wet and it would stay rainy all day. The rain was a light one but persistent. While there was a breeze it was nowhere near as pushy as yesterday and I doubt it created much of a windchill. Air temperature was likely never more than 50F. All in all it seemed like it would be a better day than yesterday afternoon. Everyone had on waterproofs of their choice and as far as I know they worked as well or poorly as expected. For my part I managed to end up with quite soaked feet rather quickly. My Montrail shoes are definitely at the end of their life and combined with my ability to hit puddles I just got soaked feet fast. I still don't think switching to a waterproof boot makes sense as I always managed to soak them too though it took a bit longer (Mom has wetness in her fairly new Gortex-lined boots). I might have been happier wearing my Keen sandals perhaps with socks which would have still soaked but at least I'd not have had internal seas. We started the hiking just after 10:00. Collin, our bus driver today, gave us all something of a tour as we drove up towards Inveroran. He described some of the local mountains and the history around them much of which I can't now relate (maybe he'll tell us again today). I also learned a tiny bit of gaelic which I think will remain in my mind. "Inver," which you have seen used here often means river. So, "Invernes," is a place on the river Nes and Inversnaid is something located on the River Snaid (a hotel in this case as it was the Inversnaid Hotel). The term "kin" h means "head of" so kinlochleven is the head of Loch Leven which is where our hike will end tomorrow afternoon.
IMG_6029.JPGIMG 6029
We donned our waterproofs and packs and began our walk away from the Inveroran Hotel along a road that would quickly take us to another old Military Road. This road may have been built in the 1700s but it was improved in the early 1800s by civil engineer Thomas Telford who was responsible for quite a lot of road building in the Highlands. This road has a hard stony surface that was remarkably not too slick even though it was wet. Of course, the road was full of puddles along the edges (there are two not-quite-ruts on the sides where no doubt wheels of countless carriages rolled). Telford believed in keeping gradients down and providing a good surface for travel of both carriages and hooves so the roads he built apparently are a cut above many. We climbed slowly and steadily into the wide open spaces of Rannoch moor and when we let ourselves spread out it wasn't hard to get a sense of isolation as you moved along the road. Their is a rough stark beauty out here even under gray raining skies (with hints of a lightening now and then). Plants of numerous types provide an array of greens and in time heather will bloom purple and other plants no doubt will add their colors to the scene. For now the mosses of the boggy land predominate the floral scene. You keep walking passing by many small and somewhat larger streams that the old road spans with solid bridges. No jumping stones on this road. Water is not in short supply here. What is in short supply are sheltering trees. I think we passed by two copse over the 9 miles we hiked and we paused at both for quick breaks. No one wanted to linger over food or drink given the somewhat cruddy nature of the weather. It wasn't as bad as the day before but it did not invite one to dawdle.
IMG_6027.JPGI guess we're on the old drovers road. It's a bit unclear to me at this point. But what is clear is this is empty land. If you were to stray off the road, which in a white-out is certainly possible, you could be swallowed by the peat bogs and heather. Before even basic roads like this centuries old path came into existence (and some places didn't get much in the way of roads until the early 20th century) travel must have been quite a challenge indeed here in the Higlands.
By 14:20 we had left the military road, done the most dangerous part of the hike by crossing a high-speed trafficked paved road and within 20 minutes walked the path along the roadside to Kings House (sometimes "Kingshouse") hotel arriving around 14:40. The climbers bar, located at the back of what seems like a nice looking hotel, starts out a bit unprepossessing from the outside. But it's warm and cozy inside if a bit dim. Perhaps they have food there but all most everyone seemed to be having were drinks. We found the couple fellows from West Virginia settled in already and I bet they'd arrived well before we did as I'm sure they hike much more quickly than our group manages (we averaged about 2.8MPH today I believe). Having a hot chocolate was a nice way to end the day as we waited for Colllin to arrive and drive us back to our hotel. Too bad we had to step out into the chill rain to get on the bus. Stepping out of the lee of the building into the wind was a bit of a shock after having been inside for 45 minutes.
Aren't we a wet looking bunch here at Ba Bridge. The rain actually isn't that intense just persistent. I reckon I absorbed more water the day before on the descent to Inveroran hotel when the rain was heavier and the wind much stronger.

All 6 photos for this day can be viewed (at much greater size too) in this Flickr photo album.

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