16 April 2013

milngavie to drymen

Our first day of walking!

It didn't take us long to realize just how beautiful our coming days would be as we began to pass through a countryside so varied and beautiful I lost count of the things I wanted to write about when we stopped for lunch at the six and three fourths miles mark.

The West Highland Way is marked by posts with a thistle symbol on it. How it warmed our hearts every time we saw it! Because the Way is made up of park trails, roads, and sometimes fields, it wasn’t always completely clear whether you were on it or not. However, whenever we saw one of those glorious posts, we knew we were alright.

We left around 8:00 and it began to rain at 10:00. The wind whipped between the hills and over the flat lands as we walked between fields and along stone walls. Without surrounding trees to soften it, our waterproof hoods got minds of their own and proceeded to go wherever they wanted. For a while only one half of our bodies were wet, but with the twisting trail and changing winds, we were soon wet through from all directions. There was no longer any pretending that we could keep any semblance of dryness as our jeans became waterlogged and our waterproofs began to let in water. So long as we kept walking, it was easy to stay warm.

Just as there were no worries about being cold, there were also no worries about turning back. Every turn that we followed opened up to us new beauties.

It finally stopped raining around 13:00 and our last two hours we walked through a wind which dried us off completely. If we were particularly lucky, the wind would be blowing in the direction we were walking and would pick us up and push us along. The last stretch however was along a raised road with the wind coming from the valley below and crossing against us. We were still able to go forward if we leaned into it, as Sonya here demonstrates…

…andI have a much greater appreciation for the old farewell which wishes the traveler the good fortune of always having the wind at their back. After having walked 13 miles since 8:00, we arrived at our hotel in Drymen at 15:00, muddy, tired, dry, and very happy.

Little did we know that we would be walking into quite a posh hotel. The valet gave us funny looks as we walked past him into the lobby to pick up our reservation. The receptionist kept his cool but for one slip up when he asked us whether we needed a valet ticket. We looked at each other under the brims of our sweaty hats, felt our feet, and thought about the huge packs on our backs, turned back to him, and said “no, we hadn’t any car.”

That night we began our after-walking routine which was foot and back rubs while reading Charles Dickens’ Little Dorret. A foot rub has never felt so wonderful before.

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