Posts Tagged With: backpacking

The Way of Saint Francis: Training Begins

I stopped for a quick photo this morning as Reg and I neared the top of the 500 foot climb behind our home.

With our upcoming Italian pilgrimage (The Way of Saint Francis) just around the corner, today seemed like a good day to reacquaint ourselves with our backpacks. If the weather cooperates, we should have a couple months to work out any kinks!

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Quit is not in this trekker’s vocabulary

What takes 13 pairs of shoes, 6,000 calories day, 252 days while losing 25 pounds?

Check this out.


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The sign on the trail firmly ordered us to stop. It seemed that the Forestry Commission was logging along the section of trail in front of us. We looked to our right where another sign politely insisted we take an alternate route; a diversion. With apologies for the inconvenience and a promise that the new route would “be just a slight bit longer,” it also warned of being “rather steep, slippery and uneven, so do be careful.” An orange arrow pointed us downhill. It was suggested that bicycle riders dismount. We looked at each other, rolled our eyes and began the descent.

The good news was that our diversion provided us with a great view of Loch Ness.

Steep? Yes it was. We dropped all the way down to the road, traveling parallel with the traffic before starting the climb back up from where we came. As you can see in the bottom left photo, Reg is just a blue speck as he makes his way back up to the trees that border The Great Glen Way.

So, one never knows where the road ahead will lead and diversions are inevitable. While we've decided to end our walking two days early and head for Inverness, we look forward to new adventures…on our diverted path.


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Wee bits we’ll remember


Tulips signal spring has arrived; Scottish pride on the flag pole and in a bottle; sheep are everywhere; a wet and slippery tunnel under the railroad.

An old cemetery on a family sheep farm; the clouds above are as beautiful as the landscape below; this cottage is dwarfed by the Munro behind; a simple Scottish breakfast; A piper greets us at Fort Augustus.




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Short walk – full day

The Great Glen Water Park is a beautiful spot for a self-catering holiday.

While Reg “went the extra mile” for us today, in search of lunch, I relaxed and admired the view from the restaurant patio of The Great Glen Water Park. I was promised a short day; just nine miles. No backtracking for me…my feet were not going to walk any more than that! Today was a beautiful warm day with barely a cloud in the sky and I had a pleasant spot to relax.

We didn't get the early start we had hoped for, but once we got going our day was beautiful.







We've seen some beautiful scenery since we set out from Fort William. Today's walk was a pleasant, flat path along the old railroad tracks. It took us through woods, alongside Loch Oich and into Fort Augustus for the night.




We rested our feet and backs while watching this chatty Lock Master do her job.








As we approached Kytra Lock, we had a front row seat where we saw just how the boats maneuver through the locks. Under the skilled hand of the Lock Master (this one was a woman) the water level rose and lifted the boat to the level of the canal. Once the water levels were even, the gates swung open and we all waved as the boat cruised through. Unfortunately this crew was headed in the opposite direction as us, so we were unable to hitch a ride!





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Back at sea level

We faced another wet day as we started our week-long trek towards Inverness along the Great Glen Way.

We said good-bye to Fort William Sunday morning as we continued on our trek through Scotland. We also said good-bye to some familiar faces. We've (proudly) been keeping pace with a group of college kids for the last few days. Sometimes passing them on the trail, but more often getting passed up by the foursome. Yesterday, they reached Fort William just before us and are now heading their separate ways.

A chance meeting at breakfast Sunday reunited us with Heather, our roommate from several days ago. She also has ongoing European travel plans before heading back to school for a graduate degree. It's exciting to hear what these young people are doing…things that we never would have considered when in our twenties. All are really nice kids who didn't seem to mind talking with us old folks!

So we wished them all well and set off on the next leg of our adventure, The Great Glen Way, along the Caledonian Canal towards Inverness. The waterway creates a shortcut for vessels, linking the east and west coasts of Scotland. Today we saw a parade of fishing vessels cruising through, as well as several pleasure boats. The rain eventually tapered off as we enjoyed a change of scenery and a very flat pathway.


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Robert Burns on the Highlands

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

--Robert Burns, 1759-1796


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One more thing…

…about yesterday. Hiking the last half of the banks of Loch Lomond was, without a doubt, the most physically exhausting thing I have done in decades! Decades! I don't think Reg made that clear enough to you all. We sat down for lunch, done in, and still had six miles to go! However, my wonderful husband upgraded our accommodations to a private room at the hostel, where I enjoyed ten hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Scenery like this keeps us moving forward. The challenges are well worth it!


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A treacherous trek along Loch Lomond

An idyllic view masked the challenge of walking the banks of Loch Lomond.

Sue was determined to conquer the banks of Loch Lomond!

We scored a private room at the youth hostel.

The banks of bonny Loch Lomond on the West Highland Way welcomed us Tuesday morning in Inversnaid, but when we rolled into our youth hostel in Crianlarich nine hours and 13 miles later, we felt like we had passed an enormous test. Over bulging roots, rocks, mud, steep stairs and bridges, we trudged. For the first five miles, virtually every step had to be measured. Neither of us has done such a trek. Our photos, I am afraid, do not capture the challenge.

It was a beautiful day, though, and a great pub meal, punctuated by some McEwens and merlot, made it seem worthwhile. The memory will improve with time.

After all, this is Scotland!


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The Bonny, Bonny Banks…

Despite the drizzle today, our 14 mile walk along the banks of Loch Lomand was beautiful. I can only imagine how spectacular it is in the sunshine! We climbed up and down along an ever-narrowing trail that at times seemed never ending.

We had the trail to ourselves much of the day. Little cottages dotted the trail and waterfalls were numerous.

Surprises met us around every corner.

We were rewarded with fields and hillsides of wild bluebells, several interesting bridges to cross and (my favorite sighting) a herd of wild goats.

Little did we know that our biggest reward of all was awaiting us at the end of the trail!


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