Monday, June 11, 2012

Scotland Part Two ~ Milngavie to Balmaha

My second day in Scotland saw sunny weather and what would be an amazing start to an even more amazing week.  I woke up early so that Davie could take me to the train station at the nearby suburb of Glasgow, Milngavie (pronounced mull-Guy).  We found the train station easily as Davie had scoped out the area a week or so before.  I met the guys from AMS-Outdoors who would be toting my baggage around the countryside in their van and they said to me after I introduced myself, "Oh, you're the one who's running it, aren't you?"  Well, I sure was going to try.

Milngavie pedestrian zone
Me at the start!
Obelisk marking the start of the Way in Milngavie
Table with treats, coffee, and tea and "Honor Box" for money.
There's actually a race that does the entire 100 miles of the West Highland Way all in one shot, and I have given some thought to this, and pledged to do so again after doing the route as a stage undertaking.  More on this later, especially Day 4.

After seeing my bag off, Davie and I proceeded through the pedestrian area of the old High Street of Milngavie, and at the entrance took a couple of photos with the obelisk and the official start of the Way.  A fellow at the start area said that I should stop by the visitor shop to sign the register, so I obliged.  Little did I know that this "visitor shop" was a poorly disguised ploy to take more of my money in the form of pins, patches, and trinkets with the official logo of the Way on them.  Davie stood neatly off in a corner and kept his mouth shut.  I did give the old fellow in the shop a few pounds for a kind-of cool little booklet that I could get stamped along the Way at certain official "stops" (i.e.:  vendors who had paid the fee to be the holder of the official "stamp" in that particular town) but thought, 8 pounds is just pocket-change when you're on vacation (ten American bucks) and it might make a kind of neat momento.  Sheesh, I am a sucker.

So after my slight detour, I was off and running.  Well, walking the first couple of miles, because Davie went with me, and he doesn't run.  But I'm glad he was there because I was so excited, I probably would have sprinted the first couple of miles and winded myself or pulled a hamstring.  We chatted along the way, did a little bird watching, and I tried to keep my mind off the gravity of the fact that I was going to run 20 miles per day for 5 days through unknown countryside and landscapes.  

We reached the 2 mile mark and Davie said, "Right, then.  You're off.  Good luck!  See you in a few days."  And then I was trotting comfortably down the path looking at the countryside and trying not to trip because I was so distracted by everything around me.

Countryside headed north out of Milngavie.
Typical marker along the West Highland Way.

The first day went really smoothly, and after looking retrospectively at my times and mileages over the course of the week, it was the fastest pace of the 5 days.  But that's pretty understandable considering it was the stage with the least amount of elevation gain and I was so freaking excited.  

Highlights of the day included meeting a woman who was riding her white horse along the Way and chatting with her for a few minutes.  I opened the gates for her when she wanted to exit into a nearby paddock.  Also, there was a woman sitting up on a large stone wall (an old train abutment) with her two border collies looking down on me (she didn't want to let go of them, and we laughed that if she did they would probably run the rest of the Way with me).  

There were lots of people walking their very well-behaved dogs, and each time I came up from behind they would smartly put their dogs on the leash (not that they needed to be leashed, because they were so obedient).  At one point early in the day, I came across a table with coffee, tea, and scones set out and an "honor box" for you to put money in if you took anything from the table.  I came across another Honor Box with cokes, water, and cookies and later in the day, in retrospect, realized that I should have taken something from the box.
Me, running through the countryside, not believing this is real.
Woman on the white horse rides toward the whiskey distillery.
Gorse bush near Drymen (very sharp prickers!)
 Since this was rolling farmland that I was moving through for the majority of the day, there were several dozen gates that I had to open and close to get through one farm and into the next.  Each gate was double, with a small "breezeway" in between, almost as if the logic was that if one got left open, the other would hopefully be closed...  I got a little tired of opening and closing gates, and hoped that it would not be like this for the entire 100 miles.

It was getting a bit hot around mid-day and as I crossed near the town of Drymen (pronounced Druh-man) I took out the map and looked at the next section and found that it crossed through the Queen Elizabeth Forest.  Oh, how nice would it be to walk through a nice old-growth forest for a couple of miles in the heat of the day?  Little did I know that when I reached said forest, it was a logging operation and no shade was to be found.  Plenty of signs telling you to watch out for heavy machinery and not climb on the lumber stacks, though.  Hrumph.

Late in the day with the sun high in the sky and the large climb of the day, Conic Hill, looming in front of me (it really wasn't that big, but I think it looked gigantic because of the expanse of flatness all around in all directions), I found myself out of water.  Hmm.  Apparently in the logging area I had sucked down my water faster than I had anticipated.   I looked longingly at a nearby stream as I crossed it, but thought better of drinking untreated water in sheep country.  I rallied up the hill (probably about 800 ft elevation gain and only about a mile and a half to the pass) and rallied further up to the peak about 10 minutes more to take in the 360 degree views.  Strangely, there was a couple playing cards on the peak (weird).  To each their own.

Old stone wall with Conic Hill in the distance.
This is about the point where I ran out of water.
Views from atop Conic Hill.
Me ~ top of Conic Hill.
View of Loch Lomond below, from top of Conic Hill.
I skipped down the front side of the hill, down stone staircase-type steps that had been laboriously built into the trail, passing several dozen other hikers moving in both directions (the Hill is also a popular day hike from the opposite direction) and thought I couldn't get to the visitor center at the bottom of the hill fast enough to fill my water bottles and get a long gulp of cold water, which is exactly what I did.  The rangers in the visitor center looked at me as if I was a bit of an oddball (rightly so) and I thanked them for the water (from the bathroom tap).

I proceeded across the street to find my B&B (well, I guess I could have waited 10 more minutes to get that drink of water, but I was desperate!) got checked into my room, with my bag waiting for me in the hallway and took a nice, long shower (after figuring out how to work the hot water/shower system), drank some coffee, took a nap, went to the small attached grocery store to buy a few goodies for the upcoming days (cheese, chocolate, and an extra water bottle so I wouldn't run into similar circumstances in days to come) and had fish and chips at the attached pub/restaurant.  

Delightful!  I retired to bed early with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate, and watched a bit of TV in anticipation of a difficult Day 2 on the trail.  Little did I know.

Totals on the day:  19.5 miles, 5hr 20 min (including stoppage time).

To be continued...
Me ~ thirsty but happy, near the top of Conic Hill.
Continue to Part Three here.


  1. A great bedtime story! I read it aloud to Schmabbs while she made her lunch for tomorrow. Great pictures and beautiful countryside!
    Love ya, S.

  2. Larry & Mary JoJune 11, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    You are amazing! How do you have the energy to not only do the journey -but then to write about it. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy!

    Uncle Larry

  3. What an adventure! It reminds us of our walk across England in 1999 -- two hundred miles from St. Bee to Robin Hood's Bay. But of course we WALKED it! Pat and Tim

  4. wish we were there with you - with a motored vehicle. Enjoying the run from our computer.

    Larry & Mary Jo

  5. I love everything about this. Too cool, Missy. Too cool.

  6. How on Earth did you get pictures of yourself running from behind you? You gave someone your camera, and said, "Here, take a picture of my ass?"

    1. timer shot with camera set in the middle of the trail :)