Sunday, December 27, 2009

West Highland Way, Day 2: Clash of the Titans

After a tasty breakfast at The Bramblewood, reviewed on TripAdvisor as "must be very close to the pinnacle of B & B's", we set out for Drymen to catch the trail to Balhama, only an eight mile walk today; OK, what with our mile back into Drymen, side trek up Conic Hill, and walking around Balhama it was over ten but still an easy day. The only other alternative was 14 miles directly to Rowardennan and the second half would have been a little rough. We wanted to stretch out our time along Loch Lomond and enjoy the experience along the way. I think it's an age thing.

We stopped in a little grocery in Drymen and bought some cheese and crackers for lunch. Kathleen volunteered to carry a good size melon I found, and we were off to find the thistle.

We had another overcast, sometimes drizzly, off and on rain, cool day. The first half of the walk was through Garahdhban Forest, part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

Still a pretty leisurely stroll,

Then opening up to moorland and our first glimpse of Loch Lomond.

Conic Hill is in the distance, the first of the Highlands. The hill really is a hump compared to some mountains Jan, Sally, and I have been up, but it is uphill and we are excited. The marked trail skirts around the north flank, but we decide to go a bit off track to bag the summit. Kathleen, as usual, was always up for any adventure.

The hill wasn't as conic as mountains farther up the highlands; indeed, it is just a ridge with several humps, and the ridge is the Highland Boundary Fault. From this ridge several islands string across Loch Lomond, all on the spine of the fault line. It was here about 430 million years ago that land masses that formed Scotland and England collided with each other, closing an ocean between them and causing a land buckling that built mountains as high as the Himalaya. These little nubbins and the Highlands are what is left of those huge mountains. A little humbling I would say.

Rain and wind picked up on our way up the heathery climb, a little rough and steep in spots, but once at the top we had an amazing view. From here we could follow the continental smash line across the loch, to the north the old continent of Laurentia and to the south the continents of Avalonia and Baltica. And us, just subatomic specks in the timeline.

The summit was so cold and blustery we stayed just long enough to soak in the significance of the moment and headed back down. Crossing a col we got a better peak at the faultline islands of Inchcailloch, Torrinch, Creinch, and Inchmurrin through the Scottish mist.

The rain wanted to follow us, but we found shelter and a lunch spot in a mysterious forest just above the village of Balhama. Yum, the melon and cheese was delicious.

The Oak Tree Inn was on the shores of Loch Lomond and we were finding it was hard to settle in once we got to our destination at the end of the day, each of us usually finding some way to get out and walk around some more, "exploring", "checking it out", but the truth is walking is what humans are meant to do, not sitting in front of a TV.

After another tasty meal in the downstairs pub we settled in for the night. I noticed my left toenail was beginning to turn bluish. Oh well, I'll think about it tomorrow, said Scarlet. I wakened in the early morning hours to the sounds of heavy rain.

Tomorrow, the beautiful Loch Lomond.


Pat said...

You're getting very good at this travel diary writing. I see a 2nd career in your future...

Katharine said...

I learned from a master.

Kappa no He said...

Ah~, Scotland!

Here it is the last day of 2009 and I wanted to write and thank you both so much for your friendship this past year. It has been wonderful getting to know you and living vicariously through your blog. Can't wait to see what wonderful new places you visit in 2010. All the best!


Pat said...

Happy new year, Terrie! Hope you have wonderful adventures this year!!