Day 2! I woke up full of beans and fuelled up with a totally awesome breakfast at my B&B (french toast, crispy bacon and maple syrup. YUM). Then it was time to set off. I was expecting today to be tough even though it was a shorter distance, as it involved Conic Hill – not a long climb but I had heard it was steep and hard going.
The trail started with a lovely wee hedge lined path.
Soon this path emerged onto a wider track … with the sitka spruce, forestry road and clear fell it was just like home!
Despite the clear fell this was nice walking and soon it opened up to a lovely view over to Loch Lomond (yes – my camera was still on the sepia setting – doh!)
After about 4 miles Conic Hill started to loom ahead – looking a wee bit daunting considering my lunch stop was not until the other side of it!
As I plodded along I realised how great long distance walking is for mindfulness. I’ve been doing a fantastic online course with Wise & Gorgeous all about mindfulness and I’m starting to learn how to be mindful and live in the now – to really notice everything that is going on in that present moment. It’s all about focussing on things as they are right now, not losing yourself in thoughts, or fixating on the past or future. Walking a long distance like this is great for practising this habit: you can’t think about walking 96 miles, or even think about getting to where you’re going that evening – it’s too far ahead and you start to feel overwhelmed. Then those nasty brain weasels start to torment you with thoughts like “how are you going to last another 10 miles? your feet already hurt!”. Or: “it’s only day 2, you’re tired already, you’ll never make it to the end, you’re not fit enough, you’ll fail …..”. I found the best way to deal with these thoughts was to use the techniques I had been learning and practice mindfulness. To just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing more. Not thinking about how far I had to walk, not worrying about how much energy I had left and what time I would get to my B&B – just focussing on the walking I was doing right then. After all, I can’t change how steep the hill is, or control how my legs will feel or how tired I get so why waste energy worrying about it or wishing it was different? I had to just accept that it was the way it was, and just keep walking. It’s not about getting to the top, or getting to the end of the WHW – after all, if you just wanted to get to Fort William you would drive there! – it’s all about the journey and the present moment. And with the trail being so beautiful, this became easier to do the more I practised it – after all who wants to think about distances and times, or worry about what you will be doing tomorrow, when you have views like this to place your attention on?
I realised that this applies to life too ….. you can have a plan, and a goal, and work towards it, but at the same time all you can really do is walk the bit of path that’s in front of you right there and then – that’s all you have.
Yes, there will be lots more of my philosophical wafflings as we progress through the rest of the trail!
So, anyway, after 5 miles of putting one foot in front of the other there I was at the top and it had not been as hard as I feared! (there’s probably a life lesson there, too). Once again I decided to add in an extra bit of mileage and go off the path. The path goes around the side of the hill, but I decided to walk right to the top to the summit cairn. It was definitely worth the extra work for the stunning views. Here’s the view from the path ….
…. and here’s the view from the very top (still in sepia!)
It was absolutely stunning up there, although very very windy!
You may remember if you’ve been following my blog or facebook for a while that last year Dave & I lost both of our doggies who we had had for 14 years. We both still miss them dreadfully and think about them every day. After watching the film “The Way” I had the idea of saving a wee bit of their ashes to take with me and scatter every day along my walk. I hadn’t scattered any the first day, as there wasn’t really a spectacular spot that felt right, but the top of Conic Hill definitely felt like the right place, so now there is a little bit of Eddie & Neo ashes right there where that beautiful view is 🙂
After I’d spent some time sitting enjoying the views I made the descent down the other side of Conic Hill into Balmaha, which was the 7 mile point. I enjoyed a rest and some delicious lunch at the Oak Tree Inn and got my passport stamped.
After lunch I had a wee pootle round Balmaha and found a random stranger to take the obligatory photo of me posing with the Tom Weir statue 🙂
Then it was time to push on for another few miles. Just outside Balamaha I spotted this handsome fella!
The path started to descend to the edge of Loch Lomond, where I would be walking for the next 2 days …. it really was beautiful.
I knew that Loch Lomond was the largest inland stretch of water in Britain but I hadn’t realised just how much it would feel like the sea, rather than a loch! It had waves and beaches and everything!
As I’d missed a day yesterday I had two wee bags of ashes to scatter today so this beach became my second spot …. Eddie and Neo would have loved it here ❤
Throughout the whole walk there were loads of wild primroses – they were just gorgeous.
I found myself absolutely entranced by these trees all along the shore of Loch Lomond at this point. The earth around them had obviously been eroded leaving all the roots exposed …. but still they were growing! Who knew trees were so amazingly resilient? How are they even still standing up?!
This one even had a wee tunnel a small person could have walked through!
After a while the path left the side of the loch to walk through this beautiful wood – full of silver birch, one of my favourite trees.
Finally at about 5 pm I arrived at my stop for the night in Sallochy – this gorgeous wee shepherds’ hut! This is the Shepherd’s Rest – highly recommended for a stay, I loved it. Look how cute it is! and inside it had all these wee nooks and crannies, plenty of space and so cosy! My walkers supper was brought to the door in a hamper and was absolutely delicious – home made soup, rolls, cheese, oatcakes, scones …. yum!
And that was Day 2 done! I was expecting an easier day tomorrow as I had felt full of energy today …. hmmm, let’s see how that works out shall we 😉
Click here for the Day 3 blog.