August 26 – Drymen to Balmaha to Rowardennan

I am in a youth hostel (no jokes) in Rowardennan at 9:15 pm after a long day of hiking (15 miles) and lots of elevation.  I’m in the group room where there is supposed to be wi-fi but isn’t.   I’m sharing a 6 person room with what appears to be 4 German kids and one Scot.  I am starting to recognize couples from the trail.  All friendly.

I left Drymen at 10:00 am, around the time Tom paid 60 pounds to get  a cab to Glasgow and then on to London to see his daughter.  We had a great time but, as usual, too short.  I told him that just as John Prine sings to his girlfriend “if I was in the electric chair, I would want you on my lap”, I would like him to participate in any inconveniences I may experience in the coming days.

I started down the road from Drymen and immediately wasn’t sure where to go.  I lucked out, as I often do, and met Joan, a 75 year old from Drymen who happens to walk about 12 miles a day, part of it on the trail.  We walked at least 3 miles together and she gave me some good advice as to what to expect on the trail ahead.  She had hiked it before.  She said that she was walking a lot because her husband is sick and within the next few years she will probably be confined most of the time at home taking care of him.  So she walks while she can, rain or shine.  Towards the end of our walk, Loch Lomond came into view for the first time.  I became very familiar with it today. 

Today was not as easy as yesterday, with 15 miles instead of 12.  There was Conic Hill which is about 2 hours into the hike and it is pretty steep and persistent.  Conic Hill divides the Lowlands from the Highlands.  The view was amazing, looking over a vast stretch of Lomond and the hills around it and the boating hamlet of Balmaha.  It was a little tricky going on a shortcut that was recommended by another hiker on the side facing Balhama.  I navigated it okay only to slide in some mud in an innocent enough stretch and come out of it with my right side and bag total mud and my left side pristine.  Not happy but not hurt either.

I had a box lunch I bought in Drymen at a coffee shop near the popular Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha and had some Americano.  I had only a few sprinkles during the trip today but at the stop the sun was out and felt really good.  I stayed probably for 45 minutes, getting some extra water and enjoying the atmosphere.  I was still 8 miles away from my destination, so not even half way done.   The trip from Balmaha to Rowardennan did not have any big hills but there was enough up and down to keep it interesting.  It followed the lake almost the whole way though so there was a lot of scenery.  I went on a footpath through several forests and would pop out at the lake at intervals, including some fine beaches.  The weather cooperated.  I have not been cold since I have been here. 

I arrived at the hostel at 6:00 pm.  I have never been in a hostel before so had to learn some rules.  I have my boots upstairs but notice there are probably 40 pairs of boots as you come in the door so I think I blew that one.  I took a hot shower (the towel cost me 2 pounds) which was fantastic.  I paid for dinner but had to wait until 8:00 pm to eat.  My shoulders, hips and feet hurt but I would be more surprised if they didn’t.  I am hoping they are better after a night’s sleep.  I did not reserve two nights and they are totally booked tomorrow.  I was thinking about climbing Ben Lomond but if I can’t find a place to stay I will head down the trail.  I think I am camping in a farmer’s field tomorrow night.

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Drymen

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Breakfast.  Pancakes usually come with ham between each cake

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Joan, 75 and still walking over 10 miles a day

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Conic Hill overlooking Loch Lomond and Balmaha

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On Conic Hill

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