The bonniest of banks: Loch Lomond

Published: May 20th 2011
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cool guy fact: the song "Loch Lomond" was written by a follower of Bonnie Prince Charles (who was the old Scottish equivalent of an epic fail militarily lol) while he was imprisoned (after being captured when their side got it handed to them). If you follow the lyrics, it's very clear that this song is the man's lament that he will never see his lover again. "The high road" is the actual physical surface of the world, and "the low road" is the Underworld, through which the man's soul would travel faster than any man could over land, so he reaches Scotland "afore" the audience. "Me and my true love will never meet again"...couldn't be much clearer. He does hint that he hopes she'll find love again, but he's more or less made peace with his fate.

This is a recap of the trip Melissa and I took to Loch Lomond on the 6th and 7th of May 2011, along with the first pic updates!

This trip didn't start off the best for me. I left my student railcard (discount card) at my dorm room, and i had already purchased a ticket at the student price. the penalty for that, if you get busted (and they always check long trains like this one) is that they tear up your original ticket and make you buy a new ticket at full price. Student price: £40. Adult price: £70. that's about a $50 difference. Melissa told me to check with the guys in the ticket office and see if they could do anything, and basically i had to pay the difference, which i guess is better than losing my ticket and having to buy a whole new one haha

We got to Balloch and figured out that we'd missed the last bus of the day to Drymen (pronounced "drimmen"), which was where we figured we'd be able to strike out from. soooo we hired a cab (great start to a camping trip, yeah? haha) and the guy ended up taking us to a pay-to-camp site. we weren't thrilled about it, but i guess Scotland's recently passed laws outlawing camping inside the national park with the exception of one or two designated campgrounds, which of course are for profit. I can attest that it's not a meaningless law, though: more than a few times we saw nature's beauty spoiled by somebody's garbage bag full of beer cans or worse. I saw a stank-ass, moldy pair of underwear in the woods along with a cutting board and styrofoam meat containers at one point : (

We basically got to the camp and set up shop. On the bright side, the camp was right on the edge of the Loch, and the view was great. we played some frisbee with my sweet £1 Ben Ten frisbee and then wandered around a bit before calling it a night. it sprinkled off and on the first night, but everything was good for the most part, i'd say.

On the morning of the 7th, we headed out without a map or compass. fortunately, we're both master survivalists (read: we went the wrong way on a trail once and the West Highland way is well-marked). We came to a side-trek opportunity to get an elevated view of what was around us. there was a blue, red, and green path you could take if you wanted. we had all our gear on, so i was kind of thinking red would be the way to go. it said things like "challenging". the green path said something like 'you might die, asshole'. so there's that.

Well, we missed a turn (come to find out later most of the markers had been vandalized and the color-coding system was basically nonexistent because of it) and we walked the green path. we took a few breaks to see the world around us on the way up. I've done some road marches in my day, and while no 6 miles is ever going to match the Bayonet (the 25-miler at the end of Infantry training), that shit was steep at points. I kept getting pissed at how steep the hills were getting and how the gear i was wearing wasn't as mobile as what i'd be used to normally with that much extra weight on my body (maybe 25 kilos? 60 pounds, about), so a lot of times i'd get a few steps up and just kind of lean forward and start striding high and hard up the hill, glancing to my side every few seconds to get a glimpse of...well, the world. it worked out in the end, because we got to the top in one piece haha.

The view at the top was super cool and super cold, especially after having sweat so much on the way up. after tromping through the swampland on the top of the hill (Melissa got ankle deep once), we decided to head back down, which was way easier than the way up hahaha at the bottom, we saw this really, really dumb lamb. the poor guy had managed to get outside of the fencing for his area. well, almost. there was one really high fence that he went under, but a second fence that wasn't knee-high was outside of that, and for whatever reason the little guy couldn't figure out he could basically walk over the fence in some parts hahaha so he kept baaaa-ing at his family inside the penned area, and they were baaaa-ing back. it was hilarious. then there were the two black cows mooing at the mama cows on the other side of the street. that was also hilarious.

a bunch of ups and downs and breaks and pictures, with one super-killer hill, and we made it to Rowardennan, our stop for the night! We'd figured out during the day that we'd try to take the ferry from Rowardennan across the Loch and walk down the west bank, the side that Ben Lomond is on, but it ends up the ferry doesn't start running until June! that basically meant we had to turn around and head back the next day.

Scotland laughed at us.

Not a moment before Rowardennan came in sight, it started to rain. we sat inside a visitor's center for a little bit, eating and talking, and i scouted out a camp site that would work for us. the rain died enough to think it was safe, so we walked out with our gear and...we didn't make it 15 steps out of the visitor's center before it started pouring hahahaha we ended up setting the tent up in a light drizzle, and it rained all night. everything that used to be waterproof found its limit at some point during the night. all the stuff in my bag was good, but my passport got water damaged, and it was inside my leather personal hygiene bag, which was inside a canvas backpack i was carrying in front. soooo.... yeah. long, cold, wet night :P i've had worse nights of sleep, to be sure, but it definitely highlighted the challenge we were looking for. It's like we said "screw hostels, let's go backpacking!" and Scotland said "oh, really? hey, check this out! MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF RAIN" hahaha

The next morning, we packed up as quickly as we could and headed back from Rowardennan. for a piece the sky actually cleared up! and then... downpour. funny story, here. it started to rain, and i said "hey, do you wanna stop and put our jackets on?" and Melissa said "let's wait until we get to those trees" which weren't a quarter-mile ahead. we got to the trees, and it was too late to put our jackets on hahaha it picked up out of nowhere and hammered us pretty good for probably a mile and a half or two miles. to be honest, it made the walk easier. i was more concerned with not being able to see anything b/c i couldn't get the water off my glasses, and with how hard and consistently the rain was hitting us, than i was with how my legs felt. it was a fun reminder of some great times I had in the field with the Bandidos 😊

we hitch-hiked. i wouldn't recommend it to anybody, ever (it's dangerous business, Frodo), but it worked out for us. Also, i would have ninja-kicked the ever-living shit out of everything within 5 meters if something went wrong, so we had that going for us.

The gentlemen that picked us up had a panel van (i know, right? haha) and we sat in the back. they dropped us off at the Balmaha bus station, where i rung out my shirts and put a fresh one on, and Melissa went to a pub and got changed. From there on back, it was smooth sailing! A sweet old lady named Mae chatted us up just about the whole train ride back from Glasgow to Aberdeen (right after we agreed a nap was in order hahaha

the only real down side hit after we got back: i was doing a post-trip inspection and found i'd been bitten by a tick on my inner left thigh. i was worried as hell, b/c the guy only had his back four legs and his body sticking out. he hadn't swollen up so much, but lyme disease is not something to mess around with. Melissa let me borrow her tweezers, and Maggie gave me lots of moral support hahaha she told me the story of how her dog had a massive tick on his face once and didn't get lyme disease. It ends up, lyme disease isn't common in West Scotland, and the doc that looked at it said that he was concerned that mouth parts were still in my leg, but unless the bite gets infected i should be in the clear!

Additional photos below
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