Great Trossachs Path | Day 1
Today was amazing! Seriously amazing!
I am writing this post trying to stay awake. We are both exhausted. I’m telling you to try and make some allowance for my poor writing. I want to pour emotion into this post, to try and give it the magnitude it deserves.
It felt surreal, to be out again, and hiking.
The alarm was set for 7 am, but Sarah and I were already awake, Eve was not. We lay for a few minutes listening to Eve breathing down the monitor (yes we still us a monitor, one of the many aspects of autism I still haven't discussed).
It was Sarah who said that we need to get up. before the rhythmic sound of Eve’s breathing put us both back to sleep again.
It was cold, pitch dark with a thick layer of fog outside. We could see the fog in the darkness by the light of a neighbour's torch as they walked their dog along the road. Not the sort of morning that typically inspires and motivates people to get outside and go for a walk. We are not typical people, and I am proud of that.
Without discussion, we all set about doing our pre-designated roles; helping Eve get dressed, cooking breakfast, feeding the cats... you get the point. The haste this morning was greater than normal, as Sarah was also at work. There was also a sense of excitement that we hadn't experienced since the last year. We were all nervous, but Eve was definitely more excited.
2 cups of tea, a bowl of porridge and a slice of toast later we were ready to leave the house. It was still dark, but you could see the light breaking through as we walked up the road to get the car ready to drive to the start of the hike.
I was expecting to have to de-ice the windscreen, but it was only wet. It didn't feel as cold as I had expected. It was raining but not too heavily. Sarah was busy putting Eve's hair in a ponytail when I walked back into the house.Putting our backpacks in the car boot felt strangely familiar and comforting. We drove through the fog and the rain. The rain wasn't too bad but was enough to get you wet to the skin within minutes. The sort of rain that lingers in the air, wetting you from the bottom up. Wearing waterproofs was going to be essential, at least to start off with.
The drive from Aberfoyle to Callander was quick. Eve was excited and was talking non-stop on the journey. We were discussing the route, songs to listen to and games we were going to play. Eye spy was high on the list. Not the most exciting, but sometimes you can't beat the old-school games!
We arrived at the Meadows car park and it was virtually deserted, except for a few ducks and a couple of swans. Eve wanted to go and see the swans immediately, but we insisted she got her waterproofs on first. Sarah got Eve ready whilst I put my Garmin inReach on and put my waterproof jacket on.
The morning felt odd, up until now was odd. We hadn't expected to start hiking so early in the year. Until a few weeks ago, I had March or even April in my head as a potential start date. Not January 23rd. But here we were. Standing in a car park about to wave Sarah off and start walking. 1900 miles before us. 29 trails that crisscross Scotland and countless challenges before us. Knowing it was all going to play out in front of a live audience, in order to support an amazing charity and confront some stigmas around autism.
We had our final kiss and cuddle with Sarah before waving and heading off. Eve was definitely being emotionally pulled between wanting to stay with mum and start hiking.
Sarah was gone, it was 9 am and we were on our own.
The Great Trossachs Path. 30 miles of path that cuts through Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to Inversnaid on the West Highland Way before us. Not the most challenging trail, but a nice local one to get back into the rhythm and routines of trail walking.
The trail started by following the River Teith for a very short section. We saw our first-way marker. A round plaque with a T would guide us, keeping us going in the correct direction. It's a reassuring sight. We know from experience that these small waymarkers can be one of the best sights a walker can see, but they must also be treated with caution. They don't always point in the correct direction.
In truth, this trail is very well signposted and very easy to follow. Eve and I have walked this entire trail from start to finish before, so we have a good idea of what to expect. But whenever you walk a trail like this there are always new things to see and find.
The first obstacle was a huge slab of ice that covered the path. It was easy to walk around but in the darkness could easily be missed with painful consequences. The ice was like a skating rink. Eve was keen to give it a go, but I managed to talk her out of it. I had images of a broken leg within minutes of leaving Sarah.
The first section out of Callander follows an old disused railway line. It's flat, easy walking where we passed several dog walkers. We took some time to read the information plaques about the old roman fort that sat as a boundary to the Scottish Highlands in 80 AD. You can still see some of the old roman ditches. Eve had a very early morning history lesson.
At the end of this small tarmacked section, we arrived at the busy A821. We crossed it safely and headed into the car park at the base of Bochastle Hill.
For a lot of people, this is the start or end of the Great Trossachs Path, however, the true start or finish is in the Meadows Car park in Callander. Unfortunately, there is no official start or finish to this trail.
Whilst in the car park we placed the first of Eve's Autism Awareness Rocks.
The trail from here changed to gravel. It was much more pleasant and the views were starting to open up. It was still wet and there was still a thick covering of fog. Eve was motivated and enthusiastic.
We found a bench to stop at for a break and record our first video of the hike, had a drink and had a small snack before plodding on.
The conversation has been very exciting, like a new experience and a fresh start. It was really too nice to hear.
By now it was starting to feel familiar again. Getting into the mindset that this was now our life for the next year. It's only been 8 weeks since we completed our JOGLE but our fitness has defiantly taken a hit. It was hard work already for both of us.
We put some music on to listen to as we hiked.
The path follows the road for miles, passing Loch Venachar. The views are stunning but were obscured by the fog.
Ben Venue in the distance looked large and imposing, its peak covered in snow and fog. Eve and I have both hiked up Ben Venue. We have even made a YouTube video about it. It was a long hike, and we didn't get off the hill until it was pitch dark.
We had lots of mini breaks as we walked, played eye spy and then put on an audiobook; Harry Potter.
The excitement with Eve had subdued by now, but not her motivation or enthusiasm. It's like riding a bike, you never forget. We were firmly back into the mindset and routine of hiking life. It felt good and natural. This is where I belong and where Eve appears at her happiest and most content.
As we approached the village of Brig O'Turk it was approaching 1 pm. We decided to stop for lunch. Finding a small patch of grass overlooking Loch Venachar and Loch Drunkie we had our food. We were still eating some of the food we had leftover from our JOGLE walk. We both agreed we had eaten enough flapjack for at least the next few years. I think we are going to have to find an alternative lunch food.
We also decided to stop here for food, as the Glen Finglas visitors centre was coming up. Although it's not busy, we were keen to avoid people, so opted for the quiet location on top of the hill before descending into the tourist areas.
The visitors centre at Glen Finglas was closed for winter, as are most of the tourist places at this time of the year. We did make use of their outdoor top to top up our drinking water and Eve enjoyed another wee break.
The walking from here was pleasant as the path changed from road to trail to path and eventually onto the Three Lochs Forest Drive. A very popular tourist route in summer. We walked slowly up and passed the campsite at Loch Achray.
I have a particular fondness for that campsite and have camped at it many times. Care has to be taken as it can flood as Eve and I found out only the other day when we attempted to camp there! We didn't in the end.
It was around here that Eve decided that she was done for the day.
I messaged Sarah who was still at work but expecting to be finished shortly.
We arrived at the road, leading into the campsite, which is also the exit for the Three Lochs Forest Drive, to await Sarah.
Eve and I decided to have some fun whilst waiting. We got a lot of strange looks from passing motorists. We put on Christmas songs and Eve taught me some ballroom dancing she had learned at Brownies a long time ago. I still can't do it but it was fun and Eve spent most of the time laughing at me!
Sarah arrived in our little pink car (the marshmallow) and we all drove the short distance home.
It was an epic, amazing and fulfilling day. It felt natural and right, and Eve was in her element.
That's it for tonight. If I write any more I think my head will hit the keyboard as I fall asleep!
Sleep well and we will see you all tomorrow
Ian, Sarah and Eve