Three Lochs Way | Day 4
Today was an absolute slog and one of our toughest days hiking so far. We finished the hike following the light of our head torches. Today we battled relentless rain, wind and hail, crawled under trees, and got soaked to the skin! But Eve just keeps wanting more!
Why was a middle-aged father, who suffers from chronic back pain, and his 8-year-old daughter about to start hiking over 10 miles through the bleak and unforgiving Scottish glens? I was certainly asking that question to myself as we pulled into the car park close to Loch Long, outside of a huge military complex. We asked Eve if she still wanted to hike and we received a resounding "yes". So we got out and kitted up whilst the rain had blown over.
That was how the weather was all day. It went from sideways rain and hail to relative calm. But this calm was misleading, lulling us into a false sense of security.
Within seconds the wind would pick up making even walking a challenge. Then the rain and hail would sweep in, stinging any exposed flesh and reducing visibility a few hundred feet at best. I have tried to get some photographs, but no image could show you how it felt to be getting battered by the elements, with no means of escape. Eve was loving it!!!
During one particularly bad hail storm, I checked with Eve if she was okay by shouting at her over the noise of the hail. Eve responded by looking at me, laughing and asking me to turn her audiobook up as she couldn't hear it. Apparently, the noise of the hail hitting her was too loud and drowned out Harry Potter!! I have said it so many times before, but I don't know where Eve gets her strength from. Nothing phases her!
We both spent the whole day soaked to the skin. Waterproofs failed within an hour or so of leaving the car. Scotland felt as bleak and unforgiving as you can imagine.
Leaving Sarah at the car park we headed off, going immediately up a short sharp hill. Getting to the top it started to rain, sideways! The trail all the way to Tarbet was like a rollercoaster, going up and down in short sharp inclines. The trail itself consisted of huge rocks and potholes making walking even harder. The amount of rain we were having turned every wee burn into a raging torrent that flowed down the trail that we were trying to walk up.
The scenery along Loch Long however was absolutely spectacular with views across the Loch onto the mighty Arrochar Alps. It looked spectacular and the bleak weather made them look even more spectacular and imposing.
One of the good things about being out hiking in such bad weather, is you don't usually meet a lot of people. We had the whole trail to ourselves and didn't meet anybody until we reached Tarbet.
We walked passed a few interesting things including a random generator that was working hard. There was a small enclosed area next to it, so we retreated there for a few minutes. I gave Eve a Freddo chocolate bar to eat, which she seemed to appreciate!
We also walked passed a small shed that had loads of water bubbling up from underneath it. I originally thought it was just a flooded burn but it wasn't. It was a mini hydroelectric plant for the village of Arrochar!
A few minutes later on we walked over a small bridge (Robert's Bridge) beside a spectacular waterfall. I think the amount of rain we were having made it even more spectacular. Another great reason to hike in the rain!
We walked passed the village of Arrochar below heading slightly out of the glen towards Loch Lomond. The trail got a little bit easier from here to Tarbet to our delight.
As we walked along the trail we could see Tarbet come into view below us, and in the distance, we could see our little pink marshmallow but no Sarah. Sarah had started to walk up towards us, and we met her on the trail. It was an amazing sight and we hugged, making Sarah wet!
We walked in Tarbet together reaching the car park of restaurant Slanj at about 1150. The restaurant was closed. However, it was due to open at midday. Some awesome people had donated to our Buy Me a Coffee fund, so we decided to pop in for a much-needed hot drink, that turned into a hot lunch! (thank you so much). These donations mean so much to us and give both myself and Eve a real boost! Thank you. We got some food as we knew the afternoon was going to be harder than the morning, and we were not even halfway.
We spent about an hour in the restaurant sitting next to a radiator when we inevitably had to leave to carry on hiking. We waited until we had a dry interlude to head back to the car and get kitted out again. We checked with Eve again if she wanted to carry on and again she replied "yes". To make us (me and Sarah) feel better we promised Eve a hot bath tomorrow (we are having a day off tomorrow before starting our next trail).
Sarah walked with us until we reached the railway line. We continued on into the forest. Eve was walking a little slower than she had been this morning. I put it down to the food. Within a few minutes, the rain had come back on.
Just before we reached the railway line Eve spotted an amazing sight... we think we saw the first daffodils coming through! I think it's too early in the year for them to be coming through, especially this far north. It was nice to see and reminded us that spring is only a few weeks away!
We met a man whilst walking through the forest. The best way I can describe this man would be to imagine the white rabbit out of Alice in Wonderland. He approached us in a state of panic. I genuinely thought something had happened. Maybe his wife had fallen and injured herself. He was panicking that he would miss his train. He kept asking me where the train station was, if could he get there in time and so on... after we parted I could hear him shouting at me for more directions as he didn't know what path to go down. It was an odd interaction, but I genuinely hope he got his train on time and got home safely!
We saw a rainbow. We were expecting to see loads of rainbows today, but we only saw this one. It was very beautiful and we both appreciated seeing it. It made us feel happy.
Then it rained getting progressively worse and worse. By now we were so wet using the phone became virtually impossible. The touch screen just didn't work with wet fingers. Eve offered to help, but I didn't think she was in a much better state than I was.
The trail changed slightly. Still rocky underfoot but more gentle with its ascents and descents, although they were longer. The path also became a lot more flooded. We could easily sidestep the big puddles, but it definitely slowed our walking down.
The views down the glen and up in the Munros were getting more and more dramatic. Despite the rain, it is an impressive place to be and we felt privileged to have this opportunity to do this, especially as we are trying to raise some money for an awesome charity and challenge some of the stereotypes around autism.
We came up to one particularly challenging section where the burn had totally burst its banks and flooded the whole area. The water was deep and faster flowing than it looked. The ground underneath was a deep bog making walking though quite dangerous. We had to find a way around but there was no obvious route.
Eve decided that we should head into the forest as opposed to heading out into the grassy area. I think this is because we could see more of what was under our feet"! A wise choice, so that is exactly what we did. Eve felt very proud of herself as we were doing what she had thought and following the route she had found. I lead the way as I didn't want her to get hurt (or stuck in some deep mud). We ended up on our knees crawling under fallen trees but eventually, we managed to get back onto the trail.
This had cost us nearly 20 minutes and the light was starting to fade. It had gone 4 pm.
We walked on for a while to warm up, as we had cooled down trying to navigate through the forest at a slow speed, before stopping for a quick break. We both had a chocolate bar and made sure our head torches were accessible.
We walked following an easy path through the trees. It wasn't long before we could see a road that we needed to get onto, but it seemed a long way away.
Because the light was fading taking photographs got even harder, so my apologies if the images start to look a little blurry. I need to learn how to take better low-light images with my iPhone!
Once we had reached the road, we stopped again for a break. The wind was brutal and the rain was hurting as it hit us through our waterproofs. Eve's Bluetooth speaker died. We walked listening to the wind howling. The hills next to us were rocky and craggy, and it made it feel even more intense in the fading light.
We walked following the road downhill which felt lovely. It was nice to know we were approaching the end of the days hiking and the Three Lochs Way, although we still had over a mile to go.
We passed under the rail bridge and onto the busy A82. It was here that we finally decided we had to put our head torches on. We did this more for safety as we were walking down a main road.
Passing the Sloy Hydro Electric Plant we saw the best sight we could hope to see. We saw our little pink car in the car park at the Inveruglas visitors centre and Sarah walking towards us.
Eve didn't run towards Sarah this time as I think she was too tired. But as soon as Sarah got to us, Eve asked Sarah a question that came totally out of the blue!
Please remember that Eve is soaked to the skin, has blisters on her feet, walked 10 miles over some of the toughest terrains so far, and through some of the toughest weather have had to deal with... I swear on everything that I hold dear to me, that this is true...
Eve asked "Mum, so what are we going to do next year? Are we going to walk in another country? Or walk all the National Trails in England?" Sarah and I just looked at each other. Eve was not joking.
We walked to the car together, holding hands. Sarah took a few photographs to celebrate finishing another one of Scotland's Great Trails, including one of us in our Scottish Autism T-shirts. That photograph was tough as we were freezing!
On the way home we popped into Mcdonald's at Balloch and brought Eve a McFlurry as a reward. She earned it today, it was tough!
Tomorrow we are having a day off before we hit another trail on Thursday.
Sleep well and keep dry!
Ian, Sarah and Eve
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2023 Charity Adventure...
Eve and Ian are currently thru-hiking all 29 of Scotland's Great Trails totalling nearly 2000 miles, aiming to complete them ALL by 2024.
They are doing this to challenge stigmas and stereotypes of autism and raise money and awareness for the fantastic charity Scottish Autism.
About Eve & Ian
Eve and Ian are both autistic and struggle with elements of life most people take for granted, as well as the mental health impacts this causes. Eve is just 8 years old and passionate about the outdoors with ambitions to scale Mt Everest. Eve is also the youngest person to ever walk the length of the UK in one continuous hike at the age of 8 in 2022. Ian, whilst hiking, is also home-educating Eve. Ian then spends every night writing 2000+ word daily blogs containing dozens of photographs so you can follow along on their adventures.
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