With a mixture of exhiliration and meloncoly, today we set out on the last section of the West Highland Way into Fort William. We met up with the film crew for the last few miles and to record us reaching the offical end of the West Highland Way.
Today was epic and a day that will remain with Eve forever (if not, there is going to be a professionally made documenty to show her!)
We all slept well last night in the campervan and I even had a shower. Its amazing how a shower can regenerate your body and soul. It was a warm night and we were only woken by the alarm going off at 6 am.
We had planned to cook pancakes for breakfast this morning, but a last minute change of plan saw us making a dash to the coop last night to grab some bakes for breakfast to speed up the morning routine.
We needed to make sure we were on the trail on time to meet up with the film crew but also because Eve really wanted to go to Brownies this evening. That meant we had to be leaving Fort William no later than about 3pm. There was plenty of time, just not enough to have a lazy morning or 'nice stroll' as we hiked.
By the time we has driven back to the where stopped yesterday, (we didn’t camp where we stopped as we had arranged to grab fish and chips for dinner) the sun was coming up and it was feeling warm. There was still a cool breeze so we started off in windproof jackets. It wasn’t long before we removed them though.
The trail today felt a lot softer and gentler. It meandered through woodland and open moorland that was pleasant and more reminiscent of the Scottish Lowlands than the highlands. That is until you looked up and saw the towering and formidable munro of Ben Nevis, the highest of all the mountains within the British Isles.
Eve set a very good pace that until much later on in the day I struggled to maintain. The motivation; Brownies, and of course... Sarah! There was also the odd mention of an ice cream that might have been promised by Sarah earlier that morning.
We met lots of mountain bikers this morning, but none were riding their bikes as most of today’s route, except for a few short sections, was down hill. From a selfish perspective this was a good thing as from our experience a lot of mountain bikers can be unaware of their imposing and almost threatening presence as they speed along trails expecting people to 'jump out the way'. Some cyclists can behave very rudely to pedestrians and other trail/road users.
We reached the main forest road that leads down towards the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. Finding some old logs we stopped for our first break of the day. Eve had a few raisins and I had a mini malt loaf. We didn’t stop for long before we headed off again.
The forest road was wide and easy to walk on and we made very good time. The sun was hot and we were sweating lots. I applied some more sun cream to Eve and we kept on hiking listening to and singing 'I love it' by Icona Pop (the clean version!!!) over and over again, getting louder and louder.
We stopped to take lots of pictures of Ben Nevis against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. It felt good and Eve was in her element!
We reached the road at about 11.15am, walking the few hundred metres to the Ben Nevis Visitors Car Park where Sarah was parked.
Meeting with Sarah we had lucnh in the campervan and awaited the film crew turning up. They were already here but doing some stuff in Fort William.
It was nice to have a rest and chill before the last and final push of the day whilst being followed by some of the film crew. Today they had several cameras with them and two teams. One team was with us and the other was in Fort William.
Whilst in Fort William they also did an 'interview' with Sarah as they awaited Eve and I reaching the end.
The final section follows the Glen Nevis road into Fort William and onto the main high steet finishing at the bench with the hiker rubbing his sore foot. This is the official end of the West Highland Way and location for the most famous of all hiking photographs, sitting beside the statue rubbing ones own foot that hopefully is not in too much of a state of disrepair!
We met with film crew and started walking at about 12.15pm. There was a few 'shots' that had to be taken as we walked but apart from that they simply followed us and recorded us and a few of our interactions.
The closer we got to Fort William the busier and more noisy it became with traffic and people walking around enjoying this iconic highland town.
Reaching the gardens on the edge of the high steet Eve and I had to pause not realising that we had left the film crew behind and worrying they didn’t know the way. We back tracked slightly and found them walking towards us. We apologised and walked through the gardens onto the high street.
At this point we had to pause to let them go in front so they could meet up with the rest of the team. As we waited we were approached by a number of people who had obviously seen all the cameras to ask what was happening. It was quite funny when I told them and the look of anti climax on their faces. I have no idea what they were expecting, but I think they were expecting something a lot more glamorous than a couple of autisitic hikers LOL. We did receive a donation of £5 from a lovely family, which was wonderful.
We walked the last few hundred metres hugging Sarah and receiving a round of applause from other hikers, onlookers and the film crew. It was a truly unique and humbling experience and one that will live with us all forever!
Once at the end we took a lot of photographs, did some filming and a mini interview style piece. Sarah popped to Costa and grabbed us all a mango and passion fruit cooler which was perfect! The sun was high and hot and it hit the spot like nothing else.
Finishing the West Highland Way was tinged with sadness. It had been a real adventure and given all of us a set of experiences that we have never had before and probably never will have again.
Having a film crew with us, having a total reassessment of how we will continue and hopefully complete this years charity adventure, along with the people we met, the extremes of weather and the ever changing trail made this a truely unique experience.
Hiking is a great metaphore for life, with its ups and downs, rough and smooth patches that will test your grit and determination to keep going through adversity. Sometimes the best route is to follow a new trail, much less trod where you have no idea where it will lead. What you do know, is that this is your path, you found it and you chose it. Your sucess down this path is up to you and your commitment and hard work. But somtimes the hardest descion is to stop, decide this is not the path for you, go back, change, and try a new path treating the old one not as a failure, but a lesson learned in the best way possible, by living it and giving it your all. So try, and try again and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish and what you can learn on the way!
For all of us, but Eve in particular, the last two weeks have been an amazing learning experience. We have seen Eve grow exponentially, in particular with her confidence around people and her ability to think and question some really important things in life. Her intrige and desire to learn and experience things is more evident and growing, and our enthusiasm as parents to give her a life that is as unique as she is will continue to evolve, grow and morph as she grows from a child into a young lady.
If there is one thing for certain, Eve is growing up in a fast paced, complex world of competing priorties that will challenge us all to re-evaluate what we do, how we do it and most importantly of all, how we think.
We are ready to face that challenge together as a family, and I hope that you will continue along this road with us, to share in the ultimate adventure of love, family and life.
Ian, Sarah and Eve
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