WHW Day 1: Sheep, Road Walks, and Conic “Hill”

I would like to start this post off with a PSA – if you use Sawyer water filters – they do NOT fit on smart water bottles? this is a problem I never anticipated, but thankfully the good people on the UL Reddit have a solution. A coke bottle is supposed to work, but being more of a Pepsi guy myself, I took a chance AND IT PAID OFF?

Had breakfast at the hotel scheduled for 7, dropped my luggage bag (Zpacks Arc-Haul 60L) with the front desk for the luggage service (note: with an Apple AirTag in it for safe measure). I’ll be carrying a water proof Osprey day pack. More info on my gear will be posted after my full walk so I can better recommend what did or did not work!

The day was largely filled with easy hiking, I was able to keep a 3-3.5 mph pace through most of the day, only stopping for lunch.

Before I get to how great lunch was… there’s two things to address: (1) the number of sheep I encountered and (2) the sketchiest road walk and the following road sign.

First, the sheep –

I have never seen so many sheep. I think my lifetime cap of sheep was met within two hours of hiking today. And I hiked for 8 hours. Probably not a single one of those hours didn’t involves sheep!

Second, the road walk –

All of a sudden, the trail follows the road for about a half mile. This road has no shoulders or grass to the side to walk on, so you have to walk in the road, which is basically one lane and twists and turns several times. If it wasn’t bad enough that there’s no good side to walk on to not get mowed down by speeding motorists in their peppy, small, European cars, I see this sign on that road, which seems to suggest that children are walking this road!? Someone please chime in in the comments that I am completely wrong…

Moving along, the lunch spot I went to came recommended from Facebook — MASSIVE thank you to Craig A. — if you stop in Drymen for lunch, go to the Drymen Bakery and Cafe? the owner/manager was super welcoming, made a great lunch, and stamped my WHW passport! I had the roast beef and horseradish sandwich with rocket (just learned what this was… it’s akin to arugula) and tomato on a baguette AND one millionaire short bread. Truly a one stop shop, and really lifted my spirits considering it had rained all morning and my fingers were cooooold.

Continued easy hiking in the afternoon…. Until Conic Hill. Why this is not named Conic Mountain is beyond me. Beautiful and somewhat challenging hiking up, and then absolute misery on the way down. If you’re familiar with the Appalachian Trail, it reminded me of the climb out of Harpers Ferry, WV going north, but replace large rocks for small gravel and straight down.

At this point, every tendon, ligament, muscle, and vein, in my legs were screaming. Before this “hill” it was but a hushed yell.

Getting into Balmaha felt like a mirage that would never solidify.

Once reaching town, I turned left off the trail and did a half mile to the Birchwood Guest Lodge. The owner lives onsite, and gave me a full walk through and turn down of my room, showing me how to use all the bits and bobs (like the couch that *rotates* into a bed). I was also jazzed to see that my bag had arrived safe and sound!

After a shower and quick trail laundry, I walked back into town for dinner. There’s really slim pickings so I went to the only restaurant bc the village shop was closed – the Oak Tree Inn’s restaurant. Wouldn’t recommend, but then again you don’t have a choice past 6pm.

Tomorrow is a much shorter WHW day (7 miles to Rowardennan), with a hopeful summit of Ben Lomond – the most southern Munro (mountain over 3,000 ft)!

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