West Highland Way 2016: Rain rain go away (Day 2)

There is something so natural about waking in a tent. Sunlight strikes your eyes in early morning. Its confusing and bright, so you search for some source of time. 05:40 flashes at you as bleary eyes struggle to focus and the brain tries to decipher this information like it’s algebra. Next comes the sound. Wind through trees, leaves rustling and water flowing down a nearby stream. Bird song suddenly becomes clear as all the senses start to awaken. Its a sound so pleasant that you just stay propped up on your side for a few minutes looking around the inside of the tent trying to remember what the area outside looks like. That tent smell though, musky yet fresh. A rubbery plastic smell dominates but is countered by the smell of dew soaked grass and other fauna. Any other day and you’d drop back to sleep irritated that your original rest was rudely interrupted by such morning cues, but not here. Despite a somewhat uncomfortable sleep, all of these factors wake you up beautifully and you find yourself drawn to the tents opening, eager to step outside, stretch, breath and explore.

Day 2: Blane water – Dryman

attempt
Ignore the times on these maps. Google doesn’t understand what its like to walk with a hiking pack.

 

All of the above is exactly how I awoke on the morning of day 2. It was a good sleep but I was excited to start the days trekking, so got myself up and out into the world leaving Molly to the comforts of the sleeping bag. The bird song that roused me from my slumber was that of a cuckoo. I could tell it was close but still hid away from sight amongst the foliage of the trees we had bunked down underneath. After a little (ish) while Molly was up too. Breakfast was made, tent was packed and we were back on the way. Now, baring in mind the title of this day, the weather was actually relatively pleasant to start with. It was mild from what I remember but quite heavy too, so we could have probably guessed what was to come but ignorance is bliss.

The first thing I can recall from this day is coming across a group of young DofE walkers ahead of us. They stood as a group waiting for others or taking a break along side the way. Molly and I weren’t too keen on walking near or with a large group so we marched on past at pace trying to put as much ground between us and them before they set off. Alas it didn’t take long for the young whipper snappers to creep up on us. With fear of sweaty small talk we pounded ahead and shortly lost sight of them. This sounds super anti-social I know but quite frankly we wanted minimal human interaction along the hike. I promise we aren’t mean! We were just attracted to the wilderness that comes with multi-day hiking and wild camping, please forgive.

WHW 2.3

The track was very open, a road a bit off to the right and farm fields to the left. Scenery wasn’t particularly interesting although lambs jumping around the fields provided plenty of entertainment. I popped into a little farm shop to grab some water. The owner didn’t seem too pleased with the sweaty boy who stumbled through the door looking for nothing but free tap water. Makes sense I suppose. I provided no profit for her, but ya know, boy gotta drink. As I stepped outside the rain began but it was light, nothing a coat couldn’t deal with. However it was almost as if mother nature could sense our smugness and joy. The heavens opened and it opened big.

The next section of the day took us along a road passing by small farms and up onto a ridge. Just before starting on the road we found shelter just off path in a ditch during a break in the rain. Main priority was waterproofing everything, we literally became walking and breathing coats. Despite having bag covers to protect out equipment inside I was still crazy paranoid about walking around with the cover having been unknowingly blown off in the wind. That didn’t happen, but the rain was stupidly hard so as expected a few patches of the bag did get damp.

WHW 2.1

 

The coat I wore was one that I had owned for probably ten years, so I knew it would be a risk use it on such a trip. Lets just say it failed me. I was wet. Like might as well have swam kind of wet.

Dryman town was in sight for the not so dry-man (tried to make that work, not sure if it did) and my god it was a haven for us drowned rats! Wilderness went out the window for an hour or so as we hunted down a warm restaurant for food (our first helping of haggis, yum!) and opportunities to dry by a fire. I feel so sorry for anyone sitting near us. It had only been a day but I felt as if we already smelt, either way our dripping faces certainly weren’t a treat to observe whilst dining.

 

We stuck in for around two hours nonetheless but even so, most things stayed wet. I bought a waterproof shell to replace my coat but honestly it was a poor purchase. Rain was kept out but the material itself just trapped heat and caused torrents of sweat from pours I didn’t even know I had. So I was wet inside and out. Molly on the other hand was mostly fine and dandy. You see she was wise and actually bought good kit prior to the hike.

The day was drawing to a close but we still had to find a spot to camp. On the map we had seen a large wood up on the hills beyond the town which seemed ideal with all the rain. Most of the forest we saw heading up the hills was dense pine plantation, meaning there were no natural openings of space within large enough for a camp set up.  Rain continued to thunder down as did our spirits as we walked from dense plantation to expanses of felled forest. It became clear that the spot we had seen on the map was in no way the ideal location we had imagined, and time was running out.

Another hour of walking and we had made it to the other side of the plantations and immediately darted off path into a pretty little copse of beech trees to set up tent. The majority of equipment within our packs remained dry but getting the tent up without it getting rained on was a challenge. Dry and wet materials were kept separate as much as possible. Somehow we managed to keep our sleeping area clean allowing a spot of relief from the weather.

I was desperate to make some form of fire to hang clothes around so that the next day would at least start comfortable. Clearly all wood had been dampened but, without meaning to brag, I had made a fire using worse material before. However this spot was weird. Any flame, even one flickering from a dry match, would last no more than 5 seconds before going out. It was like something was sucking oxygen away from the area no matter where I tried to light up a flame. No doubt it was a Scottish curse designed to break the soft spirits of Englishmen. Molly made some food whilst I was attempting all this, so I slumped back to her with a broken heart, ate some noodles and bunked down to end the day. Fingers were crossed for drier days to come but all in all despite the downpours morale was still high. I mean come on this is Scotland we’re talking about, we had figured rain was going to be a thing.

 

 

 

 

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