Friday, June 21, 2013

Magical Loch Lomond...kayaks on the Loch and boots on the Ben.

Kayaks: "On the bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond."
With time drawing short, there was one remaining "window of opportunity" to hike up to a very special place. Staying with cousin MG Mike in Bridge of Allan, Loch Lomond was an hour away. That meant that Scotland's most southerly mountain that's classed as a "Munro", Ben Lomond, was also just an hour away. The very idea of hiking up to the top was...magical.

Mike's warm hospitality included a Sunday afternoon "recce" to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, to ensure that we would easily find the trailhead on the east side of the loch early the following morning.

The National Park Ranger Service - superb!
Arriving at the Ranger Station at Milarrochy Bay, one of us became totally distracted by the sight of three very fine sea kayaks on the beach. The intended mission to this place was temporarily forgotten.

Three well-equipped and cheery kayak enthusiasts soon appeared with associated gear. They must have wondered, just a little, as your reporter gushed over their boats and the magnificent loch - a body of water so celebrated in music, poetry, and history. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm. Of course, it's always sunny and warm in "Camelot". And, it only rains at night. ;)

Great to meet you all!
Loch Lomond is 28 kilometres long and 7 kilometres wide at it broadest point and offers dozens of islands to paddle to and around - and practice waypoint to waypoint navigation!  

Bidding the paddlers a great day on the water, it was time to return to the mission at hand - locate the direction of the trailhead for Ben Lomond for the next day's "ascent".

Three paddlers. 
Correction,  four paddlers.
Distracted, however, by the unexpected thrill of discovering three sea kayaks on the beach, we were slightly "location challenged". Mike finally got us straightened around and looking in the right direction. :)

Joan and MG Mike, engaging in preliminary "route planning". :)
Ben Lomond rises 3,196 feet on the east side of the loch. Astonishingly, on a clear day, its summit can be seen from Ben Nevis, the UK's tallest mountain, some 112 kilometres away.

When I was growing up, my mum and dad would often sing the well known tune, "The bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond". They would describe the loch's beauty and the great times they had spent there. Versions of the song have been recorded by a diversity of musicians and bands that include Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benny Goodman, AC/DC, Rod Stewart, Mark Knopfler, and the Scottish folk-rock band Runrig. Now that's musical diversity! Every version brings back warm memories.

Ben Lomond.
Getting to the summit of Ben Lomond is not a difficult hike by any stretch. It is, however, a reasonably strenuous uphill grind with some rocky parts to negotiate. Most of the trail is exposed and weather can change very quickly, as we experienced. The Garmin 62s GPS recorded 6.8 kilometres on the way up with an elevation gain of 964 metres or 3,162 feet - that's sufficient up-hill hiking over three hours to promise a good night's sleep!

As the elevation increases, the views become increasingly dramatic.

It feels like the top of the world.
As in life, perspective changes as effort is made. The higher you get on a mountain, the more clarity there is when looking out at the surrounding topography. So often, as folks get older, they begin to doubt their own abilities and are reluctant to make the effort that will get them to any number of life's "summits".  That's unfortunate because without effort and its inherent rewards, we lose perspective and clarity. 

And then we "age"...long before our time. 

We human beings need to remember that we are usually capable of doing far more than we may ever believe is possible. 

Frequent take it all in - and catch breath!
Near the top, clouds began to swirl up the slopes.
On the summit of Ben Lomond, fellow hikers...
and a lovely Golden Retriever.
Heading back down and into the clouds.
The clouds suddenly form an arch...
and reveal beautiful Loch Lomond.
I learned from my dad and my mum the value of "hills" in life. Approached with confidence, a positive attitude, and a willingness to make a good effort, there are very few we cannot climb - especially together. They also taught the importance of making that effort, in as many ways as possible - in the world outdoors.

Two years ago, on the Summer Solstice of 2011, my mother died in the company of some very special folks. I will never forget their kindness and their compassion. I know that her generous and loving spirit is still very much alive. We felt both hers and my dad's in the refreshing wind, high on Ben Lomond, above a special loch they knew so very well.

This is for you, mum.



  1. You learned some valuable lessons from your Dad and Mum. Looks like it was a beautiful hike with amazing views. Exploring the Loch by kayak would be very tempting. Wish I'd been there :)

  2. Thanks for that, L. A good day is a day when lessons are learned. And "learning" seems like a good way to grow older - in years. :) It was, indeed, a beautiful hike. Bless you. D.

  3. Beautiful pictures and blog! I am holding on to your words as we are living at Roxanne'since Thursday because the whole town of High River has been flooded. I am praying that my photos are not damaged Jen

  4. Oh Jen, we've been thinking about that and how you've been making out. It's almost unimaginable, all the flooding. Our son's neighbourhood was evacuated as well. Sending good thoughts and vibes your way to all from both of us. We'll be in touch by email. Duncan.

  5. Thankyou Duncan and joan, When we left we were not under water and don't think we had damage just other worries. We are all safe and Rox and her husband are gracious to let not only us stay but our two big dogs! Hope your son is doing okay!
    I realize how little I need but i am praying all my photos are safe. Jen

  6. Thank you, Jen. These events clarify what's important don't they. You guys take good care and stay in touch. Duncan.