Chilling in Lagg

Day 3 (the real day 3 – sorry about the typo on yesterday’s post) here on the Arran Coastal Way was amazing. We walked from Machie to Lagg just over 20kms and loved every minute of it. A day full of amazing views, challenging and beautiful trails, and many a quintessential Scottish moment. Cheryl and I couldn’t believe how many Scottish moments we got in before noon!We began our day at 8am with a full blown Scottish breakfast – complete with Black Pudding or Haggis. Shar and I of course took the Haggis, we both love it. Rosa had Haggis too but Cheryl went with Black Pudding. She originally hails from Newfoundland, Canada where Black Pudding is a regular menu item and she wanted to know if it was as good as home. It was!We dallied way too long at breakfast but how could we help ourselves with such an awesome meal, beautiful sunny dining room and all the tea and coffee we could drink. Ok full disclosure here… we were expecting rain and no one was ready to get out there into the potential sogginess.Leaving our B&B, the amazing owner woman lady (I feel so bad I can’t remember her name) knowing our love of Helian Coo’s offered to take us out to her family’s pasture where she raises them for a ‘wee look’ before she drops us off at the start of our day – heck yah!We met Aggie a beautiful brown mom nd her baby, and another black Coo (I don’t remember her name) and her babe – they are absolutely adorable! Standing in a classic scotch mist rain seeing Helian Coo’s – now that’s quintessential!Oh my goodness they even have a Coo named Pippa and she knows her own name. The B&B gal called it out and all the way across the field Pippa raised her head and made to come our way! She is the Coo way way across the field.Once we got our Coo time in, we were dropped off in Machrie (where we were picked up yesterday) to start our day of walking … with standing stones! Oh wow, wow, wow. Sadly, Rosa did not hear the buzzing of bees and find Jamie Fraser but we had an awesome time all the same!Overall I think there was 3 or maybe 4 standing stone circles in that field – some more impressed than others in size but all pretty awesome to see. Our standing stones excursion was a 3km+ detour and worth every blister bandaid step! Just amazing how they have stood the test of time. From the standing stones we made our way the couple of km to King’s Cave. This is the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out and they say spoke to the spider who changed the course of Scotland. I have heard many a cave claim the Robert and spider story so I am not sure about that but it was amazing all the same!The walk to the King’s Cave Park area was 1.6km on the road but once there it was the most amazing path trough the forest and across the hill top then down a rock gulley to the shore – beautiful!From the King’s Cave we continued along the coast on a gassy knoll just above the boulders on the beach heading towards Drumadoon cliffs and Blackwaterfoot town for lunch. This section of trail is so far my favourite! Easy underfoot on the knoll and then entertaining boulder hopping with amazing views of the ocean to the right and imposing beautiful cliffs to the right – wow!We wrapped up this morning with a 1km+ beach walk to bring us into Blackwaterfoot for lunch. We hit the Post Office/Liquor Store/Grocer to refill snacks and suck for our packs and then grabbed some lunch from On A Roll.I had a very tasty Scotch Pie and the rest of the crew enjoyed super fresh sandwiches. Sitting outside at a picnic table we enjoyed our lunch, took care of any feet concerns, and reviewed the trail info for the afternoon.Once back on the path, our next milestone was Preacher’s Cave at about km 1.6 – we found it. It is a massive triangle shaped cave that was used as a church in the early 1800s. Pretty neat to see! From here the guide book describes the path as ‘tortuous’ over boulder fields grown over with vegetation making for difficult and uneasy footing with very few way markers. Bang on!Well the description was correct .. but we loved it! The sun came out, the stepping up and over and across to the different rocks was entertaining, and the conversation was great. For sure our speed slowed right down as every second stone was an ankle breaker but we didn’t care – we were happy as clams out there and we saw a seal!From this tortuous path we made our way up a very steep – outside of my comfort zone – hill to the top of the cliffs where we rejoined the road.Once up the hill, we took in the amazing view and changed from boots to shoes and continued walking. We had 6.8km left to cover on the road to reach our evenings destination, the Lagg Hotel built in 1971.We walk on the side of the road where the traffic is coming at us so we can give them a chance to see us and give us some space or we can jump into the ditch. There is no shoulder on these roads and barely enough room for cars to pass so it’s a little sketchy but easy underfoot.At 3.8km we happened past a bus stop and hmmmm don’t mind if we do! We didn’t come here to walk on roads – we came to walk on paths and when there is no path, we are outta here! Sure it was only a 3.8km trek and only saved us about 30mins but wow did our feet thank us!We made it to the Lagg Hotel at just after 6pm our earliest at night so far! We checked in and even had time to shower and get into clean clothes before dinner, which was booked for 830pm. It was so nice to have our home right in the very place we were enjoying a cold pint and our meal.We even met the hotel owner who lives part-time in the Calgary area, just like 3 of our peeps! Lots of chat about the Calgary area ensued. We finished the night off with a wee dram of Arran Gold Liquor (like a really good and more real Baileys) liberally poured by Peter and then headed to bed – all secretly hoping the rain in the forecast was a bad weatherman’s joke.Brande

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Hobbling in Blackwaterfoot

Day 2 on the Arran Coastal Way proved to be another doozy. A beautiful doozy that has left all of us with a bit of a hobble or a limb tonight- tight muscles, dogs barking, sun burns, and blisters seems to be the order of the body today for our crew.

The day started amazing! We stayed at the Butt Lodge (not a typo) which had the cutest rooms, comfy beds and was so quiet. Except for the temperature of the rooms (too warm) it was a perfect stay. Oh and we had the pleasure of a full Scottish breakfast!

If you don’t know what a full Scottish breakfast is let me tell you! 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, potato scone, fried mushrooms, and toast. Most of the time it also comes with Black Pudding. Ours did not but it would have been epic if it did. So yummy!

After breakfast we packed up and heading out the door. Leaving our big bags for Contours Walking Company to carry forward for us, and just taking our daytime backpack.

At 930am we were on the road. We kicked off the day with a visit to the Lochranza Castle built in the 13th century. Robert the Bruce stopped here on his way from Ireland when he returned to claim the throne. Today, it is just some really impressive ruins – in really gold shape!

From there, we started out on the path. This included a short distance on the road around the headland and a steep, long uphill to take us to a fern filled, undulating path on the cliff above the beach.

A few sections of the trail where beyond my ‘fear of heights’ comfort zone – just a foot wide if that with what would be a hard drop off of it wasn’t for the ferns growing out of the hill to give you illusion of solid ground. You can’t fool me. I took the lead and powered through it! I find when spooked on a trail just ‘doing it’ gets me through it!

Following our up on the cliff walk, we then came down a very steep hill to the village of Catacol where we got to step over our first ladder stile.

These are basically two ladders leaned against each other over a fence. They are used to keep the sheep in the pasture but give us humans an easy way up and over without the pain of a gate. Seems sheep don’t know how to climb ladders. I wonder about that!

The village of Catacol is famous for the row of 12 white houses that face the sea. Each has a different shaped window design so the wives of fisherman who lived there could signal their husbands by placing an oil lamp on the sill.

From Catacol we did a bit more road walking (about 4-5km) before making our way back onto the beach for some Coastal hiking. This is such a beautiful way to see the coast but it’s hard work keeping your balance and purchase on the rocks. Worth the work though for the amazing views! Well the view from the road is awesome too but the is just something fun about hiking on the road vs on a path or the beach!

We soon left the beach to walk into Pirnmill where we were excited to have a warm lunch and a pint at the Lighthouse Cafe. I could already taste my cheese and tomato toastie and a cold pint of Tenants lager.

Well hopes dashed, there was a homemade sign on the door announcing it was closed for today and tomorrow. Boo! Well when life serves you lemons you make lemonade.

There was a small village store next to it where we grabbed some Tuc crackers, Island of Arran Brie, a lemon loaf, some candy and bought a can of Tenants. We then grabbed a picnic table and popped all our pack snacks and new purchases into a pretty epic family style lunch.

After our picnic, we had a few more kms of road walking before getting back on the beach. The road walking while flat surfaced and easy is tough on the body and the mind.

There is no shoulder at all so you are have to be hyper vigilant for cars, walk single file (so no chatting), and the hot black tar with the sun makes for warm and very sore feet. We were glad to get back onto more natural surfaces!

Along our travels we came across 2 seaside graveyards. Wow they were pretty old. The stone fence around the outside always falling down in places and all the graves were covered in lichen. I think the oldest grave stone we could read was for a poor soul who died in 1812. What an amazing final resting place.

By mid afternoon we were no longer beach walking but rather rock balancing and hopping – these amazing lava formations stretched for kms of the coast with a few random grassy or beach breaks. The surfaces were very rough making for sticky walking allowing us to easily walk up and over and across, picking the route we wanted so long as the ocean stayed on our right we were heading in the right direction.

From here the path turned into a very grassy headland with lots of vegetation- mostly some type of tall fern and thistles. At some points we were pushing through shoulder high ferns on the path hoping spiders and tics were in residence on another part of the island today.

Totally worth the vegetation foraging as we got a glimpse of a golden eagle above the cliffs and found some cool caves!

Our beach walking wrapped up around 430pm and a quick look at the map and some math confirmed we still had 8km of road walking left before our day was done. None of us were keen to be back on the road.

Rallying our selves for the next 1.5hrs of a silent, windy, hot, sore slog we tried to think of just how lucky we are to be here and that the road was right beside the sandy beach so we could seal watch while walking! The idea of a spot of tea and a fresh scone at the Machrie Tea Room and Golf Club (our day’s destination) was also a big incentive. Sure glad we didn’t know then it was closed – nooooo! Sad face!

Instead we called our Greannan B&B lady who was picking us up to drive us to the accomodation in Blackwaterfoot as it was far off  today’s walking route. She was lovely and had lots of say about the island so raised our spirits some. Oh and what she couldn’t raise, the beautiful B&B did! A bed has never looked so comfortable!

No time for resting! It was almost 7pm and we still had to walk … hobble, shuffle, wrangle … the 1km down to the Kinloch Hotel for some supper before they stopped serving meals. Our B&B lady was so sweet and called to book us a table to we wouldn’t miss out on getting some eats! We cheered our amazing but tough day and commiserated on our hate for road walking over cold pints!

What an awesome day and fantastic evening meal – now let’s back to our home for the night to tend to the blisters, muscle pain and sun burns!

Brande

Giggling in Lochranza

Today was quite the Arran Coastal Way kick off … perhaps a little trial of fire really with such high temperatures, 27km distance, bouldering, beach walking, hill climbing and wardrobe malfunctions. Amazing every step of it, wow what an experience. We began our day with a yummy continental breakfast at our B&B, The Broomage, after a decent night’s sleep. Most of us were up a few times in the night – our brains refusing to adjust too quickly to Scots time from west coast Canada time but we felt rested and ready all the same. Breaky in, water bladders full, and packs on we headed out the door to start our walk – there may have even been some high 5s! We headed to the start of the trail which is marked with a really cool map of Arran on this big stone slab thing – I am not doing it justice with that description haha! The day started with a walk along the path, boardwalk and across the beach around the Brodick Harbour. Easy walking makes for such nice start to the day – lots of good conversation and a good way to get the muscles warmed up.From there we progressed from beach to forested path. Now we are talking! This is the kind of walking I love – in the trees, shaded from the sun, lots of up and down and stepping over roots and across little streams. We were still feeling amazing! Once through the forested section, we arrived in Corrie & Sannox a string of small villages along the coast. This had us walking on the road for a few kms and gave us a chance to stop for a wee spot of tea and some cookies! From there we were off for a bit more road walking and then refreshingly back to coast line. About an hour or so later we stopped for a sea side picnic, boots off to give the toes a break and some air, some more sunscreen and we were off again. The afternoon was much tougher that the morning but wow was it amazing. We were back on the coast but now this was a rough coastline with loads of scrambling or bouldering – the views were amazing and the terrain fun to walk but this is the type of trail that’s hard on the body and oh I love it. But wow those random moments of flat terrain were such a welcome break for the tired ankles!Wow – after 10 hours of hiking, a total of 53,640 steps and 4,939 calories we finally arrived in the cutest little coastal town of Lochranza. This town could not have come sooner – we were tired! Some of us switched from boots to shoes to give the feet a break and all of us enjoyed a few Haribo chewy candies (coke bottles, fried eggs and such) for a boost for the last couple of kms. Mmm Once in Lochranza, we headed straight to the Lochranza Hotel. The only place you can get food in town and only until 830pm (and it was already 7pm). The gulp of that cold pint was a dream! Oh like you have no idea – too good. We had a yummy dinner out on the hotel lawn at a picnic table with with views of the old Lochranza Castle across the harbour. You could tell we were tired, loads of giggles and laughing till we cry moments! Best finish ever to an awesome day!BrandePS for the Outlander fans out there … despite multiple attempts, Rosa has not yet heard the buzzing of bees. No worries though, our scientific endeavour to find Jamie Fraser will continue!

Happy in Brodick

We said goodbye to the west coast of Canada at noon on Mon July 23 and have been saying  hello to Scotland since 9am on Tuesday July 24. Wow, that was quick. Just three flights for me and two for my fellow travellers, a Harry Potter movie, a few games of Yahtzee, a fresh lobster roll, a face mask treatment on the plane or two, a bus and we arrived safe and excited to be in Glasgow!

We caught the Glasgow Airport Express (20pounds for 4 of us) to Glasgow Central Train Station (about a 15min journey) so we could hit Buchanan Street. This is a long, cobbled stoneshopping street or district with lots of clothes shops, Tesco (grocery store), Boots (drug stores) and Poundland (dollar store). A great place for the newly arrived tourist to grab a  iPhone charger that works in the plugs here, an international SIM card so I can gave a data plan for safety .. and blogging reasons, etc.

While out and about in Glasgow, we stopped at the Willow Tea Room – a Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired cafe – for scones and Loren sausage morning rolls, fresh tea and strong coffee. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a famous Scottish architect and artist who draws these beautiful roses! During breakfast my amazing crew had birthday cards for me and eeeeeek a Polaroid camera! No joke!

Yup that little lime green guy is mine! This is going to make scrapbooking this trip even more fun – oh my goodness I cannot wait! That’s the first pic I took so I could remember how crazy happy I am! Wow, what a present! You even have to  wave the Polaroid around darter it slides out until the film does its magic show up thing. So fun!

We did a bit more looking about in Glasgow, grabbing a few wee things we thought we might not be able to get on the small Island of Arran and then made our way back to the Glasgow Central Station to grab a train out to Adrosson Harbour and then onto the ferry to Brodick on the Island.

Of course we snapped a few pics on the way … including one of a Tim Horton’s right in central Glasgow. Who knew!?

The ticket for both train and ferry was about 12 pounds total, that is pretty awesome considering we spent almost a full hour on each. We bought them right from the ticket office at ScotRail with no problem at all and during the summer months he trains sets out every hour. We were on the train for 12:19pm and then the ferry by 2pm. So easy.

Once in Brodick we quickly got acquainted with this very small village, found the best photo spot, sized up all the local pubs (all 3 haha) and found quick directions to our home for the evening.

We are staying at a little B&B / self catering apartments place called The Broomage. The family that runs it is lovely and live on the top third floor, while the rest of us have the run of the main and second floor. A little sad we don’t get a full Scottish Breakfast our first morning of our hike but no one should complain about yummy fruit, toast and cereal when you aren’t the one making it. Love that!

We dropped our heavy packs, chatted with the owner couple a little bit, and then headed into town (snicker, snicker that’s about a half a block away and about that big) for something to eat – we were famished.

Yahoo at the Fiddler’s Roof we found haggis and Arran Island cheese toasties and Cullen Skink soup – two delicious, very Scottish meals. Haggis is well um sort of peppery meatloaf (we will leave it at that) and Cullen Skink is a fish, cream, potato soup. Oh and some local Scottish ale too. Mmmm

We had a great supper pouring over the maps, guide book and information about the towns we would visit in the days to come. Many of us yawning and ready to go grab groceries then get back and sort out our backpacks  for the next day! But not before Cheryl gifted the bar a sweet, crisp, pretty 5dollar bill for their brick wall of money. They had loads of other kinds of money up there but  Canadian – well that just had to be remedied! Go Canada Go!

Ok back at our home, we got to packing. Sorting out what would be in our day packs (rain gear, fleece, chow for lunch and snacks, first aid kit, sun screen, hat, sneakers if wearing boots or vice versa, lip chap, camera, map, compass, etc) and what would go in our carry forward packs. Contours Walking Company will be picking up our carry forward packs in the morning and they will be there waiting at our next evenings home.

By now, just 7pm Glasgow time, the flights and the time change are getting to us. A couple of the crew turned in while Shar and I went to the beach for a few sunset pics, some blog time and journaling.

Shar and I wrapped up the evening with some tea and biscuits while we reviewed tomorrow’s route and looked ahead to the highlights of the days to follow.

Now that’s us off to bed – we have a 27km day tomorrow up island to Lochranza! Time for some Z’s!

Brande

Haggis, Hops, Hiking and Hilarity – Here We Go

We are off …

Our merry band of 4 is about to take to the skies from Calgary via Halifax to Glasgow, Scotland on our favourite airliner West Jet. All my past adventures to Scotland have been on direct flights of 9-10hours into Glasgow. I am looking forward to splitting this up into two 5 hour flights with a chance to stretch the stems in Halifax for a wee bit … maybe enough time to grab an Alexander Keith’s! Mmmmm

We land tonight Vancouver time around midnight but in Glasgow, which is really breakfast for us on arrival. 10hrs in flight and a 9hr time change will make for some hilarious, way too tired, giggle moments tomorrow as I celebrate another birthday in Scots!

I had the pleasure of celebrating my 30th and 35th in Fort William, Scotland and now my 40th in Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland. Pretty excited about this little trend .. maybe the Orkneys are calling for my 45th? Hmmmm

Right, see you on the flip side, us lassies have a couple of wee flights to catch.

Brande

Let’s Pack – Packing Tips

12 sleeps to Scotland …

Our Scotland adventure to walk the Arran Coastal Way and climb Goat Fell Mountain is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the actual packing – putting stuff in stuff. We have our Let’s Pack – Toiletries and Let’s Pack – Clothing lists and now we can go from lists and piles to actually packing it into a pack!

I have learned a few tricks over the years about the actual packing part and thought I would share them with you for your next adventure.

Roll It

Yup roll everything.

There are some folks who try and say folding everything nicely and all flat like is the best way. Nope! Actual science has confirmed rolling is the way to go – and my science I mean myth busters. Each little clothing roll takes up less space than a flat fold and you can tuck and squish and jam the rolls into little nooks and crannies in your pack (or luggage).

Don’t believe me? Try it! Pack flat and then unpack and do it all again rolled – yup told yah! Oh and if you are worried about wrinkles from the rolling, I get that but don’t think you need to worry too much. In my experience the wrinkle count is about the same with a roll or a flat fold and there is no getting away from the things. That’s all part of travelling I guess – being wrinkly and not giving one hoot cause you are on vacation!

Tip: half fold and then tight roll. What? For a shirt, for example, fold it in half with the arms laid flat over it – then roll it from the collar to the bottom. This will keep the arms all nicely tucked and the roll tight. For pants you flatten/fold the legs one over the other and then roll from leg bottom to waist band.

Stuff it

Quite literally stuff all the stuff! Have you heard of compression sacks, or light weight dry sacks or stuff sacks? These are magic bags! You jam them full of all your stuff (in rolls of course, see tip above) and then you roll or tighten the closure to suck out all the extra air and compress your stuff.

Here is a photo of the clothes I am bringing to Scotland:

Now here are all of those clothes, less my fleece, that have been rolled and compressed into my 8L lightweight stuff sack:

My fleece doesn’t go into the stuff sack because it will be coming on the plane with me as a pillow or shawl or blanket or maybe just a fleece as it was design to be. However I put it in this photo so you can use it to see just how small that stuff sack is – and it has all my clothes in it that were in the previous picture. I probably could have compressed it even more too!

You don’t need a heavy weight stuff or compression or dry sack for packing – something lightweight does the trick! So do not go out and buy those heavy duty water proof boat bags or anything – that will just add weight. We are focused on lightweight for backpack packing. Not only will these sacks help reduce the amount of room your clothes take but it also creates compartments of sorts in your pack or luggage to keep you organized.

Caution: using stuff sacks does not give you permission to pack more than you need! Just because there is a bit more space does not mean you need to fill it with that ‘just in case’ extra dress or that shirt ‘I hoped I would actually like on vacation’. Leave the untested and maybe items at home. Enjoy the space, not the extra stuff!

Ziplock It

As you have read in my past few blog posts – I love me some Ziplock magic!

I encourage you to put all your potentially messy and goopy stuff like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen in Ziplocks when you pack it – both for the plane and on the the trip. I have been the gal who has a shampoo explode in her suitcase and can still get grumpy thinking about the mess lol

Ziplocks are also good for compression and compartmentalizing your stuff. The Sea to Summit or similar stuff / dry sack pictured above can be a bit tough on the budget – you will only ever have to buy em once and use them for every trip you will ever take in your life but they are not cheap. So if money is a consideration as I imagine it is for all of us – there is a back up Ziplock solution.

Grab some big Ziplocks to pack you clothes in. Maybe a Ziplock XL Freezer size for your shorts and pants, a XL for your shirts and Buffs, another L for undies and swimming costume. (I love that word)

Once you clothes are all nicely rolled and tucked into the Ziplock, you will want to push out as much air as possible and close the zip almost all the way. Leave about a 1inch section of the zip not closed. At this gap you are going to literally suck the air out of the bag and then close when it’s all gone. No joke. This really works!

Group It

Did you notice a theme among all these tips? I am big on grouping like items with like items and suggest this for anyone packing a bag, a pack, a suitcase.

Grouping your travel stuff basically mimics the organization you have at home. This will make finding things and re-packing things while abroad so much easier for you. Don’t be the person who has to un-roll and un-stuff everything to find that one thing – pack in such a way that you know where all the things are! This will save you time, reduce stress, keep your travel companions happy, and get you to the tourist stuff faster – the reason you packed all this in the first place!

There are a few different trains of thought for how to group items for your different stuff sacks, compartments or Ziplocks. Some people stuff by outfit – so they will have a roll for each day (bottoms, top and undies all rolled together) and out all those daily rolls in one stuff sack. I don’t bring enough tops and bottoms for each day so this never works for me but I do like the idea in theory. Some people may put all the tops on one sack and all the bottoms in another. This doesn’t work for me either because then I have to open both sacks each time instead of just one for the whole ensemble.

Finding the way that works for you may take a few trips or re-packs but once you do  – wow, the heavens will sing for ya!  Here is how I will be organizing for this hiking trip:

  • Big Stuff Sack: all my hiking clothes (not undies, socks, or outdoor layers like jackets)
  • Med Stuff Sack: all of my extra bits like pajama, city tourist clothes, train/plane clothes
  • Med / Small Stuff Sack: undies, sports bras, socks and liners, Buffs, toque
  • Med /Small Stuff Sack: all the dirty clothes

When I am on a non-hiking holiday, like a trip to a hot destination, I will have a large stuff sack for evening destination wear, a sack for daytime beach wear (bathing costume and cover-ups), a sack for my running gear, and one for all my undies, pajama, etc. So a bit different than my backpacking or hiking pack grouping but same idea.

Organize It

Roll it, stuff it, group it  – got it! You got the basics if you have all that well in hand, but  I figured I would dazzle you (ha ha I am probably the only one who is dazzled by packing ideas) with some additional packing / organizational tips to consider…

  • Shower Caps: use these to cover the bottom of the shoes you pack. You can use a shoe bag or Ziplock of course but when those aren’t available a shower cap works to cover the dirty sole of any shoe – the little elastic around the edge keeps it nicely secured. I steal every hotel shower cap I can get my hands on! Flip flops can go in one cap sole to sole and boots one cap per sole.
  • Make-up bags or pencil cases: back to grouping again here! Never leave an item loose! If you have some pens, highlighter, and a journal – put them all in a zippered case! Make it big enough for your wallet and passport too. If you have some toiletries you need on the plane (lip chap, hand cream, floss, etc) – put them all in a wee make-up bag or better yet the 1L clear plastic security bag at the airport. Little, light zippered cases will save you digging around trying to find stuff – from believing you have lost the 4th lip chap of the trip – and can add some personality to your pack. I have a pencil case for my toiletries that has a world map on it, I feel like such a globe trotter when I pull it out.
  • Extra Ziplocks and some elastics: toss a few of each in a case or extra Ziplock and bring them along. These are great for storing left over snacks, leaky tubes of face cream or whatever might bring en route, or soggy socks. Elastics are great for closing chip or crisp bags, keeping your journal closed when it’s full of train tickets and receipts or other ephemera, etc.
  • Carabiners: grab a few of these and attach them to your pack or your cases inside of your pack for the trip. A small one and a couple mediums should do the trick. These are great for clipping items into place in your pack or on your pack (like when you need to dry your socks you hand-washed that morning). I also use them to close the zippers on my city-tourist day pack so the sneaky pick pockets have to work a little harder. I use them to hand my towel or toiletries in the shower so my stuff does not sit on the floor wet. So many amazing uses for these things. Oh and you do not need to buy the rock climbing grade Carabiner – they should only cost you a couple bucks each for the ones you need.

Well that is my approach to packing the things in the things – now I am off to get some training in! With just 12 sleeps left I want to get as many miles as I can in every day – today I am touring downtown Victoria with 30lbs in my pack (aka my entire John Grisham novel collection) and my sneakers.

Next week we will talk about packing documents for your trip. Yup, even this subject is worth a whole blog post my Running for the Gate friends!

Brande 

Let’s Pack – Clothing

 

21 sleeps to Scotland …

packing_clothes_list

We talked about toiletries in my last post, Let’s Pack – Toiletries, so now lets talk about the biggest bulk of any suitcase, backpack or duffel bag… the clothes!

From conversations with many a travelling soul in hostels or hotels, on planes or trains, and chats among my friends and family – it seems to me that deciding on the clothes to bring on a trip is the toughest part of packing. I get that. This used to be something I really struggled with.

I used to hunt through websites and books for that perfect packing list – which of course alluded me as much as the perfect,  diet alludes us all. I would stand in front of my closet or dresser pulling out anything I might just maybe want wear while away on a trip. I would think of every possible scenario that could ever possibly happen and make sure I had an outfit for it. The result was always way too much stuff. My suitcase or pack would be burden not a comfort. Why was I creating burdens to take with me, when the whole idea of trip is to ditch those burdens at home and travel light and free?

Well after a few trips of carrying way too much, I started to think about what principles I could apply to how I pack that would reduce the amount I take on a trip without leaving me unprepared. Not only was I keen to stop over packing, I was also keen to make the act of packing a little less stressful. Also, if it made picking what to wear while abroad a little less stressful too that would be fabulous. So over a few more trips I developed some principles that really, really work for me – happy to share them with you here!

Packing (Clothes) Principles:

  • Leave items that still have price tags at home (or at the store)

If you have not worn it and loved it, it does not come on the trip. There is nothing worse than discovering a shirt is uncomfortable, those pants ride up, or even that something is broken or you don’t know how to use it when you are abroad. That was precious pack space and weight that has been spent on an unworthy item. Test every item you are taking with you before you take it with you.

  • Leave anything that is too special to wear at home, at home 

Clothes that you are not wearing at home are not going to get worn on a trip. We are creatures of habit and will reach for those comfort items more than the new or special almost every time. That summer dress you have been saving to wear again when you next go to Mexico – don’t bother packing it. If you don’t love it enough to wear at home it does not deserve a place in your pack. Only items that bring you joy, no matter latitude and longitude, should be coming with you on your travels.

  • All tops and all bottoms need to get along 

This is a tough one folks but has the most impact. This one principle will make decision making so much easier when you pack and when you decide what to wear while away. Here it is … every top you take should match any bottom you take. So that tank top needs to match the shorts, skirt and the pants you are packing. Those tights need to match every shirt you are taking.  An easy way to achieve this is to stick to black, grey and khaki on the bottom; with solids or muted, simple patterns on top. Refer to the next principle if you need more spice than this principles suggests.

  • Always pack a scarf or pashmina shawl 

Some of y’all will think this only applies to the ladies, but for those fashion forward and comfy-in-their-own-skin men I would also recommend this one for you too!

While I have been using the same grey scarf when I travel for 15 years, this is where I encourage you all to add a little more ju-ju (some spice for those of you who do not watch Queer Eye) to your trip wardrobe. Don’t let my easy choice colour deter you from some pizzazz here. Caveat is you need to be willing to wear it with every top/bottom combo you have. For people like me who are fashion-challenged this means a neutral solid colour like grey but for those of you who actually have a sense of style you can kick it up a notch here and get your own look on.

A scarf is great for so many things: when you are chilled and need a little something more than you have on but less than a jacket, a pillow on a plane or train, a fashion accessory, to cover knees or shoulders when visiting churches or sacred locations where you have to cover up, a make shift dress while all your clothes are in the dryer due to bed bugs, as a towel in a pinch, a tourniquet and more. I also use mine to create some privacy when staying in hostels – pick the bottom bunk for your bed, and then tuck you scarf under the mattress above you and let it hand down like a curtain.

With just these principles in play I guarantee you your packing stress will be reduced big time. Don’t trust me – try it! Oh and if you are heading out on a overseas long distance hike trip, I am also happy to share my full packing list with you too. Here we go!

Packing List – Arran Coastal Way, Scotland:

This list takes into account that our trip to Scotland is 2 weeks long , is largely based on hiking 20+km each, includes only a few urban tourist days, includes flights of over 10hrs, and temperature will be summer moderate 20C with rain on a pretty regular basis. This is a long distance hike to different accommodations each night, not a thru hike.

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Hiking – Bottoms

  • Hiking Capri
  • Hiking Pant
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Undies (cotton recommended) 1 pair/day

If you have zip off hiking pants that’s even better – as you can drop one of the other items from the list. For example if I pack my hiking pants that zip off into carpi length then I don’t also pack my Capri pants. Oh and make sure you trial your pants on an actual hike before you go. Shorts that ride up. undies that crawl or pant waistbands that bunch under your pack straps can cause rubs and even blisters that will ruin days of hiking for you.

Hiking – Top

  • Technical Long Sleeve
  • Technical Short Sleeve x2
  • Technical No Sleeve
  • Sports bra x2

I prefer short sleeves over no sleeves as I don’t like the pack straps being directly on my skin and it reduces the need for sunscreen on some hard to reach parts like the back of my shoulders. But if you prefer no sleeves then just flip the numbers here.

I always take 2 sports bras as I find they dry too slow to wash one evening and wear the next day. Also I want to wear the non-sweaty one in the evening after a hike post shower. In a bind, pun intended, you can also use your buff as a boob-tube of sorts if both the bras need a clean and dry. Again, make sure you do a few hikes in all your gear and especially your bras. Falling straps or pressure spots where a clasp is will make you crazy on the trail. If its uncomfortable at home it will be annoying as heck abroad.

Hiking – Outer

  • Gortex Jacket (shell)
  • Fleece jacket / layer
  • Toque (Buff can work)
  • Sun / rain hat
  • Departure Day Decision: Gortex rain pants

If you do not have Gortex outer layers bring the very best rain gear you can afford, borrow or already have. Arriving at to your accommodation soggy at the end of the day is all good when you have a bath and heat available – but what if you don’t make it, get lost or are tenting? Sogginess can make for some morbid outcomes if you cannot warm up and dry off at the end of a hike day.

Also, make sure you can put all the things on – trial having your no sleeve, short sleeve, long sleeve, fleece and shell on to make sure they all fit and are comfortable. If you cannot put your rain shell on over your fleece and base layers, you need a bigger one. You want to have things fit nicely over each other. Not too tight or you will be uncomfortable but also not too loose as you will lose heat in those spaces.

Hiking – Feet

  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking runners or sneakers
  • Flip Flops
  • Smart Wool medium hiking sock x3
  • Hiking liner sock x3
  • Running sock (ankle) x2
  • Compression sock (knee length) x2
  • Departure Day Decision: Gaiters 

This is largely where personal choice comes into play – there is nothing more important that finding the shoe or shoe combo that works for you. If you need some help deciding and want to know why I prefer a hiking boot and running shoe combo, check out my blog post 8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet. No matter what your footwear preference is you need to test it over and over again. Make your decision early and train in them.

I take a number of socks because I have specific combos for my boots and my runners which I toggle between everyday depending on the trail terrain. I also take more than a couple Smart Wool Medium Hiking Socks as I find they tend to stretch when moist or after a day of travel and that is blister city for me if I don’t switch them out for a new pair. When you are training, find your combo and adjust this list accordingly.

Hiking – Head

  • Toque or Buff
  • Sun / Rain hat

I go nowhere without my Patagonia Beanie so this may something that you don’t need to bring with you if the weather where you are heading is always moderate. I love mine for cool morning starts, pints on the patio with the sun setting, and to block the light when sleeping on planes or train stations.

The sun/rain hat should have a decent rim on it to keep the elements from your face and neck – a good brim is also good for keeping the bug netting off your face if we have to resort to this measure when the Scottish midges get too bad.

Hiking – The Other Bits

  • Day Pack (rain cover)
  • Bladder
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hiking Poles*
  • Buff x2
  • Sunscreen (face/body and lip)
  • Bug Spray
  • Trail Guide, Map, Compass (waterproof map case)
  • Phone, Camera (Ziploc bag)
  • Some extra Ziploc baggies (to transfer your snacks into)
  • Carabiner x2 (to dry clothes while walking)
  • Departure Day Decision: Hiking Poles

Many of these items will also be part of your sight seeing tourist days as well – your phone, camera, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, Ziploc baggies are all daily items no matter the activity. Even a Carabiner or 2 should be clipped onto your lightweight day bag or purse so you can clip on anything you buy, secure your water bottle, secure the purse to your clothing (if you are in a high rate pick pocket city), etc.

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All The Other Things

  • Top and bottom pajamas (cotton)
  • Sleep mask
  • Earplugs or headphones
  • Cotton tights or light pants
  • Cotton No Sleeve, T-Shirt or Long Sleeve
  • Cotton button up (or Technical UV Button Up)
  • Journal and pens
  • Scarf or Pashmina
  • Light weight bag or purse
  • Light weight water bottle
  • Cotton undies 1 pair/day when not hiking
  • Small Ziploc of dry laundry soap

I am a big advocate of natural fibers when technical gear is not required. They just feel comfortable and cozy and I like to have what is immediately next to my body be as natural as possible. So I am all about the cotton undies everyday on a trip even if you have to bring a few extra pairs as they don’t wick as well as synthetic fibers. Also, I always wear cotton tights, cotton tank or tee, a cotton button up shirt, my scarf and compression socks on a long haul plane trip. This keeps me in cotton, gives me layers for when the temp changes on the plane, keeps the feet swelling down and is almost like being in pajamas without the world knowing it.

Do you have to do laundry on your trip? To have your hiking clothes available for sight seeing or vice versa you may need to do a little laundry. If you can find a laundromat great but I tend to not worry about that and just hand wash a couple of items each night or every other night. I do not put any of my technical gear in the dryer so a sink wash and a hang dry works for me – especially in the United Kingdom where most rooms have a radiator heater for quick drying.

Departure Day Decisions … prior to departing I will check the long term forecast and make a decision on if Gortex rain paints are needed. I will bring them if we they are forecasting a 50% chance of rain for 50% of the hiking days. I have read the guide book and continue to read blogs about the trail and will use this info to decide if Gaiters or hiking poles are needed. I will bring Gaiters if 50% of the trail is either high grasses, through overgrown bush or over gravel, pebble, shale based trail. This will keep the ticks at bay and the rocks out of my shoes which are blister makers. I will bring the poles if there is a 50% elevation gain or drop on 50% of the hiking days. This will keep my balance up and reduce the pressure on these four decade old knees.

There you go – now off I go to put all these items together!

Next week I will post some packing tips – some things I have learned that help make the actual act of putting stuff in that duffel, suitcase or pack easier before you go and when you are off gallivanting.

Brande

 

Let’s Pack – Toiletries

With just 5 weeks (eeeek) to our departure for Scotland and the 100km Arran Coastal Way and some Edinburgh and Glasgow sight seeing, these next posts few posts will focus on what is currently top of mind for our merry travelling band – what to pack!

While I would never claim to be a packing expert, I do have some handy tips and tricks that work well for me and just might be something that could work for you. How do I know some bits about this? Well, I have read dozens and dozens of books, follow way too many travel blogs, comb through loads of trail guides, and have had to pack for quite a few long, walking holidays myself. Also, I have some packing lessons I learnt the hard way that I would gladly share with you all to save you stress they caused me – like realizing I packed everything but a comb or brush and had no place to buy one for 4 days. Scarecrow!

This week lets focus on packing toiletries – yes, toiletries. You are probably wondering how could there possibly be enough info in my brain to dump on you about toiletries to fill a blog post and keep you entertained. Ha! There is more in my brain on this topic (and all things packing and prep) than you can imagine or that I ever thought was up in there. You will see. Here we go …

Toiletries – My Tips and Tricks: 

  • You will use less than you think of most stuff and more of some stuff than you ever thought. How confusing is that! Basically, don’t stress about amounts – figure it out by doing a trial! Schedule a two week duration (or the length of the trip you are going on) before you go and use the products you intend to take for that same time frame. Pay special attention to what you use everyday, how much you use, and also what you don’t use. Pack the items and the amount accordingly.
  • Don’t pack the ‘that would be cool’ stuff. Like you have his awesome charcoal mask you use once in a very blue moon but think hmm maybe I would have time to do it while relaxing or journaling on the trip. Nope! You won’t. Don’t pack it. If you didn’t use it during your home trial (see above) – it doesn’t get a place in your pack!
  • If you have a roomie or travel buddy, think about sharing. For example, one of you bring the conditioner and another the shampoo.
  • If you are bringing a blow-dryer, straightener, or other electronic hair appliance they will need a converter which can be purchased before you go – you will need one that not only converts the style of plug but also the voltage or watts. Cautionary tale, I have NEVER had success with a converter and I think my current international ‘blow up a blow-dryer’ count is at about 5 and the last even burnt my hand. Boo! Instead of buying a converter, I suggest you buy a small blow-dyer or whatever once you arrive at your destination (researching where there is a store that sells them and how to get there from your arrival spot before you depart of course – so it’s a quick stop and not a waste of a tourist day).
  • Prescription medications must be in their original prescribed container and should be in your carry-on that you take on the plane. This is important for customs but also for your health! Should your checked luggage be lost or delayed, you can buy new underpants and deodorant but replacing that prescription blood pressure medication is a bit tougher, expensive and can mess with your trip plans.
  • Over the counter medications that you might want to bring should be in their original blister packs but to save space I tend to take the blister packs out of the box and rip off just the name and dosage instructions from the original pack. I then toss an elastic around the blister packs and the package bits I ripped off so they are together and you know how much to take should you need to. If space is really tight, remember you can buy this kind of stuff in most countries so you don’t need to pack too much. Just pack enough to to cover you for a few days for immediate relief until you can buy more locally. I suggest a few of the following: Gravol, Immodium, Pepto Bismal, Daytime Cold & Sinus, Nighttime Cold & Sinus, Tylenol and/or Advil plus any other specifics you tend to suffer from, i.e. maybe cold sore medication or something like that.
  • Always pack an extra lip chap or 5! I swear there is a lip chap conspiracy in this world where they magically walk away, lose themselves, disappear, invisibility cloak themselves, something. I don’t lose things but I cannot keep a handle on a lip chap so something is going on with those wee tubes! I will be bringing 4 on this trip (one in my day pack, one in my carry on, and 2 spare in my toiletries kit).
  • Everyone is pretty and somehow most especially when they are happy, and I find I am pretty darn cute (tee hee) when travelling cause I am so much in my happy place! So don’t worry about bringing stuff to glam yourself up with – happiness will do that for you! Think simple day to day toiletries stuff not night out on the town, look at me like I am in Las Vegas stuff.
  • If you use bar soap, think about cutting it in half for the trip. I have a rule – 1/2 bar of Ivory lasts me 30 days so long as I dry it after each shower. I take with me a 1/2 bar Ivory and a 1/2 bar Rocky Mountain Soap Company Shave Bar on each trip of 30 days or less. I dry them off after the shower so they do not dissolve more than necessary and they are stored in a wee baby zip lock together – they get along and appreciate the company I think.

Toiletries – My Packing List: 

Here is what I will be taking and/or recommend folks consider taking, in travel size containers that will be the perfect amount plus a wee squeeze extra for your trip.

  • Face Cream and Face Sunscreen (daily, combo if you have it)*
  • Face wash, wipes or soap (some use their body for face, or have a combo)
  • Shampoo and conditioner (or combo if that works for you lid)
  • Daily hair products (I use an oil in my hair every few days to keep it silky and have a wee baby travel bottle I use to take just enough for the trip)
  • Make-up (powder, mascara, eye liner, lip gloss, lash curler, and a bit of cheek colour which can also be used eye shadow if you  wanna kick it up a notch)*
  • Make-up remover (if needed, aka for my waterproof mascara)
  • Deodorant or antiperspirant*
  • Body cream
  • Body soap (1/2 bar)
  • Shave soap (1/2 bar)
  • Razor
  • Tweezer
  • Comb and/or brush (aka anti-scarecrow device)
  • Daily medications and vitamins*
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss*
  • Q-tips
  • Some hair taming things (bobby pins, elastics, scrunchy)
  • Hairspray
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Tiny bathroom spray so your roomie doesn’t have to smell you post bathroom ick
  • Perfume**

*I take these items on the plane with me so after 15 hours of travel with 10+ of those on a plane, I can do a little pre-landing freshen up and hit a new country with confidence!

** A trick I use for perfume to avoid bringing a glass perfume bottle with me … dampen a few paper towels, spray liberally with your perfume and store these damp, smelly towels in a air tight Ziplock bag. When you need to smell nice (before landing on your transatlantic flight, out to the pub for eats after a day of hiking), simply dab the perfume soaked damp paper towel where you would usually spritz and return to / resell the Ziplock. Magnifique!

Toiletries – How to Pack Them Advice:  

  • Perfume – see above **
  • Every day and just in case – have two lightweight, mesh cases for your toiletries. One that stores all your everyday stuff from face cream to mascara to shampoo. The other for the just in case like those sinus or allergy meds that you hope you never need. You keep this second one buried in your bag and the other on top for easy access! This way you are not shuffling past some of these just in case items to get to your daily sunscreen – saving loads of time and frustration in your daily routine.
  • Hands and surface free – keeping on that same theme of having one bag for all that you use everyday, also think about putting an S hook or carabiner on the bag for off the counter storage. This is especially important when staying in hostels or B&Bs with share bathrooms where counter space is at minimum or at best soggy from the last patron and no one wants to put a soggy toiletries bag back in their pack.
  • Ziplock it – store your shampoo, conditioner and other gooey toiletries in a big ziplock bag when you check it in. A poor firing lid, the pressure on the plane and baggage handling can cause gooey implosions from those items. While easy enough to clean up, you do need to be careful about wasting the volume of product that was meant to last the duration of your trip. If the mess happens in a ziplock you can still use what made the mess!

Well that’s the toiletries run down – told you I had a lot to say about dental floss and shampoo!

Brande

Goat Creek to Goat Fell

Yahoo lassies!

On Monday the crew of us heading to Scotland to complete the Arran Coast Way in July had our one and only chance to train all together and it was awesome!

Shar selected the Goat Creek Trail for us seeing it would mimic much of our path in Scotland. I sure hope so too because the trail was great and I could do that for a week for sure!

The trail starts at the Goat Creek trail head just outside of Canmore and ends 19km later at the Banff Springs outside of Banff (the trail tail / trail butt as Rosa and Shar joked).

The path was undulating for the most part, up away from Goat Creek and then back down again as we left Canmore further behind and gained on approaching Banff. Just a few slogs up overall really – what a treat!!

At the head of the trail there was a big ole sign warning of wolves and grizzly bears in the area. Always a nice ‘welcome to the trail you hikers who may also double dinner’. Ha! Usually I see these signs when I am alone hiking and they freak me out – which 4 of us hiking though it was way less intimidating. Ok maybe not way less but at least a bit less.

Best way to curb the ‘gonna get eaten’ fear is to launch into full ‘don’t eat me’ mode. This includes being generally loud on the trail – holding conversations, hollering out a word or two every 50 feet or when approaching a bend in the path or a creek, and staying together if you have a hiking tribe.

Really you are just hoping to scare any wildlife away before there is any chance of you startling them into eating you. We also did a quick run down of what to do if we do see a bear, cougar or wolf so we were all on the same page. We did this loudly of course as part of our ‘be heard and be seen’ wildlife strategy. (I like to call things strategies so they sound all planned and awesome – even though this this was more of a ‘holy crap, what if’ scenario discussion.)

We had a lot of fun with the calling out a word every 50 feet or so strategy; turning it into a game of sorts. This keeps the bears away, is fun, and seems to eat up the miles quickly! We did the classic name that country sound off starting with A thru to Z, then a round for celebrities and one for names of songs. This last one may have include some short bursts of singing which may have been the best thing for keeping those pack hunting wolves at bay. At least when I was belting out the ole Toy Soldier by Martika! Remember that one?

During our walk we focused on a two things – the beauty of the trail and our gear. Lots of gear talk. Mostly gear talk. We were out there on Monday to test gear. Everything from socks to hats, and from undies to backpacks to see what will make the cut for Scotland.

I discovered my penchant for being cheap has resulted in wearing decade old SmartWools that don’t keep their shape any longer resulting in under the heel blister potential, and that my new hiking capris from Eddie Bauer are great but they are not the replacement for my long standing favourite Nike capris that need to make one final trip me thinks. I also confirmed that after logging probably 1000s of kilometers in my Asolo Backpacking boots across the globe I may need to splurge for some new insoles. I better get on that quick so I can train the next 6 weeks in them before we depart.

Rosa tried the switch from boots to shoes technique to see how that worked for her dogs – a strategy I deploy on 20km+ days with great success especially when it includes compression socks! Cheryl discovered that the pants she thought would be perfect were not and will not be making the cut for the trip’s packing list. Shar confirmed her hiking shorts are perfect for the trip and that the wax from Baby Bel Cheese can be used to prevent sunburns on your the nose if there is ever a shortage of sunscreen.

Overall the trail of 19km took us just over 4 hours at a very easy pace with lots of wee stops to check and test that gear and some snacks mid way too. The weather was overcast with some small breaks of sun – perfect for hiking! Not too hot or cold. Oh and

A little extra time was added to the trip for an extra special reason! We had to make one special pit stop for Rosa to see if Jamie Fraser of Outlander was perhaps at this standing stone – nope, she did not hear bees. Doh! We will try every standing stone in Scotland for you Rosa until we find him.

Oh and we had to stop for Shar and Cheryl to knock off a few yoga moves for those tight ham-dogs and hip-flexors too.

We rolled into Banff arriving at the trail butt by the Banff Springs Hotel of amazingness. But us classy gals didn’t stop there for a cool, fancy drink. No way! We made our way down to Buffalo Bills for a cold pint and some meat!

Then we headed up Banff Main Street to catch the Roam bus for $6bucks back to Canmore where our vehicles were waiting! Lots of peeps bike the trail we walked so there were even some bins strapped to the front or the back of the bus to bead back to Canmore.

Am awesome trial and trail day for all of us! We all loved the trail and each of us figured out something a little more than we knew before about our gear for Scotland.

Eeeek the trip is coming fast!

Brande

8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet

Well with 8 weeks to go till departure I have a big decision to make – boots or no boots?

Seems crazy to even consider hiking 100+km in soggy Scotland without my beloved, make me happy, bring me joy as soon as I slip into them boots. But I have a love / hate relationship with my Asolo boots and that makes this a big decision.

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Weight: My boots are a mid-backpacking boot  – which means they are heavier than a hiking boot or shoe but lighter than a heavy backpacking boot. Together they weigh just under 3lbs and while that may seem like not much right now when you add that to the bottom of your feet for 25,000 steps or more every day it definitely adds to the workout. Not to mention my pack weight when they are not on my feet. I have strong enough legs, knees and ankles that I could most likely go with a light hiker or even a cross trainer like my also very loved purple running shoes from Nike. hmmm

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Waterproof: My boots are totally waterproof – lovely, amazing Gortex that has kept up its waterproof-ness now for over a decade. I can tell you that dry feet are happy feet. While some hikers may be all like “I don’t mind if my feet get wet”  – I am not one of those. I know from experience that wet feet become swollen, the skin becomes weak and soft and that means blisters, blisters, blisters. Also, I wear SmartWool socks and wet and wool means stretching, which means bunching, which means (yup you guess it) blisters, blisters, blisters. If there is one thing Scotland is famous for (maybe almost as famous as Ireland for) its rain. Hey they named that misty, hang in the air rain Scotch Mist for a reason! So if the weather is perfect every day of hiking, I wont need my boots but .. well it is Scotland.

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Underfoot: I love the weightlessness of my running shoes for sure but a rocky or shale path is havoc on feet in running shoes. The bits of sand and grit gets kicked up and settles into your socks and shoes – making blisters, unless you annoyingly stop every 100 yards to clear em out. The rocks under the soft tread of sneakers feels like a few bumps at the start of a 25km day but those same rocks starts to feel like broken glass and upturned nails as the dogs bark louder and louder by the end of the day. My boots have a Vibram sole – hard equals heavy, but hard also means you do not feel rock edges or the bumps and clumps underfoot. In fact, the bottom of my boots are so good that I can balance on a pointed rock as if its flat (assuming I am doing spirit fingers for balance and posing for a photo of course).  Now I could find the perfect balance and get me some trail runners which feature a much harder sole than regular cross trainers, and I could where gaiters to keep the dust and rocks out of my shoes and socks. But hmm 9 weeks out I do not want to be breaking in anything new and gaiters assuming good weather make the feet sweat and we are back to the wet feet issue above.

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Change of pace: now I have to say one of my favourite things to do is to switch it up. If the path is rocky or scrambling is involved; my boots are fabulous for grip, kicking in a toe hold, keeping the grit out, and generally keeping the feet happy. But when the path is maybe on a flat surface or through the wee Scottish villages; then my sneakers are light and bouncy and I feel like I can really kick the pace up a notch with 1.5lbs less on each foot holding me to the earth. I also love switching to my sneakers from my boots when the sun starts shining, as a kind of celebration of Vitamin D. Not to mention throwing on my sneakers and compression socks (of a lovely lime green variety cause I am sure the bright the colour the better the compression) for an awesome pick me up – both in blood flow and in hiking attire appeal.

Hmmmm decisions, decisions -well, no not really. I have decided – I am taking both.

This will surprise very few people I suspect; its kinda my thing to have both. I just cant imagine how lonely my Asolo’s would feel being left out of the fun and I love a good mid-day change up! I also like that when I have my boots or my sneakers secure to Missy Morado (my Osprey backpack’s name) she sits upright and proud in her purple goodness.  Really its Missy confirming my choice to bring both really! Yup.

Brande