Loving Local-ish – 4 Weeks to Go

Just wrapped up end of my 4 week countdown of the 2023 Scotland Trifecta and things are getting really, real!

First, let’s get the skinny of what was on the training list since my last post Living La Vida Local – 6 Weeks To Go. As we get closer to departure the training ramps up but in a couple weeks it will also ramp down to ensure I am for ready for and also rested for this 400km challenge.

Here is 5 Weeks To Go training looks like on my tried and tested 20 Week Training Plan:

  • 1x 6km Hills (with 15lb pack)
  • 3x 7km (with 15lb pack and poles)
  • 2x this week let’s get some muscle on:
    • 50 squats
    • 25 lunges
    • 40 calf raises
    • 20 fire hydrants
    • 10 donkey kicks
    • 15 cat/cow
    • 35 double Ds
    • 60 second plank
  • 1x slow flow yoga for flexibility

Last week, at 4 Weeks To Go, there are a couple of subtle differences as this is a ramp it up week:

  • 1x 15km (with 15lb pack and poles)
  • 4x 7km (with 15lb pack, poles optional)
  • 3x this week let’s top up the muscle:
    • 50 squats
    • 25 lunges
    • 40 call raises
    • 30 fire hydrants
    • 10 donkey kicks
    • 15 cat / cow
    • 40 double Ds
    • 60 sec plank
  • 1x flexibility session (stretching, yoga)

Of course, for each hike there should be some gentle stretching as your warm up, and some post hiking stretching too. And to be clear that means more stretching than just the reaching my arm across the bar for a cold pint – add in a calf stretch with your toes on the leg of the bar stool while you do it for extra pints .. I mean points!

My bestie was visiting a couple weekends ago and we had to chance to get in a few of my training sessions with local walks or hikes on a little weekend adventure to Vancouver Island .. hence the local-ISH.

Westsong Walkway

The Westsong Walkway is fantastic, flat and easy walk along the Victoria inner harbor!

A mix of paved path, some boardwalk and a few rock trails that gives you fantastic views of the water, float planes landing and taking off and, if you plan it right even offers a chance to quench your thirst at a fantastic local watering hole, Spinnakers.

We walked about 5km. You can add some additional kilometers if you walk from Johnson Street to Esquimalt and back around the harbour over to Fisherman’s Wharf. Basically, it’s beautiful Victoria and walking all the places is just a total joy!

Thetis Lake

We also had the chance to hit one of my favourite hikes from when I lived in Victoria – Thetis Lake! Instead of the regular (busy but beautiful) lower and upper Thetis lake trails we did some meandering on Phelps Trail, Trillium Trail and more on the outskirts of the park. We were able to cobble together about 12km. It’s been a while since I have been to Thetis and I am still amazed at just how beautiful a hike surrounded by city can be!

Pre-hike energy loading may have been a most fabulous, delicious, amazing Pork Belly Eggs Benedict from Six Mile Pub and post-hike celebration may have been a refreshing flight .. or two … from Herald Street Brewing in Victoria. All the yumminess! This day was pretty close to the daily activities I will be experiencing over in Scotland. In Alba, the day will start with a Full Scottish Breakfast transition into a hike then transition into pints. They do say your training at home should be as close to the real deal abroad! I am just following great advice 😉

Juan de Fuca Trail, Mystic Beach

Completing the entire Juan de Fuca Trail is on my to-do list but not on this trip. This trip was more around getting some kilometers on the training dashboard and ensuring my bestie from land locked Alberta got some max ocean views in! Hello Mystic Beach.

After a great drive from Victoria to Shirley, BC and a stop for breaky at Shirley Delicious (which was most surely delicious) …

… and a quick waltz down to the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, which was so picturesque and barely a soul around …

… headed to the China Beach trailhead / parking lot and walked the well marked 2km trail down to Mystic Beach. This short trail had all the things we love – suspension bridge (Lana loves those not me), boardwalks, bridges, some up and some down, and enough people to keep the bears away! We saw a bear on the road just before starting our hike so we may or may not have been on high alert!

We spent a good amount of time down at the beach just taking it all in. The sound of the waves, hot sun and views you cannot even believe are in front of you makes it easy to stay a while.

Once we tore ourselves away from the view, and humped the 2km back to the car – where we may or may not have discovered just how bad my misbehaving knee / leg / foot / is feeling (more on that later) – we made our way back to Victoria. Well, not before a quick post hike refresh at Sooke Brewing Company! Yum!

Back in Victoria, we parked the car and accidentally headed to a couple more local breweries. You sensing a theme here? Including Whistle Buoy Brewing in Market Square – so delicious! That pretty blue one on the end was a perfectly sour Gose to cleans the flight-pallet!

That’s a wrap on our weekend all about training and filled to the brim with pints and laughs and more laughs!

Stay tuned for Week 3 and 2 To Go training updates – we are in the the final stretch to departure now folks!


Living La Vida Local – 6 Weeks To Go

Officially in the 6 week countdown window to my next adventure in Scotland! On this visit to majestic Alba, I will be meandering Speyside Way, West Highland Way (for a second time) and East Highland Way. A little 395km walk from a full Scottish Breakfast in the morning to my next Haggis Neeps and Tatties dinner with a pint in the evening. Nae bother!

6 weeks out means the training is getting good and fun and tough! We are experiencing crazy warm temps right now (30C) so a bit challenging too! As far as I am concerned, some training that hurts the body at home = happy body and mind in the Highlands! Here is what Week 6 training looks like on my go-to 20 Week Training Plan:

  • 2x 6km hike w hills
  • 2x 7km hike
  • All hikes with 10lb pack, poles optional
  • Also some strength training, 2x each of the following at some point this week:
    • 50 squats
    • 40 lunges / leg
    • 40 calf raises
    • 20 fire hydrants
    • 15 cat/cow
    • 30 Double’s
    • 60 second elbow plank

Getting these training hikes in is such a great way to discover new places in the Greater Vancouver area to hike! A few new ones that have been added to my ‘done like dinner’ list (yes it is literally called that on my All Trails account):

Shoreline Trail at Rocky Point, Port Moody

A scenic, easy walking trail. Mix of gravel and paved path, loads of people, a touch of incline/decline with loads of amazing scenery! The path wraps around Burrard Inlet and a workout can be rewarded with 1 of many breweries right there at the start/finish at The Port Moody Ale Trail.

While I didn’t get a chance to hit the brewery (we walked early to beat the heat) I was rewarded with a 7km fantastic conversation with my local hiking / training bestie Amber! Next time a post walk pint is definitely in order for these gals!

Eagle Bluffs via Coquitlam Crunch, Coquitlam

A moderate hike that will have the thighs and buns burning! The Crunch is a lovely 500 stair torture device made worse by the ‘You Can Do This!’, ‘Almost There’, and ‘Pace Yourself’ signs that pepper the ascent. Can I do this? Am I almost there? By ‘pace yourself’ do you mean stop now and go grab a coffee and read a book? Likely not, so up and up and up I went.

After defeating the evil stair master, I meandered up and up and around the local neighborhood for a bit to eventually hit the, mostly uphill, trail to the Eagle Bluffs.

The trail is an old gravel access road and if you can ignore the power lines that run above much of this trail, it is still quite a nice hike – and sure a great workout with enough forest time to make me smile!

All in all it’s about 13km from the bottom of the Crunch up to the Eagle Bluffs first look out and back, and about 550m elevation! At my acceptable pace of just slightly speedier than turtle, I clocked it in at 3hours. That includes a sunny snack break on a rock at the top, of course.

This is a hike I will be using to gauge my training progress, not so much about getting faster more around if it gets easier. I did it a couple weeks ago with my bestie Bean and felt the burn, did it again this weekend and felt more like a smolder. Progress!

Sidewinder and Pipeline Loop, Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby

Loving all the things Burnaby Mountain lol right now – lots of trail to choose from, 20mins from work, 40mins from home, well trafficked, so green and great views!

The Sidewinder and Pipeline Loop are connected by Function Junction and Meil’s Trail making for a great work out. Lots of switch backs, good and long incline sections, and even a few sketchy sections that are good for my managing my ‘fear of heights’. I didn’t really need my fear of bears to be exercised though but it is a mountain in all.

This is another trail that I will be using to gauge my training progress. Less breaks on the incline switch backs, higher pace, and faster recovery – all signs the training is working. Especially if this happens as I increase the weight in my pack and how many times I do the loop.

I had the chance to hit up this trail a couple times last week. Once after work on Wednesday (amazing!) and again on Sunday morning (saw a bear, less amazing). The 1.5hr time on this 6.5km trail with 250 elevation gain is a perfect quick one or even to do a couple times in a row.

Ok off the plan the rest of my training hikes for the week. It’s a a long weekend this week – so maybe I can even get in a long one!


Embrace the Over Think

To all you over thinkers out there, can I get a hey-0! I see you! I feel you! I am you! I have taken over thinking to the next level when it comes to trip prep, planning and packing. And I am here to tell you sometimes, believe it or not, over thinking can actually be an adventurer’s super power!

Give me a beat to explain …

Overthink Your Toiletries

We all wonder if we will have enough shampoo, soap, deodorant, bug spray, all the things when we head out on an trip. You don’t want to bring too much and add extra weight (these are some of our heaviest items) or take up more room than necessary BUT you also don’t want to take too little and be in a lurch having to scramble to find what you need in another country. Where you might be lucky if you can find the brand you prefer or even what you need. If helpful, insert a mental image of me spending way too long looking for Tylenol in a Pharmacy in Wales passing shelves of Paracetamol over and over and over as I searched. BTW Paracetamol in the UK is what we call Tylenol in Canada. Thank you Google!

To avoid spending more mental energy than necessary worrying if I am packing too much or too little for toiletries, I do a little scientific overthinking! Ok more of a simple experiment or trial but saying it’s science sounds so much cooler. Basically, I pack to stay home!

Ahead of your trip (aka WEEKS before you leave) fill those Goo bottles or travel containers or whatever you bought for travelling as if you are packing to leave right away. But, instead of just putting them in your backpack or suitcase, use them as if you are on your trip. As you use them, count how many days each thing lasts and compare it to the number of days you will be away on your trip. Then asses how that went! Did you have enough? Too much? Was the travel container you used totally annoying or did the lid break on first use? Then adjust accordingly for you actual trip!

I take this too far of course and literally have a little page in my journal to jot down for how long a razor lasts, how many shampoo washes, how many lathers my soap got me, how many brushes my toothpaste made happen, etc. So I can go total ‘science’ on my assessment and even have a little legend of my learning over a lot of past trips so I pack smarter each time.

If a trip is only a few weeks, I will pack all I need usually. Longer than that and I worry less about packing exactly the right amount of things I think I can find abroad and am not too picky about – this will save some room and weight. I.e if you are picky about your shampoo, but less so about your body soap – bring enough shampoo but a half bar of soap. I am very picky about my mascara less so about my chapstick – so bring the right size of mascara and only a few chapsticks.

A couple of tricks if you are running low on the basic toiletries while abroad:

  • Outside of the US and Canada, pharmacies tend to have the best selection of basic toiletries like Tylenol, face cream, body cream while grocery stores have shampoo, etc.
  • Keep your smaller travel containers after they are empty until you replace that item. It’s not easy to find travel size toiletries in some places, you may need to decant that shampoo you found at your destination into your travel container so it fits in your pack.
  • Check your accommodation for an honesty box or trail magic box for items people may have left behind. Often a hotel bathroom or pool area for shampoo, conditioner, body cream .. fill up your travel container!
  • If you are travelling with someone who has a preference for the same product as you – go in together on a full bottle. One carrying the shampoo and the other the conditioner to spread the love.
  • Figure out what 2-in-1 products work for you and only worry about one product and container instead of 2! I have a sunscreen moisturizer for my face that saves me carrying both. 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner is another good one.

Overthink Your Wardrobe

You might be surprised to hear me say I recommend you take the same approach to the clothes you intend to pack. Yup, more science!

Once again, literally pack your clothes for your trip – from undies to shirts, pants to socks – pack like you are leaving tomorrow. Then over the course of the next few weeks and months at home wear what you packed and evaluate. If you are going on a tourist holiday, wear your outfits around town, running errands, meeting friends, long car rides, etc. If you are going on a hiking adventure, wear your outfits on your training hikes.

Evaluate each individual piece of clothing AND each complete outfit against the below trust-me-you-will-not-regret-this criteria. Oh and please kick this experiment up a notch by making sure you get some photos of you in each outfit – cause on your travels guess what you will be taking a lot of?! Photos!

  • Did it feel uncomfortable, ride up, fall down, bunch up, slide down, itch or scratch? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you adjust the clothing item often? Pull on it when you stood up every time? Stretched it out before you put it on? Kept pulling up the straps, folding the sleeve, twisting the ties? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did it make me feel ugly, feel bla, all ick, too big, too small, too one colour, too many colours, too bright, too dull? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you choose not to trial that one article of clothing or that outfit because it’s just so special and you only want to wear it on the actual trip? If yes, ditch it! For real! Ditch it! Ditch it! Unless it’s a bloody wedding dress, if you will not wear it at home trust me you will not wear it abroad. Ditch it!
  • Did you look at the selfies and photos of you in that shirt, pants, shorts, hat, jacket and delete or sneer or gasp or some other form of not-so-kind-to-myself response? If yes, ditch it! (you have my encouragement to ditch the article item forever to second hand AND delete the photos too)

Ok so you have thought about each article of clothing individually, now I need you to think about outfits. I am about to suggest something that may be cringe worthy to the fashionistas out where, but trust me … trust me!

If you cannot wear every top with every bottom you bring .. wait for it … IT DOES NOT GET TO COME ON THE TRIP! If that shirt you love only matches one pair of the 3 bottoms you are bringing, bye bye shirt! That skirt and tank only look good together and with nothing else you are packing, bye bye skirt and tank!

This is when you need to channel your brutal side folks. Over thinking to the extreme! Embrace it! You literally wear every, single combo of every single top and bottom you are packing and if even one shirt does not behave with all bottoms OR or you answer yes to any of the criteria above – that is a HARD NO! Ditch that article of clothing, no trip for it!

The process of elimination can take a few weeks but trust me – you and your pack will feel lighter for it! You will thank yourself!

This idea of overthinking is also totally applicable to trip planning check out My Planning Process. All you do before you leave on your trip will make the trip all the better and all the more real!


Excitement or Anxiety or Bit of Both

In the build to a big trip, or even a small one, sometimes excitement can start to feel a little bit like worry, or nerves or even anxiety. Don’t let this dampen the joy of your pre-departure prep. Instead focus on the things you can control about your adventure to ground any anxious thoughts – what you pack, what you plan, how you prep, etc.

My good friend Niki, trail name Spicy Hobbit (and her rockstar mom) are part of the crew I will be hiking the West Highland Way (WHW) in Scotland with this summer. Their first time in Alba and first time shifting their day hikes into a long distance, 8 day hike. Niki joins us today as our guest blogger sharing her excitement about our adventure …

Scotland! I can’t wait for this trip. Scotland has been at the top of my list of places to go in the world, since I was young. I never in a million years thought I’d be going in this way, to hike the WHW with friends and my 71 yr old mom.

What a way to see a country, I can’t wait to smell the air, see the countryside, look at the trees and sites, take in the history, taste the food, listen to the accent, talk with the people, enjoy the music and drink the whiskey. Not only am I hiking the WHW, my mom and I are going on a wee road trip after the hike. We can’t come all this way to not see where my mom’s family is from.

As soon as the deposit for the hike was put down, the planning was in full gear. First thing that was recommended for me to do was book the places to stay. The hike is being organized and booked by Contours, I have to plan and organize everything mother and I do after the hike. Being summer when we go, most places will be booked. So I researched, wrote, lists, compared prices, checked out locations and details for a month. Next, the car rental. After researching the roads I will be driving, prices, days needed for, pick up and drop off, I settled on a manual, which I haven’t driven in 20 yrs, yes I will be practicing before.

Getting the important things booked for the side trip, I then focused on my backpack. The pack I will take across the pond, carry on the hike and around Scotland. I had to get the right fit because everyone knows size does matter. Once my backpack was purchased I started to make lists of clothing to take and toiletries and extras. I have stuff sacks to keep my clothing organized and tidy. I have been pre packing and continuing to make revised lists. I dont want to take too much or not enough. Plus the excitement of the trip makes me play in my pre packing. Apparently this is stuff you do just weeks before not months, clearly I can’t wait for this trip and want to make sure I have all I need.

I have a book about the WHW and have gone through highlighted things to see along the way, or take note of, where we are walking to or by also taking notes of things to look out for or see along the way, I don’t want to miss anything. I have also done the same for after the hike, of the places my mom and I will be going to. I may be stuffing too much into so few days but I’d rather have a taste of it than not at all!

As we approach the 3 months to go marker, my anxiety and excitement are colliding, am I organized enough, have I prepared all of my essentials, is there much more I can get or do to prepare, are we there yet????

The anticipation is driving me mad, and then I think I hope it doesn’t go too fast? Remember to stop smell, breathe, look and take in the moments.


The Next Adventure

The makings of my next adventure are in full swing folks and I am so excited …

I am off to Scotland .. yes, again! I just cannot get enough of that place. It is the best small country in the world don’t you know! Don’t believe me? They will tell you, on a huge sign right when your come off the plane in Glasgow.

There is truth to this claim I tell you. The countryside, the highlands, the munros, the history, the wee villages, the people, the haggis, and more – all are absolutely pure, dead brilliant. 😉 The weather could use a touch of work but, well, it is really part of the Scottish experience. So I forgive them the near constant Scotch mist and unpredictable but yet expected sideways rain and winds that can push you right off a cliff! Still brilliant!

This trip is going to be a Scottish long distance thru-hiking trifecta – Speyside Way, West Highland Way, and Eastside Way.

No way? Yes way!

Let me wax poetic a little bit about each of these Ways for a bit so you can see why I am so excited:

  • Speyside Way is a 106km (66mile) ramble from Buckie on the North Coast of Scotland down to Aviemore, a fantastic little ski town in the Cairngorms mountain range. The route is never far from the Speyside River which feeds the many distilleries along the Way. A wee dram for ye lass? Yes please! I have the pleasure of walking this one with Rosa my sis-in-law-law and we are gearing up for a pre-walk evening in Aberdeen and a very haunted accommodation (more to come on that) before heading out to bag this Way in 5 days!
  • West Highland Way is a 154km (96mile) walk into the highlands of Scotland featuring the most beautiful of lakes, Loch Lomond. So beautiful there is a fantastic song to go with it! We start in Milngavie (right outside of Glasgow) and walk up to Fort William, an outdoor adventure hotspot. For this one, my dream of organizing long distance hikes for groups is coming true … there are 12 of us Canadians hitting the trail! A mix of sisters and friends and even a mom/daughter duo – all who love hiking but most have never done a long distance hike before. West Highland Way was my VERY first thru-hike back in 2008 and it started a fire in me that has resulted in me traveling all over the world to ‘get my hike on’. I cannot wait to see that fire light up in these gals too! We refuse to rush this experience and have given ourselves 8 days to walk.
  • East Highland Way is the icing on the cake for this trip. A 135km (84mile) hike from Fort William to Aviemore. This is tougher hike that the others – traversing through glens, hills and mountains with very limited way marking – hello map and compass! I will have my trusty hiking partner and sister Shar at my side for this one and we are up for the challenge of completing this one in just 4 days! I will be in full hiking mode after completing the Speyside and West Highland so have no doubt the 35km each days on this one will be no bother.

Each of the links above take you to the Contours Walking Company webpage dedicated to that walk. This is the company we have been working with to get all the details sorted. The team over at Contours have been just amazing to work with and I cannot tell you how much their local experience and relationships means to our hikes. It is their hard work that will ensure all of us have a cozy bed to sleep in each night, a delicious hot breakfast each morning and the pleasure of just carrying our light day packs. I am not affiliated with Contours, just grateful! I will be sure to pop up a post about walking companies one of these days so you have the skinny on what they do and how to make sure you got a good one when you plan your thru-hike adventure – they can make or break the pleasure of your hike!

The trifecta adventure starts in just 20 weeks which means my go-to 20 week training plan has kicked off! I depart on June 27th (135 sleeps) and start walking Speyside on June 30th – let’s get this body trail ready!

Off to get me a 10km hike in …

Stay tuned for more details on each hike, the prep and planning and packing, and of course a play by play as we complete our adventures!


Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.


Cotswold Way, Day 8 Cold Ashton to Bath

Looking back on Day 8 of 8 on the Cotswold Way – yes that’s right, finish line day!

We clocked this day in at 15 kilometers and just over 5 hours back in July – wrapping up before the sun was sweltering but still warm enough that the cold ‘finish line’ pint in the ONLY pub with air conditioning in all of Bath felt amazing. In fact, it felt epic!

We kicked the day off as early as possible as part of our continued ‘beat the heat wave’ strategy. We were staying in Bath so had to arrange taxi transport from our B&B back to Cold Ashton to start our walk back to Bath (where the finish line is for the Way).

Our walking company had arranged the taxi to pick us up at 930am originally but in light of the 35C temps we expected by noon that was no longer going to work! Chatting direct with the taxi company, they agreed to change it to 6am for us. We had to skip our included breakfast at the B&B but totally worth it! We were on the trail for 630am and the temperature was really comfortable of hours. That 3.5 hour difference would likely mean a 10C difference – that’s a big deal!

Much of the day (morning really) was spent walking though fields of cattle or crops. Most had wide open views of the hills and other fields around us – the sense of being small in such a big space was fantastic!

The path today was ‘easy’ in that it was a lot of rolling up and downhill – not the dramatic, heart pumping climb in and out of every town we had grown used too. The trail and the views were still spectacular mind you! Recognizing that we would soon be playing in Bath and London and the views would be all city scape and not these beautiful green hills – we had to snap one more selfie ‘up top’. So lush!

A little bovine excitement …

One of the fields we crossed had a ‘Bull in Field’ sign. While we appreciate the heads up, the warning can make you a little more nervous than is maybe warranted. I could have probably crossed this field blissfully unaware that Mr Bull was present but the sign had me on high alert. (Refer back to terrifying Bull vs Brande of 2008 on Hadrian’s Wall incident here for background lol)

We stayed together walking with a pep in the ole step to the rock stile (steps up and over the field’s rock wall perimeter) where we would leave the field behind – no reason to dilly dally even if Mr Bull was being entertained by his ladies in the far corner.

As luck has it though, when we stared our trek across the very long field, the cattle also made their move and started to make their way to the same end of the field we were headed towards. But no worries folks – our graceful, stealth like hiking skills had us at the rock fence well before the beef arrived. In fact, we were so non-pulsed by the walking steaks and hamburgers heading our way that we hung out at the rock wall a while for a little photo shoot. We knew we could just pop over the fence quickly if the beef headed our way.

Little did we know, the fence was not complete. The beef walked right through the gap to the very next, again long and large, field we were also heading into. Another field where we had to walk to the far side of AND then walk the length to the farthest corner (where the cattle were heading too) to reach the next stile to leave said beef filled field behind. Yikes! We double timed it a little more seriously this time … just in case Mr Bull heard us laughing at him and took exception to our tom foolery!

We made it and little did we know that would be some of the last livestock we would see as we wrapped up Cotswold Way. Soon we were in more urban settings, passing though a golf course (where we took a nice snack break), then city parks and finally the city itself.

By the time we did get into Bath late morning, we were smoking hot – the temp was already in the low 30s and the approach into Bath was full of steep hills and little shade. An emergency iced latte was required from the cutest coffee shop called Hungry Bear before we even approached the finish line.

Rested a bit and refreshed a little, we made our way to the Bath Abbey where the Cotswold Start/Finish is located – a circular plaque on the ground with an acorn in the center, matching the one we started at in Chipping on Campden.

Unfortunately the Abbey was in full swing all week for local university graduations so we couldn’t visit the actual Abbey (as many do when they finish or start) and we had to act like bouncers to get some time with the acorn plaque without a grad in the frame. So while not quite what we expected – it felt pretty amazing all the same.

Right, well there is the Cotswold Way wrapped up with a spectacularly hot finish but what a long distance adventure! While not listed as difficult or even moderately strenuous in guide books, the Way should not be underestimated. There is a good amount of work on the trail to be done – you cannot achieve great views without great climbs. Most definitely easier that the Offa’s Dyke Path but still a heck of a work out and but felt great to finish.

Ok now let’s go find a celebratory pint …


Cotswold Way, Day 7 Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton

Looking back at Day 7 on the Cotswold Way and our 16km hike from Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton.

This was another hot one – smack dab in the middle of the unexpected and inconvenient UK heat wave. Temps were forecasted to hit 36C but we lucked out and it topped out at a ‘comfy’ 33C while we were on the trail. Ugh! No matter, we were getting ahead of the heat by starting early again. We left the Dog Inn in Old Sodbury at 5am. It was even a touch chilly as we started out and I got to wear the thin long sleeve I had dragged from Canada for a good minute or two.

Our ramble the first hours of the day had all the things that make early morning walking my favorite! Great temp, amazing landscape, good friends and all is quiet. I find peace when walking and with these conditions, I was in complete Zen!

We walked across wheat field after wheat field, which were easy underfoot and had very little incline, as the sun came up – making the landscape (and our photos) looks pretty magical! Even the dew glistening off the spider webs in our path or across the wheat tops looked pretty and I don’t think I have ever put pretty and spider in the same sentence. Ick.

The icing on the early morning cake? We were blessed with a view of hot air balloons off in the distance. Beautiful! When planning this trip to the Cotswold many people asked ‘where is that’ and my answer was always ‘do you know those images of rolling green hills, clear blue skies and air balloons on calendars, puzzles and screen savers? That’s the Cotswolds’. I could not even believe we got to actually experience this in person. Wow, pinch me I was in a puzzle!

Following a lengthy and thoroughly enjoyable hot air balloon photo shoot – we are all scrapbookers and photograph junkies so you cannot even imagine how many photos we took collectively – we were on our way again.

Not too long later we came upon some signage that diverted the Way around a police incident on Beacon Lane or Road or some such place. The diversion didn’t change the distance we walked, just took us off then back to the route a little.

As we walked the diversion, which I think was about an hour, we discussed what the possible police incident could be. In my always very logical and pragmatic approach to life, I assumed the obvious – a multi person murder / suicide event. Oh wait maybe a horrible alien cult problem. Hmm no. Most definitely and had to be a serial killer. For sure. In stark contrast to my drama, Cheryl suggested it was likely just a grow-op. Which I interpret as a scary, international gang growing whatever makes heroine and amassing stock piles of weapons of mass destruction and serial killing. Obviously. Definitely. Whatever the reason, nothing came up in the media – we looked – so one of my assumptions is surely true if it was so very secret squirrel.

Back to the walk …

We stopped in Tormarton for our morning break – some snacks and a chance to get the feet out of our shoes and up for a bit. I personally had to break every 2-3 hours due to my pesky foot injuries and I needed to do some surgery on my hiking shoes. They were falling apart and I had been using duct tape, sports tape and a sewing kit for the last 100+ km already. They just needed to work with me for a few more days – so a bit more duct tape and sweet talking was required! ‘I love you shoes-sies, we got this! Please do not fall apart on me now’ may have been heard as I coaxed them back to hike-able condition.

Rosa was feeling the need to keep waltzing so spent a just bit of time with us at the break spot and then carried on the Way. It was fun knowing she was ahead of us and we would be ‘hunting’ her aka excited to see her again once the rest of us got going again. I am competitive person by nature so felt a bit like the greyhound with the rabbit on the track in front.

While ‘hunting’ Rosa, we passed through a fantastic forested area called Dryham Wood and came across a message box!

When Cheryl, Shar and I came across the message book, among messages from MANY walkers, we saw a note from Rosa. A proof of life that she was ahead of us and we were on her tail! The hunt continues.

After spending some time to add our own message – which included a hello to our New York friends who were behind us on the trail and a drawing of all of us by our resident artist Shar (she is mumbling ‘I am an artist’ right now as she reads this I bet) – the ‘hunt Rosa’ adventure picked up again.

Pleased to report, we found her not too far after the forest and it’s funny how good it felt to have the band back together. I think she got lonely and stopped to wait for us cause her long legs and steady pace could have our ran us all day if she wanted to.

After a bunch more kilometers, we were so excited to arrive at little cafe just off route. A dangerous road walk (think playing chicken with a big truck or 2) by Shar to confirm it was open, followed by a much safer jaunt across a field by the rest of us to join her, and we had a fantastic place for our Elevensies break. This may have included bacon rolls, hot tea, black pudding and more. Such a fantastic spot and we were out of the sun!

Today’s final walking destination was Cold Ashton, a very-tiny-wee town (read that as a grouping of houses and a parish hall) where we would be getting a pre-arranged taxi to Bath where we had our next B&B. The taxi was meant to come for us at 4pm but we were due to arrive in Cold Ashton by noon and we wanted to get the Bath asap to get out of the heat. A morning of calling and texting via WhatsApp with the taxi transport company while I walked (good thing it was easy walking today or I would have fallen in a death gully) – and we had a taxi pick up for noon!

Following our break, we made our way to Cold Ashton to make sure we were ready for the taxi. The time between arrival and pick up afforded time for a little photo session!

Our taxi was on time and made quick work of the 20min ride to the Walton’s Guest House in Bath. We would be staying at this B&B for the next 3 nights and we were excited about not packing everything each morning.

We had showers and naps and then headed out about Bath (in the sweltering heat) for the evening – this included an amazing Italian meal on the riverside for Cheryl’s birthday. The best Carbonara I ever had that day and the worst sleep ever for all of us that night – historic buildings are not built for heat waves. Sweat, toss, sweat, hit pillow in frustration, sweat, toss, and morning alarm. The belly full of pasta and pints did not help but totally worth it!

More on our Bath excursions in a future post and our final day on the Cotswolds Way too!


Cotswold Way, Day 6 Dursley to Old Sodbury

Day 6 of 8 on the Cotswold Way was the first day we saw the temperatures rise to well above the 30C mark. The heatwave that we are experiencing here in England has definitely changed our approach to the walk and I am secretly loving it .. we have decided to start these last days of the Way as the sunrises at 5am. My favourite time to be hiking! Brings back fond memories of my Camino adventure.

All of us were up at 430am (if not earlier) to get ready and quietly sneak out the doors of the Woodlands House B&B in Dursley. The B&B does not do breakfast for 430am so instead they left us a nice note and had some fruit, crisps (potato chips) and granola bars for us to grab and go. I have to admit I did missed my full English Breakfast and pot of tea.

As we started our walk with the moon heading to bed and the sun coming up all in the first hour of the day. The temperature was perfect and, crazy enough, still warm enough to be in just tank tops and shorts (a signal of the heat to come!)

The Way kicked off with a climb out of the town (of course), a nice jaunt across a golf course, some more uphill and then we were rewarded with our first break of the day at the Broadway Tower.

An amazing tower on the top of a lengthy hill surrounded by forest and fantastic footpaths all over the place. No wonder we saw so many early morning dog walkers here – they too were beating the heat of the day at a great place!

While the rest of us settled into our first break to enjoy our trial breakfast, Shar popped up the 187 steps of the tower to see the 360 views of the landscape. Adding more steps to an already 26km day on a skinny old, stone, skinny spiral staircase was not my idea of a good time. She was our tribute to head up and see what she could see – while we snacked lol.

While sitting enjoying our breakfast we heard scary, freaky animal screaming from the forest we would be entering next – like blood curdling kind of screaming. We had no idea what made the sound. A bird of prey, tortured souls, maybe a werewolf! The dogs in the area were barking heaps when it happened too. When we asked the locals who passed us what is was they also had no idea. What the heck?! I asked one chap walking his dog if there are werewolves in the areas, jokingly of course, oh wow he laughed. We chatted about our hike with him a bit more and as we said goodbye, he said ‘good luck with the beasties’. Hilarious!

Happy to report we made it through the woods safely. We may never know if it was a werewolf or white walker or a death eater.

From there we crossed field after field of crops and livestock. One crop we had not seen yet was a field of, we think, Canola plants. They were head height and the field was so long it took us quite some time to get through – poor Cheryl was in the front of our pack on spider web clearing duty and her shoulders and arms were on fire by the time we came through. Thanks Cheryl!

I took my turn on spider web clearing in the next Vegetation Corridor of Humid Hell (what we came to call skinny paths between chest height brambles and grasses). One of the down sides of getting out first on the trail is that no other hikers cleared the arachnids for us already.

One ‘exciting’ moment on the trial was when we tried to get through a pasture of cattle. Other walkers came through before us and cause the cattle to move to one end of the pasture which was quite skinny with bramble (thistle, stinging nettle, blackberry bushes, etc) and either side and our gate dead centre where the beef were currently standing. Doh!

We tried to find a high path to get past and down to the gate but nope, trued a low route and nope, tried to encourage them as a group to move along to one side or the other but nope, and tried to walk through them also nope.

After way too many minutes in the hot sun hoping they might move away from the gate on their own, we made our way through the devil brambles and used the arms wide and saying ‘Bubba Bubba Bubba’ over and over again (not sure why I used that word in the first place but we all got in on it and it worked) moved the massive cows off the path enough to get to the gate. We mostly came out unscathed…Rosa’s legs (she was the lead on the bramble taming portion of our plan) however will never be the same!

In our travels we passed a few other cool sights, another tower, a fantastic church, neat shine stile and some new Cotswold Way sign style we hadn’t seen before.

Our most favorite moment, was this sweet sign from a local child offering us weary hikers some fresh water on way too hot of a day.

Just a few kilometers from Old Sodbury, our destination for the day, we stumbled into the Beaufort Arms pub to refresh with some iced sparkling water and a look at the trail ahead. The temp was already in the 30s and we had just finished a long section of the trail where there was little or no shade to take breaks in.

As it got hot on the trail our technique was to hike from shade to shade. Cross a long pasture in the sun, take a micro standing break in the shade to cool down and slow the heart rate – repeat! During the afternoon, these shaded breaks were getting far and few between with no trees or clouds to provide refuge. We were sorta, kinda, totally melting.

Looking at the trail ahead, we had just a few km left but it was all through wide open farmland – that meant waist high crops and zero trees / shade. We would have been like mini donuts on the deep fryer conveyor belt at a carnival. I like to eat donuts not be a donut. So what to do? When in doubt let the path decide…

The bartender (we refer to her as Beaufort Bonnie now) was going into Old Sodbury at the end of her shift in an hour and offered us a ride AND the kitchen had cooked too many roasted potatoes for Sunday dinner and brought us out a warm bowl for free to enjoy. A sign to order cold pints to wash the potatoes of joy down and hitch the ride!

We arrived at the Old Sodbury, thanks Beaufort Bonnie, at about 4pm to enjoy a shower, maybe a nap, and then a great supper in the Dogs Inn pub (also our accommodation) and some pints in the beer garden with some other hikers we met along the way. Fun!

A fantastic way to end the day before we start again tomorrow at 5am again!


Cotswold Way, Day 5 Haresfield to Dursley

Day 5 of 8 is in the books and wow what a scorcher! We are in the middle of a heat wave here in England. I could never have guessed we would be up against 35+C temperatures! Too hot!

To beat the beat, we got our day started as soon as possible – skipping the included hot breaky from the Beacon Inn for a granola, fruit and yogurt option. We also got a ride from Jaguar Jenny (her name is Jenny and she drove, you guessed it, a Jaguar) back up to the trail head to save us a 2km CLIMB up a country lane that is not part of the Cotswold Way! Seems like a small distance but a climb like that in this heat takes time and energy we needed for the actual trail. Thanks again Jenny!

From there, we still had a climb though. The Path started with a forest climb up to our first high point of the day and great views! Which we immediately followed with a decline and another climb to the next one!

After that it was a lot of agricultural land walking – a corn field, wheat field, vineyard and pastures for the rest of the morning.

We stopped for ‘elevensies’ on a grassy, shaded spot in the town of Ebley. A chance to pop off the boots and socks to dry, get the feet up and enjoy some yummy snacks and good company.

At Eberley, we had a choice to make – a scenic route up and around the town with views across the hills OR an urban route through the little towns. The routes met up again in Pen Wood.

We maximized the experience and split 2 and 2! I had the pleasure of walking the scenic route and while I did not enjoy the burning hot, steep, long pastures we had to climb or the edge of the gully we had to walk … the views were pretty awesome!

The band was back together again in a couple hours in one of the highlights of the Way, Pen Wood, for our’twosies’ break. Then we started to make our way to our home for the night, Dursley.

But not before the Cotswold threw us another curve ball with a final, STEEP climb that near did my fear of heights right in! This pic does not do it justice – how steep and and how high the path is was so intimidating from the bottom. I could reach out and touch the hill as I slowly trudged my way up and may have resorted to a few very unattractive Gollum moments.

The reward was amazing though – great views and a long downhill trudge into Dursley where we found some delicious cold pints and a fantastic dinner at the King’s Head to end our day!