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!


Dear Sir Osprey

Dear Sir Osprey (my backpack),

Well my little buddy, my trusted friend and most loyal travel companion … it is time for our travels around this vast world to part I think. With a sad, but working on accepting it heart it is time for your retirement. You will have a trusted place on the shelf next to all the very travel books that once you carried around this wide world for me on our adventures. And oh the adventures we have had together!

West Highland Way

West Highland Way, Scotland

Remember the West Highland Way, Scotland? Our first long distance hike (154km). I bought you for that  adventure 10 years ago from the Robinson’s Outdoor Store in Victoria. I loved you the from the second we took our first step on the path! This is the hike that set the bar for all others. We walked from the lowlands to the highlands, playing the Run Rig music collections on repeat, and feeling amazed at how lucky we were every day. We closed this trip in my favourite town in this world Fort William, Scotland at the Grog and Gruel with a pint of Tennents Lager toasting my 30th birthday and the start of 5+ more months of travel still in front of us!

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Wales

Oh but do you remember the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on the coast of Wales? Wow that was a doozy. 16 days walking 299kms. Sadly 14 of those days you were wrapped tight in your waterproof cover as we were pelted with sideways, upwards, downwards and misty rain. Like the rain scenes from Forrest Gump really! Not to mention the poor tears you had to witness as the path was often on the very edge of the coastal cliffs and well beyond my comfort zone. I will never forget that gust of wind that took my right off my feet and I was sure we were plunging to our death – but you had me! I landed on my back like a sad little turtle flipped upside down on my shell with my legs dangling, tears streaming and all of our fresh blackberries in your outside pocket crushed. You still have that blackberry stain!

Hadrian's Wall Path

Hadrian’s Wall Path, England

Our next adventure was the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England and it was no less exciting at 135km of adventure. You hung on tight as we  very, narrowly outran that crazy bull on day 3 –  catapulting ourselves over Hadrian’s Wall itself (thank goodness it is now so robbed of stone over the years that it was only 7 feet not 16 feet tall). We landed right in a thistle patch as the bull struck the wall behind us. Thanks to you my back was the only spot not covered in thistle burrs that led to prickly hives for days. A great compliment to my 102 fever we were fighting from all the spider bites I had when we walked through that nest and they all snuggled under and you next to me and starting their afternoon snack on me!

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Did you love the day we got back to Scotland as much as I did? Our trip to the Isle of Sky where we hiked basically through the equivalent of pea soup all day for days – we were soggy and virtually blind from the fog. Yeesh I almost walked right into a sheep up on the ridge. Probably saved me from walking off the cliff edge really now that I think about it – wee cutesy and heroic lamb he was.

Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way, Scotland

Oh yes and of course one of my favourite memories with my sister Shar – the 127km Great Glen Way also in Scotland. You experienced everything from walking to boating on that trip. Again never a complaint. How great you did your job and how easy it was to carry you about. Even on all the days I was sick as a dog from drinking from an unwashed water bladder pack (I brought the wrong one), you felt like comfort and home on my back. Many a time on our breaks during the day you became my trusted pillow while I tried to cat nap away the headache, dizziness and nausea. Oh what a story – all part of the adventure!

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Perhaps your biggest adventures was Mount Kilimanjaro! Wow. Up and over the tallest free standing mountain in the world. We love Africa – the only place where you can you get a sunburn while walking along a glacier while people chant and encourage – it was just amazing. Sorry that other guy had to carry you for a while at the Summit there. My much regretted and unexpected case of the ole pulmonary edema wreaked havoc on me. Trust me though, your hike with the guide was much better than it would have been on my back that day. Alas though we made it and loved it and once again our long standing friendship was solidified in another country and another adventure.

Salt Spring Island, Canada at the top of Erskine Mountain (fairy door trail)

Salt Spring Island, Canada

Now we can’t of course discount the many, many adventures we had here in our own backyard of Canada. You have been with me to all kinds of places on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, North Shore, Whistler, Squamish, Fraser Valley, Alberta, Okanagan, and more, and more. Too many too remember individually but collectively a wonderful memoir of you!

I can’t imagine having reached for any other than you Sir Osprey to get me where I needed to go. However, all great things (even backpacks) must one day come to an end and Sir you have put your time in. From the battle scars and stains all over you, to the ripped out non-existent inside pocket, to the old- school canvas hip straps you are ready for a glorious retirement! May your days forward be relaxing and reminiscent, because you dear friend can now sit back and enjoy the easy life.

A quote from Henry Miller comes to mind when I think of our travels together …

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” This is so true and I have you to thank for helping me see things in new ways. With just my own two feet, a full heart of love from back home, and anything I could ever need in your 35litres – I had the confidence and the hefty sense of adventure to see new things in new ways and in so many amazing places.

Thank you Sir, thank you.


PS. I hope the next generation of Brande’s Backpacks tackles my Camino adventure as well as you did all yours! I will be sure to leave you and he alone for a few days so you can provide him with a comprehensive briefing on how to best support this gong-show adventurer!