Category Archives: Adventure

Rhinogs Recce

We had two weeks off and the plan was to travel up to Scotland for a 4 day winter trek through the Cairngorms before heading to Newcastle to see family. To split up the driving time we planned on stopping off in North Wales for a few days as well. I’d never been to the Rhinogs and Sally wanted to explore the area more having spent some time there already. It also gave us an excuse to do a recce for a potential wild camping weekend we might offer through Lightfoot.

After loading the van with all the gear we’d need for two weeks, we set off for Dolgellau. It was a nice drive and we travelled through some lovely areas to explore in the future. We’re all about finding new places that maybe aren’t popular places to walk. At Lightfoot we want to offer the opportunity to get into these places that are beautiful, quiet and different rather than offer the same experience that every other adventure or expedition company does.

We reached Dolgellau, ate and picked up some supplies for our two days in the mountains before finding somewhere to park up and stop overnight. We’d found a car park on Google Maps a few nights before that was near the start point. We pulled up and found it actually allowed overnight parking so long as people left a donation. And handily there was toilets and a pub nearby. We parked, got things sorted for our overnight stay, organised the kit we’d need and headed to the pub to look over the map and find an interesting way into the terrain we wanted to cover.

I’d never read much about the Rhinogs but Sally had walked and camped in the area a few times, saying that she’d never sees anyone there because the terrain can be challenging; boggy, steep and plenty of crags to scramble. As I’m training for my ML I decided I wanted to lead and act as if this was with a client. Rather than marking out a route we would have a start and end point and then work on short legs to get us there based on the terrain we encountered.

After finishing our drinks we went back to the van and climbed into our bags to watch some shows downloaded onto the iPad. Nothing better than being tucked up and waiting for the first day of an adventure to arrive.

The next morning we got up and made breakfast. While eating and having a coffee we looked over Mawddach at the wild life paddling about, then looked up at where we were heading for.

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It was cold and looked to have escaped the dusting of snow that some of the other surrounding ranges had.

Locking the van up and paying to cross at Penmaenpool Bridge, we made our way into Muriau-cochion Wood. It was a nice forest track but we left the path and headed north over some some rough terrain with a lot of dead bush and nice crags to scramble. It was was hard work, especially with packs on, and it definitely took us longer than we anticipated. But eventually we got to the foot of Craig Aderyn.

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Following a wall up we climbed over more crags and rocks before eventually reaching the top of the ridge and walked along to the trig point on Diffsys.

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The wind had picked up, it was a lot colder and where the bottom of our trousers were damp were soon frozen. But the views across were amazing. From the snow covered Cadair Idris to the coast at Barmouth and out to the Irish sea. My photos don’t really do the views justice.

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There was still enough light left to stand around and pick things out but it was getting to the point where we needed to find somewhere to camp. We’d highlighted a place at Llyn Dulyn but when we got there we found the ground was pretty boggy and uneven and the wind was at least 40mph. It was getting colder so rather than go on and try to find somewhere a bit more sheltered (which we knew would be at least another hour away) we found some flat dry ground and stuck the tent up. Given how windy it was I’m surprised we managed, but we crawled in and dragged our ruck sacks in after us. The approach in had taken too long and now, at the end of the day, we felt it.

While there was no arguing where we were was beautiful, sometimes the glamorous photos you see as a backdrop to where you’ve camped aren’t always that great. The cold and damp we felt highlights the realism of wild camping. Its not always golden sunsets and warm nights.

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The wind battered the tent, which led to a terrible nights sleep, but it held. I’d left my water bottle in the porch and it was frozen solid the next morning but we were warm. After breakfast we broke camp, packed away and made our way along the ridge. It was freezing cold and a difficult start but after moving we started to warm up.

A biting side wind picked up as we walked across the ridge. We knew we wouldn’t get as far as we wanted on this trip so decided to make our way down and get out of the cold. We identified a small track coming down from Y Llether so took it and contoured round for a bit before descending along a wall.

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As we got lower the ground gave way from frozen to boggy with more crags to scramble down. Near the bottom we made our way over to a 4×4 track and followed that out through the forest at Mynydd Gla-Llyn-Forwyn. We picked a nice trail through the forest and followed it down back to where we started.

After dumping our gear at the van and cleaning up in the toilets we went to the pub for food and a run down on what we found on this trip. Essentially the way we would take a group in was no good. We’re pretty fit and experienced and even we found it tough going. But on our walk out we found a nice easy way up that would save us and be easier for people.

There is something there to offer a small group but we’ll have to go back to do more exploring as I suspect people need to be comfortable with scrambling around rocks. I think we’d need to be careful and make sure we had a route nailed down before offering it out.

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Dehydrated Dust

Expedition and camping food has come a long way since I first ventured into the great outdoors as a kid back in the 80s.

The food we took away on weekends in the hills of Northumberland and the Pennines was some nameless grey ration pack containing dehydrated dust with noodles or pasta. No fancy packaging or thought into nutritional value. Occasionally we would take a tin of beans and sausages and supplement it all with crisps and chocolate as an after dinner treat.

As I got older and went away independently from school and scouts the food choices didn’t generally improve. Money being a key issue, it would be pot noodles or pasta in a bag meals. I recall on a few occasions taking tinned hamburgers or meatballs!!!! All I know is that those tins couldn’t contain the meat it professed to on the label.

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Tinned burgers (believe it or not)

Much older still and the camping got more “glamorous”. Well-maintained campsites with all the facilities and comforts: huge four man tents, tables and chairs and inflatable beds. The food was generally cooked on the BBQ, sourced from the local take away or a meal in the pub. Then things changed.

The months prior to my LEJOG walk I experimented with different types of dry and wet expedition food, trying to find the right balance of affordability and weight. While the food was tasty and nutritionally well balanced I just couldn’t afford to fund my whole walk on it.

I had to find a way to make sure I hit my daily calorie count of between 4000-5000 so not to lose too much weight but more importantly enjoy what I was eating.

After doing a bit of research (this article was pretty helpful) I figured the best idea would be to make up little breakfast bags containing porridge or Weetabix with granola, dried fruit and powdered milk. Cheap, easy to make and lightweight to carry in batches of 10-12 days, I would post them ahead to carry at the start of each stage.

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Putting breakfast and food packs together.

Lunch was bought on the go. I passed a lot of shops so it would generally be a bread roll filled with cheese and meat, a pasty or pork pie, nuts, fruit and chocolate bars.

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Nothing beats ham and pease pudding sarnies.

Dinner was again whatever I could source from shops. Pasta in bags, noodles, cous cous or soup, lots of chicken, more cheese and plenty of vegetables. I generally got good at knocking up a cheap hearty meal and my favourite was a packet of noodles cooked with tuna, spring onions, red pepper and olives. This would often cost me around £3, which is a bargain for something so simple and filling.

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Cheap and easy to put together.

However I did have some expedition food, kindly provided by the online outdoor company Above and Beyond. They sent me food from Extreme Food and Real Turmat which were posted ahead to use later on in the walk where it would be harder to come by food.

I tried the Extreme Food packs first when I was walking in the Pennines. They are freeze dried, lightweight, high in calorie sealed packs of food and I had three meals to try: chilli con carne, chicken & pesto pasta and chicken tikka masala.

The walking along the Pennine Way was long and hard so tucking into something easy to prepare was essential. You simply tear off the top and pour boiling water in before sealing it and leaving it to hydrate. However on my first go I made the mistake of pouring too much water in and my chicken & pesto pasta turned out to be more of a soup. A tasty soup but I like my pasta a bit a la dente.

I hadn’t read the instructions properly and poured past the level it showed. I didn’t make the mistake with the other two packs and tucked into those later on, having a fondness for the tikka masala.

The Real Turmat meals were tried when I was walking part of the West Highland Way. Freeze-dried and vacuum packed they profess to retain the natural taste and provide good nutritional value. I had a pasta bolognaise and a chicken curry to try.

After walking all day in the rain I arrived at a campsite in Inverarnan, which had a shelter you could go in to dry clothes and cook. The shelter was buzzing when I got there. People cooking the same bland food from the camp site shop: what looked like tinned dog food or noodles.

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Shelter at Inverarnan

I got the chicken curry out, poured some boiling water and waited. It smelt good and tasted amazing.  Definitely needed after a long day walking wet through to the bone. I got a few jealous looks from people sitting near me so I drew the bag in close, ready to fight to the death with my spork to protect what was mine. It was like a scene from some prison drama.

Out of the two I have to admit I preferred the Turmat. It just seemed to hold its taste better. Yes the Extreme Foods were lighter and easier to pack but when given the choice of something hot and tasty at the end of a soaked day, sitting in a shelter in the hills of Scotland while the rain battered off the roof, it just seemed to me to be the better option.

Beats the dehydrated dust I used to eat.


LEJOG – Stage Five

I was finally in Scotland. I’d been looking forward to getting here since I started. I followed St Cuthberts Way, Southern Upload Way, John Muir Way and the West Highland Way to Fort William.

Stage Five

31st July 2016 – Jedburgh to a wild camp near River Tweed (just past Galashiels)

I decided to miss the day and a half walk from Bellingham to Jedburgh. There was transportation complications and to be honest the route looked boring and I wanted to get started in Scotland. It’s my walk and my adventure and I was keen to cross the border and get into the mountains.

I left Jedburgh and followed St Cuthberts Way along Jed Water where I crossed a suspension bridge at Monteviot. From here it was a straight walk along an old drovers road to Maxton.

Along the way I passed Lilliards Stone where the English and Scottish would meet to try and resolve their differences. It never really worked and resulted in a few battles including the Battle of Otterburn.

From Maxton I followed the trail to Eildon Hills where I got a beautiful view down to Melrose. I headed down, picked up some supplies and headed on to the Southern Upland Way to look for a wild camping spot.

I passed Galashiels, came off the trail and followed the River Tweed. Eventually I found one near the river in a nice field with sheep.

After sticking up my tent and eating I caught up on a few things and watched the sun set. My first day in Scotland had been good.

1st August 2016 – Camp Spot to Peebles

I woke up to a beautiful sun rise and a herd of sheep charging down in my direction. They stopped when they caught sight of me. They wanted to be at the river and didn’t figure how to go round me.

After packing away and eating I set off and got back on the Southern Upland Way. It was a slow and steady climb up Three Brethern but worth it. The views were amazing.

After a while I followed the trail round Broomy Law and Lucken Head to Hare Law. From here it was a good walk to Minch Moor and down to Traquair.

This was my scheduled stop but it was only 12pm so I decided to keep going and eat into tomorrow’s miles.

I followed a road along to the bottom of Castle Knowe and went up for another beautiful view. 

I descended down into Peebles and decided to call it a day. I’d had a good run but was getting tired. I grabbed some food and sat down to look for a place to wild camp.

I found a park along the river so went to check it out. It required some cunning so I sat around for a bit then walked to a more secluded part with trees as cover.

I hung about a bit more before sticking the tent up. Then waited. I’m not sure if I would have been kicked out of the park to be honest but I just wanted to hang on before unpacking and eating.

Eventually I sorted my gear out, ate and slept.

2nd July 2016 – Peebles to Calder

Today was a hard day. I decided to eat into the next day’s miles and get the Pentland Hills out the way before camping. I underestimated how hard it might be.

I left the park early and headed up a track to South Hill Head. There was no recognisable trail up the hill at one point so I had to pick my way through heather. I walked from here to White Meldon Hill and then down to the start of an old track through a forest.

All fairly easy going and I dropped down to the Cross Borders Drovers Road. I followed this to Romannobridge and then on to West Linton. This was my scheduled stop for the day but it was early so I bought some supplies and kept going.

I went up a track into Pentland Hills and followed Theives Road. It tried to rain but didn’t get above a shower. The track was nice though and it was a slow walk down to Harpering Reservoir.

I stopped to look along the route where I might camp. I had a few ideas but the places that looked good on the map werent when I got there. Essentially a lack of good water. The streams were either dry or just didn’t look clean enough even for my filter. I got all the way to Calder before just buying some water, sticking my tent up in a field, eating (even though I wasn’t massively hungry) and sleeping.

3rd July 2016 – Calder to somewhere between Linlithgow & Falkirk (don’t recall)

Last night took a bad turn. I woke after midnight feeling nauseous. I got out my tent and was violently sick before having the shits. After cleaning up I crawled back into my bag. I had a splitting headache so took some tablets and tried to sleep. 

I managed a few hours on and off but eventually woke feeling stiff and achy. I had no appetite at all so just drank some green tea and plenty of water before packing away.

I passed a shop so had a banana and a can of Coke. All I could manage.

Today’s walking was flat along a river/canal thankfully so I just kept going. I decided to get as far as I could and just get a b&b for the night.

I got to Linlithgow (scheduled stop day) and just kept going for a bit before jumping in a b&b/pub.

I managed a salad and later a steak pie with vegetables before sleeping.

4th July 2016 – to Drymen

I woke up feeling a bit better but still had no appetite. I could only manage toast and cereal.

I left and got back on the John Muir Way for more easy walking along the rivers and canals.

I got to Kirkintilloch (my scheduled stop) but decided to keep going. I felt OK (even though I wasn’t eating)

The plan was to join the West Highland Way and wild camp somewhere. I kept going but again struggled to find anywhere to friggin camp. I’m not being too picky here but there are parts of Scotland I’ve struggled to find camping spots. This time it was finding a field that wasn’t overgrown!!!! 

I passed a sign that said “Drymen 7 miles”. How the hell had I got here so quickly!!! I say that because Drymen was tomorrow’s scheduled stop and I had a b&b booked.

I rang ahead and they could accommodate me so I just walked. And by the time I got there I felt ill again.

I’d pushed myself to exhaustion and whatever this bug was it hadn’t truly shifted.

The lady (Frances) took me in, fed me cake and a few cups of tea before I crawled into bed. Normally when I stop moving I layer up to keep warm but I didn’t so I got cold really quickly. And because I hadn’t eaten properly either I was shivering.

After warming up I went out and forced some soup down before coming back and sleeping. I woke up a few times in the night soaked in sweat. I was hoping that whatever bug I had was now out of me.

5th July 2016 – forced rest day

Despite feeling a bit better and having some sort of appetite again I decided to take a days rest in Drymen to build up my strength. I had 27 miles to walk up Loch Lomond to a campsite so wanted to feel 100% for it.

I make a crap patient though. I wanted to walk down to the Loch or go up Conich Hill but I had Sal and other people telling me no. Stop. 

6th July 2016 – Drymen to Inverarnan

I woke up in better spirits and planned to walk 27 miles down Loch Lomond. I ate breakfast and said a fond farewell to Frances.

The Loch looked beautiful in the early morning sun. The water a deep blue echoed by the sky, surrounded by hills and mountains luscious in their green splendour. 

The trail was clear and still pretty busy at this early hour. Everyone else had the same idea. Take advantage of the weather while it lasted.

At Inversnaid I stopped to eat lunch and the rain started. I heavy thick rain associated with the mountains of Scotland. This made the second half of the walk up Loch Lomond tricky. 

The trail stopped being a nice easy path to stepping over rocks and climbing round the edges of the loch. In the rain it was pretty slippy so it was slow going with a pack on my back. And before long I was soaked through.

I eventually got to the campsite and stuck my tent up in the gap between showers. The site had a shelter as well so I joined the group of people hanging up wet clothes and cooking hot food.

7th July 2016 – Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

Today started wet, cleared for a bit but then it got worse. Much worse. My objective was to get to Glencoe although I was scheduled to stop at Bridge of Orchy.

When the wind and rain came in I was soaked through again. And cold. And not thinking straight. I should have stopped, stuck up my tent and took shelter but in my own stupidity and the desire to get from point A and point B I kept going and risked hypothermia.

The nagging questions that had bothered me for weeks about why I was walking started to surface badly and I really started to think about quitting. The reasons for me doing this walk had gone months ago. The crippling anxiety, stress and depression had lifted and my life was better. Why was I doing this? I just wanted to get back to the familiar, be around people and get started with the plans I had for the future.

I reached Orchy and made the decision to get a train to Fort William. Something wasn’t right and I needed to think and talk to someone who’d been there and done this sort of thing before.

I changed out of my wet clothes at the station and got on the train. And when I got off the train the weather at Fort William was worse. My dry clothes were now wet and I had to walk around knocking on doors to find a room for an hour. Eventually I got one. 

I changed into what I could and went out to eat. I needed to eat badly. When I got back I spoke to Sally for a bit and tried to relax. I went out for a pint just so I wasn’t staring at four walls.

I had some serious thinking to do and slept on it.

8th July 2016

I’m no quitter. After speaking to Sal the night before and some family in the morning I decided to carry on.

I had a lot of people supporting me and rooting me on. And I didn’t want to let myself or them down.

I went to the hostel where I had a room booked and hung up all my wet gear in the dry room. I stuck all my damp stinking clothes in the wash and sorted out my gear.

I collected my Cape Wrath maps and book then went to Costa for three hours to study them. This trail is notoriously hard and I wanted to be prepared. The rugged terrain and remoteness would be a challenge. The bogs, unmarked tracks and river crossings tiring.

While I was nervous and apprehensive I also knew this experience would go a long way for my future plans.

Final Thoughts 

Not much I can say. The nagging doubts and questions I’d had for weeks all surfaced and I nearly quit. So close to finishing.

I’m just lucky to have the people I do in my life and maybe I need to listen to them more and talk when something is bothering me.

The next stages aren’t going to be easy but with a renewed sense of purpose I have to take the opportunity to finish this.

LEJOG – Stage Three

The walk from Knighton to Hebden Bridge took me through Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and the Peak District. Along the Shropshire Way, Monarchs Way, Staffordshire Way and parts of the Pennine Way.

I’ve had my moments during this stage although to be honest the scenery was boring till I got to the Peak District. 

Stage Three

11th July 2016 – Knighton to somewhere near Muchlock Edge

I woke up early and forgot where I was. Very deep sleep. I shook off the grogginess, took a shower, had breakfast and was off. 

I made my way up Stow Hill and the familiar rain started. This was becoming a recurring theme so I stuck my waterproofs on, smiled and kept going. Through Horton Castle I picked my way over difficult, overgrown paths to Craven Arms.

This was my meant to be my scheduled stop but I made the decision to keep going and eat into tomorrow’s miles. Rain or no rain.

It was a 45 minute walk through Craven to the start of the next stage. Walking along a ridge tree line on The Shropshire Way. 

The path was pretty muddy but I motored along with the plan to find one of the wild camping spots I’d earmarked. I found, as I went along, that most of these spots were corn fields and not ideal and the good fields had no source of water. 

I spotted a campsite on the map so just kept going and headed for it. It ended up being a long tough days walk and in total I think I did around 28 miles. 

It had stopped raining so I set up my tent, dried what I could, ate and slept.

12th July 2016 – Campsite to Bishops Wood

Woke up to more rain. It started around 6AM and didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. To make matters worse my inner tent was wet through. I thought a  leak but, after speaking to Sal, she thought condensation. All the vents were open so I wasn’t sure.

I threw a tantrum to myself. I was sick of being wet and moaning about it. I got a kick up the arse for it but my mood was foul.

After packing my wet kit away I started walking. It didn’t stop raining all the way to Ironbridge. I considered staying here as it was my scheduled stop but thought sod it. This was meant to be a challenge and so I kept going. Bollocks to the rain.

I joined The Monarchs Way and decided to just walk until I came across somewhere to wild camp. Nothing. Not even any safe place for water and I was running out.

Then out of nowhere I walked passed a Texaco garage. I filled up my water and bought a bunch of food & snacks to feast on before moving on in good spirits.

Just past Tong Norton and before Bishops Wood I found the perfect field hidden by a large hedgerow. It was part of an Outdoor Kids Nursery and no one was around. I did knock on the door of the building and, with no answer, set up camp for the night.

It had stopped raining a few hours ago so I dried the tent out and cooked some food. When full I climbed into my bag and slept with the intention to get up early and be away before the place opened.

13th July 2016 – Bishops Wood to Penkridge.

I slept well but had a weird dream that someone dragged me out my tent. I woke up early and for once it wasn’t raining. But the inner was still wet. Sally was right, looked like condensation so she’ll read this and no doubt I’ll get a “told you so” 🙂

I was packed and away before 7 and ate on the go. It was a 3 hour walk to Penkridge and I’d booked a room in a B&B which I as going to use. I wanted a warm bed for the night and the opportunity to clean and dry some stuff out.

On my way I stopped by a pub called The Swan At Whiston and ate a snack. The landlady (called Helen) came out and offered me a cup of tea. We talked about my walk, the work The Youth Adventure Trust do and how kids don’t get outside enough now. She was a lovely lady and that act of kindness and social interaction really helped. 

I got to the B&B before 11, checked in, showered and starting drying stuff out. I also took a walk around the local farmers market and even managed to get some replacement liner walking socks and t-shirt. There was no washing the ones I had. They were beyond help.

After getting back, taking a long nap, rotating stuff on the dry rail in the bathroom and eating I went to bed and slept. Really well.

14th July 2016 – Penkridge to Uttoxeter

I left the B&B and walked along a nice canal tow path where it joined the Staffordshire Way. From there I went through Brocton Country Park, following a maze of paths. Some on the map and some not. I really had to concentrate to keep on the right trail.

I came across some DoE kids on their bronze assessment going the wrong way, stressed and arguing. I offered them some help by showing them how to set the map and locate where they were. I waved them off clearly in a better mood.

Leaving the forest I joined the Trent and Mersey Canal tow path for a bit. The weather was picking up and the walking good. I even raced a canal boat for a bit, talking to the owners, people walking their dog and other boat owners.

After a while I got to my scheduled stop at Abbotts Bromley but decided to keep going to Uttoxeter. The weather was good and I was having an awesome days walk.

I was an hour outside Uttoxeter, walking through a farmers yard, when a pack of dogs came running out at me. There was a mix of Jack Russell’s, Collies and Alsations making noise. The farmer tried to call them back and then the old Alsation decided he didn’t like me and bit me.

Trying to keep calm and not agitate it I backed away and made for the exit. I really wanted to give the farmer some grief as he didn’t check I was ok or apologise but decided keeping a calm head and leaving was better.

I got to Uttoxeter and checked my leg. It had broken the skin and I figured I needed a tetanus. I checked into a B&B, cleaned the bite and spoke to the owners who told me where the local surgery was for the morning.

After getting some supplies and eating I had an early night.

15th July 2016 – Uttoxeter to Biggin

I got up, had a quick breakfast and headed to the doctors. Thankfully they would see me and I got a tetanus booster. With that done I set off for Thorpe.

Through fields and paths I got to Rocester where it started raining. I honestly don’t think I’ve had two days of consistent good weather. Waterproofs on I kept going through muddy tracks in forests and overgrown paths along fields.

I got to Thorpe by 2PM, my next scheduled stop, but decided to keep going and look for somewhere to camp.

I followed Dove Dale and got to Biggin by 6PM where I camped in a pub beer garden. Two guys welcomed me, as I put my tent up, with a beer and burger. I got talking to them. They were taking the weekend to unwind, get out in the countryside and go for a walk.

After a while I went back to my tent, cooked some food and slept. 

16th July 2016 – Biggin to Youlgreave

I woke up at 6AM to the gentle sound of rain on my tent. After snoozing for a bit I ate breakfast and left. I said goodbye to the brothers, who were surprisingly up after going to bed after 1AM.

It was a short 3 hour walk to Youlgreave where I had a bed booked in a hostel. I could have kept walking but it would have messed up things down the line on this leg. I knew I would have plenty time to make up days on the Peninne Way.

17th July 2016 – Youlgreave to Hathersage

I fell asleep at 8:30 and was woken at midnight by a drunk guy coming in the dorm and then starting to snore. I managed to get back to sleep but made sure he was woken up early the next morning. Selfish idiot.

I left the hostel at 7:30 after breakfast as I wanted to get to Hathersage in good time and the weather looked good.

I walked fields and tracks to Edensor where I crossed into Chatsworth Park. This whole private estate had a Richmond Park feel with deer and sheep roaming freely.

It was a nice walk to the start of Curbar Edge. It was here I met a guy called Andrew Skidmore and we talked about long distance walking, Scotland and how youth hostels had changed. He also kindly donated £5 towards my cause. The generosity of strangers still amazes me.

Curbar Edge was a delight. It was a clear day and the views inspiring. It was also pretty busy being a Sunday and the sun making an appearance.

After and hour or so I started my descent into Hathersage along a river which rounded the walk off nicely.

I had somehow messed up my booking at the hostel but the manager sorted me out so after a shower I went out to meet Sandie.

We had met a few times on EC events so it was good to see a familiar face. He treat me to dinner and a few pints and we caught up. I could only manage a few hours wrote the beer got to me and I felt tired. Bit gutted as I like Sandies company but I wanted my bed.

I got back to the hostel, sorted my kit out and went to bed.

18th July 2016 – Hathersage to Holmfirth

I got up early as a result of my early night and left in good time. Today was going to be a long hard day so I didn’t mind. I was going over tough terrain I hadnt really walked in a while.

It was a slow steady climb up to Stanage Edge, I was sweating when I got there but the views were worth it. I followed the path round to Moscar Moor and Lost Lad before making my way to Upper Derwent Reservoir.

Here I followed a cycle path along the reservoir, made my way up Margery Hill and over Midhope Moors. It was a hard climb up and I was in the open during probably the hottest period of the day. And running low on water.

It was a long slow descent down into a small valley where there was a stream feeding into Langsett Reservoir. I dropped my rucksack and waded in to cool off.

Once done I followed the Trans Peninne Way to Dunford Bridge and then on to Holmefirth where I found a nice place to camp, eat, get out the sun and sleep.

19th July – Holmefirth to Hebden Bridge

Today was another long hot day in the sun. Hate to say it but I could have done with some cloud or even a nice shower. Had to keep covered and drink lots from streams.

I followed a trail out of Holmefirth and made my way to Digley Reservoir. Another sweat on before 9!!!

At Wessenden Reservoir I joined the Peninne Way for a bit before splitting off on a trail to Marsden. I took the chance to take a break and hide in the shade and load up on fresh water. Only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun. I surely must be mad as it was blazing.

I joined the Kirklees Way for a bit and passed more small reservoirs, filling my water as I went. Crossing the M62 I followed more trails through fields and trails, skirting round Manshead Hill. Just couldn’t bear going up in the sun with a heavy pack on.

I dropped off the moor and could see Hebden Bridge. It was a slow walk, sticking to the shade where I could, to the nearest place that sold ice creams. Where I had two on the bounce.

Hebden Bridge was my scheduled stop for the day and the end of this leg. I had a rest day, which I was taking. I needed to be out of the sun and wanted to rest before joining the Peninne Way. I had plans to try and get through that quicker than I had scheduled and make up some days.

Final Thoughts

The weather. I started this leg in rain and ended it in blazing sun. Two very different environments to walk in. I’m still waiting for the happy medium. Walking in heavy rain all day can be soul destroying but walking in sun can sap the energy out of you. Still, it’s just weather and so long as I can put one foot in front of the other then that’s the main thing.

I know I can be moody at times but throwing tantrums at the stupidest thing like the weather was daft. This was meant to be a challenge and I knew it would be hard. Pointless whinging about it. It took a kinda kick up the arse from someone who’s been there and done it for me to realise that. So now I just have to get on and deal with it. 

People have been so good and kind on this leg. Total strangers I’ve had a 5-10 minute conversation with have been interested in the walk, the charity and just generally happy to talk. Even given me, a random stranger, money for the walk takes me by surprise. With everything wrong with the world it’s good to know that deep down this planet has a lot of good souls.

Dogs freak out. It’s the rucksack. I’m quite good with dogs but some of the canines I’ve come across just freak when they see this extra thing on my back. Most just back away and bark until I get down to their level and they come over for a closer look. Then they’re OK. But that farm dog was nuts.

Overall this leg has been a mixed bag. A lot of boring walks through fields and forests until I hit the PeakDistrict. From that point I was hit with wonderful views and some truly beautiful experiences.

Now I have a rest day to try and work on my tan and get rid of these stupid tan lines from wearing a t-shirt.

LEJOG – Stage Two

This leg saw me skip my rest day at Barnstaple in favour of having a few days off in Bristol. So I made my way in land to Chepstow and Wales to walk parts of Offa’s Dyke Path. 

Stage Two

 28/06/2016 – Barnstaple to Challacombe

I decided to skip a full days rest and set off for Challacombe at lunch time. I made up two days and decided to spend the time with Sally in Bristol as I wasn’t sure when I would see her again in the next few months. That and the weather forecast looked awful and I figured I’d try and get ahead of it.

I was wrong. Weather wise this was the worst yet. I tried not to let it get to me but when you’re soaked to the bone, walking in it, slipping on muddy paths and not being able to see anything other than the rain soaked tracks ahead it’s hard not to.

I got to Challacombe and met an older guy walking his dog. We got chatting and he saw how sick I was and offered me a room at his B&B half price. I took it as I had no desire to put my tent up in the down pour that wasn’t showing any sign of letting up. But I just felt so shitty for stopping in another B&B.

It wasn’t the spirit of adventure I was wanting. I wasn’t having any fun, I was messing up and struggling a little bit. I couldn’t speak to anyone that night. After a long warm shower I ate and crawled into bed early.

I woke up in the middle of the night to be sick and later on had the shits (sorry, too much information but this is a warts and all account after all)

29/06/2016 – Challacombe to Roadwater

I woke up feeling sick but kept it together. I ate a light breakfast then donned my waterproofs for another day in the rain.

My ankle bones were bruised from the new boots I’d bought a few days before. I always have this problem with new boots. I put some tubular bandages over the bruising, tied the boots up tight and made for Roadwater.

The plan was to go up and walk over Exmoor National Park but I literally couldn’t see it. The tops were covered in fog and the rain lashed down.

I made my way up but after a short while came back down and decided to follow some back roads. Normally I would relish the chance to practice my navigation skills in those conditions but with a heavy pack, a bad stomach, sore ankles and low morale I figured it could have been a recipe for disaster.

I stopped at a village called Exford and had lunch in a bus stop just to get out the rain. I text Sally something like “tell me something to make me smile” and she replied back that she’d meet me in Roadwater.

I laughed thinking it was a joke but she was serious. That gave me a little kick and I motored on, avoiding the hills and fog. I hate walking back roads but with new determination I kept at it.

When I reached Wheddon Cross the rain stopped and I took my waterproofs off to try and dry out. The jacket did go back on. Common theme. I take it off, I dry, it starts to rain, I get soaked through. Repeat. But I started to just not care. Even laughed about it.

At Pooltown I met an old couple who were out tidying their garden. They offered me tea and biscuits, even telling me if they’d prepared something they would have fed me dinner!!! More kindness from strangers. I politely declined and explained I had my girlfriend waiting. 

I was walking out of Pooltown and up a back road when I saw someone familiar. It was Sally. She’d come to find me. I hadn’t seen in her 3-4 weeks and it was amazing to see her standing there in front of me. She always makes me smile.

On the walk back to Roadwater we caught up and for once I didn’t begrudge getting a room. After I had a shower we ate and talked all night. It really lifted my spirits and I was so happy to see her after the last few days.

30/06/2016 – Roadwater to Bawdrip

I left Sally and Roadwater behind for Bridgewater and a campsite just past it at Bawdrip.

The walk was uneventful with more rain and took me through fields and over the Quantock Hills. Bit boring and so I couldn’t wait to get the day over with. 

01/07/2016 – Bawdrip to Cheddar

It rained a lot overnight which kept me awake but the days forecast was dry.

Most of the day was spent walking back roads, muddy tracks and old drovers lanes. All flat, easy and boring. The most eventful things were getting chased by cows and receiving an electric shock off a fence.

At Cheddar I had a look around. I was meant to be wild camping round the Gorge but I didn’t think it would be possible. I walked up to the Gorge and would have normally had a look around but the tacky shops and restaurants really put me off. That and the pack on my back.

I found a camp site and headed for it. The lady wouldn’t charge me when she found out about the charity walk. Another kind soul.

I also cooked the best camp food yet. Noodles with spring onions and tuna. All for under £3.

02/07/2016 – Cheddar to Portishead

It rained all night. Hard heavy rain that battered the tent. I’m a really light sleeper so again another shit nights sleep.

As a result of the rain the paths were ankle deep in mud and the rocks slippy. I also found trees blocking my way on some of the bridle ways. Not little trees, proper big trees. 

I eventually got onto the Strawberry Line. A disused rail track that once linked all the local villages together. The sun made an appearance as well.

I got off the line and was walking through a field when I nearly stepped on a snake warming itself in the heat. It must have been a grass snake and I’m not sure who was the most surprised but it didn’t hang around.

I was meant to stop near Easton in Gordano but diverted to Portishead. Always wanted to go and now I could say I’d been.

It wasn’t anything special and to be honest I’m not sure what I was expecting but tomorrow I would be heading for Chepstow then making my way to Bristol for a few days off.

03/07/2016 – Portishead to Chepstow

The mornings walk was a bit boring. I followed cycle paths most of the day to Severn Beach (there is no beach)

I passed a place at Severns Beach called Shirleys Cafe. I went in to get a drink. It had obviously been there since the 60s with its old chairs, pinball machine and jukebox. Shirley even made an appearance with it now being run by her daughter and granddaughters.

And it sold sausage sarnies. I’d craved one for a while and had struggled to find anywhere decent that might have done one. It was perfect. Two pieces of thick cut bread, the butter melted by the three sausages cooked perfectly and lashings of red sauce. I washed it down with a banana milkshake and a cold can of shandy.

After letting it settle I walked along the Severn to the bridge. I was starting to tire but still had to cross the bridge into Chepstow. 

That was the longest bridge I’d been across. It didn’t seem to end. But it did and I made it into Chepstow. The trains didn’t appear to be running from there so I got a taxi to Severn Junction and jumped on a train from there to Bristol.

I needed a few days off and spending time with Sally would be the tonic I needed.

06/07/2016 – Chepstow to Monmouth

I left Sally and Bristol behind after a few lovey days off and got the trains to Chepstow (3 in total) I was a bit shakey when I left and I put it down to leaving the familiar and heading back out on my own. 

I found the start of Offa’s Dyke and set off with the sun shining. I passed a few other early starters (whom I would see on and off for the next few days) and headed into the woods along the Wye.

The path is clearly marked and rather than go along the high route (which looked a bit boring) I followed the low route along the river. 

At Redbrook I stopped in a park for a bit to enjoy the sun and a cold can of ginger beer. Then continued on to Monmouth where I stopped at a campsite and watched the Wales/Portugal game.

02/07/2016 – Monmouth to Pandy

I had a lie in. Today was a shorter walk to Pandy so I took my time through fields and woods mostly, with the odd view of the rolling hills.

At Pandy I was picked up by Mary. I had tried to book into a bunkhouse but they were full and recommended her. I’d assumed she had a bunkhouse but it was an off the books B&B. And she was a character.

Nearly 80 she had boxes of birthday and Christmas cards from previous guests and her visitors books were filled with sweet messages. 

When I arrived she and another guest decided I would need fattening up so they fed me cheese and cake. I then had a bath before Mary dropped me and the other guest off at the pub. The other guest was on a pony trek and so I sat with her and the other people in the party to eat.

When Mary picked us up she took us on a tour of Pandy. She’d lived there all her life. When she passed a house she would beep her horn so they knew it was her saying hello. 

When I got back we had a cup of tea and I had an early night.

08/07/2016 – Pandy to Hay on Wye

I woke up early and Mary had cooked a big breakfast. I scoffed it down and she dropped me at the next part of Offa’s. 

Most of today’s walk was on a ridge from Hatterrall Hill to Hays Bluff. It was by far the best days walks I’ve had so far. The weather was warm with a cool breeze and there was clear views for miles. And what a countryside I was staring into. It just seemed to unfold before me. Stunning.

Eventually I had to come down into Hay and the plan was to keep walking into tomorrow miles but the weather was nice and I wanted to relax.

I found a really nice campsite where the chickens roamed free, the toilets were drop boxes and the showers some weird solar powered things (I didn’t try them)

09/07/2016 – Hay to Knighton

I didn’t sleep well. There was some sort of mini festival a few fields away and the music went on into the night.

I got up at 7 and was away before 8. I had a long day ahead. Most of it was spent in more drizzle and rain but by now I just smiled and kept going. I figured a little rain wasn’t going to spoil my days walk. And being wet is only temporary anyway. Only bug bear is taking photos. I have my camera phone and really don’t want to damage it in the wet.

I followed the Wye, went through fields and along back roads, up a few hills and eventually got to Knighton. I met Phil and Emily (my AirBnB hosts) who seemed lovely and made me feel very welcome.

I had a shower, washed some clothes, went out for a beer and got far too much Indian takeaway. I ate too much, which would normally send me into a food coma, but I managed to stay awake for a bit.

09/07/2016 – Knighton

This has been my rest day and I decided to take it. I’ve caught up on a few things, sorted my washing and had the Sunday roast I’ve craved.

Final Thoughts

The first few days out of Barnstaple were awful. The weather sucked, the walking sucked, I sucked. In hindsight I’m pretty pissed off with myself for backing down so easily. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it. It’s done, I’ve learnt and I’ll move on. 

The boots, while initially causing my ankle bones to bruise, have been worth it. They give my ankles more support, offer a bit more in the way of waterproofing and, when trudging through mud,seem more stable.

Offa’s Dyke is a great walk. I only did a few days but from Pandy to Hay was the best days walking I’ve had so far. I love Wales and I know when I’m done on this walk I’ll be spending some time exploring it more.

Sally turning up was the morale boost I needed. We’ve only been together a short while but I reckon I’m lucky to have someone who makes me smile and who would drive out their way on a day off to see me. That’s all I’ll say on that.

So the following 9 days will see me heading through Shropshire and the Peak District to Hebden Bridge where I start the Penine Way.

LEJOG – Stage One

I’m not rely sure how to structure my blog posts for LEJOG. On one hand I like the idea of giving an account of each day based on my journal entries and on the other I could just summarise my thoughts. I’m going to try a bit of both, see how it works and hopefully you (the reader) can get an idea of the experiences I’ve had.

The first stage took me from Lands Ends and up the South West Coast Path to Barnstaple.

Stage One

20/06/2016 – Lands End to Zennor

I started the walk from Lands End on a foggy wet Monday and the place reminded me of a theme park, all tacky attractions and cafes. Thankfully they were all closed when I got there.

I met some fellow Explorers Connect members who were walking with me for a bit. We took some photos and set off along the coastal path. The drizzly weather meant I was wet pretty quickly and the path wasn’t very nice to follow in places.

I left the EC people shortly after Sennen Cove and found parts of the path flooded or thick with mud. I perserved and at Levant Mine the weather cleared and it warmed up, allowing me to shed some waterproof layers and dry up a bit. Although my feet were soaked through and would remain like that all day.

I got to Zennor in the late afternoon and ate a sweet potato curry at the Tinners Arms before heading out to find somewhere to camp. I spent another hour or so walking along the path trying to find a clear patch. Everywhere seemed o be covered in grouse or bush and just when I was losing faith and about to head in land I found somewhere.

After sticking my tent up I got in and changed clothes before drying and cleaning my feet up. Once done I made a cup of tea, climbed into my bag and slept.

21/06/2016 – Zennor to Gwithian (but actually Porthtowan)

I woke up stiff and tired. I could have slept longer but dragged myself out of the bag and made breakfast before packing up and leaving. The weather was a lot better but the path remained the same. Awkward to get through some overgrown bits, slippy rocks and steep drops and climbs which were taking their toll on my ankles.

I reached St Ives and ate a proper cornish pasty from an independent baker, not one of the many chains I’d seen previously. It didn’t disappoint and, as I sat down near the beach eating it, I marvelled at how blue the water was. On a really hot day I imagine the beaches on the cornish coast get packed out.

I left St Ives and reached Hayle where I chatted to an ice cream seller for a bit. He talked about the number of LEJOG people he had seen over the years and how he had walked the South West Coast Path in his younger days.

He didn’t charge me for my ice cream and I left him to head for Gwithian. I got there just after 3PM and felt ok so decided to keep going. After a few hours I got to Portreath where I stopped to eat at a pub.

After eating I was chatting to some old guy from Cheshire. He’d served with a group of geordies in the army and loved Newcastle. He’d been coming to Portreath since the 70’s to holiday. Even after his wife died he still came with his grandkids. Nice guy.

I said my goodbyes and decided to keep going for a bit more to find a nice place to camp. I passed a busy car park and a choice spot on a cliff ledge (but bottled it) I ended up walking to Porthtowan, failing again to really find anywhere along the path.

It was nearing 9PM so I asked around in a pub when they told me they had a bunkhouse. I took a bed and it felt like cheating but I was getting tired and want to sleep.

22/06/2016 – Porthtowan to Perranporth

I woke up wrapped in a duvet, snug like a ball of cotton wool. I almost forget where I was and what I was doing here.

I forced my stiff body out of bed , had a shower, made breakfast, packed and left. It was only a short walk to Perranporth where I had an Airbnb room booked. I figured I could have a half days rest.

The weather was terrible again, that cornish sea mist and rain. I didn’t bother with a waterproof jacket, it was warm and I’d just get wet with sweat anyway.

The walk to Perranporth was only three hours up the coast but it felt weird. I could hear the sea but I couldn’t actually see it. Old buildings and structures would appear through the mist as I approached them. The whole landscape had an eerie otherworldly feel to it.

While it was a short walk there was still lots of climbs and drops and the wetter it go the slippier it became. So much so I fell and hurt my ankle. I have a history of bad sprains so this was the last thing I needed. It seemed ok but the Roclites now seemed like a bad idea to walk in.

I arrived in Perranporth and met Julie and Len. I was shown round the house and to my room. After chatting for a bit (thoroughly nice people) I did some washing and went out for some fish & chips.

When I go back I was invited to a pot luck night with my hosts but I was tired and wanted to just sleep.

23/06/2016 – Perranporth to Magwan Porth (but actually Trevone)

The first few miles out of Perranporth were awful. The tide was in and I had to walk along sand dunes so the sand got everywhere. The path did improve when I got to Newquay and I stopped to eat.

After negotiating my way out of town I headed for Magwan Porth. I got there early so again decided to keep going to Trevone. I struggled to find anywhere decent to camp and looking was becoming a chore. I chatted to a local guy who suggested I ask the pub if I could pitch in their beer garden.

The landlord said it was ok and I swear the beer garden was the size of a Sunday league football pitch. I stuck my tent up, ate and slept.

24/06/2016 – Trevone to Wadebridge (but actually Tintagel)

I  woke up to the sound of rain tapping on the tent. Nothing more relaxing before I realised I had to get up and walk in it. Bollocks.

I packed up and set off. Sally had sent me some messages but the poor signal meant I didn’t get them until I left the area. Essentially it was the news we were out of the EU. Not the decision I wanted but I would check out the details later.

I arrived in Padstow where I was attacked by a seagull. I’d been craving a good sausage sandwich for days but struggled to find anywhere that sold them. I settled for a pork and apple pasty and sat down to eat it near the harbour. As I sat, I got my phone out and was fiddling with it when all of a sudden a huge whoosh knocked the contents of my pasty across the pavement in front of me.

A seagull landed opposite me staring at the contents scattered in front of us. I kicked it over toward him and I finished the pastry bit of my pasty. He got the better deal the little shit.

I walked for a few more hours, through Wadebridge and on to Tintagel. It was a climb up into the village and I had planned on looking for a camp site given the previous difficulties in finding a wild camp spot. I couldn’t find one so just bit the bullet and got a room in a b&b.

It wasn’t what I wanted but my morale was taking a beating and experience has told me that sometimes you just take these little morale boosters. I’d walked a fair distance and just wanted to eat and sleep.

After a cheap dinner bought at the local Spa I chatted to Sally on Skype for a bit and started thinking about maybe skipping my rest day in Barnstaple. I was already ahead so skipping that day as well meant I could have two days off when I got to Bristol.

25/06/2016 – Tintagel to Bude

Today was the worst of the walk so far. A lot of steep climbs and drops. Much harder than previous days and some serious ankle breakers. The wind had also picked up and the rain kept coming, making the path and terrain really slippy again.

I was struggling to see the positives but at least this was conditioning me for the rest of the walk.

I didn’t really have much else to say about this day. I got to Bude, found a campsite, had some food and a pint and slept.

26/06/2016 – Bude to Clovelly

I’d had a good nights sleep. I got up and hobbled to the toilet block for a shower. My calves were killing me. I needed to stretch more.

As I left Bude the terrain was easy going but again came the steep climbs and drops. I knew it was going to be bad but I just wanted a days break from having to constantly climb up and down rather than contour round.

Then it started raining…..and the walking got worse. I was sick and aching by the time I got to Clovelly. I limped down the cobbled street to the small village and found a pub offering really cheap rooms. I took one and had a long soak in the bath. I really was losing the will to find camping spots, especially in the pissing rain.

But I also felt like I was failing to have the adventure I wanted. The weather wasn’t getting any better, I hated this path and my glass ankles were becoming a liability.

27/06/2016 – Clovelly to Barnstaple

I didn’t sleep well at all. Things just felt wrong in my head. I decided to shrug off the negativity and just get on with it.

This part of the path was a lot easier on my ankles but as I walked along I was seriously considering getting some boots. I knew Barnstaple had some outdoor shops so would look into it when I got there.

When I arrived in Westward Ho! I felt the familiar twinge in my shin which would be all I needed. I stopped and put on a compression bandage and took some pain killers to hopefully keep whatever that might have been away.

I negotiated my way round Westward Ho!, Bideford and then on to Barnstaple by 3PM. Pretty good timing. I met Luke and Natalie (my Airbnb hosts) who showed me around. I did some washing and went out to get some boots. I found a good pair of Salomon similar to a pair I use.

After eating and picking up some supplies and went back to my room and slept. I’d decided to just use half a days rest and make a start on the next stage of my walk. The weather forecast wasn’t great for the next few days so I figured why hang around here when I could just get to Bristol and use a few days rest there with Sally.

Final Thoughts

The South West Coast Path is a tough walk and I only walked a bit of it. A lot of steep climbs and drops. I hated it and couldn’t wait to get off it. I knew it would be tough though and in the end it was good conditioning for further stages of the walk. I was also rewarded with some stunning scenery when the weather was actually good.

Wild camping was a hard. I just struggled to find anywhere without thinking about moving in land. I stayed in bunkhouses and b&bs more than I would have liked but I ached and the weather just got to me. I’m not going to beat myself up over it though. People like Bear Grylls and Levinson Wood stay in hotels on their adventures.

I do wish I’d had more time to swim on the days it was hot. It just seemed like an effort to climb down with a pack, strip off, swim for a bit, dry off, get dressed and then climb back up.

My final thoughts are with those stupid Roclites. I had wanted to test them on the Coast to Coast but that got cancelled so taking them was a risk. Stupid of me but better to realise now.

I hope you liked my account of stage one. If you have any feedback or questions then please let me know.

 

LEJOG – Final Thoughts

I have to start by apologising for the format of this post. I’m typing this on my iPhone and the app is just not good enough to create and edit posts on the go.

So….I started this whole adventure back in October and can’t believe it’s arrived. Out of the ashes of a pretty shitty period of my life came a decision to change things. I no longer wanted to sit behind a desk working 9-5. I wanted a job I enjoyed and made me happy. I set out a rough plan and how to achieve it, which helped me focus.

I would improve or learn new skills, get outside more and start on the path to getting my Mountain Leader qualification. The plan has evolved through time but the end goal has remained the same.

Being an introvert, I also wanted to challenge myself and get out my comfort zone. Then I came up with the idea to walk from Lands End to John O’Groats.

Peoples reaction was mixed but mostly “are you crazy?” Over time they soon realised I was serious and it was the right thing for me. I wanted a challenge and walking 1,300 miles up the country would be that.

I then threw in some training walks. The Yorkshire Three Peaks, Hadrians Wall and Reivers Way. I had planned on walking the Coast to Coast but injury and common sense put an end to that.

All the while I was planning these things, I was working on other things. Learning to kayak, climb and scrambling. Attending various courses, getting out, meeting people and making new friends. Rather than continue to shut myself down I put myself out there and have enjoyed every minute.

When I’m outdoors my heart fills up, my head becomes clear and I breath in clear air. I’m consumed with what I’m doing and where I am. In awe of nature and what the outdoors has to offer to life, my life.

I admit I feel a little nervous but my excitement is keeping any fear away. A whole new world is opening up in many ways. In the next few months I’ll learn more about myself mentally and physically and get a whole new outlook on life. I might also go a little crazy.

When this adventure is all done and real life sets in I already have so much to look forward to. I’ve made sure the post-adventure blues wont kick in.

I know I’ll have to find another 9-5 for a while to fund the next stage but come next year I’m gunning for my ML and spending more time in the mountains. I have a few ideas for shorter adventures but nothing on this scale. And also the blossoming of a new relationship which is an adventure in itself. All these things I’m excited for.

So this is it. Wish me luck. X