Day 4 - June 28 Auchenstarry to Falkirk

A hiking day without rain in Scotland is a good day indeed!  Each day so far, however, has had its challenges.  The first day was hiking with jet lag. The second day was the distance: 18 miles.  The third day was hiking in the rain. And today was hiking mostly on a towpath.  Seems easy enough, but it is a bit tedious compared to other hiking options, so it was hard to keep enthusiasm going on the long stretches - as soon as we would make our way off the towpath, the hiking felt easier and time passed quicker. After a hearty breakfast, we were on the road, or rather the path, by 9:30 am.   


The Boathouse isn't actually on the John Muir Way, so we first had to find our way back to the actual trail.  Somehow in doing so we actually headed in the wrong direction.  Often the JMW lists directions (East and West) on its signs to make things easy, but sometimes those directional clues are not listed as was the case with the ones we saw.  The good news is that our mistake allowed us to head up to Croy Hill and see some more Roman remains and it also took us off the canal towpath and provided some change in elevation - so this is the glass half full.  Glass half empty reading of the situation is that taking this scenic diversion actually added an extra mile or so to our hike today.  Fortunately, it wasn't a long day and the weather was pleasant so the extra mileage wasn't a big deal.  We were concerned that this error would be a bit crushing for Jonah, who tends to like to get to the finish line as quickly as possible - we are still working on enjoying the moment!  But today, Jonah was a champion - he led the way pretty much from start to end. 


Eventually we made our way back to the JMW in the right direction and caught back up with the canal path.  Not too much to report about the next 7 miles.  We did pass a few interesting boats like this one. 


In general though, it was walking a straight flat path for a bunch of miles.  From the very start, Olivia had been dragging.  It was just one of those days - she was exhausted.  Her fatigue was more mental though than physical; her body wasn't worn down from the hiking, she was just tired.


Clearly Lara wasn't feeling quite as tired.  Or maybe she was.  She'll do a handstand anytime and anywhere, especially on a nice day with a beautiful backdrop. 


Finally after mile 8, we left the towpath and crossed.the Radical Pend, a historic low passage under the canal. Radicals who were taken as prisoners in the Battle of Bonnymuir (1820) went through this pend on the way to Sterling Jail.  


We then headed up about a mile to the Rough Castle Roman Fort, another one of the forts along the Antonine Wall.  We spent a bit of time exploring the beautiful grounds before heading on. 


Me and my gal in front of remains of Roman ruins.


Walking the beautiful path through the historic ruins. 


A quarter mile past Rough Castle, we caught back up with the canal and the famed Falkirk Wheel.  It links the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.  The wheel helped reopen both canals in 2002 by bridging the 115 ft. vertical gap between the two canals.  It is the world's first and only rotating boat lift. 


We then moved on to the Wheel House (the sister restaurant to the Boat House) for lunch.  By this point it was already 2 pm.  While eating, we started figuring out how we would get laundry done: since this was our fourth day of hiking, we definitely needed to get our clothes cleaned.  Upon discovering that our lodging for the night (the Premier Inn, which is similar to an EconoLodge) doesn't have laundry services, we found a laundromat.  Unfortunately, it closes at 6 pm so we wouldn't have time to walk the mile to our lodging and still get everything cleaned.  So Lara and the kids took a cab to the laundromat to get things started and I got back on the path to finish the day's trek.  They still had to walk from the laundromat back to the lodging and back again to pickup the clothes, so all in all (and with the extra mile we did early in the day), they more than made up for the lost mileage at the end. 


We actually met back up on the canal as I was nearing the lodging and they were coming from putting in the wash.  After checking in, Jonah decided to rest in the room, Lara and Olivia opted to go back to dry the clothes, and I decided to go for a run to see another of Falkirk's famed novelties.  Running without a backpack feels a lot easier than hiking with one!  And I love running in my new Xero Shoe Z-Trail sandals!  I had done a 10-mile run in them a few days before this trip and felt great.  And I brought them along as my rain shoes; I used them yesterday so that I wouldn't get my other shoes wet. It felt great to go for a 2.5 mile run down the towpath in them to the famed Kelpies, which, standing at 98 feet and weighing about 300 tons, are the largest equine structures in the world.  Everyone whom we had passed had mentioned that they were worth visiting, and they didn't disappoint.  I only wish I could have seen them at night when they are all lit up, but it doesn't get dark here until after 10 PM, which is too late for us.


As I was running back along the path, I was thrilled to see this swan and her cygnets.


The girls were getting back just as I returned.  We all showered and relaxed.  I crashed for a nice hour long nap.  Then, while the girls ate food that they had gotten while out for the laundry, Jonah and I went next door for some veggie burgers.  Now everyone is asleep as I finish this blog. Time for bed.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a wet day, so we need to be well rested to handle the elements.  Good night!


Distance: 13.4 miles

Time:4 hrs. 42 min.

Avg. Speed: 2.8 mph

Total Ascent: 848 ft.

Total Descent:  907 ft.