Discover more from Out on an Adventure
It’s OK to Kinda Cheat: 54.05 Miles Walked
Abbycwmhir to Llanidloes
The weather reports were spot on, and we woke up to solid drizzle and low clouds covering all the hill tops. On today’s hiking route we were supposed to go up high so we can see views of southern Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons, both of which contain bigger mountains above tree line. I especially wanted to see Brecon Beacons because that’s where the British Special Air Service (SAS) do their selection (qualifiers) to be chosen to attend the SAS course. When I was in Special Forces an SAS team did an exchange with my SF team and they kept telling us how difficult life was in the Brecons for qualification. After the “pleasure” of Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) course at Camp Mackall, NC for my qualifications, there’s no way anything could suck more in my opinion. I figured there was a lot of “I went through the last tough course” from the SAS blokes so thought seeing those mountains would give me an idea. We thought about doing our Wales hike through the Breacons, but they are far busier and as an old man, I like the solitude we are experiencing now. Anyway, maybe the next time we are this way I’ll give them a shot and see who had it tougher. Goodness! I sound like an old man rambling on with the “back in my day…” stories. Sorry!
It seemed a little dumb to do all the up and seeing nothing but mist. Our idea was to walk some of the valley roads and intersect the Glyndwr’s Way path at various points to give the weather time to clear. We could also check if the path was something other than ankle high wet grass. I think it was a great plan as we were making great time and our feet stayed dry on those nice paved single lane roads.
Our first intersection was at the small town of Bwlch Y Sarnau. Since Welsh loves to occasionally skip the vowels, Bwlch is pronounced as “bullch” and Y is “e” and “Sarnau” is phonetic. Now you are a Welsh speaker! There’s the quaint and beautiful Bwlch Y Sarnau Baptist Chapel there and of course we had to look. Just as we were opening the gate, a car stopped, and a lady asked if we wanted to go inside. Unfortunately, she’d left the church keys at home but was very happy to talk to us about the church and the town. She told us her daughter, in-laws, and grand-in-laws had all been married there. On their web site, it says there have done over 16,480 weddings at the chapel. It must be the Las Vegas of Wales. She asked where we were from and we said “America”, she said, “I know, but what part?” We got a good laugh because I guess the accent gives us away. She is a big horse person and loved visiting all the horse stuff in Kentucky.
She also told us about the Glyndwr’s Way Café, which is in the old school next to the chapel. The town created it to give hikers a place to have a sit, grab a tea, and of absolute importance, use the bathroom. There’s a little bit of trail magic for you! We didn’t have cash, so we hit them up on PayPal at email@example.com. Feel free to donate if you want.
We kept on the roads for a little more and saw that the next intersection. We jumped back on the trail as it was a dirt road with good drainage. We’d been dealing with various drizzles off and on, but that was a lot better than the weather report which sounded like constant drizzle most of the day. We did the usual ups and downs and had a very enjoyable time communing with all the sheep. At 13:00 (1:00 PM) we stopped for lunch and as we finished the drizzle got harder. We thought it should be called “drain”, but we aren’t meteorologists.
After a very long and steep downhill our problems started. The path, which was a dirt road at this part, ran into a stream that we needed to cross. Unfortunately, it was too wide to jump at the road crossing so we moved up to the left to find a place where we could jump it. There was a high bank we could jump off to the other side if we were athletic enough. We did OK, but Pam splashed down one foot, but we were happy to be over. That’s when our troubles began.
We moved back to the right to join the trail at the crossing when we saw we were hemmed in by fences to get back to the path/road on the right. We couldn’t jump back across the stream because we’d be going from the low ground to high ground, and we’d never make it. The fence was chest high at the lowest point topped with barb wire where each barb sparkled dangerously in the drizzle. Fortunately, on the road we needed to get to we saw a gate across it with a direction arrow pointing up the hill, so we knew where we needed to be. Now to get over that fence.
Pam found a stump we could stand on, but it was just a piece of log and it slipped when she was part of the way over and she got a cut on her hand from those pesky barbs. Fortunately, it was a scratch and Dr. John pronounced that she would live. We looked down the fence and found a tree we might be able to partially climb up but as I started up it would have taken an Olympic gymnast level of contortion to get up high enough to get over that fence so that was not going to work.
After going up and down the fence we saw that the original stump/log was our best option. Wedging that thing in hard to the fence we gave it another go. It was a delicate operation as some very, very sensitive bits were right at barbed wire height. The hiking gods were looking out for us because we both made it over with all glory intact and no ripped rain pants either. Score a miracle win for the home team! And then it started to really pour down the rain to add to the “fun.”
Feeling good we looked at the gate we needed to go through, and we realized the direction arrow on the gate was for a different trail. To get back over the stream at the road crossing we now had a 10 foot ford because we had no other choice. As we are contemplating what to do, a farmer pulls up on an ATV on the other side of the steam from us and shouts, “You’re going the wrong way” and drives off. No shit Sherlock!
There was only one thing left to do. We took our shoes and socks off, rolled up our pants and rain pants and waded across. I can walk a million miles in shoes, but I’m like the Princess and the Pea when it comes to walking barefoot and on all that cracked Welsh shale, I felt every single molecule of every rock in those ten feet. Trying to balance with a backpack, my shoes in my hands, feeling every sharp rock and missing my hiking pole I was one annoyed hiker. If the TSA agent who told me that hiking poles are too “dangerous” to take on a plane was there, I would be in jail for murder. We get across and in the pouring rain struggled to get everything back on our feet without anything stuck to them that would cause blisters later.
We get organized and head back the way we came to figure out where we are. We took EXACTLY two goddamn steps and saw the direction marker we missed. We were never supposed to cross the river but turn to the left and go up it around a bend with a freaking bridge to cross the stream.
I blame everything in the farmer who put the pile of wood in front of the marker coming down the hill. That still does not lessen my desire to dope slap a TSA agent for not letting us carry on our hiking poles we’ve taken many times before.
After the bridge across the stream, we had to go up a field that was a minimum of a 50% grade and walking through that grass in the rain was a challenge. At least we got a laugh in the field because it was nothing but black sheep and one white sheep. We kept asking “Who’s the weirdo now?”
After all this the grind through the ups, downs, mud, and rain became a bit of a slog. We didn’t care at this point how much wetter we became because we were already wet. Once we had that realization, we were fine and enjoyed the hike, especially the various beautiful waterfalls we came across.
We got to Llandiloes at 17:30 (5:30 PM) but were a little too tired to explore it. From what we’ve read it’s supposed to be the Asheville of Wales as it’s a place where old hippies like to congregate. We’d fit right in.
Our prime directive when we got to the room was to get things dry. Many of you know Pam as an artist but she is really an engineer inside. She rigged up this clothesline and used the in room heater to start getting everything drying while I was in the shower. I was particularly impressed with using the drinking glasses on top of the heater to quickly dry out her insoles she needs for her planar fasciitis. The whole thing was a work of art!
For dinner we felt we deserved something special, so we went to the Chartist 1770 and had a great meal. We had to try the laverbread, which is a Welsh specialty. It’s made from laver seaweed, and it was great. We’ll be speaking Welsh very soon!
Thank you all so much for reading!