A friend and I decided to go for a weekend canoe trip. The weather forecast was predicting it would be cold but relatively dry. But, as always, in Scotland it's a gamble you have to take or you'd never do anything.
Early on Saturday we packed the car, before releasing the canoe from it's very cleverly designed storage area (involving wheels, ropes, sliding doors and a ramp onto the grass). After hoisting it onto the roof bars and strapping it down we set off for the 2 hour drive north, stopping off to get some snacks and wine on the way.
As the road climbed onto the flat and remote Rannoch Moor, we found it ominously covered in a thin layer of snow. We passed the ski centre and turned off down the long single track road which would bring us to Loch Etive. This road climbed further into deeper snow, showing only the tracks of a few previous cars. Eventually, as we approached the sea loch, the road dropped and we left the snow behind.
Once on the loch, the water was absolutely mirror flat. We headed out past a world of snow topped mountains and their reflections. Paddling silently or chatting, just enjoying the quiet and the amazing scenery. A few hours later we'd picked a spot to camp for the night and set about making a shelter by tipping the canoe up and stringing a tarpaulin across, and between it and some trees.
Shelter ready, we collected some wood, most of which was completely sodden. I didn't have high hopes for the fire. The driest wood came from a dead, but still intact tree whose bark at least had kept the damp from penetrating deeply into the wood. Regardless, a fire was started (managed to do it with my fire-steel!), although for the first hour it had to be watched constantly and built slowly until it was finally hot enough to keep itself going. It almost went out a few times, but somehow we got it going again each time.
Night under the tarpaulin was cold, but surprisingly comfortable. I slept really well (possibly all the wine) and only woke a couple of times, once when it was raining heavily, and once when the water was getting close at high tide, although I couldn't have been too worried as I fell straight back to sleep.
On Sunday we were up early. Powered by coffee and granola we went for a longer paddle, crossing the loch and continuing towards the sea before meeting some seals and circling some rocky islands. The wind was starting to get stronger and some dark black clouds were appearing over the mountains to the north so we decided so cross back over to the more sheltered side where, after stopping at a beach for some tea and fruit cake, we started back inland. We stuck close to the shore as the wind increased, the tide turned against us and the waves grew larger. Even so, it surprising how fast you can go in a canoe. Certainly much faster than walking pace. It was tiring work though getting back up the loch, partly due to tired arms from the day before.