Back in February I completed a year of sleeping outdoors at least once per month. I have continued the habit and have now notched up 17 months straight. Here’s a quick catchup.
March – otter watching at a small and secret loch
Re-reading Barry Lopez’s accounts in ‘Arctic Dreams’ of the Eskimo’s amazing capacity for nature observation had filled me with an urge to sit out and watch whatever came. By day there was little to see: geese, a pair of browsing deer. As night fell the loch came alive and I lay in my tent listening to the owls and imagining the legions of animals outside, when I was startled by a tremendous splash right outside my tent, like a youth bombing into a swimming pool. At times like this I am quite glad to live somewhere without dangerous animals, for a noise like that in bear country would set the mind racing. An otter was responsible, and I watched it swim back and forth in front of the tent, perhaps moving pups to a new location, though I could’t really tell in the half light.
May – family camping at Mellon Udrigle
Mellon Udrigle, with the peaks of the Northwest partially obscured by cloud, though Suilven (to the left) and Ben Gobhlach (to the right) are clear
The campsite without the toilet. Last time we visited was a peppered with urgent toilet drama, requiring emergency spadework and even the soiling of a bucket. This time we were prepared, with a Lulu Tourlet. The Tourlet is much better than nothing but I prefer to save it for emergencies. As is often the case when I am away from plumbing my urge to defecate was much reduced, and it was on the morning of departure, while exploring a headland, that matters came to a turtle head. I managed to scramble down to a ledge a metre or so above the water and ran out a great length of hose. I think it may have actually grazed the surf before detaching. I stood watching as it disintegrated and dispersed in the kelp beds, providing food for the crabs. Rarely have I felt more integrated into the web of nature.
May – Family camping at Clachtoll
This trip was about as good as it gets. Classic Scottish May conditions of warmth, sun and no midges. Last time I visited the area was during the 2012 London Olympics when friends had hired a house overlooking the bay and the campsite. We must have had a fresh baby in our party, only a few weeks old, though few specific recollections remain. Returning to these classic places emphasises the passage of time. How would I summarise those four years? So much has occurred in the arena of childrearing, I have been on many enjoyable trips and holidays. I have written a lot but finished little. I have travelled each workday to the same place of employment. Where will I be in another four years? Where will you be?
June – hilltop camps on Am Faochagach and Ben Avon
The short nights of summer open the door to evening hillwalking. This year I managed two trips, to Am Faochagach near Ullapool and to Ben Avon in the Cairngorms. We may not have genuine midnight sun, but for a couple of months in midsummer only insomniacs or party animals get to experience anything darker than twilight. As I write this at the end of June darkness has returned to our world and I am pleased to have taken advantage of the those long summer evenings while they were there.
July – overnight packraft trip on Loch Maree
This reminded me of a comparison made between leaders-in-waiting on both sides of the atlantic, with Boris described as a ‘Poundland Trump’. My companion on this trip was also a Donald, and his choice of equipment made me label him a ‘Poundland Macfie’. My Alpaca Yak and Terra Nova Solar Competition cost me over a grand, yet Donald had a more or less identical experience using an Intex Explorer and Gelert Solo purchased for an eighth of the cost. Time will tell which approach is more sensible, but these frugal purchases show that amazing adventures can be had without breaking the bank.