In times of plummeting mercury12th November 2009
It had to come as it often does at the start of November. Temperatures fell on a Sunday night after a fairly pleasant day that saw me fail to get out into the open air as I would have liked. What followed it was a day that mixed fine crisp winter sun and typical November misty murkiness. Some may say that it’s still autumn, but the weather feels like winter even if trees retain the last leaves after some stormy interludes. A lunchtime walk had me surveying what’s left of the golden shreds after the Indian summer that came to us in September and October.
Apart from the chill in the air, November brought us some unsettled weather too and that seems set to continue; we may be in the midst of a lull at the moment but something more dramatic lies ahead of us if forecasters are right, and they are far from infallible. Thus, it is somewhat timely that The New York Times has brought us an article concerned with the avoidance of hibernation. The activity at the heart of it may be running, but the same malady afflicts those who explore the outdoors world so it’s interesting to read another take on the subject, especially given November’s habit of bringing grey murky weather with it.
It is tempting to retreat to virtual explorations on one’s PC when it looks not so alluring out of doors. Nevertheless, that can have its place too and might even result in putting you out over your activation energy barrier to enjoy what abounds at this time of year. In recent weeks, I have been sprucing up old members of my online photo gallery. The ones of Skye are as good as done until I get to add to that collection from a day’s walking over Ben Tianavaig last year. Lochaber has come next for a spot of improvement and Argyll hasn’t escaped either with an old print taken by the shores of Loch Etive seeing an attempt to better it with a new scan and subsequent Photoshop work; there’s a knack in keeping things realistic, a line on the wrong side of which I don’t want to find myself.
The trouble with all this tinkering with old photos and is that it consumes spare time like it’s going out of fashion, so a short session can gobble time that was set aside for other things. That’s what happened to me on Sunday but it has its benefits too. Looking at those old photos reminds you of places where you haven’t been for a while. For instance, I now think of that photo of Loch Etive as a less than sharp specimen and wonder about a return visit. In the past, I have played with the idea of a two-day walk from Taynuilt to Glen Coe or vice versa with an overnight stopover at a bothy. Nothing has come of it so far, but the idea of revisiting Loch Etive and passing along Glen Etive for the first time makes the notion attractive. If the weather was to play ball, then it would be even better.
While on the subject of a wandering mindset, there are places in Lochaber to revisit. Loch Treig and the Grey Corries fit in here and there’s what’s around Corrour too; the idea of disembarking from a Sleeper to walk to Fort William has come to mind from time to time. More civilised spots like Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig also beckon. Mind you, a spot of bicycle hire might be an idea for the latter pair because progress along the Caledonian Canal as it rounds Meall Bhanabhie can seem so slow as to be infuriating. Still, this is a nice part of the world that should be traffic free and the distances involved make bicycle travel look the more useful. For long-distance travel on foot, there’s the Great Glen Way of which I have sampled only a little and it would take me by Loch Lochy on its way to parts that have yet to host my footfall.
Continuing the theme of exploring pastures new, there’s around Mallaig too with some introductory possibilities from Morar to gain a sense of what lies about there; it is remote country too, replete with possibilities around Loch Morar and Loch Arkaig for the more adventurous. It’s been a few years since I ventured around by these parts while en route from Skye to Oban and the only stops were Mallaig and Glenfinnan. With the options already described and others like Knoydart and the Small Isles within reach, it is perhaps small wonder that the summer excursion that eventually took me to Aviemore could have taken to towards Mallaig instead. In the end, I decided that it was better to try for a time when the weather would have been more suitable for showing off the landscape at its best. Nevertheless, it is good to have such a scheme in mind, for the sake of avoiding indecision if noting else.
Having skirted around it, I suppose that Skye well deserves a longer mention. That walk from Elgol to Sligachan may not get repeated after seeing my surroundings bathed in the sort of light that would have been in order for a week based in Mallaig. However, there are other paths to follow and other parts to savour. Glen Brittle is but one of these and a spot of cycling might be in order given that’s how I got about on my first visit to the island. It’s never any harm to see new sides to an old favourite.
With all of these, what really hits me is how well peering at old photos can act as a muse as well as being an uplifting distraction from any greyness that is about. It is tempting to say that shortening days curtail the possibilities but I am minded to convert the delights of afar into experiencing what lies on my doorstep. Making use of the latter may set me up for heading further afield yet. In a way, it’s amazing what indoor inspiration can achieve so long as you don’t spend all of your time lost in the reverie and fail to get out at all. After all, November isn’t always murky and December’s bright moments should not be missed either.
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