No trekking as such
Over Christmas 2012 Iain and I planned a trip to try and actually catch some fish, due to a lack of success on previous attempts. We decided on a slightly different approach - fly fishing on Loch Awe. I spent hours in the following weeks researching flies, how I could use my spinning rod as a fly fishing setup, rigs and so on. As the planned date of departure arrived, my home town was buried under the biggest dump of snow I have ever seen here and the temperature dropped to around freezing. As we built out kit list, it was quite obvious that fishing would not be a worthwhile activity - the fish would all be having a party on the bottom of the loch where it is warmer and our best efforts would probably not entice them up to bite on a hook. Judging by the lack of other fisherman we saw over the time we were there, it was probably the right decision.
The journey to Loch Awe was beautiful, crisp clear weather that raised the spirits. Once we got to the Loch shore, we drove down the south side to try and find a camp site that Iain had last been to at least four years ago. We drove along the road, stopping at likely spots along the way and eventually arrived at south end of the loch without a positive camp site identification. We made our way back up and just as we were getting to the point of giving up and choosing another suitable location, Iain suggested we stopped at spot that looked wrong but may be right. Turns out in the years since Iain had last been to the site, a fence, gate and animal feeding block had been installed totally changing the appearance of the area!
Once the camp was built, the next priority was to get a fire going - it was cold and still mid-afternoon. Several trees had fallen right next to the camp spot, providing a source of good firewood nearby. Iain had come prepared with a Bahco Laplander Folding Bushcraft Saw, and what an awesome bit of kit that is. Weighs very little and the saw teeth cut both on the push and pull strokes. It has made it to the top of my required kit wish-list. In no time a small mountain of firewood had been cut and the fire lit. The warmth it generated was greatly appreciated! So much so that it was not allowed to go out until we left - time away from it was either to collect more wood or to sleep, with the occasional photographic walk thrown in for good measure. I also tried out the Honey Stove my wife bought me for Christmas. I used a Trangia meths burner which heated a 700 ml of water in about 12 to 15 min. I had not assembled the stove since I first looked at it on Christmas day, so the first build took a little while and ended up being upside down. The second attempt was much quicker. I also do not have the two 3mm tent pegs needed to adjust the height of the pan in the stove, so had to bring the burner up, which reduced efficiency. Needless to say Iain was not impressed, considering his stove is gas powered and heats the same amount of water in about 3 or 4 minutes! So whilst the saw was an unqualified success the honey stove was more of a personal taste.
We had some potatoes to bake on the fire. The first attempt involved wrapping the potato in silver foil and burying it in the glowing embers. After about and hour they still felt quite solid so they were buried once more... and then forgotten about for several hours. When we remembered them, all that could be found was a small piece of silver foil where they had been. The second attempt at baked veg was a lot more successful. My wife had told me stories of winter street-stalls in Japan selling hot baked sweet potatoes, so we decided to try it out. This time the sweet potatoes were just placed on a bed of embers at the side of the fire and turned and checked until they were soft. They were truly delicious and will probably make a return for the next trip.
The mornings had ice on the tent and there was some ice on the water's edge which soon melted when the sun rose. For the most part the sky was clear so the stars came out in all their glory! I had a small pair of binoculars that beautifully brought out the main stars in Pleiades [Seven Sisters / Messier object 45 / M45]. But the moon was near full and when it rose most of the stars vanished.
All in all it was an awesome trip with an opportunity to just sit and relax for a few days. Had there been any fishing, it may not have been so relaxing as there would have been the pressure to actually catch something!
Big thank you to Iain for a great weekend! :)
And as a final thought - I did not forget any gear this time [unlike the trips to Machrihanish and Rannoch Moor]!
Perhaps actually writing down a kit list the week leading up to the trip and packing the day before made a difference ;)