Originally, Kate, Caoimhe and I were planning to bebop to Ireland after school let out. That plan was scrapped due to Ryanair’s lameness, our not-having-it-togetherness, and the increasing cost of plane tickets to the emerald isle. Then we thought we would take three days and head west, someplace with mountains, and then maybe some ocean, ending in Glasgow. Our requirements were simple: nature, followed by fish and chips and beer. That plan, too, fell by the wayside as we realized that we were too wiped from the semester to be interested in committing to such an excursion. It was then that we decided in favor of the Trossachs.
Kate said they are the gateway to the highlands. I don’t know, as even after having been there, I haven’t bothered to do any research on them. My research backlog is getting frightening.
So after a late start, off we drove, the five of us (Aaron, Kate, Caoimhe, Lori, and I) packed into Kate’s Volkswagen. The drive itself was delightful–Scotland is a beautiful country. It was along the route that I learned that there is a movement to free Scotland from English tyranny. Seven years ago or so, that would have been right up my alley. Apparently the Scottish pride is more likely to be exhibited in the countryside (not unlike in the US). We saw a number of barns painted with thistles and other Scottish symbols.
The Trossachs were glorious. Our walk was a loop that took us through the mountains and then alongside the loch. We were like recently released prisoners–esctatic to be free and out-of-doors, easily excited by moss and rocks and trees. We dashed about, investigating this bit of moss and that interesting rock and those funny trees, at which point it became clear to us that we were spending far too much time cooped up indoors in the city. We vowed–next semester, there would be bi-weekly nature outings, so that we all get fresh air and exercise. Fortunately this country is small enough that it is quick to get to places to get fresh air and exercise, and the places to get those things are unbelievably lovely… if you overlook the bits that have been clear-cut by the logging industry.
That’s us (minus Caoimhe, who is taking the photo) at the top of the mountain, early in the walk. The area we’re facing had been logged. Behind us is the loch, glimmering through the grass.
That’s the view from the other direction. It’s a huge panorama, and better big, so feel free to click on it and look at it in a larger size.
The view from the top of the mountain was pretty spectacular–this it the mountain from across the loch.
Looking into the dense stands of conifers, it’s easy to see why forests featured prominently in the fairy stories used to frighten children. The trees swallow the light only a few feet from the borders of the forest.
I cannot emphasize enough how cool the moss is here.
We spent a lot of time pinballing from interesting thing to interesting thing, taking photographs and admiring.
The find of the day was this still, silent lake nestled way up in the mountains, adorned with a small dock and a boat.
At first we thought it was just astoundingly calm, that some quirk of geography and meteorlogy allowed the lake toto appear as a perfect obsidian mirror. Then Aaron started skipping rocks (after all, what young man could resist ruffling the calm of something so utterly unruffled and pristine?). As the first rock skipped merrily across the surface…and kept skipping…and then… skittered? to a halt, we figured something was up. Aaron allowed as how for a few moments he thought he had just done a great job skipping it. He tried a second stone and it bounced across the surface, making a noise akin to a Slinky being moved quickly in a wave motion. Upon closer inspection we discovered that the water was frozen into a sheet of astonishingly clear ice, with a very thing layer of water on top of the ice.
This made for its excellent reflective properties, as it turned it more mirrorlike than it would have been in normal circumstances. This provided for some truly excellent photographic opportunites…
… and sent Aaron scampering for a rock to send crashing through the ice…
It made an exceptionally satisfying noise.
The ice was thick, though not nearly thick enough for me to feel comfortable walking on it.
Caoimhe and Kate posed in the boat for me, and then we were on our way once again, leaving our frozen lake behind with only one or two… or maybe several backward glances and photographs.
We passed up a footpath into the dark and creepy woods that I desperately wanted to follow, despite its somewhat muddy and mucky beginnings. Kate was concerned that it would cut our walk short, since it seemed to be headed back in the direction of the carpark, so its mysteries will have to be uncovered another day.
As dusk gathered, creeping from the branches of the conifers, we finally turned downhill, looping back along the bank of the loch.
Off in the distance we could see this place–it reminded me of the castle in Beauty and the Beast. Europe really rocks that whole fairytale aesthetic.
We paused out descent to play on the big boulders dotting the mountainside–they are nature’s jungle gym, after all.
At the bottom of our descent we were rewarded with views of the loch, steely in the dusk.
By that time we had exhausted the 800 ml of water that I had brought with me, so Caoimhe in her infinite selflessness and bravery climbed down a ravine to fetch fresh water from a stream flowing from the mountainside.
As the sun began sinking into the phase where everything becomes pretty colors, we trespassed on (at?) a Boyscout campground to get close enough to the water to procure a view of the mountains and the lake unobstructed by trees. It was worth any potential lawbreaking that occurred.
The braver (read: longer-legged) among us jumped out precarious stones out to more rocks to climb on.
We had just about made it back to the car when we happened upon these little guys. They are the first sheep I have been able to photograph since arriving in Scotland!
Once back in the little town adjacent to the Trossachs, we began looking for a pub. After all, Kate maintained, that was part of the authentic hill-walking experience. Even when you were younger and whined about going along, you went along anyway for the promise of a pint of beer (or cola, depending on your age) at the end of the walk. While trudging through town (the soreness and stiffness beginning to set in), we encountered a sporting goods store having a going-out-of-business sale. I was looking for waterproof boots at the time, and Aaron convinced me that it wouldn’t hurt to look there. He helped me select a pair of shoes–the pair he felt were best didn’t fit, but I found a pair that I was satisfied with. For 40 quid, Kate pointed out, they were a bargain that I was tremendously unlikely to find anywhere else, so I pried my cold and unwilling fingers out from around my wallet and bought them. Caoimhe also found something for herself–a delightful pink jacket of the waterproof variety.
When we did finally locate our pub, we were all so cold that none of us ordered the pint that had been proferred at the beginning of our adventure.
It was hot drinks for us, instead.