Tuesday 22 November 2022

A Camp in the Forest

The first three weeks of November have been warm, windy and wet, with little sign of winter conditions even high in the hills. Very strong winds along with low clouds had me putting off a camping trip on almost a daily basis. Finally I resolved to go anyway but to stay in the glens and only venture high if conditions improved. Glen Feshie was the obvious choice. It always is. I never tire of this beautiful glen with its magnificent old pine trees and, in recent decades, wonderful forest regeneration.

I was joined on the walk by Kelly Lander (@KellyLander3). After lunch in the excellent Explorers CafĂ© in Aviemore we headed for the car park in Glen Feshie, with me wondering how high the burns that lay on the route would be as the previous day had seen torrential rain and where we could camp if they proved impassable. Happily they were no more than shin deep. The resulting wet boots and feet weren’t a problem as the temperature was well above freezing.

We made camp at dusk beneath some of the ancient pines at the at the narrowing of the glen between the steep craggy jaws of Creag na Gaibhre and Creag na Caillich. This is the heart of Glen Feshie; wild, spectacular, beautiful. 

Darkness falling soon after 4pm and lasting for some sixteen hours at this time of year means a long time in the tent if the weather is stormy. I’d brought a roomy tent so I wouldn’t feel too confined if I didn’t emerge until dawn and an e-reader with a small library on it for entertainment. As it was, after some instant soup, a good way to replace liquid and salt, I drifted off for a couple of hours, lulled to sleep by the wind rushing through the treetops and the gentle patter of rain on the tent. 

Waking late in the evening to quiet I ventured out to see the night forest. The wind had eased, and the rain stopped. I wandered amongst the trees, my headlamp lighting up patches of the seemingly impenetrable dark ahead of me. Forests at night always feel mysterious. I walked slowly, carefully, trying to make no noise, avoiding stepping on twigs, though there was no need to do so. It just seemed natural, perhaps an ancient memory of a need not to alert predators, or other humans.

Rain was starting to fall again as I returned to the tent and the wind soon picked up, roaring rather than sighing through the branches. I made supper – instant noodles – and browsed the e-reader. An attempt at a bit of The Silmarillion, a book I’ve been trying to read on and off for decades but just can’t get involved with, a chapter of Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, a dip into The Best of Edward Abbey. I love e-readers for camping. A whole library for the weight of one paperback. Of course I could read on my phone, but I find a book-sized and less glaring screen much preferable.

The storm was raging when I fell asleep again towards midnight, the rain lashing the tent. By dawn the wind was gentle and the rain over. I could hear the River Feshie now. 

The summits were in mist and the clouds racing overhead so we decided to just have a wander further up the glen, and then return, pack up camp and head back to the car park.

The Feshie was brown and racing, white-capped waves crashing over hidden rocks. It always feels alive, an impression enhanced by the great gouges it has carved out of the banks, and out of the path in places, and the big trees it has undermined and brought crashing down, to lie stark and ragged in the water. This is an untamed wild river. The smaller streams flowing into it can be just as violent, as we saw when crossing the flood scoured channel of the Allt Garbhlach.

The hills remained mostly in cloud, but we did have glimpses of higher slopes white with fresh snow. Down here the temperature had stayed well above freezing, even overnight. Not up there though. Up there it was winter, at least for a while.


1 comment:

  1. It is nice to know that you can gain so much pleasure from your favourite glen after all these years.The photos of the wood at night was a delight.Maybe,on your way home,you could see high up that winter on the tops is not far away.Thank you.