|at least one a greenshank... but not the call..., pencil in sketchbook|
After a good sleep with only three of us sharing the 12-bed dormitory I did my yoga stretches outside the hostel and watched the morning birds on the loch. (One I identified almost definitely as a greenshank but getting onto the computer once home I realised the call I heard was not greenshank but some other wader. I'm not sure what.)
|Loch Ossian, early, outside the hostel, pencil & watercolour in sketchbook, 14.5x41cm|
I still had time to sit outside the hostel and sketch the loch pine islands before we set off at 10.45. The 20 km we walked took us eight and a half hours, with the return leg much quicker than the outward. From turnaround-point we were only three hours - the coming of dusk combined with gentle drizzle ensured we hardly stopped. If you're a reasonable walker and not prone to halting every time you see or hear a bird you could do it much more quickly, probably as a day trip arriving on the lunchtime train and departing on the teatime one.
|after-lunch coffee-spot, Loch Treig, pencil & watercolour in sketchbook, 14.5x41cm|
|me sketching at Loch Treig (see watercolour above), photo taken by Paul Phillips, 10th April 2012|
|bothy, pencil, pen, ink, 41x14.5cm|
Our walk was a there-and-back, following a route I took more than ten years ago on my Duke of Edinburgh Award gold expedition. From the hostel we walked to the station then north-west by very boggy track to the long stretch of water that is Loch Treig. Our lunch spot was on the shore before walking west up a beautiful narrow V-valley to a three-room, two-storey bothy at grid reference 296678. Someone had left rice and dried apricots in one of the rooms. Welcome finds for the hungry walker arriving late.
Staoineag bothy perches on a grassy rise in an idyllic spot - the valley opens here into a bit of flatland with the river Abhainn Rath meandering slowly through. The deep peat-brown water looked like treacle and I felt a dipper should come whirring along it looking for rocks to bob up and down on, or that a kingfisher should flash past. A white sphere sun was trying to break through clouds over the bothy as I sat on the grass down by the water and drew... bothy rising above me, trees rising above bothy, dramatic cloud sky rising above trees.
|Kittie sketching, west of Loch Treig - www.kittiejones.com|
We had various sketch and food and coffee stops, chatting a lot of the day, discussing what we were seeing around us, discussing the world more distant. When only a kilometre or so from home we watched a 24-car goods train power uphill past the station towards the large metal signs that mark Corrour Summit - the highest spot on the West Highland Lines at 1350 feet (411 m). The train slowed then began to trundle downhill for Loch Treig and Tulloch and beyond. It seemed a toy in such a vast remote landscape. Perhaps it was just an optical illusion but the caterpillar of carriages seemed to bend a little as they crossed the summit, sloping down on either side of the marker signs.
|11.20 train to Mallaig having just passed Corrour Summit marker signs|
|goods train passing Corrour Summit below horseshoe mountains|
Other than immediately around the hostel we saw only a very limited amount of wildlife throughout the day. Of course there were the ever-present meadow pipits and corvids and a few buzzards but excepting those our main sighting was four red-breasted mergansers on the water at the westerly tip of Loch Treig. We didn't even see any deer on the moors. It felt like deer territory.
The day finished with a late evening treat when we walked from the hostel to look up at the stars. We stayed out a long time as the sky got clearer and clearer: there was Orion's Belt; there was Venus - atmospheric moisture giving her an eerie green halo; one of my confusions was sorted - previously I thought Cygnus was that large 'W' on its side but in fact that's Cassiopeia; satellites regularly scribed their routes across the sky and completely by chance I saw a shooting star through my binoculars. Talking of binoculars... pick an area of the night sky and look up through a pair. It's amazing how many more pinpricks of light suddenly appear. Imagine what it's like to have a telescope and zoom in still further...
|sky at night, Loch Ossian hostel|