No mice this time, just the sound of scratching at the door. It was quiet here, alone in the bothy. I was reluctant to leave; the drizzle and cloud seemed uninviting.
There had been an information sheet about the bothy. It had been a home up until the end of the First World War. The conditions up here were so difficult that the family living here needed to store four months of food for the winter. It may only have been ten miles to civilisation, but as I soon found out, it was a long hard ten miles. You’d have to be tough to survive the winter in this place.
I had thought that I’d make a good hermit, but perhaps here would be a little too remote. As I walked on towards Strathcarron it occurred to me that the last time I had seen another person was at Shiel Bridge. The last time I had said a few words to anyone was approaching Barisdale and the last time I had a conversation was Sourlies Bothy. Over 18 hours had ticked by since I’d even seen as much as a human footprint. It seems strange to be this isolated. Even hiding away in Cambridge it’s easy to go days without proper conversation, there’s always some sort of contact with mankind, even if it were just the internet, tv or listening to music. Here the only reminders that civilisation existed were the bothy I was walking away from and my own footprints. I feel that this kind of isolation is a lot more wholesome.
It was a hard trek to Strathcarron. I was once more navigating through cloud, which I seem to be getting better at. My only misadventure occurred when happening upon a fence, where upon crossing under it I had somehow managed to bang my head. I succeeded in grazing my head (it feels like a cut but how would I know? I realised I hadn’t seen a mirror in days). I also succeeded in ripping a hole in my hat. This has not been a good year for hats for me. This is a near identical replica of the one that I lost in the Lake District and I fear I won’t be able to replace it again. Similarly, today I slipped over again and now fear that my trail runners may now be equally willing to end the relationship.
I stopped in Strathcarron for some lunch. I already needed the rest and some hot food made a welcome change. Looking in a mirror told me that I had indeed managed to carve quite a long but shallow cut along the top of my head. A tea, coke, cheeseburger and chips and I was back underway, once again only really at the start of my day.
The sun was now out and about and it was a beautiful day for walking. With a solid path beneath my feet everything was falling into place.
I stumbled upon Coire Fionnarich bothy, somewhere that seemed like it would make a wonderful home. My claim to becoming a hermit was then proven when I encountered some mountain bikers in the pass between Meall Dearg and Sgorr Ruadhh. Conversation with them seemed a bit disjointed and they seemed sure I would make it further than I would today. I seemed to struggle to convince them that I wasn’t going to be walking along the road. If I wasn’t socially retarded before I left then I am now.
Our paths separated and I promptly got lost. Well, not lost exactly, the path disintegrated and I was temporarily misplaced. It took me over an hour to work myself back to where I should have been. That didn’t bother me anyway, I was still enjoying the walk out here.
Next up was what I had thought may present a difficult choice. My path continued to the north around Beinn Eighe whereas a road to the right could quickly and smoothly take me to Kinlochewe, saving me precious miles and time. No one but me would even know. In the end the choice was easy. I continued straight ahead and as I rounded Sail Mhor it proved the correct choice.
I had one of those passages of serenity that only Buddhist monks are meant to have. Peacefully I plodded around, listening to the sounds of wildlife, the breeze foot by and the crunch of path underfoot. This was like some sort of hippy-dippy zen walking that I was doing as I calmly reflected on where I was.
Loch Coire was beautiful and I camped on the side of Ruadh-Stac Mor. (Note to self: here be ridges to run along in the future.) This felt like a similar camping spot to the one at Kings House, only higher up and far more remote.
The sun had set and the grey sky changed to a pinkish-red at the horizon. This had been a day that made the whole trail feel worthwhile.