the great glen is a fault line that runs from fort william to inverness in scotland running through three lochs and several parts of the caledonian canal. i found myself in a conversation where a friend was saying he was think of canoeing the great glen with his son (who is an outdoors instructor amongst other things). i said i would love to do that which set a ball rolling and ended up with a group of six of us in three canoes heading to scotland to canoe it. it's 60 miles or so. the photo above is from this album the great glen canoe trip which will give you a feel for what it was like.
we wild camped each day finding spots from an os map. those sites were extraordinary. we were under a goshawk nest one night, in a shelter on an island in the middle of loch oich another, by a waterfall with a natural pool, and then suspended between trees overlooking loch ness another.
i took my aerial tent which was absolutely perfect for it. it packs small and will go anywhere. i backed it as a kickstarter some years back. we cooked off the fire each night and morning - there was plenty of wood around.
the main challenge as you would expect was weather. we had one night oif rain but it remained dry on the whole. but the wind seemed to vary a lot. when we set out on loch ness the wind was against us and white horses were on the water so we rafted three boats together and set off for the far southern shore. that meant the boats were stable and whilst we were bailing all the way it was exhilirating. at another point when we were on a long day down loch ness we rafted boats again and made a sail from a tarp and got blown along for a few hours.
the final day was really choppy and challenging but we made it to the end of loch ness. one boat did capsize but close to shore. i wasn't in that boat!
jon who was the most experienced and the unspoken leader of the trip was incredible. i haven't read it but have heard people talk about the book canoeing down the mountains suggesting we need flexible adaptive leadership today and is not what (church) leaders are trained for. well i saw this in action - adapting to weather and environment, making things with whatever was to hand - tarps, straps, wood, gaffer tape, rope. it actually made me want to relearn some knots and up my bushcraft skills.
john (another john) read some reflections he had written each day - in the vein of john o donahue - that gave some reflective pauses during the trip which was lovely. they were taken from this collection on his web site. he is also a wonderful photographer and took lots of photos - his album is here. i have never done anything quite like this trip and loved it!