John Muir "Father of the National Parks"
On John Muir's 180th birthday, Cat Webster revisits his roots in the UK and how his passion developed for protecting and exploring wild places.
Need a reason to GetOutside this week? Cat Webster gives us five great ones for why you should pick up a paddle and get out on the water this National Go Canoeing Week.
Growing up I have many happy memories of messing around in canoes - exhilarating white-water rapids, river-side campfires on multi-day descents and coastal paddles on glassy crystal-clear seas. Until recently however it had been many years since I’d set foot in a canoe or even ventured out on the water.
This week I had the opportunity to set that right on a three-day canoeing, camping and hill-walking expedition to Loch Mullardoch in a remote area of the north-west Highlands of Scotland, where I rediscovered the joy of paddle power.
Here’s five reasons why I’ll definitely be jumping in a boat again soon – and why you should give it a go too!
With such an abundance of waterways across the country canoeing is a great way to reach special and remote places that would be difficult to get to on foot. It’s also particularly useful for the Munro bagger in Scotland to access some of the most isolated mountains that otherwise would require long slogs across wild and boggy land even before the objective is reached.
Canoeing also means you get to the hills with legs fresh for the challenge, in our case the four Munros that stretch along the north of the loch which would otherwise have required an 8km walk in carrying all our equipment.
As someone who is used to wild camping, often high in the mountains, I’m usually trying to cut down my gear to the very minimum to save on weight. With all the space in a canoe though that’s much less of a problem and you can afford to go all out and camp in style.
On our trip that meant taking luxuries we normally wouldn’t carry in to such a remote spot, including a BBQ, firewood, a bottle of wine and two pineapples!
Pushing away from the shore and being on the water offers a whole new experience of the surrounding landscape.
On our return trip we were lucky enough to have flat calm conditions, and the spectacular views of the surrounding hills reflected in the mirror-like surface of the loch as we lazily made our way homewards to the quiet splash of paddles is an experience I will never forget.
As a hillwalker I’d be the first to admit that my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired, and after a weekend in the canoe I was starting to feel the benefits of paddling for the arms and core.
There’s also something wonderfully peaceful and relaxing about the motion of paddling on a calm loch on a sunny day, making it a great stress-reliever.
From sailing down the loch singing at the tops of our voices to wild swimming in the shallows and barbecuing on the beach, this weekend confirmed that a canoe and camping trip is an amazing way to get away from it all with friends, get outside and have a fabulous time in the great outdoors!