5 YEARS: LOCH NESS

this post was intended to go live over a month ago — on march 11th. unfortunately, i was in the hospital having my exploded appendix removed that day, so i wasn’t able to finish and publish it. but, as they say: better late than never.

five years ago today was the release of loch ness, an expressionist two-part drone piece about my adventure in 2014 canoeing the length of loch ness — solo — over a day and a half. the experience was a transformative one, to say the least. i can tell you, it certainly lives up to its reputation for being beautiful, haunting, and treacherous — qualities i feel i captured in these drone pieces. take a listen while you read my story…

it was just after midday when i put-in at fort augustus, on the western-most tip of loch ness and began my journey eastward along the 36.2 km (22.5 mi) long lake. with a surface area 56 square kilometres, it is the second largest scottish loch (second to loch lomond).

it was an uncharacteristically warm and sunny autumn day, and i actually managed to get a bit of a sunburn! but what started out as a smooth, easy-going paddle became a stormy hell after headwinds picked up in the late afternoon, creating waves one to two feet high. i was paddling alone and against the current. if i stopped paddling for just a moment to rest my aching shoulders, i would lose a whole canoe-length (16ft) of progress.

because of the high hills and tree lines which rim the loch, the sun effectively sets here around 7pm or so. the steep angle at which the hills meet the water is such that one can’t just make land and set up camp on a whim. the difficult challenge i found myself in was to paddle thru the stormy waters to find a spot accessible and flat enough to pitch my tent. fortunately i managed to find a spot just flat enough to work just as the sunlight began to disappear, leaving me to set up camp with my flashlight.

early the next morning i made some porridge, took in the beautiful scenery before me and set out to make up for lost time — i was at least five kilometres short of where i wanted to break for the night. before packing up, i took a few photos as the dense fog was beginning to lift. the water was so still across the loch, it was like glass. it was hauntingly beautiful and i would have loved to sit longer and take it in, but i still had 20 or so kilometres of loch ness to paddle before i made it to the river ness — a 10 kilometre snaking river that connects loch ness to the beauly firth at the city of inverness (my final destination).

by the time i arrived at the pick-up point to meet with the outfitter from which i rented the canoe, my body was so exhausted i could not even pull the canoe out of the water myself. the entire day i was paddling against the current, with but one single break to snack. after loading the canoe into the van, i was dropped off at the train station in inverness. i bought my train ticket to the town of keith where i was to visit a friend. i had time to kill, and resentment to extinguish. i said, “fuck you, nessie! i’m going to go eat one of your friends!”

i walked into the first pub i found and ordered a pint of stout and a plate of fish and chips — thus ending 19 years of vegetarianism. it was delicious.

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