You can probably tell from the dearth of blog posts that I haven’t been doing much outdoors lately. A combination of being self employed and volunteering too much time to other causes caught me in the trap of never having enough time for fun.
A few months ago I was introduced to Alastair Humphreys’ Microadventure campaign, which encourages people in my situation to go on adventures that are easy and short enough to fit into a busy working life. Al is a lifesaver. I’d encourage all of you to have a look at his website for some inspiration!
Glasgow is famous for being surrounded by lovely countryside, so my trip was fairly easy to plan. The only kit I needed was a new bivvy bag as I wouldn’t really want to pitch a tent and draw much attention to myself when close to the city. My bivvy spot had to be within a one hour public transport journey of either of my current workplaces and I really wanted it to have good views for sunset and sunrise.
I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris to plan out a spot that would have the views required, and narrowed it down to three spots. Now all I needed was the weather to turn. My bag was already packed and sitting by the door, so when there was a three day spell of spring sunshine I literally headed for the hills.
After work I grabbed a big tub of chilli hummous and a bag of pittas for dinner and jumped on the train with a sea of commuters. Arriving at Drumfrochar station, I headed for the Greenock Cut, a 19th century canal system developed to drive the mills and factories of Greenock.
Almost as soon as you leave the station views open up over the Clyde towards Loch Lomond. With only a couple of runners and a family walking their dog for company I stopped beside a reservoir to take in the view and tuck into some dinner. Following the water board road, which was nice easy going, I headed first for the communications mast on Scroggy Bank. From the summit there were views up Loch Long, the Holy Loch and over the Cowal peninsula.
Next I headed south on an older, disused, construction road deeper into the hills. The road petered out at an old stone wall with a danger sign on top. Later I did some research and discovered that this was the first reservoir built here in the 1820s, which had been deliberately breached in 1998 for safety reasons. It was pretty surreal seeing the gap in the former dam and the danger signs around the edges when there was no other sign of what was there beforehand.
This is where I learned a valuable lesson. If you’re going to be walking in an area with lots of reservoirs, wear boots rather than trail shoes! It took five attempts to cross the former reservoir to get to my first target of the evening – Dunrod Hill. I almost lost a shoe on more than one occasion and was at times up to my knees in spagnum moss. Still, it was definitely an adventure!
I managed to get onto the summit of Dunrod Hill just before sunset as planned. It was pretty spectacular! Being the highest point in this range of hills there was a 360 degree panorama ranging from Arran and Bute to Glasgow, the Arrochar Alps and Cowal. This was what I’d come for. If I’d been at home I’d likely have been on my laptop sifting through old emails and tying up some loose ends. Now I was more than a mile from the nearest person with a beautiful view.
After taking lots of photos I headed east towards Hillside Hill and the bivvy spot I’d picked out two weeks before. As I was wading through more bog a farmer appeared up an impossible incline on his quad bike, chuckling at my attempts to keep my feet dry. Dunrod blocked the sea view to the west but it also provided some shelter if the forecast westerly breezy got up during the night.
It took about five minutes to get into my new Alpkit Hunka XL and that was me ready for an evening on the hill. Almost as if by magic a full moon rose over Glasgow just after sunset and it’s brilliant reflection on Loch Thom was the view I fell asleep to. The only noise I heard all night was the incessant honking of a large flock of Canada Geese on Loch Thom a couple of hundred feet below me.
Considering it was my first night sleeping outdoors in more than five years I slept pretty well. I was perfectly cosy even though the temperature dropped as low as 2C and woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. The forecast breeze hadn’t arrived, so my shoes were still pretty soggy when I had to put them on, but I’d packed three pairs of socks so it wasn’t too bad.
I woke up at first light to watch the sun rise over Glasgow and the geese were still going strong. As soon as I left my cocoon the temperature really hit me – it was freezing! I’ve never done my morning stretch routine quite as quickly as I did that morning, but I’ve also never done it in such a peaceful setting.
As soon as I was packed it was a short stroll down the hill to the Cornalees Bridge Visitor Centre (closed at that time of year, but handily has bins in the car park) and a pleasant two mile walk along Loch Thom and back towards Drumfrochar for the train to work. Dropping down to the road meant that I got a second sunrise which was almost as spectacular as the first.
Forty minutes later I was stood amongst a crowd of commuters in business suits checking their emails and taking calls while waiting on the first train of the day.
I’ve never felt quite so content at being part of the rat race.
My full photoset is on Google+