Fat Bike Galloway
After committing myself to the Bivvy a Month Challenge its got me thinking about where to have these mini adventures. With February usually a bit on the chilly side (by UK standards) I had my thoughts on staying in a bothy. A bothy? Let me explain, a bothy is an unlocked shelter usually in a remote location where walkers, cyclists etc can spend a night in a weather proof shelter. Most bothies are old cottages and at least several hours walk from public roads. There a half a dozen or so in Wales where I live but most are in Scotland where there is around 80. So I thought why not make an early in the year trip to Scotland.
After a sneaky early finish from work (don’t tell the boss), I made the 250 mile drive from north Wales to the Galloway National Park in south west Scotland. Now I’d never been to this part of Scotland before so I was going in ‘blind’. I mapped a basic route after looking at maps and satellite images on the PC at home. That’s what I enjoy about the BAM, planning rides looking for routes and energising the mind with positives thoughts.
My Salsa Mukluk was looking a little different as I’ve got the BackCountry range of bikepacking bags to try out courtesy of Apidura, more on that soon….
I started the ride at 3:30 after the 4.5hour drive. The weather was fine, not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind although the temperature was at around 0° Celsius. The sun was setting at just after 5 so I knew I was going to be pitching my tent in the dark at my proposed site.
I made my way along an old dismantled railway track for 11 miles. The scenery was stunning, Scots pine trees and open moorland with a couple of small lochs (lakes) which made me think the journey by train must have been a spectacular route. The ground was frozen in places where the day time sun couldn’t reach. The air was getting colder, the sun was getting lower and my excitement levels were rising. I had some faffing along the way as I was also trying out my new video camera for the film. After leaving the train track I followed a fire road through the forest and onto the southern shores of Loch Grannoch. I hadn’t seen anyone during the ride which added a sense of adventure to the trip. I pitched the tent on the sandy shore of the loch which was as still as it could be. I lay in the tent, cooked some food and watched the million stars overhead.
After a cold night in the tent I made a coffee to warm myself up and had a quick bite to eat. The gear was soon packed up and back in the Apidura bags. Today my plan was to head to the White Laggan Bothy which was around 18 miles north of me. I followed one of the many fire road tracks that cuts through the forestry. Some felling of trees had recently happened which opened up the view of the snow covered hill tops not that far away. Again the air was chilly with a bit of a breeze. I was in a happy place as the good scenery and good weather made me feel this BAM challenge was a good thing to do. If I wasn’t doing the BAM I’d probably be walking around some shopping place surrounded by loads of people but I was here having a mini adventure.
The morning clouds soon cleared by midday and the winter sun was beating down on the snow covered hill tops making the views even more picturesque. I was on the look out for deer but did not see any during the trip. I did however startle the biggest fox I have seen. As I came around a corner I was around 20-30 feet from a mountain fox which soon scarpered off into the dense forest before I could get my camera out.
The stone bothy soon came into view set in a small valley. As you approach this one you soon notice the painted Scottish flag on the gable end of the shelter. The smoke coming from the chimney told me I wouldn’t be alone this evening but it did mean I’d soon warm up. I soon got inside and introduced myself to the resident walkers who had stayed the night before and decided to stay this evening. I got some much needed food in me and started cutting some wood ready for the cold night ahead.
With candles flickering through the evening we chatted and told stories of former camping trips. They were intrigued by my loaded fat bike and were surprised at how much storage they was in the bags, nearly 50 litres!
A better nights sleep was had after sleeping on the wooden floor by the wood stove and I found myself sneaking about collecting my things as my fellow bothy residents slept through just as the sun rose. The bike was soon loaded, the flask was filled and I was ready to ride back to the starting point which was 21 miles away. The morning was extremely still just like the first evening. The loch’s looked like sheets of ice with no ripples in them. The bike was going well despite the weight of the kit and I’ve always liked the feel of a loaded fat bike as you know you’re on an adventure. I followed the fire roads with a gentle down hill as they followed the rivers flowing down to the next loch.
I was stopped by a local farmer who asked about the bike as he made his way to feed some livestock. He told me they had a fair bit of snow a couple of days before my visit and the weather soon changed to this unusually calm spell.
As I got closer to the finish point my mind soon turned to planning BAM #3. The ideas spinning in my mind as I try to forward plan the next adventure. As for this trip, well I have to say it was one of my best….
Editor’s Note: We have a few folks that have joined us in our BAM Challenge and each month when JP posts his report, we’re going to post a couple photos from readers that have taken up the Bivvy a Month Challenge! If you’d like to see your photo included send your photo with a brief description of Who, What When and Where to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you include a mailing address, we’ll send you out some stickers!
The BAM Challenge Magic Mirror
Kitty from Wisconsin wrote: January 31st was chosen due to the warmer weather-low 40s- and full moonish conditions-was a blood sooper dooper some kinda blood moon that morning. The town I live in is known for its many parks that don’t necessarily allow camping and I chose a lesser known park. This bivy was a stealthy one night deal on my own. Campaigning the Borealis Echo outfitted with a loaded rear rack, frame bag, and backpack, I set out after dark. Decided on a small dome tent. Did borrow an actual bivy, but felt nervous about the confinement and reacting in case of emergency. How can a gal go from sleeping beauty to beast mode trying to get outta that thing?! Was a balmy comfy night- found a spot where the tent stakes drove into the January ground surprisingly. No fire. Luxury item was a book. Single digits woke me in the morning and got me on my “going home pace” after a hot Poor man’s mocha. That is swiss miss n coffee. Fav pieces of equipment at this point are the therma rest z-lite sol & luci solar lantern.
Longtime amigo Jordy from AK wrote: Myself and a group of friends started our January Bivvy a Month Club entry close to home. We bike all around Anchorage and found a nice hidden spot deep in the woods. Some used this as an excuse as a training session for their Su100, ITI, or Iditasport races riding loaded, putting in miles, and testing their cold weather camping gear. Others came to drink beer with good company. All told there were about 10 of us. Temps in the teens with the big dipper above us, we enjoyed our time spent bivvying in the snow.
There’s still time to get onboard the BAM, give it a go, an adventure awaits…….