I was reading the blog of explorer and adventurer Alastair Humphreys and something he wrote caught my attention. It was something like this – most of us work 9am-5pm, so what are you doing with your 5pm-9am? How about using it for a micro adventure?
It’s an interesting idea. A mid-week micro adventure. Why not?
There aren’t many reasons why a mid-week adventure has to wait till the weekend. In fact, a mid-week adventure could actually make the weekend free for family stuff, shopping, cutting the grass, fixing the kitchen cupboard door, or just having a lie in, if such a thing still exists.
Why hadn’t I thought of doing something like this? It was time to get thinking.
At just an hour away by car, my closest adventure playground is the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park. Venue sorted. How to get there and which type of adventure to pick was next.
As countryside explorers and four-legged friends will agree, the journey IS the adventure. So the journey should pack in the activities I’d normally reserve for the weekend (cycling, hiking and hostelling). Activities sorted.
As luck would have it, one of my hill-running friends was keen to join the micro-adventure and help flesh out the details. And it didn’t take long to put some meat on the bones.
We would cycle 40 miles to Rowardennan Youth hostel via the Sustrans cycle route no.7. Then climb Ben Lomond, watch the sun set and the stars come out, have a dram, catch a few hours sleep in the hostel, and cycle back to work for 9am the next day.
Readers should know that one could, of course, take the car and allow yourself more quality time at the hostel. Maybe to bring the kids along for an evening of woodland treasure hunting and wildlife spotting. Perhaps a young couple would be planning on enjoying a little mountain biking or an open air BBQ. Those looking to relax might recline at the lochside and watch the evening sun catch the loch. You can do all of these things – just pick a day.
We picked a Tuesday.
After work, we got changed into our cycling gear and left Paisley around 4.30pm. This let us get out of the main urban areas before the rush hour traffic picked up. By 5.30pm we were past the Erskine bridge and pedalling along the smooth Sustrans cycle route Number 7.
The route is a mix of quiet roads, canal paths and cycle track. Perfect for those wanting to stay away from traffic, but close enought to the main traffic arteries allowing the option of a more direct route if preferred.
After a mostly level cycle, the terrain started to become more undulating from Balloch onwards, with the reward being a bit of free wheeling and time to take in the surroundings. And what surroundings! The east side of the Loch is beautiful.
Just shy of Rowardennan the broad shoulder of Ben Lomond came into view, just as my stomach started to rumble. I was hungry and I had forgotten to phone ahead to book a hot meal at the hostel.
On arriving, I was at pains to explain to the girl on reception duty that I hadn’t brought an evening meal with me as I had wanted to keep my rucksack light. But faced with a 7 mile hike after a 40 mile cycle, I was ravenous and I might be dangerous.
She explained they were booked solid for evening meals, but, backing slowly away and maintaining eye contact, she offered to speak to the chef. Trembling slightly, I stood at the edge of the dining room door waiting for a reply.
The chef’s hat poked out from the adjoining kitchen and within minutes a steaming bowl of Scotch Broth and an oven-fresh bread roll was in front of me.
Soup and kindness goes a long way and 15 minutes later, we were changed into hiking gear and very ready to climb Ben Lomond.
After the long cycle, the climb uphill seemed a bit like hard work, but the fading light reminded us that we were in the middle of a proper adventure, and we began to savour it. We switched on head torches and put tail lights on the back of our rucksacks, and talked and walked our way into the night.
Near the summit, conditioned worsened and instead of stars and meteor showers, we got horizontal rain flashing across the beams of our headtorches. We quickly pushed downhill and found ourselves loch side around midnight – just enough time to have a quick dram and then indoors for a cuppa in the now-deserted dining room.
In the blink of an eye it was 5am and time to get our bikes and boots out of the drying room and our backsides onto saddles for the return journey. Fuelled by more tea and rocket fuel in the form of home-made Malteser cake, we cycled back to work in time to answer the first question of the day – what did you get up to last night?