I've somewhat neglected this blog for the last 3 or 4 weeks, my attempt at the Capital Trail ended short due to the wind being so fierce and the front wheel on my Rockhopper had finally given up the ghost so it was stuffed in the shed dirty and left to rot. I've spent my time on the road bike doing easy miles and thinking it was great; it wasn't though, the road bike is monotonous, mile grinding boredom and after 3 weeks of it I was ready to hang myself.
Seeing as suicide is a daft idea I thought I'd retrieve the specialized from the depths of the shed and do some mountain biking. The front wheel is still knackered but I managed to bodge it up and as long as I don't do anything to daft it should be OK. Gill and I have been due a bothy trip so I scoured the maps looking for something with a nice short ride in, at least that way it wouldn't be to far to walk out should the wheel decide to commit suicide itself!
I found a nice short route into Brattleburn bothy on the Southern Upland Way so the GPX was downloaded, bags were hastily packed and off we set southwards on Saturday morning. The rain on the way down there was torrential, the motorway was down to 40 mph and it wasn't looking to be a good cycle in, however I figured it's only 4 miles from the car park to the bothy, even if we get totally soaked we'd only be out for an hour or so at the most and we'd get dried off again.
By the time we reached the car park where we'd leave the car overnight the rain had passed, the wind was dying down and the sun even made the odd brief appearance, we threw the bags onto the bikes and set off quickly in case the weather changed it's mind and decided to soak us after all.
I'd first encountered the Southern Upland Way on the 2016 Bearbones Scottish Winter Bivvy, I hated it then, I hated it on the Capital Trail and this time was to be no different. It's not so much of a trail as a faint line you should follow along the side of sheep field after sheep field. We luckily only had to traverse 2 sheep fields this time however the rest of it was a cross between a quad track and a boggy ditch so the going was slow, especially pushing up Craig hill. Coming down the other side wasn't much better, you'd get a hundred meters of nice single track before you were up to the hubs in bog again and trying to drag the bike back out of it.
Eventually we reached the bottom of the hill, hung a left and onto what we expected to be another long slog up hill looking at the route profile on my Garmin. Fortunately it was neither as long or as steep as we thought and 5 minutes later the bothy appeared out of nowhere, it sits down in a gully so you would never find it unless you walked along this track.
The bothy initially appeared to be run down when we arrived, the door lay ajar and the top of door frame hung from one nail and there's a smashed window in the roof however after venturing inside it was actually one of the best bothys we've visited. The right hand room has obviously been done up recently, has a new stove, a couple of comfy chairs to relax in and a sleeping platform big enough for the two of us. The left hand room is a bit tired looking, the stove is older and doesn't look nearly as good and the sleeping platform is a bit bigger. There's also a large loft area for sleeping in should the bothy be full, it looks a bit cold and drafty so we plumped on the nice right hand room and quickly got our sleeping bags out to bag the best spot incase anyone else turned up!
As it happened we once again had the place to ourselves all night, of the 6 bothys we've visited together, the only people we've met are a couple of randy teenagers; we're beginning to think people are avoiding us! It turned out to be a great wee night in front of the Fire, a big bowl of Pasta each and then a couple of beers. We didn't even get to crack the hip flasks open because we were falling asleep with the heat off the stove so we turned in about half 10.
We slept late the next morning, we had no particular plans for the day so it seemed silly to waste the chance for a long lie. We eventually got up around ten and pottered around making breakfast, doing the dishes from the night before, cutting some new fire wood and generally tidying the place up. I love when you have nothing to do like this and you can just take your time and enjoy yourself, it really makes the whole bothy experience much better.
Sometime around 12 we could find no more jobs to do and we had to admit it was time to go home, the ride out was much the same as the way in, boggy ditch, sheep field, boggy quad track, sheep field followed by more boggy track! The run back down Craig hill is almost perfectly straight all the way down but you have to carve from side to side to avoid low hanging trees. This was great fun letting the Rock Razor on the back wheel step out and slide around while the Hans Dampf kept things well under control up front. Then some more boggy track!
Another mile or so and we were back to the car, soaked from all the boggyness but thoroughly happy. We'd been out for less than 24 hours but it's enough to reset the senses and get us away from the everyday humdrum that seems to swallow up your life, hopefully it won't be so long until we get back out again.