The girls and I all love maps. Glorious detailed ones. Preferably showing all the roads. Jessica says I can find roads that are not on any map and that navigating a car from hiking maps is not her idea of a fun time.
Jessica is now in Paris so I am free to indulge my inner Canadian and find nasty, taxing, remote hikes. My B&B hostess in Kenmare was happy to help and sent me off to Gleninchaguin Park. The access is 8km off the main road – meaning 8km of single-lane-grass-in-the-middle-of-the-road-driving through beautiful wilderness – up and away from the sea to an extravagant waterfall in the Irish hills. A hidden gem. The sun was shining and I was charmed. I met one couple on their way out as I went in.
The lovely elderly lady who greeted me gently requested 6 Euros for the privilege of parking and directed me carefully over the trails to follow in the bro-shur (brochure). She was roughly 4ft 8inches tall, but insistent that the outer boundary trail was closed. I smiled, changed my boots, and headed off through the sheep pasture and into the hills.
I hiked up the red trail, making it to the yellow trail head in good time, and made a happy plan to eat my dinner on a sunny rock in 3 hours, looking out over the top of the waterfall to the valley below.
The start of the yellow trail was a bit suspicious – wet bog 3 inches deep in water….but the upper valley looked like a clear path, a bit of rock climbing, and a nice vigorous walk in the open. The trail was marked with clear yellow paint slashes, and really – it was too soon to go home – so I pressed on.
What can I say? Well, it is wet in Ireland. It turns out that the higher up you go, the wetter it gets. This makes no sense to me, but I can tell you that I waded through 3 inch deep water-soaked-heather (and often 5 inch deep visible standing-water-almost-ponds) for two hours. Jessica can’t understand why there are no bugs when there is all this water. I think they all freeze at night while we are tucked up warm in our beds.
The footing was treacherous (I confess. I fell flat on my back in the bog water. Twice.). What is worse, I have been so throughly programmed to mind the fragile vegetation surrounding hiking trails that every step I took, every audible tear to the root system of those poor bog grasses and heather bushes, was almost painful. I tried not to care. It didn’t work.
Thankfully, I found a dry rock. Twice. I wrote postcards to several friends calling the scenery “stirring” – which it is. I stood in gratitude for my new waterproof hiking boots….but deeply wished their baptism was not in bog water. At some point, I realized that there was yellow lichen on the rocks – exactly the same color as the trail markings. It turns out my trail finding instincts are good enough that this wasn’t a problem, which pleases me. I got to practice all of my skills from my rock-climbing course – scaling across a cliff wall above a “path” 6 inches deep in water. The higher you go…the deeper it gets.
I came out alive, and ahead of the projected time, but suggested to the owner that perhaps the upper trail should be closed to protect the trail bed until it drains a wee bit. She was quite startled. Apparently the young English couple who went before me had no complaints…
I posted the photo – taken from dry rock number 2 roughly at the summit – in full resolution so you can zoom in on
1) my (boot) sole – to give scale – and so you can admire the color,
2) a tiny miracle – minute white flowers on top of blades of grass in the centre – surprises like this are one reason why I love to go hiking
3) the dry “trail” of mud on the right – physical challenge being the second reason I love hiking
4) the spectacular view all the way down through the lauchs (lakes) to the ocean – sheer overwhelming vistas at the top being the third reason I love to go hiking
I DID have my dinner at the top of the waterfall 2 hours later – in the pouring rain. It turns out that if you fall twice on roasted vegetable quiche it resembles scrambled eggs in a box. Happily, it was not boggy flavoured, and my apple was intact.
Also happily, I only nearly collided with one local driver on the way out. I think she swore, but I am not sure why. The second driver backed up to let me pass.
…and I am still charmed. The evening held a warm friendly pub, more good music, and Guinness with a second dinner (hot this time!)