Posts Tagged With: hiking

Super Grand Canyon South Rim

We noticed the gas prices getting higher as we got closer to the Grand Canyon. We left the interstate and drove straight north for a long time through seemingly unending forests. We’d pass through a town or two with just one stoplight before reaching Tusayan, the tourist town with more hotels and restaurants. Our free campsite was just past all that, right outside the park entrance. Many sites were full but we found a good sized flat spot. The only problem was there was no privacy to go to the bathroom. Travis took initiative to set up a tarp between two trees for me to be able to go in private. As I weaved my way past shrubs, I inhaled deeply. These weren’t just bushes, these were lavender! It was an entire field full of lavender. We are a dinner of tuna Alfredo with Ritz crackers and went to bed, excited to finally see the Grand Canyon in the morning. 

We got up not too super early, found a parking spot pretty close to the visitor center/restrooms and marched toward Mather point. I wanted to hike the entire 13 mile south rim trail and didn’t want to see the canyon first from the bus. As we approach Mather point, I experienced a familiar gut-drop feeling I’ve come to know all too well: the excited-I’m-about-to-go-do-see-something-I’ve-never-done-before feeling. A rush of absolute excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and a bit of trepidation, because I would never get to experience this first again. We weaved our way through the swarms of people, a lot of Chinese, some German, even fewer American, toward the edge. I stared at the deep chasms in the earth before me, too awestruck to take pictures yet. I took several pictures in all directions as my eyes got a little moist. This was THE Grand Canyon, classic America. I asked Travis what his first thoughts were, and he said he wasn’t impressed. I wondered at his lack of wonder as we boarded the free shuttle bus to start our trek. In the summer, you weren’t allowed to drive past a certain area and had to take a free shuttle to the vistas. We got to the end of the line, started walking the paved Rim trail and immediately stopped. I need my camera in my hands now! The canyon was different from practically every step we took. A lot of the time, I just stood there taking it all in. Then when Travis would ask was I ready to keep walking, I’d bring my camera up and meekly reply no. By an hour, we hadn’t made much progress along our 13 mile trail. By two hours we realized we’d split this into two days. We were traveling at about 1 mile an hour on this paved flat trail. We took a break on a bench and Travis dropped a few crumbs accidentally. A squirrel immediately showed up to clean up our mess. We were surprised at his friendliness and, not knowing any better, fed it from our hands. We took a few pictures of the squirrel eating out of our hands and all I could think of was my dog, Bailey. She loves to chase squirrels from our yard. The next day we would find out it’s against the law and carries a hefty fine to feed wild animals in the park. I continued taking pictures every 10 steps until we stopped for lunch under some shady trees. Travis cut some sausage and cheese to put on our Ritz crackers. We hiked just a bit more and took the shuttle back to get out of the heat of the day. We filled up our water bottles, washed some dishes and headed back to camp. We’d seen an RV back further than we’d been and they weren’t there today so we parked there. We were happy to have a more private site surrounded by more trees. Travis cooked tuna alfredo for dinner, masking the taste of tuna pretty well  (we both don’t care for tuna that much, he more so than I). We tried to go to sleep at dusk but our closest neighbors were having a party.

 I woke up with the sun beating down on my tent and fix up our breakfast of protein powder in our breakfast essentials chocolate drink. We still beat the crowds into the park and hopped on the shuttle back to where we left off. We walked past Bright Angel Lodge and several other places deciding to explore those later. Our path passed Kolb Studio and Lookout studio and gift shop so we explored those. The rim Trail was filled with people whose conversations were mostly not English. There was German, Chinese and several others I didn’t recognize. We came upon the free Yavapai Point and geology museum which shared more about the geology of the canyon and how it was formed. After the museum, the trail kind of emptied, save for the occasional biker that would race around the corners, almost colliding with us. We saw a guy taking photos of his friend who was off the trail, out on a shelf above the canyon. Of course we started scrambling town, dropping our packs safely out of sight. I grab my Nikon P510 camera and down we went. Travis clambered down first, showing me where to put my hands and feet. I tried to put my feet where he had but I didn’t even come close. I laughed as I told him he had to think a lot smaller because I’m short. Once we’d bouldered down a bit, it was an easy flat walk to the shelf. It was glorious and felt like we were out in the middle of the canyon. There was no one else in sight and Travis finally felt the awe of this great geological wonder. Now this trail was exciting and I was learning to rock climb/boulder. We eagerly looked for the next shelf island piece. I spotted one and the best way to get down was a tree next to the cliff edge. Aha, I knew how to maneuver this one! Travis hardly had time to set his pack down before I deaftly monkeyed down the tree and around the edge, waiting for him to help me with the next bouldering bit. I still didn’t quite trust my brand-new shoes on the loose rocks and boulders. The people on the trail ogled at us climbing way out there. I really liked the feeling of being able to hoist my body up boulders and maneuver around rocks that were twice as tall as me. I could tell Travis was enamored with this new make-your-own-path with a teensy bit of danger. The end of the rim Trail was anti-climatic, finishing at a viewpoint with a bus stop. 

We shuttled back to our car, preparing to go find where the showers and laundry were. Luckily we were able to find parking right by the building and we gathered our electronics to charge while we waited. The women’s restroom was being cleaned so Travis went first. There was an elk grazing by the car as I made sure I had all my cords. I have a Phone, Fitbit, and two cameras, one with four batteries that I go through quickly! Travis has a phone and two battery packs. So we have a lot that needs charging. His phone mostly charges in the car because we use it for maps and research. Travis finished his shower and gave me the shower bag with supplies as we were sharing soap, shampoo, conditioner, separate deodorant and lotion. I went to go take a shower but there was a line after it opened from cleaning. I waited a bit longer for the line to die down but it just got longer. I got in line behind 8 ladies and by the time I got to the front they were at least 14 of us in line. It was 6 quarters for six minutes so Travis gave me 12 quarters. The ceiling was moldy so I hurried, getting done before the second time ran out (I can’t take a shower quite that fast). We put our laundry in and finally one Nikon camera battery finished charging. We drove back to our site, which hadn’t been taken, through some traffic caused by people stopping in the middle of the road to see male elk. We ate dinner of tortilla pizzas, making enough for part of lunch tomorrow, and went to bed early as we were getting up at the crack of dawn to hike partway down into the canyon.

 We woke up at five as it was getting light, drank our breakfast essentials and headed all the way into the park, parking at bright angel trail head. We filled up our water bladders and headed down. This was unlike any trail we’ve ever done, where you head up then down. This you did the easy downhill part first then headed back up once it got hotter. It was about 100° at the bottom of the canyon most days and almost full sun. I didn’t want to get any heat related illnesses. We made it down to Indian garden, 3 1/2 miles in 1.5 hours. There were vault toilets, water and a shaded rest area at 1 mile and 3 mile points. The trail was not too steep but was mostly sand with poor rock water run off builds and completely destroyed by the mules. We ate snacks in the shade at Indian Creek then turned around to go up. We stopped at the 3 mile rest area next to a family of five from Winchester, VA that was hiking Rim to Rim. The mom was curious about what I was eating: pizza Travis had made last night. We continued chatting about backpacking and they were all amazed at how light my overnight pack was (~25lbs or less). The mom also questioned how an experienced hiker like me got heat related illness is so easily. I didn’t know the answer to her question and often wonder that myself. I wet the cooling towel and stuck my head under the water spigot before leading the way up the trail. We kept leapfrogging the family and several other hikers as we would all take breaks after hiking for several minutes. I was pretty hot but avoiding getting too hot so far. We’d hike a switchback or two and then rest in the tiny shade at the switchbacks if there was room. Everyone was plodding uphill resting at every shade spot. My rest stops started getting longer than my moving. I couldn’t believe people were still coming down the trail. Didn’t they know it’d be torturous coming back up at high noon? But maybe they were only going down a bit. We finally made it to the 1 mile rest area and sat down with the same family. I dunked my head under the spout again to keep my brain from frying and a lot of hikers around me followed suit. Someone passing by mentioned ice cream and that made all of us excited. I’d seen the ice cream store yesterday and tried to get motivated, telling myself I could have some if we made it up by noon. I sluggishly kept going one foot at a time, taking a break every five steps. I started getting nauseous so Travis made me sit down and get cool for a long time. We would make it up one more switch back up before I had to sit down again. Noon time passed and Travis told me we can still get ice cream but that didn’t help me much going up the mountain now. There were lots of other hikers that looked like me, taking long breaks and only walking for a few minutes at a time. I could see the top of the canyon getting closer and closer and I was getting done with this mountain mentally. I started getting frustrated with my body physically because it wouldn’t go up the mountain any quicker and my skin wouldn’t cool itself, making me scared of heat exhaustion or stroke. Although I thought a helicopter ride through the canyon sounded cool, this is not how I wanted to do it. I found a piece of the canyon that had a part the chat it out just like a seat. God, please help my skin, my body, my brain, my body to work together to get me off this path. I was near tears as Travis kept handing me bites of granola bar to eat and wrapping the cool towels around my back and neck and stomach. Eventually we made it back up, through the two tunnels, to the pavement again at the trailhead sign. As we shuffled over to the sign to take our pictures I glared angrily at the people just now heading down. Don’t they know they’re taking such a high risk? Or is it just me and my body that doesn’t work right in the heat and sun? I was deeply saddened that my body wasn’t working right but Travis had to remind me that we did it! We hiked partway down into the Grand Canyon on the bright angel trail and made it all the way back up! We went straight to the ice cream store and bought ourselves two cones with two scoops each. We weaved our way back through the crowd to sit in the shade of the gift shop to enjoy our cool treat. Several people stopped and asked us wow! Those look amazing where did you get them and we were able to point them in the right direction. We went back and explored several of the gift shops to buy our postcards and collectors patch, passing by the Hopi house where they were having a native American demonstration. We watched for a few minutes as the announcer shared with us some of his peoples styles of dancing and music. Another guy showed up to dance to the rhythm. We continued on into the Hopi house to see all the pottery and jewelry collections of the local native American population. We were pretty tired from our hike and getting up early so we went back to the car and went back to our campsite. Travis set up his hammock and I got on my Thermarest Zrest and we tried to take naps but were both unsuccessful. After the wind picked up and it got a little chilly, we decided to make dinner. I had said earlier if we were up for it, we could go watch the sunset back at the park. So we cooked and headed back into the park. Travis was still eating dinner and we thought about taking the shuttle bus to a further point to watch the sunset but figured out that would be too late and we weren’t sure when the shuttle bus came back. So we just went to Mather point and I squeezed in between the masses of people along the railing. We waited and waited and finally the sun begin to set. Everyone was quieter for a little while and then when the sun dipped below the horizon, hordes of people left. We stayed so I could get pictures of the canyon in the afterglow. There was enough space at the railing that I could freely move about to get all the different angles. It started getting a little colder so we were almost about to leave when someone shouted look! There she is! 

They were talking about none other than the moon! A strawberry moon no less. It began peeking up over the forest, steadily glowing more and more. With my camera I could zoom in real close and get amazing shots of the moon. I jumped up and down like a little kid because the moon has always been mine for some reason. My sister Emily and I always split everything between us, she had the sun and I the moon. I was giddy and smiled at Travis and thought, this was just perfect. We’ve hiked a bunch around the Grand Canyon Southrim and now I watched the sunset and the moon rise. We could leave the Grand Canyon now. We got back to camp and went to bed knowing that we would drive out along the desert view Drive the next morning.

We slept in a bit knowing that we did not need to get there early for parking and headed east out of the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t quite sure where all the vistas were but I knew I wanted to stop at at least two of them. We pulled over at a few that weren’t very good and then we finally saw the nice big view. I took lots of pictures and got back in the car to go to the next one. We found another area to go bouldering in. Travis went down first and at first I wasn’t going to follow him. But then he looked like he was having too much fun so he helped me climb down. This was a longer climb but the other ones so we got a little bit sweaty. I enjoyed being able to take pictures without people in them. We made it back to the car and continue to the desert view watchtower.  The watchtower was made by a female architect sometime ago and was pretty cool with Native American inspired drawings on the inside. We meandered through the visitor center and bought a cookie. We weren’t going to eat lunch there so we just sat outside and enjoyed ourcookies. Soon after that we exited the park borders and began our long journey east, north, west and back south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was only 10 or so miles away as the crow flies but the roads are long. 

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My eyes leaked a little today

Just like the sky this morning.
Almost two years ago, just after my farewell party for my European adventure, a guy texted me, “Maybe would you like for me to maybe join and your dog for a walk at oak grove lake maybe? Later that day I answered with as much sass as my little dumb phone would allow me, “Maybe.”
As we walked around the lake, I got the feeling he kinda liked me. But I just wanted someone to distract me so I wouldn’t bawl like a baby at my last walk with my dog for a while. 

Now, I’m taking him with me on a national park tour across America. For the first time, I have a human adventure buddy! We will be driving through the south to San Francisco, up to WA where we’ll poof home after Yellowstone. This is a different kind of adventure than I normally take, in a car, with someone else. I pray my feet enjoy the faster lower miles (I’ll still be day hiking!) and my heart enjoys the companionship. 
Again, I walked my dog around the lake, trying not to cry but failing this time. She’ll be looked after by family and friends, but still I’ll worry when there’s a thunderstorm or fireworks. 

I’m excited to traverse across my country, in awe of God’s magnificent landscape.

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Enjoyable Echternach

Tuesday July 28I hadn’t set an alarm because I wanted to sleep in and enjoy waking up on my tent. The morning sun didn’t quite hit me as I hoped but it was close. It was pretty chilly so it was a little stretch to get up and out. I boiled up some hot water for my oatmeal to go and took my time getting ready. The tourist office didn’t open until 10 anyway. I went down to reception and went ahead and paid for two nights. I headed to the city center just past 10 and found it much easier to navigate when I wasn’t frustrated and hungry. The office lady gave me a small map of the town and paths but only pointed out one 12km loop trail. She said it was the best day hike in the region. I wandered into the cathedral next door before setting out to find the beginning of this trail. 

The beginning of this trail was also the beginning of many other paths, including a camino with the yellow shell marker. I started up the trail and immediately climbed straight up for half an hour. I stopped and looked back and there was quite a view! I could look out over the town and the surrounding hillsides because I’d climbed up so quickly. I spotted a wooden structure at the very top and hiked just a few more minutes. It was a large gazebo, complete with benches inside. I’d only been hiking for maybe 45minutes but it was around noon/lunchtime and this place just demanded a break. I pulled out a granola bar and began munching away as more people hiked up. No one seemed as interested in the gazebo as I was. I hiked on after eating a bit and wandered through amazingly beautiful forests. There were cliffs next to me and the trees were just perfectly placed all around. I rounded the corner and started descending very steeply into a gorge with high rock faces on either side. I came to an intersection where the trail went straight but it looked like there were trails up to lookouts on either side. I took the one to the left first, climbing many uneven slippery rock stairs before reaching the top. I could look down into the gorge and out across the surrounding areas. There were benches and many worn areas where it looked like people had camped. There was a mother and father chasing their two little boys around on the top. They climbed up here for lunch and the kids looked like they were having a blast. The cliffs were well fenced in all along the top. I could walk on top the cliff looking down at the trail I came in on. I clambered slowly back down the steep stairs I came up and climbed the stairs going to the right. This lookout was much smaller but had a bridge to another cliff island that was pretty cool. There was a troop of young adults that passed by, all grumbling and not very happy, each carrying large heavy packs. None of them stopped to look at either view, just bypassing it without even a picture from the center of the gorge. I was sad they didn’t stop. It really was quite fantastic up here and nothing is meant to be hiked through fast without looking around. I continued on a few minutes after they had passed, walking through some amazing rock formations, all covered in ferns and hanging vines. The rocks had been worn by the wind and rain and had pretty neat textures. It looked like a magical place with the ferns and vines combining to create an incredible aura. I stopped every so often just to stand still, in awe of my surroundings, slowly spinning around in circle. Everywhere my eyes landed was God’s perfect beauty. I passed a picnic shelter with a group of older people. They were all laughing and having a great time. I figured they’d get up and walk on but they all walked to the bus that was parked within eyesight. Well at least they were enjoying nature somewhat. I hiked on, not coming upon anyone for quite awhile. Then I could hear voices and laughter. I couldn’t see them but I could see where they would be. There was a giant rock face looming out over the trail and below it was a cave. This cave had a piece of rock all the way to the ground so you could walk under and around it. The group was sitting in the cave, their now joyful voices mingling and echoing throughout. I felt like this whole area was an incredible secret that Luxembourg kept for the special few. I came upon a sign to go to Berdorf or to continue on my trail. I’d heard that Berdorf was a cute little Swiss town with many shops and restaurants. I could go for an ice cream and it was only 2km there. I headed that way, making sure I remembered which way my correct path went. Soon I left the forest and started walking through fields of wheat and corn, with the occasional colorful poppy. I entered the town and was still able to follow the trail signs but I saw no shops or restaurants, just houses. I kept going but the houses got fewer and fewer. There’d been a turn off but I could easily see that was a highway through more fields. There was a gazebo where the young adult group was gathering. I saw a bar/pub but it only served drinks. Aha! I spotted an ice cream cone on that gate. My pace quickened and soon I was at the door, thinking about what flavors they would be. I pulled and pushed the door but it was locked. It was 2pm on a Tuesday and they were closed. Wow, I’d had such high hopes for this town and the picture of the smiley happy ice cream cone. I sighed and started walking back through the baking hot corn fields, back into the woods. I found my sign and began the way back. This wasn’t through the cliffs or gorge but at least it was beautiful forest with a gently sloping dirt path. 

I got back to town and still wanted a small something to eat so I found a bakery an ordered a cream filled glazed donut. Or what I thought was a cream filled donut. I sat down to eat and was given a fork and knife so I cut into it and took a bite. Mm yummy. I could just barely see the custard now so I cut into that and took another bite. Bleck!! What was that?! It tasted like hard boiled egg. I cut into the donut and tasted more. Yepp, that was egg filling my donut. I stared at it in wonder and disgust. It was glazed with a pretty chocolate drizzle on top. Fluffy. Round. Donut looking. But it was not a donut. I ate the outside, the sweet bread that had glaze but no egg with it. I walked away wanting more, completely unsatisfied with my little (mis)treat. I remembered seeing an ice cream shop but had trouble finding it so I went back to the tourism office to ask. They pointed me in the right direction, probably wondering how anybody could get lost in a town that had maybe 5 roads. Finally, I held in my hand an ice cream cone with hazelnut and caramel flavors. I sat on the steps in the square to polish off my cold deliciousness and just sat there watching people.

I meandered back to my campsite, this time looking in all the shops. I entered one an I thought it was just purses and magnets but at the back I spotted shelves and shelves of puzzles. It started with 100 piece puzzles and went all the way up to 5000! They were all Ravensburger brand. I picked one up and it said authentically made in Ravensburg, Germany. Oh wow, I must go research where that is! I would love to go to the home of the worlds best puzzles! I’d happened upon the Black Forest in Germany as being the home of the cuckoo clock. 

I got back to my tent, set my stuff down and began researching this puzzle city. Turns out it is directly between the Black Forest and Munich. Hmm, my mind started to race ahead of me. I’d like to go but I don’t know if I could fit it in. I’d had to sign up for a specific date to start the European Peace Walk from Vienna and then made reservations for two nights in the hostel in Vienna beginning August 2. It was the first time I’d had a set deadline for time and I was struggling with it. My moms friends friend in the Black Forest area was proving hard to get in contact with. I’d emailed my moms friend and received the contact info for the lady but wasn’t able to call, text, or email. The wifi at the campground was spotty so I tried using my data but that didn’t work. I should’ve been able to make a phone call or text by that wasn’t working either. I tried for several hours, getting more frustrated each minute. I was hoping to leave Echternach on the early bus out to Luxembourg city then down to the Black Forest. From Lux I could go either to Strasbourg, France then across to Freiburg which took pretty much all day or to a city in Germany north of Freiburg but that was way more expensive. I didn’t want to spend the whole day on a train/bus but also didn’t want to shell out big bucks to move a few hundred kilometers. And if course this all depended on if I was able to get in touch with the lady and stay with her or not. I wanted to hike a day and go to Triberg, home of the cuckoo clocks and this lady was right in the middle. I went back up to my tent and started to make dinner. I just wanted to see just a few things while I was in Germany because I only had a couple days to spend. I ate my pasta and thought hard but came up with nothing. I hunkered down in the lounge room as it got cold out and continued to plan. Nothing was coming together and my phone service I’d bought wasn’t working. I couldn’t leave the wifi with no plans if my service didn’t work. I starting shaking, partly from the cold, partly from the anxiety. I was trying not to fret, knowing that it would all come together but this was maddening. I just needed three more days then I’d be in Vienna and on my way down a long distance trail. I finally got the email out but it was past 9pm asking if I could stay there the next day so it probably wouldn’t work out. I wasn’t able to see a whole lot of timetables for trains and buses so I didn’t know how to from here to there. Eventually I went out into the cold and got into my sleeping bag just before midnight, not having a clue as to what I was doing the next day. 

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Sheep Creep past the Wigwams

I woke up at 5:30am, maybe someone came in and flushed a toilet but it was hard to get back to sleep. I dozed until 7:30 when I heard voices. They were in another language and I wondered if it was time for me to get up. Then English came through, I think someone’s in there… The other one doesn’t work. Oh no, I’d picked the only shower stall that worked. I heard a knock on my door, hello? I tried to speak clearly hoping I didn’t sound like I just woke up, yes I’ll be right out! I hurriedly packed my stuff up, not really caring if they knew I’d slept there, just not wanting to upset anyone. I left my stuff in the bathroom and went to get my sopping wet tent. It was mostly clear outside and the sun was coming in and out of the clouds. I put my damp clothes back on and got all my gear together, putting all my wet tent pieces in a trash bag in my pack, put my large pack where I’d found it with my new destination on the tag and got the shuttle bus to take me back to where they’d picked me up. 
I picked up the trail immediately passing into cow pastures. I was passing through large green rolling hills. It started drizzling heavily and as I passed cow patties, I could see dirty streams forming from them. Ew, that’s what I was walking in. Around lunchtime the skies cleared a little, enough for me to be amazed at what I was walking through and by. I chose to take the path to town, where my map had said there’s food and other stuff. It was a long steep path down, probably about 30mins. I just wanted to charge my phone and eat a little snack. The tea room I was hoping to go to was closed. I wandered on until I found the youth hostel, but it was closed too. Where were all the shops or bar that were listed? I asked the post office and finally found the pub but it was closed too. It opened later on a Sunday. I was going to get a snack and sit somewhere! I found a best western hotel and went in, finding it way too fancy but sitting down and ordering a hot chocolate anyway. I charged my phone and used their wifi, slowly sipping my creamy cocoa and eating my own lunch. It rained off and on so I waited for a sunny spell to head back. 

The path meandered on the side of a hill, awkwardly descending and ascending around earth bumps. The trail was hardly there at times, just slight indentations in the grass or where chunks of earth had fallen away. I passed through a few sheep creeps, which were narrow tunnels dividing pastures. I guess sheep are claustrophobic? After I crested the hill and came down, I entered a huge pasture with tons of sheep. It was an educational and new pasturing process, meant to be greener and more efficient. After that was the really old pieces of a priory. It was now fully sunny and everything around me was just so green and alive that i just pranced along. I happened upon the wigwam campsites and thinking my campsite was just a few minutes past it, took my time shopping at their little mart and buying gifts. I found a few packets of Cadbury hot chocolate so I bought a few of those. I noticed on the short order menu listed egg roll, sausage roll and bacon roll. As I checked out, I asked the guy what a bacon roll was. It’s just bacon, on a buttered roll. Wow, why are these not a thing in America? We chatted about the differences I was finding as I trekked across Europe. He asked about the wifi code on credit cards. I laughed as I told him I had to contact several different companies to get a crest card with a normal chip in it. I passed all the wigwams, wishing I could stay in one. They didn’t do sharing here or any of the other places so I’d have to rent the whole thing for myself, between 35-55euro. 

The trail crossed the road and started going uphill again. I got confused, thinking my campsite was right after that one. Ahh, again my map said something like, after a little ways. The map/guides I had found were word based, not actual maps. They’d give directions by turn west after the schoolhouse or pass the bridge and after a little ways, arrive at a sheep creep. I found a plaque that said this piece of trail was taken care of by a school group. It was super nice, with proper drainage techniques, and steps in place to keep the dirt where it needed to stay. It was beautiful meandering through perfect trees lined by grass and ferns. I found a plaque detailing the story of the lost sword. Opposite this plaque was a sword in the stone! It was just a picture carved into the flat stone but it was still cool. 

I crossed an old iron smelting spot which still had nothing growing on it. I wasn’t sure what cleanup process it had gone through and so wasn’t sure how safe it was for me to walk across. I did anyway and soon came to a few signs announcing my campsite was near. I tried to go to reception but there was a sign saying closed, be back soon. I waited for 30 whole minutes, anxious to get my tent set up before the next rain. Two girls with heavy packs also approached and I’d told them how long I’d been waiting. They signed and flopped onto the nearest bench.

 Finally I called the number, hoping to remind someone they had a place to run. I could hear it ringing inside and a lady answered it. I simply said, I’ve been waiting outside for 30minutes. She said, oh! I forgot to take the sign off or unlock the door. I tried not to be annoyed as I paid and got my pack. I set up my tent as it sprinkled and just took the rest of my stuff to the inside kitchen area. They had a little more than the last place, with a water boiler and 2 burners. I used the 60second water boiler to boil water for my noodles. I sat on the floor and ate my noodles as there was no table and chairs. I wanted to check out the hostel part but it was locked with a different door code. It was warm and bug free inside so I just stayed there, journaling til sun down. A family of 4came in, parents and 2 daughters maybe 2 years apart. They cooked dinner and then made tea and played cards. They spoke French but really reminded me of my family. My parents would take my sister and me to the mountains to backpack and we loved it! 

As I would step outside to put stuff in my tent or go around to the bathroom the midges would get me. They were about the size of fleas but flew and attacked your face, biting any skin they could find. I brushed my teeth, went to the bathroom, and flew into my tent as fast as I could. I had to zip up my rainfly before zipping up the tent and some got in with me. I tried to kill them but couldn’t so I just layed down, hoping they wouldnt find my face or neck in the night. 

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Oh if we couldn’t laugh…

I had my powdered milk, breakfast essentials drink plus cookie crisp cereal. I was all set to go! I wiped down my tent before packing up. I headed to the office to check out and to see if they knew what i was supposed to do/where I was suppose to leave my luggage. The pointed me back to the backpackers kitchen, leaving it along the inside with the other packs I saw. I dropped off my pack, praying it will end up where I end up and hiked north. 

The first few hours were still mostly along the lakes inland to get around small rivers joining in, up and over rocky coastal hills. I wanted to charge my phone so I stopped at the next towns cafe. I looked at the menu but wanted to eat my own lunch first to see how hungry I’d be for a small or large order. I are my banana, granola bars, and a cookie before ordering chicken strips. Two ladies a table next to me had each ordered a scone with jam and cream but it’d come with 2 each so 4 total. One lady didn’t want her second one so she offered it to me. Yes, yes please, I’ll take a scone with jam and cream. Se cut it open and slathered on plenty of cream and jam, out it back together and handed it to me. Mmm, this was good. It wasn’t too sugary and the scone was super moist and soft unlike scones back home. My chicken strips came and they were half the size of what the guy had said they’d be. Oh well, it was more protein. 

I looked at my maps and it said the trail split with 2 correct routes. One was harder, along the direct coast with “tricky maneuvering among boulders, many stairs and slippery surfaces but with many fantastic coastal views.” The sounds like fun. The other was uphill through the pine forest with a view at the top. I wanted to take the first one but it was closed due to active construction. I begrudgingly started uphill on the gravel road. My mood lifted as I inhaled the wonderful aroma of Christmas trees. Yay! There were several different types of pines but together they smelled heavenly. I passed through fog clouds but it wasn’t enough to get me wet. There were two guys trying to mountain bike the trail. Obviously they’d pass me on the gravel roads but every so often the trail would turn into a real trail, only 18in wide, rooty, rocky, and twisty. They’d get off their bikes and fanangle the way up and over the obstacles and I’d pass right by. Soon the trail stayed that way, descending slowly back towards sea level. It was like a fairy tale, vivid green ferns all across the forest floor, the trees occasionally swaying and dripping from the fog. 

The trail dropped sharply, this time giving way to a waterfall. The noise was deafening as I clambered down around the rocks to the bridge, passing just in front of it. After taking a few pictures, it began raining so I quickly walked to the hotel/hostel jut next to it. This was not my hostel. This was supposed to be a late lunch; my campsite was a few more miles north and it’s 4pm. Uh oh. Wow, I thought I’d walked way faster and would be there by now. I checked my maps and yep, I’d only hiked 20km and had about 8km more. The guide said this next section was the trickiest, most treacherous part of the trail, to take great care and allow for extra time, but it was also the most rewarding with breathtaking views and plenty of waterfalls. But it was now super foggy and pouring. I slipped on my rain pants and hung out under the eave for a few minutes before darting through the parking lot lake. 

The first 20minutes I thought weren’t too bad but then the trail changed. It got pretty rocky, rooty, steep, washed out, and muddy in most places. I felt like I was on the Appalachian Trail again. I just had to laugh. I crossed a bridge that was pretty much sitting in the waterfall. It’d been built too small with the wrong stairs for where it was. The steps leading up to it were in the swirling waters of the waterfall. Yes, that’s right. It was built on a slight overhang between 2 cascades. After 2hours and a few more weird bridges, I tried to keep laughing. I should definitely be there by now. I started climbing up and up, finally clearing the forest. Now I was in he open, quickly getting soaked on all sides. The path got muddier and muddier until it became a pit. It spread to 20, 50 ft wide and out I sight. It looked like an intersection. Oh no! I couldn’t find any path leading out of the muck. I kept a close eye on which way I came and slowly pulled each foot up with a sucking sound only to squelch it back down again. I saw sheep all around so I knew this wasn’t just dirt. I stood there, my feet sinking into the muck until they were covered, being pelted by now really cold rain, trying to get my bearings. I had to catch a ferry which meant I still be close to the shore. I chose to continue straight, hoping the path would clear up eventually. It became 3-5 parallel paths which was fine with me. I started descending and saw a hut right in front of me. It said welcome on the door and was labeled bothy. I opened the door and walked in. It was a 4-sided shelter! Complete with a fireplace (that currently had a warm cozy fire in it), a full side of sleeping pallets, a few chairs, a table, and a trail register. Wow, I wished I’d known about this or even had my pack with my sleeping bag so I could stay. I circled the place, reaching my hands out to the fire but knowing that if I stayed any longer, it’d be super hard to go back out in the rain. So I stumbled back out into the storm, now mot laughing at all. Ok now I was a little chilled. I hope this place where I’m supposed to catch the ferry shows up soon. I plodded through water puddles underneath a forest until I finally came to an opening with a sign. It was about the ferry but was mostly worn off. I clambered over the fence to the pole with the ball. It said to raise it anytime so I raised it and took a picture. It was 6:55pm. I wasn’t sure where to stand so I just stood next to the pole. I started dancing in place, trying to stay warm in this icy cold rain but failing miserably. After awhile I checked the time. Yikes, it’d been 15minutes. 

Where was this ferry?! I decided to try to call the hotel. Hopefully the waterproof case on my phone worked well. I could hardly get it to work as my fingers were cold. Once I called, they told me the ferry stopped running at 7pm. Hm, nowhere had I seen that but I was here 5minutes before. I think the ferry guy skipped out a few minutes early because he didn’t think anyone would show up in the downpour. They told told me the ferry guy had gone home already so no one could come get me. What? With a shaky voice I told them my luggage was sitting in their hotel. The guy told me to hold on and I could hear voices in the background but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Finally he came back on and told me that I could hike 2 more miles to a campground and they’d send a shuttle bus to pick me up. I said yes and agreed to call them when I got there. After I hung up, I lowered the ball and then just burst into tears for 5 seconds before sniffling them back.

 Argh! I was tired, wet, cold, hungry, and had to pee. I’d just stood there for 20minutes getting even more soaked an now I was absolutely chilled. I’d already hiked at least 28km, probably more because I’d been hiking at a pretty good clip the whole day, ~3mph, so I figured once I hiked these last few miles, I’d be at 20miles for the day. I begrudgingly stumbled on, up over a good sized mountain that probably had some gorgeous views but all I could thinking was getting warm and dry. I got to the campground after about 45minutes an the only door I could find that was open was to the bar. So I sat on the staircase inside the bar, dripping and making puddles. Most everyone in the bar turned and looked at me and kept staring but no one asked me to leave as I called the hotel. They’d be there in 10minutes I wondered how much the shuttle would cost but it was free. I debated on getting a room or a wigwam at the hotel even if it would cost a lot vs tenting in this weather for 9euro. But they were completely full so that wasn’t even a choice.

As I checked in, I realized my brain wasn’t functioning properly. I couldn’t count change, couldn’t follow simple directions, didn’t understand where my luggage was, couldn’t read the door code, and couldn’t really form a complete coherent sentence. As I picked up my pack, I realized I may have the very beginning of hypothermia. I finally understood where to camp and started off that direction but figured I should find a bathroom first. A I entered the bathroom I saw 2 radiator on either end. I knew then I’d be sleeping in the bathroom. I stood for awhile, warming my hands under the blow dryer.

 Ok, tent, sleeping bag, dry clothes, food. I grabbed my tent, poles, and stakes, leaving my pack in the bathroom, set out in the rain to set up my tent. I couldn’t get into the fenced in campsites so I had to walk back to the hotel to get the guy to come open it. I plodded around, squishing ankle deep in the grass, looking for a non-puddly area to set up my tent. By the time I got it all set up, it was soaked and full of water. I waded back to the bathroom, taking off my shirt and trying to dry it using the blow dryer. I didn’t want to change into dry clothes yet as I was going to eat in the hotel and had to walk through the rain. I left my pack in the bathroom and went back to the hotel restaurant. I asked for a seat next to an outlet to charge my phone and they said to go around outside to the pub. 

Finally I was seated and looking at a pricey menu while my phone was charging. I ordered an 8euro cheeseburger and no fries but I guess they felt bad for the soggy girl that missed the ferry and had to tent in the rain because when it came, it came with lots of fries. I happily munched on my fries and burger, smiling as it dropped grease back onto the plate. Mmm, gotta live a good greasy burger!! 

It was near 11pm as I headed back to the bathroom. I got out my pad and sleeping bag and set them down in the farthest shower stall of two. I hung my wet clothes up as I finally hanged into dry ones. I figured someone would wake me up when they wanted to take a shower. If they had a problem with it, well, my tent was full of water. This is actually fairly normal, to sleep in a bathroom if the weather is icky for long distance hikers at least back home. I had the privilege of never sleeping in a bathroom while hiking the Appalachian Trail but definitely took lunch breaks in them, safe from wind, rain, cold, or sometimes bugs. I laid on my mat, liking the slight slope of the shower, and enjoying the heat from the radiator. 

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Belfast and Beyond

We got to Dublin just in time for me to run in and use the bathroom before boarding the bus to Belfast. We arrived in Belfast at 6am and I sleepily got my stuff and drug myself off the bus into the station. Nothing was open this early not even the currency exchange store. I grabbed a small map of Belfast and walked out the train station. Wow this place looked neat, old architecture and intricate designs. I made my way to the youth hostel hoping they’d have a better map and maybe I could store my stuff there. The guy laughed at me when I inquired and said nope I wasn’t staying there, they couldn’t help me. I didn’t even know where the tourist office was. I found out that office doesn’t open til 8:30 so I had an hour and a half to explore. I walked towards city hall, but that didn’t open til 9. Wow this city was sleepy. I wandered towards the river hoping for a pretty path to enjoy as I waited for the city to wake up. I got eggs and toast from a fancy little shop on the corner next to a big fish statue. I’d just missed the tall ships festival which I would’ve enjoyed but glad I missed the crowds that brought. I wandered the streets making sure I stayed in a square and found myself at the Victoria mall which had a tower at the top with a view. I climbed up and it was a 360* view of the city from the top. It made me fee like I’d gone back in time, everything was older with no new glass skyscrapers , all brick and cement buildings with incredibly well designed accents. The tourist office opened and I was able to get a map and store my large pack there for 5eiro. They didn’t have any cool magnets nor were they affordable. I went to the cathedral which was pretty inspiring. People really worked hard back then to express themselves even through buildings. The stained glass was beautiful, letting the morning light filter through on many shades of color. I went to they city hall for the free tour and I was glad I did. I got to see all the old marble and the rooms were all mostly still in use as the  places for the city council to meet. There were random pieces of Titanic history around the building as well. Titanic had sailed from Belfast so they kinda claimed it having the largest Titanic museum. There were pieces of furniture that were suppose to be on it but weren’t finished in time. There was a fur coat passed on from a wealthy old lady to her servant because she didn’t need it anymore in the icy cold waters. The servant brought back the coat. The court chambers that were built then were still in use today and we got to sit in them. There was a chair that was built in the 1700s sitting in the corner. It looked in great condition but no one had sit in it for over a hundred years. The rugs in the grand hall were super soft for my feet and were made of silk and the finest wool and were almost 25years old but looked brand new. Thered been parties and events happening there several times a month. The tour finished with walking past the portraits of former mayors, which get one painting of themselves down by the artist of their choice. Most chose to express not only their political views but also family, hobbies, and interests in this paintings. I wanted to go to the botanic gardens because it was free but it’d started raining and was already past noon. I got my pack and headed back to the station, getting a ticket to the start of the coastal causeway trail. I had to switch buses halfway through, then accidently got off a stop early. So I ended up walking for 30mins along the road to the start of the trail. But it was sunny out now so I tried to enjoy it. I finally found the beginning of the trail and started hiking. I was going to get to port rush to sleep tonight . I carried my large pack on my back and my daypack in front. The path along the shore was varied, going from small cliffs to along golf cities to sea level pebbly beaches. I called up a hostel halfway through and made reservations. The trail enters port rush around a sand beach then around the harbor before reaching where I turned off for the hostel. It hadn’t taken me long at all to hike 8 or so km. The hostel was nice, with comfy beds and a spacious kitchen, with seating next to a fireplace and several couches. I got situated and made pasta for dinner, hurrying through so I could get into bed. It felt like itd been an incredibly long time since I slept in a bed. 

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Lost and Found

I woke up, feeling refreshed as that was the best nights sleep yet. It was cloudy and foggy, sorta raining but I knew I was just in a cloud. The rain would come and go so as I hiked out, I put my pack cover on. Luckily it didnt actually rain, just fogged, so I never needed my rain gear. I’d had 5 straight days of sunshine in ireland. I hiked out of the forest and into roads through rolling green pastures full of cows and sheep. It was hard to find a spot to go to the bathroom on a road hedged in or next to houses. But I managed, finding out that Ireland has it’s version of stinging nettles. Fortunately, it was just my leg, not elsewhere, that was stung. I carefully walked through pastures, having to really work to avoid all the cow patties and sheep droppings. I passed through many gates, making sure to shut them behind me. I am not a sheep! I saw a few horses in front of me, thinking they were gorgeous then realizing I had to pass through the gate directly through them and behind them. There were 7 of them, 2 lying down, but all pressed against each other against the gate. I approached, telling them to move. I walked within inches of one laying down and he didn’t budge or seem to care. Yay! I strode confidently towards the gate putting my hands out, telling then to move. Most did except for one. He wanted to sniff my pack, my feet, my hair. I laughed, asking him if he’d like to carry my stuff for me. He snorted and sidestepped away so I took that as a no. I stepped over the gate stile and plodded on, looking back at the 2 girls that just passed me trying to weave their way through the horses.the next few hours were filled with nothing but avoiding sheep poop. I thought I was following signs well but I came to a road intersection that had none. I knew I was now off the path, commonly called lost, but I really didn’t want to walk all the way back on the road to the last known yellow man. They put up signs at intersections, often not marking again til the next intersection sometimes 30minutes plus walk. All of my map apps had trouble locating me so I called the place I was going to camp at to see if they’d had people get lost there before. They hadn’t but I told them I’d be there soon. Finally google found me and it looked like I could turn left and get to the hostel by roads which I’d be walking anyway. After walking for another 20mins, not seeing any cars and realizing I still had double the distance to go, I tuned around, not really wanting to go back but not wanting to go forward either. At that moment a car came by, slowing down and stopping in from of me. A guy with a thick Irish accent asked, “Are you the girl that rang a bit ago?” I nodded and he said to get in. He had thought I couldn’t be too far so he doive out to look for me. God had sent me an angel at just the right moment. I got in the front seat and away he drove. I’d never been in the front seat of a backwards car, on the wrong side of the road. If I hadn’t have been too tired, I might’ve gotten dizzy. I met his wife and she showed me to my room, one double bed, toilet and shower all to myself. I had intended to camp but I was just too overwhelmed to say no. They were leaving for a few hours for the evening so they showsed me how to use the stove and said to make myself at home. I was the only one there. I just lay there on my bed for half an hour, to overwhelmed to move, to eat or shower. This whole trail had been an ordeal, not as I expected. It was supposed to be Ireland’s prettiest, most popular long distance hiking trail but I hadn’t seen many people and it’s mostly been on roads. I was thoroughly disappointed in it and myself somewhat, that I was having a tough time giving it up. I don’t ever quit anything so it was challenging to just say I’m done with the Wicklow Way, 25km before the end. I felt defeated but maybe dinner and a shower would help. I made my pasta all fancy with butter and some milk not just water but that still didn’t help me eat it. There were a few cookies out so of course I tried one of each. One was okay but the other was delicious! It had caramel in the middle and chocolate on the outside. I knew I needed to chill someplace for a day or two and make plans. But first I had to get out of this tiny town and get a bUs ticket to Waterford, a city I’d picked thatvwas in the direction I wanted to go. I tried to plan but couldn’t. I knew the things I wanted to do but didn’t really know how to put them together. I’d found a hostel to stay at in Waterford but that’s all I got. I went back to my room to shower, and crashed after that, knowing it’d all work out in the morning somehow.

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Sunset Sky

I got up at ~9, made an easy breakfast of oatmeal in the shared kitchen.  It still took me a long time to eat though. I figured I was going to Mucklagh hut, maybe 25km away, though no one knew exactly where it was and I could not pinpoint it on a map. I left at 10:15, got lost, got found, got lost, got on the path again. Roads were just too confusing. The Glendalough lakes were beautiful and crowded. Finally, I saw people on the trail! But even the Wicklow way information center didn’t know where the hut was. They did have it on a map, next to Carrickashane mountain. I took my time, making my way through the crowds, enjoying seeing people, young and old, revel in nature. As I climbed up towards the waterfall, the crowds thinned out. Past the waterSunset fall and through open gravel roads, there was no one. The view was awesome now that I was looking down at the lakes.

Today was turning out to be a hot one with a long climb up a gravel road. I was surrounded by trees but the ones 20ft out on both sides of the trail had been logged. I was surprised that the path went right through active logging sites, with fresh cut timber piled high. There were signs posted saying do not climb but still, that’d be a lawsuit waiting to happen in the States.  The day drug on, with me plodding along and not seeing anyone. I wa supposed to pass the Mullacor hut at 14km but I never saw it. Because of this, I thought I hadn’t hiked very far which was pretty frustrating. Around 5, I’d just about had it. I hadn’t been on a real path all dayand had no idea how far I’d come or how far to the next hut. Even when I pulled out my phone, looked at my pictures of maps, google maps, Wicklow way maps & directions, nothing told me where I actually was. I sat for a minute (or several) at a gravel road intersection and changed my boots to sandals as my boots felt a little small this trip for some reason. A mother and daughter hiked up, jibbering away in what sounded like Russian, barely noticing me. I hiked on, wandering more roads and what the Wicklow Way called a trail, a very uneven tilted maze of indentations in the grass. I crested one mountain and saw bike tracks as I went down. It got super rocky and I wondered how the bikes had done. Finally, I saw a hut! Oh thank God! It was here and on an open spot looking towards the sunset. I quickly dropped my pack and just sat next to it for a bit. There was no one else there and it looked very clean, no graffiti, perfect picnic table, no litter, there was even a logbook! I got water from the water butt and started cooking pasta with salmon. I made my bed as it cooled down, getting into my sleeping bag as it was getting cold because of the wind. I ate and journaled, only getting up to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t at all nervous about being alone on the mountain, like I might’ve been before my AT thru hike. I’m not sure if it that Ireland doesn’t have large predators, bears or snakes, or peace that washed over me as I got up to watch the sunset. I sat on the bench in the windy cold air and really felt like God himself was sitting next to me, just watching His art painted across the sky.

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Windy Wicklow Way

I didn’t sleep well at all; maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the first night being in a tent in awhile. The wind was howling all night. I felt like if I wasn’t in my tent, it’d blow away! If I curled up with my feet close to me away from the bottom of the tent, the back of the tent would lift up, pulling against the stakes. The sides of the rainfly billowed out making it look like a sailing ship in the 5am light. I stayed in my bag til 8:30, got up and packed up my tent as fast as I could, stepping on pieces so they wouldn’t blow away. I knew I couldn’t cook here with all the wind so I figured I’d cook when I reach the trees/protection from the wind. As I started hiking up, the wind was so fierce it knocked my feet sideways. I gazed ahead and realized the trail continued up bald pastures so I just crouched behind a piece of the old crumbled rock wall and cookedmy breakfast of oatmeal. I choked it down, still unable to eat much, packed up and kept going because it was cold! I wasn’t hiking fast enough to stay warm. I saw lots of sheep and had to step carefully to avoid their droppings. Right after lunch I crested a hill and voila, there was a lake! It was incredibly gorgeous. By that point, I was hot and sweaty so I wanted to go jump in the lake. But alas, it was too far away. I hiked on, passing moe sheep and cows, hiking on roads, gravel roads and fire roads through mountains that were currently being logged. I strolled past he Wicklow lodge, not even going in because it looked way fancy. The roadwalk was super long and in the hot sun. Two fellows passed me going the other way, expressing surprise that I was on my own. They told me there were 2 guys from TX just ahead of me, as well as free water from a farmers shed just up the way. I drank a few drops straight from the hose and soon found myself catching up to the 2 TX dudes. They hiked a tiny bit faster but stopped to take a lot of pictures so it was about my pace. We were all going to Glendalough Hostel (pronounced glendaluck.) we arrived at Glendalough hotel which looked fancy and we thought this can’t be it. We were pointed on down the road, past the tiny church and graves to the hostel. I checked in and found myself on a bottom bunk bed of about 10bunks of all girls. I went out to the common room, the only place where thee was wifi, to try to plan the next few days. The TX guys came out as well and we met Hannah. She was doing like I was, solo backpacking around Europe. She started in Stockholm, Sweden and had planned on having a partner but the girl dropped out. She was on day 11 and advised me it gets easier. The first week she was all over the place, similar to how I was, but then she started making plans 5-7 days out instead of 1-3 and she said that was way less stressful. She and the TX guys went to dinner at a place that had appetizers that started at 16euro. Nope, not the place for me. I showered in the teensy tiny shower that had a push button for every 5 seconds. Now that was annoying! I tried to lean against it without touching the wall but that didn’t work. I tried pushing it with my elbow but that didn’t work either. I thought maybe the hot water would be good for my sore back, sore hips, sore feet…road walking really got me hurting! I got out, having pushed that button what felt like a million times and grabbed a pasta side to cook. The self serve kitchen was still crowded at 8pm so I had to use a large pot just to boil a cup and a half of water. I watched it boil so of course it took forever but eventually I ended up with creamy tuna alfredo. Hopefully the protein will do good to my muscles. Robert and Eric (the 2 TX guys) and Hannah came back fat and happy from the restaurant and we all sat around the common room with our phones, trying to make plans but just swapping stories instead which was a-ok with me. The guys would be hiking to glenmalure tomorrow (my halfway point for tomorrow) and Hannah would be meeting up with a lady who was taking her to go ride a horse alll day through the Irish mountains! She’d been riding horses since she could walk so this was her dream come true. It was now almost midnight and I had no idea where I would spend the next night but I was sleepy so I fell into my comfy bunk bed.

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To the Mountains!

I woke at 8 knowing I still needed to get fuel for my alcohol stove. This time I had my two slices of cheese and one ham folded to make half a sandwich. I ate a slice with jam and the funny looking tasteless cereal. I packed up and checked out, wandering to some camping store another hostel guest had told me about. Sure enough, there it was! A real outfitter in Dublin! Now let’s pray they have denatured alcohol or heat or something similar otherwise I might have to buy a whole new stove set. They had liquid fuel called Power fuel. The guy had an open bottle someone had bought and didn’t need all of so he gave it to me. I asked if it was okay to try it out on the sidewalk and he said sure. So I unpacked my pack, hiker trashing up the sidewalk and proceeded to pour a tiny bit on my stove to see how it would burn. It lit superclass ans burned brighter but with tons of soot. It was blackening my stove, pot and windscreen with nasty soot. The city had really woken up and there were plenty of people walking by me, just burning a small fire on the sidewalk. It finally went out so I could pack up and head out. He told me I could have it for free which was awesome! I then confirmed with him the bus route and exactly where I was going. I wanted to look around the foreign outfitter but knew I had to get going as I had 21km (13mi) to hike. I made it to the bus and paid 3.30euro for the 30min ride down there. Ireland got prettier and prettier the further we got from city centre. The bus driver dropped me off right across the street from Marlay park which was nice. People had been telling me to get dropped off at the shopping center or such-n-such st and walk to the park. I we like uh-uh, there’s public transit-it can take me right to the park. I wandered (I do a lot of wandering…) into the park and actually found the beginning of the Wicklow Way.

I passed through the concrete markers, acknowledging that the little yellow hikerman would be guiding me. Almost immediately, the path split with no signs so of course I picked the path that went uphill and into the woods, because the trail is always the hardest. I was right and found the little yellow man in the forest.

Ah, finally hiking a path through the trees with my home on my back.

I came upon a man on a ladder adjusting something on an old funny looking tree. Wait, what is that? There were a bunch of fairies, fairy houses and mini yards set up all along the tree. He was the guy that actually created all of it. That’s incredible that he makes art and never knows how long it’ll last as it’s on an old rotting tree. I continued on, crossing roads and wondering whether I was going the right way. Eventually I started up a forested gravel road with sporadic views back to the city. It was fairly steep so every so often I’d stop to catch my breath and lookout and think,

“Wow, I’m hiking on a mountain in Ireland!”

As I hiked on I kept thinking how much it looked like Grayson highlands in southwest Virginia. I passed only a few people going the opposite way, locals who were out for a walk. After hiking for 5.5hours, I arrived at Knockree youth hostel, where there were tons of loud children playing out front. The hostel was full but I went to the bathroom to at least get some water. The older guy was rude and had said they’re full; go to Enniskerry which had pricey B&Bs. I talked to the younger girl who was just working there for the summer and she said shed seen people camp by the river just a 10mins walk down the way, even though it was technically illegal. I thanked her, took some pics of the maps along the wall, and continued on. It was close to 6:30 and I was hungry. I found a spot next to the river and cooked some pasta. It was nasty and I could hardly finish it but I forced it down. I saw some nice tent spots but it was so buggy by the water so I packed up and got moving. There was a waterfall within 5km that was rumored to have great camping spots. After the longest time and the longest uphill climb, I saw the waterfall from a long way away. A local couple took my picture and wished me luck on finding a spot to set up camp. Yay, maybe the luck of the Irish would be on my side. It was close to 9 now and I was gettin frustrated. I could see I was walking away from the waterfall. I crested a hill and saw a tent next to a bridge! Saweeeet!! A tenting spot and I wouldn’t be alone! I practically skipped down the rocky hill, shouting hello as I passed the tent and campfire. I picked a grassy spot on the opposite side of the creek facing the sunset. I quickly set up and got in just as the sun was setting. It was windy and getting chilly fast.

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