Yesterday my friend Peter, my coworker Jessica and myself headed down to Ireland's beautiful Wicklow Mountains for a wee hike and to camp overnight. I'm walking around Ireland this summer to attempt to break the world record for longest barefoot journey and I wanted to try out walking with my new backpack and sleeping in my ultra-weeny tent. (I did wear shoes on this outing, though.)
Glendalough, from the Irish for "valley of two lakes" is exactly that - a beautiful valley carved out thousands of years ago by glaciers, at the bottom of which lie two lakes, right in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. Our plan was to get the bus to the Glendalough Visitors' Centre and then walk out on one of the mountain trails, at some point finding somewhere to camp in the trees. We arrived quite late (transport to Glendalough is very limited, despite the valley itself being a major tourist attraction close to Dublin), and set off on the trail after about one o'clock.
Glendalough is easily the nicest hiking spot near Dublin, with tree-covered hills, hidden waterfalls, and of course the eponymous lakes. I've been there twice before; both times, it rained all day. Naturally, since everything supposedly comes in threes, the heavens decided not to disappoint my expectations, and it rained buckets. After only a few hours, we were all left sodden and cold - my poncho is pretty good at keeping out the rain, but obviously it doesn't cover the legs.
The trail took us along the unforested hilltops that run alongisde the valley, providing us with a sweeping view. Here I am trying to light a cigarette:
A shot of Peter gazing back the way we came, in which you can see both of the lakes:
And the river that runs into the lake:
Eventually, we reached an open area with no treeline, and were at the mercy of the wind. It didn't help that the path turned into a stream:
But at least we got to see some deer:
Up there, the wind was taking no prisoners. Between that and having already become soaked with rain, we were started to get cold, even though the day itself was relatively warm. At one point I tried to open my zipped pocket to extract my GPS device; it took me about five minutes to convince my fingers to work properly.
We eventually turned left and the trail descended back into the trees, protecting us from that stinging wind; now all we were thinking of was finding a suitable place to camp. After a little searching we found a fairly good spot in the trees and cleared away all of the rotten twigs and branches cluttering the ground, then helped Jess set up her tent first. She had brought a two-man tent; Peter and I had both brought one man tents. It was with great difficulty and discomfort that I set up my tent - my cold hands were refusing to cooperate, and I was totally sodden from the waist down.
After I set up, I decided to visit Jessica in her tent, and Peter came along too. Jess procured a bottle of honey whiskey, and we ultimately decided for the sake of warmth to all stay in the two-man tent together (Peter was actually shivering), even though we'd already set up ourselves. So we drank whiskey and sang songs as the sun disappeared and it turned pitch black, and managed to get a little shut-eye somehow, before waking up at six to squeeze into wet shoes and finish the loop back to the Visitors' Centre, coffee, and the bus back to Dublin.
For a test run, this little trek really served as a baptism of fire. I hope not to experience many other days like it on my walk around Ireland. Fortunately, the weather will at least be a bit warmer when I set off in May, and the weather does tend to consist of frequent showers rather than a constant deluge. Still, I'm going to have to deal with real rainy days somehow, whether by waiting it out or altering my route - it's not always wise to march on ahead, and it's certainly not pleasant.
And I'm going to bring gloves.