Sunday, July 15, 2012
Oh, what luck! We get to walk across White Hill on Friday the 13th. From Knockree to Roundwood is about fourteen miles, a nice stretch of the legs. The climb is steady and at times can suck the wind of you. Walking over Djouce (don’t pronounce the D) affords a glorious view of the Powerscourt waterfall of 250 meters— except today when we were walking in the cloudy mist bringing a haunting feel to the hike. Our view was limited to six feet and we could only hear the waterfall. The trek took us above the waterfalls in order to cross the Dargle River. The bridge had been washed out in November, leaving a quickly constructed replacement over the rapids. Crossing a roughly made bridge gave a foreboding to White Hill. I had crossed this treeless high point of bog in Ireland six years ago. That particular day the gale force wind blew the rain sideways, making it a monumental struggle to see my fellow walkers a few feet ahead. Today the wind was howling, though less than my last journey. However, the rain was more severe and because this has been Ireland wettest summer on record, the trail was a running stream of mud. To say the least, staying afoot was at times like riding a skateboard over rocks downhill. At one point, my two partners stopped to tie down their ponchos. It was a feat of no small proportion to keep our rain gear intact and tied in place so it didn’t beat us in the face and entangle around our packs. We were soaked and getting wetter, if that is possible. We finally up the mountain for the two-mile walk across railroad ties. The top of White Hill is a bald bog, inhabited only by a few daring sheep. The bog was so saturated that the sheep had taken to walking on the man-made path. The trail consists of two railroad ties strapped side-to-side and covered with chicken wire, giving you twelve-inches of walking space. I can’t even imagine the tricky work it took to construct this long balance beam. Carrying a backpack, using a walking stick for balance, battling the cold rain, thrashing wind, and perilous walking path can test the best of hikers. On this day we prevailed. Not without a good drenching. I think the only thing on me that wasn’t wet were my feet. My raingear failed. But, my boots were victorious. We still had a good four-mile walk down the Wicklow Way to Roundwood. I felt a sense of accomplishment today. Teenagers and folks older than me travel White Hill every day—so, it’s not necessarily a great physical achievement that was providing with my good feeling. I believe, for me today, walking over White Hill was a spiritual affirmation of my choice to walk Ireland coast-to-coast. At fifty-eight years old, I am still learning about my inner self and my body. I have much still to discover. For that, I am thankful and ready to keep walking.