Our thirteen pilgrims gathered in Marley Park at the western edge of Dublin. The day was perfect for walking, overcast, 65 degrees, and a slight breeze. We stood in a circle under a tree at the beginning place for the Wicklow Way. There we prayed prayers from the Pilgrim's Prayer Book, a book in its most primitive stages that I hope to complete of the next few years. My hope is to gather prayers written by other pilgrims who have walked Mother Earth's many trails.
The climb out of Dublin provided a panoramic view of the Bay of Dublin. The sky was clear enough to see completely across the bay. The climb is a bit over 400 meters, about 1300 feet. A signed along the trail warned hikers that this trail is a "muscle builder." The first few miles are usually the hardest, adjusting the pack, getting orientated to the trail, balancing excitement with pace.
Our trail took us south over Fairy Castle Mountain, a wide sweep swath of bald boggy grass. The view of the surrounding plush dark green valleys is spectacular. The hard part is choosing which of the boundless opportunities to stop and take a picture. Between the group we will have a countless number of photos.
Our group began to spread out within a few miles, everyone finding their own pace. Those ahead would stop a key points to make sure those in the back where making their way without too much difficulty. We stopped at seven miles, the half way point, on Baranaraltry Bridge for a breather and a snack. The clouds drew darker, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, by the rain skirted us.
The climb through up the Glencullen Mountain affords the opportunity to look into the deep dark forest, trying to imagine that someone had to journey this way first to cut a trail. Under the ancient trees, the ground is barren from the absence of light for centuries. We walked in the light of an open path, but stopping to look into the darkest forest, we had to let our eyes adjust just to see ten feet under the trees. Truly an eerie and haunting sight.
Of course every pilgrimage will have a "little story." The sign which had directed me the Knockree Hostel two years ago was missing. We crossed the road the hostel is on and walked down the trail about 200 yards. I could feel something was wrong. We stopped and called the hostel, indeed we needed to back track a bit. When we arrived we asked about the three of our group that had walked out ahead. Unfortunately they had not arrived. We began trying to call them. Made several failed attempts and waited anxiously. They showed up about an hour later, they too had walked past the hostel. But they had traveled about 3 km, 2.1 miles, before seeing a sign posted map. Realizing they had walked too far, they cut through the fields and created their own short cut back to the hostel. Not too much worse for the wear.
This morning I am looking south over Glencree and the Crone forest, preparing to walk over White Hill, a gain of 500 meters. The sun is shining, a rare day. But I can see the clouds gathering in the south. We shall see what lies ahead.