“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” ~ Steven Wright
Today I was finally able to attend a “Hill Walking” session with the American Women’s Club. I officially think hiking in Ireland, especially in the hills, is a must for anyone who plans on spending any length of time here. Maybe I can talk Matt into taking a hike with me sometime, because the views of the mountains, lakes, and fields are just incredible. And, on the plus side, I was able to meet a few more ladies I haven’t had a chance to. A couple things I learned on this walk: 1.) It fills up most of the morning and part of the afternoon, so use the restroom before leaving. 2.) Invest in a small backpack to carry essential items like tissues, water, snacks for energy, and layers (because the weather in this city is NEVER constant). 3.) Hiking boots will be a great future investment for these walks.
Our walk was at the Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Trail, and it was indeed a hike up a mountain! We started our hike headed directly uphill, and a few of my muscles immediately responded to the incline. I am used to running or jogging, typically on a flat terrain, but the steep ascend was a different feel for my body. I easily fell into a groove, though, and set off not just to get a little exercise, but to check out the scenery as well. The first thing I noticed was the distinct smell of pine. With the slight breeze and the cool weather, the pine trees were a perfect backdrop to our hike. The weather cooperated and most of the hike took place under blue skies and sunshine. Our first peek at the countryside took place at a break in the trees, so we stopped for a moment to admire and take some pictures.
The real views, though, didn’t come until we had hiked for quite awhile. We were making our way up another incline when all of a sudden we broke through the forest to a huge mountain backdrop. Most all of us were completely in awe at the sight. We paused again to take some pictures, checking out the mountain tops and the lake far, far down below. The climb didn’t end there, though, as we took a right and kept pushing up the mountain. More than once we crossed paths with sheep, who didn’t seem bothered by us, but typically stayed out of our way. We passed the J.B. Malone Memorial, which immediately had me pondering whether this Malone was of any relation to mother’s family. Just past the memorial, we took in the view of the Guinness Estate, but from way up high. This is the family estate, with its own private beach on the lake. Apparently, the Guinness family frequents the estate in the summer.
By that point we were finally at the top. What goes up must come down! And so the descent began. I was surprised to find that going down was actually harder than going up. While my lungs felt the incline, my quads and knees especially felt the work of the descent. This was also a rougher part of the trail, with rocks pretty much everywhere you stepped. At this point I made my mental note to buy hiking boots for my future hill walks. And as a couple of the women who frequent the walks pointed out, there will be many rainy days, and there is nothing worse than cold, wet feet.
We finished the walk feeling windblown, but full of adrenaline. It took us around 2 hours to complete due to the few stops we made to take pictures and admire the scenery. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make the next walk since I will be out of town, but I guess that’s the price you pay when one decides to go back to Paris. However, I do plan to attend many more of these walks since our leader, Ann, has a whole arsenal of them. Again, if you are ever in Dublin for a period of time, throw together a backpack, do a little research, and pick a hike for a sunny day. It is a great way to see Dublin in its true form.