Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bogged down

Climbing up Beefan and Glabhross

We've just finished a glorious Irish holiday.  Math Man and I have been bouncing around the west coast of Ireland for much of the last two weeks.  Some days he's been walking golf courses, while I've been walking coastal paths.  Together we've been listening to traditional Irish music in the pubs, driving the (narrow) Irish back roads and doing some hiking and touring (more driving on those roads.)

Last week, toward the end of a day in which we took a boat ride out and along the coast to see the tallest seaside cliffs in Europe, we drove to Glencolmkille, a small coast village associated with St. Columba (the founder of the famous Iona monastery).  I wanted to see Columba's Holy Well, which the map in town suggested was just at the outskirts. Up and out we drove, across a stone bridge, to the end of the road, where there was a brown sign, "Columba's Well."  We parked, grabbed our late lunches and headed off on the path that led up.  There was an incredible view of a Glenn Cove below us, we sat and watched the waves crash and the water sparkle.  A magical place to dine.

But where was the well?  How far along could it be?  I hiked up a bit, spotting what looked liked a carved stone well up the mountain.  We headed up that way, up and up, through the sheep.  To arrive to find that, no, this was not the well, just an very regular natural stone.  At this point, we decided to keep going up to the top of the mountain, where a Napoleonic watch tower was situated (these are scattered all the way up and down the coast.

The views were just amazing, each turn of the trail and revealed yet more views of the cliffs, the water, the surf and the tiny towns below.  But things got muddier as we got closer to the top.  At one point, unwilling to get my stout walking shoes too mucked up with mud and sheep droppings, I stepped off to walk around a muddy patch.  Three steps, and on the last one there was a great slurping, sucking sound and I was suddenly up to my knee in the bog.

As I tried to pull my leg out, I could feel my boot slide off.  My first thought was of the (fictional) Miles Vorkosigan and his experience in the tundra bog (from which he never did extricate his missing boot.)  I was quite stuck and it took some significant tugging from Math Man to extract me.  I now have a totally visceral feeling for what it means to be "bogged down"  -- caught in muck that won't let you go, and that you may well need help to extricate yourself from.

A bog (on another hike)
 I did the rest of the hike with a sopping wet pant leg and a shoe that squished at every turn.  But it was totally worth it.  The view from the tower was amazing.

We headed back down the mountain, and as we neared the car, finally saw the ruins of the monastery St. Columba had established there, and the marker for the well up the hill a bit.  Math Man joked that we got the better hike by failing to find the well, and I think he was right, even with the bog!


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