Saturday, July 8, 2017

Off Road

Last week, I fell into a bog.

Only up to my knees. The water wasn't cold, and I easily dragged myself out, leaving only a little dignity behind. I had left the road because I wanted to get to know the field. I see that field there along the road, but I've never crossed it and entered that clump of oaks, and I want to know them too.

So, crossing the field, I fell into a bog. Between two slices of granite was a lovely patch of moss, looking like all the moss on the field my boots firmly tromped on. A patch of moss floating on two feet of dark water.

And that's why we stay on the roads. 

The most interesting roads, the lanes, are just as wide as they need to be, about as wide as a cart. The lanes are worn deep into the land and sometimes field flowers wave over our heads.

Take a look at this photo.

This is what the Coom wedge tomb looks like from its road. See those white rocks in the lower right? That's the tomb. The sort of thing you might want to cross a field for. Don't. Take the lane. The lane leaves the road and passes the tomb and is only as wide as it needs to be. As wide as a cart. In 2500 years, no cart ever needed to veer off the lane and carve out wide spot, so that in our century two Yanks could pull their car off the lane and mess around with that wedge tomb. 

And that is how I learned to back up our car.  It seemed farther in that direction. 

Ireland may be a small island country, but take a wrong turn and "suddenly Ireland gets very big," as our friend J. sometimes says. The smallest smidgen of a valley or hillside can get bigger if you show it a little interest. And that pile of stones over there contains thousands of years. 

I love immensity of time and space in Ireland, because so much of the culture of Ireland remains human scale. Little, then big. 

Today I went for a long walk up the Sneem river valley, over a hill, and back through another valley to the village. The walk is called The Lomanaugh Loop, if that interests you. It turned out to have another Gobnait connection. 

That photo shows a part of the walk you can drive to, on a lane just past the Sneem GAA grounds. Many points-of-interest in Ireland are given in relation to the local GAA grounds, because everyone knows where they are (?).  I'm only beginning to pay attention to GAA (football and hurling), but I think the season may be over. I watched a hurling match on TV at the Staigue Fort B&B&B last week. Metal. 

Near the top of the valley the Lomanaugh route loops over the hill and through a forestry, before coasting back to Sneem. The roads through forestry are built for trucks with wide and easy grades. These are utilitarian forests, hardworking and no nonsense. Bits of life leak in along the little creeks that meet the roads, falling down the cliffs of the roadcut in tinkling waterfalls.

The road became a muddy caterpillar track near this active lumbering area. 

Just past this pile of logs, the road ended in a cul-de-sac ring with forestry trees. I thought I had taken the wrong turn, and suddenly the forestry seemed very big. But my map said straight on, so on I went. 

An opening in the ring of tres, and the trail opened to this: 

Now I was truly off road. I love these rambles through sheep pastures. Now and then there's a trail marker, but interesting trees can catch your eye, and off you go. 

Just before the route crossed a bridge, I took a wrong turn. I mean, I took the turn I wanted to take, even though it was the wrong one. I took the road more beautiful. 

Just like with the impulse that ended in a bog. 


This road ended just beyond the tree on the right, and I turned around to see this. 


The road I should have taken is on the left, and as you can see, anyone could have resisted that road. 

No regrets. 

Eventually the route joins the Kerry Way.

The last two kilometers are this country lane pointing directly at the protestant church in Sneem, which is that white speck you see at the vanishing point. I realized that this must have been the route that our Gobnait Ni Bhrudair took when she rode her bicycle from her cooperative at Castle Cove to Sneem. (Here's an earlier post about Gobnait.

Looking at the map later, I see that her road from Castle Cove to Sneem is still there, and it's the Kerry Way. Of course. The old route between her village and Sneem is further inland, but almost the same distance. That's what the map says anyway. It's probably much, much farther. 

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