Rugged and Wild

Rugged and Wild

Diamond Hill…not far from the beginning of the trail.

The walk started out with an overcast sky and warm. It was beautiful weather. The path from the parking lot was well-marked and well-maintained. Connemara National Park is outstanding in its untamed beauty.

The park offers various ways to walk around Diamond Hill. I opted for the full climb while my friend opted to more knee-friendly environs. She remembered to ask me for the car key this time, unlike our adventure on the Cliffs of Moher where one slip off the trail on my hike and she would be stranded for eternity.

By the time the hike was over I was very glad someone knew I was out there in that wild place. It wasn’t long after we separated that the weather began to turn. Thankfully I had my rain parka in my pack. Unfortunately I was wearing my new awesome ‘cow girl’ hat which didn’t take kindly to the eerie wind that started to build as I climbed up the mountain.

With every step up, the wind seemed determined to push me back. Heavy clouds appeared to come from the bowels of hell as the temperature plummeted. I stopped and removed my camera pack, pulled out the jacket, gloves and exchanged my big Nikon for a waterproof GoPro. And…it was steep. So with the exertion, there was sweat and yet the biting cold wind, my body struggled to regulate temperature.

“It was an unforgiving environment with steep mountains and changeable weather. I felt the nature energies unapologetic for their strength, unwilling to temper their power.¬†This is who we are. Deal with it, is what I heard as I climbed. I thought….Oh, great!”

And it did feel like I was shown the incredible power of the spirits of nature. There was no touchy-feely sweet little faery energy. This was the unabashed, unleashed, in-your-face experience of the elementals.

I did okay until I got near the summit, even with wind whipping around me and fog mixed with sleet beginning to blanket the summit. Even now, a year later, as I write this I feel the fear of mis-stepping, slipping on the wet rocks. I was alone and the conditions were deteriorating fast. At least Gabriela could alert someone if I failed to return to the car.

I began to wonder if I should continue. The signs warned to not turn around, to keep moving forward on the one-way trail but the summit appeared to be a very narrow ledge and with winds increasing and fog hovering the wisdom of moving forward was questioned.

Are you FREAKING kidding me?

Finally, I made the difficult decision to turn around rather than chance slipping off the summit and flying toward the Twelve Bens. And then, not even five minutes passed before I begin to pass others walking up. I could have asked to walk with them but decided to just keep heading down, driven from my goal to do the loop by fear and perhaps a bit of wisdom. Sometimes it’s challenging to know which voice I’m listening to as wind is screaming around my ears and sleet is stinging my face.

I met a guy hiking up the trail after I turned around. He stopped me to inquire about the conditions. He said he had tried to summit many mountains nearby in his travels and each time the weather had turned him back. He was determined to make it….I hope he did.¬†Another time, I will make it to the 445 meter high mountain and finish the loop.

Just recently I read about Luka Bloom’s song, Diamond Mountain. I’ve loved the song for a while now but never understood the meaning of the lyrics until I learned that local lore describes Diamond Mountain as the best vantage point looking west across the Atlantic Ocean. During the massive emigration to America during the Great Hunger, those staying in Ireland could climb the mountain and watch the ships departing with their loved ones leave.

Luka sings, “I will be here when you need me.” He reminds us how painful it is to part from those we love, especially knowing we may never see them again in this life. The song took on greater depth as did the experience of climbing Diamond Mountain.

Nice boardwalks across the mountain bogs

The Irish supposedly viewed America as a place of exile, not as a land of opportunity. I feel that way, especially given our political climate these days. Exiled in a hostile land….oh, how I wish someone was waiting for me on Diamond Mountain so I could return to the land I love the best.

Lyrics from a favorite song haunt me: “When angels with wings come to collect you and carry you over the stormy sea; Whispering things as they caress you, gently they’ll press you with sweet words undress you, Will you fly to the land that holds and keeps you or the land you love the best. The land you love the best, the land you love the best. Will you lie in the garden of peace and of order or the cold wild field in the west. When night and her shadows come to surround you and touch you with fingers of cold, cold fear. When the voice of the stranger echoes around you when strange words confound you, strange accents drown you will you fly to the land that fed you or found you or the land you love the best.” (John Spillane)

In researching John’s song I came upon this song of his….I really needed to hear it and allow the question to echo through….hope you enjoy it as well. Funny how the simple act of reminiscing about a journey to Ireland leads me to this…

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