Dawson’s Magnolia?

A 2021 Blessing

The Magnolia genus has been around for eons, come characteristics are protective from beetles as they existed before bees and relied upon beetles for fertilization. Our’s may be the species Magnolia dawsoniana (Dawson’s Magnolia), it shares many of the published characteristics: among them tolerance to our hardiness zone 5, flower color and shape, tree growth pattern.

This was an exceptional year for blooms. starting late April, lasting into May. The fence around trunks is for protection against bucks (male deer), from rubbing their horns in autumn.

For most of these 2021 photographs I used the lens Canon 24 mm f/1.4L II USM, the one captioned 50 mm I used Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr with the Manfrotto Studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head for all.

The last great year was 2018……

For these 2018 photographs the Canon 24 mm and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L “Macro” lenses with Canon’s EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

On the Tain Way

A place of myth and wonder on foot and approachable

On Monday, June 9, 2014, cousin John Mills dropped his son, Sean Mills, myself and Pam Wills off at the foot of the western slopes of Slieve Foy on the Tain Way.  Sean, Pam and I walked the way over the mountain and into Carlingford in the footsteps of epic Irish heroes.

Our guide, Sean Mills, proposed the walk and it fell on our last full day in Ireland. Sean’s father and our host for this visit, John Mills, transported the group including my wife Pam to the starting point at the foot of Slieve Foy.

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On the Tain Way– CLICK ME!!!!

Yes, if there is any part of the Tain Way the the mythic Irish heroes trod it is this one over Slieve Foy mountain. The saga, in Irish “Táin Bó Cúailnge” and “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” in English, features this bull, “Donn Cuailnge” “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, here as a statue erected 2011 by the Grange and District Residents Association.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Donn Cuailnge raged over the very slopes we walked this day. The myths themselves fill a volume and I am unable to do them justice here.

On the way, John stopped at the Old Aghameen School he attended in the late 1930’s early 1940’s 70 years before and we pass through the country soon to grace our views.

Many thanks to the Glenmore Athletic Club, the Cooley Walking Forum and land owners who provide access to the Tain Way.

We had our leave taking with John, who planned to stay near the phone for our call from Carlingford, if all went according to plan. That same year Pam had the first of two total knee replacements. This was our longest hike in Ireland and Pam was not likely to miss it, regardless of any pain. Pam is always ready to smile.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

At start, the Tain Way is broad, green and welcoming.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

The western slopes of Slieve Foy hold views of a valley among the Cooley Mountains with Dundalk Bay of the Irish Sea to the south / southeast. It was not long before the view started to open and, then, opened and opened the entire walk to the top. We were graced with a lovely, cloudy, June day. Mist only, no rain. Plenty of wind, not strong.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Farms are all about. Here a farmer attends to the flock. They know who he is.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford The lower slopes hold many small stream among granite stones. Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

I will continue with our walk on the Tain Way soon enough.

Click for the next chapter of our time on the Tain Way

Here’s a previous Ireland posting……

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Robin Nest Build

An American Robin prepares a home for her offspring.

Our backyard robins returned this year. Pam, remembering the “miss” they made on her roses, tore down the first bits of nest on our carriage light. They persisted and I implored her to “have a heart,” agreeing to look after their mess. Here she is in the second day, note how she shimmies to form the nest bowl.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved, Michael Stephen Wills

Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.

Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.

Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.

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Skelligs from Valentia Island
I was here perched on a cliff of Valentia Island across from Portmagee looking southwest across Valentia Sound.

The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.

We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.

In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.

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Skellig Steps
Climbing the side of Skellig Michael, approach to the peak and monastery.

There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery.  I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds.  There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.

From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea).  Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights.  Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean.  Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other.  Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.

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Monk Cell
Monk Cell, Grave and Cross

This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting.  The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter.  Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry.  The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.

My closing advice is to plan your time wisely.  The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore.  There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves.  There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely.  People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do.  Make your personal safety a priority.

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves

Gulf of Penas

Rounding the Aisen Headland

Entering Penas Gulf
Rounding the Aysen Region headland of the Penas Gulf. Next land will be the Magellian Region extending to Cape Horn. In the Penas Gulf we will enter the Messier Channel and the fjords.

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Taken with a tripod mounted Sony DSLR A 700 DT 18-200 variable lens set to 18 mm.  1/40 second at f4.5 ISO 6400.  The sun was still low, after sunrise with gathering storm clouds from the terrace of our state room (a moving ship).

Our early morning traverse of the Penas Gulf was smooth sailing in route for Tarn Bar, entrance to the Messier Channel. We’ll pass Wager Isle where May 14, 1741 the H.M.S. Wager wrecked, stranding the crew. Speaking to the conditions on board, immediately some of the crew broke into the “Spirit Room, got drunk, armed themselves and began looting, dressing up in officers’ clothes and fighting,” many drowning the next day when the Wager flooded and sank.

The original fronts piece to Byron’s Narrative; “Being an Account of the Shipwreck of The Wager and the Subsequent Adventures of Her Crew.”

The remaining 140 officers and crew manned the boat to make for shore in the Patagonian winter. Five years later, midshipman John Byron, grandfather to the poet Lord Byron, made it back to England with the Captain David Cheap. Just west of Wager Isle is the larger Byron Isle, named in his honor.

On this south heading our cabin on the port side faced east. In these early morning hours, I set up on the stateroom balcony, so for better or worse there is no views of either Wager or Byron Isle.

Entering Messier Channel from the Gulf of Penas is the next blog in this series.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier is the previous blog in this series.

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier

Skirting a dangerous cape of the western pacific ocean

While most of our fellow passengers were sleeping, as usual I woke at 5 am to pull the gear together, dress warmly, step out onto our magic window on the world.  Our decision to request a port side cabin continues to pay off.  The Cape Rapier lighthouse flashes every few seconds.  One of these shots caught the light.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier
Since 1914 the lighthouse on Cape Rapier, Aysen Provence, Chile, has protected ships on the northern approach to the Gulf of Penas.

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Lighthouse Cape Rapier
Before dawn, February 17, 2016, the light protected us on the Oceania Regatta as we rounded Cape Rapier to enter the Gulf of Penas on route of the Messier Channel, the Fjords of Chile and an encounter with the Iceberg Glacier of Fjord Tempanos.

Gulf of Penas is the next blog in this series.

A mini-interview with Michael Wills is the previous blog in this series.

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills

A mini-interview with Michael Wills

This is the first blog in this series.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier is the next blog in this series.

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills

Hag’s Chair or Mass Rock?

Ancient Tradition

Part of our day in County Meath, Ireland  
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Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair.   Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery.  It is the third largest curbstone.

Hag's Chair– CLICK ME!!!!

The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí).   In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.

Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar.   By this it is known as the Mass Rock.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Farmland Southeast of Carlingford

Beauty of the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, Ireland

I offer here a continuation of descriptions of a 2014 walk on the Tain Way, an appreciation of the lore and beauty of Ireland.

Descending the Tain Way from the ridge of Golyin Pass the sweep of Cooley Peninsula spread before us. Louth is the smallest of the Irish Republic counties, a peninsula which is mountainous where it is not farmland, one exception being Carlingford with the most people, population 1,405 in 2016.

Residential Carlingford continues along the Greenore Road, farmland adjoins then continues southeast along the Cooley Peninsula margin, the Irish Sea beyond. Greenore Town and deep water port on upper left.  These photographs are views from the Tain Way on the slopes of Slieve Foye, the highest mountain of County Louth.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port
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Wander through the place names: Chapel Hill, Liberties of Carlingford, Moneymore, Leminageh, Crossalaney, Mullatee, Millgrange, Ramparts, Muchgrange, Ballyamony, Mullabane, Petestown, Ballagane, Willville, Whites Town.
There is a deepwater port on Carlingford Lough adjacent to and part of Greenore Town. The port employed Cousin John Mills years ago, supplementing his farm income. Across the lough is Greenecastle, Newry in Northern Ireland.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port

The Irish Sea opens on the far side of Greenore with the Isle of Man about 52 miles east and a little north.

Visit the opening chapter of our time on the Tain Way
Click link for the next posting of this series, “Leprechaun Rock along the Tain Way”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Last Sunlight

A Waterfall in November

Summertime, reckless souls jump from the stone stairway into a cool water carved pool at the foot of these falls, one of my memories of the Treman Gorge Trail.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved