Modern Drystone, Dún Aonghasa

a season of wildflowers across a karsk landscape

Modern stonework borders the 1/2 mile path to the inner Dún Aonghasa walls, keeping tourists off delicate plants, maintaining the integrity of this ancient site. 

The view north, northwest over the walled path to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) looking across karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

Click the photograph for a larger view.

Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

References: search wikipedia “Dún Aonghasa.”

Stiffed

The bicycle rental place got the short end…unfortunately.

Admittedly, I over-planned the Ireland trip.  For every day possible the venues were pre-booked and paid.  In theory planning provides more flexibility when life interrupts.

For the Inishmore planning, a perfect day, for me, was tooling around on a bicycle stopping where we pleased with welcome exercise in between.  That was unrealistic, the day worked out otherwise. 

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands

Upon disembarking from Queen of Aran, our ferry out of Doolin, onto the Kilronan quay we walked toward the bicycle rental and Pam refused to bicycle. Her objections were many, safety, impending rain, time. She did have a point about time, the ferry leaves at a set time leaving errant tourists to fend for themselves. We were unused to cycling, still Dun Aonghasa is just over 5 miles from Kilronan, less than an hour round trip. With our starting time of 11:30 am there was 3.5 hours slack for returning to the quay before the 4 pm departure. Plenty of time for wandering the ruins and stopping along the way.

We followed Pam’s advice. Still there were the many bicyclists. Perched on our horse drawn carriage, on the uphill runs, each bicyclist we passed was proof positive to Pam of the wisdom of our choice. I was silently envious of their freedom and overlooked the many mini-buses on the narrow road.

When the day comes to mind, not often, I am left with the guilty feeling of not stopping into the bicycle rental office to cancel the reservation. An email was waiting for me the next day, asking where we were. Thus, the title of this post, “Stiffed.”

Pam’s Response to this post.

Pam’s reasons for not wanting to ride a bicycle around Inishmore:
“I hadn’t been on a bike for approximately 20 years.  However, if it wasn’t going to rain (it did), if the narrow road was larger, if there weren’t any minibuses loaded to the gills or horse traps sharing the same single lane, I would have considered it.  Sitting back and enjoying the beautiful view on our private horse trap and listening to our very knowledgeable tour guide/driver was the highlight of this adventure for me. I am sorry you felt like you didn’t have a choice.”

Pam’s correction of my statement about her being concerned about time:
“Time wasn’t a factor in my decision making.  I also didn’t have a problem with you biking but there was no way I was going to do that.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

What is a rock? What is a stone?

Daisies are a plus

Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore , the largest Aran Island in Galway bay, we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement. It was from Kilronan we disembarked from the ferry, hired the driver and trap. Our destination an Iron Age fort, Dun Aengus, and sights along the way.

Dry Stone walls abound throughout Ireland.  Ancient walls, buried in peat, were discovered in County Mayo and dated to 3,800 BC.  This is a field wall on Cottage Road with daisies growing at the wall base.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands

Roadside Daisies against dry rock wall on Cottage Road, Inishmor

The wall is composed of stones, not rocks. I have read in places a stone is a rock put to use or shaped by human hands. Other usages have rock and stone used interchangeably. For example, an internet search on “Dry Rock Wall” will return hits on the same. “You pays your money and takes your choice.”

Sources for this post: search Wikipedia for “Dry Stone”.

Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

End of the Beginning

Exploring Arizona in my Fifth Decade of Life

….continued from the chapter “A Rocky End to a Perfect Day.”

The Searcher arrived after breakfast. My camp was bundled up to join the rest of The Searchers equipment and supplies on Colorado’s panniers that replaced the saddle where I sat, and was dumped from, yesterday. This fifth morning of the adventure, I was to have the experience of a light pack for the 4.7 mile trail from Pine Creek to Campaign Creek, past the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance.

First, there was the climb to the edge of Pine Creek canyon where we, for the last time, enjoyed the view to the north of the Arizona Trail and, in the distance, the Four Peaks Wilderness.

North from Reavis Gap

At Reavis Gap we took a rest before the 1500 descent to Campaign Creek on a trail rated as so difficult backpackers go miles out of the way to access Reavis Ranch.

I split an energy bar and took a swig of water before setting up the tripod to capture the following view of our path. The ridge, hazy in the distance of 22 miles, is Apache Peaks, the near descending ridges an improbable green after a wet winter. In the previous photograph, “North from Reavis Gap” you can clearly see the transition from the desert to a grassland biome as the elevation increases.

Generations

On this, the southern shoulder of Two Bar Mountain, we enjoyed desert grasslands almost the entire length, starting with this unlikely oat field. The higher, eastern Superstitions are the western and northern-most Sky Island of Southern Arizona: rising from the desert as isolated mountain systems, catchments for passing storms, with life zones progressing with altitude, the highest typical of Canada. As with oceanic islands, each is a haven for life with potential for evolution of unique species from the isolating effect of the surrounding desert.

These oats are domesticated grain spilled from a horse or donkey pack to thrive in the decades since, sprouting into this spread of light green after a wet winter, ripening, then turning gold with the summer, the grains falling to wait for the next opportunity. This green hue is my first impression of Reavis Gap, see my post “Two Meetings” for a video of the morning breezes rippling along the hillside.

The camera sweeps 180 degrees for all the views from this spot, including prickly pear cactus among the grasses, a butte-like formation to the west, as in the following photograph.

Upper Horrell, the end of the beginning.

We passed the length of the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance, the Reavis Gap trail is 100 feet or so higher on the north side. The name “Upper Horrell” is attached to this location. Reavis Gap trail used to start at a ranch house, part of the “Upper Horrell Ranch.” Horrell is the family name of the former owners.

Upper Horrell is a fortunate location for the school, with the perennial Campaign Creek flowing parallel to their 13 acres on which is a large garden, many fruit trees, livestock and poultry. The school provides lodging and classes throughout the year.

The Searcher initiated his time in the Superstitions with wilderness survival classes and they allowed him to park is horse trailer and pickup outside the gates. We were loaded and out of there with a stop at Roosevelt, population 28, where we were the only customers for mesquite grilled hamburgers and french fries. We talked about the potential for future trips and I took him up on an offer to store my stuff until then. In the following years I did more Superstition Wilderness day trips, backpack expeditions, some with my sister Diane, and one horse expedition with The Searcher and a friend.

Here is a gallery of this post’s photographs, for you to flip through.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Headed Up Cottage Road, Inishmore

View from a horse trap on the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, Ireland

Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement.  It was there we embarked from the ferry, hired the driver, his horse drawn trap.  Our destination an iron age fort, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, the Irish language name) and the sights along the way. 

Headed up Cottage Road, I captured this view of dry stone walls and homes against the May sky over the shoulder of our horse.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Headed up Cottage Road

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Horse Trap on Inishmore

Travel at its best

Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
View from Horse Drawn Trap on Cottage Road headed into Kilronan

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Galway Bay View from Dún Aonghasa

a season of wildflowers across a karsk landscape

Another aspect of the gradual 1/2 mile inclined path to the central ring of the prehistoric Dun Aonghasa ruins of County Galway, Ireland.

The view north, northwest from this way to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus).  In early June, looking across wildflowers, karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. 

Note the doorway (with long lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.

Click the photograph for a larger view.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

References: search wikipedia “Dún Aonghasa.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Two Meetings

First view of Pine Creek

Continued from the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”

Imagine a bowl with steep sides, rough and sharp in places.

Look along the bottom and see a silver stream, sparkling and singing through rocks.

A figure is clinging to the upper side, almost to the rim.

The figure is me in the setting of my blog, “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. Here is my view from that spot.

View from the rim of Nameless Canyon

Hiking along this bowl rim I came to a clearing in the juniper and Manzanita bushes, with a fire ring and pile of roughly broken wood with outstanding views on all sides. This tradition of leaving wood is a welcome intrusion of human kindness and sympathy in this wilderness. We gather wood for total strangers, people we will never meet, to potentially save them in a rainy, cold darkness.

At noon Pine Creek was two miles ahead as I looked into a steep descent, a wide canyon and open range of low oaks, almost shrubs, and small juniper trees. Later, well along the trail, I stepped over Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of trees, yellow flowers and continued toward Reavis Gap and Pine Creek on Oregon Ed’s recommendation.

Even a blind man could find water there this year,” Ed claimed.

Ed’s van was parked at the Superstition Wilderness Tule trailhead when my sister dropped me off the morning before. She noted the van thickly coated with dust over grey primer with an Oregon license plate and changed her plan to accompany me the first mile or so for fear the van’s owner was lurking inside.
It was just as well Diane stayed behind because I met Ed two miles up the trail that first day. From the start, Ed was too outgoing and his pack more empty than light. He chatted me up on how “blue my shirt was”, seen from above, about his trips from Oregon to Arizona a few times a year, about his claim to be returning from a five day round trip to Tortilla Flats.

Ed’s good news about how the usual springs were flowing was welcome. Then, Ed expected me to give him some water for this information. This expectation of his was irrational, given his reports of good water sources. Plus, Ed was only a few miles from his van showed no physical signs of needing water.
I was to discover, a few hours in the direction he claimed to have walked, a flowing stream.

Ed’s attitude changed upon his spotting my .45 in a tactical holster strapped to my leg. Thirty seconds later he was heading down the trail. I had no water to spare and was relieved I didn’t need to escort Diane back to her car. Maybe Ed was an anti-gun advocate, but my conclusion was he had some lurking to do, back at the van.

While planning this trip I imagined “Reavis Gap” to be a narrow trail between towering peaks. While walking under the water heavy pack I elaborated on this expectation, but coming on the gap I walked through and into the reality of this photograph, taken from a point looking over the gap and down into Two Bar trail. This was the site of my first meeting with “The Searcher.”

North from Reavis Gap

“The Gap” itself is a high, narrow ridge over a 7,000 foot high valley with peaks, ridges and the occasional hoodoo. That rock formation in the mid-distance includes a hoodoo. It was this hoodoo that introduced me to the gap, being what I saw first high above in the distance from Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of cottonwood trees and yellow flowers.

Here’s a link to a video I did of a vast field of Wild Oats which covered Reavis Gap that season.

I first saw the “The Searcher” on that high, narrow ridge above Two Bar trail. I guessed he was a mounted park ranger; from the wide brimmed hat he was holding and the loose fitting shirt. From a half mile away his golden brown mount was standing steady, apparently at rest. Walking up that long, moderate grade my feet hurt and the 70+ pound pack, heavy with water, was chafing. Eager to climb the steep ridge ahead, between me and Pine Creek, I passed the signpost marking the juncture of Two Bar and Reavis Ranch trails and headed up that rocky ridge.

The clatter of horse hooves came up behind much sooner than expected. Turning, I came upon the unexpected site of two horses. The mounted stranger was not a park ranger, but a well dressed cowboy on a western saddle, riding a buckskin gelding.

Behind them, on a lead, was a brown and white pinto loaded with panniers.

I was polite and climbed up on the rocks, off the path, to let them by.

Here’s a photograph of these horses, taken a few days later.
“Colorado and Nugget, grazing at Reavis Ranch”

Enjoying the lush grass of the Reavis Ranch apple orchard, Colorado and Nugget graze.

Our chat was brief, but practical and meaningful: where we came from and conditions along the way. The stranger, who I came to call “The Searcher”, inquired about conditions in the very steep bowl behind Two Bar Mountain. He planned to camp overnight and do a Two Bar Mountain daytrip the next day, but would not if the trail was washed out by that spring’s heavy rains.

I replied the trail was obliterated in spots and even though I could pass his horses might not get by. His reply, “If you got up, so can they.” And with that he gave the buckskin a nudge and they were soon out of sight, over the ridge.

Fifteen minutes later this was my view of Pine Creek, a valley of steep sides sloping to a stream of cool water with mountains and sheer cliffs on all sides. Part of The Arizona Trail.

From a vantage point overlooking Reavis Gap tot he north. This is the view of Pine Creek, to the south.

Just before reaching Pine Creek I passed a southeast facing bank sheltering a garden of tufted evening primrose and a member of the crassulaceae family both in flower. The white flower is the primrose and the yellow the crassulaceae. I was so moved by the beauty of this patch, after trekking for seven hours through endless rocks, cactus, juniper and oak, I unloaded my pack and captured this shot. As the name suggests, the flower is an evening bloom that wilts in the day’s heat. That’s why the flower is a bit floppy in this late afternoon photograph.

Note flower b

The crassulaceae is a succulent, similar to a kalanchoe, with tiny flowers composed of tiny yellow balls.

In future chapters you’ll see more of Pine Creek, visit the wilderness apple orchard at Reavis Ranch, learn more about The Searcher and an ancient, circular, rock wall on a peak overlooking Reavis Gap.

Here is a gallery of photographs from this post for you to flip through. Enjoy!!

Click me for the next episode, “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.”
Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Inishmore Slideshow

An Aran Island Revel

Imagine yourselves in an open cart exploring the island. Here are the photographs from my Inishmore exploration posts. Enjoy!!

Thank You Veterans — remember them on Veterans Day

Click for another great Island post, “Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football Champions.”

Island Shrine

part of the Irish landscape

Modern stonework borders the 1/2 mile path to the inner Dún Aonghasa walls, keeping tourists off delicate plants, maintaining the integrity of this ancient site. 

The view north, northwest over the walled path to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) looking across karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.ng lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.

Click the photograph for a larger view.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands

A roadside shrine on Cottage Road, Inishmore. The faith brought by the saints has deep roots here.

A large crucifix set with wet stone walls with cut flowers. The walls are the native limestone.

It is a spring (early June) afternoon and there are fern and wildflowers. The white flowers are Greater Burnet saxifrage (Scientific Name: Pimpinella major).

The existing dry stone wall was interrupted by the shrine. In the distance are dry stone walls around fields, a stone shed, feeding horses and the sea, being Galway Bay, storm clouds with distant rain.

Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

References: search google “Wet Stone”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved