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 — remembering them on Veterans Day

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

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

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.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

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

References: search wikipedia “Dún Aonghasa.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Yikes

…this defensive structure evokes the enormous scale of the struggles around this place of defense. 

A span of 10,000 years spreads between now and the first possibility of settlement on the island of Eire, then swept clean to bare rock by the weight of ice.  Current scholarship of the Dún Aonghasa ruins place a settlement within the inner of the four dry stone rings after 6,500 years (1,500 BC or 3,500 years ago).  By way of scale, the first settlement took 30 times the duration of the U.S. Constitution ratification through 2019 and 16 times from 1,500 BC until 2019 ( 6,500 / 219 = ~30 ; 3,500 / 219 = ~16.  The last state, Rhode Island, ratified the Constitution 1789).

By 700 BC, 2,700 years ago, a series of upright, closely placed stones, were erected between the second and third rings called a cheval de fries field (“Frisian horses” in English) today, this defensive structure evokes the enormous scale of the struggles around this place of defense.  

This is a portion of that field, I believe, taken as Pam and I approach the inner ring entrance, walking a wide path cleared of barriers.  Click the photograph for a larger image with caption.

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 for “Dún Aonghasa” and Google “cheval de fries definition” and “Dún Aonghasa.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Arrival

Touchdown at the Iron Age fort.

A plus of our carriage rental was the round-trip fare.  Upon arrival, our driver waited for us with no time restrictions.  

At the foot of the hill-top ruin was a pleasant gravel paved courtyard with low slung, metal roofed venues.  The cafe serving local fare and shops of local handcrafts.  

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

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, shopped for presents, and began our approach to Dun Aonghus, a half mile of gentle incline on a well maintained foot path.

This is the plaque on the fort entrance.

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

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved