We knew we wanted to go on a hike in Connemara but we didn’t have any idea as to where exactly in Connemara we needed to go to do that. So we did what every reasonable person does in this situation, we google mapped Connemara and headed to the first point that was labeled visitor center. At the very least, we figured we’d find some pamphlets that would tell where we should actually be. We had the exact same routine as the morning before and got an early start. My time in the car was split between napping, checking the map, watching for sheep and watching the weather. We had yet to actually get caught in the rain and it felt like we were kind of due for it, given this was Ireland in spring, after all (Ok, so technically you could say were caught in the rain in Dublin but I saw that less as getting “caught” and more as getting “herded”…the rain just helped us pick a restaurant that’s all.) The sun never really came out and it was looking pretty bleak but right as drove up to visitor center parking lot it seemed to clear out a little bit.
Turns out our early start was the exact perfect time to get going on a Sunday because we quickly realized that exactly as we pulled into the parking the visitor center was officially open. I’d also like to take a moment to be thankful for the sheep in the road who slowed us down the exact right amount. We found our way to the front desk at the visitor center and flipped through pamphlets while a group ahead of us asked some questions of the woman at the info desk. This allowed me to witness the woman’s first ever experience dealing with drones in the park. The following conversation happened right in front of me…imagine it all in an Irish accent:
Question Asker: Do you allow drones here?
Info Woman: What?
QA: Drones? Do you allow drones here?
QA: Drones…? You know? Drones?
IW: What are you talking about? I don’t know what you’re saying.
QA: You know the flying things, do you allow them here?
IW: …they just…fly?
QA: I attach a camera to it…so it can take pictures and video. You know, drones.
IW: I…I don’t care.
I feel like I witnessed an important moment in this woman’s life. I saw the exact moment she went from being a person who kept hikers informed about where they could/should go to being a person who needs keep up date on the National Parks drone rules. I like to think, as she deals with the drone question these days, she thinks back to this moment wistfully and feels nostalgic about not caring and not knowing.
When the drone situation finally wrapped up Dad and I stuffed all the pamphlets back in the right spot and stepped right up to the front desk. This woman was a treat. We told her we were there because we wanted to hike but didn’t know anything and needed to know where we could/should go. She said, “Well, there’s a shorter trail, it should take about an hour, that loops around the grounds. There’s the longer trail that should take about two hours, it goes about halfway up and then comes back down. Then there’s the trail that goes all the way up to the top and loops back down, it’ll take three and half to four hours. Today it is really windy, about 25 Km an hour…some would say that’s too much.” Well…Dad and I heard that challenge at the end of her sentence, we’re from the midwest, we pick up on these things, and couldn’t possibly say no. So we thanked her and went on our merry way, saying the whole time that if the wind was really that bad there was always the option to veer off when the medium length route did. I think we both knew that we were going all the way to the top, though.
We both brought rain jackets but if a real storm and come along we wouldn’t have been able to make it all the way to the top so we were hoping to not have to use them. As we got further and further up the trail it became very obvious that the wind was going to be more of a problem than the rain. It did mist a teeny tiny bit on the way up but we hardly noticed as we were fighting the wind. Honestly, the hike may be a super easy hike but there is something kind of intense about carefully watching each step as you go up a hill to make sure your foot doesn’t get blown out from under you. We took a few breaks when we found ourselves sheltered from the wind. For the most part we stuck close to the hill and on the trail. There was one overlook a little more than halfway up that I couldn’t resist going out on. I’ve had some great ideas in my time…this was not one of them. Nothing bad happened so I feel ok about it now but as soon as I got to the edge my footing felt so much more precarious. After that experience I felt kind of like the rest of the hike was going to be ok. When we finally got to the top we took a few pictures and hunkered down to eat some slightly stale cookies from the gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher. Getting to the top of that hill was one of the most satisfying hikes I’ve ever had. It may have been the info ladies challenge (ie legitimate warning about the wind) or the fight with the wind itself…either way I’m pretty darn proud of the hike we did in Connemara National Park.