Tara sitting beside the campfire. Yep, we had a strong wireless signal in camp!

Tara and I went camping on Sunday for Mother’s Day in Silver Falls State Park. We’ve been camping on Mother’s Day, rain or shine, since the kid was in middle school.

This year it was time to find a new place. Over the years I have had Silver Falls recommended for a hike because of the trails and waterfalls.  This state park is over 9000 acres. It’s enormous. There is only one place to camp: a managed campground with paved roads, landscaping, indoor toilets, showers, several camp hosts and an office where you check in and have your problems addressed. There are 103 single-family sites and 3 group sites. I reserved our space online. It’s not at all the kind of place that T and I typically enjoy. We’re more of the kind to pull over in a wide spot in the road, and lug our stuff through the trees till we find a flat spot beside a creek.

So with initial trepidation, it was a relief and a delight to find it lovely. Full of people, yes, but overall a very acceptable large campground. It’s set up so that we could see a few campsites right next to us, but there are too many trees and strategically-placed bushes to get a sense of how big the place is from the inside. We will certainly come back some time.

I have one complaint. Even while our two vehicles fit perfectly well with lots of space left over on the paved pad at our campsite, there is a strict “extra vehicle” charge. And while others arrived in gigantic trucks and huge RVs that could barely fit, Tara’s teeny tiny Chevy Aveo was banished outside the park – outside the whole park! – or else pay the fee. We feigned not having made a decision yet, so the Ranger let us alone on her first trip through. No one showed up again that night and we celebrated that we had gotten away with a free second car. We assumed that we were so well behaved, and the extra car was so tiny, that they would certainly leave us alone. Nope. First thing in the morning they got us! I paid the fee.

South Fork of Silver Creek was near our campsite.

This covered walking bridge goes over the South Fork of Silver Creek to the cabins you can rent if you didn’t bring your own home for the night.

We found one tent site that allows access to the river so next time we will try to reserve this one.

We had a laid-back evening, exploring the campground a little. There are trails of many lengths that begin from the campground itself, from a one-mile nature trail crossing two small creeks, to a 7.2 mile loop past 10 waterfalls. It was perfect. That evening we walked to a wooden covered bridge over a walking path across the Silver Creek South Fork. We explored nearby campsites to find the best one for next time, and then we went walking on the nature trail.

We roasted sausages by the fire and talked and talked. Man, I love that kid.

We walked this nature trail around the campground.

We both thought these looked like prehistoric dinosaur plants! They are huge, and called American Skunk Cabbage, an invasive species in the UK.

Our plan was to get up early and start hiking first thing in the morning and do the 7.2 mile trail and hit all those waterfalls! We got up nice and early, but the weather had changed in the night, and it was cold. C-c-c-cold. So we moved slowly. I got the last of the sausages frying on my little stove, dropped in four eggs, and when it was close to done, topped up the scramble with some white cheddar. Yum! We made tea and held our cups in our hands to warm them, but it wasn’t enough. We finally got out of there, but it was with creaky, frozen joints.

On the map I saw there was a café! I mean, this place, seriously. So we walked from the campground almost a mile to the place where the café was supposed to be, which was on the way to the falls anyway. There is an adjacent lodge that holds a restaurant and I would have been happy for either, to go indoors, get a hot coffee and thaw out. The sign on the door said “closed Mondays.”

Building that hosts the restaurant and the cafe. Just not on Mondays.

The doors were open and we went in seeking coffee just in case, but they were having a flower show. We took some time to learn the local native flowers, all clearly having been harvested that morning from the forest. It was a great educational idea!

Out on the wide surrounding porch of the place, we sat for a bit because Tara needed to get a rock out of their boot. On inspection, it was not a rock, but a nail, newly erupted through the bottom of the boot. It had pushed up from the sole into the boot and had torn a hole in Tara’s sock. We could not begin a hike like this.

“I’ll be fine,” Tara insisted, not wanting to go back.

“You’ll be sorry, and you’ll be miserable, if you don’t protect your foot before this hike,” I said. Twenty years of hiking knocked all the tough-guy out of me. If there’s something wrong with your boots, it needs to be addressed immediately.

We hiked the mile back to camp. Tara put on two layers of socks and put a moleskin patch where the nail head is pushing up into the shoe. We hiked another mile back to where we had last left off.

We hit the trail in earnest and in about 100 yards we were met with the grandeur of the first jaw-dropping waterfall.

A lookout point above South Falls provides a view to the valley below.

Panoramic View of Tara looking down over the top of South Falls.

As the trail brought us nearer, the falls only became more and more beautiful.

Me

The hiking trail goes behind South Falls.

Standing behind South Falls.

I had my geologist Tara along with me on this hike, which added a fun dimension. Tara pointed out lava rock when I wasn’t expecting it, and of course the ever-present basalt columns that make these astonishing waterfalls possible. Tara also talked about the common rock types in Oregon, because of the millennia of volcanic eruptions, and described their favourite rock type: schist. Tara likes schist because other kinds of rock come together to make a new rock, called schist. I asked if that’s what geologists yell as an exclamation. “Schist!” You’ve heard of Dad Jokes, well, I do Mom jokes.

The next waterfall on the journey was Lower South Falls.

Approaching Lower South Falls.

The trail goes behind Lower South Falls too.

After our slow start due to the cold and the nail in Tara’s shoe, we were out of time and couldn’t make the whole waterfall trip. We will save it for another day. For the return trip, we went uphill and zig zagged up the slopes and returned along the ridgeline for a wholly different kind of look at the forest.

Larkspur grew in the cooler, wetter areas.

We found this big field of Camas up in the drier, warmer parts of the forest.

We then made the trip back to our campground and packed up the tent which had dried out by now. We were no longer freezing, and that made packing up easier. After big smooshy hugs, we said goodbye. Tara left south to go back to their college town of Corvallis, and I left to head north to home in Rainier.

Mom and me enjoying an afternoon by the river, in Hood River, Oregon.

I think Mom has been reaching out to me the last couple days. I keep accidentally stumbling onto memories of her. In the last few days I have found old photos of her, remembered that things in my house (and plants outside) were gifts from her, laughed at the memory of her ferocious opinions about things (all that emotion packed into her tiny Mom body). These things have happened while I wasn’t even thinking about Mom. Then boom, she was right there with me.

Today, a blog post popped up in the sidebar that I probably haven’t read since the day I posted it, in December 2010.  She died a year later, December 2011. It’s a message I clearly needed to hear then, and oh my gosh I needed to hear it today. I wish I still had my Wednesday morning calls with her: my ally in absolutely everything.

I’ll reproduce the post without edits below because the way it touched me is important. Thanks, Mom. I needed you today.

 

NEVER BE CONTENT

 

I just got off the phone with my mother. Our hour-long Wednesday morning phone calls are practically a given. God love her.

No, really, my mom is awesome. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep her happy, but it is so worth it. On this morning’s phone call, for example, she brought to me a perspective that I had not considered, but needed to hear. She said that when her mother taught her never to be content, it was a gift.

A gift!

I have battled, BATTLED, with my inclination not to ever be content. I’ve considered it a curse, not a gift. Never being content has led me through drastically changing career paths, shattering relationship changes, embracing and discarding those I call loved ones and family, moves moves moves through 11 different states for gods sake, poverty and wealth, humiliating recanting of public outcries, mountains of self-doubt…. Of course I could go on. The end result is pain – as change brings a measure of pain in all cases.

Never being content is emotionally devastating with no hope of an end.

And.

It’s also the reason I have traveled, continued my higher education, and raised an incredible child. It’s the reason I have had the opportunity to work through so many relationships, romantic and otherwise. My lack of content inspires my constant searching for knowledge and understanding, and it’s behind my pure love of humanity (tempered mildly by my raging disgust for humanity). My lack of content explains why I am an atheist and why I can’t imagine a world without religion. It explains why I am ravenous for more information about governments and governance while remaining mystified by them.

Without contentment, I am constantly on the lookout for new friends, new jobs, new homes, and new skills. And thus, why I am bombarded with new fabulous information every single extraordinary day of my life.

In fact, not being content turns out to be one of my very favourite things about myself. I LOVE that about me. Go figure. I guess maybe I’ll make peace with that battle, and move on.

Here’s the original post.

Monday morning before sunup I looked out to see that a doe had slept in my yard for the night. I love the idea that they feel safe here, beneath the “Fairy Crossing” sign.

Panoramic view of my pretty yard, with the pond on the left and house on the right.

Another panorama, of just the pond.

Some days it’s just another day. And some days everything happens at once. They say when it rains it pours, but while in early May that rainy idiom is typically applicable in my town of Rainier, Oregon, Monday was unseasonably sunny and warm.

After I took photos of the deer on Monday morning, I put on some boots and clogged out to the chicken house. I saw a pile of red feathers inside the pen and gasped “No!” But it was true. I lost my favourite chicken, Tawny. Ugh. I cannot figure out what’s happening. I thought it was a raccoon, because I’ve known them to attack and kill ducks before. But I had circled the pen and blocked every entrance point big enough for a raccoon. Now I think it’s rats. Rats come into the chicken house all the time to eat their food. Periodically I have to poison them to reduce their population. Before moving here I did not know that so many rats live in the forest. I never had to deal with rats in any city I ever lived in, but out here in the woods, rats are as common as mosquitos. Do rats kill without eating their prey? Why? Why does something keep killing my hens and just leaving their bodies? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I frequently spotted Tawny under the birdfeeder in front of my office window, as she is here last weekend.

There’s my girls on Sunday. Tawny and Jamie, the only two I had left until Monday, because something is killing them.

See that gap under the door into the chicken pen? I thought raccoons were getting in, so I blocked it with large rocks.

I am so sad to lose Tawny. She was my sassiest Hussy, a Rhode Island Red. She was bold and pecked me without reserve, but not maliciously, just to get attention, or to tell me they’re out of food. She would always come running to me when she spotted me, and hovered inches from my legs at all times, and would let me pick her up, or just pet her soft feathers. She’s the one that always broke out of her pen to go directly to my flower beds and begin tearing them up. It would have been more of a problem except that the way to catch her was merely to call “Hey pretty girl!” and she’d come running right to me and I’d scoop her up and take her back to the pen. She laid ginormous dark brown eggs.

Ohh, my girl. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you.

I’m also worried that I won’t be able to protect my Lil’ Hussies when they grow up and move into that pen, until I can solve the mystery of what is killing them. I am so frustrated.

Just as I finished disposing of Tawny’s body, the bee people showed up. It’s time for bees again! I host them on my property every summer and fall, and get paid in honey.

Bees moved this year to a different place on my property so that they get more hours of sunlight.

Foklift moves hives from the truck to the grass.

The new bee colony at the very back of my property.

Ooooh! Look at them all buzzing around and getting their new home in order. Click the image for a larger version and you can see them.

I went back into the house to my office to do some computer work planning for my upcoming trip to New England, and spotted two more visitors. Hello? Were you two invited?

Squirrel discovered the bird seed. I am used to a tiny grey squirrel and a tiny black squirrel I call the Squirrel Ninja. This one is big and has probably been eating the bird seed at someone else’s house too.

And then right before my eyes, the neighbor cat came hurtling into the garden and up the tree, after the hummingbirds. You could film an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom at my house. (Ooops, did I just expose my age again?)

Then it was time to clean all the rat caches out of the chicken house, and block all their nasty holes and entrances. The caches are cubby holes they pack full of stuff they want to keep. This time it was pineapple tops I had thrown in there, straw, chicken food, and naturally, rat poop. Then I fed them poison because I needed to do something for my broken heart.

For good measure, I then grabbed my poisoned worms that had recently arrived in the mail, and baited 20 mole holes, those little bastards.

Moles were tearing up my yard all winter.

And that reminded me to poison fleas. So I grabbed Racecar and dosed her in flea killing oil. Once a month I dab it on the back of her neck to keep the fleas away. She hunts chipmunks and birds and mice so she collects new fleas from her prey. In answer to your question: No, no she does not hunt forest rats.

It makes me shudder to think of all those toxic chemicals I just put into the world on Monday, but I was mad. And also….I haven’t found anything effective that eliminates these pests without toxic chemicals.

Raccoon paw prints on the cat carrier.

Done with my office work I went back outside and spotted another pest. The cat carrier no longer hosts chickens, but was still sitting on the porch because I hadn’t put it away. A raccoon’s paw prints show that a raccoon was on my porch last night, investigating. Grrrrr! Luckily I can’t prove the raccoon is getting my hens, or I’d find a way to poison it too.

I was mad again and a good way to deal with that is to go to work, so I hauled out the weed whacker and filled the tank and checked the string and harnessed myself up and off I went. I went at it for four hours. It definitely helped. By then I was exhausted and my back was killing me.

I took down the tall grass all the way around the pond, and around all the trees on the far side of the pond.

Me getting dirty. I think it’s so hilarious how splattered I get with what I call “weed guts.” Green glop gets sprayed from top to bottom, coating my glasses, sticking in my hair and onto my face. I guess a person can’t expect to be glamorous when she’s working on the farm.

I went to check on the Lil’ Hussies to make sure at least someone in my realm was ok. They were ok.

Babies had a great day and they are doing fine over there beside the horseshoe pit and the apple tree in bloom. But what is that in the distance by the pond?

Great Blue Heron is hunting the frogs in my pond. I’m cool with that. You do you, beautiful bird.

This is one of the rare times I’ve ever had a chance to photograph this bird properly.

Enough for one day!! It was time for dinner and some pomegranate cider. I have to make my salads look amazing to trick myself into eating them, ha ha.

Wish with me that Jamie stays safe now and that the Lil’ Hussies grow up safe and strong and do not ever have to battle rats.

{This one’s for Brian, who asked for it.}

A month ago I lost Phil, one of my Hussies. I went into the chicken house and there she was on the floor, with only a few gouges from either whatever predator killed her, or from the other chickens. I couldn’t tell what had happened. Obviously not something hungry, because no part of her appeared to be eaten. I disposed of her body. I am sad and the death remains a mystery.

Down to two hens, it was time to get new ones. Last year I wanted new hens and waited in the season till hens would be grown up, and went to the feed store to be told, “Good heavens, there are never adult hens left! They are all claimed as chicks!” So this year I knew I needed to be one of the chick-claimers, and to figure out how to make it happen.

I went to the feed store to ask questions and think it through, but accidentally purchased four Ameraucanas. Ooops.

They lay greenish/blueish eggs. I think it will be fun to mix up my light brown and dark brown eggs with the others. I put them in a cat carrier the first two days, because I had no other ideas. Finally I transferred them to a cardboard box. When the weather got nicer, I made a tiny temporary pen outside and let them play in the sun and eat grass during the afternoons, and then caught them all and put them back into the box when it got chilly in the evenings. Most of the time, and on rainy days, they lived on the hearth next to the woodstove so they could keep warm.

Brand new babies thier first night.

Tara came to visit me and the chicks.

I suspect that my cat, Racecar, is both insulted that the chicks are soiling her cat carrier, and wishing she could bite them.

Tara sitting with the babies (and Racecar) outside in the sun. You can see the window screen I used for a top, when there was no one to supervise.

They liked to stand inside their food and water dishes while they used them. Yes, the dishes got filled with grossness very quickly. I cleaned them about three times a day.

Here’s more of a birds eye view of their tiny pen.

Will named them the Lil’ Hussies, which I think is adorable.

Cuties in their tiny temporary pen.

More baby photos.

And more.

And more. Honestly, I tried to pick one and ditch the rest, but they are all SO CUTE.

I’m leaving on vacation soon, and I wanted to get some kind of better setup for the chicks, for when the housesitter (Tara’s dad) comes. Also, after two weeks, the chicks were stinking up the house. Chickens don’t do much more than eat, drink, and poop. And finally, they are growing fast and getting stronger. One day when I reached into the temporary pen outside to grab them and put them back into their cardboard box for the night, one got away from me.

Chickens can’t stand being apart from a chicken who has gone somewhere else because they are just certain that the far away chicken is doing something amazing and they are missing out on amazingness. So they run, fly, shriek and do whatever necessary to get to that other chicken. Such was the case this time. Docile as a group, when they spotted their fuzzy friend two feet away in the grass, outside the pen, they all went crazy and soon there were four fuzzy babies cheeping and fluttering and jumping and scaring each other in circles around the yard. Oh. My. Gosh.

Of course Racecar, who is always nearby because she is such a protective Aunt Cat, (heh heh) wanted to show them how dangerous it was to be out, so she pounced at them! Not on them of course, because I was there and she suspected it would not be approved of. She was right. I gave Racecar my mom voice and said, “Hey!” and she went away. Luckily, the chicks came back to their familiar temporary pen and food and water dish that they recognized, as I thought they would. I caught them all and got them into their box.

Whew! Definitely time for a better plan.

I reviewed images on Pinterest, and found one that I liked. It’s an A-frame, with the nesting area in the top, and yard area in the bottom. It seemed like it could be made small, and light so that it could be mobile, and just might work for chicks. I have very little construction knowledge, but a truckload of confidence and determination, plus a few tools scattered around, so that was enough to get started!

First I went to Home Depot and purchased a pile of lumber in their rejects pile in the back. All kinds of warped and broken boards for 70% off. I did have to buy one sheet of plywood at full price, and I had an employee cut it in half for me (for free!) so I could fit it into the Jeep. Yes, I hauled all the lumber and hardware home in my Jeep, and it only cost me $39. I’m so proud. Then I went to a tractor supply store that also functions as a feed store, and bought poultry mesh (otherwise known as chicken wire).

When I’m used to gossip and fashion magazines in the checkout line, this sight was a welcome change.

I went home and used my hand me down tablesaw for the first time, and borrowed a skill saw, and dug round the shop, and the garage, and the wood shed, and collected things I would need.  I made one more trip to the Rainier hardware store to buy staples for the staple gun. I mean, seriously I do not know what the heck I am doing, and I’m not set up for this. But why should that stop me!!

I began building my A-frame chicken pen. And guess what? I finished it. And it’s cool.

This is about 1/3 of the way through my project. I moved slowly and thought through next steps as I saw what I had in front of me. Totally winging it the whole way through. ha ha!

I built an area for a nesting box, but also installed a board endwise so they could roost on it. Then I installed a ramp so they can climb up. Take a good look now at all this wood and no poop in sight. It’ll be the last time that’s true.

Ok, I think this is good to go. The side is on hinges, so I can access the stuff I need to get to. I moved their familiar box of straw to that platform when the chicks moved in…with a little opening cut into the cardboard box for them to find their way out.

Main problem: the plywood warped. I still don’t know how to fix this problem.

Food installed, water installed. Now all we need is chicks!

I worked on it three different days and finished in the evening, as you see in the photo above by the long shadows that completely shade the lawn. I cannot reach down to the grass from the open door, so once the babies went in, they were going to have to stay in. No more cozy nights beside the fire. Because I am a nice momma, I waited till the next day when it got warm again.

Babies in their new home!

They only took an hour to figure out how the water works. There is a ball inside a tube, and they have to push the ball up with their beaks to get water to drip out.

I had checked the weather forecast in case the worst happened and they did not go up top for the night. It was not going to freeze, but it would be around 40 degrees (5 C) which is much colder than what they’re used to beside the woodstove. Still no idea how to fix the warped plywood, I had thrown an old inflatable mattress over the top which blocked the hole but also trapped the heat from the sun up there. If only the babies would go upstairs for the night. However, I checked on them all day long and for most of the day, only one baby went onto the ramp. As it got darker and colder, a second chick got onto the ramp and began to follow the brave chick up. But they constantly looked down below and the other two chicks were having none of it. They began to settle into the grass for the night. So the two on the ramp jumped down and joined them. “No, babies!!”

I fretted all night, worried that they would freeze to death, or get the chicken flu, or be put out with me.

I went out as soon as I woke up, while it was still cold and foggy and damp, with fingers crossed that they would have found their way to the top, and climbed into their warm box in the night. But no, a tiny huddle of chicks was there on the ground, pressed into a corner of the pen, tiny feathers all fluffed up. It made me sad.

During their second day in the pen, all four of them got comfortable climbing up the ramp to the rafters and roosting. In the three days since, no one has gone all the way back to the cardboard box though, so they don’t have that warm straw to curl up in. I’ve always said chickens are dumb. And, even though I want to forgive these darlings and give them the benefit of the doubt, I admit that baby chickens are dumb too. That evening, as they all began to form their huddle on the grass for the second night, I went out and got them stirred up again and coaxed and coaxed till I got them to climb the ramp. It was chilly in the evening and the wind had picked up, and as soon as they got to the top, they were visibly more comfortable. They stayed up there. Yay!!!

Upstairs/downstairs view of two babies in the grass, two in the rafters. And Racecar, as you see, is never far away.

It’s evening, so will you little ones please stay up here for the night?

I went out to check them the second morning, and they were up and about…pecking food and grass and cheeping vivaciously.

Fields of tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon.

Tulips as soul food, I mean. We didn’t actually eat any of them.

This week started out on a down note. It’s getting a little warmer, but it was raining day after day and even though I did go do some yardwork in the rain, it’s just not inspiring to pull weeds and rake in the rain. Then I lost one of my Hussies on Monday, probably to a raccoon. I found her dead inside the chicken house and had to dispose of her body.

Tara said they would be coming to visit me on their one day off from work. I found out later that they were hoping to cheer me up. Awww. What a good kid.

Tara showed up late Tuesday night, after closing up at work where they live in Corvallis. We hugged and then told each other good night. Wednesday morning the sun came out! Tara requested Mom’s Best Baking Powder Biscuits in the World, and while we ate we decided to go to the tulip farm. I haven’t been there for years. Tara and their friends have tried multiple times in the last couple years, and keep showing up at the farm when it’s past tulip season or too early for tulips. In fact, Tara has already been there this year, but no tulips had bloomed yet.

Tara crouches carefully in a bare patch of dirt to get a close up photo without crushing any of the flowers.

At the top left, you can see a raised platform built for visitors to get a better look at the fields.

This is the view from the raised platform.

I needed the sunshine and bright colours to lighten my mood, and Tara needed to enjoy a rare day off from work and school, to simply play for awhile and not be responsible.

Our timing was good because it’s still within the main dates of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm‘s 35th annual Tulip Festival. Each year the tulips are grown in a different portion of the farm, to ensure soil health. Since Tara had recently visited, they knew exactly where to go to find the tulips this year. In minutes of arrival, we were surrounded by tulips and eating them up.

My camera was hungry for all the colour too, and gulped it up out of proportion. I am a camera novice, so I don’t know what happened, but the colours in some of my photos are so saturated I’m afraid they’re going to start dripping.

So much colour. No editing here….just a lens gulping up colour.

A faded Mt. Hood in the distance behind the Hazelnut trees.

Tara and I had a lot of fun wandering through the fields of tulips and talking. We have a great relationship and even though we just spent a week together in Ireland, we already had lots of things to talk about again. I feel so fortunate to have this great kid who trusts me and shares with me. I asked T to take photos of me in the tulips because I realized in a whole week in Ireland, I had not asked them to take any photos of me. I’m the one always carrying the camera, so I need to remember to ask others to take my picture.

Me, warm enough to take off my sweater. Yay for sun!

Tara said, “Take off your sunglasses!”

Each field demonstrates tulips that are on sale from the farm’s flower catalog. Here is a popular choice for buyers: mixed tulip bulbs in a single bag.

Acres of blooming tulips.

I liked how these were all leaning toward the sun.

There is no picking area that I am aware of at this farm. The company sells bulbs from a catalog. Many people wander the fields in order to choose what to buy from the catalog.

At the back of the fields is an orchard of Hazelnut trees, one of Oregon’s most famous exports. It’s not yet hazelnut season, but the trees offer a nice backdrop to the tulips.

Hazelnut orchard at the back of the farm.

A tractor prepares a field nearby.

We were allowed to stand and look, but not to enter the orchard.

Also at the back of the fields, a lone man sat monitoring a couple of kites flying. He had a grey tiger shaped kite, and a giant purple shark kite. Tara said it looked like an animated character from a children’s movie, I can’t remember which one. I thought it looked ridiculous, and was irritated that I had to crop out an enormous purple cartoon whale shark from my photos.

….but I took one photo of it to show you what I mean.

The animated kite fit with the rest of the place though, which is entirely too corny for my taste. I refused to take any photos of the fake windmill, fake wooden shoe workshops, and all the carnival tents selling elephant ears and cotton candy. The place is set up mostly for kid entertainment, with rides and playgrounds and stuff that has nothing to do with tulips. I did like the game where kids place little rubber duckies into metal troughs and then rapidly pump water from old timey well pumps to flush the duckies to the other end of the trough and race each other. I do recall that when Tara was in middle school, we spent a lot more time in the carnival section though….so I should stop being so judgy.

The view as we headed back to the carnival section to find some food and wine.

One of the photos I took was of a bright red tulip shining her best self in a field of undisciplined yellow tulips bending every which way. I made a meme out of it.

East door of Dublin Castle. St Patrick (In Ireland around 400 AD) on the right faces off with Brian Boru (High king of Ireland until his death in 1014) on the left.

Expressive king.

This post is because I love doors, and because a friend of mine blogs door photos, and she inspires me. Do you have a blogger friend who inspires you to see the world in a new way?

My intrepid offspring, Tara, and I recently returned from a week in Ireland. Each time a door grabbed my attention, it made me think of Manja (and also Norm, the door blog guy). I began a collection of them. Please take a look at these wonderful doors of early spring in Ireland. When I look at these, I can remember the mood and excitement of the moment when I took the photo.

Our first day Tara was sick in bed (drat the luck!!) and I put on all the warm clothes I had (not quite enough) and walked around by myself in the rain at 41 degrees (5 C) and the voices in my head switched back and forth from “Damn it’s cold,” to “Whoah! That’s cool!” I discovered right away some buildings that look almost identical to each other, facing each other across a carpark. One is a library and one is a museum. I went inside the museum for its free admission and heaters.

Door to the National Library of Ireland, which matches…

…the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology door.

Doors inside the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology.

The front door of our Airbnb place in Dublin – 2 George’s Quay – between Starbucks and Offbeat Donut.

Look at this magnificently adorned door in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Over the following week the weather gradually improved. North of Dublin we visited some very very old doorways (albeit no doors) in the Boyne River Valley. I hope you consider that these count:

Entrance to Newgrange, north of Dublin. Built approximately 3200 BC, it’s older than Stonehenge. The oldest doorway I’ve walked through in my life.

Mound of the Hostages at the Hill of Tara has a doorway.

And then we made our way to southern Ireland, where they had more doors!! We were delighted to walk through them when we could.

Entrance to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, glittering in the setting sun. It was behind a gate so this is as close as we got.

At the Muckross Friary in Killarney National Park, a couple more doorways caught my eye. Again, there are no actual doors, but I liked them anyway.

This doorway is the entrance to the cemetery at the Muckross Friary.

Steps lead to a passage through a wall at Muckross Friary.

We parked by this door in the town of Cashel, when we stopped to find a place to eat. I not only love the red colour and the doorknocker, but the knob in the center of the door.

Cashir Castle hosted this sketchy door. Dare you to walk through…

My favourite door of the entire trip. Wood bound in iron, stone, and a guard bird. I thought at first it might be an eagle, but the beak isn’t right. Who is the bird to which we owe our gratitude?

A woman’s place is in the revolution.

We began noticing the painted walls of Cork within an hour of our arrival. Every corner we turned, and every alley we cut through had bold artwork with bold messages.

“End Dublin rule in Cork.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

Dublin was a nice enough city, but Tara and I loved Cork. It has a proud and unapologetic personality. It’s character was a sort of challenge. “Here we are,” the voices said, and we could take it or leave it, but they wouldn’t much care what our opinion was. We liked that.

Cork street art is only one example of that, but it’s a good example. I’m drawn to street art and graffiti anyway, so I was already looking at the walls. It was fun to have these voices revealed to us even on that chilly windy day while there were few people about.

At the end of our Ireland trip (we’re home now) I recalled my graffiti shots and thought I’d do a collection of all the wall art from the trip. When we got home, I reviewed images and was reminded that almost 100% of our graffiti photos came from Cork.

These pieces were some of the first we noticed, and we went over for a closer look.

This one really impressed me.

Close up [photo by Tara McMullen]

Close up [photo by Tara McMullen]

After touring Elizabeth Fort, we made a loop of the outside of the walls of the fort, and found this.

Recognizeable faces.

What? It’s a cat!

We continued our circle around the fort, and Tara stopped to photograph an eye in a triangle. I moved a trash bin and found the rest of it.

Something significant is going on here. [photo by Tara McMullen]

More bones on the wall. I can’t tell if those little fish are shooting backward, or blowing out in advance of their movement.

I’m not sure what the technique is that makes graffiti look like black and white photographs.

Heron flies off into the lights.

We wandered into a city park and found more graffiti that matched the style of the “Dublin” one at the top. Possibly the same political activist.

On the left: “My brother knows Karl Marx. Met him eating mushrooms in the People’s Park.” On the right: “Willkommen. The People’s Republic of Cork.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

Ziggy’s Rock and Blues Bar.

“The Artist Beyond Control.”

A nice message to end with: “Love yourself.” [photo by Tara McMullen]

This collection catches my attention because these are all merely the artworks we haphazardly stumbled across while seeing the other sites. We were not looking for street art, and it was everywhere.

The view beyond the back yard of the Airbnb place in Cashel.

We woke up to storybook fog. Our hosts wished us a wonderful day touring castles. Our first stop was the Rock of Cashel, only 7 minutes from where we spent the night.

On our last full day in Ireland it was time for us to see some castles. We had been seeing ruins of fortifications and towers for days, but the two well-maintained and managed places we decided to see up close were in Cashel and Cahir.

View of the Rock of Cashel as we approached.

The city of Cashel disappears into the fog below us, as we stood at the top.

Wonderful foggy views surrounded us from the Rock of Cashel.

Ubiquitous Celtic Crosses stand clear in the foreground of the misty day.

The cemetery at Cashel is at the base of the fabulous round tower.

A lone sheep sentinel stood bleating in the fog.

The Rock of Cashel is not the name of the structure on top, but the name of the whole prominence, and all the structures on it. The Rock of Cashel, also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, was the seat of the kings of Munster from the 4th century until 1101 when it was presented to the Church in a political move. Structures include Cormac’s Chapel, finished in 1134, the Round Tower, also built in the 12th century, St. Patricks Cathedral, built in the 13th century and used till the 18th century, and The Hall of the Vicars Choral, built in the 15th century. There is also a castle, which was the bishop’s residence.

Our admission fee included a tour of the whole site except the Chapel. We purchased tickets to tour the Chapel as well, which is locked to visitors unless they are attended by a guide. The Chapel shows multiple global influences in its architecture, with the message of unification. A Chapel for worship was meant for all people, in other words. It is remarkable inside and worth the extra Euros.

Tara explores the inside of the Chapel.

This sarcophagus was moved inside because its outside location subjected it to detrimental effects of the weather. One corner was not protected by a roof, and you can see the damage done by rain to the soft limestone.

Roof of the Chapel shows remains of murals.

Much of the stonework inside contained detailed faces that our guide explained were all symbolic of either saints or wicked spirits.

On the tour of the whole site, we began in the Hall of the Choral, and it was explained to us that the Vicars Choral was lavished with luxury. This beautiful building was built for the singers to live and practice their skills in assisting with chanting the cathedral services. They received the best accommodation and food, in hopes of attracting the most talented choral members. Hopes were that God would be most glorified by the most talented choral, and if it became well-known that they had the best choral, Cashel would gain prestige, power, and wealth.

Inside the main common room in the Hall of the Vicars Choral.

In an idea that reminded me of the Muslim belief that it is a sin to create art of living things and therefore presume to copy God’s creation, this tapestry was woven with intentional flaws. It shows that humans are not perfect and cannot mimick God’s creation. Look closely to see a one-legged man whose right leg has a left foot. The boy next to him has a hoof instead of a foot.

There is a small museum in the entrance building. Here different Coats of Arms are displayed.

Here there be dragons!

Standing inside the ruined cathedral, looking to the tower outside.

It was a cold visit, up there on top of the hill where breezes were stiff and it rained the whole time in the fog. We found a small theatre showing a film in German. The theatre was heated. Tara took a seat but I hovered over the radiator through the rest of the German film, and then through the English version that followed. Finally warm and dry again, we went down the hill and found a lovely restaurant to have a hot lunch.

Fortified, we moved on to Cahir. Tara deftly used the navigator software called Copilot they had downloaded a few days previous. We did not have cell service, but were fully functional in areas with Wifi. While we had Wifi, Tara downloaded the Copilot app, and then a map of Ireland. Phone GPS continues to work even when you don’t have cell service. So outside of Wifi access, Tara had a fully functional navigational tool to plot or replot our path, and constantly gave me updates on speed limit and upcoming traffic circles.

Good heavens there are a lot of traffic circles in Ireland! Also – note to the driver in other countries – when you enter a traffic circle in Ireland, you turn LEFT!

Also note: Wifi was available, and free to visitors EVERYWHERE. Every train station, convenience store, point of interest, coffee shop, or gift shop had free wifi. Menus at restaurants had their wifi passwords on them. It was super fast and reliable at all times. We went to the most incredibly remote spot I can imagine finding in Ireland, on the tippy tip of the Dingle Peninsula, and boom – reliable wifi from our host. Um….America? Can we fix our obvious failure in this category?

We drove just 20 minutes to the town of Cahir, and quickly found the carpark for Cahir Castle. There are signs posted at the carpark that list all the movies in which Cahir Castle has made an appearance. One look explained why: it’s picture perfect.

Movie-worthy scene with geese, a swan, and a rook at Cahir Castle.

Our guess at how to approach the castle was incorrect, but serendipitous, as it led us through the grounds in a wide circle behind the castle. It was still raining and foggy, but had warmed up, and we were in good spirits as we walked the grounds and got soaked again.

Walking in the wide lawn behind Cahir Castle.

Cahir Castle from the grounds.

Cahir Castle up close, with a cathedral spire in the background.

We made a big loop and never found an entrance, so we ended up back at the carpark. Luckily for us, this time we noticed the signs for how to pay, as well as a parking security car moving along the other side of the lot. Ooops. I sent Tara on ahead and paid the 2 Euro fee before the security car got there, and ran to catch up. Our entrance into Cahir Castle was free that day because they were in the middle of uploading a software fix, and couldn’t run the computers to take our money. “Enjoy!” the man at the desk told us. We did.

This rook greeted us at the official entrance.

Inside the grounds of Cahir Castle.

Cannon displays inside Cahir Castle.

During the whole trip we had been noticing the attractive flowers and ferns growing from old stone walls.

We had so much fun exploring Cahir Castle, situated on the River Suir. The grounds are huge, and there is so much to see. And then there is more to see, if you keep looking! We found delicious dungeons, and tower overlooks. We followed one spiral staircase up, up, and still up, and kept finding new rooms not previously explored. We found museum displays and mock rooms set up to look like they would have when the castle was lived in.

Cahir Castle is in excellent condition, well cared-for, and very interesting. What luck for us to add this one to our list, when we know practically nothing about Irish castles.

A room in the castle.

Fabulous rack mounted on the wall in one of the castle rooms.

Peering at the city of Cahir through panes of glass.

Looking onto an overlook point from the highest room in the tallest tower.

Tara stands at the overlook and gazes at Cahir and the River Suir.

One museum display had a large and beautiful mock battle of the seige of the castle by Oliver Cromwell in 1650. The lord of the castle surrendered without a shot being fired, despite cannons being at the ready, inside and out. This lack of cannon fire may be responsible in part for the intact walls today.

After hours of happy exploration, we returned to the front desk to ask questions about some arrow slits we had found that fanned open on the outside of the castle, which didn’t make sense to us. If you’ve ever seen arrow slits before, you know that they are tall skinny windows in V-shaped windowsills, to allow the shooter a wide field of view, and ability to shoot from multiple angles while remaining protected. Tara and I found those V-shapes on the outside of the castle walls, which was not intuitive, and seemed like a mistake. The docent explained that these are actually fanned both inside and out, and are partially with a thought to retaking the castle should it ever be captured. I had never heard of that idea! We headed back to the car, still admiring the beautiful place.

River surrounds the castle like a moat. You can see one of the “backward” arrowslits.

Looking toward the front entrance of the Cahir Castle.

The swan posed for me, as though he knew he was helping to create the scene.

The scariest part of my drive was ahead: back into Dublin! Only we were fortunate to be heading to the airport car rental, and that is well outside of the city. We were able to take a circular highway around the outside of Dublin, and thus never had to brave the city itself. Totally unsure of what to expect, we fumbled our way into the parking lot and were treated immediately with calm assurance and tons of help. They took our car, checked it over quickly, asked if we had any problems (we didn’t), then called us a cab. While we waited for the cab, we posted photos to Instagram using – yeah, free Wifi.

That evening we found a nearby restaurant and had our last Guinness in Ireland.

The next morning we had an easy 7am wake up, and got to the airport in plenty of time so we shopped the duty free and bought Ireland mugs and some Slane Whiskey to honor our visit to the Slane distillery. We went through pre-flight customs that allowed us to skip customs when we arrived later that day in Newark. Woo Hoo! Going through US Customs is a pain in the ass and it takes forever. In Ireland it was friendly and quick. By midnight we were home and in our beds in Oregon.

This scene made me laugh because it reminded me of all the traffic circles I had been through recently. There’s a real roundabout in the bottom left of the photo.

Lovely Irish countryside, with a circle in a subdivision, and a quarry too.

Ireland finally dropped so far below me that I realized it was time to say goodbye.

Sunshine streamed in through the windows to remind us that we were in a magical place by the sea.

When we arrived at our Airbnb the night before, we knew immediately that it was perfect for us. That night we reviewed our itinerary and cut out today’s tour of the Jameson distillery in Midleton, the Kindred Spirits Sculpture honoring the Choctaw Nation, that I really wanted to see, and we would also skip Lismore Castle. This was all so that we could spend our day right there instead, exploring the beaches and the rocky outcroppings, and then taking our time to look at the rest of the peninsula. We never wanted to leave, and would have simply booked a second night, but I had already paid for the next night in Cashel, a good 3 1/2 hours away.

Fishing boats visible from our sunroom.

Grizzly, the cat, came in and slept on our bed during the night. Tara and I miss our own kitties so much that it was a very welcome third party on our shared bed.

This is the sign we passed in Ballyferriter while lost the evening before.

On our way in the night before, we had passed a sign saying something about Star Wars, but we were lost so we didn’t slow down to read it. I spent the evening researching what it could be about, and found out that scenes in The Last Jedi were filmed in County Kerry! Since the area is so undeveloped, it was very hard to find a place name, or directions, or much information at all. I finally figured out that one film location was Ceann Sibéal, but my map only pulled up a golf course and a hotel with that name. They were in Ballyferriter, so I knew it was oh, so close. On the outer wall of a small museum in Ballyferriter was a map of our little spot, and finally I found Ceann Sibéal. It was the hill I spotted with what looked like ruins on top of it, but there are no roads to the hill, and it would have been a long walk, after permission from the property owner.

I could swear those are the ruins of some wall on top of Ceann Sibéal there, but my lens was just not powerful enough to pull it close to me. But that place, my friends, is one shooting location for The Last Jedi.

The above photos were taken as we left our Airbnb. We said hi to some sheep with Ceann Sibéal in the background.

We enjoyed a luxuriously lazy morning, watching the sun rise, drinking coffee in the tiny sunroom splashed with light, and watching boats fishing out in the bay. Eventually we emerged and and explored the place.

Have I mentioned that the spot is magical? Like a dream for an 11 year old. Or, for Tara and me, because we haven’t quite grown up yet. The shape of the rocks on the coastline is a series of parallel wedges that poke into the sea. The property owner has built structures in a row, following each of the wedges out to their seamost point. Some structures are guesthouses. We talked with one other guest who showed us his place, which was only big enough to hold a bed. He had to come outside onto his patio to boil water for tea and run a toaster for breakfast. And he had no shower, like ours did. Past his place was a tiny rock-walled garden with a bench, and beyond that a scary bridge from one outcropping of rock to another – just for fun. They both coaxed me onto the bridge with some effort. Beyond the bridge was a little fishing hut.

If you look closely, you can see a series of buildings that go ever farther out along the rock outcropping into the sea.

Super scary bridge that I actually walked across!

Me taking photos from the walled garden on top of one of the rocks.

This is what the water looked like from up there. Ceann Sibéal in the distance.

View from the common room for guests, which has a TV with couches, a small bar, and strong wifi signal.

Fishing hut at the very outermost point.

Next we played down on the beach with the two dogs, Bruno and Dora, who ran around barking loudly for a long time.

Tara with Bruno and Dora on the beach.

Natural arches formed by wave action.

Tara (geology major) was getting some up close images of the rocks.

We revisted the beach multiple times during the morning, and the tide went farther and farther out.

The retreating tides allowed us more beach access, and soon the dogs were bounding up a trail on the opposite side of the beach. So we followed them up another crag of rocks. At the top we found a dilapidated stone and wood hut that delighted us. But then, we found a door ajar at the back of the hut, and pressed through it. Obviously. Before long we were at another fabulous vista point.

Bruno led us along the path to more wonderful sights.

Hut at the top of the hill across the beach.

Great view of Binn Diarmada from that vista point. Every time we see a green field scattered with sheep, we are delighted.

It was finally time to leave and get some food. We tried Ballyferriter first, but nothing was open. The tiny town was darling though, and we stopped and walked around. Sadly the museum was closed, as was the church across the street from it. In Ballyferriter, 75% of the population speaks Irish daily, rather than English. People come here to learn the language, too.

St. Vincent’s Church in Ballyferriter.

We scrapped our plans to drive from Ballyferriter counterclockwise around the peninsula, since we needed to eat first. We went to Dingle and found a bustling town filled with tourists. In our trip so far, two places stood out as the locals’ favourite spots to visit, and those were Galway and Dingle. It seemed to be the case, as most of the obvious tourists looked Irish. Though it was noon, we were specifically craving breakfast, and sat down in the first cafe we found that was still serving breakfast. The food was great, and the place filled with characters.

Luckily, we found this cafe open, and not Feckin’ Banjaxed.

Next Tara wanted to do more gift shopping, and since we were finally in a tourist town again, we had access to shops with the right kind of things for sale. I killed time waiting for Tara by browsing the items as well. I can’t stand shopping in any context, unless it’s for outdoor gear or at a hardware store. But while I waited for T I found a gorgeous cable knit wool sweater for €45 and couldn’t walk away from that price. So I had my souvenier! Finally T was satisfied and we hopped into the car to make the Dingle loop clockwise. But we had used up so much time eating and shopping that now I was beginning to worry about the long drive to Cashel, where we would be staying the night.

Past Ventry, along Slea Head Drive, we came across a small museum that was freshly painted in bright colours and looked very appealing. I was beginning to get into “Go Mode,” worried about time, and drove on past. But Tara helped me remember that we were on vacation and should enjoy the journey. So I turned the car around and went back and we explored this curious museum. It was a very reasonable €5 to get in.The Celtic and Prehistoric Museum is the result of owner Harris Moore’s hobby of collecting prehistoric treasures from all over the world. On TripAdvisor, the owner said, “A considerable fortune and 30 years of blood , sweat, and tears (and joy) have gone into this. Yes, the collection is totally unique, rare, and in my opinion, beautiful.”

Tara and I agreed with him. The museum itself is small but beautiful, with a classy and thoughtful arrangement and lighting. There are objects from the Jurassic, Stone and Bronze Ages, as well as the Celtic and Viking eras.

One of the main showpieces of the museum, for obvious reasons.

I particularly love the carved stone female figures.

The variety of artifacts was impressive.

A collection of Celtic brooches and clasps and belt buckles.

A baby dinosaur skeleton.

More female figures.

The three-headed god is on the right. See how it is left profile, center, and right profile?

We talked to Mr. Moore and he was very personable and welcoming. I could have happily spent another hour there, but I really wanted to get back on the road.

My plans were interrupted once again. This time by beehive huts. There had been several signs advertising beehive huts to tourists, and I don’t know one from another, so I can’t say if any are legit any more than another. From Wikipedia: “A clochán, or beehive hut, is a dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, commonly associated with the south-western Irish seaboard. The precise construction date of most of these structures is unknown with any degree of certainty.” The beehive huts have been constructed since neolithic times, but as recently as the 1950s. That’s why it’s hard to pinpoint an age for a specific site. We had seen evidence of corbelling in Newgrange on our third day in Ireland. That’s when stones are overlapped closer and closer to the center, until a capstone can be placed on top for a ceiling.

We were curious about these ancient structures, and pulled into one of the places, paid €2 to a man who clearly lived there and owned the property, and climbed a very steep hill to see what it was all about. It was the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach). This particular spot had stone huts that had been rebuilt. I would have been disappointed at how fresh these structures were, when I was expecting something old, but gazing around the site it actually looks like the real thing was once here. It seems as though the current huts have been rebuilt by using the materials of the old huts. The bonus was that we got a good quick workout climbing that steep hill to get to them, and we also had a wonderful view of the sea.

Reconstructed “beehive” huts, so-named for their shape, though these had flat tops that don’t bring to mind the beehive shape.

A single hut that we walked inside. It was not sealed, and a bitter cold wind still blew inside, albeit not as stiff as outside. Tara and I guessed that if these were used as homes, they certainly would have been sealed somehow, perhaps with turf in between rocks.

The site looked authentic, which made me happier about spending my money there.

I poked around the old stuff, since that’s what I like best. I have an active imagination and don’t need them to be rebuilt for me in order to be impressed.

From the side of the mountain we had a great view.

Back on the road we finally rounded Slea Head, which I thought would have an access point down to the sea, but it did not. It had a statue of Jesus, rather, which was a traffic hazard, as tourists stopped in the road on the blind corner to take photos of it. We continued in order to find a good place to turn around, and then headed back to Dingle so we could start heading for Cashel in hopes of arriving in daylight. Sadly, we found out later that the place we turned around was Coumeenoole Beach: a fabulous beach with spectacular views. We had no idea at the time, and therefore did not even look around other than for oncoming traffic, much less get out of the car. *sigh*

I haven’t mentioned the road, but on my second day driving in Ireland, today’s driving was a serious challenge and I passed the test! Much of Slea Head Drive is a single lane despite being a two way road. The speed limit was frequently higher than I was comfortable driving. It’s curvy, with a drop off into the sea, or possibly bound between a rock cliff and a rock wall with just enough space to get our little car through. If any traffic is oncoming, I had to quickly dart into someone’s driveway. Very stressful, but WHAT an adventure!

Tara took this photo of Slea Head Drive while I chewed on my lip and kept the car on the road.

We determinedly headed east from Dingle and came across no problems at all. We got lost again, trying to find our Airbnb place once more. (All the hosts say, “just pop our eircode into your GPS!” or “Call if you have a problem!” which is all well and good for people who have cell phone service, but for us, totally worthless advice.) But of course, we found our next beautiful home to stay in, and while it was still light out. Yet another warm and welcoming host in a beautiful and comfortable home at a great price.

Muckross House in Killarney National Park.

We had breakfast at the hotel since it was Sunday, it was early, and NOTHING was going to be moving until 11am. We took a taxi to the airport and rented a car.

We rented a car!!!

You know what that means, of course. It means I had to DRIVE in IRELAND. I had been lulled into a false sense of security by Tara who had volunteered to do all the driving before the trip. But we found out Tara is not old enough to drive a rental car yet. So that meant it was all on me. I was so scared. I mean, really scared. But what can you do? I got into the car and figured it out. Tara navigated while I tried to remember what it was like to drive a manual transmission. Tara gave a helpful yelp anytime I was too close to the edge of the left side of the road.

Our first plan was to go to Killarney National Park, check out the Muckross House and find some trails to hike. There isn’t a town at the park entrance, just a congested area with twisty narrow roads and I was clenching the wheel like my life depended on it. But we found an open space to park. As we walked from the carpark we were met by Patrick. Patrick believed that we were in need of a jaunting car. I had seen this on websites but ignored it. Tara, on the other hand, had done more research on this park than me, and had already determined that to make the best of the time ahead, we should hire a horse and buggy. So we did. Can I confess that I was singing this song to myself in my head the whole time?

Tara made a beeline for the greenhouse, that turned out to be closed to the public.

Tara ran to the shores of the lake because that vast expanse of mowed lawn was irresistible and had to be run across! Then they ran back.

Also, there are some wonderful exposed rocks there that needed a closer inspection by my geologist scholar.

Nancy was not having one of her better days.

Nancy waited impatiently while I snapped a photo of this magnificent rhododendron.

Me under blankets with my trusty camera in the buggy behind Nancy.

Patrick introduced us to Nancy, his horse, who was in a pissy irritable mood the whole time but grudgingly pulled the buggy. We didn’t care. A cranky horse is still a horse pulling a buggy, and it was fun. We walked the garden of the Muckross House, pictured at the top. It’s a beautiful place and beautifully maintained. We didn’t go in because it cost money and time and we wanted to spend our time hiking. Walking the gardens was free, however. Tara ran across the wide wide lawn down to the shores of the lake. Then we hopped back into the carriage where Nancy and Patrick took us to what he called an abandoned abbey surrounded by a graveyard.

On site it was referred to instead as a friary. The Muckross Franciscan Friary was probably founded in 1445 by Donal MacCarthy, a local chieftain. This friary is said to be built around a yew tree inside, which means the tree is 600 years old today. The community here were Observantine Franciscans, so-called because of their rigid observance of rules of diet, clothing, and posession of property. Muckross Friary was said to be in posession of a miraculous statue of the Virgin. The friars were driven out in 1652 by Cromwellians, and the building destroyed. Enough of the ruins survive today to make it a very educational and compelling stop.

Ruins of the Muckross Friary

Graveyard around the friary, and the park beyond, with cyclists.

Interior of the friary and church are still beautiful.

Occasional bursts of sunlight made delicious patterns on the ground, bringing life into the rooms.

The yew tree inside was remarkable.

Next it was time to drive to the trail head and begin a hike. We were both excited to hike near the creek, but we were out of breath because of the elevation gain. Southwestern Ireland has mountains, and we were climbing for real. But we were quickly rewarded by our arrival at a waterfall.

Creek at the trailhead for the Torc Mountain hike.

The trail included these fabulous stone steps for the first half mile.

Torc Waterfall of the Owengarriff River.

Past the waterfall we continued up the mountain and were afforded some great views of the lakes below and the area surrounding us. We walked through forests, which are not as common in Ireland as we are used to in the Pacific Northwest. Finally we continued our loop back down the trail to Muckross Lake. We played at the lake for awhile, enjoying the beauty of it.

View of Muckross Lake and Lough Leane beyond it.

Looking over my head to ferns growing from a tree branch.

Despite the density of the forest, we continued to find views through the trees.

At the shores of Muckross Lake.

Walking back from taking photos at Muckross Lake.

Next we walked the trail that follows the lake back to the carpark where we had miraculously found a parking spot in a tiny carpark for the second time today! The trail was so lovely that we took our time and enjoyed identifying the plants and birds, and then stopping to chat with a pony having lunch.

This pretty pony was only somewhat tolerant of our presence, and soon after this photograph turned its head away from us and stayed that way the whole time.

Life is hard when you’re so beautiful that people want to invade your personal space.

The trail turned into a bike path as we got closer to the back side of the Muckross House gardens, and the lake.

Even in the open area along the lake, we were greeted with gorgeous scenery.

Satisfied with the hike, we got into the car and hit the road again in earnest. We had used up most of our day and because of the extreme rural site of our evening’s Airbnb room, I wanted to get there in the daylight so we would have an easier time finding the place.

We drove out to Dingle, and past it, on to Ballyferriter. And past that. If you looked at a map, you’d see we were heading almost as far west as it is possible to go on the mainland of Ireland. When we began plans for this trip last summer, Tara had said to me: “Cliffs! Cliffs! Cliffs!” and so I made an effort to find a way to get us out to some cliffs. I found an Airbnb room in our price range (which was modest) that was directly ON the cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula. The place was apparently so small we had to share a bed, but it seemed like a good place.

I was getting worn out from the stress of driving, and the sun was going down, but we kept going. We saw scenes like this, and began falling in love:

The clouds lifted a little and showed us fairytale scenes of green hills and white sheep.

Fields divided by hedges and scattered with sheep.

We could see the sea beyond the green slopes.

We passed Inch Beach, where cars drove right out there on the sand, like they do in Oregon.

Crepuscular rays splashed across the sky.

We went north from Ballyferriter and took a wrong turn and took another wrong turn. Each time ending at the seashore and nowhere near anything like the description of our room for the night. It was frustrating. But one stop was very cool, and if we hadn’t got lost we wouldn’t have seen it. At the end of a narrow dirt road was a site named Dunanoir (Dun an Oir in Irish), meaning Fort of the Gold. Its use as a fort may date to the Iron Age (500 BC to 500 AD), but is notable for the events which took place in 1580 AD. A force of Spanish, Italian, and Irish soldiers, supporters of the Desmond Rebellion, landed in Smerwick Harbor in that year and immediately began to build new fortifications here. Before they completed their work, English government forces led by Lord Grey de Wilton, began a three-day seige. On October 10th defenders surrendered, and up to 600 people including men, women, and children, were massacred on the spot. The commanders were spared, but some have written that theirs was the worse fate. It was demanded that they renounce their Catholic faith, and if they did not, their limbs were all broken. The earthen remains of the unfinished bastions are still evident at the spot, and a monument to recognise the event has been erected.

A monument sits at the site of Dunanoir.

We also said hello to the sheep before we got back into the car.

We drove all the way back to Ballyferriter and tried again. Bear right at the golf course, turn left at the handwritten sign, turn right at the next handwritten sign, down a very long, bumpy, very narrow road in which brambles brushed both sides of the car at once. I was panicking that someone in another car would meet us there, and one of us would have to drive backwards for 200 yards. Finally, we came to a spacious parking area in front of a lovely little house. A kind and smiling older man came out to greet us and asked if I was Crystal. Yes! We had found it. The spot was incredible. Our room was a darling tiny attic cottage with lots of glass windows and a tiny sitting room that looked out over the water. We went to sleep that night listening to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing just beneath us.

The stairs lead up to our room.

The view from the garden in front of our room.

 

 

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