Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

Hiking In Wicklow Mountains National Park in Ireland

Hiking In Wicklow Mountains National Park in Ireland

glendalough stream - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

The day following our wild ride around the countryside in and around Glendalough, Bob and I wanted to get up close and personal with nature in the Wicklow Mountains in Wicklow Mountains National Park.   The predawn light nudged me from my sleep around 4 a.m., and excitement snuck into my consciousness as I thought about the hike we would take in the morning.

wicklow mountains national park sign - ireland

After a stop at the Visitor Centre near our inn, Bob and I decided to tackle the Red Trail within Wicklow Mountains National Park.  The Red Trail is called Spinc and the Wicklow Way (“An Spinc” is Irish for pointed hill).  Our planned hike would cover a distance of 11 kilometers not including an extra 3 kilometers or so to get to the head of the trail.

forest beside poulanass waterfall - wicklow mountain national park - ireland

From the Visitor Centre, on a perfectly gorgeous morning, Bob and I crossed the Glenealo River near St. Kevin’s Monastic Retreat and followed a section of the Derrybawn Woodland Trail towards the Upper Lake.  We sauntered along in dappled shade for the first couple of kilometers and scanned the mossy green glens bordering the trail for any signs of wildlife.

shamrocks on ground at wicklow mountains national park - ireland

I was excited to come upon our first patch of shamrocks, the plant associated with the good luck of the Irish.

poulanass waterfall - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Initially, the trail followed the course of a stream that had numerous plunge pools.  The constant sound of splashing water was music to my ears.  There in the cool hollows of the forest, we thankfully were protected from the increasing intensity of the sun.

poulanass waterfall's pools - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

The trail climbed steeply up along Poulanass Waterfall, and led us through the scenic Glendalough oak woodlands.  The name Poulanass is taken from the Irish “Poll an Eas” which means “hole of the waterfall”.  As we began the steep climb, the cool air stirred and gently washed over our damp skin giving us a refreshing boost.

jean sits near poulanass waterfalls trail - wicklow mountians national park - ireland

At stream’s edge, many moss-covered boulders invited us to stop and stay awhile, while the stream bottom was strewn with water-worn rocks that tempted us to explore the flowing waters.

red squirrel - wicklow mountains - ireland

After a brief rest, it was time to undertake what would be the most challenging part of  the climb.  Before we got very far, Bob and I were surprised to spot a Red Squirrel.  At the Visitor Centre, a winsome Irishman named Kevin had chatted with us about the rarity of the Red Squirrels in Ireland and how they are endangered, so we had never expected to see one.

wooden walkway through forest - Poulanass trail - wicklow mountians national park - ireland

We continued on our way, never anticipating such a marvelously constructed series of steps to assist hikers to the top of the plateau.  More than 600 of them were creatively designed to facilitate walking when the conditions are wet and slippery.

jean climbs the 600 steps to spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

A thin veneer of micro-sized chicken wire was secured to the wooden steps by thousands of large, rounded staples.  The staples had been pounded only half way into the wood so that their rounded projections afforded even further grip.  I was surprised that the surface didn’t affect the comfort of our walking, and  I thought, “how ingenious!”

jean heads up the 600 steps to The Spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Our stamina was really starting to be put to the test.  The temperature was mounting, and our legs were really feeling the strain.

upper and lower lakes - glendalough - wicklow - ireland

The shaded trail ascended through evergreen forests and then suddenly broke out into a spacious lookout point.  A spectacular view of the Lower Lake and Glendalough Valley was the reward for such a grueling climb, and yet the trail was well-populated with hikers of all ages.

mountain side - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

From the lookout, the trail skirts the top of the cliffs, and all along that 1.7-kilometer section, a boardwalk has been provided to help minimize the impact of all the foot traffic on the vegetation .  It also made our passage easier, for rather than being concerned about our footing, we could concentrate on the panoramic views.

upper lake - glendalough - wicklow - ireland

Bob and I were totally exposed to the elements, and the sun was blistering hot, so we didn’t mind the blustery thermal winds rising up the cliffs and sweeping over us.  It was nice to have an overview of the Glenealo Valley where the waters of Upper and Lower Lakes shimmered in the sunlight.  bob sits along the spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Around noon, Bob and I found a lovely little promontory for our picnic lunch, and from that perch, we observed the myriad hikers passing by on their way to the Glenealo Valley Trail.  That trail descends into the valley and eventually circles back to the ruins of a Miners’ Village on the far side of the river.

jean takes a break along the Spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

We couldn’t think of a more perfect spot to have our lunch.  The brisk breeze helped to dry our sweat-soaked clothing while we munched tasty sandwiches, and then we were ready to turn off in the direction of Lugduff Mountain.

miner's road - upper lake - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Bob and I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on the trail heading down into the valley.  We learned from a fellow hiker that we had missed a red directional waymarker,  so we would have to retrace our steps for a short distance.  Bob and I were so absorbed in the view of the ruins far below, that we weren’t too concerned about walking a few extra steps.

miners village ruins - glendalough - wicklow mountains - ireland

It was nice to have a bird’s-eye view of the historic village because we planned to visit it the following day.

jean sits beside miners village ruins - glendalough - wicklow - ireland

The next morning was, yet again, an unseasonably hot day, for our inspection of the miners’ village.  We investigated the remains of a number of buildings that sat amongst a boulder-strewn area.

stone window - miners village ruins - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

We tried to get some sense of the life the miners and their families would have endured in such a remote, rather austere location.

view of lugduff mountain from miners village ruins - glendalough - wicklow - ireland

The village had, however, been strategically located next to the brisk Glenealo River so the residents had easy access to an abundant supply of fresh, clean water.  In the distance is the mountain we will climb on the present hike.

jean views mullacor mountain from the spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

As we trod along, Bob and I had a great view of the distant Mullacor Mountain that sits at a height of 665 meters.

people climb up to prezen rock - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Ahead of us on the trail, a number of hikers could be seen at another lookout.  As we trudged along the heath, dry, crispy vegetation reminded us of the harsh conditions at that elevation.  Our eye was on the goal of the next look-off.

lookout - the spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

We lingered a short while there, enjoying the view,

jean stands above upper lake - glendalough - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

but then thought we had better pick up the pace and put some distance behind us.  Bob and I had a long way to go before Glendalough would be back in our sights.

upper lake - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

The rugged cliffs facing us on the other side of the river valley looked quite desolate and barren, but we soon saw with our binoculars that hikers were over there exploring the cliffs just as we were.

Climbing up Lugduff Mountain - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

It was necessary for Bob and me to cut across the open stretch of the mountaintop plateau in order to reconnect with the Red Trail.  Another group of hikers preceded us but were soon out of sight.

jean takes timeout climbing up to prezen rock - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Our observations of the surrounding area became more intense because we were hoping to catch sight of some of the wild goats or deer that live there.  Their scat was everywhere in the wet peat at trail side.

bob points out a deer in meadow - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Guided by only the sparse remains of a wooden fence, Bob and I found our way up and over the mountaintop and continued on our way for another 2.5 kilometers.

wild deer - along the spinc hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

As is often the case, Bob saw the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) before I did.  It wasn’t the hoped-for stag, but we were thrilled nonetheless.

wild deer - along spinc hiking trail gives us a look - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Red Deer are native to Ireland and are usually found in mountain and moorland areas.

wild deer - on wicklow way hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

The deer was foraging amongst the sedges and shrubs before it eventually took notice of Bob and me and disappeared below the ridgeline.

jean climbs to top of mullacor mountain - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

It was easy to identify the junction of the Red Trail because a number of hikers came into sight as we crested the plateau.

jean climbs final steps to top of mullacor mountain - wicklow - ireland

They were a cheerful, chatty group, being led by a local guide, so we walked alongside for some distance.

view of glendalough from prezen rock - wicklow mountains national park - ireland

Our energy was fading as Bob and I continued towards the backside of the plateau where the trail would join another known as Wicklow Way.  We could see that the landscape was changing and could hardly wait to be in amongst the thick forest of trees; some shade would give us a break from the brutal heat.  Some of the open areas along the way were put into use for pasturing sheep.

logging road along the wicklow way hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

It was a sad moment when, at the junction with Wicklow Way, we saw that the trail deteriorated into simply a logging road bordered on both sides with heaps of logs and damaged trees.

logged forest along the wicklow way hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

In comparison, it seemed to us that the protected forest of Wicklow Mountain National Park encompassed a very small area.

piles of cut trees - wicklow mountains - ireland

For way too many kilometers, we were held hostage in the exposed and unattractive surroundings.  We tried to keep cool by hopscotching from one patch of shade to the next.

logging sign along the wicklow way - wicklow mountains - ireland

logging equipment along the wicklow way hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

As luck would have it, we were hiking on a Sunday, so work was at a standstill.  Otherwise, that section of the Wicklow Way would have been downright offensive and risky, not to mention noisy.

logging piles along the wicklow way hiking trail - wicklow mountains - ireland

Bob and I were so discouraged and exhausted that we opted for a shortcut back to the Upper Lake rather than seeing it through to the end connection with the Derrybawn Woodland Trail.  The shortcut still followed the logging road but emerged adjacent to Poulanass Waterfalls.  That is when we realized what a very narrow swath of trees separates the hiking trails of the National Park from the logging road.

forest near poulanass waterfall - wicklow mountain national park - ireland

The welcoming shade, once again, of the forest canopy was in stark contrast to the sun-baked exposure of the logging road, but we had only to peak through the trees to see it.  The 4-hour hike had turned into a 6-hour odyssey because Bob and I dallied in talking to people and took frequent rest stops.  Despite the back end of the trail, we had thoroughly enjoyed the outing, the day and the test of our stamina and determination.

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