For the past seven days, Beth and I have hiking the Kerry Way in SW Ireland.
Since so much of the trail is on farm land, we’ve had to maneuver around and through gates, stiles and fences. These are meant to keep sheep and cows in, hikers through and dogs (and potentially motorcycles) off the trail.
Stiles are easy. You go up and then down a stile. Some are three steps, others as much as six. Some are sturdy, others wobble with your every move.
At first, Beth were very solicitous of each other. We handed off our poles as one went up, and then the other. But there are too many stiles to keep doing this.
So after a while, Beth might look back to see if I made it. Now she just trucks along and I catch up with her eventually.
Gates are more complicated. I climbed over the first few because I couldn’t figure out how to open them. Each has its own type of latch. You have to lift the gate before you can open it, as the whole thing has sunk into the ground. Several times, I’ve felt trapped before I saw how to open a gate.
Fences are supposed to keep sheep contained but some get out on the road. Then, they panic as hikers pass them. They have a hard time figuring out how to get back in their field. They bleat pitifully and their sheep colleagues answer their call.
The last two days, we’ve walked over passes from one valley to the next. The weather has been cooperative and the trip magical.
We’ve walked 110 miles in seven days, though I’ve seen figures as high as 150. The Kerry Way isn’t documented like the A.T. American hikers might find the lack of step by step directions disconcerting. But you follow the markers, look at your compass, don’t worry about the mileage too much and you get there.
In seven days on the trail, we’ve only met one American – and I say Hi to everyone. There are few hikers, to start with. Most have been Irish or Germans, lots of Germans.
Time to do the laundry, re supply and start the next trail.