“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord:
His going forth is prepared as the morning”
(a stand of beautiful ash trees, Glendalough in the Wicklow National Park / County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
“Walk up to the monastery, take a little look around then head left past the church, going on up to the trail head…take the first right…this will lead you to the boardwalk.
The boardwalk will take you to the upper lake where you’ll be greeted with quite the view—it’ll be about a 20 minute easy walk up then 20 minutes back…”
“Will you be coming with us?”
“No, no, I’ll be right here waiting on you when you get back…
Now off you go…”
Meandering through the tiny pig trails which crisscross through the overgrown knee high grass and brambles, all of which offer any casual observer a sense that a fuzzy patchwork blanket had recently been spread across the land, a seemingly long forgotten cemetery sits frozen in time. This once sacred site, littered with ancient and not so ancient graves, beckon to both pilgrim and tourist to come lose oneself in the mystery of time.
(graves litter the ground of St Kevin’s monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)
Stones worn by rain and time now stand as lonely sentinels to what once was. Many are in disrepair, dangerously listing to either left or right and terribly skewed off balance.
Despite the overcast skies, the honey bees busily buzz around the flowering and ripening blackberries reminding all that life indeed continues even amongst the departed.
(rippening blackberries / Julie Cook / 2015)
After wandering through the long lost stone remnants of the 6th century celtic monastery founded by St Cóemgen or better known to the Anglican speaker as St. Kevin, we made our way to the trail head which, after a short jaunt by the lower lake, would take us gently upward for a spectacular view of the two lakes for which Glendalough is so named.
Walking past the lower lake we are greeted by the serene sight of deer grazing on the opposite side of the lake…and something even more amazing…
a joyous and peaceful silence.
Blessed beautiful peaceful silence.
No planes, no cars, no motorcycles—just the wind rustling through the leaves and the sounds of birds chattering overhead.
(a group of fallow deer grazing / Glendalough / Julie Cook /2015)
Continuing on our way we come upon a fork in the trail. Stopping at a sign which points right for a 1.6 km hike upward along the lower lake or straight for a 1.4 km hike upward through a lush canopied forest…we ponder our choice.
Rationalizing our limited time and desire to see as much as possible, we opt for the best of both worlds…it made perfect sense, or so it seemed–we’d take the path leading into the forest, straight up for the journey upward and hit the boardwalk tail for the decent downward.
A no brainer.
As we began our upward journey, we soon noticed that the terrain was changing. No longer was the walking trail smooth–it was now narrowing and littered with meandering roots and stones. Stumbling a bit and tripping over the roots, we pressed onward.
“I’m not dressed for this. . .” one in our party grouses.
(the beginning of an upward journey / Julie Cook / 2015)
Up and up we wander, suddenly realizing that we’re very much alone, as in the other hikers and tourists seem to be now long gone or have mysteriously disappeared. It’s just the three of us and a vast forest reaching ever upward.
“Isn’t it odd that nobody else is around…?”
“What time is it?”
“Well past the 20 minutes it was suppose to take us to the top”
Now huffing and puffing it appears as if the trail has begun to switchback rather sharply indicating we were heading up quite the mountain trail… oddly we had noticed a sign a bit of a ways back pointing to what must be an abandoned mine…
“Lead mine this way”
“Where’s the lake???” we simultaneously ask
“Where’s the view??
“What’s a lead mine?”
“Where they mine lead, duh”
“Way up here?!”
“I wish I’d brought my bottle of water.”
“It’s well past 20 minutes.”
“Reckon we ought to keep going?”
“He’s going to kill us if we don’t find the lake!”
“Who cares, I’m tired and I don’t have on the right kind of shoes for this.”
“Is that rain I feel?”
“I need to go to the bathroom”
“I think you can pick a tree for that”
“Did anyone bring a Kleenex?”
“I just thought this was a quick little stop to see a lake!”
Ya’ll stay here and I’ll go on up to the next turn to see if there’s any sort of clearing, lake or view. I’ll holler for ya’ll to come on up if I see something, otherwise I’ll come back and we’ll just go back down the way we came.
“Deal” the other two offer in unison as the relief of a brief respite is lost on no one.
Heading up the now very narrow tail, all I can see is switchback after switchback with trees still looming overhead. Certainly nowhere near the top and with nary a view in sight.
Part of me longed to keep going, straight to the top, proper shoes or not, as I’ve lived long enough to know of the sorts of rewards that await those who persevere upward…
yet my two traveling companions were having none of it and were more than ready to head downward…after all this was just our first day on this amazing journey and we’d certainly not built up any sort of traveling stamina just quite yet…and anyway, lunchtime seemed to be calling.
Slowly we began our decent while little by little the trail opened up.
Tiny waterfalls trickled down the hills as lush vegetation greeted us each step of the way
(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)
(Irish clover / Julie Cook / 2015)
Catching a view of the lower lake only added an exclamation point to the moniker “the Emerald Isle, as a delightful peace descended over three weary souls…
(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)
Finally back down to the part of the trail that thankfully looked familiar, we glance the now infamous boardwalk to our left.
“Guess we should have just taken the boardwalk in the first place huh?”
” Oh I don’t know…I think what we’ve seen has been pretty darn great!”
“And doesn’t the air just feel so good? So much cooler and better than home…!”
Finally catching a familiar glimpse of St Kevin’s tower, we breathe a gentle sigh of relief as we can rest knowing the safety of the parking area and our van is happily close at hand.
“I guess we need to confess we missed the boardwalk and the lake…”
“Reckon he’s going to be worried, it’s been like what, two hours since we left…?”
(the remains of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)
“Oh I don’t know, maybe that’s the point…just to let go and to lose ourselves…”
Lose ourselves or not, I’ve still got to go to the bathroom!…”
And thus began a marvelous adventure…or perhaps more aptly put, a marvelous misadventure of a lifetime….
…Time and nature have both joined together, allowing all who traverse this area a rare gift—one does not have to ponder long as to why St. Kevin chose this particular place in which to seekout God—anyone stopping long enough, to simply bask in the peace while listening to the engulfing silence, will actually hear the whispers of a Creator’s magnificent joy. . .
(the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)
***Glendalough, meaning “the valley of the two lakes” is a beautifully serene area nestled within the Wiclow Mountains National Park, County Wiclow, Ireland. Only about 1 to 2 hours south of Dublin.
Glendalough was home to a once thriving celtic monastic community founded by St Kevin in the 6th century.