Day 71a: The Beginning of the End (BBW37 Cavan Way: Shannon Pot-Blacklion)

I tried to make today into a short day. An easy day. I figured I could get into Blacklion early, rest a little, have plenty of time to change and get ready for an epic celebration dinner at MacNean’s.

Ha ha, self. You’re adorable.

The first thing I had to come to peace with was that I was gonna spend this last day in wet socks.

The weather wasn’t the problem. At least not at first

In fact the weather started out downright pleasant

The problem was the several previous days’ weather which, you may recall, have not been lacking in the precipitation department, resulting in lots of very wet grass, soggy ground, and some notable failures in the infrastructure intended to convey one above these issues (where such infrastructure existed at all)

This just…. is not working

The last official lamb of the day for my journey on the Beara Breifne Way! So much sadness and happiness together! And cuteness because that is what Lamb of the Day is All About

Now I want you to notice the sky in this photo

And contrast it with the sky in this photo, and keep that in mind as we observe the weather over the rest of the day ahead. Ever heard that song “All Four Seasons in One Day”?

Curious calf is super adorbs and unlike all his buddies he ran over to check me out instead of walking away

Okay now I am getting a bit sentimental about stiles maybe this is the last time I will use a stile to enter a field while walking on this trail awwwww

Oh god ew nostalgia gone can I never do this again 

After somehow making my way past the horrible mud field of disgusting shoe despoilment, I found myself confronting several cattle. I sighed a long suffering sigh and prepared myself to make my way past them. Y’all can guess by now that I wasn’t wild about this, but whatever, it’s my last day, and despite all my cattle angst I haven’t had a bull problem since way back on the Multeen Way, so chances are…

One of them started to growl at me. You might not think that cattle growl, but at this point I have learned the truth. It’s… unsettling, to say the least.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a good look. Saw the ring in the nose. 

“Seriously?” I said out loud.

He started wandering towards me – not charging, just… strolling. While growling. And being… large. Very large.

I turned right around and headed straight back across the field the way I came. I didn’t run, but I… did not dally, either. I will say that making haste through a mud pit while attempting to leave a bull behind is not an experience I would recommend.

Once back over the stile I had for some reason gotten nostalgic at five minutes earlier, I sighed and reassessed. A house nearby could hypothetically hold the farmer of these cattle, and maybe they could tell me a way around? I shook my head and wandered over. Two months ago I probably would have hesitated to walk up to some random house and ask for cattle help, but not at this point. 

Ciaran, the man who emerged, was not the farmer of the cattle I had met, but he volunteered to “lead me past”. What I didn’t realize until we were back at the stile (which I would now climb over for a third time) is that he did not mean lead me around, or past by some other route, but literally walk with me while we went by the bull.

He was wearing wellies, which I envied as I went back over that goddamned mud patch for, again, the third time. As we arrived up into the area of the field where I’d met the bull, it looked up at us – and once again began growling.

“I can see why you might be nervous,” he admitted, as we started past.

I’m not going to say that I began optimizing my path to ensure that he was between me and the bull at all times, or that I planned to use him as a distraction to escape if things went wrong. But I won’t deny those things, either. 

Happily, the growling did not escalate, and with two of us the bull seemed less inclined to start something. We made our way past with nothing worse than an invisible hole bored into my spine by the look in his eyes. 

Mr. B2 and his Lady Friend, giving us the stinkeye

Once we were well past, Ciaran bade me a polite farewell, and I continued onward and upward.

My upward climb revealed many pretty views

As well as this rad mossy rock

Final peek back through stone fence

And then it was time to enter the forest. See, between me and Blacklion laid a place people called “The Burren”. There’s a burren outside Galway, and I had only realized there was also one here about two days ago, when reviewing the maps for this section. Since then, a couple different people had commented positively about the burren. I wasn’t actually what a burren even was, so I went in with an open mind. (apparently the Irish translation would be “great rock”)

It did not take me long to find the first great rock.

I do not think this rock got on those other rocks by accident

A fallen down sign earlier had referred to a “ring mark stone”. I think this was it?

One great stone behind another

As I moved on, I could hear rain beginning to fall, pattering on the leaves overhead. The canopy of trees shielded me, for the most part, though as I kept walking the rainfall grew more intense, more drops starting to make their way down. Simultaneously, the forest around me seemed to grow more lush.

Okay seriously is this not magical looking

Shamrocks and ferns everywhere!

And moss of course

Many massive mossy rocks

I reached the edge of the forest, sooner than I wanted to. I had been enchanted by the trees and the stones, and was in no hurry to leave them behind. Then again, I did have a dinner deadline – still a ways off, but lingering in my mind. So I put my shoulders back and headed towards the gap in the forest edge.

The rain, which had been slowly intensifying, suddenly became a torrent. I could see it falling just past the edge of the trees in veritable sheets, and even inside the forest’s bounds, drops poured down. I hesitated.

Then I found a mossy stone, partly sheltered by one of the lower trees, and I sat down to wait.

My camera stayed in its case – I had been pushing my luck already, and this was far too much rain to use it safely. I could not use my phone either, checking maps or the time – everything electronic needed to remain pocketed.

So I watched the rain fall, coursing down through the leaves, running down tree trunks, erasing the world beyond the forest’s edge. The sound of it washed over me like the ocean, even as the surges of storm blew past in waves – stronger, lighter, stronger again, lighter again. The sounds of wind and water blended until I could not tell them apart, and I became still as the storm soaked me and everything around me.

How something so tempestuous could feel so peaceful, I do not understand. But as I sat, my clothing clinging wetly to my skin, I felt calm. Part of me wished I could stay here for a long time, listening to the sounds of the rain nourishing the forest. 

Eventually, however, the rainfall abated somewhat. I pulled out my phone reluctantly, checking the time. Yes, I really ought to move on.

So I stood, and walked out of the forest to find what came next. (continued in next post)

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