Hike leads students into Ireland’s landscape and past

After arriving in Dublin at 5:30 a.m., meeting the president of Ireland and enjoying tea at his official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin, and exploring a small seaside town, we decided to do the sensible thing: Take a hike!

We spent several hours meandering up a winding trail in Crone Woods, which is part of a glen that at was used as a royal hunting park as far back as the thirteenth century. I half expected a sorceress or dwarf of Arthurian origin to step out from behind one of the trees and challenge us to a quest or ask us for our aid.

All the soaring pine and oak trees, rocky crags, luminous green moss growing throughout the forest and fog permeating everything seemed to invite speculation as to whether there might be something else, something more lingering under the surface of the landscape.

Students walk along the trail underneath a canopy of soaring trees in Crone Woods, County Wicklow.

Some of us got down to business right away. Senior Sophia Saliby brought along her microphone to document the trek and got some great audio of the babbling streams we’d happen upon every so often. She was working on a segment for a student podcast she works on, American Student Radio.

“I wanted to capture people appreciating the nature but also the nature itself,” she said.

Though nothing ostensibly mystical emerged from the mist, there were a few surprises in store for us during our hike.

Senior Sophia Saliby takes a quick break from the hike to record the sound of a running brook at the edge of the trail.

Before we arrived in Ireland, Professor of Practice Elaine Monaghan emphasized to us that Ireland is a small country and, because of that, people frequently encounter their friends and acquaintances in unexpected places. I don’t think any of us believed her until her friend Bill Shipsey, a human rights activist with Amnesty International and a lawyer who accompanied us on the hike, ran into an old friend of his on our return journey down the trail.

While Shipsey was occupied catching up with his friend, we took the opportunity to gain some distance on him — he’d been outpacing us during the entirety of the hike, and we wanted to regain some self-dignity.

After about 10 minutes, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves because we thought we’d gained a half of a mile on him when he burst out of the trees onto the trail in front of us. It was as if he’d apparated down the mountain. I was particularly impressed because I spent a solid chunk of the hike slipping and sliding in the mud and snow, and yet it seemed he had practically glided down the trail.

Senior Alexa Chryssovergis laughs in amazement at the amount of moss covering the landscape.

More so than anything else, though, reaching the peak of our hike set the tone for the rest of our stay in Ireland. As we reached this plateau of sorts, the trees and underbrush melted away and left us with large, flat boulders to chart our path on and a steep incline filled with fog to contemplate.

It was beautiful but bleak. An alien landscape of sorts — and not just because we’d never been there before.

Despite all this, the rocky outcrop wasn’t as inhospitable as I initially thought. A low wall constructed from stacked-together rocks ran past us up the rest of the mountain and downhill into the fog.

Shipsey said it had been put in place by farmers quite a long time ago to keep their flocks of sheep from wandering away.

In this way, then, the mountain hid below its surface a multitude of things: the capacity for sustaining life in surprising ways and a history of which we only caught brief glimpses.