There were tentative plans to head to the Silvermines yesterday, but waking early to low cloud and drizzle gave me pause to rethink.
I know that glorious clear & sunny days seem like they are few and far between in this country, but when one of the main plus points of getting to the east top, and/or west top, and/or far west top, of the Silvermines is to admire the 360° views, a cloudy day really isn’t going to cut it. It most certainly wouldn’t have been a pointless trip, the sense of achievement for me just to haul myself up there would have been more than worth it, but dog-damnit, in addition to the health and achievement, I want the views!
The very lovely people at Shannon Region Trails .ie recently sent me a big pack of walking brochures and loop walk maps, so over large mugs of freshly brewed coffee we looked for a suitable alternative.
I had my heart set on doing a light spot of Geocaching today, and the previous evening Ihad printed off 3 suitable geocaches on the Silvermines. With Geocaching still firmly in my mind, we decided to head to the Glenbarrow trailhead for today’s outing. There are two geocaches listed for Glenbarrow, both situated pretty much on the trail path we would be following. The trails would go through woodlands and young forest, and along the banks of the River Barrow, so it would undoubtedly be a beautiful place to spend a few hours, and wouldn’t be spoiled by low cloud.
Geocaching is something I dip in and out of and have done since I first discovered it in 2005. I go through mad phases of eating, sleeping, breathing geocaching, checking constantly for new geocaches to be published, chasing that elusive ‘FTF‘…and then, for me, the mad haze eventually lifts, and my life returns to normal for another while, until the geocaching bug bites me again. If you haven’t ever heard of the activity. think of it as a 21st century treasure hunt for gadget geeks…as someone once said, we use millions of dollars worth of satellite technology for hunt for Tupperware boxes in hedgerows. It nearly is as simple as that! Go HERE for more info, but be warned, it can become very addictive! 😀
The Waterfall Loop was listed as 7km and ‘Moderate’. The weather was good, and I was feeling bold. Although I wouldn’t make my final decision until we got to the Clamp Hole Waterfall, and I’d decide if we walked on and completed the Waterfall loop or took the shorted Flat Rock loop walk.
The trailhead is clearly signed out of the car park, and we were soon on our way. So peaceful to walk through the forest, with streams running down from small waterfalls to your left, crossing under your feet beneath small wooden bridges (Monty preferred paddling through the shallow streams). The River Barrow wending its way through the valley, down to your right. It’s clearly a popular walking spot, but even with other people around, its easy to lose yourself in your surroundings and soak up the atmosphere of the place. I knew we would be near to the first Geocache within 5 minutes of leaving the car park, so I tried to fire up my trusty Garmin Etrex. I knew we’d struggled to latch onto satellites given the thick tree cover, and it may take a while, but it has never completely let me down. But after 20 minutes, it just didn’t want to play. The battery indicator was flashing empty, and I mentally kicked myself for not checking the basics before we left home. We spent a while just hunting for the geocache anyway, sometimes (very rarely, but I have done it!!) you can just strike it lucky if you think to yourself “where would I hide it?” No such luck this time, and the husband was keen to give this one up as not found and get going. As a last-ditch effort I tried a free little geocaching app I’d downloaded onto my phone, not expecting much, but I have to say it pin-pointed my location very quickly, and took us to within 3 metres of the geocache! It wasn’t affected by the thick tree cover at all. Its called ‘c.geo’ and has my complete seal of approval!
One geocache done, and one more to go. I knew roughly the location of the next one, up near the Clamp Hole Waterfall, so I could just enjoy the scenery for now. I was pondering over the ‘wooden hut’ on the map, until I came upon a large wooden hut! They mapmakers weren’t lying. It faced onto the spectacular ‘Flat Rock’. Sadly the ‘wooden hut’ was littered with empty beer cans. I tidied them up into one big pile, but had no way of carrying all of them with us. I’m fully aware of the fun that can be had in your late teens, with the freedom of a driving license and a friend who can get served at the local ‘offy’, but we never ever left a mess behind us after a ‘party’, there just is no excuse
The river was low, which meant we could get right down on to Flat Rock and explore properly. I learned that the wet bits are very slippery, and gave the husband plenty of laughs as I did the splits, unable to get either walking shoe to grip and nearly ended up in the river.
Next stopping point for us was a strange, split level rock formation. It almost looked man-made, and made me wish I’d concentrated more during the geology modules of my A-Level Geography!
The spectacular Clamp Hole Waterfall, we heard it before we saw it. I can only imagine the noise and spray when the river is in full spate. it must be quite a sight! The husband went to watch the cascading water, and I went to hunt up the final Tupperware box. Mission accomplished, I took one look at the very tall step up on the path beside the waterfall, watched one gentleman climb up the post and rail fence to the side in his efforts to get up, and I decided to retrace my tracks and go up through the trees. A little further to walk, but much easier!
At the top of the water fall, we stopped to water ourselves and to water the dog. Monty turned his nose up at the fresh bottled water we presented him with, and instead he quenched his thirst in the pool at the top of the waterfall.
This was the point of no return. We either turned around now and picked up the return section of the Flat Rock loop, or we pressed on and completed the Waterfall Loop. This is clearly a popular walking spot, and there were plenty of people walking as far as the Clamp Hole Waterfall, but we didn’t meet anyone else after we’d continued on from the waterfall. I guess the majority of visitors only journey between the car park and the waterfall, which, in fairness, is a beautiful walk and well worth the effort. A handwritten sign, tacked to marker post on the far side of the waterfall, warned us that the trail ahead was very muddy in places, but we were in no rush to get home and I felt good enough to carry on.
After all, just how muddy could it get…?
That’s no so bad!
I can pick my way through that!
Hmmm, ok, yep, this bit was muddy! But still do-able.
Once the path started ascending, it started drying up. There was one steep descent, fortunately there were handrails, because the large boulders on the path, and slippery clay didn’t make it very easy to keep your feet under you. The Slieve Bloom way peels off to the right, and then we turned to the left to face the section on the map described as a ‘steep climb’. They weren’t joking! Although it was made easier by wooden steps where possible and clever use of the natural terrain to aid your climb, and although it is a relatively short section on the map, it just seemed never-ending at time. Just as it would level out a little, looking ahead would show you another steep section coming up fast. I really struggled at one point, I couldn’t seem to take more than 5 steps up without my heart banging in my ears and I just felt really odd and uncomfortable. The sun was shining, and we were out in a relatively open section. I stripped off a layer, I stripped of my hat, and then I took my jacket off. Feeling a lot more comfortable, I then found I could make much better progress. In hindsight I’m fairly sure I was just over-heating from my efforts, and that nothing more sinister was going on. I suffer with palpitations occasionally. I’m relatively used to them, but they are still a very unpleasant sensation, and when my heart really starts to bang like that I do tend to get wary. We stopped for a short water break somewhere near the top, for us and for the dog, and to admire the spectacular view down and across the valley behind us. Because we couldn’t easily see where this path would stop climbing, I did feel fairly silly finding the top of the path within a 100 yards or so of where we’d stopped. We should have just kept going. Felt bloody great to get to the top though. It wasn’t easy, but I had mostly kept going. It was indeed a steep climb, over rough ground and fairly unforgiving. I didn’t break any speed records, but I got up there and I felt I’d coped much better with the climb and the terrain, than I had a month previously on a similar section of the Devil’s Bit mountain.
At the top we found ourselves on a forestry road, and I was relieved to have some fairly easy trail to walk on. The trail instructions told us to watch out for a 3-way junction, and to turn right at the junction. The only junction we got to had a marker arrow post, and the blue arrow (Waterfall Loop) very clearly indicated we should go straight on, and so we did. But after a while it became fairly obvious we should have turned right. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t the end of the world, the section of track we were on would bring us to the same place, but this section of track was a short-cut, and I felt I was cheating. It wasn’t a major shortcut, we weren’t going to gain much by taking it, but it wasn’t the correct route. I will confess I got a bit grumpy about all this, but the husband is very good at ‘handling’ me when I’m like this. He mostly laughs at me!
I felt decidedly fresh when we dropped back down into the car park, and I was momentarily buoyed by the fact that I’d just completed a 7km ‘moderate’ and still felt bouncy…so to find only 2.4 miles logged on my Runkeeper app was a little deflating. I even checked the Runkeeper track map, to see if perhaps I’d dropped GPS signal in the tree cover somewhere, and it had missed half the route…but no, the Runkeeper map closely matched the Loop Walk map (apart from that minor wrong turn on the last section). 2.4 miles comes out at only 3.8 km. We figured with the wrong turn we’d done approximately 200 metres less of the main route, which would bring us closer to 4 km. So the husband’s theory is that whomever ‘measured’ the walk, simply wrote ‘4’ in his notebook, but forgot if that was km or miles when he got back to the office, and decided to err on the side of caution (4 miles, approx 6½ km). Who knows? It could be true!
Official map (Left) – Runkeeper GPS Track (Right)
You can see where we missed the turn at point F – but I don’t think the correct track would have accounted for the missing 3km..?
I was cross and I was really grumpy, and even an amazing cup of hot chocolate from the ‘caravan cafe’ in the car park (far right in the photo below) couldn’t make up for my 7km ‘moderate’ only being a 4km ‘Moderate’. I felt cheated, and in my head I drafted a dozen complaint letters, without a clue whom to send them to.
The ‘caravan cafe’ [far right] sells hot drinks and snacks – brilliant idea!
But what didn’t actually hit me until we were on our way home was that only a month ago a 4km ‘Moderate” would have had me on my knees, with my lungs on fire, my feet burning and my leg muscles waving white flags of defeat. It really did feel good to have done 4km on some rough ground, up some steep climbs and to have finished feeling like I actually could have just turned back down the trailhead and gone around the loop all over again. And if that isn’t a measure of some definite progress to be pleased with, well then I just don’t know what is! 🙂
No need to ask Monty how he felt on the way home, I think this photo sums it up 😉
Here are the rest of the pics:
The Slieve Bloom Way is being temporarily re-routed – the printed sheet gives details of the present route.
April 2013 – Glenbarrow Waterfall – Monty at Flat Rock
April 2013 – Glenbarrow Waterfall Loop – Begging for Chocolate