The Joys of Muddy Paths - My Family Travels

Following in the tradition of Irish weather, the sky was clouded in a perpetual threat of rain as my family and I embarked on an adventure with Vagabond Tours.  Our tour, entitled “To the Edge of the World,” was led by Kevin Clancy, an entertaining guide who loved to share his passion for Ireland and for photography. This five day excursion through southern Ireland left the beautifully historic city of Dublin in early April as the earth emerged from an unusually harsh Irish winter.

â–º  honorable mention 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

By the second day of the tour, we were already well acquainted with our fellow travelers: a boisterously enthusiastic Dartmouth student; a rugged, friendly Aussie father; and a warm American couple with their grown daughter.  In other words, our group had plenty of diversity to provide countless hours of stimulating conversation.  On this particular day, our quintessentially Irish tour guide told us that we would be hiking for an hour or two in the scenic hills.  He sent the nine of us on the path with a characteristic, friendly wave and told us that he would see us on the other side of the hill in a few hours.

For the first few minutes of our trek, we made good progress, following the clearly marked dirt road; however, we quickly came to a dilemma: the road diverged.  On our right, the dirt road continued in the seemingly wrong direction.  Straight ahead, the dirt road morphed into a muddy path that had a babbling stream rushing down the middle.  Despite my reluctance, the group decided to follow our guide’s instructions to “go straight” and hike up the muddy path.  Artfully dodging the droppings of sheep which had taken this path before us and carefully jumping from steady rock to steady rock, we made slow progress up the steep hill. 

After two hours, we finally reached the top of the hill as the clouds cleared and the sun illuminated the countryside.  Below us, a golden valley, dotted with patches of green, stretched for miles before reaching the sparkling ocean which glittered in the late afternoon light.  If the exhausting hike hadn’t left us breathless, that view certainly would have.  We continued hiking along the ridge of the hill with a renewed sense of accomplishment.  Eventually, our path rejoined the dirt road that we had left so many hours ago, and we found our guide waiting patiently.  As we later found out, we should have followed the road that diverged to the right; however, if we had, we never would have experienced that spectacular view.  Sometimes, I learned, it is better to take an adventure on the path less traveled.

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