10 Must See Places To Visit In Italy (That Aren’t Rome, Florence or Cinque Terre)

The Roman Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, Mt Vesuvius, Cinque Terre and Florence were places I always thought of when I dreamed of visiting Italy. Looking back at the 5,000 km I walked through Italy in 2017, I found that visiting these sites will leave you somewhat unfulfilled. A visitor doesn’t really learn very much about Italy or its people by visiting them. They are not quintessential “Italian” experiences in my mind. They tend to be crowded and filled with American tourists.  Your senses are assaulted by street vendors, cheap trinkets and occasionally, scams.  As great as these places were, I left thirsty for a truly Italian experience.

With this in mind, I have made a list the “Best of Italy”. These are the places that I enjoyed in my time in Italia, that others might consider when planning a vacation.

1. Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso:  Gran Sasso, not the Alps, is where the finest hiking in Italy is found. Far less crowded than the Dolomites, Gran Sasso in Abruzzo, features hiking trails with beautiful ridge walking, clear trails, and stunning sunsets. It’s a very rural area, so finding authentic and cost effective food isn’t too difficult. Italy is home to the largest wolf population in Western Europe and if you are going to see one, this might be the place.

2. The Dolomites: In northeastern Italy are the most visually striking mountains in Europe. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features phenomenal trails, cheap accommodation, and lots of tourists. The food culture is not as satisfying to my palate than what you might find in the south, but still somewhat interesting.  German language can be heard as often as Italian among the inhabitants of this region.

3. Amalfi (Sorrentine Peninsula): Definitely a tourist destination, it spares you of the tackiness and unseemly commercialism of Cinque Terre. We hiked into the Sorrentine Peninsula from the north and arrived in Sorrento, on the Gulf of Naples. Sorrento was surprisingly “local” and affordable. We hiked over the mountains to the Gulf of Salerno and connected to the Path of the Gods which dropped us into the charming Nocelle and the swanky Positano.

4. Siena: In the heart of Tuscany, Siena is a charming city with plenty to see, especially the Cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo. Similar to Florence, but more easily consumed in a short period of time.

5. Passo Stelvio: In Northern Italy, along the border to Switzerland and Austria, Passo Stelvio climbs to above 9,000 feet (2,700m) and is a scenic playground for hikers, bikers and cyclists.

6. Appennino Tosco Emiliano National Park: Beautiful mountain ridges, cheap accommodations in various mountain huts, and locally sourced food. This park features above the tree line hiking and deep forest rambles.

7. Tuscany, Along The Via Francigena: The little villages and small cities along the S2 highway on the Italian Camino are clips from travel brochures; San Gimignano, San Miniato, Monteriggione, Radicofani, Buonconvento and Lucca are mostly walled cities upon a hill, surrounded by rolling vineyards and farms. Great food and wine, and welcoming hosts used to seeing tourists.

8. Umbria: Mountains and hills similar to Tuscany, but much quieter and more remote. Some beautiful cities in the region such as Assisi and Perugia.

9. Selvaggio Blu (Sardinia): Sardinia is very rural but you will find people along the east coast in the mountains that hug the Tyrrhenian Sea. The most remarkable blue ocean is found here and the best hiking in southern Italy.

10. Venice: Beautiful architecture, Rialto Market, The Grand Canal, and reasonably consumable in a couple of days. Visually eye popping, but it’s filled with tourist traps, and it’s harder to find great food than you might find in the south.

 

Please follow and like us:

I’m Still Just A Little Girl (Thoughts on Walking 1,500 Miles With My 10 Year Old Daughter)

 

I hadn’t thought much about Rosie’s motivation to walking 1,500 miles through Italy. It was still early in the summer and we had blasted halfway through the country already. We began on the Swiss border, and swept through each region in just a few days. I was in hiker mode. Keeping a schedule and establishing rules. I demanded we start early, get a minimum of 35 kilometers (20 miles) in, and then usually pushed for more.

Rosie was compliant. She happily and easily knocked off this distance, and further distances came with negotiation, mostly in the form of gelato, or proper accommodation.

In Rome we got our Certificate of Completion at the Vatican, for completion of The Via Francigena (the way of St. Francis from Northern Italy to Rome). Rosie felt good about what she had done. I felt comfortable with her and saw her not just as my little girl but as a hiking partner.

We stayed in Rome only a few hours before pushing onward. Rome was crowded with tourists, mostly Americans, and it was a shock to our system. Italy is a beautiful country with lovely and welcoming people. It’s all the Nonna’s that invited us in for pranzo as we walked by and the piazza’s filled with families after Church on Sunday. In the little villages we discovered the soul and beauty of Italy. In Rome, little of this is on display. It is shrouded by the traffic, stands selling trinkets, tour buses with gaudy ads, sweaty overweight Americans, and blistering heat.

We pushed through the rest of Lazio, and into Molise and eventually Campania, where my family is from. Rosie began to give me more push back on the miles. She needed a gelato just to get through the morning. If I wanted to get her through the afternoon possibly another.

Finally on another 100 degree day after 40 kilometers, Rosie told me something I hadn’t given enough consideration to.

“Daddy, I’m still just a little girl you know.”

It hit me like a punch in the gut. I knew I had maybe pushed too much. I felt terrible. I questioned the entire endeavor. I took her on this trip for so many reasons. It will be an education, she will stay fit, and it also solves the child care problem for the summer.

I apologized to Rosie, for forgetting that my 10 year old daughter is still just a little girl. What was this trip about? I still don’t have the answers. Was it good for her or was it my will and her need to impress her dad that motivated this trip? I believe the trip was good for Rosie, although truth be told I would have shortened it to 4-6 weeks if I could do it again.

The remainder of the hike we did it as she wished. We did the remaining sections of Italy in the order she wanted to do them. We jumped up and hiked some of Switzerland and Grand Paradiso before we were attacked by a feral horse and she chose to return to Campania. We polished off that section, a quick sweep through Basilicata before tackling the disappointing Calabria. We reached the tip of mainland Italy with time to spare. We hiked a few days through Abruzzo and the spectacular Gran Sasso before Rosie was ready for the Dolomites. It was her favorite, and she blasted through the 150 kilometers from Belluno to Bolzano in less than a week.

This ended our glorious summer. I had just completed the hardest task of my life. I spent 24/7 alone with my 10 year old daughter one on one for three straight months. This is something mothers do regularly, and I never imagined how difficult this is. Sure I spent lots of time with my kids before but I always had work, or my stuff that provided plenty of mental respite. I never considered that 24 hours of not a minute to just sit in my own thoughts or tune out the world would be so hard. It’s something mothers do without the acclaim that I get when I do something basic like do the laundry once in a great while. My few achievements are met with great fanfare and my wife and most mothers do everything and it’s often met without a second glance.

Each night I would call my wife from Italy and ask her questions/vented: “Does Rose ever stop talking?” “I can’t even listen to music or podcasts because I have got to watch and listen to Rosie intently!”

For a mom this is just life. For a dad, at least most dads and certainly me, it’s an occasional chore. Twenty four hours a day focus on my own child seems like it wouldn’t be such a task, but ashamedly I felt it was! How have I missed how tough it was on my children’s mother?

Her mother came out to Italy and after a few days of family vacation, they returned to the US. Early indications are that the trip had a profound impact on her. She has seen things, learned about history and culture. Where we come from is real to both of us now. She has developed a sense of how our food should be and tasted the difference between pervasive real organic food and the processed and genetically modified poison we eat in the USA. She saw refugees. Hundreds of them. Not just characters on a tv screen but real, breathing people. Highly intelligent folks caught in a game they can’t get out of. She saw that when her dad was in some sort of trouble he usually when to a refugee because they usually spoke great English.

Her confidence is palpable. I can hear it in her voice over the phone. The trip might have been a mistake, but it wasn’t without rewards that’s for sure.

I’m still here in Europe. I will stay till I complete all the miles between the Dolomites in Veneto through Austria, Switzerland and Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia. Perhaps Greece as well. I miss my baby girl. I suspect that the girl I see in two months will appear far different than the one that left for Italy after Memorial Day.

At least that’s my prayer.

 

 

Please follow and like us:

The Trail Haters Blog: Trail Days Is A Pageant of Failure

I love it when hikers quit the Appalachian Trail. Not every hiker, of course. I love seeing people succeed in this endeavor and watching possibilities and dreams unfold is delightful. I should take greater satisfaction in this but I don’t. I follow the progress of the drunkards, the party animals, the guitar picking, yellow blazing, undisciplined donkeys that litter the southern AT, glorifying their hedonistic and cheating ways and culling unsuspecting but potentially successful thruhikers into their cult of failure.

Victory is sweet, but it feels a whole lot better standing on the back of a vanquished competitor. This week we have Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. It’s a hiker convention of sorts, where a couple hundred thruhikers and several thousand yellow blazers convene to tell a host of lies and brag about imagined exploits. There will be vendors there to sell gear that very few people need, produced by a 13 year old Bangladeshian girl and her mother for combined $825 a month.
Beer vendors do very well. Hiker trash, (once a term of endearment for those seeking a minimalist lifestyle) descend upon Damascus to find other like minded hedonists who share their affinity for age inappropriate behavior.

Nobody has it better than me on Trail Days week. Yup, I’m sitting pretty watching all these morally and financially bankrupt souls find rides off the trail to go Woofing in Portland or whatever other nonsense that sounds intriguing to their recalcitrant souls. It’s an absolute pageant of failure.

In all seriousness, my hope and prayer is that people learn from this experience and get their asses to Katahdin. I find those predators, disguised as friends or occasionally “trail angels”, as obstacles. They impede the progress of those who have a chance to get to Maine, by introducing distractions.
The Appalachian Trail is like life. You get what you give. It can predict your life and reflect your life. If you have the discipline, the mental toughness and the good fortune there’s a excellent chance you will walk 2,000 miles to Maine. If you are a weak person in life, who regularly makes excuses for failure, accepts half measures, then those traits are likely to reveal themselves on trail. You’ll have plenty of company. The trail is ripe with yellowblazers. Take this golden opportunity to see what you are made of and to chart a different course for your life. The road to success and fulfillment is littered with “easy” detours. Avoid those and choose the hard and solitary path. It’s a narrow path you walk on trail and in life. Best of luck class of 2017.

Please follow and like us:

How To Save Mt. Katahdin For The Appalachian Trail

 

It is time for the annual saber rattling between the folks at Baxter State Park and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy over use of the Park by long distance hikers. Do I have the answers? Probably not. Did I do hours of research on the issue? Absolutely not. I’m just a buffoon with an opinion. What I don’t hear is debate about real alternatives to Mt Katahdin as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

When a girl is gonna break up with you, it’s never a surprise. It’s a no brainer everytime. She doesn’t laugh at your jokes. She doesn’t tolerate you sitting on the couch watching 10 straight hours of football. Baxter State Park is ready to break up with the Appalachian Trail. The latest thruhiker limits released by BSP last month are further indication of that.

 

In the past few weeks Baxter State Park in Maine has issued permit limits for long distance hikers looking to climb Mt. Katahdin in 2017.

Northbound: 1,350
Southbound: 610
Section hikers: 840
Flip-Flop: 350

According to BSP, these numbers allows a 15% growth in hikers arriving in the park in 2017. Critics, (including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy), have argued that numbers are arbitrary. Others point out that the numbers are growing at a 23% rate over the past two seasons. Either way, the tension has been building between advocates of the park and those representing the Appalachian Trail and its hikers.

 

Baxter State Park is a 200,000 acre parcel of land in Maine’s northern wilderness that is home to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Katahdin. The land was donated by former Maine Governor, Percival Baxter and is run by the Baxter State Park Authority. It is comparatively immune to the the public policy relative to Maine’s other state parks. Visitors to the park have risen fairly dramatically over the past 10 years and the Park is trying to find ways of minimizing impact on the wild lands.

Scott Jurek

In 2015, legendary distance runner Scott Jurek, set the Appalachian Trail thruhiker fastest known time, to much acclaim. His finish was accompanied by a filming crew, corporate sponsors and a champagne toast on Baxter Peak, atop Mt. Katahdin. All of this was in defiance of BSP rules. The Park reacted harshly and issued 3 summons and subsequent fines to Jurek. The press coverage of the legal matter portrayed the administrators of BSP as petty and foolish. Coincidently, Percival Baxter was once cited with behavior much like Jurek’s, following a political rally of populist William Jennings Bryan.

The Jurek incident kicked off a 2 year battle that seems destined for a divorce. Now is the time for the ATC to act to preserve Mt. Katahdin as part of the Appalachian Trail and to ease tensions with Baxter State Park. Here are some possible solutions.

1. Move the northern terminus off Baxter Peak. I would suggest a simple move of the northern terminus to the Canadian Border along the International Appalachian Trail would allow long distance hikers to enjoy the park and Katahdin without inviting the impact of finishing celebrations or visiting families of thruhikers. Katahdin simply becomes another highlight of the trail such as Franconia Ridge or McAfee Knob and not the event is today.
2. Multiple northern end points. Keep Katahdin as it is, but allow hikers to finish the trail at multiple points.
3. Canada via the Long Trail. Allow thruhikers to continue onto the Long Trail at Maine Junction and certify arrival at Journey’s End as a completed thruhike from Georgia to Canada.  This would not replace Baxter Peak as the finish of the AT, just add another terminus.
4. Canada via Cohos Trail. The Cohos Trail is a long distance trail in New Hampshire that could easily be linked the Appalachian Trail in White Mountain National Forest. Treated as a 3rd different finish point for northbound hikers.

Actions such as the ones suggested above, could minimize long distance hikers impact on BSP significantly, yet preserve its place on the Appalachian Trail.

 

The ATC has reacted strongly to the new permit limits, issuing a statement:

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) does not agree with Baxter State Park’s (BSP) new Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hiker Permit System, which limits the number of long distance Appalachian Trail (A.T.) hikers that can access the northern terminus of the Trail on Katahdin each year.”

Diplomacy has seemingly been the ATC’s tact prior to this statement. Perhaps this is a realization that that path hasn’t been as fruitful as hoped. I wrote the ATC a couple of years ago with these ideas, and never heard back. Perhaps now, with two additional years of discord, they will increase efforts to fix the problem in a more permanent way. Let’s save Katahdin for the Appalachian Trail before it gets taken from us.

 

Please follow and like us:

Quick Hiking Guide to Italy’s GRANDE ESCURSIONE APPENNINICA

THE GEA
GRANDE ESCURSIONE APPENNINICA

Quick Guide and Waypoints

THE GEA is a 402.6 kilometer trail in the mostly Tuscany region of the Italian Apennine Mountain chain (which stretches 1,400 km along the spine of Italy from North to South. The Trail does dance the borders of Liguria, and Emilia-Romagna.

TRAIL DESCRIPTION

For Americans, the trail has been described as being similar to the Appalachian Trail regions in the Roan Highlands of Tennessee and The White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Trail follows a path that often goes up and over the mountain peak, with some of the more significant peaks being:
MONTE PRADO 2054m (6,738 ft)
MONTE RONDINAIO 1964m
MONTE MARMAGNA 1851m
MONTE ORSARO 1830m

The path is mostly single track country path and is remote by European standards. There are villages within a days walk along most of the trail but only very occasionally do they intersect. The communities surrounding the trail are most often very small. It can be a very steep trail and should be reserved as a thruhike for those in reasonable physical condition and some grasp of wilderness living.

ACCOMMODATION

The GEA has a fewer on trail accommodation than typical European treks. There are a few ways to tackle this trek but I would suggest a flexible approach incorporating wild backcountry camping with the other options:

Campeggio: official campgrounds on the GEA. There are a couple. $10-$20 seems the going rate for a campsite. Wild camping, of course is free.
Bivouac Huts: spartan wooden structures at high elevation that provide poor weather shelter for hunters and adventurers.
Guesthouses: a few of these are at the passes and more a few kilometers off trail.
Osteria: a few places offer simple meals/drink and a spartan room or bunk room. Expect to pay $40-$60 for a room and maybe a bit less for a bunk.
Rifugio: usually staffed by one person or more, these are designed for accommodating trekkers at high elevation. A meal or shower might be possible. These tend to be $40-$55 euro throughout Italy per adult.

 

WEATHER

The Apennine Mountains are marked by very cold winters with lots of snow, and very oppressively hot summers. Rainfall is greatest in April, May and June.

BEST TIME TO HIKE THE GEA

The best time to hike the GEA is June to September. Keep in mind that August is traditionally a holiday month in Italy, so there is a interesting dynamic where the trail is busier, but a lot of the services are closed as the proprietor is on vacation.

RESUPPLY

There are 7 or 8 possibilities to resupply on the GEA. It is important to note that virtually all are on the southern most portion of the trail. This may be due to much of the trail goes through two national parks:
-Parco Nazionale della Forest Casentinesi
-Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano

 

WILDLIFE

Goats, deer, boar, eagles, marmots, wolves, foxes and badgers are among the more prominent species to be found on the GEA.

WAYPOINTS SOUTH TO NORTH
R REFUGIO
H HOTEL
A ALBURGUE/GUESTHOUSES/HOSTEL
G GROCERY
M MEALS AVAILABLE IN VILLAGE
$ ATM OR BANK
T TRAIN

0.0 Bocca Trabaria
13.0 Pian delle Campana R
19.0 Passo di Viamaggio H-5k
28.0 a Santo Stefano G H
36.5 Caprese Michelangelo G H
51.5 La Verna H G
54.0 Monte Calvano
60.0 Poggio Tre Vesconi
77.0 Badia Prataglia H M G R A
95.5 Citta di Forli R
98.0 Monte Falco
100.5 Rifugio Fontanelle R
109.0 Passo del Muraglione M
112.5 Eremo dei Toschi R
132.0 Colla di Casaglia A M
137.0 Refugio Diacci R
147.0 Casetta di Tara M
151.25 Badia Moscheta M A
154.5 Monte Altuzzo
159.25 Passo del Giorgio H
172.75 Passo della Futa C 2km-G M H
187.25 MontePiano H G M $
204.25 Refugio Pacino R
228.5 Pracchia H M G $ T
244.5 Lago Scaffaiolo R
255.0 Monte Rotondo
260.5 Boscolungo A H
265.5 Lago Nero HUT
276.0 Lago Santo Modenese A R
285.0 San Pellegrino G H A M
291.5 Passo della Radici H M G
302.5 Monte Prado
304.0 Exit detour to Rifugio Bargetana
314.5 Passo di Pradarena H M A
321.0 HUT Bivacco Rosario
326.0 Passo del Cerreto H M
334.5 Refugio Citta di Sarzana R
342.5 Prato Spilla R,
356.0 Lago Santo Parmense R, 6km -G
358.5 Monte Marmagna
366.0 Passo di Cirone M
376.0 Passo della Cisa G M H A
402.6 Passo due Santi M H

 

Please follow and like us:

How To Hike The Irish Coast To Coast Walk

I consider walking the Irish Coast to Coast one of my favorite experiences in the outdoors. It’s certainly one of the all time best long hikes I have ever done. It was a hike I was probably least prepared for and that ended up being one of the best parts of the hike. Eventually, I ended up changing on the fly, doing the hike as I wanted to do it.  I found myself needing help from strangers on the trek, and that ended up a blessing. It forced me to interact with the beautiful people of Ireland. They’re the true jewel of this journey.

 

THE IRISH COAST TO COAST

This trail is really several shorter trails strung together. The distance is roughly 550 kilometers. It depends on how you want to finish the trail in the west. The walk begins in Dublin and finishes in the western shore of Ireland in Kerry Co. (Bray Head).

HISTORY

The Wicklow Way wasn’t completed till 1982. Over the next 30 years the middle sections have been planned and connected so the Kerry Way is tied in the southwest, to Wicklow (in Dublin) in the east. This trail is new and relatively unknown. I didn’t meet one person in Ireland who had heard of The Irish Coast to Coast.

GETTING TO THE TRAIL

The Walk begins in Marley Park in Dublin. It is easily accessible by bus from almost anywhere in Dublin. Getting back to Dublin after the hike is fairly easy. If you choose to finish in Port Magee, which is supposedly how it’s designed, there are options. The Skellig Ring Hostel in Port Magee can help you make bus arrangements to return to Dublin. I hiked in the offseason so I had to hitchhike to a nearby town to catch a bus. Hitchhiking was not a problem in Ireland.

RESUPPLY

I didn’t need to filter water in Ireland. I filled up in town and it was enough to get to the next town. If you are a slower hiker, there are rivers, puddles, lakes all around. I had no problem ressupplying virtually everyday on the hike.  Hikers need to carry enough food to get through the Wicklow Way (131 kilometers). From there,  you can get supplies at one of two great stores at the very end of that. After Wicklow, I ran into a store virtually everyday. I didn’t need to plan it. It was necessary to hitchhike into town to get dry and food on the Dulhallow Way, which is somewhat remote. Usually I just walked into towns to resupply.

TERRAIN

The path is easy to follow most of the time. It gets tough when it leaves the woods and enters a paved road. Signage gets sparse at times and I got lost plenty. The path is not difficult. It’s clear, and the grade is gentle. It’s more difficult than the Camino Frances, but nowhere like the Appalachian Trail.

WEATHER

The weather I encountered was mild. I went in the offseason (October) and the temperatures were in the high 60’s (Fahrenheit). It will rain. Good rain gear is a must! I used a tarp and it was sufficient. It’s also possible to not camp at all on the trail. Even though it rained a lot of days, it was usually interrupted by hours of sunshine as well. The rain was more of a drizzle than a downpour.

ACCOMODATION

There are plenty of places to camp all along the Irish Coast to Coast, and one Adirondack style shelter on the Wicklow Way. I camped in pub parking lots and in village greens with enthusiastic support from townspeople. Most land in Ireland is privately owned, so it’s very different than here in the USA, where the trails are protected or owned by the public. If you need to camp and it looks like it’s someone’s property, ask permission.  A real treat of Ireland, though, is the bed and breakfasts. There is a comprehensive b&b rating system in Ireland, and it’s easy to get great accommodation and a full Irish breakfast for about $40 euro. Because it was October, I was often the only guest! On The Wicklow Way and The Kerry Way, bed and breakfast options are available each day. In the middle trails there is a greater distance between villages but it’s conceivable to stay in one every night. There is a popular hostel with a tremendous view on the Wicklow Way, in Knockree. Couchsurfing and Airbnb are useful tools along the route. When I mentioned that I was walking the Irish Coast to Coast, not one person had ever heard of it, yet they often went out of their way to help me get a ride into town, invite me into their homes, invite me to watch rugby and football matches with them. The people truly welcomed me into their community, and encouraged me to feel at home in their country. There are supposedly three adirondack shelters on the Wicklow Way. I wasn’t really looking for them and I was moving fast and often in the dark, so I only saw the one in Mucklagh.

 

 

THE WICKLOW WAY

It is great to break up the Wicklow Way in stages if you are looking for accommodation.  This is how I did it.

Day 1: Marley Park to Knockree(20.5 km) stay at Knockree Hostel

Day 2: Knockree to Glendalough (34km) possible accomodation at Roundwood 21km) and Glendalough (34km)

Day 3: Glendalough to Moyne (41 km) possible accommodation at Glenmalure Lodge (20km) and Moyne. There is Kyle’s Farmhouse in Moyne.    It’s supposedly a nice B&B.

Day 4: Moyne to Clonegal/Kildavin (49km) possible accomodation in Shillaleigh (30km) and Kildavin. Resupply and hot meals in Kildavin. This is the end of the Wicklow Way.

Leaving Marley Park it’s a significant climb for the first hour or so. It’s about a four to five hour hike to Knockree. Here you will find the Knockree Hostel. There is a cheap bed to be found here and some snacks via vending machine. There is a kitchen and some meals are offered. I found an excellent hiker box. No store. There was very little on the route to Knockree but definitely there was quite a few camping situations, if you are stealth.

On the second day leaving Knockree the route is the same. There are some roads on the Wicklow Way but not too many. The options at the ancient monastic city of Glendalough were plenty. There was Glendalough International Hostel which wasn’t great and a costly $45. There was some fine dining options and a few pricier bed and breakfast options. Glendalough is beautiful and has some interesting historical sights.

Glendalough has McCoys Petrol which is probably the best place to ressupply on the route. I was able to fully resupply here for the rest of Wicklow Way. There is hot meals and sandwiches to be had.

There isn’t a lot of resupply options after this, but there are some small villages that may or may not have something. None that I was able see as I hiked till Kildavin. The Wicklow Way is not as scenic in its final day or two. It leaves the woods and scenic vistas and follows minor roads and tracks.

 

Accomodation List:

Knockree Hostel

The Coach House Roundwood

Glendalough International Hostel

Glenmalure Lodge

Kyle’s Farmhouse In Moyne

Old Shillaleigh Stickhouse

Meadowside in Clonegal

For more accommodations check this link: http://www.wicklowway.com/accommodation/index.php

I camped on the route and had no issues. I asked permission for a spot in Kildavin.

SHELTERS ON THE WICKLOW WAY 

BRUSHERS SHELTER  Near Glendalough

MULLACOR SHELTER   Near Glenmalure

MUCKLAGH SHELTER between Glenmalure and Moyne.

SOUTH LEINSTER WAY

Distances from Wicklow Way and accomodation.

Kildavin 1km    Conway’s Pub (tenting).                                      
Borris: Brenda’s B&B
Step House
Graiguenamegh 30km
Brandonview House
Waterside Guest House
Instioge 53km
Woodstock Arms
Mullinavet 86km
The Rising Sun Guest House
Carrick-on-Suir 106km
Carraig Hotel
Nells Farm House

The South Leinster Way begins in Kildavin. The town has little to offer but I camped at Conway’s and picked up some food at a shop. I found the start of the SLW by the church. The tracks are hard to follow and there are some road walks that are confusing. Leinster Mountain is delightful as are the views of the Blackstairs Mountains. There is more sparse accomodation on the SLW but plenty of places to camp along the way if you set up late and leave early. I got lost quite a bit on the first half of the trail but I always got back on track no problem. The tread is easier than the Wicklow Way. The towns on the SLW are quite small, with Carrick-on-Suir being the exception. Ormonde Castle (1450), is in full view as you walk into that village at the end of the SLW. Signage is mostly good on the trail, but keep your head on a swivel. I was able to resupply in Kildavin, Graigeneumagh and Carrick-on-Suir, which has a nice grocery store and plenty of pubs.

EAST MUNSTER WAY

Carrick-on-Suir 0km
Clonmel 30km
Newcastle 51km
Clogheen 73km

On the way to Clonmel there is very limited options in Kilsheelan. I grabbed a tea at a cafe. Clonmel is the biggest town on the Irish Coast to Coast Walk and there is plenty of options for resupply and there is accomodation in town. There really isn’t any accomodation near trail in Newcastle but there is one a  few kilometers away, supposedly, but i never saw it. I camped without issue. Clogheen sports a campground, and a couple of B&B options, but little else. The Knockmealdown Mountains are a little more remote and this middle section is not crowded with hikers for sure. Even though these villages are small, the people are delightful and worth stopping in, even for just a short break. Grab a beer, a tea or a snack.

AVONDHU WAY
Clogheen 0km
Barnahown 20km
Kilworth 40km
Fermoy 47km
Ballyhooly 61km
Killavullen 72km
Bweeng 105km
The Avondhu Way like the latter half of the East Munster Way is fairly remote. Leaving Clogheen, it’ll be 20km before you arrive in Barnahown. There is very limited option for accomodation here, and a little bit more a few hours later at Mountain Barracks. There is some options for a bite to eat in Kilworth but nothing really substantial till Fermoy. Fermoy has plenty of accomodation and places to resupply. There are plenty of places to camp before you get there if it’s too far. Follow the set up late and leave early System and you’ll be ok. Ballyhooly is a small village with a B&B if you can’t make it to Killavullen. After Killavullen there is nothing till Bweeng, and there is nothing there and I hitched into the nearby town of Mallow that had all services.
A link to hold onto here is https://anoige.ie/hostels/ so u can find a place to stay if you need. Fermoy and Mallow are great resupply places. I stayed in a B&B in Mallow and recouped for a night and a morning. Accomodation might be hard to find in this section outside of these towns, and since I went in the offseason I didn’t notice much.
The track is the Knockmealdown mountains with small ascents. This is where you will begin to see more windfarm activity. The paths to these windmills can make your track confusing. Be alert. People are sparse but helpful. This trail is mostly open country path or mountain track. It was occasionally broken up by a road walk, a long one which occurs after Mountain Barracks Inn.

DULHALLOW WAY

Bweeng 0km
Millstreet 40km
Shrone 62km
Muckross 82km
Killarney National Park/Kerry Way 83km

The Dulhallow Way was the toughest part of the Irish Coast to Coast Walk for me. Bweeng has nothing as discussed in previous section. Shrone also has nothing of note. Millstreet is the only real services (it offers a few b&b’s and shops), on this trail. There is something in Muckross, but you will probably just cross the road at the end of the Dulhallow Way and see the path that leads you into Killarney National Park and The Kerry Way. Killarney is a beautiful city. Very touristy with a major train station. All services including high end hotel accomodation. I regret not spending a full day here. I struggled in this section because I dealt with downpours in the area. I ended up jumping off the trail for a night in Shrone and hitchhiking to the nearby town of Rathmore to dry out. If you get this far, you should be glad. This is the gateway to the Kerry Way, one of the jewels of long distance hiking in Europe. I had no problems finding places to tent along the route.

KERRY WAY

The Kerry Way is a 215 km circular trail that begins and ends in Killarney. It is spectacular! For Americans, the Irish Coast to Coast Walk parallels the Appalachian Trail. It’s pretty good in the beginning, and the middle is more mediocre, then you get to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and it’s the highlight of the trip. The Kerry Way is the highlight of this trip, like a Irish Riviera.

The hiker can choose to many options in Killarney; go the southern route to Port Magee, go the western route, or perhaps explore the Dingle on the Beara Way. If I were to do this again I would do the complete circle and finish in Killarney where I can simply hop on the train to Dublin. The more time on The Kerry Way, the better.

If I had two weeks to hike in Ireland, I would hike the Kerry Way and probably that’s it. I would take my time in each village and soak up the hospitality in the top notch b&b’s.

For the sake of this blog I will assume everyone will go the southern route and complete the circle around the full Ring of Kerry. I will break up the route into stages each ending in a village with plenty of accomodation. There is plenty of accomodation in these towns. Kerry Way is a tourist magnet. Despite this, I had no problem finding camp spots all along the path, but you will run into plenty of obvious private property situations.

Port Magee is the traditional end of the Irish Coast to Coast Walk at Bray Head.

Killarney 0km
Kenmare 25km
Sneem 30km
Cahirdaniel 19km
Waterville 28km
Cahirciveen 30km
Port Magee 25km (not entirely part of KW)
Glenbeigh 28km
Glencar 18km
Black Valley 20km
Killarney 22km

Port Magee is where you will find Valencia Island and Bray Head. This is the location of the first intercontinental cable communication. There is a small notation of that. It is beautiful . I climbed up to the empty light house here (braving 75mph winds).

 

KERRY WAY ACCOMODATION 

There is plenty of accomodation in each village of the KW. Keep in mind that it is a very popular tourist destination and you might want to make arrangements in advance.

A list of Kerry Way accomodation

 

BEER AND PUBS ON THE WALK

PUBS IN IRELAND

These are some popular choices along the route. IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT MANY IF NOT MOST PUBS OFFER SOME SORT OF ACCOMODATION! One stop shopping. The rooms are usually spartan, but doable depending on how much time you spend in the pub. Apparently gambling is quite popular, so there is a lot of horse/football type conversation and televised events in the pubs. There is usually great music to be found and friendly conversation. Within 2 km of the Irish Coast to Coast sits well over 100 pubs. Enjoy.

Dublin:
O’Donahue’s: live music and beer
Stag’s Head: traditional and classic Irish Pub

Clonegal
Osborne’s

Kildavin
Conway’s

Mullinavet:
The Rising Sun (rooms and great food too!)
Rod Iron
Carrick-on-Suir
O’Ceallachain’s
Figgerty’s
Powers Tullahought

Clonmel:
Railway Bar
Mulcahy’s

Fermoy:
The Grand Hotel (made like a billion friends in 5 minutes)
Forge
TJ Goodtymes

Mallow (From Bweeng):
Albert Lynch’s
Maureen’s Pub
The Gallery

Millstreet:
Corkery’s
Bridge Pub
Reardon’s

Killarney:
Courtney’s (popular whiskey bar)
The Shire (local beers)

Glenmare:
Pf McCarthy’s
O’Donnabhain’s

Waterville:
Fisherman’s Bar

Cahirsiveen:
Fertha
Sheebeen

Port Magee:
Fisherman’s Bar and Skellig House

RANDOM TIPS

 

1. If you are not into being alone it may not be the hike for you. I saw backpackers on the Wicklow Way for a few days out of Dublin then I never saw another one. Although you will see plenty of day hikers in Killarney area of the Kerry Way.

2. There is no problem finding a little spot to tent away from anyone’s eyes everyday . Be patient and the spot will present itself. Irish people are the friendliest on earth, I camped in parking lots of pubs, village greens and people’s yards.

3. You do not need to camp on the Irish Coast to Coast. If you are a very strong-hiker a village will come into sight every day across the whole route. But that will mean  25 miles plus on a few occasions.

4. You will get lost. I got lost a few times. It’s going to happen. Irish Coast to Coast Walk is more of a theoretical trail. I did not meet one Irish person who had ever heard of it. They all know the Wicklow Way and the Kerry Way.

5. There is one shelter on the Wicklow Way and one (Knockree Hostel.)  Air BNB is helpful and Ireland is famous for BNB’s . They usually cost me $40 ish and came with hearty breakfast. Irish will go the extra mile for you, and will ensure you have had enough to eat before you begin the days walk.  I stayed with families a few times. That was best. I highly recommend bed and breakfasts along the route if you can afford $40.

6. The Kerry Way is the most scenic section and I chose to finish on Valencia Island. You can choose your own finish point. The Kerry Way was the highlight of my walk across Europe. When you get to Killarney, choose how u want to go. Take your time here. Each village is spaced 12-15 miles apart so the days hike is easy to plan. Kenmare was a village I really enjoyed.

7. There is a guidebook by Paddy Dillon. It’s useless. I referenced only when lost, and I felt I got more lost. Phone numbers in it have not been updated as of my hike, and I ended up losing time checking on it.

8. I used rudimentary maps guides I found on IRISHTRAILS.IE from there I downloaded the PDF’s and used those as a general guide. Google Maps on a smartphone would be a great help. Word of mouth works in Ireland. These people love to talk, storytelling is a national pastime.

9. What worked for me is I followed the Yellow Arrows!!!!! It got lost quite a few times, but I always found those arrows again.

10. The Walk is really a series of shorter trails connected. They all connect point to point except Wicklow and The South Leinster Way which is like a mile apart. It’s easy to find though as you just follow Google map to walk toward Kildavin, a cute little village of maybe 100 people . (They have a Pub!). From there you will find the trail. Wicklow Way to South Leinster Way to East Munster Way to Avondhu Way to Dulhallow Way to Kerry Way.

Maps of all these I got at IRISHTRAILS.ie

 

 

Please follow and like us:

5 Cheap Christmas Gifts For The Thruhiker In Your Life

In the Christmas season, we are inundated with articles in magazines and websites imploring us to consider the “gear that thruhikers can’t live without.”  Sometimes they list ultralight items that cost hundreds of dollars. I’ll admit that I often carry some of these pricey items. $500 cuben fiber tents are nice, but they are not neccessary. Thruhikers can be successful spending a lot of money on gear, but it’s not all that important. Thruhiking is for the wealthy and those not so economically blessed. The items on this list most hikers will find useful, cost efficient and welcome this holiday season.

 

 

1. Ziploc Bags ($2-$6 )

My favorite are the XL bags (4 pack) that I use instead of stuff sacks. They double as my pack liner as well.  The XL can fit your tent and your sleeping bag. Even though the dopey picture on the box shows it holding basketballs and ice skates, I wouldn’t suggest that. Ice skates are highly impractical for thruhikers anyway. Ziplocs are good in the quart and gallon size too. I prefer the one with the actual zipper, and I think it’s the same with other hikers.

 

2. Duct Tape ($3$8)

I’m not advocating that you purchase just any cheapo Duct Tape. There are smaller rolls out there that come with perforations ever cm or so. They are the Rolls Royce of tapes. They make better bandages  and make repairs on your gear a snap. Some hikers like Leukotape which is excellent on blisters but slightly more expensive and less versatile.

3. Sawyer Filter Bags ($8.95)

Sawyer water filtration system is the most popular water purification on American long distance trails. The bags for collecting water that come with the squeeze filter can breakdown fairly quickly. Thruhikers are always looking to upgrade. You can get new bags at some retail locations or at popular websites. Some hikers opt to replace the bags altogether and use bladders with their Sawyer Squeeze.  A 32 oz bladder from a brand like Platypus, might cost $10-$15.

4. Talenti Gelato (Free)

Hikers don’t even need the gelato! These containers are sought after for cooking, holding drink mixes and coffee and a slew of other uses. If you gift a thruhiker the container with the gelato in it, they will appreciate it. These are closing in on 1 liter Smartwater bottles as the most popular food containers on the trail.

5. Tyvek Sheet (Free or close to it) 

You can get a sheet from a contractor friend or in your garage. They make an excellent groundsheet, bivy, tarp, or rain poncho. If there isn’t any in your house and you don’t feel like sneaking into your neighbors garage, they can be purchased in a hardware store for a buck or two for a single sheet.

*Bonus Pick* Gatorade 32 oz bottle.

Make great tent urinals for the thruhiking man in your life.

Merry Christmas!!

 

Please follow and like us:

The Grand Italian Trail 2017

The Grand Italian Trail or the Sentiero Italia is a daunting trek. It’s a fairly new 3,750+ mile footpath through the Alps and Apennine mountain ranges in Italy. It’s much more imagination than actual mountain route. My attempt to hike some variation of it in 2017, has led me to this conclusion. I’m growing frustrated trying to plan for this thruhike. The internet offers little information and certainly no detailed maps. I don’t speak fluent Italian, so some materials are hard to understand. What I have concluded is that only a handful of people have thruhiked the trail, and there are no guidebooks or few waypoints logged.

For 6,100 km, The Grand Italian Trail  stretches the entire length of Italy from Trieste, bordering Slovenia to The island of Sardinia. It follows the spine of the Apennine Mountains in Italy and spans the Italian Alps including the stunning Dolomites. The hike promises stunning mountain vistas, amazing history, unmatched art and culture and plenty of carbs!

Divided into 368 sections, the Sentiero Italia is an ambitious and sometimes difficult trail. Further complicating matters is the Italian ban on wild camping.

 

I have reached out to a couple of guys who have hiked the trail and they have commiserated with me. They told me they were constantly lost, especially south of Rome, and had real trouble finding the route. All part of the adventure I guess.

 

image

 

 

Please follow and like us:

TIME TO RECONSIDER THE TRIPLE CROWN AWARD

 

The Triple Crown Award is given out each year by ALDHA WEST to hikers who have completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. In 2015, twenty eight hikers were awarded the TC, and that number will be on the rise as thruhiking has gotten more popular. This is an incredible achievement, as one would have to complete 7,000 miles of very tough hiking here in the United States through these mountain ranges. Unfortunately, these trails are getting overwhelmed with hikers and seeing record numbers on all three trails.

I’m convinced it’s time to reconsider the Triple Crown Award. Hikers feel as they complete their second trail that they are pressured to do the missing piece of their TC. I think it would be in the best interest of the hikers, the National Trail System, and ALDHA to include other trails in the TC award. Create opportunities for long distance hikers to get on other deserving trails like The Pacific Northwest Trail (1,200 miles) or the Hayduke Trail (800 miles), The Arizona Trail, The American Discovery Trail, The Great Eastern Trail and many other great long distance trails.

Perhaps the threshold would be to complete 6,000 miles of trails in the National Trail System, utilizing 3 or more trails. That would alleviate the crowding issue, at least somewhat, on the PCT and the AT, and open up activity on some of the lesser used trails. I met plenty of people who had finished the PCT and CDT this year and didn’t feel like they wanted to do the AT but felt pressure to do it. Let’s keep them on trail, but in a more self directed way. I met others who didn’t want to do the CDT, but wanted to do the PNW Trail. I think the award should be opened up to be inclusive to all the National Scenic Trails, and it would benefit everyone.

I have hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail, The New England Trail and The Colorado Trail. The Continental Divide doesn’t have great allure to me because I have hike the CT, hiked The CDT through Yellowstone National Park and hiked The CDT through Glacier National Park. Perhaps I’d be more interested in the seldom thruhiked PNW Trail? I think there are others out there that are in the same dilemma. I have chosen to eschew the TC this year, and will be hiking overseas. Perhaps if I could TC somehow without hiking the CDT, I would stay in the USA to hike in 2017.

Trails to consider inclusion into the Triple Crown Award:
1. American Discovery Trail: 5,000 + mile trail stretching from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California .
2. The Long Trail: At 272 miles, this is the first long distance trail in the USA. It follows a very rugged path from northern Massachusetts to the Canadian Border through Vermont.
3. The Colorado Trail: 483 miles from Durango to Waterton Canyon.
4. The Arizona Trail: Nearly 800 miles from Mexico to Utah through the state.
5. The Pacific Northwest Trail: 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
6. The Hayduke Trail: 812 miles of a route connecting Grand Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks.
7. The Florida Trail: 1,000 miles from Big Cyprus Swamp to Alabama.
8. The Desert Trail: slightly longer than the Appalachian Trail, this one stretches 2,283 miles from the Mojave Desert to Canada.
9. The Great Eastern Trail: runs along the western ridge of the Appalachian Mountain chain. 1,600 miles in length it only been hiked in its entirety a few times.
10. North Country Trail: runs from Vermont to North Dakota, at a staggering 4,600 miles.

Many others to consider too!

Please follow and like us: