Location: County Meath, Ireland
Note: Every so often, with a little luck and determination, you come across things that give cosmic pause. This article is dedicated to those rare moments rather than the beautiful trails to be found in Ireland that are usually reviewed. Hiking starts to take on a next-level significance when you stumble upon practically impossible things. Sometimes they are small things, like perfectly circular concentric rings imprinted on a stone, high above the Black Valley in Killarney. (Image/Below) Sometimes they are jaw-dropping big things, like the balancing Capstone on a giant-sized ‘Proleek Dolmen’ on the boarders of the Mourne Mountains, north of Dublin. (Image/Below) This Dolmen is one of the most massive and well hidden miraculous secrets in all of Ireland, with a 40 ton capstone standing at roughly 15 feet high! Incredible. And yet this pales in comparison to the temple at New Grange. The more you look at that specific area north of Dublin, the more amazing mystery you will find. Just as Egypt’s mystical culture was birthed out of the Nile river, and Babylon’s from the Tigris and Euphrates, Ireland’s incredible spiritual origins were born along the Boyne-River-Valley. Although the Boyne-River-Valley culture was most likely not featured in your mandatory History 2.0 undergraduate course requirements, it definitely should’ve been. Egypt has the Great Pyramid; Babylon had it’s great Tower, and Ireland has the incomprehensible, magical, mystical, temple of New Grange, literally tucked into a curvature above the Boyne River.(Image/Below) New Grange also sponsors other megalithic masterpieces like Knowth, which is an incredible megalithic chamber also located on these grounds.
The hedgy river-road that runs along the Boyne River from the hamlet of Rosnaree, just a mile south of New Grange, is the best, and only way to get there. New Grange sits on the highest elevation above the solitary hedge rows and roads without names. You can walk these practically fictional looking hedge-row-paths for days if you are looking to get some trekking in before seeing the Temple, but beware, it would be easy to get lost in this green labyrinth of fields and cart-roads with no names, so make sure you have your device on you to at least navigate at all times.
If you are ready to go directly to the Monument go to the Bru-na-Boinne Vistors Center along Staleen Road. Here you will find a ticketed bus line which will take you there. The ride is only 10 minutes, through the hedgy maze. When you arrive at the top of the hill you will be looking at nothing less than a Temple which has stood 2000 years before Moses climbed Mount Sinai. New Grange is older than Stonehenge, The Great Pyramid, and The Parthenon, which puts it in the running for the the oldest Temple on Earth. That’s quite a title. The way history has been explained in recent years, you might think that the oldest temple on Earth would look fairly primitive, as human history is generally thought to have gone from basic abilities to very complex ones, but the actual fact appears to be the utter opposite. The construction of New Grange is a study of the highest levels of engineering and accomplishment, bordering on the impossible for a culture not yet capable of using metal tools!? This is a circular mound centered on a main-chamber pathway constructed of roughly 34 level megalithic slabs, each weighing roughly 10 tons (20,000 pounds). Imagine 30 Proleek Dolmens lined perfectly together! Some of the slabs came all the way from the Mourne Mountains to the north, as well as other far off sacred zones. These facts alone start the mind reeling on the impossible story of the stones, which were moved from afar, and finally fit in dry-laid corbel fashion with such perfection that the light of the Solstices shines straight to the heart of the chamber two times a year. This Temple is a celestially connected megalithic miracle. It is surrounded by several massive Standing Stones which are roughly 15-20 tons, and most of them are over 8 feet in height. Moving these stones alone, to what is the highest elevation in this small River Valley, is hard to imagine. These Standing Stones are territorial markers, and once upon a time, if you passed by these Standing Stones without permission it would certainly have cost you your life. The larger the Standing Stone, the more serious the warning, and sacred the place. In this regard, you will realize that you are standing on truly holy ground. The exterior of the Temple is now lined in a modern white-quartz stone ring. The original Temple was much more concealed and blended into the hill for strategic reasons. It was literally part of the valley. The monumental stone slab at the entrance is one of the most important Celtic relics in the world, with gorgeous iconic Celtic rings imprinted into the megalith. This iconic stone is laid-out in a protective fashion, guarding the entrance, but is also clearly a display. It is a truly magical statement from the beginning of time. Imagine a solitary bean of light on the solstice day shining for only half a minute above this beautiful stone, making it glow, and continuing into the heart of the chamber! It just doesn’t get any better than this. And what’s more, the chambers in New England frequently have the same precise solstice feature. The connections between Celtic and New England antiquity cultures just grows from here, literally.
There are several other monumental stones with designs on them around the exterior of the Temple. with specific geometric features to observe on these stones, aside from the spirals. A closer look at this slab opposite the entrance reveals several iconic shapes, and more specifically, interconnected equilateral triangles, as well as mesmerizing Celtic spirals. These are not the only triangles to be found on the megaliths at New Grange. To see the others, we will need to step inside.
Welcome to the impossible. Here you are entering a chamber of what is the equivalent of 40 Dolmens in one corridor, all fit to perfection leading into a central chamber perfectly aligned to the stars, with a roughly 20 ft high corbel ceiling. Imagine ancient Ireland, a land where giants roamed across the hills, and dangers unknown lurked beyond the next valley; and then imagine the absolute strength and safety you would feel walking through these impossible stone pillars. Here at least, in the ancient times, you were as safe as any Celt could be. The holistic benefits of living in a synergetic stone temple would most likely be wonderful, in comparison to the huts and wood fortresses of less fortunate clans. At the end of the long singular corridor from the entrance you will encounter stones with imprinted triangles and diamonds before entering the central chamber.
Imprinted on this entryway stone at the main-chamber are distinct equilateral triangles that are seemingly transitioning into diamond shapes. There is profound connection here to the megalithic sites in New England, which utilizes this exact same meme at practically all the megalithic sites. Specifically in New England, you will find equilateral triangles etched into granite by waterfalls, and massive diamond cut stones along ancient trail ways. This is the central megalithic meme in New England, and here are those very same shapes in the heart of the oldest megalithic chamber in the world. Here are some examples of New England megaliths cut exactly into triangles and diamonds.
The evidence is too strong to dismiss. It seems highly likely that the megalithic culture that existed in Ireland had a relative culture across the Atlantic in New England. The question will arise: what is so important about triangles and diamond shapes? It might be that the Triangle is the first shape to develop from any linear set of points, and this culture was the first to develop in linear history, and so they claimed the Triangle as their calling card symbol. The ‘diamond’ is the result of the functionary crafting of cross-sections and equilaterals. If you cut a proper X into a stone, the result is four diamond shapes that are consistent with each other, and these utility cross-sections that create diamonds are found all over New England mountain trails. It as if the Neolithic culture were marking zones and territories as a warning to those passing through, and letting us know that the original culture once claimed this area.
Anther stone in the interior of the chamber at New Grange displays dozens of whimsical triangles and diamonds cascading all over the stone. This just can’t be a coincidence; there must be some relation between New England’s and Ireland’s oldest cultures. Neolithic Culture: Here is the part of the article that gets surreal and a bit ‘heady’. The history and chronology of how neolithic cultures relate, if they relate, must be found in their works. The works are obviously similar in structure, and also in symbolism. As New Grange is considered the oldest temple in the world, it seems logical that these geometric themes originated here, and spanned-out to the rest of the world. If this is true, then the pre-Celtic neolithic culture in Europe is the original ancestor of the neolithic culture that somehow crossed the Atlantic and ultimately made it’s way to New England. Their works are massive, beyond human in scale, like the Standing Stones outside New Grange.There is also the philosophical aspect of the Triangle, which is a shape specifically relevant to consciousness and divine comprehension. Is the neolithic culture referencing a direct connection to God Itself, like the neolithic tribes of Genesis? This is an intense reference, but according to the Bible the first generation on earth was the ‘Nephilim, meaning: “those who fell from heaven”. The offspring of these angels came from their copulating with human women, and that offspring was said to be Giants. (Genesis: 6) It sounds like extreme science fiction, and yet that’s exactly what the biblical accounts say. Moreover, when the Israelites went into the Promise Land and Joshua scouted out the territory, he found tribes of Giants. Joshua says the tribes he encountered made him feel he was ‘the size of a grasshopper’. What is going there?
With that in mind, you might eventually ask yourself: are these works the productions of these Giants in both Ireland and New England? Why are so many myths based upon Giants? The relations are there, and the relevant meaning of the chosen memes and symbols are there too. The hard part is, it utterly changes the current story of history, which is evolution based. New Grange is truly an otherworldly ancient temple that evokes wonder and humbling respect for the course of hallowed Time. Our particular modern era looks increasingly like ‘life in a controlled bubble’ when we look at the grand scheme of History. Almost all of our information is pre-packaged and funneled into specific themes, and if you disagree with them, you will be found to be disagreeable and ultimately failed in your assigned studies. The revised history that is given to our children is a set of theories sponsored by commercial academic institutions. The ‘technological era’ is a mere blip of 100 small years at the tail end of 40,000 years of human culture. When we look closely at what the antiquity suggest, it increasingly looks as if our culture is intentionally turning its back on the evidence in order to passively inject a more “convenient” theory of culture, based on erroneous assumptions. New Grange is one of the holiest places in the world, as a temple that has been here since the beginning of anthropological history, it is exquisitely rare. If we are truly sincere about going where the evidence leads us, then we must be prepared to challenge memes that don’t add up. Stonestrider.com isn’t a religious website; it’s about finding the best trails and photos you can, but it is impossible to deny that places like New Grange challenge so many things we assume about human progress. So, even if you are in Dublin just for a few days, plan a morning to visit New Grange. It is something, even with all our modern answers, we still don’t completely understand. Something incredible, almost otherworldly, took place in antiquity in order to build this temple. Walking into it’s main chamber is like walking into a miracle. It just doesn’t get more sacred than this, and a hillside is sometimes so much more than a hillside, so keep hiking.
Location: Aspen Peak/Kingman, Arizona/USA
Elevation: 8,417 ft
Prominence: 1700 ft
Note: Half a world away from the ancient Celtic Ranges, where Standing Stones guard the mythical heights of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England, are the epic mountains of the American West. Among the vast options of the grand natural spaces that dominate northern California, Montana, Oregon, and Colorado, are the mysterious high Ranges of Arizona. The Hulapai Range is a few miles south-east of Kingman Arizona. From Kingman you will take the ‘Hulapai Mountain Road’ straight into the heart of the Range, climbing slowly upward into a set of elevations that look like an American Mount Sinai. The comparison is a good one. The air here is absolutely void of humidity. With temperatures that climb up to 116 degrees in July, the trees, some half burnt, radiate a charcoal scent which carries on the wind; and you can taste that scent on the back of your tongue. Amazingly, there are some similarities to Celtic mountain ranges here, if you have the right perspective. There are other-worldly rock fixtures, free standing boulders that stack the mountainside, and an amazing magical stone near the peak, which you will see in this article. Aspen Peak Trail at Hulapai: As you approach the Range you will notice golden glades, not purely green zones. The bright Ponderosa forest at the belt of these mountains is spacious and inviting . In Celtic Ranges, the signs of the Neolithic Culture usually increase the further up you go. By this logic, if there is Neolithic cultural evidence at Hulapai, the highest peak would most likely yield the most evidence. Aspen Peak is the highest vista in this range, and the focus of this hike. Make sure to bring at least 1.5 gallons of water along with a sports drink for necessary electrolyte/sugar replenishment. Ration your intake. Also bring an extra shirt due to perspiration, several granola bars/ carb eating options, including jellybeans for when you reach the peak. There are options for approaching Aspen Trail. There is a lower entry through the hills and woods off the Hulapai Mountain Road marked by a sign on the left, which is more of a challenge with an extra 1000 ft below the campground trailhead (and about 1.5 miles of extra trail through rocky glades and curiously rounded stones). If you want to cut that part of the approach off, you can make your way, by car, passing the Hulapai Ranger Station on the road, and then take the right onto the main campground, which is the more popular entry. After passing the numbered cottages and the RV’s in their designated areas, and you will see the marker for the ‘Aspen Trail’; here you will begin your challenge. Aspen Peak Trail’ is marked with signs on the way up, but remember on the way down to follow the signs that say “Campground” to get back.
The first portion of Aspen Trail is a bold introduction to the Ponderosa Pine “vibe”. Dragonflies with a shiny blue armor orbit dazzling red cactus flowers beneath the forest. (Image/Left) This initial 1000 feet of incline is a winding set of switchbacks and vistas. The boulders here are rounded like leavened bread, adding a unique surreality to the openings in the glades, and there are hundreds of thousands of these rounded fixtures.
How it is that these boulders came came to be rounded and stacked individually is hard to imagine. As you continue into the 1500 foot level of prominence you will come to the ridge which opens up on the northern view of Kingman and the overall desert plateau. It isn’t just the vastness of this view over the northern ridge, but the stillness that presides over the radiating gold that takes your breath away. Arizona is like “spirituality that happens at a glance”; there’s truly an underlying force that imposes an evolved slowness over everything; it’s the ‘un-rushed’ spirit that survives among the high desert winds. If you move too fast, you just won’t make it. Everything you see is whispering “Pace yourself, and take your time.” The land feels like natures assigned setting for prophecy, which is one hell of a calling card.
After taking in the northern vista on Aspen Trail’ you will begin to see the peak as you curve slowly around the mountain face, eventually making your way to the southern side. There is a view of the southern ridges beyond as the path first crosses a rickety wooden bridge that is your ‘gateway’ to the uppermost vale.(Image/Below)
From here something otherworldly happens. Just like in the Celtic heights of enchanted places like the Rowan Valley in Wales, where massive ‘cut’ stones just start to appear out of nowhere, Hulapai seems to support similar ancient stoneworks specifically in the advantageous heights, where anyone approaching would be seen for miles before arrival. There are several stone-linings along the upper path. It is a good possibility that these stones were placed by the Neolithic culture, then supported by the Hulapai tribe, and reinforced in modern times. Clearly the area was sacred for someone if they were taking the time to create stones-works at 8000 feet, which is what we see here. In Celtic elevations, often times when you find stone-linings that begins to announce a sacred zone, there is a singular solitary statement monumentalizing that sacredness. It is beyond astonishing that as you travel a little further along this last 200 yards of trail you will find a single Standing Stone unlike any of the other hundreds-of-thousands of rounded stones you’ve passed. The Standing Stone is cut abruptly on the top, with a a right angle cut into its right side. It stands about 6 feet high, with an absolutely flat-cut face, like a table standing up at about 4 inches in width. It is totally opposite the rounded features of the common boulders here, in every possible way; and it faces the peak.
This Standing Stone is most likely one of the oldest sociological statements in all of Arizona, among hundreds of such statements. If it is related to the Neolithic culture of ancient Celtic places, then this stone is no less than 4000 to 6000 years old. It is truly priceless. It might very well be that this is what is known as a ‘Solar Stone’, marking mid-day on this mountain for eternity. ‘Solar Stones’ appear in Celtic highlands, as well as the New England mountains. It is no mistake that from here you can follow the last portion of Aspen Trail towards a grand monolithic peak laid out dramatically before you. Continue towards this massive pinnacle to make the dramatic Aspen Peak. Even looking at the rock features in this uppermost area, you will see that there is not a single stone cut with right angles at the top and sides, like the Standing Stone that marks the upper trail.
At the peak you are able to see a beautiful northern desert plateau. At this point you are 8,417 feet above Sea-level.
Aspen Trail at Hulapai is a spiritual challenge. You will have to put aside your usual hiking tendencies and regular comforts. Plan carefully. This is a stellar place. There are deer running through the forest below, and a high wind rushing over the desert; it may carry all the way to the Pacific Ocean in California! The Peak here is like an epic guard tower for the entirety of the ‘American West’; Hulapai being on the western edge of the mountain ranges of Arizona, which continue all the way up to the Rockies of Colorado at its eastern edge. The wonders that exist deeper into the Arizona interior are astoundingly worthy of such a “tower”, where the ancients once dwelled, high above the world. Just let it all sink in.
Location: Quebec, Canadian Highlands
Prominence: 2000 feet
Note: Every so often, if you’re a hiker with a few mountain ranges under your belt, you may have the luck to come across a landscape that is basically pristine. In these pristine places, after hiking for a while, you can’t help but notice, what it is that you don’t notice. For example, here at Jacques Cartier National Park, there are no ‘stone-linings’ running through the woods; no Dolmens tilting their capstones at the tops of the hills; no Colonial Period walls dividing the Passes in the heights; and no Standing Stones. Here in this wonderfully peaceful place, you will simply find deep forest glades with uninterrupted streams, and steep mountain ridges overwhelmed with trees; but no signs of the Neolithic works that overwhelm the landscapes just 200 miles south, across the U.S boarder. This is the Atlantic side of Canada, where french is spoken in delightful tones beneath the trees. Here you will find the Black Spruce, beautiful groves of Yellow Birches, millions of Maple trees, and the classic Northern Pine.Places without Neoliths: It is just as important to seek out these landscapes, and not lean too hard on the cultural discoveries of antiquity; and furthermore, not “lean” at all during a hike through a place such as this. Just enjoy the luck of being in a gorgeous wilderness. Long before any European explorers, such as Jacque Cartier, had arrived in this particular wilderness in the 1490’s, we should remember that an incredibly beautiful and thriving native culture already existed here. Since the receding of the last Ice Age, this region fostered the indigenous tribes of the Huron, Ottawa, Iroquois, and Mic-Mac. These tribes embraced the landscape in every possible way, and there is so much to embrace. Today, long after this regions Colonial conflicts have played-out, the Range is now known as the The Laurentian Mountains, or Canadian Highlands; complete with dramatic peaks booming out of the valley, and a wide rushing river that runs ultimately down to the imposing northern Atlantic Ocean. In places where there is no Neolithic culture to consider, a more personal exploration can take place. Just one moment with butterfly by the river can bring things into perspective for you, as crazy as that sounds, and that opportunity will find you here. Here, the commercial world of monetized value and the dull overload of inanimate things fades out slowly when staring into the tiger like streaks and spots of a delicate, but tough, Monarch. Great beauty is found in little things. These are the lessons of the forest. This place is the perfect opportunity to think about the last time you were in such a vast reserve; realize the curiously challenging feeling that hits all of us initially, when we get into spaces where our hyper-urbanized interactions, with all it’s bells and whistles, aren’t dominating our senses. It’s o.k to feel a little strange; and after a while, with practice, walking into wild spaces can honestly become like walking into a dream. Even the language used to describe hiking in natural spaces becomes poetically philosophical and soothing. Let these themes roll over you like a stream; ride with abandon on the current if you can; catch the Sun, then take shade; climb high, and then look down at what you’ve done. Your mind, as well as your body, will thank you in a place like Jacques Cartier National Park.
Driving Directions: Just 45 minutes northwest of Quebec, the drive to the gates of this National Park is striking. Follow Route 73 all the way to the park entrance where there is a small entry fee. The 5 mile drive along the Cartier river-valley will take you to the Park-Center, and Parking. During that five mile ride you will realize that you have entered a vast hinterland. This is a 31 square mile reserve of hiking trails, kayak routes, glamping quarters, and snowshoe access, all maintained with total excellence.
Les Cascades Trail: For a great initial experience at Cartier National’ take the Cascades Trail, meaning ‘waterfall’, which stems directly from the Park Center. Begin by crossing the river on the wooden foot-bridge and you will get a wonderful initial perspective on the entire scene, before heading into the forest. The mountains on both sides of the river have a prominence of about 2000 feet, with the River measuring about 200 yards across. The woods are massive here, with rolling knolls and glens supporting every type of Canadian wildlife, including Moose and Deer, which could cross your path at any given moment. This waterfall trail is a simple loop, so you can be at ease in terms of navigation. The first portion of the lower trail is a relaxing treck along a wide and hilly path running for about 2 miles. There is a classic stream crossing, with a little wooden bridge just over two miles into the trail. (Image/Below) The streams here were beautiful, similar to the cinematic rivulets of Tollymore Forest in Newcastle Ireland, where Season 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones was filmed. (Image/Below)At place like this, by streams that have that “Camelot” type feel, the spiritual side of hiking in big woods can become clear all at once. One of the amazing and very real benefits of basic hiking over time is the “Deja Vu” factor of natural spaces. Obviously natural spaces are going to be similar in many ways; but it is important to reinforce the idea that: just like listening to a song you loved from many years past, which can immediately transport your mind to that former place and Time in your life, streams actually have this very same incredible quality. Where streams rush in deep forests, there can be literal “Deja Vu” flashes, perhaps of other beautiful places like: Tollymore in Ireland, Savoy in Massachusetts, or Glen Coe in Scotland, all of which are vibrationally similar to Les Cascades Trail. When this “Deja Vu” feeling takes place along beautiful streams, the effect on your mind, that “outside Time” feeling, is the very vibe that individuals who practice ‘meditation’ or ‘prayer’ are striving to achieve. Forests are a sacred vehicle for a better state of mind, if you take the time to pass through them. More advanced studies are now coming out revealing the physical and psychological benefits of natural spaces; they refine the palette of your senses, making you capable of accepting the subtle bubbling of a brook; the low booming echo of tall trees stretching in the wind; and every so often, total stillness. Getting back to Cartier National Forest, follow the trail to the left, just after the stream, where the larger stream is dancing down the valley through boulders and stones, and you will begin to climb into the beauty of the third mile. There are many stops along the path to just relax, jump in the water, and generally exhale for a while by the picture-perfect rushing water. After following the third mile along this waterfall you will eventually cross another wooden bridge and have the choice of heading directly back, or taking the the elevated route to get another 100 feet or so up the valley, which is recommended. At the top of this elevated trail is a heart-warming view of the mountains on the other side of the river-valley. After viewing the mountain you can follow the trail out and back to the beginning with ease.
In a place like this, a forest of supreme tranquility, it can actually be hard to come out at the end of the day. Jacques Cartier National Park is worthy of a lifetime of visits, with kayaks and snowshoes, depending on the time of year. With the new weather pattern that is now dominating roughly the last fifteen years, this particular part of the world is now under snow and ice for 7 months (or more) each year. Canadian winters make Celtic winters look mild at most. Time spent in the warmth of the Sun in Canada is absolutely precious. If you decide to experience the northeast extreme of the North-American Continent, continuing into Canada, go in Summertime. Even Canadians are challenged by the deep winters here. Give Quebec and the beautiful Jacques Cartier National Park a try while the flowers are blooming. This place will bring out the best within you, and in more ways than you might realize. Go well, with each and every step.
Location: Flagstaff, Arizona/America
Elevation: 8,042 feet/Prominence 1000 feet
Note: When seeking out sacred places, signs for Neolithic Culture will not always reveal themselves. The world is a wide place, teaming with variation and regeneration. In places like Sunset Crater, you will experience real wonder about the regenerative ability of Nature, as well as its explosive potential. This is a relatively new landscape compared to the Ranges of Ireland, Scotland, England, and New England. Just like the Celts of the Atlantic coastlines, there are native tribes that have been in this particular place basically forever. These indigenous tribes can attest to the age and variation of the landscape, along with Neolithic legends of their own, which bear striking similarities to those of the Celtic tradition. The Hopi of the Coconino Desert tell stories of “Red-Headed Giants” that ‘terrorized’ this region once upon a time. Isn’t that ironic. Many tribes, such as the Wupakti, migrated away from this scene, out to the very edge of the desert, into mountains and forests, perhaps to get away from the threats that existed out in the wide-open-wild. They came to live in the shadowy-cool forests of what is now Sunset Crater Volcano National Park, the ever-young landscape on the edge of the abyss.
Some places, just by hiking through them, can literally change your dreams at night. After hiking the countryside in Ireland with eyes wide open for just a few days, the only thing you will see when you eventually close your eyes at night, is a bright residual green. (Image/ Below/Left/Glenveagh Mountains/Ireland). It truly happens. In the high Cococino Desert Plateau of Arizona (Image/Below) where everything you see is, at a minimum, 8000 feet in elevation, the altitude seeps slowly into all five of your senses, and even pushes you into a sixth.Here your body will begin to sense that it has moved into another world entirely. After a few days on the Cococino Plain of Arizona, the only thing you will see, when you eventually close your eyes at night, is residual white-gold. The perfect example of this is the wide-open panorama of the Grey Mountain (Image/Above), just south of the Grand Canyon. Grey Mountain sits like a white-gold monument welded by the timeless high-winds of the Cococino Plateau. On the extreme southern edge of this “white and gold dimension” is the surreal and vivid oasis of the ‘Sunset Crater Volcano National Park’. (Image/Below) Sunset Crater’ is the captivating edge of the intimidating, but totally scintillated, Cococino Desert scene. From a distance, Sunset’ is the first life-giving glimpse of green after a dauntingly vast span of high desert bush. The Crater’s’ black rock and golden brown soil stand outs like a holy mountain against this dramatic golden-white backdrop, and it is highly likely that the native Americans of this area believed it to be a spiritual monument.From the base of the Volcano, Sunset’ becomes a deep and jagged black-sea of solidified magma, an other-worldly terrain displaying a tangible timeline of life and death, and then life again, in a single glance.(Image/Below) The trail design here at Sunset’ is a short set of ‘Wizard of Oz-looking’ pathways that run through the incredible magma remains. The rocks are sharp and drastic shafts which cut deep into the earth. The smooth white stone platform built for hikers here couldn’t contrast the experience more (Image/Below). It is one surreal stroll.The best trail here is the small road which runs northwest into the newborn forest, around the Volcano. To see this brand-new forest rising up out of what was once magma, ashes, and fire, is to see a spiritual vision. It is a testament to the determination of the force of Life around us; how It finds a way, even in the harshest of environments. It is truly surreal: What looks like level pavement in the image below, is actually the newest of forests growing straight out of the compiled ashes and magma. The fauna here are tough, resilient, but somehow delicate and soft as well. (Image/Above) It is forbidden by the Park Service to climb the Crater’, but you can wander into this baby-forest near the western base of the Volcano’. Here you can catch a glimpse of the young glades climbing up the 1000 foot incline. The new growth browns’ the black-rock deep into soil, with the golden brush sprouting-up as a result, pushing the Ponderosa-Pines ever-upward, as if they were climbing The Great Pyramid.
The indigenous Natives of this region, the Wupakti, would’ve seen the dramatic eruption which took place here just over 1000 years ago, from their stone dwellings only a few thousand yards away. Their dwellings remain in the safety of the Ponderosa Pine filled Cococino glades, where once deer and rabbit would’ve been plentiful, before the modern era invaded their tranquil existence. (Image/Below).
The Wupakti absolutely knew what they were doing when they settled just west of the Volcano. The variety of alternate natural features within a 50-mile radius of Sunset Crater’ is overwhelming. To the north of Flagstaff City, and east of Sunset Crater’, is the striking San Francisco Mountain Range of Arizona, inclusive of four beautiful peaks, with trails, all climbing no less than 12,000 feet. (Image/Below) The native cultures here are beautiful and varied. The Wupakti chose to live at the base of these Mountains, within the Forest. The legendary Apache dwelled to the southeast; while the mystical Hopi chose the north, way-out in the desert Canyons, such as the Grand Canyon (Image/Left) and the lessor known, but no less beautiful, ‘Little Colorado Canyon’. All of this is out there in the northern arid abyss that seems to go on forever…(Image/Below) The signs of the Neolithic Culture that existed before the Natives of the region are certainly here, spread across an intensely vast amount of space. Multiple canyons, forests, mountain ranges, and deserts exist here, all with features that show signs of Neolithic culture. If you come to Flagstaff Arizona, visit Sunset Crater’. Experience raw elements of trails containing the Past, Present, and Future in one stellar region. The regenerative force of Nature persists in even the harshest of places. Amazingly, if you investigate the stories of the Wupakti, Hopi, and Apache, you will find myths so similar to Celtic legends, it will astonish you. A hike through Sunset Crater’ makes it all as real as it gets, and in a stunningly beautiful way. Don’t touch the lava if it starts to flow, but definitely enjoy the show.
Location: County Donegal/Ireland
Note 1: There are only so many places in the wide world that offer an approachable scene of mountains along with gorgeous coastline in the same incredible hikes. Some examples include exotic places like Santa Barbara/California, Monaco/France, or Whakatane/New Zealand. These epic places all carry that rare majesty of mountain-range combined with coastal experience. These areas, at minimum, are straight-up wonderlands. It pulls on our imaginations and taps our curiosity to even glimpse images of these places. There is yet another place though, no less profound, further up the northern hemisphere, that is so worthy of your attention. For the lucky trailblazers who have stood at the peak of Mount Errigal in County Donegal, Ireland, and turned their gaze North (Image/Below), it becomes scintillatingly clear that this is one of the most incredible mountainous/coastal regions on Earth. This is Donegal, Ireland. If you haven’t found your way there yet, then this is your chance to get a glimpse of this ancient place. Sometimes just a glimpse is all it takes to get you there, like falling in love at a glance. This is the overall goal of Stonestrider.com; not just to show you how beautiful a given place might be, but to give you enough visual substance to put you over the top, and get you to make the decision to get there… in real-time.
Donegal is a collection of every possible aspect of ancient Irish culture; from the Celtic tradition espousing tales of Giants and great kings, to the related Medieval Period and its dynamic history. In approaching Donegal, the boarder regions to the South and East will be looked at as well. Ireland is an interwoven tapestry of related Counties, and it becomes necessary to describe the beautiful sites that exist en-route to this beautiful northwest corner of the Emerald Isle, as well as Donegal proper. The history here is pretty much on-par with Game of Thrones. There are epic accounts of Viking-raids all over northern Ireland, mingled with Medieval relations between the great Houses that occupied the ancient castles of the region. Donegal Castle has many engaging stories throughout its haunting and epic history. (below/left). There are hundreds of other gorgeous castles dotting the landscape, contrasting the skyline atop cliffs; along crystalline lakes, and dark Atlantic coast. There are Dolmens in the heights and forests; Dolmens which are aged 4000 to 6000 years. Stone Circles exist mystically in the fields of each county as well, and are no less significant. Donegal is a veritable soup of historical substance. There is a historical richness and mystical sustenance that locations like Santa Barbara and Whakatane’ just can’t provide. An adventure in Donegal is rich with tangible in-depth substance, true wonder, and every type of magical potential. O.k. Lets begin, to wander in…
The Region: Before entering the dimension that is Donegal, the logistic mystery that surrounds the area should definitely be addressed. Even describing the cartagraphical affiliations of the area creates a bit of a tongue-twister; colors can be used to describe the political designation of Donegal. Donegal is in the physical region of northern Ireland, and more specifically northwestern Ireland, and remains part of the nation of Ireland, which generally continues geographically South from Donegal. Donegal, however, is not in “the nation” of Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. The north-eastern part of the island is the U.K. Be aware of this national distinction if you travel anywhere due-north of Dublin, the proud people of this specified region most certainly are.
Note 2: The history of the northerly destinations of Ireland should definitely be looked at for a moment before thinking of traveling through. Deadly conflict has taken place around the area of Belfast due to the occupation of British forces. This controversial occupation extends far back in Time, even before Colonial times, into the Medieval period. Interaction between the British, Scottish, and Norse cultures, are interwoven into the overall ancient history of the region, with the British prevailing into this Modern period. Towns like Newcastle in the Mourne Mountain Range have a proud tradition of being part of the U.K, with hundreds of British flags often displayed in the old-town center, nestled into its beautiful coastal/mountain scene. (Image/Left) Travelers should know that there is no toll, or wall, separating the northeastern region from the rest of Ireland. The beautiful Irish landscape rolls through the entire Island unhindered, and you can pass from county to county freely, regardless of these modern distinctions.
Note 3: A seekers approach to Donegal can definitely start with the Megaliths, among many other beautiful things from era’s past. The ancient monuments of Ireland, its Dolmens, Cairns, Standing Stones, Stone Temples, and Castles, are extremely important for trail-finders. Their initial quality of lending the deepest spiritual significance to the landscape is only the beginning of their impact; they also give hikers something significant to strive for, a goal beyond the typical tourist attractions i.e: places where the locals stare distantly from beyond the parking-lots. Often times, if you set your sights on a sacred site, those beautiful and impossible stones in the illusive distance, wonderful and unpredictable things will appear and happen along the way. An example of this is found on the wonderful trail high above Glenveagh Castle, in Glenveagh National Park. There is a totally unmarked Wedge Tomb in the most dramatic of places, right next to the elevated trail. Finding these relics is not only a natural rush, but it also supports the idea that someone lived in this specific area as far back as the Neolithic Period, and if you explore further, it is likely that you will find more magical anthropological statements, adding to the wonder and mystery of the scene. This Wedge Tomb had that special symmetry that so many Megaliths do (Image/Below)… it is placed in the absolute center of the gully, and above an incredibly beautiful Glenveagh Lake. The view just 20 yards away from the Wedge Tomb, is truly spectacular with the Castle in the Frame. It is no wonder that an ancient group/culture found this spot to be a place worth living in, and claimed it with territorial stone statements. Incredible.Other times, you can often be hiking and just around the next bend an incredible historic site will just appear practically out of nowhere, as Monea Castle did for me while hiking a roadside in Enniskillen on my way to Donegal.
Walking towards a countryside castle like Monea is like wandering into a dream; often without another person for miles, with only the quiet stillness to picture the beautiful life-style that had taken place here hundreds of years ago. (Image/Above) Not far from this very same scene, continuing north on the A35 to enter Donegal from the South, you will discover the approach for Drumskinny Stone Circle. There is countryside for 15 miles in every direction when you arrive. The stillness is shocking. This is the epitome of Stones Circles in Ireland. Drumskinny is in a classic radial form, along with a linear extension of smaller stones, which are certainly worthy of a study beyond the scope of this article. Perhaps there is a celestial connection? Each stone is beautifully unique, like people, and yet the unify into one shape. These places of ancient ceremony have a vibe similar to that of visiting a relative over the landmark age of 100, that is: without words there is an amazing depth to the moment, however still and nearly silent the scene may be. These are the places where the Celts had dwelt for centuries; generations of everyday farmers, householders, and small-business-owners are their descendants. They have survived countless struggles to remain connected to their homesteads. After visiting this beautiful place at the southern edge of Donegal, you will be ready to move North to a region where two Dolmens have stood since the beginning of History. Both the Gortnavern Dolmen, and the Kilclooney Dolmen, are located in County Donegal, and are fantastic options for a multifaceted adventures with a climactic focus.
The Gortnavern Dolmen Excursion: The overall approach to reaching the Gortnavern Dolmen is just as significant as actually finding it. Major roads in Donegal are solitary and singular, while contrastingly, smaller roads often have no names, and lead to the farthest corners of enclosed hedges and fields that seem to go on forever. ‘Moneymore Road’ is a good example of the lessor road experience, located at the southern base of Mount Errigal. This little street gives a reclusive valley perspective of the entire enchanting area. An abandoned stone church sits in the shadow of the Mount Errigal beyond, a truly epic vision. The best and most beautiful approach to the Gortnavern Dolmen, is to pass by Mount Errigal, near Moneymore, and continue through Glenveagh National Park (Image/Below) along the incredible R251. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-drive. From the Hamlet of Mullaghduff the entire R251 scene can be viewed. (Image/Below)
In hamlet of Mullaghduff there are beautiful free-standing boulders in gorgeous places (Image/Below), and incredible lowland waterfalls that are totally untouched, all in their original state. This waterfall (Image/Below), just off the road, doesn’t even have a path or an approach; you simply have to wade through the hedges to get close. I believe that this is a megalithic altar from antiquity, and fully engineered. Look at the fixtures of the interlocked stones; they are clearly “cut-to-fit” and rounded to create a beautiful and massively harnessed release point for the flowing water. Incredible. The entire landscape is enchanted; it truly is.So bring your hiking gear/tall-boots, and be ready to trudge away in order to get close to something beautiful in Donegal. Continuing on, the Gortnavern Dolmen (Image/Below) is only 4 miles from the center of Kerrykeel. Along the road to Kerrykeel there are local vegetable stands ( 2nd Image/Below/Left) and craft shops. Stop by and converse with these local people! The Irish of Donegal are a people who have lived on the distant northwestern edge of Europe’s continental crossroads for what is now thousands upon thousands of years; take a moment for these unique and amazing souls. Even the small things the Irish country-folk have to do and say, may strike you as rare subtle wisdom, especially when compared to the placative and manic normalities of American and European Post-Modern life. The Gortnavern Dolmen is tucked beautifully into an elevated set of hills, south of the darkly soiled ‘Mount Ranny.’ (You must follow a country road with a small sign for the Dolmen, and then a left onto another country road, above a farm/ i.e: exact instructions to get to the Dolmen are in the “Gortnavern” article of Stonestrider.com, in the ‘Ireland’ section)
This is a 4000 to 6000 year old Portal-Tomb with a massive Capstone which faces the gorgeous Gortnatraw Mountain.(Image/Above) It is a rugged hilltop tapestry; a tangible infinity of farms and hedges amazingly complimented by the intentional angles of these ancient stones; stones that I believe were built to tantalize our perspective. Perhaps 700 generations have passed since the construction of this monument. Dolmens, at this modern point in history, are more rare than any section of amazon forest; at greater risk of extinction than the Orca; and are as rare as a blue diamond. If you see a Dolmen you are truly touching something priceless. ( Again, for the more detailed instructions on how to get to the Gorntavern Dolmen please see the “Gortnavern” section in the ‘Ireland’ category of Stonestrider.com, or: http://stonestrider.com/2016/11/07/gortnavern/
Now let’s wander in an entirely different direction.
The Kilclooney Dolmen Excursion: Mount Errigal could be considered the epicenter of County Donegal. It helps to describe the many features of Donegal in reference to its beautiful white peak. The countryside to the East, which heads toward the Gortnavern Dolmen, is an inland scene of enchanted mountains and rolling valleys. The countryside to the South, which leads toward the Kilclooney Dolmen, is a different experience entirely, a coastal scene of cliffs, crescent beaches, rocky caverns, and an amazingly iconographic waterfall. From Errigal head South along the N56 to the R261. The R261 will take you to the Kilclooney Dolmen Centre, where you can take the short hike to the Dolmen. Not far from the Centre, at the farm house just up the road on R261, is an almost hidden, practically forgotten set of stones that was once a beautiful Wedge Tomb. It is unmarked by the side of the road, and clearly, once upon a time, a capstone was balanced above the supporting stones. Amazing. It is just an indicator that there are sacred things, seen, and unseen, all around you here. The entire landscape is a type of natural “temple”, a once synergized region accentuated by stone fixtures that we are still trying to understand in these late Modern times.Before you start hiking here, wear ‘tall boots’! Having the right boots is the difference between a challenging experience, or something challengingly wonderful. As is the case with so many indigenous ancient sites, there is not a ‘standard path’ to the Megalith, you simply have to see the Dolmen about 150 yards behind the farmhouse and make your way towards it. For those who understand how wonderful this experience is, the non-commercial experience, the chance to laugh increases and releases with each and every Irish-as-hell step. These are truly special moments in a literally sacred Irish countryside. The terrain here is mossy, with brackish water mixed into tall-brush, and sandy dunes. Your ‘tall boots’ will make an easy walk through the terrain, right up to the ancient stone-lining which runs directly to the Dolmen and Wedge Tomb; they sit atop a small knoll covered with wildflowers and tough moss. Here is a prime example of how stones that look like a “wall” leading up to the Dolmen and Wedge Tomb, are certainly not a wall. These stones are a “Lining”; a veritable cable made of stones, which connects sacred site to sacred site, just like in New England. These stones were never, by definition, a “wall”. The stones of the Lining’ couldn’t stop a single thing passing through this country side, and it was never meant to. The Lining’ is part of an over all scene, all of the same Period, and most likely created by the same individual(s) as an “energy center” for the over-all scene. With the Atlantic Ocean only a mile or so beyond, the air here is medicinally salty. This “beach-day breeze” inundates everything, from the moss and grass, to the Dolmen’s very stones. This is an above average size Dolmen, with a massive “satellite-dish-like” 20 ton Capstone. This Capstone is balanced, and set roughly 5 feet above the ground. There is a slightly dilapidated Wedge Tomb with a 5 ton Cap-stone just ten yards away. This Wedge Tomb is no less priceless or significant in an archaeological sense, and certainly beautiful in its own right. Again, like Gortnavern, Poulnabrone, and the dozen or so remaining in-situ Dolmens in Ireland, Kilclooney is roughly 4000 to 6000 years old, and a unique version of the classic Portal Tomb. This is a place to sit and contemplate the scope of Time, the magical possibilities implied by the Stones, and the luck of being alive to see them.
Assaranca Waterfall: Like so many highways in other countries, certain roads simply become other roads, or have two names. After taking in the experience of the Kilclooney Dolmen site, you should continue driving to see the beautiful Assaranca Waterfall on the R261 South, which simply becomes the N56. Not far passed “Northwest Sea Kayaking” business, along the N56, just passed a beautiful white house with a red door, is a road with no name. It is a right-turn road with signs that point and say: “Tra Strand”/Uaimh Caves/Eas’ Waterfall 6 km/: standing clearly for all to see. Take the Right onto this classic Irish road and enjoy the short drive to the beautiful Assaranca Waterfall. The roads here are the hiking trails. This gorgeous region is known as Lackaduff. You can park your car at the waterfall and begin a beautiful hike towards the massive caves within the beautifully looming cliffs, all about 2 miles further up the lane. Small mountains encompass this rugged bay-route pathway, with adorable homes and fields of wildflowers, along with flocks of sheep. These are working farmers and fisherman in the area; they are not on vacation, so please be kind to those you meet, whoever that may be. Soon you will arrive to the beach… When you arrive take the path into the sand-dunes just at the end of the lane, and head out to the beach toward the caves (on the left.) As other places have been described in Stonestrider.com, this place looks like the perfect Jedi hideaway, perhaps to be found only by the most devout of disciples. The colors here; the glassy Atlantic Ocean against the super-fine sand; the cliffs and caves under a cloud-sized blanket of green; they create a living canvas that just pours out an absolutely radiating beauty.
Last Note: Donegal is both rugged and radiant in one. There are striking scenes of mountains that just cut the sky with white stone peaks; there are rolling green ranges of mountain after mountain, after mountain.
Eventually these mountains slam into a crystalline Atlantic Ocean. The Dolmens in Donegal indicate that the culture of the region is as old as Time itself. Wandering into this County is equivalent to wading into a Celtic Tsunami. The beauty is overwhelming. In every direction there is a pastoral dimension which is vividly painted in every possible variation of green.
Donegal is so connected to the land, that the entire region is a ‘trail’. You don’t look for “the trail” at ‘Ranny’, the little dark mountain (Image/Below) which sits a valley away from the Gortnavern Dolmen; you simply climb the mountain. The mountain IS THE TRAIL. Donegal feels like the landscape that never told a lie. It is the last European coastline upon the vast Atlantic Ocean which cuts jagged jade cliffs into what was for centuries the edge of the known world. Come out and stand on the edge. Seek and Find.
Location: Oak Creek Canyon/Arizona/USA
Elevation: 7,200 ft.
Note: The majestic Oak Creek Canyon is as much an expedition as it is a unique hike, even by international standards. It’s an achievement just to commit to this adventure, which is located in a massive 16 mile crevasse beneath the dramatically elevated Ranges of Sedona and Flagstaff in the great State of Arizona/USA. This may be the most popular hike in all of Arizona, which is less extreme than the Grand Canyon, and more accessible, with beautiful Coconino forestry surrounding the rocky trails running along the surreal stony tributary of the Verde River. This is another photographic paradise, where the curvatures and contrasting colors of the Canyon create the feeling of a rocky oasis; a secret cavernous fortress; a brilliant natural hideaway which has protected the precious stream that has flowed here since the receding of the last ice age, some 21,000 years ago.
Route 89A runs dramatically into the base of the Canyon, twisting and turning along ledges that will require careful driving. Like the N71 that stretches across Killarney National Park in Ireland, or the A82 that cuts through the natural gateway to the Highlands in Scotland, 89A in Arizona has the potential to be one of the most dramatic drives of your life. Upon reaching the central base of the Canyon there is a toll with a small entry fee, along with an active parking lot. In this part of the world ‘climate conscious’ strategies should be practiced carefully in order to insure an engaging and healthy quest into the Canyon. Most importantly, for a hike in this region, is an early arrival, which insures the coolest possible temperature for your excursion, as well as the best odds for parking inside the reserve. If the parking Lot is full, which could well be the case by 8:30 a.m, most of the remaining gregarious trailblazers will attempt to park along the base of the 89A roadside ledge, which is certainly possible, but dangerous. Start early and increase your odds for a great and seamless experience.
The first vision of Oak Creek Canyon is of a domineering rock-tsunami of glowing golden stone that stretches for miles in each direction.
After crossing the main entry bridge, the Oak Creek trail branches off into several alternate options, each with varying ability levels. The initial trail follows the flow of the Verde River to the north, where dramatic caverns emerge like tunnels carved out of the rock-face, funneling a seemingly miraculous flow of water. On the right side of the initial trail is a rounded out rock cavern. This cavern is elevated with an entrance that is supported by stone-linings. These are similar to linings which can be found in New England and Ireland, although they are not a major feature throughout the trail here at Oak Creek. Additionally, there are several free standing boulders above the entrance way, and along the trail, which are often an indicator of something more than just natural “random rock” placement. The interior of this cave is perfectly smooth. There are no signs of it being chipped away at with some kind of pick-axe or prehistoric chisel. Even more mysteriously is a perfectly square 4 foot shaft angled straight towards the sky, specifically along the outer canyon wall. This is very similar to the square shafts found in almost all the stone chambers in New England, as well as the Great Pyramid at Giza. These shafts often point to the Sun at a specific point on the skyline, and more specifically, to the Winter or Summer solstices, which are moments that will flash dramatically through the shaft at that specific moment of the year. This also exists at New Grange in Ireland, the oldest megalithic temple in the world. How could a primitive native culture cut a perfectly square shaft through 4 feet of solid rock? While considering this question, observe the dramatic view from the cavern, which is truly a wonder. Moving on from this cave, the trail follows a stream into the deeper woods, and becomes an experience unlike any hike you’ve ever taken. The trail extends back and forth over the rolling stream, leading into the deeper glens of the gorgeous Cococino Forest. There are free sitting boulders at each significant portion of the trail, seemingly and mysteriously assisting the hike. At some points the boulders indicate a scenic place, and at other points they indicate an actual direction on the trail. It is hard to ignore the specific placement of these boulders, and what it might indicate. What culture is capable of moving boulders above caverns and along rivers, and to specific points on the trails? Continuing, this woodsy path quickly escalates into a humbling epiphany of enchanted woods. Oaks, Ash, Willows, Ponderosa Pines, and Cottonwoods burst broadly forth from the landscape, all surrounded by a red-rock coliseum of natural stone. Heading north along this beautifully forested route you will encounter a feature of colossal level granite shelves that lead dramatically up the chasm like a massive set of porticos. The color of these ‘shelves’ is so in tune with the surrounding forest that you might actually mistake these curvy and knotted red-rock exteriors for fallen wood, but it most certainly is not. It is a testament to the original look of this ancient trail, where once upon a Time, the first Time, the rock was barren and uncovered by the forest, revealing it’s incredible original story. Just use your imagination and picture these giant steps climbing up the canyon in an incredibly broad way!
This is a truly magical trail complete with brilliantly bright butterflies, dragonflies, fields of wildflowers, and gigantic trees. The rolling of the stream along the path creates a wind-tunnel that is invigorating, especially in such a dry climate. Feel free to jump in the water here, or perhaps picnic for the day. There are trailblazers of all ages climbing, hiking, and splashing through the woods. The protective feeling of the massive chasm of rock all around you creates a wonderful experience. The Native Americans considered this canyon absolutely sacred, and it is easy to see why. It’s a magical hideaway with miraculous qualities which could sustain a tribes existence with surprising sustenance, as well as profound beauty. Make the best preparations you can and explore this incredible place. Get a true taste of the southwestern American trail experience! And finally, welcome to the newest season of Stonestrider.com! There are some incredible and mysterious new surprises to be revealed here publically for the first time in the coming articles! Seek and find.
Location: Newry/Northern Ireland/U.K
Elevation: 2,385 ft
Note: In an almost hidden pocket of Northern Ireland, several hours drive north of Dublin, along the Irish Sea, sits the majestic Mourne Mountain Range. This is a region of beautiful mid-size peaks with approaches that are for everyone, not just the highly trained. The hike here includes a 4000 year old stone pathways which elevates steadily and comfortably into the heights. These ancient trails run beside wide streams and ledges that roll playfully down from the rocky mountain passes, and feel cool and comfortable in this northern latitude. In the heights of the mountains are cinematically continuous stone walls which stretch surreally from peak to peak, like a “Rangers Highway”. There are stunning ancient stone statements here as well. Original stoneworks here date back to the first culture, a culture which left its mark on this hauntingly beautiful place, perhaps 6000 years ago, or more. The southern face of Mount Bearnagh has a distinct ‘top porch’ which is level at the peak, with similarly sloping sides, giving the entire face a symmetrical feel. If you look close at the image below you may think its hard to find me in such a massive space; but redirect your eye to the exact center of the overall mountain, then follow that center line down to the stream, and you will see me standing at that exact center line of the scene. I am leaning a little to my right just enough to put my right eye along that center line; indicating that its possible to see potential symmetries in even the grandest spots.
I did the same thing at the ‘center point’ of Bear’s Den Fall’s in Massachusetts (See Bear’s Den/New England/Stonestrider.com), in order to illustrate the central alignment at a specially engineered site, which in this instance is easier to see from close range. The reason for leaning on the ‘center lines’ of potentially symmetrical scenes is to acknowledge the possibility of a mathematical consideration of the overall space, which often leads to real breakthroughs in identifying Neolithic statements. The works of Neolithic craftsman reveal that they were absolutely aware of geometric principles and symmetries. Like Feng Shui, Neolithic symmetries, and spacial statements, create beauty and tranquility in any type of scene. Mount Bearnagh is part of majestically enchanted Range where Neolithic statements continue to increase the further up the valley you go.
Trail: The approach at Mount Bearnagh is practically flawless. It is everything you could want in a day hike. This is a comfortable set of pathways, trails, ancient roads, and riverside runs that steadily progress, first to the Pass, then to the Peak. To the southwest of Bearnagh is a great hiking station and parking plaza with a cafeteria and campgrounds which can be found on-line. Plan your excursion before arriving for best results. Here Irish school-age children set up tents, along with international hikers, in the shadow of the gorgeous southern Mourne Range. Below is a look at the farmers road headed directly out of the Mourne towards the station.
From this simple tractor path you will begin your trek into the Mourne. After about 150 yards you will emerge out of the hedge to find a rocky path. Turn left, heading west along this rocky path for roughly 200 yards. Carefully cross over small streams, fairy pools, and massive stones to eventually come to the main wide valley trail, which is a wide rocky path turning blatantly north. Mount Bearnagh will be directly to your right as you begin to ascend what can only be described as an ancient Celtic road, all the way to the top of the valley 3.5 miles beyond. Roads like these are so ancient that we can only guess as to who built them, and are most often associated with the Celts, although that may not necessarily the case.
With an entire mountain range before you, and a beautiful rocky stream gushing along to your right, you can steadily make your way up to the Pass. At about 1.5 miles into this part of the trail wildflowers begin to emerge, along with boulders that seem centered on the peaks above. The feeling of rarity and dimensionality sets in; like you’ve stepped into another time. Rising into the area of about 1500 feet above sea level vast amounts of uniquely shaped and colossal crafted stones begin to emerge all around the trail. Often times what looks like arbitrarily placed glacial stones are actually quite the OPPOSITE. A closer look at the inundation of stones all about the valley reveals incredible and strange fixtures of stacked, quarried, and interlocking stones. About 3 miles into the trail a beautifully carved and truly amazing megalithic boulder that is encircled by smaller stones. This embracing of smaller stones lends this boulder a certain significance. Looking at this “seat” you cannot help but feel that this stone was created for exactly that purpose, as a “seat” for viewing the valley below. Obviously the amount of work it would take to move this stone is remarkable. Who would do such a thing 1000 feet above the valley?
Beyond this amazing “seat” the trail becomes a wonderful stone path veering to the north-east. A heart warming view of the valley below becomes more dramatic with each step. These pathways look like something out of a fairy tale.
The Pass at Mount Bearnagh will be a short distance ahead from here, with stone walls from two utterly different era’s guarding the top of the valley.
The image above of the Pass at Bearnagh is of two stone structures with a somewhat important historic meaning to convey; we should pause for a moment to consider this. The more modern wall, built in the early 1800’s, can be seen to the right. This is an actual ‘wall’ used to keep farmers flocks from crossing over into the next valley. The structure to the left is not a ‘wall’, but a 4000 to 6000 year old ‘stone-Lining’ that serves an entirely different function. This ‘Lining’ could never restrict the movements of anything in the valley, and was not intended to. Yet it was untouched by the builders of the wall next to it? This Lining could easily have been deconstructed as the most convenient possible supply of stone for the modern wall, some 1800 feet above the valley; why was it untouched? The reason it is preserved is that it is absolutely sacred and has been at this Pass as long as anyone can remember. The Irish have a profound respect for the ancient stones within its borders, and for thousands of years, no one dared touch these stones. So what is the Linings purpose? One hint about its purpose is in the ‘Linings’ positioning. If you will notice, this ‘Lining’ runs straight to the center point of the peak beyond, extending into strange ‘stacks’ running directly up the mountain to the center of the peak. I believe these ‘Linings’ are a type of ‘stone-cable’ that run from peak to peak, cabling subtle energies which run up through the mountain to ultimately culminate at the peak, like a capstone on a pyramid. These same Linings can be found connecting peaks in the small mountains and forests of New England, and is consistent with a pattern of Neolithic engineering found in hundreds of places, and perhaps world wide. In places like this, it feels as if the higher up you go the more strange the stones become. Just 35 yards away from the Lining at the Pass is a type of Cairn, a specific style of which can be found in areas with sacred stones. This type of Cairn has a square ‘roof slab’, with an emblematic looking side stone which stands like a sign in support of the long roof. This creates a kind of temperate storage compartment within the stones, which is what I believe was its use. 2000 miles away, hidden in the forests of Massachusetts, is a very similar Cairn located in Purgatory Chasm, a rare miniature canyon in the American northeast (featured on Stonestrider.com/Image Below, Left). Another Cairn of this specific style can be found at the highest point of the trail behind Glenveagh Castle in Donegal, Ireland (Image Below, Right).
A 20 ton stone about 100 yards down the valley looks to have been somehow sculpted to match the slope of the base of the valley. (Image/Below). This raises all sorts of questions about the earliest culture to inhabit this region. Many of the stones seem to have this reflective quality on the landscape, mimicking features beyond, imitating valleys, building connectors between peaks; who does this? It has an artistic quality, as well as raw ability to build and move massive rock sculptures. Mysterious. And it just gets more mysterious the further up you go.
The final phase of the ascent at Mount Bearnagh is a solid challenge, but breathtaking. Here you will turn right and follow the modern wall directly up the side of the mountain for about another 3/4 of a mile to the small tower sitting above the Range.In this most elevated region the mountainside becomes inundated with dramatic sections of stone, much of which has been marked, measured, and cut into curious fixtures. While hiking you can look closely at some of the stone statements that are totally distinct. Below is an example of spirally stacked stones that are mingled with pieces that are clearly marked, measured, and cut. This piece I’m pointing at in the image below contains a stone with three equidistant measured markings for cutting along its side; it was obviously intentional.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of crafted stones to be found here, all utterly undocumented artifacts. What are they doing at 2,200 feet above the valley? Here again is another set of stones which look to have been specifically cut in order to mimic the slope of the mountains beyond. (Image Below) I noticed the boulder on the right side of the picture from over 50 yards away. It has been sliced, as you can see, and the angle of that slice imitates the slope of the eastern face of the mountain beyond,
The shape of the stones imitates a rock fixture nearly at the top of the opposite slope beyond. Notice also the thin rounded plate to the left which imitates the exact angle and roundness of the peaks on the left. These stones were absolutely placed this way to specifically mimic the opposite mountains. Unreal. I am aware that this is a challenge for people to accept; I too found it a challenge for years. But time and time again, similar expressions arise in challenging elevations that are begging to be noticed, both in Ireland, and New England (as well as the rest of the world). This is a form of megalithic expression that we are simply not accustom to acknowledging, as it has been mostly ignored by the academic community. The real question you should eventually ask is: “How could they ignore an entire mountainside of marked and positioned stones?” The logical questions that arise would challenge our picture of Neolithic history, and that looks to be what modern academia will not allow. Just beyond this magical fixture is the small tower, where a 360 degree view comes into full focus. On clear days you can see Wales on the other side of the Irish Sea! Below is the simple southern view from which your hike began. The modern stone wall continues along the elevated porch of the upper mountains, twisting surreally through the Mourne beautifully (Top Image of Article). Many hikers choose to continue hiking from small tower to small tower, while others, like myself, made the return descent back to the Pass and down the Valley.
The colors here are a spongy mixture of rugged and rusty oranges mingled with profound jade and deep mossy green. The clouds play a pocketed game, with shafts of light seeping through the fast moving heavens; light arrives, sometimes in flashes over broad portions of the Mourne, while at other times appearing in prolonged beams of revelation. The air is cool and forgiving. If you have a small water purifier you could drink from the wide stream heading down the central portion of the valley back to the bottom. Enjoy the benefits of gravity assisting your 3.5 mile trek back to the station. This place has the potential to be one of the best day hikes you will ever have in your life. What more do I need to say about such a place? Find your way.
Location: Hamlet of Bushmills/County Antrim/Northern Ireland/(U.K)
Note: Every so often a place emerges for trailblazers that is so mysterious, so utterly stunning, that a reactionary discussion is unavoidable. The simplest question emerges: “How did this happen?” Welcome to The Giant’s Causeway, the slightly golden, hexagonal stone courtyard on the absolute northernmost coastal point of the Emerald Isle. This is a gorgeous coastal trail, of roughly five amazing miles, that slowly elevates and bends around two gorgeous bays which cinematically ensconce one of the most mysterious sacred sites in the world.
Scientific Theories: The landscape of Ireland is not just a minor variation from the nearby nations of England, Scotland, and France, just across the Irish Sea; it is distinctly different. Take a look at the image above, along the bay of The Giant’s Causeway; the green coastline emerges like a Jurassic jade stone. It’s breathtaking. How does a landscape like this happen? How did Ireland happen? The answers come from all sides, and each is more challenging than the next. The author J.P Mallory in his book ‘The Origins of The Irish’ attributes Ireland’s unique glowing ‘green-colored-universe’ to the primordial history of it’s formation in the earliest periods of geological history. Get ready for this: Once upon a time, believe it or not, just after the breaking-up of the singular Pangaea Continent, Ireland was actually off the coast of… Australia. Ireland’s earliest tropical attributes come from this region. In an oversimplified explanation, Ireland slowly made its way (in what is scientifically called the ‘Ordovician Period‘) through extreme Ice Ages, Floods, and drastic Continental shifts, to reside at its preset position. That’s what scientists believe. Adding to that initial tropical origin, Ireland is at the glorious finish-line of the Atlantic Jet Stream, which is the warmest and largest tropical under-water-highway in the world, literally running from Jamaica to Ireland in it’s final phase. As result, Ireland’s southern coast (and England’s) is subtly marinated with Palm trees, something many people just don’t know. While hiking through Ireland you can easily begin to wonder what the actual story of this landscape is?
History and Religious Myth: It is hard to accept a theory that has Ireland’s earliest origin off the coast of Australia, but the uniqueness of Ireland’s semi-tropical south, and ‘thousand shades of green’, indicate something special. As noted before on Stonestrider.com, once, while hiking Kinnitty Mountain in the landlocked heart of Ireland, I found seashells on the mountain trail, about 2200 feet above sea level. What were seashells doing at the top of a mountain? Ireland must have been covered by the ocean at one point or another, just as other landmasses, for this to happen; and more directly, this evidence would point to the last time it happened, meaning the Biblical Flood. For some people this is also hard to reconcile, and yet it is hardly less realistic than a theory transporting Ireland from the coast of Australia. To this point, in the southwest of Ireland, there is a magical view of the Gap of Dunloe from the N71 Road, that is so spongy, so filled with undulating vegetation, that picturing it at the bottom of the ocean seems uniquely possible. (Image/Below) Like shells on mountaintops, or Palm trees growing in a northern European nation, The Causeway’ contains features that are compelling, and require some secondary consideration, to say the least. The first and most obvious of the features here are the small, but dense, golden hexagonal stone pillars lining this brilliant coastal cove. School-Age textbooks attribute the geometry of these stones to a process of volcanic lava being cooled and shaped by the ocean some 40 million years ago. For an impressionable ten year old child reading a fancy textbook this explanation might seem o.k, but for an educated, sentient adult, aware of logic and context, the explanation is almost insulting. Simply put, there are so many problems with the accepted theory. For example, in Hawaii this process of “lava cooling” is still taking place in real-time, and yet there is not a single hexagonal to be found. In fact, the lava-solids in Hawaii looks exactly as you would think; like grand layers of “syrup” slowly solidated into large round bulges of stone. These are strangely different results for two coastlines undergoing the exact same process. (Giant’s Causeway Hexagonals/Image/Below) Furthermore, there are no hexagonals to be found anywhere else along the coast of Ireland; not a single one. That just doesn’t make sense for such a small national coast. There is also the apparently miraculous geographic placement of The Causeway’, set like a perfect northern gateway into Ireland from Scotland, which isn’t even 70 miles north across the inner Atlantic bay. It’s as if the area says: “Welcome to our side of the Sea”; a striking entry zone specifically facing the only other international land mass in the vicinity, Scotland/Wales.
View From The Trail: As you might expect from a World Heritage Site, at the beginning of the trail is a busy commercial station and parking lot that requires payment. There is even a small bus line that will take physically challenged people to the The Causeway’. Don’t use the bus-line. Walk the 200 dramatic yards down the small road to the actual trail. From here the first full vantage of the northeasterly coastline pathway appears, and it couldn’t be more inviting. In the Sun, this scene looks like a Celtic northern California.
In this initial bay, before even arriving at the mysterious Causeway’, are massive stones and boulders that seem to have some kind of secret. Many of the large shapely boulders have names, and are famous in the area for their form (Image/Below). There are stones look to have been placed specifically as seats, with brilliant curvatures and character. Other stones are more stoic and classic in stature, looking like legitimate standing stones (Image/Below), fixed squarely into the rock beneath them. The entirety of this rocky opening scene, before arriving at the Causeway paints a picture of a ‘rock garden’ that reveals a small taste of the striking geomorphic strangeness taking place here.Continuing eastward along the trail the Causeway’ emerges, and not without what looks like playfully designed characteristics. At first glance, the leveling of the hexagonal stones in certain areas, combined with the orientation of this circular stone enclosure, give the impression that it was once perfectly carved-out to face the Sun, all while encapsulating water in a small protected ‘hot tub’ type space (Image/Below).Taking a seat on the stones while the Sun shines overhead absolutely creates the feeling of a Spa. The area feels entirely functional and intentional, like many Neolithic places along waterfalls and mountainsides in New England, Wales, Scotland, and England. Continuing on the trail will bring you through a hexagonal stone gate, over a small hill, and then up the coastal path you go. As you begin the minor incline upward, yet another lessor-written-about feature is embedded perfectly into the coastal mountain face, and in only one specific area. How did lava quarry-out a perfectly squared set of evenly sectioned and leveled hexagonal stones inside the mountain? Why does the stone directly above these towering hexagonal shafts remain regular? Wouldn’t these stones have absolutely been affected by this magical lava flow which seems to pick and choose, even organize, specific sections of the coast for influence? Wouldn’t these shafts be spread at random, all over the scene, for miles perhaps? It just doesn’t make sense. And of course, these shafts are not published and written about in so many text books. Why? Because the logical questions they raise are too free of the authority of those who write the textbooks. Academics know that most of us will never see this place for ourselves. Stonestrider.com exists to inspire hikers, humble or affluent, to break through the paradigm and expectations of the individuals who are re-writing our histories, and see for themselves.
Continuing up this wonderful trail brings an endearing visual of the entire bay. It is no wonder that about 5 miles west, down the coast, sits Dunluce Castle, a gorgeous 13th century fortification built at the edge of a cliff, and practically the northern edge of Ireland. This castle was utilized and enhanced wonderfully in Game of Thrones, a well deserved compliment to the area. In its day, Dunluce must have been one of the most desired residences in all of Ireland. The grounds at Dunluce are open for walking, and it is certainly recommended to any sojourners to visit this incredible stone palace.Returning to the easterly trail above the Causeway’, the elevation rises as you approach the edge of the bay. Why don’t the stones below the trail, which are much closer to any theoretical flow of lava which they say came up from the water, have hexagonals? How did the lava pass them over, and then cut into the specific stones above? Logically it just doesn’t hold up. Just beyond, and above the trail, is another set of singular hexagonal stones, and in an even more specific position. These stones mark the edge of The Giant’s Causeway, like a specific warning sign; it says someone skillful enough to create these picturesque pillars once occupied this place (Below/Left).
This beautiful trail bends around to the next grand cove, and up out of the coastal wall, continuing on the mainland, looping back to its start for another 1.5 miles. But the other coves do not contain the hexagonals; intact, no other coves do anywhere in Ireland, Many people simply walk back down the trail from the direction they came to get a last look at the Causeway’. Who could blame them? Passing through this place a hiker can see that there really is no logical way to explain what has taken place here. The magical aspect of hiking and trailblazing is palpable; stories about its origin have survived for century upon century. Just as the earliest Hebrew scriptures record the presence of Giants in the land, well before the tribes of mankind swept into their valleys, Ireland and England’s earliest tales are of giants. The name “Giant’s Causeway” is not without substance. It is here that Fin McCool, the most famous Giant in both Ireland and England, is said to have exacted tolls upon those wishing to enter Ireland from the north. There are stories of epic battles with other Giants from Scotland and England, and looking around the Causeway’ it is just impossible to ignore the possibility of Fin’s presence. Looking back on the entire scene would justify any fight in order to hold on to this beautiful and epic space.Hikers, anthropologists, story-tellers, and locals, are left to choose between stories or scientific theories, both of which stretch our imaginations, either in one direction or the other. Science seems no less ridiculous than myth, and our personal cognitive abilities are ultimately required to decipher places like this, which is a testament to its magical vibration. It would be a lot easier to dismiss the idea of Giants as ridiculous if they weren’t written about so clearly in ancient scripture, and embedded in literally every cultures deepest mythical roots. Hike the Causeway’ for yourself, it’s the only way to get just a little closer to what actually might be the case here. As a new Spring emerges, give yourself a worthy challenge and head to the beautiful northern Irish coast; it’s a “can’t miss”. And of course, may the road rise to meet you, until the cove of hexagonals greet you.
Location: Monroe, Massachusetts/USA
Elevation: 2,730 feet
Note: It’s good to know that every so often you can come across a simple trail. Depending on where you are, you can encounter a host of obstacles and unanticipated factors, especially in New England, which might hinder your way. For example, in early Spring, tree’s may have fallen during the previous Winter before rangers can re-designate the trails with new markers. This can have you miles into a trail expecting a rewarding view, only to be completely off-trail and configuring a way back. For the dedicated hiker in Winter, snow may cover an entire route. Just last week on a trail in New Hampshire a man had the bright idea to bring an M16 rifle several miles into Purgatory Falls Trail; he opened-fire along the river, all while people were hiking, which mind you, is totally LEGAL in New Hampshire. These things should not hinder your dedication to seeking the beautiful and meaningful high points in the landscape, but it should teach you to increase your awareness that the rules do change in different environments/countries/states. This is why it is a relief to arrive at a place like Monroe State Forest, set in a very special region of Massachusetts, on the beautiful boarder of southern Vermont. Here you will find a clear and straight trail heading directly to the best view in the entire region. This place is a rolling set of small mountains that vividly encapsulates the medium-scale hiking elevations of central New England. My friend Jon Bent, who is a local, and expert on these hills, has told me that the growth here is not ‘old’ at all, but rather, it is recent (150 years old), which contradicts several sources about these woods. Whatever the case may be with these massive trees, they are a batch of somewhat rare trees for Massachusetts; such as the Yellow Birch, American Basswood, Beech, Red Spruce, and towering White Pine. It is my belief that the crafted stones were here LONG BEFORE any trees, as they were present on the landscapes in Celtic ranges. Navigating to the best entry point for this trail requires locating Tilda Hill road in the town of Florida, Massachusetts, which eventually becomes the indistinctly named “Main Road”. There is a sign for Monroe State Forest at the intersection of “Main Road” and Raycroft Road. Raycroft Road is actually a rugged dirt path and the trail for this hike, which elevates gradually into Monroe Forest. You can park your car just passed the Monroe State Forest sign at the turn-off towards Raycroft Road, beside the flowing Dunbar Brook on your left. Simply park your vehicle and head straight up the wide dirt path, without veering in either direction, all the way to Hunt Hill porch. It’s about 2.5 miles to reach the vista. You will actually come to the top of the hike and re-enter a short path directly in front of you leading a bit downward again for 2 minutes before opening up to Hunt Hill Porch. It’s a striking view. On this day someone wrote on one of the porch stones “All good things in all good time.” Perfect spot to contemplate this.Mount Spruce is actually a secondary priority compared to the view at Hunt Hill, here at Monroe. Hunt Hill should be your goal. After discovering the Hunt Hill vista you can turn back towards the main trail and follow the westerly paths, to the left, heading towards Mount Spruce. The pathways heading away from the main trail are narrower, with towering trees and hedges. These trails continue along hilly glades and knolls that display shafts of cinematic sunlight, and scenes where a stop for water and rest in the Forest is a great idea. Looping down to the main trail again you will be heading generally back towards Dunbar Brook. At about the mid-point of the Raycroft Road main trail, there is an easterly path of forest with those beautiful White Pines, all continuing down to Dunbar Brook and beyond into the lower valley lakes.
Within this glade of White Pines are some compelling free-standing boulders, with sliced faces and rounded rears, like many Celtic territorial markers. Look at the face of this 10 ton boulder on the left. It is blatantly flat, looking at it head-on. The view from the side reveals that the boulder looks to have been split, like a knife through butter, with a rounded base at the rear, as shown on the right. What could’ve possible done this? Look at these standing stones with rounded rears at Glenveagh National Park/Ireland (White Diamond Face), and Mount Watatic Mass (Red and Gold Leaf coloring on stone). It’s the same exact principle.
Dunbar Brook becomes a beautiful set of small waterfalls dancing through the rocks and boulders. You can follow this stream with confidence if you so choose, navigating both down and back, with small pathways along the side to help, only be prepared to climb a bit along the boulders.
From the vista at Hunt Hill down to the Car Park at the head of Dunbar Brook are Neolithic stones all throughout the forest. Hundreds of zigzagging stone-linings, and squared-out spaces with areas that look like hearth-centers in ancient living centers. Below is an image of what looks like the symmetrical foundation to what was once an ancient living space, with the hearth-stones in the center; presumably for a fire. Look at the leveling of this stonework, which is identical to corbel layering in Celtic ancient spaces. Here’s closer look at the scale of these stones against the landscape, which stands about 4 feet tall. It raises serious questions about the idea that Colonial farmers just randomly decided to waste their Summer seasons utilizing all their resources to build structures like this, and without even an ounce of explanation or claim. Something much more complicated is taking place in these Forests and Mountains. For certain so many people will look and say in a most bored fashion, “Yeah o.k, big deal, it’s just a stonewall…” But the point is where it is, and the style and size of it. These stones are in the middle of a Forest and run literally everywhere. They are part of a grander network of connecting stones that do not mark, say, quartered fields, or farmhouses from the colonial period; they zigzag, and often times connect to rivers, like cords connecting to a power source. If a reader doesn’t see that it is riveting to possibly piece together the idea that someone was engineering the entire landscape for the purpose of harnessing energy in antiquity, than just stop reading now. These discoveries are changing the way we conceive of “monuments”. The culture that did this monumentalized the entire landscape. The whole thing was once synergized by a connecting system of natural energy producers, like flowing water and Sun. Most people just don’t understand. The same concept of energy connectors and crystalized power sources within your phone, is the same exact principal being discovered on the New England landscape. Above is yet another image of stone-linings zigzagging through the woods. In the forefront of the image, and the back, are stones beyond counting. The odds that these linings connect to the flowing water of Dunbar Brook, just beyond, are 99 to 1. That’s what it is starting to look like; that’s where the physical evidence takes us. All of this happens under beautiful White Pines, tall and fair, on this eastern extension from the main trail here at Monroe State Forest.Heading back to the beginning of the trail where your car is parked, you can spend some time at a focal point of Dunbar Brook. There is a hollowed-out section of stream with a small waterfall coming around the side of this central pool, and it is serene. In the image below, the stream looks to have been redirected around the pool, to the left, then continuing to flow down the valley. So now you’re thinking that “redirecting” the flow of water at a rocky stream seems impossible right? Take a look at this beautiful waterfall in Donegal, northern Ireland. Aside from the incredibly crafted stones above the fall, which practically look like a faucet fixture funneling the water to an exact point, is an absolutely crafted side-stream to the left. The stones of this side-stream are like a perfect staircase, in width and leveling, allowing the water to mingle with the main flow in front of it in a perfectly sectioned process. This waterfall in Donegal is wild, completely indigenous, without even a path connecting it to the road; the work that was done to it, was done in antiquity, and with great skill. And there are many other places like this, with skilled crafting, alignments, and fitted stones. (See ‘Bears Den’ in the New England Section of Stonestrider.com if you are interested in more water engineering in antiquity.) Monroe State Forest is a simple hike to the vista at Hunt Hill, surrounded by enchanted forestry and networks of Neolithic stones. The awareness of this beautiful factor can change the way we read landscapes. Improve your landscape literacy and hike Monroe State Forest. Pictures and images are o.k, but the point of these articles is to get people there for themselves. Spring is here, so go for it! Seeing is believing. Thanks for reading.
Location: Newry Ireland
Elevation: 1653 ft/5o8m
The Hen Mountain sits at the northeastern extremity of the Mourne Mountain Range. It is the lessor elevated gateway to an area known nationally as a “place of outstanding beauty”, rolling east all the way to the harbor city of Newcastle, and the dreamy Irish Sea. The gorgeous hamlet of Hilltown sits just west of The Hen, which is the practically perfect jumping-off point for this small mountain. The main car park for The Hen Trail is off Sandbank Road, near the beautiful River Bann, which can easily be found. The Hen, with it’s classically Celtic treeless approach, is entirely welcoming. I was so drawn to the view of this small summit from my deck at Hilltown that I literally ran down to the River Bann, hopped the fence, crossed the rocky river bed, and started an ascent from the northwest with my sneakers on. The image on the left was taken while standing in my sneakers at the base of the Mountain. It was just that type of day. When the Sun comes out in Ireland the landscape becomes a vision. The wildflowers in the area glow in variations of gold, green, and velvet.The image below shows Mount Hen, second from the left, taken from my accommodations in Hilltown. This was exactly how I pictured J.R.R Tolkien’s “Shire”.
The River Bann reminded me of so many rocky streams in the Massachusetts hills, with several massive free-standing boulders lining the sides of the flowing stream. The scientific explanation for these boulders is, of course, glacial, but several of the larger stones look as if they had been cut and angled specifically, which is often found near sacred mountains in New England, and here in The Mourne. Additionally, coming from New England, where the forests are an overpowering aspect to any landscape, views like this, where not even a single Hawthorn tree can be seen on the horizon, are a constant surprise to the senses. It is truly surreal. The mountains are roughly the same scale as New England’s smaller ranges, but the peaks just look so much more stoic, without one single tree. The Sandbank Trail is actually on the other side of the Mountain from this spot on the river, along the eastern face, about 400 yards away. In Celtic places the opportunity to wander should be embraced; there are no animals that could overpower you (like a Bear or Wolf), and the chances of stumbling upon Neolithic expressions are pretty good. And perhaps most importantly, this is one of the best places in the world to take out your camera(s).
Heading directly up the mountainside from the river, climbing over the farmers fence, I came across this lonely boulder. It was a like seat for watching the lower valley. Flocks of sheep rove the hillside with farms in foreground, all bustling and interwoven into a rural tapestry that America has almost forgotten. Ireland remains one of the the most functionally rural European country’s, where men over the age of 70 can be seen in the tractors hauling hay, while the elderly in America linger in nursing homes. Experiencing a nation where the food is fresh, without preservatives and processing, can have your body feeling stronger and more awake, in a relatively short period of time. Here I will venture to share a rare introspective moment that took place from this beautiful scene. Things at times become incredibly clear while hiking, super-clear. I began to think about America, and it was perhaps a thought I had been waiting to have for some time. Americans are confronted with a universe of processed and artificial foods on a daily basis, wars, social movements, and scandals, and while hiking in the safety of a place like this, I simply could not help but wonder what the hell has been going on in the United States for the last 15 years, and how the rest of the world truly sees us. It is borderline embarrassing. Ironically, so many locals in Newcastle expressed their desire to be in Boston, where I was from, having little awareness of the truly challenging social experience America forces upon its citizens today. All of this crossed my mind as I made my climb. Turning and facing the peak the wildflowers ran concentrically in what felt like a spiraling parade of color, radiating down the ledge. These are the places to wade in, like wandering into a dream. The brush here is deep, knee high, and strenuous to climb. The Irish Sea is only about 7 miles away, and the hedges have a toughness to them, a saltiness just beneath the surface, perhaps carried on the wind. Complimenting this faint ocean breeze is a strong Sun which can be felt warmly on the skin. Although many people do not picture Ireland’s climate in this way, when the Sun is out, windburn is a real possibility in the heights; in The Mourne the body can be fooled by the wind, seeming cool while outside, but later revealing a burn when out of the breeze.
It is said by Hebrew texts, that the fall of 300 angels took place, once upon a time, upon Mount Hermon, in Lebanon. While hiking in the heights of many mountains this is a story that has crossed my mind many times, especially while approaching peaks. If this story were true, than this culture of fallen angels would have claimed the high places first, coming from above, however surreal it sounds. And what we find in so many of the high places, in mountain ranges all across the world, are megalithic statements of impossibly large, but crafted stones. Hen Mountain’s peak is capped in solid rock, with indents and fixtures that are seemingly crafted into it. The anthropological side of hiking takes place as you explore the rocky ledges in the heights, and turn to see the beauty of the valley below.Simply put, the rocks tell a story, and a well trained eye can read that story. There are lineations in the rocky peak that are hard to describe. These parallel streaks look to have been burned, or smelted into the stone. These streaks look eerily like they were made to mimic the rippling landscape beyond, all at the top of the mountain.Here at the peak, this single 1 ton stone sat freely and in complete coherence with the parallel streaks beneath it. There were no other stones like it. With the scruffy wildflowers that somehow spurt out of the crags in the rock, and the layers of green beyond, this feels like the precipice of another world, however small the mountain truly is. This is the game that the peaks of mountains play, no matter what part of the world you find yourself in. At only 1,653 feet the feeling on Hen Mountain is still ‘top of the world’, as the Celtic landscape rolls nakedly away into the horizon.
Facing to east at the peak Sandbank Trail can be seen approaching an elevated knoll at about 1200 feet, just below. The view beyond this “porch” is stunning, leading all the way to across the Mourne to Newcastle at the coast. In this spot there are two distinct rocky fixtures that sit like ‘gates’ as the trail passes through, and between these two fixtures is a free standing boulder that I believe was placed here as a kind of ‘marker’. A closer look at this rocky “gateway” and boulder revealed a compelling case for megalithically cultural craftsmanship.This boulder stood perfectly square at roughly 8 feet high, and 3 feet thick, upon level rock beneath. The indentation of the lower portion of the boulder, again, had the look of ‘smelted’ rock, of a design, like a cherished chair. What is more compelling about this megalith, is the exact spot upon which stands, in a beautiful gateway on the northeastern edge of the entire Mourne range, as if to say “Welcome to The Mourne, enter!” Beyond this very spot is every other mountain in the region, including Bearnagh Mountain, which contains some of the most ancient roads, and cultural stones, in the entire world. If you ever come to The Mourne Mountains, The Hen’ is a perfect place to either begin, or end your experience, as a ‘gateway’ for the entire range and relatively pleasant climb. As all hikers do, I eventually made my way back down into the valley-village of Hilltown, and simply walked back east along the Sandbank Road. Be careful here, the Irish drive at one speed, fast. On my last day in The Mourne I witnessed a sunset from the eastern edge of Hilltown that sums up the entirety of the potential experience, stunning. Anyone visiting here can experience a waking dream; it is simply a matter of going. And although this particular article was filled with more personal introspection than usual, I would like to reiterate that the soul point of each featured place is to make the hike tangible for you, the reader, so you can picture yourself getting there, above the valleys, to the stone gateways in the clouds. Thanks for reading, and go strong.