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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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Adventure Part 7 – Killarney, Ireland

A Wandering Widow Post

Killarney was one of the stops I’d made on my spring trip, and I had some unfinished shenanigans that needed my attention. Since I am leaving a lot to chance on this adventure, it made perfect sense to travel from Northern Ireland to about as far South as I could go in one day. Um, no. It’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry because I spent a whole day on trains, trams, and buses. Fortunately, I continue to luck out meeting cool new people on trains, and this travel day was no exception.

It was also the first place on this adventure I was going back to with a big item that needed checking off my list, and I found my closure at a whiskey bar. I know you’re shocked, but I’m convinced all good stories start with whiskey.

When I first visited Killarney in April, I was having a rough time. I was having fun, but crying myself to sleep every night that I was here on this dream vacation without Dan. After two weeks on the road, I was tired of living out of a suitcase. (That sounds hilarious now). I was tired of getting lost everywhere I went. (Also hilarious since Killarney isn’t large enough to get lost in unless you’re like me and getting lost is your superpower).

So there I was, tired, hangry, and couldn’t find my way back to my hotel. To prevent yet another public cryfest, I got angry. I started yelling at Dan (in my head, no need to let ALL the cray-cray hang out) that this was all his fault. I was angry at him for dying. I was angry that he’d made me promise to take this trip anyway. And I was hangry and knew I was going to lose it soon. I yelled at him to find me a place to have a good meal and an even better whiskey, that wasn’t too crowded with tourists at that hour.

Imagine my surprise and relief when I turned the corner and found Murphy’s Whiskey Bar. My lunch was fantastic, and I did get to try a fancy new whiskey. I also noticed a wall of American police patches behind the bar. There were none from Idaho. It felt like Dan had led me to that spot, and that’s where he wanted his last Caldwell PD patch to end up. (I’d found it in a box just before leaving for Europe). So, threads still attached from where I cut it off his uniform, it’s traveled with me ever since I left home. Now it lives at Murphy’s. Somewhere he is laughing that not only is he hanging out in a bar, he’s also hanging out in an Irish whiskey bar with a bunch of other cops.

The only thing better than checking one off the list is having friends there to help you. All the way from Idaho!

 

When you visit Murphy’s on your next trip to Killarney, look up and raise your glass to Dan Bain. I officially close this chapter of the adventure. Cheers. (Details below as usual)

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

 

 

THE KILLARNEY PUB CRAWL

Killarney caters to tourists, and you can find live music pretty much every day of the week. I ran out of nights to check it all out.

***PSA: Ordering a Black and Tan or Irish Car Bomb at ANY bar in Ireland makes you an insensitive ass. (If you don’t know why, pick up a freaking history book or google The Troubles). You may be asked to leave. Even if you’re allowed to stay, you’re now embarrassing me. Don’t do it.***

Murphy’s Whiskey Bar: There are two sides to Murphy’s, separated by hotel reception. The cop patches are only on one side (door number three). An excellent choice for lunch or dinner, with an extensive whiskey collection and live music on the weekends. And you can’t forget your opportunity to take a photo of that super sexy Caldwell PD patch for Facebook and Instagram. Tag me so I can send you a virtual high five.

Here’s the scoop on the patches. For my non-American friends, historically many US cops have had Irish heritage and a strong connection to Ireland.  One or two patches showed up at the bar one day, and more followed suit. You know how that goes, it then takes on a life of its own. Each patch is a story about how it got there and the person or department it’s connected to. I love that Murphy’s allows them to stay, and that Dan Bain and Caldwell, Idaho (and maybe even me, too) are now part of it.

The Lane Cafe Bar (in the Ross Hotel): If you’re tired of traditional Irish pubs (we’ll have a chat about that later) this contemporary cocktail bar will take good care of you. Good food and a surprisingly large menu considering cocktails in Ireland are limited to two shots.

The Killarney Grand/Liquid Lounge: Live music every night in the traditional bar on the ground floor. Upstairs is a cocktail bar that opens around 11:30 pm with a fantastic piano player.

Reidy’s: Fun place with multiple bars, each with their own theme. Start at the front and keep working your way back until you find a spot you like.

Courtney’s: Pulling pints in three centuries, this traditional pub has a cool, down-to-earth vibe. Perfect place for a pint or a whiskey. TIP: the fireplace is en fuego hot, so don’t stand too close unless you want to set your backside on fire.

O’Conners: Another traditional pub, covered with signed dollar bills. O’Conners will have a soft spot in my heart as the place I tried my first Guinness.

THE FOOD

The Flesk: Open only for dinner, and I recommend making reservations. A friend suggested this place, and it didn’t disappoint. Excellent seafood and superior service. I wasn’t out of place in my usual jeans and hiking boots, but you would also blend in if you wanted to dress up a little. Thomas was a gracious host, and you’ll have to ask him about the connection with the American Legion.

THE RUGGED STUFF

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Torc Waterfall

 

Last time I was here I wasn’t able to get out and do any hiking. I overcame my reluctance to hike alone because the trails in Killarney National Park desperately needed my footprints. Glad I did because I found one that’s now on my Top Ten. I’d say “check that one off the list” but know I’ll be back for more. The proximity of this beautiful National Park to the center of town is hands-down my favorite thing about Killarney.

You know I hate driving, so the hop on/hop off Red Bus was my best friend to get to and from town to Killarney National Park sites. Torc Waterfall is about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot where you get dropped off. Don’t stop there or you’ll miss all the views. There are three looped trails with varying degrees of difficulty and length to choose from, and bathrooms next to the parking lot.

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Keep going, and you can follow a trail along the lake past the Muckross House estate. It’s easy, beautiful and it goes for miles. I encountered only one other hiker that day, so it was like we had the lake to ourselves. I loved it so much I went back more than once. The bus will get you back to town when you’re ready.

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Want to stay on a paved path but still be in nature? Start at Killarney House and Gardens and continue until you get to the River Walk. Paths are well marked and maintained, and you’ll get to enjoy some up-close views of the red deer and Kerry cows that roam the area. I know towns and cities in the US that would kill to have a natural resource like this.

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Unfortunately, all the ocean-faring activities I’d hoped to do wrapped up at the end of September due to weather. Even when you don’t have a hurricane headed your way, the season ends the first part of October. It looks like I have yet another reason to come back. If boating out to the Skellig or Blasket Islands is a high priority for you, be sure to plan accordingly.

THE PEOPLE

I still can’t get over how friendly people are here. When I got into town, my new neighbors picked me up at the train station, took me to the market, and checked on me every day. And I lucked out with the Airbnb jackpot. Great place and the most attentive and friendly host I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something since they’ve all been fantastic.

Everyone I met gave me great tips for dining and suggestions for the next stops on my adventure through Ireland. I don’t know if they make everyone in Killarney kiss the Blarney Stone when they are born, but I’ve heard the best stories since I got here, and been in stitches since everyone also seems to be a comedian. Even the rare cranky ones.

 

 

BONUS BEACH DAY!

Hurricane Ophelia blew out all the grey weather and my last full day in Killarney dawned with sunny, warm, blue skies. Since I’ve been so openly in love with Scotland’s beaches, one of my Irish friends decided I needed to give Ireland’s a fair shot. Yowzas, I’m torn. I love the Carribean blue and wildness of the beaches in the Orkneys and Hebrides, but being able to run around the beach and watch surfers without a jacket won out for personal enjoyment. I could have stayed forever.

A short drive up to North Kerry made for a fun afternoon of beach hopping. Ballybunion Beach was my favorite of the five with the cliffs, castle ruins, and a long stretch of sandy beach. I’d recommend staying the night, so you don’t have to rush back, but be aware that most restaurants close up shop in October.

Adventure Part 3: Islands and Highlands

A Wandering Widow Post

 
Sometimes it’s best to just hand the reins over to someone else and go along for the ride. Can you believe I just said that? I feel like I should get a “recovering control freak” gold star sticker for that one. This week a tour worked out great since I didn’t have to worry about scheduling ferries or buses or lodging. Instead, I just had a whole lot of enjoying the views along the way and taking time to figure out my next stop. (Still undecided as I write this).

I guess you could say it’s a mini-version of this entire year and my Grand Tour of Europe. Where to go? What to do? Who do I want to be? When your only plan is not to have a plan, it leaves the door wide open for adventure.

I was blessed to be able to cross another item off my bucket list: to visit the fairy tale Isle of Skye. It’s the first time since Dan died that I’ve crossed one off the list that was just mine, not ours…kind of like this whole adventure. And you know what? It felt amazing!

I’ve had so many people comment that they wish they could be brave and do something like this. Here’s the deal. I don’t feel brave. I do, however, believe that choosing to Live Now takes courage. Part of me misses the easy routine of my comfort zone. The other part of me is in a near constant state of bliss to be in a completely new environment. Living now is the only option that makes sense, especially to those of us that have lost so much. We know too damned well that tomorrow is promised to no one.


Live Now doesn’t mean selling everything you own to go on adventures, although that’s what I’m enjoying. It means squeezing every last drop of life out of the minutes we have. It means to be present in everything we do. And I wish for all of us to have a life full of Live Now minutes.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

 

THE DETAILS:

The Isle of Skye

Visiting the Isle of Skye has been on my list for close to two decades. It didn’t disappoint. One of the bazillion things I love about Scotland is how the clouds and the light are constantly changing. It changes the colors of the landscape from minute to minute and, if you can stay put for a bit, you get a whole new perspective without even moving your feet.

The cuillins (5 of 1)
The Black Cuillins. Site of one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland’s history, and rumored to be the inspirations for Tolkien’s Mordor and orc battles.
Quiraing (5 of 1)
The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye.
Quiraing (3 of 1)
The Quiraing.
Outer Hebrides Clouds (3 of 1)
The clouds generate an ever changing skyscape. I think I’ve taken hundreds of photos of clouds since I’ve been here. Afterall, it is the Isle of Skye.
Outer Hebrides (2 of 1)
A rare clear view of the Outer Hebrides from the Isle of Skye.

MacLeod Castle (2 of 1)

Kilt Rock (2 of 1)
The other side of Kilt Rock.
Kilt Rock (1 of 1)
Kilt Rock.
Fairy Pools (4 of 1)
On the way to the Fairy Pools.
Fairy Pools (2 of 1)
The path to the Fairy Pools. The misty rainy weather just makes it that much more Scotlandy. Yeah, I just made up that word.

Every time I rounded the corner, I’d think to myself that there couldn’t possibly be a more beautiful vista in the world. And then I’d go to the next place and think the same thing. Maybe it’s all the fairy magic, but it’s definitely beautiful.

The Orkney Isles

It’s a trek to get here, but it’s like being in a whole new country. Colder and windier, the Orkneys gave me my first beaches in Scotland. You know this island girl and beaches; when I see them, they make my heart sing. I don’t care if they are sunny and tropical or cold and windy. It was a bit too cold to put my toes in the sand and water, but I could have stayed and walked for hours if I wasn’t worried about being left behind.

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I was expecting Heilan Coos, not hairy pigs. Cutest pig I’ve ever seen.
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Found heilan coos! This was as close as I was going to get, but the baby cooperated by posing for me. FYI like all mamas, the coos are very protective of their young. Keep your distance.
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Scapa Flow, where the German fleet was scuttled in World War 1.

 

The Orkneys are also home to Neolithic stone circles and Pictish archeological sites.

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The Standing Stones of Stenness are about 5000 years old, and pre-date both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.
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The Ring of Brodgar. It was raining sideways when I visited, and the mud was a mess, but it cleared out the other tourists so my friends and I had it almost all to ourselves.
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At the base of the causeway leading up to the Broch of Birsay, you can see sedimentary rock formations that go out in long bands into the ocean.
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Seashells on the beach (any beach) make me happy.
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Fossil hunting on the beach! That’s fossilized seaweed preserved in the sedimentary rock.

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Rainbow over the Broch of Gurness. You can see the remains of the viking settlement that once surrounded it.
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Erosion is taking its toll. The coastline is now just a few feet away from the edge of the ruins.

The Highlands

The ghosts of my Highlander ancestors must know when I’m back because it always works out that I have perfect weather. There aren’t enough words to describe the breathtaking vistas, so photos will have to do.

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The highlands always make me feel like I’m returning home.

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The Bonus

I didn’t realize we were going to stop at the Cairns of Loch Loyne. The first cairn was put there to honor Hugh Mackay. I left a few stones in memory of Dan. It was fitting since the Bains are part of Clan Mackay. There were so many stone piles, some with names and dates. To think that all these people had traveled here to honor their dead was overwhelming. It was moving and emotional and I bawled my eyes out for the first time since I left home. Actually, it was the first time in a long time so I guess I was due.

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The Extras

Since I had trouble narrowing down which photos to include, here are a few extras.

 

 

 

 

Waterfalls, Ziplines, Bourbon and Good-byes

A Wandering Widow Post

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we headed out to Hood River, Oregon to scatter the last of Dan’s ashes. It had been almost a year, but it was a year of horrible weather and bad fires at home, so we had to delay and adjust the plan several times. There is something to be said for getting things over with early. Having this task hanging over my head was uncomfortable, but given the trials and tribulations of the last year I wasn’t ready to let him go just yet either. The only thing Dan loved more than golf was hiking with his family, so we knew all along that we’d hike somewhere beautiful to do it. The summers he spent in Hood River with his grandparents were his happiest memories as a child, so when our favorite trail in Idaho was destroyed by fire last summer, this seemed the logical choice. With Skamp The Dog leading the way, the kids and their spouses, the SIL and the nephew and I all headed out.

The sunny weather was Dan’s kind of perfect, although too hot for me with barely a breeze. The river was so glassy that you could see the reflection of the birds flying up above. The windsurfers you usually see were replaced by boaters and stand-up paddle boarders. Exactly the weather we had last year, so we gave Dan credit for it.

A random conversation at hotel check-in sent us out to Tamanawas Falls, and it was perfect. It was also overly ambitious for someone coming off both an injury and illness who hasn’t been on a trail hike in two years. If I’d been in my prime hiking shape, it would have been no biggie, except for maybe the scary boulder scramble. Instead, the elevation changes and the heat had me cursing myself for believing when someone said it was an easy four-mile hike. When I got passed by people on the return trip, including a chemo patient, small children, and old people, I decided there’d be no more whining about over-heating, just a few more breaks to catch my breath. Did I mention how hot it was?

When we came around the bend and finally reached the falls, I couldn’t help but smile at the reward that was waiting for us. Tamanawas Falls didn’t disappoint. It was rocky, and the water was freezing, but we found a log on which to perch. After overheating on the trail, the cool mist from the falls was welcome and refreshing. We scattered Dan’s ashes and toasted him with a flask of the same bottle of Maker’s Mark we opened to toast him on his last night with us (FYI hot Makers Mark on a hot day is gross, and we should have put the flask in the river first.) I can’t speak for the rest of the group but, to me, it felt like the circle was now complete. 

Tamanawas Falls

Despite being a crowded day at the falls, when people saw what we were doing they respectfully hung back. That was pretty cool, unexpected, and much appreciated.

The view from the cave behind the falls.
 

For those of you that asked for more details, scroll down for trip info. We hope you love Hood River as much as we do.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow ❤️ 

The Hike:

If you want to head to Tamanawas Falls, take exit 64 towards Mount Hood, and follow Highway 35 about 31 miles until you get to milepost 74 and park at the Polallie Trailhead. You’ll need to pick up a trail pass in town since you can’t purchase them onsite. We took a chance that they wouldn’t enforce the permit rule over the holiday weekend, and as we were pulling out of our parking spot the park ranger showed up. Oops. 

Take your life in your hands and sprint across the highway to the trailhead to get to the falls. It’s a pretty steep ascent for those of us out of practice, at least for the first mile. There are a few slick spots along the way, so don’t be a dork and wear flip flops. A few years ago there was a massive rock slide, so now to reach the falls you have to rock scramble over a ginormous pile of Toyota sized (okay, maybe not quite that big) granite boulders. FYI, on a hot day, they are freaking HOT! This was the most nerve-wracking section for me, and coming back down was worse than going up since I could see all the ways I could die if I fell. I was grateful for the little girl crying that she couldn’t get down since she made me feel better about myself and my non-graceful crab walk back down the boulders.  TIP: Stay low to get around the boulders. There is more loose gravel but an easier/faster path.

Once you’re over the boulders, the trail bends, and you are rewarded with your first view of the waterall. The base of the falls is rocky and moss covered, although there are logs and some dry rocks to sit on. If you’re brave enough to cross the painfully cold water, there is a lovely spot of ground where you can take a break.  The dry cave behind the falls is relatively large, but you need to scramble up a narrow wet rock ledge to get there, and it is slippery. I opted out of this part, but everyone who did it said it was worth it to enjoy the view through the falls.  TIP: If you’re not from Oregon, or are hiking with kids, be advised recreational pot use is legal and your hike will have a certain stink to it.

Overall a beautiful hike and one I’d do again.  And despite my whining, a fairly easy hike.

The view from Skamania Lodge.

Ziplining:

With our big project crossed off the list, we were ready for a little fun. So the next day we set out on another easy adventure at Skamania Lodge, about 20 minutes across the river in Washington. I can’t recommend the Skamania Lodge Zipline Tour enough. This two+ hour tour includes seven zip lines (the longest being over 900 feet), three sky bridges, an auto rappel and a few short trail walks.  The views were amazing. The harsh winter ice storms took down a bunch of trees, so the view of the river from the tree tops was better than usual. And don’t forget to look down. We saw red tail deer that were completely unfazed by the noisy zipline.

The guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and patient, even with a big baby like me. I’m still not sure how zip lining ended up on my bucket list since I have some issues with heights, but with my SIL and nephew cheering me on, I womaned up and checked it off the list. The first few zips were sorta terrifying, but after that it was fun. I was surprised to find I was disappointed when it was over.

TIP: Read the website regarding appropriate attire before going. My poor nephew and all the kids in our group were scarred for life by the woman who wore a skirt for this excursion.  Geez Louise lady!

This is what conquering fear looks like.

Lodging:

After last year’s Air BNB disappointment, we decided to hotel it.  This year we stayed at the Westcliff Lodge for the first time. An older hotel just on the outskirts of town, the rooms are clean and spacious, and you can’t beat the view. If you decide to stay there, be sure to request a third-floor river view room with a balcony.  The view is worth it! There are no elevators, so if accessibility is an issue stick to the second floor, where the views are still pretty good and the walkway goes straight to the parking lot. We wrapped up our weekend at the Lodge fire pit with s’mores, stories about Dan, and new happy memories. We’d definitely stay here again.

Our gorgeous view from the third floor.

This F@#$%d Up Club

People like to say life is a bitch. I think that’s because they’ve never had a front row seat to death.  If life is a bitch, death is the psycho ex that torments you in ways you never imagined possible.

I like to hike. I’m not especially good at it, but I enjoy it.  Last year I blindly signed up for a “hike” of Idaho’s tallest mountain.  I didn’t know anything about it, but it was a fundraiser for a cause I’m passionate about.  It was horrible…40% grade, ugly shale covered path, and my fibromyalgia screaming at me all the way up.  I very quickly fell behind our group.  It wasn’t long before I couldn’t see anyone ahead of us. (My lovely husband and friend never left my side).  Periodically I’d catch a glimpse far ahead of someone from our group.  It was both reassuring that I was on the right path, and disheartening to realize how far behind I was and how there was no end in sight.

Bringing up the rear.

That “hike” has become a metaphor for the horrible climb I’m on right now. Only this time I didn’t volunteer. Like everyone else in this f@#$%d up club, I was kidnapped and put on a forced march. Unprepared, hauling all the wrong gear and trying to stay alive.  Every now and again I can see others, my mentors in widowhood, up ahead.  They give me comfort in knowing I’m still on the path and that there is something ahead.  They help me understand that I’m not alone on this really crappy ugly trail.  They call back to me to encourage me to keep going.  And when I’m about to go over the edge, those beautiful women are there to reach out and help me find my footing.

I can’t imagine going through this alone.  And while each of us carries our pain differently, sometimes sharing that pain with others helps us get through our own.   I don’t know where I’d be without them. My beautiful Michelle who lost her love decades ago, leaving her a young widow and single mom, who only just remarried.  My beautiful Susanne who lost her love two years ago to the same horrible disease that stole Dan from me. And my Double Whammy Widow Club mentor, my beautiful Julie, who is just a few months ahead of me and also dealing with the profound loss of both husband and father so close together.  And since this club keeps forcing women to join, I know that all too soon I’ll be the one up the path looking back to encourage our newest member to keep going.

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