Mark and Sue of Macushla hosted us for a long catch-up happy hour and told us about the great hikes they’ve done around this bay. The most visible here is St. Paul’s Rock, which dominates our view. Our guide book advised that for the last bit there’s a chain to assist on the steep rocks. Frankly it didn’t sound like much fun to me, but if Sue, who also frequently wrestles with a pesky back, can do it I guess I can too. I neglected to factor in my fear of heights.
We had one more day of good weather before we’d catch the edge of the predicted gale, so even though we would have liked a day of rest after our bumpy ride up here we headed to shore and started the walk.
As soon as we turned away from the water the road kicked up to at least a 15% grade. I had to stop every 50 feet to catch my breath, and it was at that point we realized we’d left our carefully filled water bottles on the boat.
“I can’t do it,” I told Jack. My heart was pounding out of my chest and we hadn’t even got to the trail yet. Finally the switchback road leveled out a little and we saw the beginning of the trail. Ah, good. We should be close now. But no. As we stepped out from under the trees the Rock looked unattainably distant.
Our guide book said it was a 20 minute hike from this point. Right. We started up, negotiating two stiles over pasture fences, and then the trail kicked up in earnest. I paused every few feet of elevation to repeat my mantra: I’m parched, I’m exhausted and my back hurt. Jack kept tromping along but I had lost my will to go on. Jack pointed out that everyone we passed coming back down had bulging leg muscles, apparently used to this kind of thing. We are not.
As we gained elevation the views got better and better and frankly I was thinking this was good enough for me. We don’t have photos of the really steep bits of the trail because we were both often on all fours at a steep drop off and neither of us wanted to stop and pull the camera out. After a while I couldn’t look down and kept my attenton on my feet. We both agreed a trail like this would never exist in the US, or at least not without frequent dire warnings and guard rails.
The trail wound around and up another very steep climb to a cleft in the rock with a chain to assist in climbing the final bit. I took one look at that and sat down. “I can’t do it,” I said. “You go.” I was parched, exhausted and my back hurt. But more than that, and what the photos don’t convey, it was steep. I have that height thing, you know.
So Jack disappeared around the final switchback. I sat as two young women came down, then two young men went up. I’m an idiot, I thought, and started up the rocks. I got about six or eight feet up and got scared and came back down again. Sitting and waiting was fine, I thought. It’s a pretty good view. When Jack came down again I asked if he would go up again with me, and he said he would. I whimpered the whole time, scared to look down, as Jack gently encouraged me. And then I was up. There was a final short trail to the very summit and we were there. Wow.