Sunday, August 31, 2014

Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn

Mt Snowdon - My first
summit outside the US!
It's been three months since I got back from the Great Welsh Hiking Adventure.

It wasn't life-changing in the sense that mental fireworks went off at the top of each summit and I descended with Zen-like universal truths. But it was substantially personally introspective and incredibly fun... despite the fact that I got rained on, mud-slogged, and then horribly sunburned at various points.

Several things contributed to my obsession with making the trip possible:
  • Reading too much about King Arthur as an impressionable tween
  • Reading the entire Brother Cadfael series as a teenager
  • Having my only experience in Wales (as a solo traveller during my study abroad Christmas holiday) involve staying at a sketchy Cardiff hostel and then getting crapped on by a bird and having to wash my hair in a public restroom at a mall packed by January sales shoppers
  • Seeing Jasper Fforde post about hiking multiple Welsh peaks in one day
  • Reading about the British Special Forces training in Wales
  • Reading a popular but not-so-amazing book about a female hiker
  • Knowing The Planning Committee & Co. would only be expats in the UK for a few more months 
Breacon Beacons - Stopped 
here to have lunch. Also
realized exactly whyso many
of the mystery series I used
to read had so many people
fall off mountaintops in
Wales: the slopes were
incredibly steep and strewn
with boulders, with nothing
to grab ahold of except
blades of grass.
Brecon Beacons - View of the 
first 3 peaks (Corn Du, Pen Y 
Fan, Cribyn) from the 4th (Fan 
Y Big).
The trip started with Mt. Snowdon - my first summit outside the US! With no tree cover, slippery rock trails, hail, 40mph winds at the trailhead and 55mph winds at the summit, and rain coming down nonstop in sheets, the weather conditions were the worst I've ever been hiking in (and if I had been in the PNW, I wouldn't have even gone). Though my phone and camera got horribly waterlogged during the hike, I have so many cheesy selfies of me looking like a drowned rat all over Snowdonia. And even after traipsing around the mountains for seven hours, when I found out the town where I was staying had the ruins of a keep built by Llywelyn the Great, I strolled the extra two miles to check it out.

After a few Bristol-based days with the coolest hosts in the world, I set off to walk around the Brecon Beacons: 4 peaks in one loop!

Wales Coastal Path
Then I hopped on a lot of public buses to get to the ocean to start hiking the Wales Coastal Path in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, ending up in Aberystwyth.

From there, I hopped another bus to Dolgellau via Machynlleth (where, due to an unexpectedly missed bus, I spent a pleasant few hours at the Owain Glyndwr Centre learning about the last Welshman to hold the title of Prince of Wales).

Wales Coastal Path
Trusty shoes and backpack!
My last summit was Cader Idris. It dumped rain on me for the first hour, then alternated clear skies and thunderstorms for the next five. I was the only person on the trail (which was one of two to the top), slogging through muddy, hilly sheep fields. But I couldn't stop grinning the whole time! It was so beautiful and green and rainy, I couldn't help thinking that maybe Gwynedd was a magical place after all and that if Arthur is sleeping somewhere in Britain awaiting her hour of need, it would definitely be somewhere in Wales. It was a great end to my trip.

walking up Cader Idris
Such a gorgeous green (rainy, muddy) hike!
I estimated that I walked or hiked 53 miles in the 10 days I was in the UK. I wish I could have had a longer trip, but I'm pretty satisfied that I still got to see quite a bit of Wales.

Though I still couldn't seem to grasp the basics of Welsh. It was cool hearing it everywhere (more so in Snowdonia), but I totally butchered the names of most of the towns where I stayed.

And then, because I indicated on my customs form that I'd crossed numerous cow pastures, I even had my hiking boots cleaned and disinfected by U.S. Homeland Security in Dublin.

This was my meal every
morning at every B&B.
Glad DHS did it instead of me!

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