Three nights in Dingle town and we were becoming locals. This small coastal town boasts some 50 pubs yet we had only visited a handful. When pub crawlin’…. time slows down. “We’ll check it out, go in for a pint, then move on.” No, not in this town. Some local, Paddy, will take the stool next “ta ye”, buy you a beer, and lay on the craic (chat, gossip, news, entertainment.) Next thing you know another chap offers to share his chips (french fries), you first decline, but still he piles them on the bar counter and now you feel obligated to stay a while longer. Just as you’re ready to ramble on, musicians bring out their fiddles, pipes, and drums. You just can’t leave: the Trad (traditional Irish music) has begun.
In selecting which pub to go into, curb appeal matters. Brightly painted pubfronts with a good Irish name are always worth a look: Peadar O’Donnells, Matt Malloys, Tigh Ned, Foxy Johns. Oh wait a minute, we’ve walked by Foxy John’s on Goat Street a dozen times thinking that John sells only hardware. In the window are bicycle parts, seeds, tools, lightbulbs, etc.
On our last night in Dingle, we decided to see what was behind the hardware facade. Ducking under an old oil can, onto the ancient creaking floorboards, into what appears to be John’s garage. On the right, disorganized shelves and drawers loaded and crammed with hardware. On the left, a bar with the regular taps, some whiskey bottles on the shelf, and a few locals hunched over their Guinness. No TV, no music, no Irish coffees. Just whiskey, beer, and CRAIC.
Like always we ordered a pint, the local publicans sizing us up. So I asked the guy behind the bar if Foxy John was in. He wasn’t. He was in earlier “runnin’ the store.” Apparently John (sly as a fox) could run his hand through the clutter piled high on the shelves, blindfolded and find exactly the bolt you needed.
What I needed was another pint, this craic was getting good.
Before long the place was packed: young Irishmen on stag-night with newly painted mustaches, blue collared regulars, a few tourists, us, and another guy on the hardware side of the pub inching closer as there was little other option. Finally he closed in just as we started talking about our hike up Croagh Patrick.
He asked if we had ever read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. “Oh yea, we loved that story,” we both belted out. Turns out this guy hiked the entire 2174 miles of the Appalachian Trail!! Bill Bryson didn’t. He talked about the trail: the Smokey Mountains, thru-hikers, the fall colors. In fact, this guy still preserves a section of trail near Falls Village in Connecticut. He’s passionate about his hike and “his story”.
We were fascinated by this guy. Never met anyone who had hiked the Appalachian Trail and have only fancied about doing it ourselves. Maybe someday, we told him.
Then he was off, just passin’ thru…. didn’t get him name, only that he was staying in a room with a bed and a hot shower above Murphy’s Pub just down the street, and his “trail name”Travlln’ Jack.