Once upon a time, as I left the pond on the east end of Phoenix Park and said goodbye to my new feathered friends I began my adventure into the depths of Phoenix Park.  I had a mission and I was not going to back down this time.  See, this was my second day in Phoenix Park searching for the elusive fallow deer that have resided in the park since it was constructed 350 years ago as a hunting ground for Irish nobles.  My first day ended with an admittedly half-hearted attempt to hunt down my prey, though at the time I did not realize how half-hearted I had been.  That day I had walked until I found a monument that I assumed was the Phoenix monument which gave the park it’s name.  

It was an impressive monument but it turned out to be a war memorial.  I was also under the impression that I had seen the park in its entirety.  Unfortunately, I had only seen about one tenth of the 1,750 acre mega-park.

I followed the signs pointing to the visitor center.  If those deer were in the park then they would surely be able to help me find them.  When I arrived at the center the sign taped to the door explained that they would open up again on Wednesday.  It looked like I was on my own.  How hard could it be, though?  As it turns out, much harder than I had anticipated.   Then it started to drizzle.

I was heading west through the park when through the trees I saw a building resembling the White House in Washington, D.C.  It was the home of the President of Ireland and the Irish flag waved proudly above this glorious marble mansion.  I stopped briefly but I knew the deer would not be in there so I had to keep moving.  To give you some idea of what I was up against (which I did not know at the time) this park is about five miles from east to west with trails zigzagging for one to two miles north to south.  I was following all the outermost trails and then following the zigzag trails to the centerpoint, which is a main road that goes the length of the park.  After reaching this street, Chichester Road, I would go back to my outer trail and begin again.  This methodical approach assured me success on my hunting expedition, right?

Hours later I  was nearing the west end of Phoenix Park.  By this time I had worked myself into a frenzy over the non-appearance of the hoofed hellians.  Then I saw it… a Deer Crossing sign.  This had to be the spot where I would see them.  I sat down on a bench only a few feet from what I recognized as a trail made by deer and waited.  Then I waited some more.  The drizzle started again.  Forty five minutes later I was cursing the deer under my breath as I stood up to begin searching the other half of the park.  I reached Chichester street and saw a Car Crossing sign.  I couldn’t even get across the street there were so many cars.  Now, I see the humor in the comparative accuracy of these two signs but at that moment my frustration was beginning to set in and decided to take extreme measures.

Frustration Creeps In

I crossed the street and headed for the outermost wall.  There was a ditch just inside the wall and I was pretty sure the deer would be found hiding in it.  I began walking in the ditch.  Then, from up ahead I heard a rustle in the bushes.  I grabbed my camera and sprinted ahead.  As I zoomed in and prepared for the much anticipated shot a crow flew out and nearly smacked me in the head.  I shoved my camera in my pocket and started making deer calls.  I should mention that I don’t really know how to make deer calls.  I mean, I can do the breathy snorting sound they do but I don’t know if that attracts them or scares them away.  If I had to guess, I would say it does not attract them.  Anyway, it went on this way until I reached one of the outposts of the park.  Outside the gate was a place known as Farmleigh.  It was a large family farm that had ponds and trails and trees so I reasoned that maybe the deer escaped the park and went to hide in Farmleigh.

As I entered I finished my last granola bar and my master plan was now beginning to crumble fast.  I gave all my bread to the swans.  I ate my last granola bar.  How was I possibly going to get one of these deer to eat out of my hand when I found them?  I would have to give them a finger or something.  So I was on about hour five of my search and , as you may have guessed, this is when things started getting a little weird.  I was sure every bale of hay off in the distance was a bedded down deer.  I would run until it came into focus and then I would shake my fist in fury as the empty field taunted me.  Every duck that flapped its wing was a deer shaking its head until I snapped my head to see the quacking, laughing bird.  At some point I became convinced that I was being watched by a “lookout deer,” as I called him when I cursed his existence numerous times in the coming hours, who warned all the others when I was getting close so they could flee to the next lush field to frolic in my absence.

Cursing The "Lookout Deer"

Frustration Takes Over

The cruelest trick of all took place as I rounded one of the corners on the Farmleigh farm.  There, nearly a quarter mile away, across an open field, were the four legged fallows.  I burst into a mad dash.  Finally, I would take my shot and have successfully hunted my first deer (in a way).  As I neared them I grew with excitement.  I had never seen a fallow deer like these and they were huge.  Fallow deer are thick.  Fallow deer have bulbous heads and no horns.  Wait, that couldn’t be right.  I screamed as I realized my mistake.  “Eeyore!?!  I spend all day stalking these deer and I find Eeeyore!?!,” I yelled as I dropped to a knee to catch my breath.  After spending a little time watching these donkeys eat and stamp their feet and horse around with each other I was happy to have found them. As it turns out donkeys are not as grumpy in real life as they are in the movies.

Now I had reached the end of Farmleigh and was back inside Phoenix Park.  I used the same methodical approach on this side of the park that I had employed on the other side of Chichester Street.  Somewhere, though, something went wrong.  It had been over six hours and I was hungry, thirsty, and my legs were beginning to hurt.  I must have crossed the threshold of Phoenix Park because the next thing I knew I was on a small street.  On both sides of the street were brick walls higher than I could see.  Every few blocks there was a gate and inside I could see very nice homes all in rows.  Then I got to a street corner.  I knew that Dublin was to the left so I took a left and started back towards town.  Maybe I should say I took a left and thought I started back towards town, though.  What I had actually done was begin a long journey in a suburban labrynth.  Every turn led me to a dead end and before long I had no idea where I was or how I was going to get out of this place.  I spent nearly an hour wandering in circles in suburban Dublin.  Then I saw an electrician’s van pull out of a driveway.  I chased after him because I knew he was leaving this place and unless I followed I was not.

I lost sight of him but not before spotting the crucial escape points.  I made a few lefts and rights and I was out on a main street.  Which street I wasn’t sure but I was just happy that I was not going to have to spend the night on the mean streets of suburbia.  Now it was getting late and I headed back to City Center.  Of course, based on what you have heard so far you probably understand that it was not quite that simple.  I followed signs pointing to City Center for about an hour.  I got to the top of an overpass and saw the city getting closer.  It looked smaller than I remembered and I wondered where the river had gone.  Keep in mind, these thoughts were going on in the head of someone who ran out of food and water long ago and was now reaching exhaustion.  As I reached City Center I realized that this was not my city.  I was now standing in Dun Laoghaire, which is a beautiful city about six miles east of Dublin.

It was dark and cold.  I contemplated my next move, which for a brief moment I was pretty sure would be to sleep where I stood until morning.

A Quick Upright Nap

However, I knew that if I could get back to my hostel I could deep fry my half bag of French fries and tell my story for a few laughs.  So off I went, following the signs on the expressway that pointed to Dublin.  I only got lost one more time as I tried to circumvent the walk through Phoenix Park.  I now know that you can not go around the park and still end up in Dublin.  With my new found knowledge I entered the park and after traversing the length of Chichester Street I was within a few miles of my French fries and much deserved can of Coke.

Well, as you may have guessed, I made it back to my room safe and sound.  It was a fun adventure that introduced me to the far reaches of an area I may not have otherwise had a chance to see.  I got some interesting pictures and I will be sure to post them when I do my “Dublin roundup” before I leave this beautiful place.  Oh, and as for the deer… I will be back out again tomorrow.  Until our next adventure…

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