I'm Happy When I'm Hiking(Unknown) - The Return Hiking Trail to San Croce Church,Dolomites,Italy - 2nd June 2016

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June 2nd 2016
Published: June 8th 2016
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The weather forecast is all important today but which one do we listen to and agree with?

We are planning a hike in the mountains today and although we will be taking warm clothes with us just in case we are mindful that we don’t want to get caught out if the weather changes suddenly as we know it can in the mountains.

We have followed BBC, Accuweather and other online forecasts as we have travelled on the BBA V3 and each forecast has had subtle differences. All of the online forecasts have come from places generally far away from where we have been so accuracy has got to come into question. A bit like someone in the Weather Office in Wellington 300 odd kilometres away saying it is going to rain in Tauranga when because we live there and can look out the window and say ‘not today, it is fine and sunny’

For hopefully more accuracy we are going to use the local Badia forecast which appears to be at least an Italian website.

And today it has got the forecast right as we looked out the window to some low cloud on the mountains but clearing overhead. It has predicted possible light showers later as the heat of the day builds up some clouds so at least we will go prepared.

We have three days here and hopefully we will get a hike in each day and try to make each one a bit different in where we go.

Today we have chosen a hike to a church that is sited at an altitude about 500 metres higher than where we will be starting from which in itself will be a good challenge for the leg muscles.

While the map we have has a fairly good description of the routes you can take it doesn’t have distances to be covered rather the time it should take if you hike a particular trail. After our experience of the forest walk at Lake Maggiore we are a little wary of the Italian Alpine organisation and their understanding of ‘time’!

Anyway it should take us about 4 1/2 hours return on route 15 so we will go prepared for a little longer just in case.

With the church we are heading to well above where we are starting from we were under no illusion that it would be mostly uphill for a fair portion of the time to get there.

And that was the way it started out. Up through the adjacent houses to the apartment and then up through meadows and into the forest. Just before we entered the forest we did notice a road going off to the right but because the hillside was so steep you couldn’t actually see whether the road might have taken us where we wanted to be and the road wasn’t marked on the map for route 15,or at least as far as we could tell. So we chose the forest.

It was once we were into forest that the trail started to become a real challenge as it basically followed what was a shingled stream bed that was quite rough to negotiate your footsteps.

After 15 minutes or so on this trail we wondered whether we might have got off the trail we were meant to be on and we think we confirmed that when we did the return jouney.More about that later.

The stream bed trail was steep and we were stopping every few minutes to catch our breath. Living at sea level we don’t experience a shortness of breath when we go out walking but at 1500 metres and hiking up to 2000 metres the air is a little lighter and it takes a while to get used to the thinner air.

Eventually we moved onto a trail that was easier to walk on. However the continual uphill direction didn’t change.

Along the way the trail is well marked with the red/white/red painted symbol on trees or large boulders and every so often a post with the directions for the various trail numbers. We decided it would be pretty hard to get lost.

We were about 1 ¾ hours into the hike and light rain started to fall. We had seen it coming as the forest thinned and we started to get more extensive views of the rocky peaks to our right. So it was time for rain jackets to keep our clothing dry. We were both wearing our Kathmandu trousers which dry very quickly so getting a bit wet on the legs didn’t worry us too much. The worse part of having to wear rain jackets was the heat that built up as we were both wearing warm fleeces.

Thankfully the trail started to level out and the light rain stopped as we emerged out of the forest to truly breathtaking views of the Dolomites all around us. Everywhere you looked there were mountains and we had to be wary that as we hiked on we also concentrated on the trail and not just the scenery as in some parts it might have been easy to take a fall.

With the rain stopped off came the jackets and it was at this time that Gretchen noticed her prized Portofino pink cap was no longer in a compartment on the outside of the backpack. We were going to take the same route back so as it must have fallen out somewhere we should be able to see it on the return journey if no one else picked it up.

Then we saw a couple of people following us, the first humans we had seen in just over 2 hours, so we waited a moment until they came closer and asked if they had seen the prized cap. They hadn’t so it suggested to us they had not followed our trail to get to where we were.

They were much slower than us and we left them behind as the trail was quite level and we progressed across an area where there had been a giant slip as some time not too long ago.

Then the church came into view and as with all challenges there was a short sharp hill to climb to get to our destination.

The sun was now out and in with no wind to speak of we stripped down to shirtsleeves and hung the jackets and fleeces up to let them dry out after the light rain we had walked through.

Time for lunch and thankfully there were a number of picnic tables to sit at while we continued to admire the views of the mountains.

We were feeling pretty good and despite the predominately uphill climb our legs and muscles were not tired.

About half a dozen other people in small groups turned up at the church while we sat and had lunch. Some of them looked like they were equipped to take on the trail that went even higher than the 2045 metres we had got to. One of the trails we had seen on the way up was a path that went across an area that was a shingle slide. Over time these slides happen presumably as the snow melts and rocks break off sliding down the mountainside building up a fan of shingle that consolidates over time.

St Croce, the church we had hiked to, had been built in 1484 and has been a church for pilgrims to head to over the years. Today though it was firmly locked so we didn’t get to look inside. There was also a building with a restaurant alongside but it too was closed and we found out later that it does open for the summer hiking season which had not quite yet arrived.

To get back to the apartment we could either retrace our steps or take a trail that went more directly down the mountainside and we would then follow the river back to where the road went up to San Cassiano.

However, we had a pink cap to find and anyway the other option would have meant a short climb up the hill to home at the end of the hike and we weren’t keen on that.

The hike back was a breeze compared to the upwards journey as you might expect.

At a fork in the trail we had the option of taking a road down the rest of the way. This was the road that we could have taken on the way up as we had mentioned earlier.

However, we hadn’t found the pink cap and there was now only one trail it could be on assuming it hadn’t been picked up by another hiker that we hadn’t come across.

So we started down the shingle bed we had earlier walked up and within about 100 metres of starting down the trail there was the pink hat sitting right in the middle of the trail. It just goes to show how few people were hiking today as we were almost sure the cap would no longer be wherever it fell to still be there.

The road down was much easier on the knee joints and although it probably didn’t turn out to be any faster, we didn’t feel quite so exhausted either.

As we emerged from the forest the view to the end of the San Cassiano valley was breath taking and we took the opportunity to take a seat on a bench to take in the majesty of the mountains and also the hillside meadow which was covered in dandelions with their yellow flowers standing our strikingly against the lush green grass.

We almost ended up at the bottom of the road and would have had to walk back up again as we missed the turn towards our apartment. Luckily we had only got about 50 metres down the road and thought it odd that we hadn’t already passed a couple of places that we had rested on the way up.

Back at the apartment the first cold beer didn’t even touch the sides.

We ate a hearty dinner to replace the calories we must have expended on the hike and it wasn’t too long before we ready for bed to prepare ourselves for hike #2 tomorrow.

PS: you just have to watch and sing a long with the Youtube title song and you will soon get in the spirit of the great outdoors.

Additional photos below
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8th June 2016

Nice hike, I hope to get to Dolomites some day.

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