Monday, September 29, 2014

Dolomites Part I swear I'll be done soon: Hiking Day 5

Last hiking post, promise.

We departed Lagazuoi in the morning, but first, Nick got some gorgeous pics of the sunrise.
I will sleep in a dormitory every night if it means I can see this in the morning.

You think I'm kidding?

I am (snoring German guy, ruining the fun for everyone). But this is still so gorgeous.

During WWI, the area we were in was disputed. It was originally part of Austria, but Italy tried, successfully, to take it over during the War. We passed many, many semi-intact bunkers and bits of debris nestled in the mountains. The tunnel we traversed below was particularly impressive- It is 650 meters of stairs that head down a mountain. It was creepy, and uncomfortable, but incredible in its length and the amount of work that was put into constructing it.

It was like this for an hour. So much down. No lights. Kind of treacherous.

We saw edelweiss (after a week of singing the song). They were for sale at a souvenir shop/
Washed out LUNCH!!! picture, included for uniformity and because it was THE BEST gnocchi I had in my entire life. Smoked ricotta-y pillows of joy.

This was a shorter day, thank goodness, because we ended up caught in drenching rain toward the end of the day. We were only about a half mile from our destination though, and we happened to meet some Americans while we waited for our taxi back to town. We got back to our hotel and back to civilization. That evening we also got to meet the group that would be doing via ferrata with us the next few days. I was relieved, happy. and looking forward to doing something different for the next few days. Little did I know the challenge I was in for... 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dolomites Part 5: Hiking Day 3 and 4

On our third day our destination was Lavarella (I'd linkto these but 1. the websites are often not very good and 2. they're in Italian). We once again had a lovely day of weather ahead of us. Nick and I looked at our map (that was our before/during/after dinner pastime... note to self, bring a book next time) and saw that the hike to Lavarella would be fairly straight and boring, and have a wicked downhill at the end. It may sound weird to want very badly to avoid downhill, but while going uphill is difficult, cardiovascularly, at least it doesn't feel as hard on the joints as downhill. So we devised a more adventurous, less direct route to our destination.
At the beginning. This part felt "hard," but it can't all be that bad, right?! RIGHT? 

Sliding down the hill... 

Sliding sideways down the hill..

Trying not to fall down the hill... 
Occasionally we were treated to a pretty waterfall.
Home sweet home for the night. 2 tiny twin beds. Tiny room. No longer care as long as I don't have to climb down any more hills.

LUNCH! Spinach knodel (amazing dumplings). Nick's pasta has butter on the sauce, which he said was a delicious addition. 

And for the second half of our day, we hiked up to that pass. Because we hadn't had enough challenges. 

And then it rained.

This was not my favorite day. Our hikes were very challenging and I was stressed out. The path in the morning was kind of hard to follow, and I worried about being lost, falling, and all sorts of other things. We made it through just fine, but not without some complaining from me.

Luckily, we followed day 3 with day 4 (because we're logical). Day 4 was my very favorite, by far. Our destination was Lagozuoi. Our day started with a serene hike through a valley.
So pretty... 

Look closely, that is a perfectly still lake with the mountain reflected in it. 

There were horses. I was excited.

Then we had to go up. Final destination: that notch between the mountains.

Getting there.

And then the descent...

Worth it. Gorgeous turquoise lake on the other side!

Bad pic, sorry Nick, but LUNCH was a cheese sandwich picnic.

And then we had more up. 2 more hours. Our destination is that little hut atop the mountain.
Once again, views were worth it!

Our home for the night: dormitory. Oof.

I'm on top of the world

The beauty was overwhelming. So much to take in.

This was officially too many pictures for a blog post, so I will stop there. One more day of hiking to come!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dolomites Trip Part 4: Hiking Day 1 and 2

Subtitle: there are so many parts. Just buckle down.

Our trip had us hiking from rifugio to rifugio every day for 5 days / 4 nights. This meant that every day, no matter what, we had to get ourselves to our destination for that night. That is a great motivator! Most of the distances were only 6 or 7 miles, I think 9ish was the longest day, but that's without any detours for sightseeing or getting lost, plus the elevation changes we were talking about each day were immense. We had just struggled (by "we" I mean my morning sickness ridden self) through 1000 feet of elevation gain during our Colorado hikes. We were looking at 2000+ feet each day at >6500' elevation. That was going to be... challenging.

The first day took us from our home base in Cortina to Prato Piazza- about 7 miles total with 2300' of vertical. It was grey and a bit dreary but we were fresh and excited! Our trail wasn't too challenging, the views were beautiful, and we were clean. After an hour, and then another hour of tragically slow average paces (1.5 miles/hour, including breaks, was our average during the steep sections), it got a bit disheartening. Our packs were heavy and we were still adjusting to the whole hiking all day thing. A nice distraction was the WWI related sights (more on this in later posts). There were old bunkers and pillboxes that were still largely intact. Still, it felt like we only went uphill. We had snacks, but to get to lunch (and indoor bathrooms!) we needed to keep on hiking. Luckily, the views continued to be gorgeous and novel, and we continued on.

Starting out nice and fresh

Hills. All day. Hills.

First peak of the Dolomites: Mt. Specie

Cows! With bells around their necks. So much jingling.

LUNCH! Huge piles of pasta for both of us. Mine had garlic and spicy oil. Mmm.

Our room had 4 beds, including a set of bunk beds. It was very quaint.

Since the first hike wasn't enough (ha), we also attempted to summit the mountain behind the rifugio. Nope. Too tired and looking forward to dinner too much to risk being late. It was still beautiful and a nice extra challenge. We made it about 90% of the way.

Second day took us from Prato Piazza to Fodora Vedla, another 11ish miles and ~2600' vertical. We were a little less fresh, a little more sore, and maybe less excited about this day. But we must forge ahead! The weather was amazing- blue skies with white puffy clouds and nice moderate temps.
The Croda Massif. We hiked around this over the course of the day. Gosh this place is pretty.

And another, less pretty picture, but with us in it! Hi!

The geology is so, so cool.

Up and up...

The views. Every day I tried to be thankful for the views, even if I was tired of hiking to see them.

LUNCH! Pretty sure Nick got boiled hot dogs that were masquerading as "sausages." I got woefully under-cooked eggs and potatoes that I devoured. And yes, I look like a goober with my hat and scarf. Better than being a cancerous cool person.

And then we had a rock field to tackle...

Still going up...

And the view we were rewarded with. I'll take it.

Crazy tilted rock ridgeline. I think I'm pretending to surf? 

Our itinerary had a misprint, so we originally went to the wrong rifugio. Nope. Nothing worse than thinking you FINALLY get to take of your shoes and being told you still have 2 more miles of hiking. Finally, we made it to our sleeping destination.

Another cute room. This time, 2 beds, and they even touched each other! The Italians were fans of fluffy duvets vs. normal sheet and blanket setup. I didn't care, I just needed a bed.

These posts are long and picture-heavy, so I'll be breaking them up. Next up- the rest of the hiking!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dolomites Trip Part 3: Cortina D'Ampezzo

A.k.a. the place we went when we weren't hiking.

As I mentioned before, our trip was one day of down time, 5 days of hiking, another half day of downtime, 3 days of via ferrata, then a final day of non-hiking time. At the beginning, middle, and end of the trip, we were located in the same hotel. Our home base was Hotel Beppe Sello in Cortina D'Ampezzo. Cortina is a cute city in the heart of the Dolomites. They held the 1956 Olympics there! It is definitely a ski/tourist town, with a cute main street/pedestrian walkway. We stayed in a hotel a little off the main drag. Beppe Sello was... interesting. The workers were quite nice. They take your passport for the duration of the stay, which I thought was a little odd.

The rooms were cute. Most everything in Italy was wood, and felt very alpine. It also all felt very small. The bathroom was decent (no picture) although, consistently, we did not have quite enough towels or enough towel space. Also, you can't control the temperature in your room. The rooms have radiators, but we couldn't turn ours on. Not a huge deal, but I guess we get spoiled in our individually climate-controlled rooms in the US.

Not a ton of room. Spoiler alert: the rooms only got smaller!
The hotel was on a side street, from a pedestrian point of view, but a fairly heavily traveled vehicle road. 
The view from our window. The gorgeous Dolomiti.

On our first day, we wandered around Cortina until we got hungry. We were trying to eat at an odd hour, so our choices were a bit limited. This place had a Welcome sign in English, so we decided to try it out.

My mushroom pizza in the background, Nick's margarita in the foreground (note that pizza does not come pre-sliced. It's a knife-and-fork situation). Nick was in love with this pizza. So much so that he talked to our waiter about how in love he was. Our waiter was also a fan, so they bonded. It was nice.

We had breakfast at the hotel 3 times. It was where we were introduced to the traditional breakfast of yogurt and granola. They also had a nice selection of cakes/tarts at breakfast (they have a restaurant that's open for lunch and dinner). Plus, they have an adorable egg boiler that is almost identical to the one I had at home. It was nice to have that option for breakfast (although I'll discuss Italian eggs in a later post...)

Our other days in Cortina were filled with good food and walking around. It's cute and easy to get around. Plus, it has incredible views of the surrounding mountains and is conveniently located near dozens and dozens of hiking trails. It would be a nice place to base a hiking or skiing vacation if we were ever fortunate enough to make our way back to the Dolomites.