Daily Miles: 18
Total Miles: 250
It rained a lot overnight, but we were happy that it stopped before we got up in the morning. We knew we had several peaks to cross today, and didn’t want slippery rocks added into the day.
We headed out after a good breakfast and hit the trail around 8:45am. Today was scheduled to be a relatively long day, but we had a few work tasks in the morning, so we didn’t get an early start.
The hiking started with a big climb up to the peak of Vogel. Even though we were gaining about 2,000 feet in just over 2 miles, the trail was pretty good and the walking was pleasant. Definitely got our blood pumping, but the morning had cleared up and it was a beautiful day.
The peak of Vogel was our first stamp of the day, and when we headed over the top, the trail down was descent but slow. Near the end of a downhill stretch it got steep enough and exposed enough that there was a series of cables to hold onto as we went down. Even though the going was slow, we felt pretty comfortable with the trail.
Once we got to the bottom of the descent, the trail went straight back up. The trail became a bit of a scramble up, with steel pegs in the rocks to help us pull ourselves up. Once we got through the stretch, the trail became really nice as it headed up a broad ridge. We started to see a lot of day hikers, and we realized that they must be coming from a nearby hotel which is up in the mountains. Everyone looked quite fresh, so we knew they couldn’t have been walking for too long.
The ridge walking was excellent. We had amazing views from both sides…to the left we could see the expanse of the Julian Alps with Triglav towering over the other peaks, and to the right, we could see the lower mountains and out to the Adriatic Sea. With blue skies and a nice breeze, it was really nice.
The trail continued climbing as we got to the peak of Rodica, our second stamp of the day. There was an orientation plate at the top which showed the direction and distance of the major peaks and cities. We looked for peaks that we had passed in the last few weeks, which was pretty cool. Leah caught up with us on the peak and we chatted for a bit.
We looked at the guidebook when we were on the peak and read that the remaining trail for the day was “good” and “pleasant walking”. We headed off expecting more of the same trail we had been walking this afternoon. Unfortunately, the trail was not something that we would have described as good or pleasant.
Basically the trail went just a few feet below the very narrow ridge, following the contour on an extremely narrow and exposed trail. It was very rocky and the going was quite slow as it was not something we felt comfortable on. After about 20 minutes, we got to a spot where a bit of the trail had fallen away and we had to figure out how to get around it. There was one big rocky outcrop surrounded by all loose rock on a steep slope. We took awhile trying to figure out our best approach. We ended up taking off our packs and Beardoh was able to jump across the gap with his long legs. Then we passed the packs across and SweetPea climbed up the rock outcrop and slid down the other side with Beardoh holding onto her.
Once we were both past the spot, we decided to wait for Leah who wasn’t far behind in case she needed help getting across. We could see that she had already left the peak, so we waited about ten minutes for her to show up. Beardoh helped her pass her pack across and then she was able to hop across the gap. The three of continued on together slowly along the narrow trail.
Within 20 minutes we came to a spot where the trail had a blind drop down with a cable for assistance. Beardoh was uncomfortable with it, so Leah went down first (she seems much more comfortable with the sketchy parts than we are and is coincidentally trained in cliff rescue). The spot became a mental barrier and something we just couldn’t cross. After sitting down for a few minutes, we realized we couldn’t continue on the trail, because we couldn’t get down this spot. We told Leah we were going to turn around and she was comfortable continuing on, so we went in opposite directions.
It was a frustrating situation, because we had already completed 75% of our day and now we didn’t know what to do. It was already 3pm and we had no idea where we could go and sleep tonight. There were no other mountain huts nearby and it would have been five hours for us to go back to the hut where we had started today. We had seen a nice switchbacked trail from the ridge which seemed to go down to the valley. We decided that might be our best option, with the hope of finding lodging once we got down.
Since it was mid afternoon already, we started back right away. We had to recross the spot with the bit of missing trail and it was just as nerve wracking the second time as it had been the first time. We got onto the switchbacked trail we had seen and started heading down. The trail was in excellent condition, which was good, but annoying at the same time, since we had just been turned around by poor trail.
The descent was very long and in the end, we dropped about 5,400 feet. It was really tiring on our legs and our toes were pretty painful by the end. We were trying to keep up a fast pace, since we weren’t sure how long we would be walking and we knew our daylight hours were limited.
We finally got to a few tiny villages higher up in the valley, and although they were adorable, there was no lodging to be had there. That meant that we would have to walk out to a larger road and hope to have some options from there. We were on blacktop road, but it was a ways to the larger road. We had hoped we might be able to get a hitch for the road out of the valley, but not one car passed the whole time we were walking.
Once we finally made it down to the bigger road it was 7pm. We called the several nearby lodging options we could see on Google Maps, but nobody had any availability. We were starting to worry that we would be sleeping on the bench at the bus stand.
We started to expand our search and realized that the lodging we had booked for the next night (it is a mountain hut, but in a small village) was about 20 minutes down the road. We called them to see if we could stay there tonight and if they would be able to come and pick us up. We were so relieved when their answer to both questions was yes.
The hut manager, Rudi, picked us up around 8:15pm. He was so nice and welcoming, we could feel the stress of the day starting to lift. Once we got to the hut, we were able to get a nice private room and Rudi gave a shot of schnapps as his welcome drink.
We took quick showers and Rudi made us a great dinner. We were so grateful as it was already 9pm and totally outside of their normal serving hours. We were so hungry and the food tasted really good.
After dinner, we just wanted to lay in bed and sleep. We were exhausted and mentally drained. This trail has been a real mix for us…it is extremely beautiful at times, very enjoyable at times, and beyond our comfort level at times.
An additional disappointment for the day was not being able to stay at the same hut as Leah tonight. Tonight is her last night on the trail, and we planned celebratory schnapps as we said goodbyes. She is walking straight to a train station today, so we won’t be seeing her again. It has been really enjoyable having her company the past few weeks, so it’s too bad we couldn’t say a proper goodbye.