Day 1 of the hike. Both wonderful and difficult. 13 kilometers of steady uphill hiking on crushed stone trails. Total gain of about 1000 meters in elevation.
Finally! Packs on our backs, boots on our feet, realizing the plan that we’d hatched all those years ago. Blue-sky day. Friends to keep us company. Some of us took a lot of pictures. Two of us hashed over the details of the Harry Potter books and movies for many kilometers. Two others were the map keepers. We laughed a lot, talked about Italy and food and lost luggage and all sorts of things, spent a lot of time looking up, pointing, exclaiming, “Look at that!”
We stopped at Malga Ra Stua to eat our first picnic lunch of bread, cheese, salami, apples, and chocolate.
After lunch, we hiked through the loveliest, sheltered valley. Green, sloped pastures, dotted with grazing cows. Each one wore a bell, and the whole valley rang with the sound of the meandering bells.
See where the trail disappears in the trees? Just about there, at the trees, the trail begins to rise again, gently at first, then gradually more steeply until it twists itself into a series of switchbacks (a word that, by order of the resident 12-year-old, is now not to be uttered within her hearing). See those cliffs? By the end of the afternoon, we’d be above them.
It was hard hiking, and hardest on the youngest of our party, just shy of 12 years old and the least experienced hiker in the bunch. After a point, every step for her was a misery, and I felt like a hard-hearted parent forcing her up those trails. I wished with everything in me that there was a way I could magically transport her to the end, where rest, food, and a bed awaited.
But there was no magic. Only patient waiting, and kidding, and laughing, and sighing in exasperation, and grumbling, and snacking, and making mini milestones that we could achieve (“at the bend of the next switchback, we’ll stop and have some chocolate”).
In the end, no magic was needed. Just persistence. She did it. Under her own power.
She owned that mountain.
And then we were there, at Sennes Hutte, drinking beer, wine, and hot cocoa, ruminating over the day’s hike, anticipating a warm shower, and basking in the sunset view we’d earned.