Italian Folktales ~ Day 9 (July 3, 2011), Pederu to Fanes

On the morning of this third day of hiking, salvation came to Hyla in the form of a minivan.

Hyla's salvation

It’s not that she wasn’t willing to hike back up much of the elevation we had come down the day before; she just wasn’t happy about it.

After experiencing the pain of watching her misery during the hardest parts of the last two days, her wide smile and the joyful lilt in her voice when she told me that M had booked us a ride in that van was a balm to my heart.

Among the many things they don’t make clear in those “So You’re Going to Have a Baby” books (along with the fact that you will have to stitch together camps and events to fill a summer if you are a working parent, and the fact that yes, you will have to remember how to do 7th grade math) is how your heart will break and then heal and then break again in parallel with your child’s experience.

Well maybe they said that in the book, but I definitely missed that chapter.

Maybe it was my experience of Hyla’s relief, or maybe it was the intoxication of the mountain air, but by the time I got to Fanes, I felt high with happiness. A feeling that only intensified during the day when, after getting Hyla settled comfortably at the top of her three-level bunk in the dormitory, Michael and I set off on our hike from Fanes to the neighboring rifugio, Lavarella, then back to Fanes, then up the trail that took us far above Fanes for the spectacular view of the valley below.


"Parliament of the Marmots"

Friendly doe

Trail from Fanes to Lavarella

Fanes - View of the valley

Afterwards, we drank beers on the deck, watching hikers and bikers come and go.

Fanes - Deck

We talked. We sat silently. We laughed. We breathed. Some of us napped. Others wandered to visit the cows and ponies. We anticipated another wonderful dinner, wine, conversation.

I remember thinking then (and can still summon the feeling when I look back on those photos), that I may never have been more relaxed or “right-feeling” in my life. I felt centered and absolutely content. Not worried about the past or future. I was ready to put down stakes and stay.

I knew that part of that feeling was because I was in the middle of vacation, with no responsibilities other than repacking my belongings the next morning, hoisting my pack on my back, and following the trail. But it didn’t matter what the reason was. It only mattered that we were there, all together, in that moment, and we were all happy.

Italian Folktales ~ Day 8 (July 2, 2011), Sennes to Pederu


Peaceful morning at Sennes Hutte, and the sound of the cow bells. The sound we woke up to at each rifugio.

Packs lined up, ready for the day’s hike. Have I mentioned yet how much I love my backpack? Well I do. I love it. It’s the green one there. I love it.

Sennes - Backpacks ready for the day

On the walk to Fodara Vedla, where we’ll stop for lunch.

On our way to Fodara Vedla

Trail to Fodara Vedla

Looking at the pictures now, I still can’t believe how stunning the scenery was. What good thing did I do to deserve being there with my family and friends on a sparkling clear July day? It must have been something awfully good.

Trail, mountains, clouds

Stopping to rest

Stopping at an overlook to see where Pederu is.

View down to the valley floor

It is way. down. there.

But first, there is Fodara Vedla, and its bossy cows.

Mind the cows

Fodara Vedla - Cozy and serene

We sat on its front deck, ate a gloriously simple lunch, drank champagne in honor of a fellow hiker’s birthday, and watched the flags flap in the breeze. Rough life, eh?

Fodara Vedla - Flags

And then the last bit of gentle trail, across the meadow.

Fodara Vedla - In the distance

Before descending to the bottom of this valley.

Trail to Pederu - View into the valley

By way of a seemingly endless series of gravel-covered switchbacks (sorry, Hyla).

Going down

Switchbacks begin

Steep and curved

Even when Pederu, our lodging for the night, seemed tantalizingly close, the trail kept going and going, bending and twisting.

Pederu: our goal


Hike from Fodara Vedla to Pederu

That yellow line, from Fodara Vedla to Pederu, took us hours to hike, but on a mountain bike, you could do it in seven minutes.

If you were in a hurry, and a bit insane, that is.

Italian Folktales ~ Day 7 (July 1, 2011), Fiames to Sennes

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.

Preparing at Fiames

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!”

Ra Stua bound

Setting out on the trail to Sennes

We stopped at Malga Ra Stua to eat our first picnic lunch of bread, cheese, salami, apples, and chocolate.

Malga Ra Stua - 6,890'

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.

More cowbell


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.

Getting higher

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.

On the plateau

Sennes Hutte

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.