Italian Folktales ~ Day 10 (July 4, 2011), Fanes to Fiames to Fanna

Just above Fanes, the trail flattens, passes a turquoise blue lake, and then begins the long, sloping descent down the valley, back to Fiames.

Fanes - End of the "up"

Mountain lake

Homeward bound

Trail down through the pass

We left the bare, rocky summits behind us and, little by little, were enveloped by a forest of tall conifers, mysterious caves, and tumbling cascades.

Although at least one in our party was happy to see the end of this part of our trip, I was reluctant to leave. I spent much of the hike down looking up and looking back, thinking about those lucky ducks just arriving at their first rifugio that day. As excited I was for the rest of our trip, truth be told, I could have easily spent another week, two, three right there in those mountains.

But the Fiat Panda was waiting patiently for our return, and we had miles to go before our rest in Fanna that night. Miles that included (unbeknownst to us at that moment) a road that resembled a zipper on the map and, in real life, turned out to be a seemingly endless series of terrifying, single-lane switchbacks that ricocheted us up and over the mountains and down into the gentle plains of Fanna.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I have not a single picture of that harrowing journey. I was too busy gripping the seat and wondering when we’d stop going UP to think about preserving the memories digitally. All sense of peace from the past few days was momentarily gone. It was a very quiet trip over those mountains. Now, of course, I wish I’d taken at least one picture so you’d have an idea of what that road was like. You’ll just have to trust me: you wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

And then, we were down, with the Tagliamento river on our right.


Gliding along the gentle, suburban roads that led us to Fanna.



The clear, blue-sky weather that we’d been blessed with for the past four days turned to grey and the rain started. But it didn’t matter at all. Our packs were dry, and we found the largest hotel room this side of Texas, with comfortable beds, air conditioning, and generous, hot showers.

As appealing as the mountains are, civilization also ain’t so bad.

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.