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