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.

Italian Folktales ~ Day 6 (June 30, 2011), Cortina d’Ampezzo and Lagazuoi

On paper, Cortina d’Ampezzo has much to recommend it; the host of the 1956 Winter Olympics, it’s ringed by the Dolomites and is a popular jumping off point for hikers, climbers, and skiers wanting to explore the Dolomites.

Cortina d' Ampezzo

It has its charms—most especially the spectacular La Cooperative di Cortina, part department store, part bookstore, part climbing and hiking gear shop, and part luxury grocery store—but most of it is filled with large, aging hotels, charmless restaurants, and expensive boutiques. Maybe it has a different character in the winter, when it’s the home of the après-ski set.

Cortina d' Ampezzo

We spent the night of the 29th there, repacking our backpacks to prepare for our first night in the mountains, but were happy to leave our utilitarian hotel room behind the next morning for Rifugio Lagazuoi.

Lagazuoi cable car station

There are two ways up to Lagazuoi, 2752 meters up in the clouds: on foot, via the hiking trails, or by cable car.

Lagazuoi cable car - Our car arrives

We had a rainy day, and rode up through fog that obscured the breathtaking views until we arrived up top.

Lagazuoi cable car - Rock face in the rain

Lagazuoi cable car - View down the line

Lagazuoi cable car - Across the mist

There is so much to tell you about Lagazuoi: the expansive deck, Tony the dog, the cozy room for three, the friendly staff and the warming food, the bone-chilling wind, the high alpine hiking trails, the stunning views, the World War I relics, and the thunderhead that settled over the mountain across the way and flashed and glowed with lightning all night long.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Thunderhead

I could probably write about this one place for days, but I’m afraid of boring you. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Go to Cortina, stop at the co-op for chocolate, cheese, bread, and beer, then head straight for Lagazuoi and spend two nights, not one.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Tie-dyed H

H ~


Rifugio Lagazuoi

Welcome to the cozy mountain haven of Rifugio Lagazuoi, nestled 9000 feet up in the Italian mountains. Travelers rest there often, and the hosts and food are very nice. But is something more sinister living there as well? This reporter certainly thinks so! On a rocky ledge overlooking the treacherous slopes, mysterious items have been found. A cave stands there; a fun little hiding place from the ripping wind or a containment place for a terrible beast? Here in this column we will examine the evidence.

1. The location.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Outlook

This small outlook hosts the cave (and whatever lives there!) . It is far away enough from the hut to be safe, but close enough that, given four or five minutes, a vicious bloodthirsty egg-eating demon-creature could get to the hut easily. However, the “Dark Fiend” (as we shall call it) can be corralled easily, given that it sits right on the edge of the cliff. And are those blood-stains near the top?

2. The cave.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Scary cave

This is the cave in which the Dark Fiend presumably lives. It’s very dark and may be more spacious than we realize. From the pictures you will be seeing very soon, the feeding place for the Dark Fiend is right atop it.

3. The bones.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Bones

The image above shows a pile of gray rocks which, upon closer inspection, reveal pearly-white bones. This suggests that the Dark Fiend is a carnivore.

4. The eggshells.

Rifugio Lagazuoi - Spoon & egg shells

This picture perhaps renders up the most information of all. It tells us that the Dark Fiend loves eggs. It tells us that it must have opposable thumbs, as it uses a spoon to eat the eggs.

Now, let’s go over the facts:

It lives a short distance away from the hut.
It lives inside a large, dark cave.
It eats some type of animal.
It eats eggs with a spoon, so…
It may have opposable thumbs.

Add a comment and tell us what you think THE DARK FIEND is!!!!!!