Hiking Chamechaude

 

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Hundreds of trails weave through the mountains surrounding Grenoble, several only accessible through villages nearby. But planning a weekday getaway hike can be a challenge without a car, as most of the buses out to these trailheads only run on the weekends outside of the summer holiday and winter ski months. There is one trail, though, that takes you up and away from civilization to the highest peak in the Chartreuse mountain range: the hike up to Chamechaude that starts in Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse.

At 9 miles, hiking Chamechaude is a pretty straightforward day hike for the intermediate or experienced hiker, though the uphill may take you a bit longer if you haven’t hiked in a while and the top might be challenging if steep slopes and sheer edges make you nervous. We took our time and the whole hike took us around 7 hours. We didn’t need any special equipment; just food, a few liters of water, and sunblock. We also picked up a map at the Grenoble Tourism Office (Office de Tourisme Grenoble-Alpes Métropole).

We wake before dawn to catch an early #62 bus to Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse, and in minutes we have left the city for behind. The bus trundles along on a neatly paved two-lane road and we watch as dawn spills across the swelling hills and forests. Near the end of our ride, we see a steep cliff jut from the landscape to the left. This is Chamechaude, what we’ll be climbing today.

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The bus drops us off in the center of town, less than half a mile from the trailhead. The morning chill has yet to dissipate, so we zip our jackets and start hiking to warm up. The path immediately slants upward, and with few exceptions, will continue uphill for the next several hours.

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The first part of this uphill hike is through thickly wooded forests, and wayfinding is made difficult by the profusion of trails sliced through the forest, a combination of hiking and ski trails marked with heiroglyphic patterns of colors. We imprint on our trail’s symbol of a red and white flag and follow it, learning on the way that an ‘x’ in these colors means don’t go this way, it’s not the same trail. I’d wager in the winter these ‘x’ symbols also mean “Do no enter. Downhill only.”

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An hour into the hike, the forest thins and we break into a broad meadow at the foot of Chamechaude’s steep side. Chamechaude is on this side is a sheer cliff of a massif, a deformation in the Earth’s crust that might be made if someone dropped a cosmic sized bowling ball onto the ground. Climbing it from here is not a hike but an actual climb, and we’re not equipped for that.

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Instead, we follow the trail to the left and around the back of Chamechaude, once again into forest, across small streams and through handmade livestock gates maintained by those who still graze their flocks here. There are even signs asking that we not disturb the cows and sheep.

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Finally, we find ourselves on the other side of Chamechaude, a steep but climbable slope cut with a narrow switchbacked trail. Three hours after we began our uphill hike, we begin to hike uphill in earnest, planting one foot in front of another, plodding up and scrambling over small piles of limestone rock. I pick one up to examine it and find traces of fossilized clam and snail shells. This area is a protected park, so I put them back.

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While in distance summiting Chamechaude should be only a mile, it takes us more than an hour to climb. We’re exposed here, above the treeline, and are thankful for extra sunblock as the noontime sun glares down on us. But we rest only at the top, heaving and sweating. Was the climb worth it?

You decide:

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A view from the cliff’s edge down toward the meadow.

 

 

 

Downhill, while precarious, slips by faster than the uphill and we are back at the foot of the mountain in forty minutes. We take the long way back, savoring the cooling shade of the evergreens and brilliant colors on the deciduous trees in the forest. It’s 5 pm and the day is done by the time we again reach the town center of Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse, and we’re just in time for sunset on the bus ride back to Grenoble.

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Bulgaria’s Rila Lakes

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It’s midday when we stop for lunch at the edge of a glassy lake, resting our packs against a rocky outcrop speckled with green, black, and orange lichens and tufts of moss. We quickly don jackets to minimize loss of body heat, then dig sandwiches and water of out of packs and share a meal in silence, gazing across the lake. It’s water mirrors the mountains rising on the opposite shore, the slopes a patchwork of slate, mustard, and dark green brush. A soundless wind carries low-hanging clouds over us, obscuring the peaks as fading shadows that are soon lost in the gray haze. It’s been a wet, chilly hike, but nothing could dampen the grandeur of this scenery. And while otherworldly, it’s located here on earth in the unlikeliest of places: the Rila Lakes of Bulgaria.

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The Balkan country of Bulgaria is most commonly recognized for one of two things: its dairy (in the form of yogurt and feta cheese) or its poverty. The country is the poorest member of the European Union, where a combination of Soviet legacy and lagging economy have driven nearly two million of its citizens abroad and cut the country’s population from  9 million in 1989 to around 7 million today, and this tends to be the only Bulgaria the world outside knows.

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And if you speak to a Bulgarian expatriate about their country, they’re more likely to miss the food or to complain about government corruption. Few mention the country’s two sprawling mountain ranges, its karst caverns, golden plains, or alpine lakes. Ask about the country’s panoply of Thracean, Roman, and Ottoman ruins and you’ll often get an “Oh yes, we do have that.” Tourism is an afterthought in most of Bulgaria, and the country’s natural beauty remains a secret to outside world.

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Back at Rila Lakes, we continue our hike through alpine grassland, past a dozen more still and glassy lakes, heading for the trail summit. The people we encounter are mostly native Bulgarians, taking a last break at the end of the summer season before school and work starts again. A handful are backpackers from other countries that when asked, “why Bulgaria?” reply with “It was cheap.” And we pass one group of park employees, dressed in waders and working to move rocks and brush along one of the lakes. “We’re preventing blockage that happens when vegetation dies for the season,” they explain to us, “visitors have brought some extra nutrient contamination to the lakes, but we can remedy it by ensuring the water continues to flow.”

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As we climb the last mile to the summit, the temperature drops even further and wind chill forces us to add hats and gloves. Though the stream beside is flows freely, ice coats the rocks at its edge. Frost flowers, long shards of ice, grow from blades of goldenrod grass beside the trail. The summer growing season has long since ended here.

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The peak is a disappointment for a standard hiker. The clouds that have drifted in starting around lunch have thickened, and where there should be a view of the entire valley there is only a thick gray fog. We climb back down and complete the trail loop, heading up along the western ridge of the valley. The clouds descend further and envelope us in obscurity. When we stop to rest in the dead grass beside the trail, we watch other hikers pass us, materializing from the mist with the scrape of shoes on dirt and sounds of breathing and fading into faint outlines and then, nothingness.

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Skakavitza Waterfall Hike

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With visiting the relatives complete, Stoytcho and I took  a couple of days’ retreat in the Rila Mountain Range for some outdoorsing. It has been a singular sorrow to be cooped up in the car, passing so many beautiful slopes and potential trails to the unknown here in Bulgaria. As a remedy, we booked a lovely room at the Hotel Borovets for the off-season nightly price of 58 lev (~$35 USD, including breakfast!), and for a stunning 10 lev (~$6 USD) they packed us daily lunch as well. Their lutenitsa was delicious.

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Totally NOT Skakavitsa Falls, but another waterfall along the trail.

Our first hike was at Skakavitsa Falls. Despite gorgeous weather the last two weeks, summer decided to flee on the days of our hike! We hiked in light mist and clouds, but the trails were still beautiful. Photos and map below of the rainy wonderland.

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A wild rose along the trail.

If you’re looking to hike Skakavitsa, be warned that in 2018 the signs were still all in Cyrillic. From the trailhead follow the red trail up to the hut/inn, then continue in the same direction. Do not go left, despite the open fields and better-marked trail — this goes to Rila Lakes and is a day-long affair. Stoytcho and I started on this trail before realizing we had passed the falls and had to double-back.

Map:

A photographic taste of the trail:

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Trail information at the trailhead.

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Follow the red trail markers.

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Other hikers along the trail.

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A wild allium flower.

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A waterfall along the trail.

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Dewspun spider web along the trail.

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The forest along the trail.

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An abandoned electrical building along the trail.

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The hut/house at the trail fork. When you get to the picnic trail after this, keep going in the same direction; don’t go left.

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Don’t take this trail; it doesn’t go to Skakavitsa Falls.

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An odd flower or bud.

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If you get here, you’re definitely on the wrong track. This trail leads to the Rila Lakes and it’s pretty far.

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The cost of taking a wrong turn. Everything is so wet!

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Special effects without editing: fog inside your camera lens.

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Back on the right trail, heading toward Skakavitsa.

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Skakavitsa Falls! Currently hardly a trickle and obscured by mist.

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Wild violet.

 

Zmeyovo Trip

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We’re back on the road and headed only half an hour southwest to the town of Zmeyovo. Stoytcho’s great-aunt Nadia, great-uncle Vesko, and their massive guard dog Herc greet us at their tidy two-story house  near the town’s center. We’re here for only one night before moving on, but it’s good to talk with them. Stoytcho plays translator again, shifting between Bulgarian and English.

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We take a walk in the afternoon to the nearby Zmeyovo Hill, carrying a wooden bat in one hand that great-aunt Nadia insisted we take to ward off stray dogs. We see some at the edge of town, but they ignore us and we continue on to the hill, an extinct volcano and the town’s namesake. Nadia also warned us there aren’t really trails up the hill, but that we’re welcome to try and hike it. We trudge up the forested slope and quickly find out she’s right.

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The tree’s are far enough apart that it’s not hard to see where we’re going, but our path is interrupted by steep rocky outcrops, dense brush, and the occasional thorny rosebush. The leaf litter here is also dense, probably undisturbed for years. With each step we sink a few inches, hearing the rush-rush noise of our shoes kicking the dry leaves on the surface. We climb and stumble onward, navigating by incline. Here and there we find the remnants of what was once a path or even a dirt road up to the top, but all have been washed out or overgrown by trees.

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We use Google Maps to navigate near the summit. Glancing over the topography before we left, we noticed there was a lower ‘false’ summit to the southwest of the actual summit, followed by a steep increase in altitude that we think might be a cliff, so we’re keen to avoid that. It takes us another thirty minutes of circling, when through the stand of trees we spot a dull, worn trail marker. When we approach, we find the skeleton of a makeshift shelter and a concrete post that probably once held a sign marking the summit. These are all that remain of the trail to the summit, the rest swallowed by the woods.

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While kicking at the leaf litter at a small depression in the ground, I overturn a small pile of rocks. I pick one up, surprised at how light it feels, and turn it over. A patchwork of holes peppers the other side, and a glossy rainbow sheen is spread across the surface. This is a volcanic rock, and the depression I’m standing in is probably an ancient volcanic vent. I wave Stoytcho over excitedly and we break off a few pieces of rock to send to a geologist friend. There may be no Thracean gold here, but there are still treasures.

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Roman Ruins

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Lela Stanka says there are Roman ruins on the hill beside Nikolaevo, the remnant of an old fort from millennia past. She says this matter-of-factly, like this isn’t a big deal, because this is Bulgaria and ancient ruins are everywhere. There are more ruins in this country than anyone knows what to do with and they all can’t be tourist destinations. This particular outpost sits mostly-forgotten, and Lela Stanka warns us that if we want to find it, we’ll likely be tromping in undergrowth instead of on a trail.

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An earth star on the hillside trail.

On our last day in Nikolaevo, we set out intent to find the ruins. Since we’ve pestered her for chores, Lela Stanka sends us out with a sack to collect kindling for the winter. We trudge uphill on a trail, picking up sticks and twigs and shoving them into the sack, looking for the turnoff point Lela Stanka suggested we take to find the ruins. It leads into a grove of planted trees, lined neatly in rows and identical in age. It’s almost impossible to tell which direction to head, save for uphill and downhill.

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Neatly planted trees make for mazelike conditions.

We make our way uphill until we reach the top, crowned with some rocky seats and scorched fire ring. There are no Roman ruins here. We return to the grove of trees and pick another direction, and still nothing. We spend an hour wandering in all directions. It seems like a man-made structure like a Roman fort would be impossible to miss, and yet we can find nothing.

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Is that…the trail?

We’re about to give up and begin walking back downhill when Stoytcho notices a small side path into another part of the woods. We follow its curve uphill again, around a bend and into a dry, grassy field filled with skittering grasshoppers and floating butterflies. To one side there appears to be a vertical rise in the hill, choked with vines.

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It’s not a rise in the hill. It’s a wall. We’ve found the ruins!

In this day and age, there’s not much left but the foundations, piles of rocks held together by crumbing Roman concrete.  We climb over the outside wall into the remnants of the fort’s rooms and corridors, picking our way through clinging vines and overgrown shrubs. Rumor has it that there’s a tunnel from this fort that leads down to the Radova River below, where the Ottomans hit Thracean gold during their retreat from Bulgaria centuries ago. But what little was here was probably plundered years ago, and nothing remains broken stones.

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What remains of the Roman fort, choked with vegetation.

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From a different angle, those same walls disappear into the overgrowth.

We follow a wall of the fort away from the field to a steep cliff at the hill’s edge. From here, we can see for miles across the countryside, over a patchwork of fields to the mountains in the distance. This view is why the Romans built a fort here, and where we stand now a millennia ago would have been occupied by Roman soldiers, watching, waiting, guarding, eating, drinking, thinking about their future lives, boasting about their past victories. Living.

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Following a wall to the edge of a cliff.

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The view.

We leave the ruins and return to the fork in the road, where we hid our sack of kindling for Lela Stanka. We start back downhill to Nikolaevo, its low mud walls and concrete buildings visible over the treeline. In two thousand years, I wonder whether there will be any remnants of Nikolaevo left, and if intrepid kids from a nearby settlement will explore and play here.

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Walking home to Nikolaevo with kindling.

A Smelly Investigation

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“Let’s go for a walk.”

It’s a hot, sunny day in Nikolaevo the day after we arrive. There’s not a cloud in the sky, excepting a haze in the northwest. Lela Stanka has mentioned walking trails and Roman ruins on the hill nearby and I have no interest in staying inside. The three of us pull on our shoes and head out into the afternoon sun.

We walk northeast to the river at the edge of town, where men are sluicing for gold flecks. The air stings slightly and smells vaguely of burning milk jugs and we can see smoke in the distance. “What is that smell?” I ask. Stoytcho translates as Lela Stanka replies, “The next town over, Gurkovo. The terrible smell has been drifting from their town into Nikolaevo all summer. We complained about it, but the mayor there says they’re just burning lavender husks, but who knows what they’re actually burning.”

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This definitely does not smell like lavender husks. “Let’s go find out what it is!” I reply. It’s time for us to do some investigative journalism in this small-town dispute.

We turn north and walk the dirt footpath along the river toward Gurkovo, passing alternating dense, tangled summer underbrush and neatly-planted rows of grapevines. We stop to admire the flowers and gather rose hips, which Lela Stanka says we can make into jam or tea.

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Most of the time the air smells of humid greens and plant matter, but when the wind shifts we catch whiffs of bitter chemicals. As we close in on Gurkovo, our trail breaks away from the river and onto the edge of a barren field. Here, we can clearly see waves of blue-gray smoke drifting toward us, the source obscured by a low hill of brush.

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The trail around the field is long, but the ‘electric fence’ strung up along its edge presents us with no other choice. We hike to its eastward corner and continue north into increasingly frequent plumes of smoke. The smell is stifling and oppressive, and not breathing is the only way to keep from gagging. The fields on either side of us are strewn with refuse, from torn-apart shoes to empty cigarette packets.

We round the final corner to behold the smoldering source of the stench and it is most certainly not lavender husks.

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There’s discarded food, broken children’s toys, torn clothes, plastic wrappers, rags, and a variety of chemicals of questionable origin that probably burn quite noxiously. And burning the are.

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It appears that the Gurkovo dump caught fire sometime this summer and is now in a slow, continuous process of burning, fed by an ever-present stream of waste. This isn’t entirely surprising, given that summer of 2017 in Bulgaria has been unseasonably hot and dry. The trees both in cities and in the countryside break scorch marks and browning leaves, and people talk of drought. Gurkovo’s burning rubbish heaps are merely one more sign of the times.   We beat a hasty retreat back from Gurkovo’s dump, eager to escape the noxious fumes and probable carcinogens floating freely about us.

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Back at the apartment, my hair and clothes reek and it takes two showers and washes to clear everything of the burnt plastic smell. Part of me wants to write an angry letter to Gurkovo’s mayor over the health hazard he created that’s now drifting through Nikolaevo. But I also only know about fifteen words in Bulgarian, and most of them relate to food. For now all I can do is publish this article and hope someone can do something about it.

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Bulgaria: Day trip to Chudnite Mostove

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Staring up at the Chudnite Mostove (Marvelous Bridges), massive holes worn into the karst.

Day trip! We’re driving south of Plovdiv to see the Chudnite Mostove (Wondrous Bridges/Marvelous Bridges), Bachkovo Monastery, and Assen’s Fortress, all nestled in the mountains south of Asenovgrad. Here in Bulgaria summer still lingers and sunlight spills over the landscape, sneaking through the trees and dappling the trails. The hot midday air smells like pine sap and cut grass. And the afternoon stretches the shadows long between the steep mountain peaks, bathing us in shade and cool winds. Though it’s the cheapest (and poorest) member in the E.U., Bulgaria has natural beauty to rival any other country.

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The Chudnite Mostove from above.

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Climbing into the valley below the Chudnite Mostove is steep and difficult, but worth it.

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This Martenitsa has somehow survived 5+ months tied to a tree branch.

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Exploring the karst hollows of the valley.

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The cave below one of the Chudnite Mostove (to the East); this climb had some steep drop offs that I wouldn’t recommend you tackle unless you have water shoes and there hasn’t been recent rain.

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A blue fuzzy mushroom.

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An unusual way of dispersing seeds.

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The valley as seen from inside the Chudnite Mostove to the West. Though it hasn’t rained in the last couple of days, a stream still flows through it.

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The entrance to Bachkovo Monastery, of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

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Murals painted here date back to 1604 (or earlier). The monastery has been in continuous operation since that date, though it was founded in 1083.

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An ornate chandelier reflects light on the golden foil used in the monastery’s ancient murals.

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This trail leads to a small shrine built several kilometers away in the mountains. It also says something about a waterfall on the sign, but hah, we found none. 

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The trail into the mountains.

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A square-spotted blue butterfly drinks nectar from a dandelion.

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A small shack in the woods.

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I think we’ve found the shrine-in-the-rock.

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The iconography of the shrine, clean and bright thanks to the shelter in the rock.

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A catapult on display at Assen’s Fortress.

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The church at Assen’s Fortress, overlooking the valley below.

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At the very top of Assen’s fortress.

Hungary Hike

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Cornfields in Pilisborosjenő.

In our brief time in Budapest, I’ve somehow found a nearby hike and gotten us on a bus to an area nearby where we can supposedly pick up the trail. We’re dropped off by the side of the road, where the whirlwind from passing cars buffets us every few seconds as we hike up to the trailhead. Then it’s through the woods, into the village of Pilisborosjenő, and up the hill to the summit Nagy-Kevély. It’s a gorgeous, hot day at the end of summer and we’re not letting it go to waste.

Want to do the hike yourself? Budapest Hikers have some details on their website about the Pilisborosjenő hike, including some instructions on how to get there by bus that are slightly different from ours. Our hike is delineated on the map below and started at Bus Stop Solymár, téglagyári bekötőút:

What did we find on our hike during this beautiful summer day? Well…

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Cars and trucks pass us at high speeds near the trail entrance.

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Snails wait out the heat of the day.

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A beetle struggles to stay upright. There were dozens of these beetles along the trail, all struggling to walk or on their backs with their feet in the air. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s the season’s end or some kind of chemical/disease exposure.

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Strange squat sentinels sit along the trail. What are they for?

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An interesting seed hanging from a vine.

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Ants excitedly scuttle around a sticky puddle on the surface of a mushroom.

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Probably a wild Pink (Dianthus)

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Wild Chicory flowers; the plant can be used as coffee substitute, and is also where your endives and radicchio come from.

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Wild Barberis (barberries) growing from a bush.

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The Camel Rocks, a climb-able limestone/sandstone formation.

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An odd tuft growing on a wild rosebush. I’m guessing it’s some kind of parasite. Oh, I’m right; it’s a wasp larva home.

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A European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), now reddish-brown at the end of mating season.

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A shallow cave in the cliff.

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A view from near the top of the hill.

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A stamp near the top of the hike! BYO stamp pad, though.

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Stoytcho at the summit.

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Another wildflower, possibly a variety of Spotted Knapweed (Centauria maculosa).

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Hmm, I don’t think so.

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A European Green Lizard, still green for mating season.

Bialowieza Forest

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A plaque at the entrance to Bialowieza National Forest.

Bialowieza, the last old-growth forest in Europe, is the real reason we’re in Poland. About a month ago, when we were deciding between visiting Chernobyl in Ukraine and Bialowieza, we heard that the Polish government had green-lighted some logging in the forest. We figured, ‘Well, time to see it before it’s gone.” It’s not like Chernobyl is going anywhere soon.

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A tree on one of the Nordic Ski Tracks.

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Moss and lichens growing on a low roof in town.

We caught a train from Warsaw to Hajnowka, and a bus from there to Bialowieza, the eponymous town on the park’s east side. From here, we ended up doing two hikes: one along the Nordic tracks on the East side of the town, and the Bialowieza National Park Nature Tour for Scientists. The former winds confusingly through state forest (where the logging is taking place), while the latter takes you into the actual national park and requires a hefty 550 zloty fee (~$161 USD) for the guide. Overall, both hikes were nice, with two caveats: an absolute boatload of mosquitos, and a fairly ‘touristy’ feel to the National Park hike—you’re walking a well-worn path, occasionally past another tour group. It’s not like hiking open and free in the wilderness.

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Resident wildlife.

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Logging in the state forest, along the Nordic Ski Tracks.

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A logged clearing in the state forest.

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Untouched fallen trees in the National Park.

That said, the park does have an impressive array of mosses and fungi. Because they don’t remove dead and fallen trees, there’s plenty of material to support the growth of saprophytes, in turn hosting tiny insects and insect predators like spiders. You might catch glimpses of animals from afar, so bring the camera with the nice zoom lens. And you may even see wild boar if the population has recovered by the time you arrive—we saw none, because most were wiped out by swine flu a couple of years ago. Our guide reported that summer, you could smell the rotting boar carcasses every time you got near the forest. But that’s the course of nature for you.

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The trail of an animal through the morning dew in a field near the forest.

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Late afternoon in the fields.

A few tips for when you go:

  • You could easily stay in Hajnowka and hike from there if you’re not so interested in the national park. The town was adorable and untouristy, and we found their tourism information center to be super helpful – they’re open 9-5 Monday-Saturday, and 9-1 Sunday.
  • We stayed at Dwor Na Otulinie in Bialowieza and loved it because it’s on the outskirts of town, nearer to the forest. The hosts are lovely folks and they’ve got a mini-kitchen downstairs to prepare meals for yourself.
  • We tried a handful of restaurants in the town and found Bar Biesiada Jolanta Żłobin to be hands-down the best for cheap food, even compared to the ‘supposed best’ Bar Leśna Dziupla. It’s partly because they have amazing pierogi (though I suppose you could order something else), partly because they have these delicious sodas under the brand Vilnele, and partly because the cook/barman/waiter at Biesiada looks a bit like an overweight Harrison Ford. He speaks almost no English, so arm yourself with Google Translate.
  • There are mosquitos. Not just mosquitos, singular at a time, but whole swarms of them that will relentlessly follow you as you hike. Try early on to make peace with the fact that you’re going to lose some blood.

Some more photos of Bialowieza:

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Bar Biesiada’s counter, where they also sell fried jelly donuts.

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A brown puffball grows in the grass.

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This is a woodpecker, but you probably couldn’t tell because we didn’t bring a DSLR with us.

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King of the hill: insects climb on a mushroom in the National Park.

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Mushrooms on a log.

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A monument to those killed in the forest during the World War.

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Yellow coral fungi on the forest floor.

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Little snails, probably the most common animals you’ll see in the forest.

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This is what a hazelnut looks like.

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An orb weaver (Agriope); our guide was excited about this because she had never seen them in this part of the park before.

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Another snail, snailing along.

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And sunset.

Lahemaa National Park

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The view when we got off at the Loksa Tee bus stop.

We don’t have a car in Tallinn, but we managed to use the local bus system to get to Lahemaa National Park for a five-hour hike through boreal forest and bog. It was gorgeous (see below), filled with fantastic wildlife and tons of edible blueberries that yes, you’re allowed to collect. It seems like Estonians view the land through a practical lens, and the mantra of “don’t take more than you need and it’s fine” is the rule here. That being said, DON’T eat anything unless you can positively identify it.

If you’re looking to do the same hike, use Google Maps to find public transit directions to the stop “Loksa Tee” pictured below. The hike will start just east of the bus stop:

Now, motivation for you to go:

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Wood planks form a narrow trail through the wetter, boggier parts of the hike.

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A European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) perches on purple heather (Calluna) – we last saw this in New Zealand, where it was invasive.

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The little mushroom that could #1.

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The little mushroom that could #2.

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A dense bed of lichens (light yellow) grow on the forest floor here in Lahemaa.

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What I suspect are cowberries, but I wasn’t sure so I didn’t eat any of them.

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An interesting leather-like foliose lichens grows among moss on the forest floor.

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Be yourself, tree. Be yourself.

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Putative chanterelles. We encountered a few women in the park collecting ‘gribui’, or mushrooms, mostly of the chanterelle variety.

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A resting point along the path. You can supposedly take this trail all the way to the sea, but that’s several days of hiking.

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A patch of mushrooms among the moss and decaying pine needles.

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An Alder Moth caterpllar (Acronicta alni) munches on summer’s bounty.

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Fresh wild blueberries hide among the foliage. They’re delicious.

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A salticid in a patch of grass.

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Pine trees grow at the edge of a bog pool. The water here takes on a dark brown hue due to tannins seeping out of the dead plant material beneath. The same thing happens in your tea.

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A lone tree grows on an island in the bog.

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Fruticose lichens growing on the forest floor.

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A polypore fruiting body grows from a fallen tree.

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The color of moss.

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The caterpillar of an Emperor Moth (Saturnia) hangs out between planks along the trail.

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Lengthening shadows in the forest.

And just for you, here’s a panoramic shot – click through to enlarge:

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Made possible by Google Photos.