Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dolomite Hut to Hut - But Shhhhhhhhh

The Dolomites were awesome!

No, actually it sucked...... 

OK, it was spectacular. But don't tell anyone because I hate when places get "popular" and become a victim of their own success with far too many visitors, tour buses, lines, and annoyingness.  

Anyway, we started our 6-week European adventure in northern Italy with a 3-night hut-to-hut hike in the Dolomite mountains. We traveled from north (near the Austrian border) to south along a portion of the famed Alta Via route. 

First of all, let me tell you how tough it is to put a trip like this together if you are cheap like me and don't want to spend through the nose to have a company book everything for you for double the price. 

Last May I poured over books, maps, and websites to find appropriate huts at hikeable distances from each other. Then, I emailed each individual hut in either Italian or German (depending on the location) for a reservation. I had to change our plans several times since a few huts were full. Finally, I got it all booked and just hoped for the best.

And it was great. We were exceptionally lucky and had perfect weather. But our packs were HEAVY because we were carrying all our clothes for the entire 6-week trip. And also, I sort of focused on the distance for each day's treck, we did between 7 and 8 miles each day (easy, right?), and ignored the elevation change. 

Don't do that...... 

We ended up doing about 9,000 feet of climbing over the 3 days. It was death and we were not prepared mentally for such a slow daily slog. Thank you mother nature for the good weather or else I would have cried more than I did. My hands only got desperately cold one day, which is a big deal for me.

So you stay at these small, kick-ass, family-run mountain huts. The huts we chose were way nicer than I thought they would be with heat, showers, a cocktail hour, and great food. A room for two people with dinner and breakfast was about $50 per person per night. You can find cheaper rooms for about $12 a night but then you are in a dorm with potential snorers and lots of stinky feet.  

So cute (the hut and Dave), I am just going to move in..
No words - except mother effer more uphill......
The days generally went like this:

  • Breakfast
  • Hike
  • Lunch
  • Hike (and a bit of whining about the climbing)
  • Spritz or and beers
  • Dinner
  • Music, reading, chatting
  • Bed
For all the perverts out there who think a "Spritz" is something else, it is actually a very popular drink containing Aperol, Prosecco, a bit of soda water, and an orange wedge - your life is not complete until you have had one several.

Are we there yet, nope - not even close?

All "camping" should have huts with cold beers.

More hut awesomeness

The days flowed slowly out on the trail with minimal amounts of getting lost and fighting. We had a few surprises, like getting caught in a cattle drive......

A few of the huts, in addition to providing lodging for hikers, are operating farms and ranches. We got caught up in morning cow-rush-hour one day. The ranchers, wearing jaunty Tirolean hats, were taking the horses and cows to pasture. And the cows, wearing giant Tirolean bells the size of their heads, happily followed. Pretty cool!

We had to hike that trail in the background = death.

The area we hiked has an interesting history. It was decidedly Austrian until 1919 when it became Italian. We trekked past WWI memorials and ruins that demonstrate its violent past. Despite the fact that we were decidedly in Italy the entire trip, folks spoke German predominantly and the food and culture felt very Austrian. It wasn't until the last night, as we approached Cortina, that we heard Italian and got to eat our first pasta of the trip.

Also, haunting WWI ruins and tunnels

Nearly there cheerleading move

You know where you are by the beer, Erdinger = Sud Tirol, Moretti = Italy.

Next Flying Monkey installment: Oktoberfest!

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