To be a truly remote adventure, someone along your path must stop, and with a puzzled look ask “why are you here?”. It has been a comical moment for Paul and I on the last few trips. This time, it happened at dinner. It took some time to explain why an American would find the small mountain huts of a tiny country an adventure. But our hut friends understood.
We slept soundly. We kept the small window open all night; the cold mountain air was splendid. By 7:00am we were busy packing up. The roar of our small stove told of the oatmeal and coffee to come. Ahhh. We tossed some dried blueberries into the gruel and watched them plump up. To the hungry man, a crust of bread is a feast.
We boldly strode out and began a slow climb up. The valley was green. The carpet gave way to the gray-white of the scree slopes pointing toward the massive peaks on either side of the trail. Our peaceful valley stroll didn’t last long. After about 45 minutes we were once again panting and taking deliberate steps up.
After 1.5 hours of steady, painful climbing our legs were jelly. Or maybe gummi bears. We were intent on making it to the top of a very high pass and eating. Paul remembered that we had some instant garlic potatoes and we gained strength from the anticipation of making it up to Potato Pass. Each of us had different tunes playing in our heads as we plodded up toward Spud Saddle. It began to sprinkle and get cold and windy. We decided to make our potato heaven a short distance from the top. A small rock shelf shielded is from the wind and sprinkles. The stove faithfully roared to life once again and within minutes we were slurping on glorious garlic potato wads stuck to our sporks. Paul’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and had we not been sitting down, he may have swooned over. For me, salty spicy Thai lime cashews topped it all off.
We packed up and had only made it 10 minutes up the trail when we were stopped cold by a herd of Steinbok. I don’t know the English word for them, only the German word. They are antelope-like mountain animals with fantastic meter-long antlers. Their knobby antlers curve gently back. Fortunately, they were down-slope from us, but still quite close. Several were sparring. Rearing back on their hind legs and then dropping down with their horns and smashing their opponent. With each mighty smash the Steinbok paused and then pushed each other. The crashing sounds of these eager warriors echoed off the steep stone mountains. We took pictures and video. It was beautiful. However after watching several pairs stand 8 feet high on their rear legs and then fearlessly smash down, we started to worry if the Steinboks would be threatened by us. We would certainly be in trouble had one come charging down the path. I thought about the utility of my carbon fiber hiking poles. I think quite simply we would have been toast had they decided Americans are unwelcome in the Julian Alps.
We packed up our cameras and we eagerly climbed the remaining distance to the pass. 45 minutes of decent and we reached Koca Na Dolicu, a cute little hut with solar panels and a wind turbine for power. Sadly, unlike our previous hut, there was no water source. Each 2 liter bottle of water was about 7 dollars. We made fantastic time, even with the pause at potato pass and the visit to the Steinbok animal park. It was only shortly after 12:00. We got our beds and collapsed for a few minutes. Paul is quite strong, and could probably hike faster than I. We have been relaxing in the hut, designing the frame for the marimba, looking through our photos for the day, and of course eating dinner. Tonight’s specialty: Couscous Parmesan.
The weather continues to swirl and spit. Hopefully by morning we can attempt a summit of Triglav. The weather will be our guide….