Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hiking Abruzzo: Opi -> Pescasseroli

We played this one by ear because it was anything but clear what the weather was going to do. The forecast called for partly cloudy with very little chance of a small amount of rain, but it was actively pouring down as we had breakfast. Given the snow up higher and the amount of precipitation over the last couple of days, it's clear that our original (long) route over a high pass is not so clever, so we re-plan, get hotel suggestions for Pescasseroli from Antonio, and then hang out and wait for the rain to let up. Which it eventually does.
snow-covered hills
We set off down the hill, past the restaurant, and then along the road on the other side of the valley from where we came in yesterday. There's fresh snow on all the mountains and frost/snow in the trees above around 1300m. Nice views all around, though the sky is definitely still cloud-covered. At a hairpin in the road, we set off along a marked path through the woods. We climb for a bit and then just hold height along the well-marked, but little used (by people at least) path. After 20-30 minutes, we're essentially following a pig path with trail markings. Pretty fun!
through the woods
 After a bit we spot a few big deer, including a couple with big antlers. Coincidentally at about the same time, the markings stop. We search around for quite a while, but there are certainly no markers. Ah well... the way we need to go is clear, so we just start following the pig paths without markers. After a bit more we get to a saddle on a small spur ridge and find the markings again. We're found! ;-)

A couple minutes later, a herd of big deer runs across the bowl in front of us, maybe 30m away, maybe 20 of them, several with big sets of antlers. They're loud! (Coincidence? We see deer and lose the path and then find the path and see deer?). On we go, around the valley, down gently to the pastures at the bottom until the markers lead us across one pasture and into another and then stop again. Great. We walk around the pasture looking for an exit while fending off the bouncy teenage horse that keeps trying to entice us to play. We end up cutting through the farmyard, through a couple of (luckily unlocked) gates, and then out the farm road.
looking back to Opi and the Monte Amaro (1862 m)
This leads us past more horse pastures, past a couple campgrounds, into town. To the main piazza (very lively) and then around the corner to our hotel. Showers, naps, shoe dryings (the usual stuff), and then a stroll through town in the sun (wow!). A coffee and some sweets and then back to the room to get ready for dinner.


Height Profile:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hiking Abruzzo: Scanno -> Opi

This was an amusing one.

We leave after a so-so breakfast expecting a partly cloudy day with no rain. We walk through town and then pick up a marked hiking path that takes us out and along the valley. Serious luxury that we are using a (picture of a) map that has trail numbers that match the numbers on the trails (has not been the case up to this point). Along we go with some decent hiking, a bit of road, past a statue of the pope (well, an old pope), past a few agroturismi, then turning onto a farm road, past the farmhouse with all the mean dogs (they weren't too bad, but that's probably because their mistress was on hand), and then onto a real trail and up the mountainside.

Very nice even climbing in the woods on a very good trail, past big patches of snow eventually, up, up, up. At some point it starts to drizzle, but not on us because we're under the trees. When we come out of the trees, however, the drizzle turns into sleet (WTF? Central Italy, late May, under 2000m, sleet?). On with the gore tex and up some more through the wind-blow sleet. Across a really nice mountain meadow/bowl that was doing its best to look high alpine (maybe like the highlands?) even though it's in central Italy and under 2000m. On we go until we reach a rifugio of sorts (Stazzo del Campo). We let ourselves in so that we can get out the wind for a bit and are very pleasantly surprised by how well-maintained and nice it is.We have a energy bar and rest a bit and then head onwards, through falling snow, across the landscape, past snow fields, towards the pass. It's very difficult to believe that we're in central Italy in late May under 2000m.
over "highland" meadows to the shepherd's hut
 As we approach a snow-filled pass Andrea spots a "wolf or something white" that just went over the pass. Huh... we continue and after a minute or so a group of about ten white sheepdogs cross through the pass and take up station on either side. Huh... If they're alone and guarding sheep, this is going to be interesting. We continue slowly forward, keeping our eyes on the dogs to see how they react. The dogs just sit there and watch us go by, looking bored. Carefully through the pass we go and discover that there are no sheep on the other side. Odd. We continue wonderingly around the bowl that leads to the real pass. No one knows what those dogs were doing, but hey... they didn't mess with us. The path leads around the bowl, but the last 20-30 m are covered with a pretty steep snowfield. We descend some to go around the snow and then climb back up to the pass.

snow fields on the pass (Valico del Campitello (1868 m)
The other side doesn't look alpine at all: lots of trees, little snow, green meadows, kind of like central Italy under 2000m is supposed to look (except for the fact that it's still sleeting/snowing). Down we go, across a meadow and onto a trail in the woods that is a snow chute. There's green to either side, but we are descending on branch and tree-matter covered snow. Down we go, through the rain, at some point the snow stops and we're on a normal path again. Down, down, down until we get to the Rif. Prato Rosso.
down on snow through green woods

Unfortunately, this one is not open, so we find a couple of dry rocks and take advantage of a break in the rain to have a lunch break. A quick lunch break, because the rain starts again. Onward and downward, on nice paths, some road, through changing weather conditions, changing from drizzle to sleet, to hail, to heavy rain, back to drizzle. Not at all what was forecast, but such a train wreck that it ends up being funny instead of irritating or frustrating. Down we go, running into a Belgian day hiker (the first other hiker that we've seen on the trails this entire trip). A bit of difficult path finding, Hennig's suggested route is more or less impassable because of the deep mud, so we stick to one of the other marked trails.

We cross a very nice open plateau, distinguished by the fact that most of the poles serving as trail markers are down (makes finding the trail fun). At some point the trail starts heading more steeply down along a farm road. It's raining hard at this point, so we decide to leave the trail and follow another farm road that leads more directly in the right direction. This is rather adventurous and quite fun and gets us back on the trail we would have ended up on much closer to Opi than what would have otherwise happened. We follow that other trail for a bit until it hits the road and then follow the road the rest of the way into town in the streaming rain.

Luckily for us, the hotel is one of the first buildings we hit, so we can finally get out the weather. Unluckily for us, the hotel restaurant is closed tonight (WTF?), so we're going to have to head back down the hill to the restaurant at its base for dinner. Sucko. Luckily for us Antonio, who runs the hotel, is super nice and both drives us down to the restaurant and picks us back up after we've had a nice meal. Wow!

Amusing aside: the other guests of the hotel, also in the restaurant at the bottom of the hill for dinner, are a group of six Swiss from Basel. Small, small world.


Height Profile:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hiking Abruzzo: Castrovalva -> Scanno

After a typical "so la la" breakfast, we bid town goodbye under partly cloudy skies, without a threat of rain. yay! We start with a diversion to make a picture of town corresponding to  Escher's print and then head up on the trail out of town.
Castrovalva and Anversa
The going is pretty good, not too muddy, and we make good progress up, out of the woods, across nice meadows, clouds blowing over and away. We miss the trail for a bit, then catch ourselves and find it again. Onward we go, slowly climbing until we reach the pass l'Immaculata. It's super windy, so we opt to take a break in the shelter of the small chapel and enjoy the last views back.

across nice meadows....
After a couple of minutes, it starts to drizzle (great), so we put on the gore tex and cut our break short. Easy descent to Frattura Vecchia with great views down to Scanno and its lake. We reach town, discover that it is in fact still essentially completely ruined (no sign of the crazy Swedish billionaire's doings), explore a bit, and then head onward. Along the way we get a good combination of place to site, sun, and relative wind still, so we take a quick lunch break. Strengthened, we continue on and up to above Frattura. From here we're on a marked hiking path that we follow along the contour line for quite a while, through meadows, through woods, past horses, keeping suspicious eyes on the very threatening clouds on the other side of the valley.
ruins of Frattura Vecchia
After a while and some very nice hiking, we hit a cross trail and turn downwards. This leads us, steeply at times, parallel to a creek down into the valley. We arrive at the road under Scanno, tramp along the road for a bit, and then take the stairs near the bus parking lot up into town (thanks you Herr Hennig for that one!). At the first piazza we sit for a bit and use the iPhone to find our hotel, navigate our way there, check in, shower, rest, etc. Before all that Andrea tramps back across town to retrieve her sticks from the piazza where she had left them.
After our rest we do a bit of tour around town, have some nice local specialty cakes and coffee/tea, do some shopping, get some very good pecorino from the super-friendly cheese lady, walk by a big political gathering, scope out the restaurants, and then head back to the hotel until dinner time. Our first dinner choice is closed, so we end up at a Hennig recommendation and have a very nice meal, though it does get pretty loud. Afterwards, through the light rain back to the hotel.


Height Profile:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hiking Abruzzo: Pacentro -> Castrovalva

It's a rainy day.

We start in the rain and opt for the bus down to Sulmona to avoid the last part of the trip down: 30 minutes on road. Road is bad, rain is bad, rainy road is bad^2. Adventurous bus ride down the hill with half the village gossiping away in the bus. In Sulmona we buy some bread for lunches and then head out on our way. It's raining and we're walking along the main road. Greg, of course, manages to get splashed by passing cars twice (see? bad^2) before we turn off onto a side road. Along we go for a bit and then onto an unpaved portion. Shoes and pants are soaked within seconds. The rain from above comes and goes, but the bottom half remains wet. Very wet.
through very wet fields...
Plenty of what would normally be good walking, but it is somewhat marred by the weather. It's definitely not boring: you get to spend lots of time dodging puddles or overhanging branches. luckily not too much mud. By the time we get to Bugnara we've both kind of had enough, but the bus stop has no schedule and the buses don't go the right way anyway and the next train is in three hourse. The waiting room at the train station is open, so we get out of the rain, take off our boots, ring out our socks (!) and have an energy bar break. The break in a dry place does wonders for our morale and we set back out after 15 or 20 minutes of rest.

More following Hennig's great directions, more nice paths/farm roads, a couple minutes of very unexpected sun, along we go beside a stream turned rushing river (lucky no stream fording today), up the valley, across a dam, lunch break standing during a pause in the rain, onward and upward until we reach Anversa. Quick break in the main piazza (alive! people sitting outside under umbrellas at the bars), then head back down into the valley and along a marked trail up the other side. After a bit we spot a young wild pig, then big mamma, then several more young ones. We spend the next few minutes being noisy as we climb, singing the "I don't want to meet a pig on this path" song. After a bit, the path steepens ans now it is muddy. Slow going. At some point the path flattens out and we spend a bit of time in a cut for a gas line. Here's it's super muddy with lots of clay. Sticky! Icky! Clay! Onward through the woods until we reach Castrovalva, find the agriturismo, call for the keys, shower, clean socks, and being some serious boot drying strategies.

Height Profile:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hiking Abruzzo: Caramanico Terma -> Pacentro

The forecast calls for rain pretty much all day and chances of thunderstorms in the afternoon/evening. After some discussion and evaluation of alternatives, we opt to shorten the day by taking a bus to cover the first two hours of the trip. The other group staying at our hotel is wimping out entirely and doing bus/train to skip the whole day. We feel like good hikers, less like fair-weather hikers than usual, and set out.

After getting some bread, we hop on the bus to St Eufemia and head up into the clouds. It's not raining, but there is definitely high humidity when walking in a cloud. ;-) Fortunately, the path takes us up out of town, so we're warm pretty quickly. Out of town, along mule paths for a bit, across a river, and then on a nice path between two rows of trees and up to the road outside of Roccacaramanico. Through the very cute and mostly restored town, up the stairs past the chapel and then out of town on a marked hiking path. The markings don't stop us from taking the wrong path at the first fork, but we realize our mistake after a couple minutes and head back to go the right way.
through foggy Roccacaramanico
Up we go, along the nicely marked path, up, up, enjoying the views of cloud, looking for the fork that should appear after 15 minutes. After 30 minutes it still hasn't appeared, so we figure we missed it. The next fork has red-white markings to the right (uphill) and orange straight ahead and down. We believe that at the fork we're supposed to be looking for the markings are both red-white, so we turn up hill. After some climbing and later some zigzags, we realize we're on the wrong path. Rather than turning back, we indulge our stubborn, optimistic sides and set off on something that could be a lesser-used path. After a bit more climbing and traversing, it becomes clear that we're on an animal path. We continue... it's going in the right direction and we're stubborn/optimistic. After a while, some more map consultation, and the second or third vanishing of the animal path, we decide to head straight up hill for 100 vertical meters or so until we hit a crossing path that's way higher than we intended to be. But, hey, it's going in the right direction. We turn up steeply through the wet leaves and soggy undergrowth for what feels like a long time until we reach the marked path. Yay! It's suddenly really easy to make forward progress!

On we go, through the clouds and almost rain, under the forest where whenever the wind blows it seems like it's actively raining. We do a quick water break in a clearing and then head on. At a crossing we decide to skip the pass (not much point in going for the views when everything's in a cloud) and head straight down to Pacentro. Down we go...

After a bit we're out of the woods and would have great views if we weren't in a cloud. After more descending we emerge from the cloud and can see the other side of the valley. At some point we actually see the sun, so we immediately stop for a lunch break. Nice! Sun! Wow! Continuing on, the sun goes away, but we remain out of the clouds and the view down the valley opens up.
some views down the valley
A ways outside of town, we start hearing thunder and pick up our pace. Well, kind of. There are still pictures to be taken. The rain and thunder are seriously threatening as we enter town and quickly find our way down to our B&B. The rain starts for real within 30 seconds of us ringing the doorbell. Luckily, some kind neighbor has seen us and fetches a caretaker to let us in. ooof! timing! The usual: shower, nap, games, dinner, sleep.
Town is lively, but somewhat dampened by the rain. Sharing the B&B with two Americans visiting her family's old hometown.


Height Profile:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hiking in Abruzzo: Pescosansonesco -> Caramanico Terma

We get an earlier start than usual because the guy is up and about when we poke our heads out to check on the weather. Under way by 8am, we head down the road out of town for a bit and then head off on a dirt road that turns into a path and takes us down through the woods, across a stream, and along another stream/river until we reach Torre d'Passeri. Across the bridge, through town, out the other side. A bit of fun finding the path out of town since there were four roads with the same name, but we get it eventually, head up a hill, along the top for a bit through some fields and then cross the road at a restaurant. Uphill on the other side, past a big vineyard with a fancy looking maybe tasting room (our guess) then up a field path to the small town of Santa Maria del Monte.
short break before "turning left at the fountain"
We have a quick energy bar break in the Piazza, say "bye" to the dogs that have gathered, and head on to Bolognaro. Now we pick up marked paths and head along the rim of the Orta canyon for a bit. Someone makes a smart-ass remark along the way (who would that be?) about hoping we don't have to walk up the other side after we hit the bottom. It's super humid, but not all that hot. It starts to drizzle outside Musellaro. We decide it's probably not really rain, just the next logical step for the humidity and stop for lunch in the little picnic spot in town. So as to not be stupid, we also prepare our packs for rain. After a nice lunch break (no serious rain), we head through town and then down into the gorge. Very nice path down under trees, bridge across at the bottom and then, sure enough, we start walking up the other side.
on the rim of the Orta canyon
Up, up we go, through some very cool rock formations (limestone is great), mostly in the woods, up, up, up. Through a couple more small towns, past some fountains, back in the woods, up, up we go. At some point in the woods G hears a surprised grunt; 10 seconds later a wild pig shoots across the path; 10 seconds after that her offspring follows. We proceed up more, being a bit louder now so as to avoid surprising anyone else. On the ridge (finally!) we have a break and good rest before continuing on. Now we start descending a bit.

On the edge of Riga, we manage to make an early turn and end up on the wrong road. This starts ot feel wrong after a bit, but there's only one road out of Riga on the map, so we continue. We hit the big road after a bit and confirm that we've done something wrong after walking a good distance and not seeing the expected turnoff. Ah well... the road at least gets us where we want to go. After a good long stretch of asphalt, we get to the bridge and decide to end the day on a high note by doing a bit extra and heading down into the gorge.
Orfento gorge
Very nice gorge path with steep walks, waterfalls, bridges, everything you want in a gorge path. As the rain starts we see the first other tourists of the trip. After a bit of enjoying the gorge, the path takes up back up, past some kind of animal park, and to the top of Caramanico Terme. We find the approximate location of our hotel on a tourist guide sign (no data connection for us) and head off. We pretty much immediately allow ourselves to be lead astray by bad signage and spend an extra 5-10 minutes going the wrong way. We correct, find our hotel, convince them that we do, in fact, have a reservation (those are fun conversations) do the shower and nap thing, get a bit of shopping down in town (surprisingly alive compared to the others we've been in so far) and then have dinner and fall asleep. It was a long day.


Height Profile:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hiking in Abruzzo: Navelli -> Pescosansonesco

Another 8am breakfast, this time not so satisfying, but at least some decent bread and local jam. Then onward! Out of town, along the road for a bit, then some amusing Hennig paths and scrambling around. Another nice day with warm sun and cool breezes. This would be tough going if it were actually hot. Past olive groves, through scrub woods, following traces of paths, steeply down into a valley and picking up a real path. Taking the wrong fork in the road (probably), realizing that and cutting through an olive grove to get to the right path, up to the ridge and then down into Capestrano.
through one of the olive groves
We can't resist a coffee break on the piazza, then stop at the alimentari on the way out to get some decent bread. Very fun steep, winding road down out of town and then across and down past farms and fields into the valley.
Past the church across the road, over to the big road, follow the new road (too much road!) past the lake, divert onto a Hennig path (had to look for this one, we so wanted to get off the road that we kept trying too early) and up toward Capo d'Acqua. Skirt around town and then head up some more. Lunch in one of the few shady spots we could find, then up, up, to the reservoir where the real climb to the pass, Forca di Penne, starts.

on the way to the Forca di Penne
Up, up, up we go on a rough dirt road. Sometimes shady, sometimes in the sun, through the woods, up, up, up. Past the next reservoir (the spring here isn't flowing... damn!) and then up, up to the Forca di Penne.

We enjoy the views for a short bit, then along the road to the ruined tower and great views out the other way, including the Adriatic. A nice rest and some energy bar and then farther on. Around the hill, nice views, some open, some forest, until reaching the spring below the Capo d'Acqua (another one) farmhouse. Onward along the ridge past fields of lily-like flowers that we need to try to identify, along the open ridge with nice views to both sides, and then descending, down, down, along a road you definitely don't want to use after rain until we get to Pescosansonesco. Some adventure figuring out where our converted monastery hostel is (it's tough without decent network connections!) but we find our way there, have a glass of wine, showers, and a nap.

Good simple vegetarian dinner in the B&B and then to bed with happy stomachs.


Height Profile: