Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hiking in South Tyrol -- Day 4

On a rarely used trail near Meran 2000
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We can see Meran 2000 from our balcony. It's one of the many peaks towering over the basin we're in. When I come from my swim--the calves and knees have recovered from Day 2--Andy Goat Man has decided that we're going to do Meran 2000. And although there's a perfectly good speedhiking trail, AGM has decided we're going to take a trail that is "rarely used."

"It'll be an adventure," he says.

"I'm game." I really do have to change this about myself.

We drive to the Meran 2000 Talstation (valley station) where we plan to return with the lift. From there, we walk on a curvy road to the beginning of the trail, which is nothing more than a tiny path into the forest. Well, UP into the forest. Like climbing stairs except that each stair is a wobbly rock or mud or gravel and there's only grass and saplings to hold onto.

An old? forestry warning lying on the ground
After about 20 minutes we come to a forestry road. It's gravel and dirt at first, but then--maybe too slowly for us to realize our error--it becomes grassy. When I see a little sapling growing in the middle of the tracks, a little red flag pops up.

"Hey, Goat Guy."

"Yeah?"

"Just how rarely is this trail used?"

Do you see a path?
We pause for a breath and a swig of magnesium-enhanced water. The forest is completely silent. No rush of a river. No family hikers blabbering on. No birds. No sounds of people cutting down trees--although there's evidence they've been there recently. Even the wind has hushed. We are alone.

"Ready?"

"Sure. I'm game."

We keep walking up and up and up until the trail is now an even--maybe even pristine--grass path. We can't find a sign now to tell us where to go, so Andrew the mountain goat breeder decides he sees a path (and in his defense it does turn out to be one) zigzagging up the slope above us. It's a grassy slope. It's a steep slope. It turns out to be the most dangerous, stupid thing I've ever done. To the left of this grassy, slippery, steep slope is a drop-off of about 100 meters that I try so hard not to look at. About 20 minutes into this climb the path disappears altogether. The only thing to do is to turn around and go back down.

The end of the path.
Going down is so much more dangerous than going up. When you're going up, your natural inclination (pun intended) is to lean into the mountain. When you're going down, gravity is actually pulling you away from the mountain. It wants to pull you straight down to the valley floor. Gravity is not your friend. It wants to kill you.
Definitely a path.
New Valley? No idea.
We reach level ground and I walk on a bit to see if there is another path. Voilá! I find a sign. There it is down there. The condition of the sign says it all. This path is disused and forgotten! Go back! But I went on toward the ledge in knee-high grass, poking my walking sticks in the grass in front of me to test for solid ground. The path ended in a bramble, impenetrable jungle. We went back.

It took us two hours to get back to the road. Then we walked through apple orchards for another hour to get back to our car because I refused to be walk on the curvy road with the wild drivers. There were no sidewalks. In South Tyrol, the cars drive fast, the cyclists drive fast, the motorcyclists drive like sadistic crazy people.

Back at the Meran 2000 Talstation, we hop in our car and drive into Meran to catch a bit of the (very boring) Dorffest and to drink to our safe return to civilization.

Next time Day 5

I must be off,
Christopher