Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Road trip to the Dolomites

"Great is the matter of life and death
Moments go by swiftly and are lost
To squander time is a great shame
Do not waste your life"
 ~ Zen saying

“We’re all just farting around, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”
 ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Lovely people!

I'm on my third annual trip to the Dolomites, which counts the last two that I planned but didn't make. I was here once in 2011 and remember saying that I could spend a whole summer here. I drove here from the south of France and got waylaid by some beautiful non-Dolomite places, which you'll see in the photos below.

Enjoy the photos!


Why there's a huge, bouncy, footbridge across this river is not known to me. But I like the disorienting angle of the photo, plus the colors of the trees and water.

That looks nice. I wonder where that is.

I own some maps, but I almost never look at them. I ask my GPS which way, she tells me, and I say yes. I figure it's good training for being in a relationship. She thought I should go up this mountain pass, past the Hotel Belvedere. She's got such good ideas. I love her.

It might be 200 feet down to the river. I always wonder how people manage to build these bridges, especially when they were done ages ago.

I love this view. Crossing the road to the right is a railroad line. But trains can't go up steep slopes like cars and trucks. Continue to the next picture...

The curly-Q loop-the-loops show the route of the rail line that was built 100 years ago. It has spirals tunneled into the rock so it can climb a mountain from the inside. I drove through a tunnel like that a few years ago in Switzerland.

I got stuck on this pass for a few hours because some bicycling event was happening on the other side. Poor bike riders. And in the middle of nowhere on a snowy Swiss mountain pass, I had perfect cell phone signal and internet access. I had that mostly in San Francisco too, except for at work and at my house. True story.

I probably look more relaxed than I am.

The Mrs. (my GPS) just about killed me, taking me up this pass. She doesn't tell me what's in store, just where to go.

I just about fainted when I saw this. It didn't look possible to drive down it, much less to have built it. It's actually much steeper than it looks in the photo. I'm going all the way down to the very bottom of the valley, off in the distance. I've just left Switzerland and crossed into Italy at this point.

On the way down the light was fantastic. All through the Alps there are roads and hotels in the most amazing places.

My first hike on this trip.

I wild camped for two nights next to this rushing river. On the second night I backed up nonchalantly to the cliff edge and startled myself when I realized how close I was to going over the steep bank.

The waterfall next to the camping spot. There are many thing I don't know, including how they manage to put in those overflow dam things to slow down the water. This thing was gushing so loud it could keep you up at night. Not me, you.

This is the village of Solda, not far from the wicked mountain pass.

I had a lovely big hike up this valley.

This is why I don't hike in the U.S. You hike here for three hours and there's a restaurant serving great Italian food (uh, it's in Italy) and cold beer. This beer cost $4, which is less than you could find a beer at home outside of happy hour.

Hiking back down to the valley, where I started.


I hope this photo doesn't ruin anyone's day. I was taking a selfie so I could photoshop it onto Donald Trump's face and the camera went off by mistake. I make Donald Trump look good! It freaks me out so much it needs to be shared.

I hiked down a dead-end road and came across this religious refuge, including a small chapel.

This is the inside of the chapel.

My first official campsite. I'd been wild camping up to this point.

A wild camping spot, high above a lake.

When the river was dammed, an entire village was swallowed by the lake. They decided to keep this church tower as a memorial.

On another hike, a dam with a fish ladder next to it.

These guys look like the Irish wooly mammoth cows, or whatever you call them. I kept getting closer until I heard him say "shishkebob." It sounded like "moo" but I knew what he meant. The final photo of him is a blurry one with his body only half in the frame as I'm running away.

I do love a waterfall.

A football pitch, or "soccer" as you Americans say it! Nice spot for a game.

Looking down the valley that I'd just walked.

The town square of St. Vigilio, where I'm camped (legally) for the last four nights.

This is how all the local men dress! At festivals. When they're performing.

Rugged mountains, everywhere you look.

This was yesterday, when it was supposed to rain the whole day. It never did, so I started hiking. THEN it did.

A church at another small village.

Today's hike. A beautiful, rugged area, but dotted with "refugios," refuges, where you can eat and spend the night.

Three hours of hiking in, and this is how they treat you! Sweet.

Those are massive, house-sized blocks of rock that have fallen from the mountain.

Water, wind, and geologic forces have sculpted the landscape over eons. Much of the Dolomites used to be underwater.

I took this through my binoculars. It's hard to gauge distances, but I'd estimate the gap at the back of this chunk of rock is 30 feet (10 meters) across. It's HUGE. I was amazed that this massive block is sliding down and staying in one piece. You can see how it fits into the gap left behind it.

A panoramic view on the walk back. Click the photo for a larger view.

(The End)