The days here are rocky…..like literally just rocks. My feet are really beginning to hurt since I just have barefoot style shoes, and half of the sole on my right shoe isn’t even attached. Thank goodness for duct tape! The day started with a nice summit of Baske Ostarije before choosing another, attractive looking mountain. Bosnian was beautiful, the views just epic. We have been summiting so many mountains, some not so great, and a lot of the views are similar. So it was fun to branch off and just try one out and still get a good reward for the effort. The hut at Baske Ostarije was the best! They have a killer restaurant where I got to enjoy the best meal I’ve had since leaving the states. Homemade bread, with 3 perfectly fried eggs, and a big platter of vegetables. I was in heaven! And it was only $5! We stayed pretty long as I tried to figure out where and how to send myself new shoes. Fingers crossed that it even works! After which we headed out and up. As per usual, always up! And overgrown with downed trees. But I’m to where it doesn’t frustrate me anymore, it’s just how the trails are here. They’re not going to change, I can only change my attitude about them. While hiking through the forest at our approach to another summit Meg realized her water bottle was missing. Potentially it fell out while climbing over logs. We had a good stretch without water and we both had only packed just enough to get to the next source. So now my rationed source for 1 person, became rationed for 2. So we skipped the summit as our new goal was just to get to the hut with water. It was super hot and we had a ton of climbing so we were sweating a lot. Then a bear! I heard a noise thinking Megan was falling and yelled back asking if she was ok. I just heard “oh god” and saw something fall down the slope. I started running back and heard her yell “it’s a bear, it’s a bear”. So I stopped running and saw it bolting up the hill. It came towards her on the trail as she hid behind the tree and yelled, it chose to reroute up the mountain. Thankfully, they’re usually far more afraid of us than we are of them. It got the adrenaline pumping as we headed towards water. 3 hours of hiking in heat with just over half a liter between 2 people isn’t the most ideal situation. Getting to the hut was so hard. My legs were so heavy and achey. I had nothing left. At times I couldn’t take 20 steps without stopping and hunching onto my trekking poles forcing them to keep me up. Then it was there. The Sugarska hut. Filled with rain water, solar panels, and an epic view. The perfect tiny home I can only wish to live in someday. Water has never tasted so good. I think we each drank 3 liters that night and didn’t have to go to the bathroom. The dehydration stayed a good chunk of the following day also leaving my legs weak. We had a perfect clear sky summiting Veliki Stolac, offering more views of the Adriatic. Spoiling us with her endless beauty. Later I also climbed Debeli Kuk, while Meg skipped due to fatigue. I felt like death, but in the end I was so grateful to do it as it was one of my favorite views yet. Maybe I just appreciated it because I worked so hard to get to it. We lunched at Tatekova hut where we met a few nice gentlemen who were out for a few days. One of which helped build the equipment needed for the Little Rock obstacle course, Polje, we were about to go on. These huts are so cool! It’s like you can literally have your house in the city, on the beach, or where ever, but have a free house in the mountains. It’s so legit! I missed the intersection for Polje by over half a mile and had to run back to meet Meg to go through it. It was fun, but not as epic as the first going. I kind of like the adrenaline now of the high rocks and scooting along sketchy things. The trail then became my favorite yet. I realize I’ve said that many times, but I never know what the next day will bring so new favorites are sure to arise! But we got to hike through this beautiful vast valley. Filled with so much life just singing me along as I walked. We had one last climb to Struge which we prepared for at the church and ended up being epically awesome. The views during the climb were better than I could have ever imagined. And it made the climb seem not so bad. And at the top I met Tortus! A 2016 PCT hiker from Oregon! Is PCT vets sure get the thru hiking itch after the trail I guess. So fun to connect with him, and Mike, from Israel, who is our rock climbing. Fun fact: Paklenica National Park, where we are, is one of the most well known places to rock climb in Croatia. This night kept being great by offering a great campsite next to water, a rare treat. And no clouds which made for a perfect stargazing evening. The next day we hiked our longest yet. Almost 28 miles! Which is pretty epic for these trails and this terrain. And does include a 3 mile mishap in the evening. Luckily, I am re-hydrated and feeling myself again which allowed me to bust up the mountain quickly. While waiting for Meg at a junction I met Mia, a local who was super kind and gave me 2 bags of trail mix! Which I feel like only thru hikers can really appreciate what that means. We created our own route to avoid some mine areas, which we have already passed some and will enter more. So we climbed Sveto Brdo and headed over the top down to some water. The “spring” water here is so funny. It’s all just in wells. Nothing is flowing. The hike all day was again just beautiful. The scenery has been spoiling us since leaving Senj. Then the long long stretch of a rocky forest road became our life. I think we did about 13-15 miles on it. We thought we were taking a short cut, which ended up being false. Apparently there’s some epic tunnel systems here, and on the map it looks like our trail will cross the road, but we just walk over it and it’s well below us. Super frustrating but what can you do? Towards the end of the night I started having my first break down. My feet were on fire and every step was super painful. I kept getting slower and slower trying not to cry. At one point I got to Meg who was taking a break and I just collapsed. Really wishing I had different shoes at the moment. But we trudged on, and adding an extra layer with double socks helped too. We met a guy and girl who were out hunting bears. They approached us gun in hand, and were super friendly guiding us towards a safe campsite. As we were about to camp in the field where they were hunting. I had a funny slo-mo fall which helped make us laugh and bring good energy. We had cups full of berries for the second day in a row which has been AMAZING for our pb&j’s. We may not pack a lot of food, but we know we won’t starve out here. There’s so many raspberries! Either way we’re both losing a lot of weight out here. Barely eating around maybe 1200cals a day and burning 5-6,000 easily. It’s like we’re eating just enough to survive, but not much more.
Final day of the stretch was nothing super interesting. More berry picking, as it’s become a usual 15 min of our day. We were excited to hit the little Prince trail, which we were told was the most beautiful trail in Croatia. After hanging at the hut we took off, only to not be overly impressed. It was fun to have a playground and rock climb and stuff, but we have been tainted by all the beauty we’ve seen. Making us quite hard to please. So as soon as we could we got out and headed to town. We’re currently in Gracac, which at first seemed like a run down and creepy town. Until we found the perfect place to stay, where our host took us to his house for laundry and fed us some fresh fruit cake from his wife. He got us wine and made us try the famous homemade Croatian Whiskey. Which was……interesting. It has been so nice to have such good hospitality. I am so appreciative for being able to experience it.