Bosnia has provided us with our first and only actual Via Dinarica signs. It was so exciting to see the first one and see some bright red arrow signs pointing our way. With the first days in Bosnia providing a lot of thunderstorms and gravel roads we weren’t too sure what to expect. Although the first day away from Busko lake was all road/gravel walking it was quite nice. First passing by the lake and all of the lake homes, out into just big massive fields. We got to meet a beautiful woman and her 2 daughters who pulled up to ask if we needed anything. She is planning to hike the Camino next year. It’s one of the things I love most about thru-hiking is the conversations it creates. I hope she does get to do it, so we all wished each other luck on our journeys and went on our way. Past windmills, losing trail, talking about family and fun things. And New Zealand which is brought up a lot. We CANNOT wait to go there and be reunited with our trail fam!!!! We camped at a spring right outside of the town, Mrkodol, thinking its such a legit campsite. Only to learn all the locals from town like to hang out there and come there to drink beer and cigarettes. It was quite funny. Then the darkness set in. This overall was one of the toughest sections mentally for me. I struggled daily to find positivity. I get so sick of the trail making us move so slow just by it not existing. It’s a game of walk to a dot, stand for a bit while trying to search for another. And sometimes they just disappear for a bit. The markings are better her than in Croatia, but the trails aren’t. The day out of Mrkodol began my daily tradition of getting lost off trail and doing extra uphill and walking. First I blazed up the wrong mountain. I didn’t cut enough left which kept me on a different hump where I either had to descend way down and go back up the other side, or heavily bushwhack to the top of this mountain then I could walk over. I obviously chose to do the latter as I hate backtracking. In which case I had to literally army crawl under tree branches and got super cut up. Only to get on trail again then lose it moments later, Meg lost it too and we found each other luckily. Many “F you Via Dinaricas” were said this day and the days following. One cool thing that did happen is I made my first fire! I’m always with people who know how to do it so have never done it, but there was a fire pit, we were at camp early, and I refused to go this whole journey without a campfire. A simple thing that helped melt the frustrations of the day away.
Next day, same thing. Missed a junction for the trail and ended up on the backside of the mountain so I had to bushwhack myself back to trail. The map showed I was on a trail, although it was the wrong one, but there was no trail. We summited Mali Vran, Vran, then Veliki Vran. We followed a mark path down the mountain only to realize after quite a long time it wasn’t our trail. It’s the problem with them using the same trail markings for any and all trails. The most frustrating part is that this perfectly maintained and well marked path didn’t exist on our maps so we had no clue where it was going giving us no option but to head back. But we could see way down the mountain where we needed to go, so we decided to just head straight down. Luckily, it was fairly open for the first bit, and the trees were spread out enough we didn’t have too much trouble getting through. But a descent that should have taken 45min took us almost 3 hours. We hit the hotel we were heading for, a super nice place reminding me of Callahan’s near Ashland, OR. We decided to have a meal, and it was possibly one of the best I’ve ever eaten. Everything there is cooked fresh with local foods. Perfect way to forget about what we just went through. Again, the pattern of cursing the trail followed by some simple food and a good campsite helping bring a little light back into my heart continues.
The next day leaving Masna Luca began on a beautiful trail, no sights or views, but perfectly maintained and marked! But of course I’m walking, check my phone, and I’m off trail. Having to back track back uphill on loose rocks. When I saw Meg we tried to take the VD route, but after a few minutes we disappeared. So we decided to bail on it and stick to the trail I was on as it met back up with the trail. So for the 3rd time I had to go up that dang loose rock hill. I was pissed. I yelled. I’m over it. I want to just be able to hike. I just don’t think this trail is meant for my style. I like to just walk fast and cruise, not stare at my phone every couple of minutes or consistently stop to have to look for the next waypoint. We got to eat lunch at an amazing hut that looked out onto the mountains. After that initial mishap though, the trail was maintained and easy to follow all day. And the trail reminded us of hiking in Washington, my favorite section of the PCT. Views of mountains all around then getting to hike through some meadows. We got to see a tiny glacial lake, and then Rebels Gate which was super cool! It’s a big ring on the side of the mountain. Very popular and we actually saw a large group of people when we were heading towards it, which is super rare out here!! No big miles this section, someday only maybe 8. We camped about 1.5 miles outside of Jablanica, next to a river, Yay for getting to rinse off! And an apple tree which was the best thing to know I got to wake up and eat a fresh apple. The next day we had a, 1,500m,5,000ft, climb in about 5km. A nice chunk of it cramming itself into about 2km. That day deserves its own special post.
But the trail is totally beating my spirits down. I’m typically a very light and positive person, but these days I struggle to find a smile while hiking. Even when the trail is nice I’m just endlessly anticipating the I’m on the wrong path or that it will go bad at some point. Making me get lost and do extra, or making us move crazy slow. It’s breaking me down. Stripping me down, and just fully exposing my soul. Making me as vulnerable as I could ever be. And now every little thing feels like a stab. And it’s daily just breaking me down more and more. Things that didn’t used to bother me and I could just laugh off, now make me want to scream or cry. But this could be what I need, it could be my spiritual journey. It’s breaking me down to build me back up into a better and wiser version of myself. Or, so I can hope. I believe in the good things coming.