Heart Lake, Maglic mountain, Montenegro, Durmitor NP

Grateful to have the hitching experiences behind me, we woke up and enjoyed a nice homemade breakfast before I briefly went into town to fill out my Albania entry form. Since we are entering through the mountains instead of a legit border crossing we are paying a company to notify the Albanian police of our arrival to assure no trouble when we enter. We have to choose a specific date to enter, and we chose August 24. Which means the 25 will likely be the last day of this trip. We did a short 10 mile hike this day to a near by backcountry lake, Strinsko Lake. The trail was nice, began as gravel then took us into the mountains on nice grassy pasture. There was a storm coming so we hid in some nearby dwarf pines prepared for it, so of course it didn’t come! The lake was total bliss. It provided the kind of views and night that literally brought tears to my eyes. Just endless beauty and ruggedness. The extra legit thing is that this was the New Moon. So we chose to cowboy camp to stargaze. It was really cold, and we woke to our sleeping bags being soaked from condensation, but it was so worth it. I saw at least 15 shooting stars. It was so magical. My favorite night yet, and I’m sure my favorite of the whole trail. 

The next morning we crushed it getting to Orovacko hut then hitting the lake soon after. The summit up to Bregoc was nice and mellow and offered fantastic views. I have found that just from changing my mindset since leaving Mostar the trail itself has become easier and more beautiful, not a surprise. We then followed a nice footpath along the ridge to the next mountain, following no markings, but obvious trail. The mountains here get storms every afternoon, and this day was no different. I heard the thunder and really pushed it down the mountain to the next lake. We decided to just keep walking to the road and through the forest as it provided a nice coverage from the rain. The forest trails here are so nice! We had lunch at Donne Bare Lake as it poured. We crashed the “party” of those reserving the hut by eating lunch with them on the patio to stay dry. They luckily didn’t seem to mind. A long road walk brought us to Suha where we slept on picnic tables under shelter from the rain. It was cool to have this huge camping area all to ourselves. 

The last couple nights I haven’t been sleeping well. I feel tired, yet not tired at all. It’s frustrating as it hasn’t been a problem all trail, but I’m not sure what to do about it. We did a super short day to Trnovacko Lake. It was mainly dirt road then a nice forest path that lead us into our next country, Montenegro! I am happy this is all we did this day as I felt super drained, foggy, and unmotivated. I only felt a small glimpse of myself while being in the forest and climbing uphill. We saw a ton of other hikers leaving as we were entering, a good sign! Beings it’s Sunday most people are heading out. Trnovacko Lake is literally paradise. It is a heart shaped, blue colored lake surrounded by some of the highest Bosnian mountains. We paid 1E for the National Park entry and 1.5E for camping. The host made us some Turkish coffee as we sat on the patio. Pure luxury. Got to spend the afternoon just reading, writing, swimming, and sewing up bits of my pack. But a very needed recovery day. Before dinner it started to thunder so we made our way up to the deck where there was coverage. After a lot of staring on our part we were invited to join the rest of the campers for dinner. Bread and cream, cheese, tomato, cucumbers, crackers, everything. It was so so good. We hung with them the remainder of the night laughing extremely hard. They were all getting drunk, LOVE the fact we’re from America. They took pictures with us. Serenaded us with Balkan blues songs. It was a good time even though we could barely communicate with each other. The unfortunate part is it didn’t stop, ever. At 3am the Crazy Balkan Gypsy, the nickname of our drunken friend, was still belting out songs from his tent. The dogs wouldn’t shut up all night, the Europeans were blasting techno music. So again poor sleep, but I can’t be mad at people for having a good time. 

Next morning we summited Magic, the highest Bosnian Mountain. So we camped in Montenegro, summited a mountain back in Bosnia, the descended back to Montenegro. We were making great time. The trails are so easy to navigate here! I LOVE YOU MONTENEGRO! Seriously I’m in heaven. We walked further than anticipated and ate lunch at the river which was an unreal amazing green/blue. Another amazing swim 2 days in a row! So grateful. We then road walked a bit, through some dark tunnels which was fun and across the dam. Megan’s knee is really starting to bug her and we had a big uphill, she got through it though. The uphill was said to be brutal and really steep and I found it to be so much fun! It was steep and narrow trail at times, but such a good time. And it lead us to this beautiful plateau filled with green pastures. I waited for Megan at an elderly couples house, Ratko and Sevata, they provided water, shade, and kafe. They couldn’t speak any English but we all still tried to talk and laughed with each other. Such beautiful people here. They, as the people last night, said Trump the second we said we were from America. Giving him the big thumbs down, we agreed. We found camp soon after. I have found the trail to be fully dictated by my own attitude. When I am negative and grumpy, it seems to be crap trail, or hard to follow. But when I’m positive it’s all easier and beautiful. But I know it’s not the trail that different, just my perception is making the whole experience so different. And what a beautiful power we have to be able to do that. 

The next day Megan’s knee was doing worse. We had a 12 mile road walk to Nedajno. When she arrived there she mentioned she was done and couldn’t go on. She would try and hitch to town, Zabljak. After breakfast I routed and reviewed some maps and routes and headed out. Still wanting to complete continuous footpaths of the trail. I decided to stay out of the mountains, not wanting to stress about navigation and water with nobody around. So I took the bike path which mixed roads and gravel down into town. 19 miles later, and only 5.5hrs, I arrived to town. We decided to stay an extra day today for Megan to rest her knee and tomorrow we will see if she is hopefully able to continue on the rest of the trail. It sucks to have happened so close to the end, when she has already been through so much. We aren’t really sure what’s going on or what she did. There was no specific fall or anything. The pressure of time is now against us since our Albanian permits have the specific date set. Besides from that this section has been great. Durmitor National Park was insanely beautiful and I hope to explore it more some day, so far Montenegro is pretty pretty amazing. 

Another thing I have loved about this section is seeing so many fellow backpackers/hikers. After seeing very few the last month in a half, it’s refreshing to just get to walk by someone smile and say hello. 

Crazy hitching stories…sorry in advance to all the parents out there

I woke up at 3:45 to pack up quickly and head out to begin my 13 mile hike to Kalinovik. From here I plan to hitch to Sarajevo then to Jablanica to get to the post office and retrieve my replacement shoes. The hike was quick and easy, although my feet were killing me. I actually stopped and put on all 3 pairs of socks just to add cushion. Getting to town and out I got my first hitch from a nice man driving a delivery van, drinking a beer. At 8:30am. Totally normal to me at this point. He drove me the 12ish miles to the next highway junction. After trying for a bit another man stopped to give me a ride to Sarajevo. It started fine, he like the other man cannot speak any English. Yet some people just keep trying to communicate and saying the same thing over and over again. But I still have no clue what they’re saying. So I’m giving this guy the benefit of the doubt in this area. That there was a language barrier and I may be incorrect. But about half way through the 45min ride he looked at me and said “sex?” I repeated it back to him unsure if I heard correctly and he said it again. I have no clue if that’s what he meant but I really harshly said no multiple times and he just gave me thumbs up and kept driving. Sorry to freak all the Moms out there out with this story. But I actually just felt slightly creeped out but not unsafe. He dropped me at a cafe where after awhile I got another hitch just over a mile, closer to the actual town. When I got out of the guys car he touched my thigh……..idk if it’s their culture or just dudes being endlessly creepy. I had trouble getting a hitch from this point so walked to the bus station to see if there was one to Jablanica, a no go. But I did see the AT hiker there. I then got another hitch from a super nice guy to the highway that drifts off to Mostar, passing Jablanica. After a bit a guy pulls over and I get in for my last ride as he’s able to take me all the way there. He was nice. Kept trying to get me Kafe, a burger, and take me to the beach. But I was assertive about getting to town by 1pm as I wanted to take the 1:42pm bus back to Sarajevo. Being over hitching at this point. I literally ran all around town, easily got my shoes which was a huge win! Resupplied and even ran to the other grocery store to load up on peanut butter, a must, before getting my bus ticket literally the moment the bus arrived. This bus ride was heaven. Nobody to try and talk to and cozy. Once I got back to Sarajevo it was crazy hot and I had to walk almost 6 miles back to the cafe where there is a junction that leads back towards Kalinovik. Nobody would pick me up. I was so wiped. Had walked almost 20 miles today and only had 1 liter of water. A man, who was giving a couple who were backpackers a ride to Montenegro, picked me up and drove me to the final junction back to Kalinovik. On the way he was chain smoking cigarettes, a joint, and drinking a beer. Haha. After he dropped me off I just felt it was too late and nobody would be heading to this small town of nothing and I was almost crying expecting to have 15 more miles to hike to where I’m supposed to meet Meg. But I prayed, literally so hard for a car to come. And one finally did. A guy in a nice Audi that was a super fast smooth ride to the gas station where I had gotten my first hitch. It’s after 6:30pm so by this time I expect Meg to have already left town and head to our camp spot. The walk to camp was nice and mellow. But when I got there Meg wasn’t there. I met with the household owners about camping and a few minutes later Meg. She was happy I was ok, but thought I was meeting her in town. We figured it out, and ended up camping at the household and were able to shower which was heavenly. Today wiped me more than any other day. Just mentally and emotionally the most draining day ever. I’m so glad it’s over, and so glad to have my Comfy Xero Shoes again! 

Beauty of Bosnia

The trail since our long break in Mostar has overall been positive and in my opinion quite exquisite. I’ve made it a point to agree to myself that I won’t complain about the trail as long as it is well marked making it easy to follow. And mostly it has been, so that’s a win!the hike out of town was a good gravel road/bike path to Boracko Lake. My body felt achey and tired this day, possibly from a long break, a really heavy pack, or maybe I’ve come down with something? I don’t sleep well in towns, I find myself fixated to screens and being able to do things I’m not able to out on the trail and kind of binge on them. Definitely a typical habit for me in many aspects of my life. So possibly the lack of sleep from that and eating bad food just made me crash a bit. A couple hour break swimming at the lake was quite pleasant. It began raining before we left luckily only lasting a short period before we headed out a couple more miles to camp at a more peaceful spring. The next day my energy wasn’t much better. Feeling continuously wiped. We did about 18 miles of which at least 16 were uphill. It was just a never ending uphill battle today. The morning climb was tough and I got crazy sweaty. My shirt, buff, and shorts, all soaked like I jumped into a lake. But it was a rad hike through the canyons! After the next uphill we had to go on quite a search for the marked spring. There was an arrow up so I followed up a bit and never saw anything. Neither of us had much water, and Meg was quite dehydrated so we had to find some. Luckily, with 2 of us we were finally able to spot some markers that led us to a small natural “well” where I could dig out some water. After that Meg took a short cut on a road while I followed the Via Dinarica path through a nice cool forest trail that led through open pastures filled with cows and onto the top of the canyon where I could just walk across the top with beautiful rocky views the whole way. I found Meg sitting under a small bit of shade under a tree before we ate lunch in the shade at the cemetery. It’s so funny to me the things we do out here. That we find it totally normal to unload our packs and dry all of our stuff out and hang to eat at a cemetery. But it just feels normal. There was nice short grass and good shade so it’s the perfect break spot. the trail continued along the ridge of the open canyon for a bit drifting in and out of the forest. The trail continued up, up, up, to the town of Lukimor. A popular tourist destination for local hiking through the canyons. And is also the oldest and highest altitude village in Bosnia. I struggled so hard the last couple miles there, but immediately found relief at the local hostel/restaurant. While waiting for Meg I hung with the owner Nrsid, who offered to let us camp out back for free. He was so kind and helpful. I knew if Meg felt anything like I did we didn’t want to walk any further at all. We ended up having a great time there. I Met a 2016 AT hiker, a rad woman who has since then yet to go back to work and has just traveled hiking around the world with her boyfriend. Nrsid brought me some Rakija, the famous homemade liquor of the Balkans. It’s strong as shit, and he brought it to me after I said I don’t really drink alcohol. And he told me it was cherry juice, haha. I had Megan finish it for me after I had just a couple sips. Slept great this night listening to all the sheep live their joyous lives all around us. A lot of livestock here!

Leaving Lukimor we got to hike through the beautiful canyon. It led us to some water mills that forced us down quite a steep downhill. I ended up slipping but my pack hit the ground first and just led me the rest of the way down on my ass. Meg just avoid the fall, sat down and sled. Basically a butt glissade, on dirt instead of snow. There is so much water here! It’s like a whole new world. A beautiful, perfect, magnificent world where dehydration isn’t a daily thing. There’s so many rivers, streams, and fountains. We had a climb to Drstva Mtn, after snacks, and since my legs were feeling quite fatigued I had to go with the counting steps method to get up. That’s just counting steps and I make myself have to be exactly at a 100 steps before I can break. Usually I make it 500+ but it’s helpful to not let myself self just stop 30 steps into a 100 step segment. The trail itself was perfectly maintained and marked. A lot of blueberry pickers also use it! I met 3 nice men at the top of the mountain, 2 Bosnian 1 Italian, they offered me beer. And we’re heading our same direction along the Knifes edge to Vito Mountain. The Knifes edge was epic, just like the one in Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington. Just amazing. And so much fun to walk on. On the way down I had a good fall and banged my arm up a bit, but then the trail was majestic again and my attitude quickly shifted back to pure happiness. 

What made this day epic is we actually met 2 other hikers who are thru-hiking the VD, northbound. The first Matt, from Belgium or Germany, I can’t remember. He actually started SOBO but got bitten by a dog in Slovenia and has had to go home every couple of weeks for more shots, so now he’s just doing sections. Later, after getting confused for a bit and losing trail we met the other hiker. Timon, aka Kermit, a 2016 PCT hiker. He had tried to summit the large mountain in Albania which is still packed with ice. And after realizing it was too dangerous he slipped trying to go back down and had a huuuuuge thrash on his leg/butt. We will be avoiding that mountain as every hiker has had to bail on it. It was so so amazing to meet and chat with other hikers, and I wish it could have all lasted longer. We all seemed to have the same feelings about the trail, it’s nice but not amazing. Glad we’re not the only ones. We camped in town, I believe it was Laura, near some abandoned buildings, again so funny how little we care about these things these days. Tomorrow I plan to wake super early and hike into town to begin hitching to get my new Xero Shoes!

 

 

Lightning Strikes

So this day was one for the books. It deserves its own special post. It led to a night of very little sleep due to the stress and anxiety that had settled in during the day. Started normal. Had a 1.5 mile walk to town and while we waited for the grocery store to open we tried the famous Burek. A philo dough pastry filled with different things, mine was just cheese. It was so so delicious. It is literally probably all I truly crave now and I just want more and more of it. It was cool to see them being cooked “under the bell” as they call it. After the store and grabbing just a couple bars to get us through the next morning we set out for our steepest and toughest climb, I think, that’s on the trail. We climbed about 5,000 in about 5km. First we had to get to it though and the trail led us through some of the most disgusting forest I’ve ever felt. I was consistently wrapped in cobwebs and there were gnats everywhere, it smelt bad, Megan heard a boar by the water. The ground was super mushy in some places. It was just a weird energy. I tried my best to just race through it and get to a break in the trees. The climb itself was quite tough. My Achilles were aching with still 1.5miles to go. But I don’t like taking breaks so I just kept chugging along and ended up making it up there in pretty decent time. While I waited for Meg I let my extremely sweaty clothes hang to try and dry out. Once she got there and we left it was already about 3pm. Not long into walking we hit an area of trail we were told had a bit of bushwhacking. A bit was quite an exaggeration. This part of trail was nearly impassable. Even without a pack it’d be brutal. Dwarf pines swarmed all over the trail. Their thick branches sometimes barely able to move and they’d just scratch and grab onto me as I tried to pass through them. It took us forever to escape that place. I started getting really claustrophobic at one point. It was quite uncomfortable. Then once we made it through we found ourselves on the top of a very open mountain and then heard it, thunder. We knew there was a cave nearby. Less than 2 miles away so we started to try and walk quickly towards it for shelter in case a storm case. And it did, just far quicker than we could ever get to that cave. We had to go hide out in a small rock bundle that took us out of the open area a bit. There was no shelter over head so we got pelted with rain. I luckily, have my super corny poncho that in this moment was my favorite piece of gear. It kept my entire body and pack dry. While Meg was freezing in her coat. It lasted just under an hour. It was terrifying. The lightning was literally right on us, flashing really brightly and followed immediately by the loudest snapping and cracking thunder. After a bit it’d seem to get further away from us, the thunder coming a few seconds after the lightning, then bang it’d be right back on us again. Meg was getting too cold so we had to get up and get moving. Luckily, the lightning storm ended and it stopped raining soon after. We walked and came upon an emergency shelter, that wasn’t on our maps. So Meg switched to dry clothes and after warming up a bit we headed out. Hoping to get 4 more miles to the next shelter. We had been told by previous hikers that there are multiple times in Bosnia that the GPS is off of what the marked trail is. And to follow the trail. So after the trail almost took us right off a mountain we found a marked trail and followed it. And after almost an hour we realized that the trail was taking us in the wrong direction. Back around and over some mountains that would end up leading us back to where we came from. So exhausted, frustrated, anxious, we decided to just get back to the emergency shelter and camp there. Initially we planned to just be a few miles out of town this night, instead we’re over 13. Thankfully we had each bought some bars from the store otherwise we would have no food. The night ended up being amazing, besides the not sleeping part. But the beauty of the sky kept me in good company. I spent a decent chunk of time laying half out of my tent just stargazing, my favorite. 

The next day we did get lost for a bit adding a mile or so of hiking. But the hiking overall was so special. It’s like the High Sierras, without all the snow. Just big jagged rocky peaks surrounding us. It provided us with some of the most beautiful views yet. It definitely would not have been appreciated by us if we hadn’t had rested at the shelter. The 13 miles took quite awhile. It lead us out of the mountains, which had seemed to last forever due to all the stress. We got to the hotel and went to hitch. After waiting a bit with only 2 cars, we started heading back down to the hotel to call a taxi. And I randomly stuck my thumb up when a huge logging truck was about to pass and what do you know. He stopped. It was so so much fun to get to ride in this massive truck. He dropped us in Mostar where we have spent the last few days. Doing nothing but eating tons of food and laying around watching tv. Allowing our bodies and minds to recover. Mostar is a super cool beautiful town and we are renting the perfect apartment. Tomorrow we plan to head back out with a new mindset. We’re now only planning and packing food and goods for 12 mile days. We are sure we will typically do more, but we don’t want to be stressed and nervous about food when days happen where we planned to hike 20 miles, and only did 10. This trail is consistently making us change our perspectives on what a thru-hike can be like, and even just what a “trail” is. Learning to accept this for what it is has been tough, but we are continuously trying. We’re hoping our mental change will allow us to enjoy what we’re doing day in and day out a bit more. We have less than 300 miles left until the trail is over, and my goal is to live fully present in, and appreciate each and every single day we have left. 

First stages of Bosnia are crushing my soul

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. 

79E11B2D-D2EE-455E-BD2A-042163467CCDE6F1A050-430E-4C17-90FA-71D53069F8CF696B00DA-71A0-4C8B-ADA9-605AC0AD8DB24B47E2AA-E696-46C6-AFA9-90FDF57C6DA6871F7E1C-66A2-4A5C-AD03-B58188801DE6871F7E1C-66A2-4A5C-AD03-B58188801DE697688555-FCA0-4100-81CB-B2E530A85F369AE689EF-AA95-4B4A-A052-C51608962AFEBA417952-00A0-4FC3-9723-F268304C1DF8BA417952-00A0-4FC3-9723-F268304C1DF88CB9E50A-FB0B-41F0-9E61-B08AEE7575637632DBD9-2367-42B7-99C0-6F407D9C1F1BAFD61993-5B7D-4645-A013-D2B404D6DB972D69BD9A-34E2-43A0-B642-A65C7BCA86F1E8C418BB-7807-4816-A215-993FFFD99C1735B2BA4B-519D-4A79-A720-5A2F5489856A257F35F8-0BDB-4FDE-A770-C6852CCB1A27B928E557-BF33-4F22-8517-707DECFED133BA87154C-D5EC-4E99-85FA-DCE98996EF768DBC28C7-ACDA-448C-98EB-6E517FC85434B90F4021-72B4-4A92-B2E2-4EFF695D682F23FB1A63-D598-49D7-9D92-A8C0E2EC5C65F1341DCA-6138-410E-AEA9-204CBA9BE400FAEC205B-2942-464C-A7B5-F7A47F537CB44A990BA1-DB65-4E6D-B7E0-E98ABD6B47B13BDBE840-78B9-4A93-8853-B8482F7B685B3BDBE840-78B9-4A93-8853-B8482F7B685B378FE7F9-279A-43B6-95CF-2C55D077BE10378FE7F9-279A-43B6-95CF-2C55D077BE10

See ya later Croatia!

Leaving Gracac we stopped for a quick delicious bite at a local restaurant in Grab. Which was literally the only thing there. We ended up hiking 12 miles that afternoon without leaving town until almost 3 and eating lunch. My energy is feeling good, but my feet are definitely limiting me. The next day our miles shot back up to typical PCT mileage’s. We hit 27 miles. And yet it seemed like we did nothing. There was no major climbing or descent just road walk. The entire day. The only truly interesting thing that happened this day was a skinny diseased cat that wouldn’t leave us alone at lunch. It kept looking at me with the biggest saddest eyes and I couldn’t handle it. But we didn’t want to touch it because it seriously had something going on. We hiked so far because where we had hoped to camp ended up being a weird rundown town so we kept going to Knin and got an apartment to stay in. We had to stay for the next day so I could try and buy some new shoes, and to resupply. One thing I’m learning here is to never trust booking.com. Numerous times we have purchased a room and it wasn’t what was described. We have left a place before because of it. This place seemed so nice. 24 hour reception where they spoke English, WiFi in all rooms, flat screen TVs, continental breakfast. We get there no English, the tv was not much bigger than an IPad screen and didn’t even work. The WiFi barely worked. But it’s just what it is I guess. Luckily the breakfast was amazing! Just a huge basket of homemade bread, cheese, and jelly. I found some new running shoes for $30. They’re not the best but better than shoes with no sole on them. Then we left to summit Dinara, the highest mountain in Croatia. Which isn’t very high actually just, 1831m. I saw a turtle on its back on the way, flipped it over to help it get going again. So random to see a turtle in the forest? But the climb was fun, the sign said it’d take 2.5hrs and it took me less than 1.5. I love racing those things! The view from the top was great, but the descent is where the magic happened. Just endless beauty surrounding me with mountain ranges of endless stripes of rocks, meadows, and grass fields. Leading down, down, down, to a shelter for Shepard’s. Where I saw one with his sheep, what a beautiful job! We passed a fresh flowing pipe spring, extremely rare here, and a midevil fortress before reaching out campsite. It was perfect until a family of 4 came which created a lot of noise through the night and in the morning, but overall a good day. Different muscles are definitely working now that I don’t have barefoot style shoes. Different things are feeling tweaky and sore, shin splints are returning and my back hurts a bit, but no blisters! The next day with a foggy mind we began more road walking. We took a wrong turn and added over a mile pretty early on. But then we met 2 kind people. One woman who offered us a ride to a bigger town, as we thought there was a store in this town, but it had apparently closed down. So all day all I ate was peanuts, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds as it’s all I had. Then we met Ivan, the local medicine man. He was so excited to chat with us. And was showing us plants he uses to make tea for high blood pressure, or about making soap, and being able to cure any disease in 15 days. He offered us a place to stay, Food, and wine from his vineyard, but it was only 10am so we declined. Luckily, I got his info and am hoping to reach out and maybe come back and learn from him for a week or 2. We got to eat lunch at a beautiful lake. Perfect temperature water. It was just the best! Then we quickly headed to Rumin where there was a store and camped by the river. 

Its now been over a month since leaving home. And somehow that feels impossible, it’s had to have been at least a year. That’s how far away it all seems. We had a huge day today. We hit many mile stones. 1) 10 by 10! Our first of the trail. That’s 10 miles by 10am. 2) 30+ mile day, we did 33. 3) first time getting to use the bucket and rope Meg has been carrying to get water from a deep well. 4) our first walk on an actual Pilgrimage trail, Our Lady of Sinj (training for Camino!) 5) we officially left Croatia and are now in Bosnia! We are over half way through the trail. 6) we finally experienced some real Croatian hospitality. After a quick water break at the Cetina river a man said something to us, after Meg explained we didn’t understand he gestured a drink. Thankfully, Meg being way more chill than me who just wants to keep walking since we just took a break, said yes. It turned into one of the most genuine acts of kindness I’ve ever received. These women took us to their porch. They brought us OJ with sparkling water and cookies, followed by Turkish coffee and a huge feast. All Homemade. Cheese, bread, tomato, prosciutto, pancetta, OMG it was so unreal.  And when we left they picked us a bunch of plums from their tree and gave them to us. For no reason except to give. It literally makes my heart melt. Crossing the border was interesting. Standing in a large line of cars. We finished the day to Busko lake. It’s beautiful but has been storming since we got here. A bummer as we are taking a trail 0 day, and expected to get to swim and lay in the sun. Instead we are just sleeping off and on hanging out in our tents. Oh Bosnia, I can’t wait to see what adventures you bring to us. 

Rocky road….and no not the delicious ice cream

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.