Sensational Seceda, Dolomites, Italy

Hands-down one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever hiked!

I’ve always dreamed of hiking hut to hut in the Alps, literally dreamt of being on the trail and seeing those iconic sign posts. Well, my dream finally came true.

Preamble: While Italy and the Dolomites were never on “my list” per se, they were how my dream came true. In my life’s journey, I’m learning to surrender control and go with the flow, and I’m discovering that’s where life’s best rewards are. So, of course, when I find myself in a fate-directed destination (Italy), you can bet that I will carpe diem and sneak in a dreamy adventure or 2 when I can.

Backstory: I was in Venice to surprise my sister by “crashing” their cruise. Cruise, you say, that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing. True, but family time is family time, and you take it when you can get it. I’d surprised her a couple of years ago on a cruise, and when covid hit, it hit me how much I treasured that week. So I did it again. And surprisingly, she was surprised again. More on the fabulous cruise destinations later.

I bribed myself and my boyfriend into the cruise by giving ourselves the gift of a couple of days of hiking in the Dolomites. The beauty of the Dolomites is absolutely dazzling and dizzying. I’m supposed to be a writer, but I can’t even begin to do it justice with words. So I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

Here’s the scoop

Located in the Puez-Odle Nature Park, the spectacular Seceda ridgeline carves the rugged silhouette of the Fermeda Towers against the sky high above the charming villages of Ortisei, St. Christina, and Selva in the Dolomites.

Considered South Tyrol, this area is located in the northern part of Italy and bordered by Austria to the North (Tyrol) and East (Salzburg). It’s less than a 3-hour windy drive from the Venice airport.

A Little History: The autonomous Italian province of South Tyrol was created in 1948 when Italy annexed it following the defeat of the Central Powers / Central Empires (German EmpireAustria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria) in World War I. From 1814 to 1919, Tyrol was part of the Austrian Empire. And before that – well, you know how European history goes…

Today, the Austrian influence in the area remains strong, with 70% German and 25% Italian speakers. Okay, so what about the hike, you ask? Well, I’m getting to it.

We took the Ortisei-furnes Gondolo and the Fummes-Seceda Cable Car to the summit and started our hike there. We stopped for refreshments at our first rifugio (translated as refuge/shelter /haven) before we hit our second mile. A young, handsome boy wearing traditional German lederhosen served our giant size charcuterie feast . The cheese was handmade by his family, and courtesy of their free-range cattle, the bread was baked fresh that morning. (Warning, weight can happen while hiking here.)

And yes, we stopped at another rifugio and had another “little snack” with a charming Italian couple from Milan who shared their trail map and helped keep us on the right path. From there, we took the St. Jakob Church trail that eventually meandered back down to the village of Ortesei. The route we chose was 12 miles with a moderate ~1,453 feet elevation gain.

The mesmerizing soundtrack of the Alps is birdsong mixed with the clang of cowbells and church bells.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing or humming the Sound of Music soundtrack as you make friends along the trail with various cows, horses, donkeys, and chickens.

Getting there: ~3-hour drive to the village of Ortisei from Venice Airport

Notes: Unless you have plenty of time to spare and are game for gratuitous elevation gain, you’ll want to take the Ortisei-furnes Gondolo and the Fummes-Seceda Cable Car. This strategy will give you ample time to explore the many trails off the summits, which naturally have the best views. The cable car and gondolas run from 8:30 AM to 5 PM, early June through mid-October. The elevation at the top is 8,200 feet so if you’re sensitive to altitude, you may want to take a some time to acclimate.

You can purchase 1-way tickets for ~$30 or roundtrip tickets if you don’t want to hike all the way down back to town. (If you are hiking for more than 1 day, consider purchasing the Gardena Card, which provides unlimited use of specific cable cars and gondolas.) Once at the top, you can choose your own adventure to fit your fitness level and interest. The main trails are well marked, and the terrain is relatively easy. A combination of altitude, incline, and duration can be challenging—know your limitations, but also know that there are plenty of opportunities to take breaks and refuel along the way. You MUST stop at the huts for the local experience and fresh-baked bread, homemade cheese, and savory sausages. Running shoes worked for me this time, but poles and hiking boots are always a good idea.

As with most popular spots, get there early to avoid the crowds.

Stay tuned for the next post on spectacular Tres Cime.

Happy Trails!

Summiting Magnificent Mount Timpanogos: Waterfalls, Wildflowers, Wildlife, & Wild Views—Oh my!

Elevation gain:5,384ft

Mileage: ~15 Miles RT

Summit: 11,752ft, the 2nd highest mountain in Utah

Difficulty: Hard, strenuous – due to altitude, elevation gain, and ~1.5 miles ea way of an unstable, tortuous, talus field

Happened to be in the area and made the spontaneous decision to hike Mount Timpanogos. So glad I did. By far, Mount Timp (as the locals call it) is my new, all-time favorite hike / peak. And I’ve done a ton of hiking across the country and around the world. I couldn’t stop smiling all the way to the 11,752-foot summit and back. Ok, maybe my smile was a bit of a grimace through the 1.5 miles back and forth across the treacherous talus strewn avalanche field.  Rest assured, the grimace quickly reverted to ear to ear, exuberant glee once I reached the summit and then again as I descended back down to the lake.

What’s make Mount Timpanogos so wonderful, you ask? Well, the title gave it way, but in case you missed it:

  • Abundant colorful, wildflowers of more varieties than I’ve ever seen
  • Dazzling waterfalls around nearly very switchback
  • Pristine alpine lake and snow field a couple miles from the summit
  • Muscular mountain goats guarding the upper slopes and frolicking by the lake
  • 5,384 ft elevation gain in altitude delivers a fitness challenge and solid workout
  • Sweeping views of Utah Valley from the saddle and spectacular panoramic views from the summit

This hike had it all—absolutely enchanting.

Started the trail in a steady rain, and walked up a verdant paved path for about a mile and a half or so before the pavement gave way to the elements.  Plentiful wildflowers and sparkling waterfalls distracted from the effort of the climb and the sun’s radiance soon highlighted all of the beauty, mist rising. The trail is easy to follow with plenty of switchbacks to help mitigate the elevation gain. It felt almost tropical at times.

The lovely Hidden Lake Basin and Emerald Lake are destinations for many, including the mountain goats.

Those who push on beyond the mile and ½ talus torture field and onward and upward still, are well rewarded at the summit.

Pay your respects to the kings of the mountain along the way. If you have good eyesight, you might spy the summit hut from thousands of feet below. It’s a bit daunting and exciting because it seems so far away, almost out of reach.

From the summit, you’ll take in dizzying 360 degree views of Utah Valley and Utah Lake to the west, Lone Peak and American Fork Twin Peaks to the north and expansive views everywhere in between.

Disclaimer: I experienced Mt. Timp in her July glory. I was told by locals that I wouldn’t recognize her in the Fall when the waterfalls are dry, the wildflowers have disappeared, and the green meadows have turned to yellow hay. Others report that Fall colors are nice here. Someday, perhaps I’ll be back to see for myself. In the meantime, if you’ve been in another season, let me know what it was like.

Notes: I’d say hiking shoes are a must to navigate the talus field. There were some hard core, ultra runners in trail runners. (I know – WOW!) Hiking poles are also a nice to have, given the elevation gain and loss. Layers are always smart at altitude. Be aware of weather changes and avalanche danger.

Getting there: I-15N to Pleasant Grove, exit 275. Follow N County Blvd and UT-92 E to the Aspen Grove trailhead.

Stay tuned: I’ll be posting the videos soon!

Happy trails!

Beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, Provo, UT

Too many wedding guests, but if you’re up for the scramble to the bride, you’ll lose the crowds.* Since this lovely 607-foot-tall, double cataract waterfall is just off US189 within close reach of a metropolis (SLC), it’s heavily trafficked (overrun). More of an attraction than an excursion, this 1.4 mile stroll is on a paved and dirt path. It is literally a walk in the park with the added scenic bonus of the Provo River running alongside the trail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5CeQgqmavo

*Disclaimer: Scrambling can be hazardous—a man fell to his death hiking here not long after I visited. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/07/19/man-bridal-veil-falls-utah-falls-death-boy-left-alone/8018440002/

Apparently, there is nearby trail to an upper falls – aptly named “Upper Falls”, but it’s unmarked and difficult to find—maybe next time.

Getting there:  UT-52 E/W 800 N and US-189 N/E Provo Canyon Rd and follow the signs.

Nice stop to stretch the legs if you’re road tripping to Sundance or Park City.

Happy Trails!

Ravishing (but overrun) Red Reef, Hurricane, UT

Short and splendid, this incredibly scenic area features a waterfall, a creek, a slot canyon, a cave, a mini-rock / rope climb, cliffs to scale—oh, my! So much is the span of a short out and back trail (2 miles total). It’s like a mini-Zion. The bad news is that it has the crowds to match. (Sigh.) (Reality pic is the last one in the slide show.) Thankfully everyone is respecting the natural beauty and leaving no trace. The good news is that solitude it just an upcliff scramble or mini-rope rock climb away…

My friend, Robin, easily managing the moki steps in the pics below – looks more treacherous than it is.

Beyond the Moki steps, you’ll find more scrambling “opportunities” and more great views.

Getting there: Exit 22 towards UT-228 N, right on old highway 91 to the Red Cliffs National Conservation area

Fee: $5

Happy Trails!

Road Trips & Life: The Unplanned Stops Make All the Difference

This post is about the advantages that the unexpected twists and turns can bring whether you’re on a road trip, navigating life’s journey, or sheltering in place during our current COVID19 crisis.

trail near cascade falls

On a road trip or an adventure vacation, I’m always inclined to follow the sign that points to waterfalls or scenic byways, even if it’s in a different direction than I’m heading. I may have a general plan for the day / week that includes multiple stops and hikes, but I’m more than happy to add one on or adapt my agenda. For me, it’s about exploring and experiencing as much I can. So many times when I look back, it seems that it’s exactly those impromptu adventures and discoveries that I treasure most. On a road trip through Washington, Idaho and Montana, I expected Coeur d’Alene to be a major highlight—but it wasn’t for me. About 45 miles down the road, I accidentally discovered the charming town of Sandpoint, what a gem—wasn’t even on my radar. An off the highway stop in Montana yielded an amazingly mini-excursion at Kootenai FallsOn another road trip through the Pacific Northwest, taking a break at an innocuous looking roadside stop, I was delighted to find Cascade Falls where I spent half an hour mesmerized by the shadows and projectile splashes of wild salmon.

Sometimes there are signs and we can choose our journey. Other times, obstacles and detours, like the one we’re having now, are sprung upon us. I’m not saying there isn’t and won’t be hardship and loss, but what I know is that we will look back on these times and remember the silver linings. Maybe it was that one silly, brave friend who held live Facebook dance parties to lighten the mood (C), the group of 10 cars driving up and down the street honking happy birthday, the grade school teacher who decorated her car with balloons and called out to her students on her megaphone as she drove by their houses, the extra time that Mom’s and Dad’s are spending together and with their children will no doubt rank in their “best of family time memories”.

I have no doubt that creativity, artistry, and innovation will surge. People will move beyond inertia and procrastination to evolve and achieve as never before. And maybe social distancing is exactly what we need to learn how to truly connect and to savor those connections. These few weeks of shelter in place are but a blip in our lives. Like the salmon’s flash of florescence —there is much to treasure if you look for it.

What are your favorite memories so far from our enforced “time out”?