Well, it seems the hiking season is just about getting into full swing in these parts. Today was the fourth time this year I’ve participated in an organised group hike – you can read about the first one on New Year’s day here.
As I live just under the Pohorje hill range, naturally there are a number of hiking clubs in the area and all of them organise at least one group hike on their “home ground”. A course is usually set from the center of their home town along their trails up to a certain finishing spot with checkpoints offering home made food, drinks and music along the way. There is usually no starting fee, the pace is gentle and easy-going and attendance can be anywhere from a couple dozen to hundreds of people, depending on a number of factors. You’ll see anyone from families with small children to active pensioners eagerly going at it.
Marked above is the route we had planned for today, starting in a small town of Oplotnica and finishing about 800 vertical meters higher at a place called Črno jezero or “Black lake”. The way there and back was to take about 6 to 7 hours of walking, something anyone of reasonable fitness should be able to do witout much trouble. I invited a number of friends and family members to come with me, but getting anyone to actually go was expectedly difficult. I’ve grown accustomed to people having other things to do right when I’d like them to go with me.
In the end only Sanja, a friend from the fire depaprtment was up for it and I was relieved I didn’t have to go alone. So we drove over to the starting point, parked up and joined the crowd of people already on their way. It was apparent the local hiking club takes much care looking after their trails – the way was clear and well marked with frequent refreshment stations for those who needed a bit of a boost.
The day was typical early spring – cold winds and some sun peeking through the clouds, threatening with rain. Unfortunately I left my camera at home, as I tend to pack light on such trips. This left me only my phone to take pictures with and I wasn’t really pleased with how they looked. It also made me think about investing in a small pocket camera, as my Canon DSLR is somewhat heavy and difficult to lug around.
We made good time on the way up and I was pleased that Sanja was keeping up with me. It’s not that I keep a fast pace, just that usually there’s someone in my group who keeps slowing us down, which can be a nuisance. Then at about 1000 meters high we came up to the snow line – I wasn’t really expecting much snow, but you could sink to your knees in it in some places. Luckily the people before us cleared a narrow path which was a real treat to walk on.
Snow meant we were getting close to our finishing point. The top of Pohorje is quite flat with ski resorts, churches, lakes and lonely farmsteads all over the place. It makes for a perfect summer getaway as forests provide shelter from the heat. Right now though, snow was still clinging to the ground, defying the oncoming spring.
A couple of minutes walk ahead we’d come to the before mentioned Black lake. Whe water in it is actually crystal clear, but the bottom is full of mud and it serves to darken it’s outlook and lend it it’s name. A layer of ice and snow was still covering it and a joke started spreading around that the black lake was actually white.
A number of hikers continued their way to a nearby ski center where there was to be more entertainment and undoubtedly drinks of the fun kind. Transport back down was surely organised as well, as some of the people were having too much fun with those drinks already. We turned back down and went by some of those who were still on their way up. The line of march was stretched way back and we chatted to people as we passed. One was asking if we saw a World War II batallion somewhere, as they’ve apparently invited him to a picnic. We said that they were probably down by the lake and he grumbled that he still had half a bottle of liquor with him. I wonder where the other half went…
Then we came upon a merry group of middle aged hikers who were wrestling each other to the ground in the snow. A curious sight, but not one to be taken lightly, as they merrily started hounding us as well. Too much alcohol and good company really does turn people into thoughtless wrecks sometimes. A woman jumped at me, probably thinking I’d like into their game, but I managed to wriggle free and step aside a bit. Sanja wasn’t that lucky and got sadly dumped in the snow. Then they all rushed to brush the snow off her and apologize for their shannanigans, but that’s really no way to act in any state. After some more hounding and a plea not to take everything too seriously we were finally free to go on as they continued stumbling in the other direction.
That was the last of the funny bunch. The rest of the way down was comparably peaceful, even though the weather was turning sour. Luckily we reached the car dry and in good spirits, even though our feet felt a bit heavy after 7 good hours of walking.