When Ion, my partner of under a year, asked me if I wanted to go hiking in Italy with him, I looked him dead in the eye like a teen girl meeting a Jonas Brother, and enthusiastically said “Sure, sounds fun.” Sounds fun? Apparently love makes you crazy at any age.
On the inside I had some serious reservations about this trip. For starters, hiking in Italy sounded very “backpack-y” to me, like we were going to end up sleeping on the floor in hostels and eating out of tin cans. I’d somehow escaped this rite of passage in my twenties, so trying it on for size at mid-life wasn’t exactly exciting me. Second, to this point in my life, my idea of a serious “hike” was a brisk shopping trip through an outlet mall. Climbing mountains in the Dolomites was perhaps a titch beyond my skill level. Sounds fun? Who the hell was I kidding?
With one week to go before we left Ion convinced me that I might want to invest in a “real” pair of hiking shoes. It would seem my cute tennis shoes weren’t going to save me if I started to slide down the side of a mountain. I begrudgingly shelled out cash for ugly yet practical shoes. I instantly resented the space they’d take up in my suitcase.
Our first hike was around the picturesque Lake Dobiacco in the province of South Tyrol. It was a lovely, flat hike around a emerald green lake with the mountains in the background, exactly where I wanted them to stay. When I looked at Ion though, I could see he was dying to scale one and this was not really a hike in his mind, but rather a warm-up for the real deal. “We’ll climb Tre Cime tomorrow,” he said, and I immediately piped in, “Sounds fun.” Ugh, who am I?
When we arrived at the base of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, part of the road was closed and we would have to now trek 6 kilometres to the beginning of the trail. My internal monologue was streaming pretty hard at this point and I found myself questioning the point of hiking to the start of the hike? Isn’t that just more hiking? Are we walking to the hiking trail, or hiking to the hiking trail? At what point does the walk become a hike? Man, this sport is way more confusing than I initially thought.
The way up was hard, and while I was sweating and panting a bit, I gave silent gratitude to Disneyworld and shopping malls for giving me the stamina I needed to continue. Half way up, Ion asked me if I was okay, and while part of me wanted to throw in the towel, the other part was actually beginning to enjoy it. When we finally arrived at the refuge at the top of the mountain Ion leaned over and whispered in my ear, “This is a view you have to earn.”, and I can’t help but smile. It really is a spectacular sight to behold and despite my throbbing legs, I’m overjoyed that I did it. I’m equally overjoyed to find out that the hiking trail is still closed due to snow.
Over the next couple of days we stopped for hikes in San Cassiano and Podenzana, and I learned two things. First, hiking up mountains is a natural high, and yes, I absolutely went there with that pun. Secondly, I am telling you now that it is impossible to walk through a field of flowers in the Alps and not sing The Hills Are Alive. I dare you to go ahead and try.
On the second last day of our trip, we found ourselves in Cinque Terre, and hiking was an optional part our tour. Catching Ion and even myself totally off guard, I was the first to opt us in. Not for the faint of heart, the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso is said to be a fairly strenuous two hour and 15 minute trek along steep and narrow pathways. We finished it in a cool one hour and 45 minutes. I am on fire, no really, my ass and my thighs are killing me but the feeling of accomplishment is worth the burn.
Near the end of the time in Cinque Terre, Ion told our guide that he would love to hike in Switzerland next time. “Sounds fun!”, I chimed in, and this time I really meant it. Who am I indeed.