Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monte San Lorenzo Hike

Forgive me but this post has nothing to do with cycling. I did see a sign pointing to this hike while riding the other day. And hiking up steep hills seems like good cross-training. That's the only connection I can think of.
I put my two little dogs in their crate and drove to Fratta, a frazione northeast of Maniago. We parked at a little piazzetta at the junction of the road from Val Colvera and the bridge over the Colvera from Fratta. The hike starts inauspiciously in what seems like a dry ditch with paving stones between two houses. But there is a big stone with blue and white stripes, so this is it. At first there are some discarded roof tiles and other rubble in the ditch, and you wonder what you've gotten into. But after a few meters it gets pretty, a nice shady stone path a bit lower than the surrounding land, sunken with the passage of time like still-visible stretches of the Oregon Trail in the American West. The stones are often flat and appear to have been squared off to fit together. This is apparently the remnant of a roman road, which I've read once passed up the valley to Monte Rest and beyond to Carnia. It is a beautiful place in mid-March, covered with wild violets and primule.
Eventually the trail deviates from the road and heads uphill to the left. After much moderate climbing you reach old houses and buildings in a meadow called casera Gravena at 470 meters. There were dozens of bee hives- I'll have to look for this honey at the market. On several trees Attenti al Cane! signs warned of a vicious-looking pastore tedesco with blood dripping from enormous canines. I anticipated grabbing my dogs to save them from the beast. A 3 or 4 kilo fluffy back and white terrier ran out yapping. What a relief!
The trail went right through the property- I walked by two men, one on a ladder sledgehammering a rough-hewn tree limb post into the ground while the other held it straight. I said Bon di! and they replied, so I guess I wasn't trespassing. I'd rather not displease a man holding a 10 kilo sledge over my head. The trail now comes to a dirt road. I missed a turn, so walked along the road for a couple hundred meters to a sign warning Sparo Mine! with blast times. So I turned around and was more careful, finding the unmarked narrow path turning steeply up the wooded slope. It was maybe a 30% grade, and I was grateful for my pups tugging with all their might to keep me from tipping over backwards. It kept on like this for quiet a while, finally breaking into the alpine grass and heather near an angle-iron crucifix.
We rested a bit then continued up the meadow to the chiesetta di San Lorenzo, a 13-century church. It's a lovely spot for a little church out here all alone, with a pretty alter inside. From there the ridge follows a series of whoopty-doos, each slightly higher than the last, so you keep thinking you've reached the top till you get there and there's another behind it. Finally it's the real one at 736 meters. You can go a bit further down slope to a wire marked Ciglio cava. It's a cliff several hundred feet more-or-less straight down, where they've chopped away half the mountain for crushed rock to make cement. Thank God they've stopped before the top and haven't destroyed the chiesetta.
I took some pictures of the fantastic 360º panorama. Monte Jouf above Maniago is to the west, then a few craggy dolomite peaks along the Cellina, Monte Raut, snowy Monte Rest to the northeast, down below Val Colvera, the top levels of Poffabro, the little village of Vals, past Meduno in the distance the castello di Toppo, on the plain, Fanna, Maniago, Montereale. Wow.
We headed back down. The pups were good about not pulling too hard- good thing as I'd probably have toppled down onto them. They got a special treat when we got home for being such great hiking companions.
Roman road
Further up the roman road
Crucifix in heather
Maniago, Piazza Roma
Chiesetta San Lorenzo, 13th century, near summit
The little campanile
Val Colvera
Monte Raut
Wild primule
Wild violets

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