Two Perfect December Hikes to Mt. Slavnik
December 21st, 2014 Perfect Springlike Day
The month of December has been unusually warm and with the warm days we have also had a lot of rain so have not been able to do any hiking. But this Sunday the sun is out and within ten minutes we are ready to shed the jackets. It is December 21st and the first day of Winter and I am hiking in shirt sleeves! The trail takes us through a mixed oak and beech forest and the ground has a thick covering of fallen leaves muffling our footsteps. The air is calm and still and the birds are chirping. As I am looking around I see a spot of bright yellow and then a few more. I stop and sure enough these are posy like groups of yellow primula nestled in their green leaves popping up through the layers of fallen leaves. Not only are there primula blooming but also bright green hellbores. The first flowers of spring and this is the first day of winter. They are effectively protected from the cold under this blanket of leaves but it is all a bit surreal – a perfect spring day in winter!
A bit of reality as we near the summit as there is quite an icy wind blowing and we need to don the tuques and jackets. This was the first Sunday all the month of December where the sun was shining and everyone was out to enjoy the day. A classic Sunday outing for Slovenians and Italians is to Mt Slavnik (Taiano in Italian) in Slovenia. From hikers to cyclists to horseback riders, the rifuggio is packed with people. The line-up for food is outside the door. Luckily for us, the capogita is patient enough to wait in line and we are able to enjoy a hot tea with our panini. The stone wall of the rifugio protects us somewhat from the wind and the sun actually feels warm as we eat outside with the view of the plains of Friuli on the horizon. On the hike down we can’t stop saying how lucky we have been to be able to be outside on this sunny December day.
December 26th Perfect Winter Day
Christmas week was grey and misty but the bora has blown in overnight and Santo Stefano – Boxing Day- is bright and sunny. We are headed back to Mt. Slavnik. I can see Mt Slavnik in the distance and as we get nearer I see the summit is white – a heavy frost I am told.
This trail starts at Skandanscica – a hamlet with a handful of carsic stone houses. The start of the hike is a gravel road set in a topography of undulating pastures on both sides.
Then we start to head uphill and there is a small amount of frost on the ground alongside the road. As we continue up into the forest the frost cover gets heavier. There is a white coating on all the grasses and stones. Further into the forest, all the branches of the small trees have a coating of white. Having a bit of experience in these matters, I tell the capogita that I strongly believe that this is snow and not frost. His answer is that there was no snow in the forecast and that the weather conditions were not conducive to snow! In fact, we don’t need our jackets as the sun is nice and warm and there is absolutely no wind.
The day is very still, the snow is heavy on the branches and with a clear blue sky it is nothing less than a perfect winter day. The air is crisp and clean and easy to breathe. I find myself thinking how much I miss this kind of winter day! While the moderate climate of Trieste, for the most part really agrees with me, the heavy humidity and the greyness of the past week left me missing the snow and I definitely found myself missing the White Christmas. Today however all around the ground is covered with snow. This has turned into a winter walk in the snow. It is a perfect sunny day and here I am hiking in December without a hat and no gloves!
We head out of the forest and the last part of the hike to reach the rifugio is across a bare field. Here the wind is always brisk and today is no exception. We don the windbreakers, tuques, and gloves for the last part of the climb to the rifugio. The wind is constant and icy. Today we eat indoors but head outside as soon as possible. With this crisp clean air you can see all the way to the Gulf of Trieste, to Friuli and the Alps and to Mt. Ucka in Croatia. We are in the snow in this winter wonderland but everything below us is a perfect fall day.
Every one agrees what a great surprise it was to find this snow that has made this a perfect winter hike.