Thursday July 18
After breakfast, and waiting to leave, we were entertained by some donkey sex in the next door paddock. A male and female donkey with what was clearly their offspring were gamboling about in the field. Every now and then, the female would back up invitingly to the male and make yawning motions with her mouth. He was not slow to take the hint, and mounted her from behind, taking care to make sure she stayed still by biting her firmly on the nape of her neck. This didn't stop her giving him a good wallop with her hind legs as she disengaged after, (as Sheldon would say), coitus was complete. This made for an entertaining start to the day.
Back to the hiking and we drove down another long and gravely track and parked before crossing a small stream, stripping off and heading up the path which snaked steeply through the rocks and trees. This time our path kept crossing a wide forest road which served the Gasthof and farm buildings high above us out of sight. This would be useful later for those of us with aching knees and tired legs. As we ascended steadily we unavoidably leap-frogged with various other parties going the same way. Several families with young children, some single people and a few couples. Without exception we were regarded with some curiosity and always friendliness. There is something about meeting other people on a mountain path, where one feels a certain affinity with kindred spirits, people who are in this place to experience nature. And what better way than naked? Nudity crosses and breaks down so many boundaries between folk that many times words are not needed and just a wave and a friendly smile is sufficient.
After an hour and a half of ascent, the path began to level out and we emerged into a glorious valley with a lake nestling within it's arms. After a dutiful photo stop, we settled down with a good view of the lake, while several hardier members of the party descended into it's murky and icy mawl for what they insisted was a good dip. The rest of us sat around soaking up the stupendous view up and over the high forested slopes to the mountain ridges all around us. There was a trail which went all around the lake, and we had groups of people, and the occasional horse, come past smiling or chewing grass, as was their want. Conxita found yet another frog, which we, (being of modern naturalist inclination), photographed rather than flattened in a book, and released again. There was much jocularity in the water, and everyone came back looking most refreshed, (translate=cold).
After a while, we decided to move on, and the party split, some with tired legs from yesterdays' major hike who were going to reverse this mornings hike back to the cars, and some who would work our way across the hillside on the other side of the lake and descend via the main valley. The main group then, headed north and between the 2 summer mountain huts which were both serving as gasthofs and teeming with people. I have an unwritten rule which dictates that on tarmac and in or near gasthofs (and the like) we dress, and "near" is of course always open to interpretation, with a guide distance of perhaps 50-100 metres, (or yards for imperious folk). Our route wove between the huts at a slightly closer distance than I would have liked, but as no-one seemed to mind, and most of the clientele had already passed us naked on the trail, it seemed pointless to dress so through we went. Once on the other side, having survived several strange looks, we headed into the forest, and started to follow the easy path which traversed the hillside in a northerly direction.
The heat of the day was still with us, and I was beginning to regret not having gone for a dip, but I hate cold mountain water so the feeling didn't last long. The path ambled along, quietly following the contours of the hillside, not losing height, and occassionally gaining a little. It was on one of the latter gentle ascents that I hears mutterings from the rear and decided it might be a good idea to stop for a bite and a drink, and to soak up the view of the high ridges on the opposite side of the valley to us. Having rested, we set off again, with more of the same traversing trail meandering through the trees. We met several people on the small trail, but generally it was a quiet route.
At length we arrived at an enclave of small mountain huts beside the river as it cascaded down the main valley, and here we turned to follow it back down through the forest. We passed a large forestry lorry in the middle of the route, parked askew across the path and loading huge tree trunks on to it's articulated trailer. We nipped around the back of a pile of logs as the man was clearly not stopping for passing hikers, and continued the long trail down the easy valley and back to the car park, dressing as we approached the final 100m. We met the others where the 2 routes rejoined, and chatted a while before jumping back into our cars to return to the village. A little shopping and then dinner. We were supposed to all take turns to cook and clean up, as ours was a 'selbstversorgungshuette' (self-service hut), but it seemed that Pascal's wife Clarisse cooked nearly every night, and was ably helped by a dynamic mix of whoever else was interested at the time. This usually included Vittorio, our Italian librarian who had a penchant for creating good food. We may have lost a little weight during the week, but it certainly wasn't because we were going hungry.