Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.John Muir
Independence can be as simple as mountains, markers and meadows. And a rocky trail. I’m far from a Ludite, I love gadgets, and use them on a daily basis. But there is something wonderful in leaving technology at home or in my pocket and using map. Exploring the contoured lines for steep and easy gradients, picking out features, like lakes, towns, crags, and streams that help me follow a less clearly marked trail.
Corvara for me will always be the Maratona dles Dolomites. A European cycling classic. While not long in distance, it’s only 138km, it’s tall on height, 4,200m of altitude gain. It crosses several cols that offer their own challenges as well as stunning views.
This includes the infamous Passo Giau which silences many cyclists, even the normally very chatty Italian locals. It’s an event I’ve ridden many times and the reason I was first introduced to the Italian Dolomites.
But the Dolomites are more than smooth bitumen, nationally televised cycling events and challenging bike climbs. The region is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. And the whole area is criss-crossed with hiking trails that take hikers over high mountain passes, beneath tall forests and across lush summer meadows.
Normally I spend 5-6 days in Corvara and it’s all about the cycling. But for once I wanted to explore on foot. And above Corvara is the commanding site of Sassongher, looking down over the town, somewhat protectively. I wanted to see what this peak looked like from the rear.
With map in hand I followed sign posts up a trail that followed a gulley. The route was numbered and the well trodden trail lead me up me up through a mixture of terrain and ecosystems that can be found throughout the Dolomites.
But the one constant was the red and white splashes of paint that mark the designated local and national trails, even when no obvious path exists.
Climbing higher affords stunning views of distant peaks and nearby valleys, but pause on the trails and splashes of colour appear beneath tall open pine forests, amongst high summer meadows, and in amongst barren rocky outcrops.
The red and white colours of the trail markers lead me into another world: where the colours of the rainbow weren’t found by looking up.