A slovak mountain escape, part 2
aking up in a log house is not a new experience for either of us, but one that's 150 years old and surrounded by rolling meadows and mountains definitely is. And while waking up with a nice cup of coffee in the sun, we go over the plan for the next few days: First will be another lake called Zelene Pleso (Green Lake), then a "rest" day staying in Zdiar. Thursday will be the big one, Velke Biele Pleso (Big white Lake), and on the way home we would make a stop at Prosiecka Dolina (Dolina means Valley, Prosiec is the nearest village).
The easy hike first
So, Tuesday we packed lunch, cameras and dogs in the car and drove off. There are several ways of getting to Zelene Pleso, and we chose the easiest route. Mainly because none of us, dogs included, are really in hiking shape (the other routes all came from across mountains) and because of the heat. We drove to a spot called Biele Voda, which turned out to be a parking spot specifically for Zelene Pleso. We had to pay, as with many places in the Tatras, and 6 euros for the day wasn’t the worst. We also got to ask a bit about the trail, and were assured there would be water for the dogs along the route. The trail started off fairly dry, and we had to go slow and not let the dogs pull because of the heat, but after about half an hour we heard a river, just after entering the forest, and the dogs dove straight in as soon as they could. Along to the trail we encountered this river several times, so water both for us and the dogs was no problem.
The trail itself was a nice, wide, well-worn path going mostly through a forest of tall pine trees. The climb is fairly slow, with just one part where the trail goes a bit steep, but no more than a few hundred meters. It turned out to be a very popular hike, the parking lot was full of cars already when we came, and seeing as this trail was very easy to walk and follow, we were not really surprised. It took us about 1,5 hour to reach the lake, which is also what the trail guide said.
The lake definitely lives up to its name. Being a probable remnant from the Ice Age, the waters are crystal clear and the bottom made up of green-ish clay, and as it is situated in a natural bowl, the scenery is quite stunning to watch. There is also a “Chata”, or mountain cabin here, which provides both food and lodgings (fairly expensive though, as are all places like this). We opted for a short walk around the lake, and found a secluded spot to have a bit of lunch. All in all we spent maybe 1,5 hour up there, before kicking our legs back to life and heading down to the car again.
After getting back to the cabin, we both agreed that we were fairly out of hiking shape, and that a day of strolling around the village was probably a good idea.
A cow’s point of view
Waking up Wednesday morning was a bit more of a chore than usual, if we’re going to be honest. Even the dogs seemed to enjoy a bit of a longer shut-eye than usual, but with a view like the one from our bedroom window, it’s hard to stay in bed all day.
As mentioned in the previous post, Zdiar used to be a community mainly sustained by farming, something the massive meadows surrounding the village are testament to. We opted for a marked trail going into the hills above the village, of which there are numerous, and we found a parking spot next to a supermarket. The trail started out along a street with residential houses which soon appeared more and more scattered, and opened up to lead along a foresting trail. Upon starting this trail, we became even happier to be travelling with three huskies, as their seemingly endless amount of energy definitely helped with the climb. After a while of walking past a few cows and many examples of beautiful architecture, we ended up on a small hill with a bench, with one of the more stunning views we have ever witnessed.
The trail continued upwards, into the forest, but we decided to call it a day once we hit a junction. We were hoping for a higher viewpoint, but on the way down we came back to the bench from before for some more pictures, before we headed back to our quarters for some R&R in anticipation of Thursdays big outing.
The big one
Day three. Legs slightly worse than yesterday, but still functioning. The hike in front of us will be the longest so far, taking three hours one way. We pack a decent lunch, some snacks for the dogs, extra clothes and off we go! The lake we are headed to is called Velke Biele Pleso, and the trail we chose would start from a village called Tatranská Kotlina. Parking was free here, so that was a big plus, and the start of the trail showed promise as we passed a big stream. We slowly started climbing upwards, the trail being fairly steep the first 30-40 minutes. It was a warm day, so we spotted a few lizards along the way, and Stalpi almost stepped on a snake slithering across the trail. There was smaller green trees to begin with that soon gave way to bigger pine trees, and then we started regretting not bringing a water bottle for the dogs. The trail started following the side of a very steep valley, slowly meandering upwards. We could hear water down in the bottom, but no way to get there, so we kept walking slowly and with the dogs walking next to us. Luckily for us, after about an hour we hit a small stream where the dogs could have their fill and cool down a bit, and then help us for the rest of the walk. Another half hour in we came to another Mountain Lodge called Plesnivec, and had an impromptu rest as the dogs became local celebrities. Apparently there’s something about (our) huskies that makes people instantly want to say hi to them, as we had the same experience several times on the way up to Popradske Pleso on the first day of our trip, and the dogs seem to enjoy the attention as well. The short rest there was well needed, as the next leg of the journey started with a short trail up a near vertical hillside, before following another valley-side towards our goal. We were treated to a lovely view a few times through the trees as well, the trail was easy to follow, and the trees provided a good shade as well. At one point we came to a beautiful clearing where we managed to capture the header image. Further on we passed what was most definitely bear droppings, but having had a few people ahead of us on the trail we figured it was safe enough to continue. The bear was probably full already, plus we had our three mighty huskies! At this point we had cleared the valley we were following from the Mountain Lodge, and now we crossed the bottom of a small one before doing the final, short climb up to our goal for the day.
It may not be the most extravagant of lakes, but it was a nice turning point for us. Here, the dogs got to walk around for a bit in the water and cool down, before we sat down for lunch. The only displeasure was a pair of horseflies that stubbornly refused to be flattened, but otherwise it was a calm, relaxing place to be. The trail continues past the lake and towards Zelene Pleso, or it diverges off to a peak nearby. Walking the same path down again was slow, but steady, as we could definitely feel the past days in our legs, but after returning to the cabin for the last night in the Tatras, we both agreed that the trip had definitely been worth it so far.
The long road home
Last day of our stay, and boy does three days of hiking leave a mark. Not necessarily visible ones, but getting out of bed Friday was a slightly torturous experience. Even the dogs were quiet until absolutely necessary, relishing a bit of extra stretch this morning. We’d decided on a slow morning before starting the way home, which would include a stop at Prosiecka Dolina. Having looked at pictures from this place, we were excited to see it. The main features are a chasm which there’s a river running through, and a fairly spectacular waterfall. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do the entire trail even if we wanted, because parts of it has to be scaled via ladders and chains, and trying to carry the dogs up those would be futile. So, we settled for reaching the waterfall. Parking at the end of the nearest village of Prosiec, we paid 2 euro for the day and set off. Almost immediately we hit the chasm, which led to a rather humbling feeling as we walked through, marvelling at the slow, steady work of water throughout the centuries. There were aids built to get past, such as a small bridge and a chain to hold on to, and even for unused hikers this part was feasible to pass.
Continuing on through the valley, we were mostly following a dry riverbed. The walk was ever changing and somewhat more interesting than the others, because here the trail was almost untouched. Large trees in the way, weaving in and out of the river bed and the forest, but far from impossible to follow. We met almost no one else, and after about one hour we reached our goal. The waterfall is situated in a lovely natural bowl, with fresh, flowing water where the daring can even have a quick dip. There were two other couples there, but they soon left and we could enjoy the majesty alone and take all the pictures we wanted. And with that, we started the last leg of the journey, back home to our own beds. It was an uneventful drive, only hindered by a long wait in a queue because of Friday traffic, but eventually we made it. The places we have been were well worth the visit, and they are highly recommended to anyone like-minded. Just a word of warning to anyone thinking of going driving around this beautiful country: Many of the roads are narrow and twisty, and a good percentage of the drivers here are utterly insane. The public transport infrastructure is well built though, so anyone travelling without dogs will find it fairly easy to get around without a car. And with that word of advice, this trip has ended and we are looking forward to the next one.