We road walk into Fuzine which turns out to be a cute little tourist town with a decent market and a cafe where we’re able to get a coffee and use the WiFi and power outlets. We stay for a few hours and then head back to the trail. On our way out of town we pass a group of men coming out of a church carrying giant flags. They stop to chat with us and tell us that one of them is a catholic priest and they are on a pilgrimage around Croatia and have been walking for 31 days. They snap a photo with us and we all wish each other luck on our respective journeys.
The trail takes us up to the top of another mountain and then to another walk along a forest road. We of course miss where the faintly marked trail leaves the road and have to backtrack about a 1/2 mile. The trail at one point becomes a mud-fest and we are barely able to walk, it’s so deep and soupy we’re sinking up to our shins and with every step our shoes nearly get pulled off. At first we’re pissed but there’s no way around it so we both just start cracking up about how ridiculous it is. We see a bunch of animal prints in the mud including some giant bear tracks with some impressive claws. Once we’re out of the mud I somehow manage to trip on a stick and do a nice faceplant and tear a good chunk of skin off my thumb. Then we lose the trail for a bit and I curse the Gorski Kotar until we finally make it to our campsite on the top of a hill near a ski lift just in time for a gorgeous sunset.
The next morning begins as a pleasant walk on forest roads through meadows and trees in a nature preserve. It’s an area famous for its columnar karst rock formations. We hear this section is stunning with great views. The route the Via Dinarica takes is an alternate “recommended only for experienced mountaineers.” There’s ways to go around it but we read other hiker’s comments and everyone says it’s “very challenging but rewarding.” We both feel up to the challenge, especially after our experience last year on the PCT going through the Sierras following a record snow year. Well, it was quite a bit more difficult than we expected…
We can tell it will be a lot of bouldering and rock scrambling due to the terrain, but we don’t expect it to be so terrifying. There are sections where we have to full-on rock climb but without any protective gear or ropes and don’t forget we have our heavy backpacks on. On a couple super sketchy sections there’s a cable for support and at one point a very rickety ladder bolted into the rocks, but neither make me feel any safer. Other sections have us balancing precariously on sharp rock edges where one slip or misstep will send you into a most likely deadly fall. And did I mentioned that it had just rained and it’s still kind of misting? The rocks are so slippery it’s sometimes impossible to get a good foothold. It is so hard to do with a pack on, not only because of the extra weight and balance issues, but also because there are a ton of super narrow areas we have to climb through where our packs just won’t fit. At one of the summits on the “trail” (I’m convinced some guy just went out with a bucket of paint and found a random route through, marking the trail as he went) there’s a log book. We find an entry from a fellow Via Dinarica hiker that reads “the guy who thought of this track should deserve a medal or a jail sentence…my god, someone hold me!” This cracks us up…our sentiments exactly. It’s one of those moments where there’s no turning back, either way is terrifying so you may as well just move forward. I’m reminded of when I ran my first half-marathon in Seattle and I passed an onlooker holding a sign that read “Do something every day that scares you.” This keeps flashing through my mind…I’m definitely doing something that scares me!
Well, we survive. We make it out and to a mountain hut that is closed but has picnic tables and a well with water. We set up camp and sleep soundly through the night while a rainstorm dumps on us—thoroughly exhausted but proud of ourselves for getting through it unscathed.
The next day is pretty uneventful in comparison. We have a long road walk on a highway, about 7 or 8 miles. We both plug in our earphones and listen to music. It’s super foggy and misting and I really enjoy the walk and just zoning out to some music.
We have lunch at another closed mountain hut, have a typical afternoon of losing the trail, fighting head-high bushes, climbing straight up to the top of a peak, losing the trail again, running into a herd of wild horses. Just a normal day of hiking in Croatia. The end of the day is magical and so, so beautiful. We walk a forest road that follows the coastline and we get stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. We’re taking some days off tomorrow to relax in Senj, a small town on the coast and we’re so excited! We camp just off a road and I sleep soundly even though the boars are creeping around again—I’m finally getting used to their sounds and they don’t scare me anymore.
In the morning we walk for about 5 miles to the main highway that leads into Senj. It’s a super curvy and busy road with lots of traffic and no shoulder with buses and semis whizzing by. We decide to try our first hitch. It takes a while but eventually a man picks us up and about 20 minutes later drops us off in town and we finally get to be on vacation for a few days and enjoy some relaxation, food, and the bright blue waters of the Adriatic—heaven.