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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

June 11

June 11th, 2016

June 11
Isone to Lugano 23 km

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A word about the Restaurante Vedeggio in Isone. I have met so many friendly accommodating people on my walkabout, but Daniela and her staff were amazing. The restaurant was full of Isone soldiers (there is a base there) and some locals, but they made every effort to make me comfortable. They kept bringing meatballs on toothpicks, bread with cheese, ham, sardines. They made a special main meal of pasta, pesto, cheese and vegetables. Very plain but delicious. They asked if I wanted dessert and when I said no, she brought out a local cake– sort of a light brownie with peanuts– the cook had just made. It was all repeated at breakfast–just one of those times when the place was just a good place to be. It even made the morning walk out in the rain positive. Sorry to say that mood only lasted until the trail decided to cut up through an unmowed (hip high) soaking wet pasture. Not the best way to start a trek. After a pretty squishy hour or so, I found myself up on a ridge in a beech forest looking down on the clouds in the valley. I stopped cussing the trail builders when they settled into transverse path– the kind Bennett and I call “Shenandoah.” It was most of the way up the ridge and ran level horizontally. Like in the Virginia Shenadoahs, it would follow the ridge into the gorges where the freshets, full from last night’s rain, crossed the path filling it with rushing water. A little dance across the stones and once again, the path circumscribed a long level loop to the next water. Late morning those loops brought me closer to the gunshots I heard earlier in the day. My initial assumption was there were hunters nearby. It was Saturday and the sportsmen were out. As the shots intensified, I thought perhaps there were some military maneuvers going on, which prompted me to get out the ugly hat. When I started New Zealand’s Te Araroa, I bought a kiwi bush hat. Oilskin, broad brimmed, perfect for the rain I experienced daily. When I didn’t need to wear it (it was hot), I would hook it to a carabiner on my backpack. One day while descending through some dense gorse, it was stripped off. I only missed it later in the day, too late to try to retrieve it. The next day I found myself in a town with a sport store and bought a running hat– very light, cool, and dried fast. It was the perfect hat, so the very next day, while crossing a farm I was not supposed to be on, I climbed a ridge and was hit full force with some of that New Zealand wind. I tucked my new perfect hat into my belt and hastily descended to get out of the wind and away from the trespass I was committing. On arriving in town, I discovered that new hat was now gone–not even 24 hours use out of it. The town had a sports store, actually a hunting store, which sold ugly hats. They are well-made and functional. The fabric is light and breathes, and the bill is split symmetrically so it easily folds and fits into a back pocket. The problem is that it is a bright blue camo pattern. Without doubt the ugliest hat I’ve ever seen (unless you are a fan of “Duck Dynasty”). The owner pushed a bit, noting that I was entering into a hunting district and needed high visibility (I did encounter many hunters on both islands). I bought it, probably on the assumption that I would soon lose it like all the others. Well, today (7 months later) I could still pull out the ugly hat, placing it squarely on my head so the trigger happy gun owners just down the ridge would, I hope, see me. Before long, the American in the blue camo hat passed the shooting club where dozens of breached shotguns lay on tables while the members opened boxes of more shells. In another 100 yards, the hat returned to my pocket. As the day progressed the path moved inexorably closer to Lugano. The ridges soon had what were clearly weekend homes, but the trail also worked its way through some amazing birch forests. It is not just the bark and shape of the trunks. The leaves of birch trees change the light of the forest in an indescribable way. Before long though, the path became sidewalk and the suburbs of the city. On gaining the main square I found some sort of rural, traditional dress/dance/sing/eat thing going on. Lots of very large people roaming the streets in almost incomprehensible clothing. The dancing and the singing were fascinating, but as the afternoon wore on, so did the beer. Nothing like a drunken 18th century cosplay crowd. Of course everyone’s good humor was also stoked by Switzerland winning their first round of the Euro cup. Lugano, the city is how I remember from visiting many years ago. Now to plot out the end of the Trans-Swiss Trail.

T. Hugh Crawford

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