In late August, just before the kids started school, we went hiking in the Dolomites. We wanted to hike there ever since my uncle Larry showed us photos and paintings he had made of the area. In case you are not familiar with these mountains, they are basically a range of sheer limestone peaks forming huge vertical walls rising straight up from the ground. They are a sight to behold.

Since the idea of hiking hut to hut has always intrigued me, we decided to give it a shot. The Dolomites are home to dozens of tiny hotels, or Rifugios, often situated with a dramatic view. You can eat, sleep, and perhaps most importantly, purchase beer and grappa at these huts, which means, that with good planning, it is possible to hike for days with nothing more than a large day pack and a fat wallet.

Most everyone there speaks both German and Italian, so language did not present much challenge. On our second of our two hikes, we were able to see the mixing of cultures rather vividly in the trenches and fortifications that the Italians used to (unsuccessfully) prevent the Germans from invading and burning Seston during WWI. Some of the peaks are riddled with tunnels bored into the limestone that offer commanding views of the passes and valleys below. Barbed wire still litters the landscape.

I’ve mapped out our routes in Google Earth, (which was a bit of a trial, I’m afraid to say) so you can see where we went. You can view these hikes in Google Maps if you wish, but if you have Google Earth installed, use it, and the experience will be vastly superior. (And if you don’t have it, and have a broadband Internet connection, get it. Google Earth is a very cool program.) With Google Earth, you can get a much better sense of the terrain, of the sheer verticalness of the place. I’ve included links for both below.

We did two hikes, a longer 4 day hike, followed by a more modest 2 day hike. When you are viewing these, please keep in mind that we had to scale back our most ambitious plans because Thomas and Ian (7 & 5) were with us. Were we alone, we might not have limited ourselves to mere 8 hour days ;-)

We started with a modest 4 day hike:
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Click to view this in Google Earth or in Google maps

And followed up with a short 2-day jaunt:
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Click to view this in Google Earth or in Google maps