Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 1: Panoramaweg (Abort, Abort!)

21 July, 2018: this will probably be the shortest post on this site.

After several days exploring Brixen, we were excited to put our rental car to use and head out hiking in the mountains. We (mostly Alex; credit where it’s due) had researched multiple options, and decided to start off with a moderate day hike from a nearby village.

The day started nicely; it was a bit cloudy, but not raining — not too hot to hike, with some nice mists on the mountaintops. We packed up our backpacks the night before, had a quick breakfast in the morning, and headed out.

After an idyllic drive along a winding mountain road, we reached the village of Lüsen and found parking near the trailhead. We had planned to do the Panoramaweg trail, a 7-kilometer circular hike with lovely views. It started well; a nice walk along a stream near the charming little village, past shrines for the stations of the cross (apparently there’s a little pilgrimage trail here as well). After a half hour or so, we left the stream and headed uphill along a road. About fifteen minutes later we left the paved road and struck off on a slightly-overgrown trail, and that’s when the day took a turn.

Almost immediately, we were absolutely mobbed by some of the most persistent flying creatures I’ve ever encountered. I don’t know what they were, and they didn’t seem to bite, but they were the size of large flies, beetle-like, black, and everywhere. They surrounded us in a cloud and landed and clung on so that we had to shake them off, and it was awful.

I had some strong insect spray in my backpack, so as soon as they started I took it out and sprayed us both liberally, but it didn’t seem to deter them in the slightest. Then we decided to just keep moving, in hopes that they were isolated to this particular part of the trail (which seemed reasonable, since they had appeared so suddenly). After we got through the thick part of the woods they diminished a bit, and I was feeling hopeful… but then we had to cross a huge meadow, with grass about knee-high. As you might expect, the meadow was filled with these creatures. I toughed it out for about 50 yards, walking more and more quickly, but then I broke and ran full-speed for the nearest road.

Even the road wasn’t entirely free of them — they seemed to have been disturbed by our presence and determined to exact revenge by following us wherever we went. After ten minutes or so on the pavement, though, they dissipated enough to be tolerable, and I got my courage up to continue the hike.

The respite of the road only lasted a short while, though, before the trail reappeared off to the right. Alex bravely went on ahead to see if this part of the trail might be better, but he returned quickly, pursued by a cloud of the bugs. After that we decided to abandon the hike and return to the village via the road.

The whole adventure lasted about an hour and a half, and I took a total of four pictures — one of the village at the start, and three from the road on the way back. It wasn’t an auspicious start to our hiking adventures, but aside from the bugs, the nature was beautiful! Luckily, we never saw bugs like these again, so the rest of our hikes were much more successful. More on those soon!

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