Alpe-Adria Trail Stage 19
Starting point: Gerlitzen Alpe, Austria
Ending point: Ossiach, Austria
Stage distance: 17.54 km / 10.89 mi
Total distance: 310.69 km / 193 mi
Stage time: 5 hours, 8 minutes
Average pace: 17:35 min / km
Alpe-Adria Trail Stage 20
Starting point: Ossiach, Austria
Ending point: Velden, Austria
Stage distance: 17.61 km / 10.94 mi
Total distance: 328.3 km / 203.94 mi
Stage time: 5 hours, 20 minutes
Average pace: 18:12 min / km
Alpe-Adria Trail Stage 21
Starting point: Velden, Austria
Ending point: Baumgartnerhöhe, Austria
Stage distance: 23.5 km / 14.6 mi
Total distance: 351.8 km / 218.54 mi
Stage time: 5 hours, 58 minutes
Average pace: 15:16 min / km
It’s nearly impossible to believe we have walked every day for three weeks. Tomorrow we cross into Slovenia, and our Alpe-Adria Trail thru-hike will be over — for now, anyway.
Walking through a forest path today, I thought about how many steps we’ve walked. Every day I look down at my feet and think about how I did this exact same thing the day before. And while some days on the Alpe-Adria Trail have been similar, they’ve all also been different.
There are three things that are the same every single day, though: Care for our bodies, communication with each other, and cows. Always cows. (I admit, I’m becoming increasingly fond of their company.)
In comparison to many previous days, stages 19, 20, and 21 were not particularly grueling. In other words, a welcome change.
We spent most of stage 19 dropping in elevation to Ossiach, a bland, touristy town. The walk down, however, was pleasant. There was a bit of sculpture art sprinkled near Gerlitzen Alpe. Along the walk, soft moss forest landscapes looked like something out of a fairy tale. The trail led through a marshy conservation area, where we spent time watching a baby swan skimming greenery off of the lake’s surface.
On the morning of stage 20, we awoke in Ossiach to a miserable rain and the prospect of a steep climb up a ravine. Cory and I are seasoned hikers, but we also know when we need to weigh potential safety issues into our calculations. We looked into a possible alternative route, discussed the climb and weather conditions with hotel staff, and decided to stay on the trail. In actuality, we just needed to take our time and pay careful attention as we climbed slick stones up the ravine, covering 300 meters of elevation in less than a kilometer.
We made the right decision. The rain stopped shortly after we started climbing, and a lovely mist settled into the ravine as we scrambled right up next to a waterfall. There were some stairs and bridges built into the climb, but for the most part, it was sweat and muscle powering us up the incline. And, we saw two fire salamanders while hiking, which was really spectacular.
What a climb … and what an exhilarating experience. I’m glad we seriously discussed whether to make the ascent, but I’m thrilled we decided to go for it.
Stage 21 led us through several small lakeside holiday towns strung together by forest path. I still greatly enjoy walking through the tiny towns, with their carved water spigots, backyard chickens, and families eating brunch on their backyard terraces. I don’t care for walking through the bigger towns nearly as much. Navigating street crossings, clueless tourists, and unwieldy signage is a bit more than I want to deal with. Unfortunately, we had to deal with a bit of the latter during stage 21, but there were a few final opportunities to appreciate the former as well. Our lunch stop for the day, at a bench in a town called Bogenfeld, was a particular treat.
And then, in a full blanket of humidity, we began our final climb in Austria. We passed by the ruins of Finkenstein Castle and then on a bit further to our accommodations, which look back into the valley, encompassing the ruins and the lakes we’ve been skirting for the last couple of days.
On the other side of the accommodations, we look up. Up toward a steep hill we’ll climb in the morning, a ridge line we’ll walk mid-day, and a summit we’ll cross into Slovenia before stage 22 and our Alpe-Adria Trail hike is over.