Via Dinarica Week 2! Entering Croatia.

Walking on a route in this Eastern European region makes for quite a lot to talk about, so let’s jump right in.

Day8 – Snežnik Castle to Mašun-ish (10.7 trail miles + maybe 2 extra)

I feel like I’m going in circles.

It’s probably because I am!  Having connected the footsteps like a good thruhiker I once again caught the bus to as close to Snežnik Castle as I could get (the extra mile or two was getting from the bus stop to the castle) to continue in the general direction of Albania.


The castle was a very different scene without the hundreds of people, the stages, and the soaring melodies of clarinets, accordions, fiddles, drums, etc.  All that was left in evidence that I could see was flattened grass and a big burn pile in the middle of a field.


I didn’t stay for more than a few minutes and started out along the trail up the hill to the southwest.  After climbing switchbacks the trail leveled out into a network of logging roads in thick mixed forest.

In the late afternoon I paused for a snack and water break, as we do.  Satiated, I started walking again and not fifty feet further came to a large intersection of dirt tracks from multiple directions…


Playing in the intersection were two light brown bear cubs.  No mama.  I didn’t even think about taking a picture, survival instinct kicked in and I immediately clapped and yelled “Heybearhey!!!”  They stood up, surprised, then bolted into the trees.  I stood there clapping loudly and yelling for a couple minutes to make sure mama (wherever she was) knew I wasn’t following or any kind of threat, then continued rather nervously.


About three miles later I came across another bear, this one a young adult.  I did the same clap/yell routine, but besides a curious look and sniff in the air this one didn’t want to move.  After a couple minutes of yelling, begging, and pleading I finally persuaded it to slowly amble off into the trees.  (Sorry for the blurry picture, it’s a still from a video and considerably zoomed in.)

The cubs had distracted me and made me take a wrong turn at that intersection, but I met back up with the official route in Mašun, a tiny hamlet.  I still had some light left so I climbed higher towards a cave icon on my map.  Just as I was approaching it I heard loud rustling leaves and thought ‘shit, another bear?’ but this time is was a small pack of boar (apparently a group of boar is called a singular, weird.)  They scuttled off in a hurry though and I found a nice flat spot to pitch my tent for the evening.

Day9 – Mašun to Bele Vode (17.6 miles)

Over Snežnica summit, the highest point on trail in Slovenia.

The morning consisted of more cruising dirt track logging roads through the woods.  They do timber harvesting right here- not often does one see clear cuts but rather it seems to be selective thinning to maintain healthy forest.


I passed a cabin that was locked tight with a metal door and caged windows, the well was also locked.  Water accessibility is a major issue on this trail, so to see a lock on a well made me a little upset.  It turned out ok though, because 200ft down the road was another well in a meadow that was open and even had a haul bucket tied to the lid.

I sat for a while and sufficiently hydrated myself, then took a heavy 4 liters and began the 2,000ft 1.5mile climb to the summit of Snežnica,  the highest point on trail in Slovenia.  It was grueling and the final pitch was exposed and hot, but at the top was a manned shelter with cold beverages and delicious food.


I still had lots of light left so after a nice rest I shouldered my pack and descended the beautiful single track trail back down into the forest.

An enjoyable afternoon cruise led me to an unused hunting cabin on the map marked Bele Vode.  It had a welcome sign that read ‘Hlev Stiska’ which Google translates as ‘The Stable Is Tight’, whatever that means.


I watched the sunset color slowly building scaly, wispy clouds indicating rain.  Having that intuitive feeling, I slept under the awning of the cabin on the picnic table so that I wouldn’t have to pack a wet tent in the morning.

Day10 – Bele Vode to Tršće (16.7 miles)

Crossing into Croatia!

Sure enough, about 6am it started raining.  The falling water would come in waves, sometimes light sometimes deluge, and persisted for about three hours.  I hate hiking in the rain, I don’t know why but I just do.  So I sat there and thought about staying all day, but when it finally let up and the sun started burning through the clouds showing that beautiful blue, I knew it was time to ramble on.


I had just over five miles to the border crossing, all downhill, and it was a very enjoyable morning with the cool, clean air and the sunlight reflecting rainbows in the water droplets.


Then it was time to leave Slovenia.  The border crossing is a quiet one, I only saw a couple cars go through while I was there, and I was unfortunately there for a good while….

You see, the first thing they asked is “Where are you from?” and the second thing they asked is “Do you have marijuana?”  When I said no, because I honestly didn’t, they told me to put my pack on the table and proceeded to go through almost everything.  They also asked if I had lsd for some reason…  maybe the beard and long hair and general chill, friendly attitude make me a “hippy”.  Guilty there I guess, but they didn’t find anything more controversial in my bag than some pills (Asprin) and a pouch that “smelled good” according to one police officer, so I got my stamp and boogied on out of there.


And so I entered Croatia.  Immediately the trail turned up a hill, but there was no trail, just a bushwack, so I walked a nearby road and cruised on through a couple small villages eventually turning off the road onto a very overgrown “path” that followed a dry stream down to the border town of Čabar.

^The path is in there somewhere!

It was lunch time by then so I popped into the bar to see what kind of local fare I could find.  There were a couple friendly barflies in there, so we started the fun game of broken English and charades.  They insisted I try an iconic Croatian spirit called Travarica, a strong pure grape brandy infused with a variety of herbs.

Knowing I had a bit of climbing to do I excused myself and headed out.  The trail was supposed to be past the church in town, through the cemetery, and up a steep hill.  I couldn’t find it and didn’t feel like bushwacking a super steep hillside so I stayed on the road which added a little distance but was easier to handle.


After topping out I dropped into Tršće as storm clouds gathered.  I found my way to the Frbežari Mountain Hut and stepped onto the porch just as the storm broke open with large raindrops and a few flashbooms.

Day11 – Tršće (0 miles)

Like I said before, I hate hiking in the rain.

I woke in a comfortable bed to the sound of heavy rain.  I laid there for a while waiting for it to lighten up, but it didn’t so I decided to take a zero.  I spent most of the day at the local bar sipping coffee, trying regional beers and chatting up any locals willing to practice their English.  It was a peaceful and very unproductive day.

Day12 – Tršće to Crni Lug (18.4 miles)

Croatian hospitality and a long, hot day.

The air was cool and clean thanks to the recent rain, and the sun was shining so onward I went.  A short climb led to a church where I met a friendly Swiss French man and had a short conversation.

After a little descent and then a climb along a faint and very overgrown trail I emerged from the undergrowth into a little hamlet and a man with a couple young kids in a doorway asked if I wanted a beer.  I said “yeah!” and next thing I know I’m being given cookies, sandwiches, garden fresh tomatoes, and a homemade herbal spirit that was supposed to be like Jagermeister.  The family even packed me a box lunch with more bread, cheese, tomatoes, and some nectarines and pate!

So with a very fully loaded pack I headed out and dropped into a small section of Risnjak National Park to see the Izvor Kupe, a turquoise blue spring coming up out of a 400+ft deep limestone cavern.  There were an incredible amount of people, apparently being a holiday weekend, so I enjoyed my box lunch and got out of there.


Once I got past the parking lot I was all alone again, besides the infrequent car passing by.  2,000ft of gain later I emerged on a paved road and followed it to a campground on the edge of the National Park.  As the sun set I was invited to a small party of campers, mostly Croatian, and enjoyed beers, conversation I couldn’t understand, and laughter until it was time to retire for the night.

Day13 – Crni Lug to Fužine (20.1 miles)

National Park trails and the search for water.

I got a good start on the day and climbed the almost 3,000ft to the top of Veliki Risnjak through beautiful mixed forest and limestone outcroppings.

Near the summit is a mountain hut, but it’s been closed for a couple of years I guess.

I paused for a snack break, then continued down the other side of the mountain, first along a clear and well established trail with plaques describing local folklore then down a much less used trail to the valley below.


At this point I had left the national park and began another climb along overgrown jeep tracks and gravel roads to a highway that followed the crest of the ridge for a while.  The trail continued along the ridge but I chose to take a lower alternate following a dirt road at the base of the hill in search of water.


My search was in vain, every creek, stream and river bed was dry and cracked, a sign of the harsh drought that has affected mist of Europe this summer.

Eventually the road led to the Jazero Bajer, a large lake with the town of Fužine at the south end.  I followed a cycle path around the perimeter of the lake and arrived in town in time for dinner.  I had hoped to find a place for a desperately needed shower but it was a Croatian holiday and everywhere I asked for a room or a bed told me they were full.  So after it got dark I set up my tent behind the church.

Day14 – Fužine to Tuk Vojni (12.5 miles)

Rain, then sun, and a lot of road walking.

About 4am I was woken by the sound of thunder and didn’t get back to sleep due to the light show and the loud explosions as the storm unleashed buckets and buckets of rain.  About 8am it quit and the sun cut through the clouds, which meant it was time to go.


Looking at the map I guessed that the “trail” was likely not much of a trail, and with the recent rain bushwacking just didn’t seem like an enjoyable way to spend the day, so I decided to roadwalk my way around the hills to the next stopping point.

It turned out to be an okay choice,  I think, though I may never know what I missed up high.  The road didn’t have a lot of traffic and did pass a flowing fountain, apparently one of the oldest and most reliable in the region.


I also passed a very cool cave that apparently had been used by humans well over 3,000 years ago, evident by bone tools found during archeological digs in the last century.

The road walk apparently cut quite a few trail miles, because I ended up at my destination by 3pm.  This was fine because I was finally able to get a shower and a load of laundry in, and caught up with my writing.  Near dinner time another Via Dinarica hiker strolled in, so I may have a hiking buddy for a little while!  As we told stories and enjoyed Croatian BBQ the sunset put on quite a show, capping off another adventurous week on the Via Dinarica.

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Comments 4

  • David & Ann Wright : Aug 17th

    Following closely and marveled at the travels hither and yon. Not surprised by the drought and back here we are hearing more and more about that. It may be largely south of you, but it sounds troubling. Didn’t know they still had bears, but you are out there. Stay cool D Wright

  • David & Ann Wright : Aug 17th

    Following closely and marveled at the travels hither and yon. Not surprised by the drought and back here we are hearing more and more about that. It may be largely south of you, but it sounds troubling. Didn’t know they still had bears, but you are out there. Stay cool D Wright

    Can’t figure out how to submit, but hey.

  • Tom : Aug 19th

    Lovely meeting you on the trail!

    Glad to know I am not the only one hiking this thing and good that someone is sharing it all with the world!

    This trail definitely deserves some attention; Beautiful scenery, limited real road-walking (abandoned forestry roads with no traffic don’t count) and a population that doesn’t know tru-hiking but still acts like trail-angels (so much free food, beer and wine)

    Keep spreading the word on the Dinarica!


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