Lessons learned and summary:
  1. There are bears in the Dolomites!
  2. The most stunning stage of the trail
  3. Rifugio Fuciade and other rifugios/villages on this stage

In the middle of the night I’m suddenly roused from my deep sleep by a sound….a sound of a crunching rock and falling stones. I’m half asleep but I’m realizing that the sound comes from a real world…not the dreamy one. An unwanted image pops into my head – a huge stone rolling towards our tent. Given the presence of the rocks all around us on the meadow we are camping at, it doesn’t seem impossible…yet highly unlikely. No matter how hard I try, logic doesn’t help here. My heart starts pounding like if it was going to jump out of my chest. Adrenaline rushes through my veins, blood pumps into my head, temples start pulsating. I’m fully awake now….breathing heavily, listening carefully into the dark. Nothing….Nothing but silence and Thomas’s regular and calm puffs. He unlike me didn’t wake up at all.

Adrenaline shock keeps me up for a while but over time I calm down and begin to snooze again. Suddenly another sound rouses me from a shallow sleep…A strange deep moan of an animal. “Probably a deer” I tell to myself and fall asleep with that thought on my mind.

I wake up again. It’s still a deep night. Thomas is breathing slowly next to me. The moaning resounds again. It sounds threateningly and timorously at the same time. “What a persistent deer…he’s probably angry that we occupy his meadow“, I contemplate drowsily. l keep falling into a light sleep and waking up again. Nodding and awakening while the animal sounds keep reaching my ears…incessantly. It’s starting to be a bit unsettling and it makes me nervous. Judging based on the direction from which the sounds come, it appears that the animal is somewhere below us – down the hill. It seems to me that it moves in half-circles. Luckily it keeps a decent distance…that’s the only reason I’m still not panicking. Otherwise I would have waken Thomas up already some time ago.

In the morning, I recap and recount the whole night’s experience to Thomas. He has no clue whatsover, he slept away everything…the falling rocks and the animal. I’m searching Youtube for some videos with deer sounds as I can’t get rid of a niggling doubt at the back of my mind. What I find is no close to what I’ve heard during the night…

Damn! Thomas, I think it was a bear“….”A bear?! Oh, yeah…definitely…”, laughs Thomas. “Yes!”, I nodd. “Come on, you’ve heard some kind of a squirrel and I can already see you telling everyone that you’ve heard a bear“, he continues ironically. “Haha…Well, I’m not sure but I can tell you one thing….it was NO DEER“. I’m trying to search for an information about the presence of bears in the Domolites. I remember encountering a discussion on this topic on Tripadviser during our preparations for the trek. An alleged resident of Dolomites was affirming everyone that there are no bears in the Dolomites. That made me tick off an imaginary point in my mind and move on to another topic. It didn’t occur to me to do any deeper research. What for? Even if there were bears in the Dolomites, what are the chances that we would actually encounter one?

I find out on the internet that there indeed are bears in the Dolomites. Brown-bears to be exact. They were re-introduced here over the last couple of years and can be found mainly in the Trento province. I look at the map to see where exactly it is we are right now. A hot flash hits me. We are exactly at the border of Trento province! We crossed it yesterday. “It was a bear for sure!”, I burst out…a bit more certainly. “Yes, yes, for sure“, Thomas nodds his head disbelievingly.

Since the very morning, the hike is absolutely spectacular. The sun is shining and we’re crawling up a steep hill. We breathe in the crisp morning air and enjoy the views of the sun-soaked valley. We also see chamois jumping over the rocks below the Forca Rossa pass.

Very soon we are passing through a little settlement with few restaurants. We decide to stop for an early lunch in one of them – Rifugio Fuciade. While waiting for the food, we enjoy some Aperol Spritz and a beer on a shiny terrace. That’s awesome! I hope we do not smell too much. I definitely welcome the anti-covid measures (face masks and tables spacing) in this regard for the first time. But already with the second Aperol, I cease to worry about this. I feel a pleasing warm relaxing wave spreading through my body. That’s the alcohol…

We eat and drink and eat and drink unless there’s no space left for any more food or liquid in our stomachs. With the bellies completely full, we set off to climb another hill. The alcohol intoxication is quickly gone but the Bolognese ragu remains for a little while longer.

In the late afternoon we get to a plateau and walk on a wide dusty road. Horses graze at its side. We have one more climb to do for the day – an ascent to the crags from Tretino village. While we met almost no one throughout the day, we encounter several hikers in the evening.

Finding a good camping spot is hard again as we are surrounded by steep slopes. In the end, we nestle down at a small spot below a crest path. We watch a breath-taking sunset. A huge burning orange ball is sinking slowly behind the sharp mountain range. A pink color suffuses the sky. It’s one of the moments I want to grab, grave deep in my mind and save for harder times….

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