Hiking the Dolomites: Day 3-Alpe di Siusi

Nudged by the jingle of chimes and the alpenglow, I stretched my achy body. It was check-out day, and my luggage needed to be outside the door by 8:30. Of course, I needed an espresso to get into gear!

Breakfast conversation revolved around the previous night’s over-hyped Dinner at Martha’s Farm House. It turned out we were all looking forward to this one-of-a-kind gastronomic event; however, perception and reality didn’t go hand in hand; and I was relieved to hear others felt the same.

Word floated around the dining room that more people were not feeling well. And Courtney and Liz continued drinking brewed vitamin-packed tea.

Casey opened the route rap with, “Great things happen when man meets the mountains.” She talked about Reinhold Mesmer, the first alpine-style climber to stand on all the world’s 14 peaks over 26,000 feet high. “He remains the only person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, alone, without oxygen,” said Casey.

“Today, we’re heading to Alpe di Siusi (12,800 acres), Europe’s highest-altitude alpine pasture. The larch forest is sprouting golden hues, and witches are everywhere. We have a 30-minute transfer to Ortisei, a bustling center of cable cars, chairlifts, and gondola rides to the Alpe di Siusi. Ortisei is an international center of woodcarving.

Stop if you are not feeling well, and I’ll arrange for you to get to the hotel, and one more item; Dinner is on your own tonight,” Said Casey. It was music to my ears!

Ortisei (Elevation-4,055’) to Alpe di Siusi Mountain Station/Compatsch (Elevation-6,070’)

Paradise from the chairlift! It reminded me of watching Bonanza with my brother. It was mesmerizing and I envisioned Stagecoaches crisscrossing one another on the alpine pastures of the high-mountain plateau. Hues of gold were spying from the larched forest.

We touched down at the protected area of the plateau and headed east.

A relatively easy trail named after Hans and Paula Steger, two South Tyrolean Alpine skiing legends and serious mountain climbers, led us through the larched forest where tales of sorcery and witchcraft circulate. Before Christianity, the Sciliar’ witches’ were local women who used herbs to cure illnesses and carried out rituals for a good harvest.

“The Good Witch Martha: Martha loves children and Mother Nature. She was sitting on a bench, protecting her baits. Martha can perform feats of magic and turn into a squirrel. Because she is a witch, she sometimes looks a little evil. But deep down inside, she really means the best and wants to hurt no one. There’s no need to be afraid of her. Witch Martha doesn’t live directly in the forest, but it’s nevertheless her home. In her leisure hours, she wanders through woods and breathes in the good, fresh air, and talks to the flowers, the birds, and the animals she meets. She experiences the beauty of the forest, and that is perhaps one of her magic qualities.” (seiseralm.it: Wild folk and witches-Legends of the Dolomites).

From the middle ages onwards, witches have been persecuted, and some of them met a horrific death. Their harmless rituals were believed to be evidence of pacts with Satan. However, the witch trials of the 16th century didn’t put an end to the stories of witches and spirits.

The Witch’s Curse: “A story still told Today in Alpe di Siusi is the tale of a local man named Hansel, who once shot a witch with his rifle. Hansel and his wife were simple farmers who lived in a mountain hut on the plateau. One day, while performing their daily chores, an eerie silence fell on the land, and a dreadfulness filled the air. They noticed a heathen’s shadow sweep across the sky.

Hansel grabbed his rifle, blessed it with Holy Water, and fired at the witch. The bullet knocked the witch off her broom, and she thundered to the ground. When Hansel approached the dead witch, the sight of her hideousness cursed him until his death.” (throneandvine.com)

The forest path opened up to blue sky, and native coachmen with their horses and carriage were waiting for tourists to partake in their hospitality. We stayed the course and trekked across lush alpine meadows to Saltria, a small village with some alpine huts.

Saltria to Hotel Cendaves, Monte Pana (Elevation: 5,413’)

The next four miles of wooded terrain, open alpine pastures and scenes of major Sassolungo summits were breathtaking.

We reached the Hotel Cendevaves with growling stomachs and sensed a lack of organization. No receptionist, so we grabbed tables that offered views. We had been spoiled the previous two days and needed to adjust our expectations! Menus and carafes of water arrived. Daniel sat next to me. He sneezed, sweated, and shivered for most of the lunch. I was comforted when he told me Casey arranged for him to get to the hotel.

The food and service were average. As a side note: it felt as though the hotel management forgot they had a reservation for our group.

No gelato, so Jimmy, Julie, Jodi and I decided to self-guide to Hotel Alpenroyal, our home for the night. Self-guide might be stretching it because we had a GPS! Everyone else shuttled to the hotel.

Monte Pana to Selva Val Gardena (Elevation 5,130’-Alpenroyal Grand Hotel)

It was worth walking on the dirt paths and sidewalks into the charming town of Santa Christina because we found our Gelato at Crema & Cioccolato! We sat and talked how several people in the group were not feeling well, so each of us drank a large bottle of water with the hope of flushing harmful bacteria out of our systems. We checked GPS to find out the hotel was nearby. Weaving our way out of town, and with it being late September, the high-end shops were stocking up on winter sports equipment. Fortunately, we were too tired to be enticed.

We arrived at the spacious hotel, and the receptionist handed each of us an envelope, “A bellman will escort you to your room.” I was relieved because the hotel was so vast, and I had a treatment scheduled at the Spa.

I did my best in saying to the bellman, “I have an appointment at the spa I need to get to, and my luggage is in the room,” I felt he didn’t have much command when it came to the English language.

He pointed out the restaurants, gym, and gift shop. Once we were in the guestroom, he started showing me all the hi-tech amenities related to the lights, locking the door, television, opening, and closing curtains, and asked if I needed ice. I didn’t give him a chance to finish the dog and pony show because I needed to be at the Spa in 10 minutes. I suspected he wanted to up his tip even though he knew Backroads had taken care of it upfront.

Well, what a disappointment. The first five minutes of the massage, I thought the masseuse was warming up. Then I interrupted her and asked for more pressure. Oops, I sensed the language barrier! Rather than making a fuss, I told myself to be still and enjoy what I can.

I left the Spa with a head full of resentments. When I reserved the treatment, I clicked on deep tissue massage. When I entered the Spa, the receptionist confirmed it. I resented the bellman because he took up so much of my time. I resented I rushed to be on time for the treatment. Finally, I just resented myself for resenting everyone else. I wanted to go back to my room and get under the covers and read a book.

I ran into Jodi outside the Spa entrance and confirmed we would see one another at dinner. She was on her way to a massage, and I said, “I hope you don’t end up with the same masseuse I had.” We chuckled!

I soaked in the tub, took a long shower and wrapped myself in a soft, fluffy robe. Courtney called and said Jodi and Tolly were upgraded to a suite and asked if I would be interested in having dinner there instead of going out to a restaurant. “I’m in,” I said.

“Tolly will take care of ordering dinner so text her what you want.” It had been a long day and knowing I didn’t have to get dressed to go out to a restaurant, made me feel energized!

I grabbed a couple bottles of sparkling water, a can of peanuts and walked down the hall to dinner! The five of us sat around and talked about the day. Once we reached Compatsch Courtney and Liz decided to hike a higher elevation route. It was the Compatsch to Monte Seura route with lunch at the Rifugio Vicenza. Unlike the other huts Rifugio Vicenza was embedded into a cliff. The owners welcomed everyone and the food was delicious tyrolean fare. We shared our experience at the Hotel Cendevaves was not what we anticipated. It turned out Jodi was disappointed in the massage. We concluded we had the same masseuse.

Room service from Hotel Alpenroyal was punctual, efficient and hospitable. Our dinners were set up buffet style and a smorgasbord it was! We felt so lucky to have one another and talked about our sixth sense and getting together for a reunion. As a side note: Jodi and Tolly arranged a trunk show, in their hometown of Denver for Liz, founder of J&L Tweed. Jodi and her daughter visited Liz in Jackson Hole during the pandemic and their daughters have friends in common!

As I think back on our dinner it confirmed new friendships and how special is that when being 67 years young. I returned to my room and in no time I fell into lala land.

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Tara Shannon

I am a wife, sister, reader, outdoor enthusiast, and quiet. I enjoy writing because I need clarity in my life.