Hiking: two days with sandstone

I have taken a disgustingly smart approach to taking my main vacation: June, before the school holidays, when the hills aren’t as crowded. 2021 is still a bit unpredictable, so I was changing my plans a lot during April and May…

Note: Image-heavy post.

When the COVID restrictions began to loosen, my original idea was to go for a 5-day stay somewhere. But the situation was still quite unclear about what kind of tests and how far in advance would be needed, so I decided to drop that plan and go for one-day return trips instead. However, there are several reconstruction works ongoing on both the main railroad and some of the branches, which meant I couldn’t just re-use the schedule from two years ago. The good part is that it, with some adjustments, still works this year, though there was much less room for error. Thus, I had to have a couple of alternatives prepared.

The weather seemed to be more than cooperative, so I took the first trip on 1st.

Entrance to the Valdštejn Castle

However, visibility range wasn’t that great, something I saw as soon as I reached the first lookout, so I continued towards the ruins of Valdštejn castle (though the whole area isn’t just ruins – the newer chateau is in decent condition).

The hind part – the ruined castle built on a rock outcropping

The very end of the castle area is a decent lookout, though the vegetation doesn’t allow a direct sight of many of the surrounding rock formations.

Entrance bridge

The trail then continued on the outskirts of the reserve towards a small pond, where I took a different trail, deeper into the core area.

From there on, the trail weaved up and down between individual rock formations. I was surprised to see that I was doing quite well, considering the long break and slow start because of the spring lockdown – this was pretty much the first couple of hikes (including the warm-up hike on 29th, which I may cover in a later post) since February when I wasn’t on flat terrain.

Also, the genius of my timing was visible – while there were some people around, most of them were older people in retirement as the majority of people takes their vacation in July and August (overlapping with school holidays). Thus, June is a cood combination of decent weather (apart from you, 2020) and convenience (trains and trails aren’t crowded).

After a couple of “bounces”, I reached the first overlook. From there, I switched trails a bit more, which brought me right above the trail I used to ascend so I could see the same spires from above now.

Eventually, the last overlook provided a sight of the Hrubá Skála chateau, and the ruins of Trosky castle in the distance (which, literally, means ‘ruins’ in my language, very imaginative).

Ruins of ‘Trosky’ castle in the distance (the two towers)…

From there, I took a trail leading me around the mentioned chateau down towards a valley with several ponds, and then up towards the mentioned ruins.

…and from ~1km.

As I visited the ruins (including a trip of the torture chambers exposition) a couple years before, I took a trail that passes just below the ruins, and turned towards one of the nearby villages. There was another smaller set of rock formations, overgrown by pine woods.

And, from there, to the train station. The journey home went better than expected but I still decided to take two days break rather than one, as I was slightly stiff. And I also wanted to get some good sleep, because this trip had me get up at 3:15 and I knew I’d be repeating it for the next one.

The second hike had a slight advantage: it was the nearer part of the area, so I was leaving the train some 30 minute earlier, and would be, likewise, boarding it 30 minutes later – giving me an extra hour compared to the first one.

After an hour of light walk from the train station, I was nearing the outskirts of the reserve. Instead of heading for the central part, I took the outer trail to reach the main area from the side. All the way to the first spire, it was relatively a smooth walk without any steep portions.

A sphinx-like rock formation

Then, down from the lookout and finally towards the “checkpoint” to buy a ticket for the inner-most part of the reserve. I have, as I tend to, walked this in a different order than the vast majority of people, taking a side trail first, stopping at one of the restaurants to grab an ice cream, and then finishing the first loop to head to the main crossroad.

The crossing is in the valley between two rows of spires. The way I took the first loop meant a quick ascension between the spires on quite a worn-down path, across a set of lookouts.

Just before the crossroads

From the first lookout, I could see down towards the “split”, including a hint of one of the trails on the opposite side.

A look across the valley…

The trail then weaved up and down between the rock formations, often in quite narrow gaps (by the tables around, the narrowest point is ~40cm “wide”). Worse, these gaps were often in the middle of an ascension, so I just squeezed through and hoped my backpack will fit through (it’s somewhere around 40cm wide).

Right up there, through the gap…

Finishing the first loop meant then descending down back to the valley. Many of the spires were occupied by climbers – so I wasn’t the only one deciding to take my vacation in late spring instead of summer.

A look toward a side footpath open only to registered climbers with permit.

The first lookout at the second loop provided a look back at the Trosky ruins, though from the opposite side than the first hike, with some other hills in the background.

After that, there were two more lookouts.

After that, I turned towards the second entrance and left the reserve, heading towards the nearby town, though I took a slight detour across two more lookouts and one more ruin – which was so thoroughly ruined and overgrown there was no hint of anything actually standing there before.

Given the time constraints of both journeys (mostly the distance from home, almost 400km), they were quite the passing visits, but I took it as a quick surveillance. I definitely plan to return there in a few years for a week-long stay to enjoy the scenery more and visit some other parts of the area, which were too far to reach during an one-day trip.

Well, that’s my first taste of summer, as fas as weather was concerned during those two days. After the lockdowns and then bad weather, I’m glad I could get out, and I hope to use the second week of my holiday for a bit more travel, though I plan to take that light. I hope the weather is treating you well these days, and that you’ll enjoy some good time outside as well.

See you soon.

4 thoughts on “Hiking: two days with sandstone

  1. Pingback: Hiking: Refreshing rain showers | Tomas - the wandering dreamer

  2. Pingback: 2021 retrospective: hiking (mis-)adventures | Tomas - the wandering dreamer

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