When faced with the option of hiking or biking through the picturesque Sumava National Park, I took two main factors into consideration. Firstly, I felt hiking would provide the opportunity not only to familiarise myself with the countryside at a slower pace than biking, but also familiarise myself better with some of the members of the group I had not had the opportunity to so far. Secondly, and most importantly in my case, while I’m sure the saying “you never forget how to ride a bike” is sound advice, I was not willing to take the chance after not having done so in so many years! With the decision to hike taken, I set off with the others bright and early to the beautiful town of Stocec, 4km from ceske Zleby. Stozec, a former woodcutter settlement is the starting point for hiking to the Trojmezna and Tristolicnik mountains. This was the point at which the group split leaving over half the group to collect their bikes, and the rest of us to catch a train to Nove Udoli where we would begin our hike.
Before the hike, it was decided that the entire group would hike to a certain point together and on reaching this point those who felt fit enough would continue over Tristolicnik to the touch of the three state borders ( Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria) – Trojmezi. All together, the longer hike would be roughly around 30k. While some understood that this could possibly be too much, many others (myself included!) felt it was manageable. I’m not sure if everyone appreciated the hike, but from my own perspective the beauty of the surroundings and the company was amazing. After walking on the path for some kilometers, we stopped at one of the many monuments that have been restored in the Sumava. Joined by the bikers who had cycled from Stozec, we participated in one of the many group photo sessions before again going our separate ways. After walking on the path for another short while, we finally entered the forest area and began our upward descent. At this point in the hike we had separated into a few different groups as people with similar paces walked alongside one another. While I do not prize myself on being an exceptional biker, I love hiking so I did my best to stay with the leading group.
As the time pushed past, the clouds rolled in and about halfway up the peak, I felt the familiar Irish sensation of rain on my face. As most scrambled for their rain gear, we heard the not so welcome, or distant sound of thunder. Knowing, as any good student does, that where there’s thunder, there’s lightning, we decided to climb this hill as quickly as possible. However, unlike the weather in Ireland, the rain disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and it wasn’t long until we reached our destination. However difficult or easy the journey had felt to each hiker, I’m sure the view from the top made everything seem worth while. Personally, as I stood looking out with Germany and Austria in sight, I felt amazing.
After a short break, most of the group decided that they would not like to continue to the triple point, but to return to the camp. There were however a few of us who felt we had come too far, and were to close to stop now. So with a map in hand, Joke, Stef, Balint, Kristof and myself continued on to the three state borders. I can honestly say it was without a doubt the correct decision for me. As I had never set foot in Austria before, I decided to take full advantage of the situation. As we ate the last of our food and examined the map, we came to the conclusion that it would take almost the same time to travel back the way we had come, as it would to carry on to Plesne Lake and take an alternate route home. The added bonus of course being we would get the opportunity to see this beautiful glacial lake in the rock basin below Trojmezna Hill. The views at the lake did not disappoint us and after visiting for a while we decided it would be wise to continue. After leaving the lake it became clear to us that we would not be back at 7pm as we had told the group, but more than likely some time after 10. This would involve us covering around 20km in about four hours! We were not, however, only conscious of time, but of the amount of daylight left. With all this in mind we quickened our pace and settled into an amicable walk through the forest. As some of us had not had the opportunity to get to know one another, and we were such a small group, the walk provided us with the time to chat easily. With Joke and Stef a few hundred meters ahead, myself, Balint and
Christof stopped occassionally to look at different animals which Balint photographed expertly. As the sun began setting we maintained a steady pace, chatting and laughing easily.
By the time we reached Stozec, nightfall had arrived. While the hike had been exhilarating, the last four kilometers did test our endurance. Maybe it was the fact that psychologically we knew we were so close to home, but those last few kilometers in the dark were the quietest of the entire hike. Feeling the effects of both fatigue and hunger, all five of us concentrated on the task at hand. As we grew closer to the camp, this fatigue was replaced by a sense of excitement. I think it’s fair to say that on arriving at Ceske Zleby we all felt a distinct sense of achievement and pride. While everyone, bikers and hikers alike had achieved so much that day, I was glad I had decided to carry on and finish what I had begun. Sitting around the camp fire after a much needed meal and rest, we all swapped stories and laughs. Without a doubt, the greatest day on the camp and one that won’t be easily forgotten.