We never really felt home sick during our trip. However, during the end of our stay in South America I felt a bit nostalgic about my home country Austria and was very much looking forward to coming back. One thing I was dreaming about was spending a few days hiking through the Austrian mountains.
Once I arrived in Austria my first priority was to see my family. Since my longing for some “me-time” in the mountains did not fade, I then made my way to the western part of this beautiful country and spent four days hiking the “Karnische Höhenweg”. This is a hiking trail that links several huts along the Carnic Alps. The beauty of this trail is that it can either be accessed by countless side valleys from the Lesachtal as day trips or you can follow the trail for many days, hiking from hut to hut. In this post I would like to explain why hiking from hut to hut is an unforgettable experience – no matter if you are alone or in a group.
The scenery is simply stunning
The Karnische Höhenweg mostly follows the Austrian-Italian border along the Carnic Alps. This means you get an incredible view into the Sexten Dolomites on the Italian side towards the south as well as the Lienzer Dolomites and several Austrian glaciers (including our highest peak the Großglockner) to the north. This is all on top of enjoying the beautiful mountains you are actually crossing. You pass quite a few romantic (and quite chilly) mountain lakes, beautiful mountain huts as well as several spectacular peaks. If you are attentive and sometimes lucky you also get to see the plethora of fauna – I for instance was privileged enough to spot a marmot just a few meters next to me, quite a rare occasion.
The atmosphere in the huts is incredible
Unlike huts in some other countries, in Austria most of them offer a wide selection of tasty food and drinks. This means hikers only need to carry their personal belongings – oh, and a lot of cash… 🙂 One main aspect of hiking from hut to hut is that you meet many different people. When you sit together in a hut, drinking a beer after a long day’s hike, it is very, very easy to start a chat and meet new people. In a mountain hut it does not matter where you are from or what job you have, everybody is equal here… 🙂 This contributes to a unique and very inclusive atmosphere. Another contributing factor to the great atmosphere usually is the super tasty food huts offer. To be fair, after a long days hike everything tastes amazing but Austrian mountain huts are specifically known for their good food.
I had the privilege to spend a few days on this trek, hiking from hut to hut. Since most people follow the same route I soon found a group of really nice hiking colleagues who I met every afternoon in the next hut. Somehow you form a stronger connection up on the mountains with strangers and every day I was looking forward to meeting my new friends at the next hut.
You develop your own rhythm and get into the “flow”
Doing day hikes from the valley is an amazing way to discover mountains. However, if you have the chance to spend a few days hiking from hut to hut, this is a completely different animal. My experience is that you get into a great “flow” state where you develop your own rhythm. In the morning you have breakfast and then you simply start to walk. Especially when you are alone, walking can easily turn into a form a meditation where you either appreciate the landscape including the flora and fauna around you or you lose yourself in your own thoughts. Since you do not have any appointments and often also no cell phone coverage, all you “need” to do is walk. What a welcome change to our usual everyday life that is packed with meetings, appointments and to-do-lists!
What is more, you also start to adjust yourself to the rhythm of nature. In the evening you are super tired so you are likely to go to bed soon after it gets dark. You then likely wake up early, around the time the sun rises. This is a very different rhythm to our usual life when we use electricity to stay awake longer in the evening.