After following an instinct and sticking to the high road, we took the asphalt all the way up to Grödner Joch (also known as Paso Gardena) high above Wolkenstein in Gröden. It gets a little confusing around here in the South Tyrol — both Italian and German are recognized languages, with German being quite dominant in my perception. So, depending on where you are coming from the spoken word may change mid-sentence. It may be easier to just say it’s one of many high mountain passes in an area that is 100% alpine — lifts dot the landscape, a deep history of Alpen tradition informs the local vernacular, and the winter snow still holds strong here in May.
Yet the wildflowers were making their presence known, poking up from below the snow flattened grasses of these broad meadows. Once you adjust your eyes, you see them everywhere. Same with mountain huts and crosses atop peaks — it seems each mountain has a hike up to the top, and a variety of small wooden huts scattered along the slopes below. Signs indicate trails in every direction, some taking you deeper into these Dolomite Mountains for week-long walks in the embrace of the coral-esque rock features of these “Pale Mountains”.
It was impossibly beautiful and a brilliant juxtaposition to the day before near the base of this range. The sky was deep, dark blue, the sunlight piercing and the mountain glaciers and snowfields bounced the light right back up into that azure dome above. We spent as much time as we could simply soaking up the clean, thin air; the change toward warmer months was palatable. With rejuvenated minds it was onto our next destination. From an alpine high at 2100m, down through valleys into Austria and finally back into Bavaria a few short hours later, a great day for a road trip.
Südtirol, Italy, 2014.
Click the first image below to view large – recommended!