Before Easter I joined with a friend and the wordsmith Julie for a first hike of the season, from Smolenice to Cierna Skala (chi-air-na), a 20km hike through oak and beech forest just starting to show signs of spring.
I was, to be honest, pretty excited at the prospect of a hike at a pace faster than toddler speed. Slow is wonderful for choosing exactly the right rock and examining each little ladybug, but not conducive to walking long distances.
Ramsons, or bear garlic, the European version of ramps, was just starting to grow those delicious leaves. It never fails to impress me that it can grow in such thick mats, carpeting the forest floor with edible garlicky goodness.
Through the cathedral of trees, an unsure turn, along some open meadows and an ill placed step in mud, we arrive at the base of Cierna Skala, black rock. Does that amount of vertical rock classify as a cliff? The bare rock face seems out of place in a ocean of trees.
From the base to the top of Cierna Skala is the only steep part of the hike. Near the top, gnarly trees and bare rock give that barren beauty look I love.
An open grassy area at the top is perfect for lunch with a view. I stay a safe distance from the edge, as heights and I don’t get along. Hills roll, progressively lighter the farther away they are. The view in the Male Karpaty tends to be a bit hazy, for some reason. Thank you Suzanne and Julie for a lovely hike and great conversation!
Cierna Skala can be hiked to from a number of locations, the shortest being from Losonec, reachable by bus or car. If you have a car you can drive beyond Losonec to the yellow marked hiking trail. From the centre of Smolenice the round trip is 20 km of fairly flat terrain, which took us about 6 hrs. You can also leave from Jahodnik. The last kilometre (less) is the steepest part, but worth it.