I woke to a second day of blue skies over the Seiser Alm and the smell of fresh pastries below me in the DiBaita rifugio. The sunrise was pale pink on the Schlern plateau out my window. Wandering downstairs, I joined the others for a breakfast of fruit, yogurt, jams and homemade pastries before starting out.
The first part of the hike was a leisurely stroll over the gently rolling hills of the Seiser Alm, passing cows and small huts as well as children and families hiking and biking the dirt paths. After a more restful day prior, my knee was feeling much better, but I was still grateful to ease back into hiking, and took my time enjoying the views and beautiful weather.
At a little under two hours I came upon a bustling little farm stand (Saltnerhütte) where my Frankfurt friends from the last hut were relaxing. I joined them and they told me I had to order some fresh “preiselbeeren milch.” Everyone struggled to figure out what preiselbeeren meant in English because Google Translate incorrectly translates it as “cranberries.” It wasn’t until later that night at the next hut that we figured it out—fresh milk with lingonberries.
After our refreshment, the trail continued down a small gulley and then started climbing steeply up the side of the Schlern. The bottom half of the trail still involved trees and tall grass, but as it climbed higher the landscape became more exposed and barren. With the clear skies, this was the first time I was seriously hot while hiking on this trip.
After about an hour and a half, I reached the edge of the plateau and turned around to survey the landscape I’d risen above. It was a beautiful panorama of the undulating Seiser Alm below with the Platkoffel amphitheater on one end, the Schlern walling in my side, and a crown of mountain peaks beyond in all directions.
Sitting down for a drink, I saw my first edelweiss in the short scrubby growth below me! It was very small but unique with it’s white felt appearance.
After admiring the edelweiss, I trekked the last 30 minutes over the top of the plateau. Soon the Schlernhaus (Rifugio Bolzano) appeared standing like a castle among the mountaintops. The Schlernhaus is an impressive stone building that serves a lot of people but is still rugged in that it has no hot water or showers. That didn't stop some from stripping down in the communal washroom however...
It was still early afternoon, so after grabbing a cappuccino and pastry (a luxury of Italian hiking), I decided to hike a little bit farther to the summit of the Schlern plateau, Mt. Petz.
From below, Mt. Petz looks like a bump on top of the back of the Schlern, and climbing it is a short addition once you've reached the Schlernhaus. The peak was a tumble of chalk-white dolomite stone, and as I scrambled up I saw more edelweiss in the cracks. At the top was a large metal cross marking the summit and amazing views in all directions.
After spending some time enjoying the summit of Mt. Petz, I headed back down to get ready for dinner. Eating with the same hikers from Frankfurt, I had a plate of speck, prosciutto and a variety of cheeses and spreads as well as some pasta. After dinner we went outside to find a bench and enjoy the sunset. It turned out to be one of the most magnificent I've ever witnessed.
First, the setting sun illuminated the Dolomite peaks in a golden orange relief. Next, as the light faded, the scene became purple and violet.
Finally, after it appeared that the sun had finished setting, a brilliant rose "alpenglow" lit up the range opposite us. It was truly magical. The white Dolomites are a particularly vibrant canvas for this effect, which in the traditional local language of Ladin is called "enrosadira."
Once we were certain the colors had faded for the last time, we went back inside for wine and dessert. As icing on the cake, the rifugio gave us a round of their pear schnapps on the house!