Hiking in the Beskidy

In Gdańsk, the two weeks from Jan 16 - Jan 29 are school vacation. My son went skiing in the the southern mountains for the first week and so for the second week we came down from Gdańsk to Kraków to meet him and do a little bit of hiking as a family in the mountains around the area where he skied called the Beskidy (Beskids?).

Family among the snowy trees - day one

Day One – Jan 23

From Kraków we took a train to Maków Podhalański on Monday morning, did a little shopping to have some fruits and trail mix to snack on during the hike and started the first day of our hiking. Our goal for the first day was a 10 km trail taking us from Maków Podhalański to Sucha Beskidzka. Each of our nights were planned to stay in a home or shelter. For the first night my wife had found a really nice house right near Sucha Beskidzka, that we were looking forward to and were even thinking that it was too bad to have on the first night.

Among the snowy trees

It turns out however, that it was really nice to have at the end of the first day. There was a bit of uphill and with our packs it was difficult and the kids had difficulty at various points along the way being motivated to keep going. But the forest was very beautiful, with snow covering all of the trees during the whole of the trail. There had been good snowfall the week before, even if there was less snow than usual. We had about 25–30 cm on the ground during this portion of the trail.

The little house that we rented was quite welcome in the end. A small wood stove with a warm fire welcomed us and my wife and kids went to the store down the road to get the required things to make a quinoto for dinner. While they were away I listened to the new Riverside album (ID.Entity) and watched the fire, while also stretching my old muscles. After playing five matches in an ultimate tournament the day before, I was especially tired and fatigued.

Day Two – Jan 24

The second day my wife and I had planned a rather ambitious 13 km hike with a stop at a karczma (traditional countryside restaurant) about midway through the hike. From the nice house in Sucha Beskidzka we were headed to a little place in Zawoja. Each morning of our hike started out challenging for my son. He really had a hard time getting going, especially since each day started with an uphill part, so there was an extra level of effort for him. After a while though he got his stride and we were enjoying the hike and a few stops to admire the gorgeous landscape and the trees. Then as we continued to head uphill, my daughter started to falter, taking stops every 15 meters it seemed. It was a hard day and was quite a lot of uphill.

Foggy & Snowy Trees

Finally though we made it to where the karczma was, after 9 km of hiking – which was a little more than we had actually planned. However, it turns out that the karczma was only open for big events and was part of a 3 star hotel & spa in the countryside. So we had lunch and thought about how to continue, since we actually still had another 7km to do before we would arrive in Zawoja. After some consideration of our options (it was very difficult to get a taxi in the area), we ended up staying in the Beskidzki Raj Hotel. The kids loved this, since they were exhausted and didn’t really want to get back on the trail.

Unfortunately my daughter had been feeling a little uncomfortable in her stomach during the trip and didn’t really feel like eating much (which is very unusual for her). But me and the kids still went to the pool and jacuzzi to relax a little bit, then my wife and son took advantage of the pool table and ping pong to play a bit. We were a little nervous about my daughter and how she would feel the next morning. Also we had to adjust our plans to skip Zawoja and find a way in the morning to cut off some kms.

Day Three – Jan 25

In the end, she was feeling a bit better in the morning and we found a taxi to take us to Skawica where we could start our day on the way to the Hala Kropowa Shelter up in the mountains. This was another 9km hike and almost all of it was uphill. We knew that we could do it, but to be honest it was still a test of motivation to get going and impel ourselves up the hill.

Starting the 3rd day Kids in the tress

It was another day of almost all uphill from the start. But the trees around us were spectacular to look at despite having no sunlight. This was the case during all of our trip – every day was cloudy and overcast, but at least it wasn’t too cold. The temperature was always around 0°C. There was a bit of soft ground and water melt, but it was mostly underneath the snow and ass long as we were careful where we walked wasn’t really a problem.

There was a lot of work on this day motivating the kids to keep going up the hills to get to the shelter where we would spend the night up in the mountains. We did a lot of stops on the way up the 9km in the fog. We had many times when we could not see more than about 200 meters in any direction. The cold with the fog was very interesting in that it had built up ice crystals on all of the trees around us. The crystals were just beautiful all around us. I had a hard time not stopping constantly to take pictures 😜. Between the kids taking breaks and me pausing for photo ops, we took a little while to get up those 9kms.

Ice crystals on branches. Ice crystals on moss and tree stump

However, as we approached the top of the hill, the fog cleared around us and we could see blue sky through the trees and the their tops covered in crystals were all brilliantly lit by the sun in white. It was fantastic. Then we came out of the forest to a clearing on the top and had a short little view – which we had been missing the entire way. It was well worth the climb, even to the kids. There we found the shelter, Hala Kropowa, sitting just a bit down the other side of the crest.

Brightly lit tree tops
At the top

We settled into the shelter, had lunch and took in the view from where we were, now that the clouds had mostly cleared off on the horizon. We had another wonderful surprise being able to see a mountain range off in the distance. It was probably the rest of the Beskids, but it could have been the Tatras as well.

Mountin range view above clouds

We seemed to be alone in the shelter for the night and we stayed up a little late playing Farkle (PDF) with the kids, after a good Polish dinner along with a hot wine/beer or two. A nice finish to the day.

Day Four – Jan 26

The last day was supposed to be a day that wasn’t too hard, even if it was long. We had 12kms to get from the shelter to the train station at Juszczyn, where we would take a train to Zembrzyce where we had a reservation in a little cabin. Most of that last day was downhill, but there were a couple of points where we had to go up and I know I certainly felt it. I was tired by this point. So were the kids.

Lying down on the hike Break time again!

Of course, the saving grace of the day was the incredible landscapes around us and the show on the trees. I enjoyed it immensely. We came to one little passage, where we had to go through a very narrow part, that felt like something from either a fairy tale or from The Shining!

Snow labyrinth!

The very last part before coming out in Juszczyn was quite steep going down and was in a little gully, that certainly looked like it would be a riverbed in springtime. It was very difficult from the view point of my knees 😖. Boy was I happy when that flattened out and we were done with that part!

In summary, it was a very difficult trip and, as I told my wife, there actually were quite a few points (and maybe even overall) that I was not enjoying myself. But we had a plethora of beautiful sights, there were many moments where we were all having a good time together and we certainly pushed ourselves over the 4 days. My watched recorded (with extra walking parts here and there) 60km over the 4 days. That is quite a bit! My wife has started thinking about a trip at easter. We’ll see Chérie!

Four backpacks at the last bus stop