Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hiking Around Sougia

Sougia's another one of those little southwest coast towns that are nestled into the surrounding mountains. It's more my speed than Loutro - it's got a tourist infrastructure, but things are far more laid back and ragged here. The beach is pretty nice - though the sand-to-stone ratio could be better - and there's some great hiking.

Yesterday I went on a pretty gnarly little hike. I started off on the E-4 to Lissos (an archaeology site). Then I noticed that I'd actually jumped from the E-4 to a local trail (the trail markers went from the black & yellow of the E-4 to red). The trail wasn't in my book and I had no idea where it went, but I decided to stick with it, just for something different. It ended up going inland, more or less north. It was pretty challenging to begin with, then it got really hard when it basically shot straight up a high ridegline. This turned out to be really cool, because once I made it about halfway up there I started seeing endemic Cretan mountain plant species, some of which are pretty rare (I wish I'd have thought to take pictures of more of them, for identification purposes later).

Like I said, the terrain was pretty tough, but the real problem was that the trail was poorly marked once it started to rise and for big patches really wasn't a trail anymore - the rare trail markers were really marking a theoretical trail at this point. I've discovered that in this part of Crete it's really easy to go off trail - but this was especially bad. As I went up I kept losing the trail and had to spend a fair amount of time reestablishing myself. I hadn't really planned on a long hike that day (my left ankle, always a problem, was pretty sore from the hiking I'd just done out of Loutro), and I could tell that the trail was either going to keep going inland, maybe deep into the mountains or it was going to curve around the big drainage I started off in and descend into it from the other side. If it did the later that probably meant at least an eight-hour trip. I definitely didn't want to do such a major run (like I've said, my ankle was hurting and I also didn't have enough water with me for that). So I decided to double back.

This turned out to be a problem. The trail was marked in ways that were designed to be seen going up, not down; it became impossible to stay on the trail. The main issue in these situations in Crete is that there often isn't really any difference between the well-established parts of a trail and the many goat paths that criss-cross the mountains. Even if you're really paying attention it's almost impossible not to get sidetracked on them. Well that's what happened to me in a big way. Somehow I really lost the trail, to the point where reestablishing it might have taken hours.I decided the best and quicker thing to do would be to just go down the ridgeline off trail and head for a side drainage that I'd been more or less running parallel to throughout the whole ascent. From there I could make it back to the main drainage where if nothing else I knew I could eventually pick of the E-4. Back in California I probably wouldn't have tried this, mainly because drainage bottoms tend to have so much biomass they're often impassable. But there's so little water here I didn't think that would be a problem.

I turned out to be right: the drainages were pretty clear and it took me less time that way than trying to find the trail again. But, man, it was a total bitch getting thru the scrub brush and, especially since it was a steep run and underfoot was mostly broken stone; I went down four times, once really hard into a very prickly bush. All in all it was fun, a neat little adventure. My legs are a bit scratched up and my socks were so filled with prickles and the like that I decided to just toss them out - they weren't worth the hassle to clean. But other than that no complaints.

Lower Drainage - West of Sougia

 Beginning the Ridgeline Ascent (It was tougher than this looks)

A Species I want to Identify (Plus it's just a pretty shot)

Looking into Sougia from the West

1 comment:

helicopter steve (Estabrook) said...

Cool pics. That is some rugged looking on all fours with prickles! Nonetheless, it looks really nice.I keep having to remember you said its only in the 80s. When I see it I imagine 90-100.