One of the things that I enjoy a great deal is hiking and backpacking. It is a great way to savor the natural world around us. The beauty of walking in the midst of our natural surroundings is that it allows us to slow the hectic pace of our lives down and to reduce the noisy stimuli of the chaos that engulfs our modern civilization. One of my most memorable hikes was climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan and arriving at the summit just in time to see the sunrise. Recently our family trekked up Mt. Madison, one of the mountains in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a number of huts where backapckers can enjoy a hot meal and sleep in a warm bunk bed before continuing their climb. These huts are maintained by college students on summer break. All the food is transported up the mountain on the backs of those that work at the huts, every few days. The whole operation is designed to produce zero trash. No paper products of any kind except toilet paper. I may enjoy roughing it, but only to an extent. The food at the huts is superb, homemade bread, hearty soups, and rib sticking meals. After the climb, it all tastes good. Families with older children and teenagers have precious little time together unencumbered by all the distractions and demands on their time. When your in the wilderness, it gives everyone an opportunity to get to know and appreciate each other again.
My first back packing trip in Greece was back in 1980 when I walked the length of Corfu and Epirus. If you really want to get to know a country, try seeing it at about 2 mph. Rural Greeks who live off the beaten tracks love visitors and take delight in showing hospitality to strangers whether or not you speak their language. When I made this trip it was a completely unplanned affair, however, I never had a problem finding a place to sleep or somewhere to get a meal. I always had a small supply of fresh bread, olives and a tomato or two and looked forward to eating a midday meal and siesta under a tree along the way. Every village has a kafenion (cafe) and it is a great place to meet people, talk, refresh oneself and get important information such as tips on places to stay or see.
Greece is developing a burgeoning ecotourism designed to bring people to the truly beautiful and unspoiled areas on the mainland and islands of the country. My next backpacking trip will be in the Zagoria region of Greece and Albania, an area, by the way, where my Dad born. "The villages of Zagoria are uniquely endowed with extraordinary natural beauty, a vast temperate forest ecosystem, distinctive architecture, cultural wealth and the sheer romance of an ancient way of life. From the Slavic word meaning 'behind the mountains,' Zagoria is defined by the Gamila (Tymfi) and Mitsikeli Mountains as well as the Aoos River. It is a part of the massive Pindus Mountain Range that stretches from Albania to Central Greece." Read the rest here. For pictures go here. For additional information consult The Mountains of Greece: A Walker's Guide. This time I want to plan my trip a little more thoroughly and maybe even stay someplace really nice along the way. My wife Anna, who can hike like a Marine, will accompany me, after all, the trail gets lonely and is always more fun with someone else. For those of you interested in trekking through Greece start at this link. For those less adventuresome people who are intimidated by the difficulties involved I would recommend a guided tour. Make sure you talk to someone who has taken the tour previously to avoid any surprises.
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