Connecting the dots on Pag - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

October 1, 2020

Connecting the dots on Pag

Team Anderson has come around to the opinion that the best way to explore these islands is through a multimodal experience: bicycle from one hub to the next, and then take a hike.  Our walks along the inlet from Cres gave us a much different feeling for that island than we would have gotten otherwise; and the climb above Pag to Kamenjak was an HC experience (Hors catégorie, or beyond classification for those that don’t follow the professional cycle racing world).

Armed with this new insight, we looked at the map of Pag on RideWithGPS using its OSM Outdoors presentation option.  Perfect - there’s a walk starting right from home that climbs the ridge east of town and follows it north toward the end of the small peninsula.  On the map, it’s labeled as the Ledenik-Sveti Juraj-Sveti Kvirin trail.  At roughly six miles, a loop that combines this walk with a return to town along the shore is roughly six miles.

This looks ideal. The walk starts almost from the door of our lodging (the highlighted starting point) and climbs the ridge east of town. At its end, we’ll walk down to the shore and return along the waterfront.
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We like to have some idea of what we’re signing up for though, so we take a look on the satellite view.  This landscape looks even more barren and forbidding than what we found on the hike to Kamenjak.  There’s nothing we can see that even remotely looks like a trail.  We’re game though.  If it’s too difficult we can always just look around and turn back.  We load the route to our GPS, pack a lunch, step out the door, and start walking uphill.

The ragged line up the middle is the crest of the ridge. The hopefully well-marked trail goes through the featureless white space to the right of the crest.
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Leaving Pag. This ridge looks quite different than the one east of Rab. Even the near side is pretty bare once you rise a bit above town.
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 The first mile of the walk goes easily.  There’s a well developed road to the top taking us to Veli Brig, the high point of the ridge.  It’s never too steep and is marked as a bike path, but you see so much more on foot.  Plenty of reasons to stop.

Looking back down at Pag town.
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She wouldn’t spread her wings for me, but at least she stood still long enough for a clear shot. Such big eyes!
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Some variety of thistle, I suppose.
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The higher up the ridge we get, the more distressed the pines look. Toward the top they all look like this - short, blown out, and bent eastward away from the fierce bura winds.
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Here’s a better look at the pines up here, for anyone with a decent tree reference.
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At the summit, the road continues on east for some distance beyond Veli Brig.  It looks like a fine walk in that direction, with great views south across the salt pans and the end of the island.  A bit ahead, the blades of a half dozen wind turbines are spinning rapidly.

That’s not our plan though.  We’re out here connecting the dots from the map.  Our route takes us across a low, ungated fence that we carefully step over, being careful to keep our balance teetering on top of the fractured, bare limestone surface.

The real walk starts here. We’ll just connect the dots and arrows for the next few miles.
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The next four miles go exceedingly slowly, and take us about four hours.  It’s slow for multiple reasons.  First, it’s stunning.  There are constant reasons to stop and stare in wonder.  Second, it is arduous, painstaking walking.  For most of the way there’s nothing you can really call a path or trail.  It’s just bare rock, fractured to different degrees of granularity from pulverized stone to sharp larger rocks that are unstable and riddled with crevasses.  This would be an awful place to go down, twisting an ankle, breaking a leg, or gashing yourself on the sharp rock.

And, third, it’s a difficult path to follow because as I said, there’s no path. There’s just the navigation points, these bright blue circles and arrows.  Sometimes they’re easily spotted, prominently situated and not too far off.  Elsewhere though they’re quite far apart and not easily spotted in this featureless landscape.  They left us glad we had the route mapped on our GPS, and at times wishing we’d brought binoculars.  This would be a treacherous time to make a wrong turn and end up lost.

When we mentioned our hike the next morning to our host, he was impressed.  He grew up here and has only taken this walk once, as a young man.  He knows what the surface is like and what a challenging walk it is.  A once in a lifetime experience for all of us.

I’ll stop here, and let the photos do the rest.  I’ve only captioned some of them, but for the others you can just use Wow! as a default. 

The first part of the trail was easy to follow, along the base of the wall along the summit of the ridge.
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There’s very little growing up here on the east side of the ridge, and most of what there is is here at the top.
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This buzzing shrub lined several hundred yards of the wall. It’s buzzing because of the thousands of bees swarming about it. We’d like to use the wall as a steadying handhold, but not along this stretch.
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Looking west across the inlet to the suburbs of Pag town.
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Rustling up a small stampede.
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Jen GrumbyHow nice of Rachael to arrange the ungulates in a nice u-shaped pattern!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyU is for Ungulate, U know!
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3 weeks ago
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This is actually quite prevalent up here along the wall.
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This seems like such an unlikely creature to find up here, but we saw several others of these also.
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The next two miles are largely like this. If you zoom in, you can see the next dot just ahead of Rachael. The next one though?
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Jen GrumbyThose really are hard to spot!
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3 weeks ago
Sure. Just follow the arrow.
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Jen GrumbyEeny, meeny, miny, moe ..
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3 weeks ago
This way, I think.
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Incredible to find yourself in a spot like this, only about two miles from town. We could be on a different planet.
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Looking across at Velebit, from the only structures we found up here.
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Jen GrumbyLook at that smile! Great photo of you, Rachael.
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3 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonThanks. It sure was an amazing hike.
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3 weeks ago
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For lunch we ate a wrap and a burek from a town bakery and contemplated how small we feel in this landscape.
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Jen GrumbyExcellent capture of that 'small' feeling.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes, that’s what I especially liked about this one too.
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3 weeks ago
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By the end it was a relief to finally see the road ahead.
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It was an easy walk two miles back to town beside the shore - or would have been, if I wasn’t feeling a bit whipped. I was definitely ready for a chair and a beer when we made it back to the apartment.
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Cat of the day, beneath our bayside table at dinner. It doesn’t take long for a cat to appear at your table in this country.
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Rate this entry's writing Heart 9
Comment on this entry Comment 2
Suzanne GibsonYes, really WOW!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonYes, really. Thinking back on the last six weeks it’s hard to grasp the diversity of experiences we’ve had. A remarkable country.
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3 weeks ago