Hiking: a good way to make new friends

Photo by Jana Orálková
"Charity, you seem to have the most random experiences," exclaimed Chelsea with amusement after I told her of the preceding weekend's hike.

I have been infrequently attending English Coffee gatherings.  Mostly Czechs attend, but also other foreigners who want to practice speaking English for a couple of hours a week.  Recently, I attended and became acquainted with a few new people, including Radim.  He and I chatted for a while and then invited a few of us to join a weekend hike.  I've been itching to get out to the mountains. So, though I'd only met him an hour previous, I accepted the invitation.

Two days later, I walked in the crisp morning air with victuals in my backpack and hiking boots on my feet.  I breathed out thankfulness; simultaneously, realizing that a "normal" person might consider this a potentially dangerous situation.  I was walking to meet three strange men who would take me to the mountains.  But, being me, I shrugged off the thought and was soon sitting in a car with Petr, Martin, and Radim.

We drove familiar roads towards the nearby Beskydy mountain range.  After about 45 minutes, we neared the mountain cottage of a friend of a friend, where we left marinated meat and fresh vegetables and took Jana, Petr, and Ondra.  At the beginning of each hike, I am reminded that walking up a mountain is a bit of a workout, yet my lungs and legs were happy for the challenge, and I began an afternoon of fleece on-fleece off, hat on-hat off, and so on.

In between picturesque views, I became acquainted with the various members of the hiking party in a mix of Czech and English, exchanging jokes and observations, and trying (yet again) to convince people that "American smiles" aren't automatically insincere.  After summiting Ondřejník, we came to a trail marking and discussed the next stage of our day.  Would we return already or move onto another summit?  What about two more?  Martin was a bit fatigued and protested, and soon we were voting for or against in Czech.  When my turn came, I voted "pro."  He interjected with, "You don't even know what you're voting for!"  This protest was unheeded and we went on.  It was invigorating to be in the fresh mountain air enjoying the dynamics of this group.  When we'd had our fill, we hiked back to the cottage, having chalked up about 14 miles of walking.

Petr and Radim at the summit of Skalka
Back at the cottage, marinated meat cooked on a small grill,  while Jana put on tea.  I enjoyed the fresh crisp smell of peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes as we prepared a typical Czech fresh salad.  Wine was uncorked, and Jana grabbed some extra clothing for my ever-cold self.  We then feasted on meat, bread, and vegetables before a fire.  Sips and mouthfuls were alternated with murmors chatter and bursts of laughter about the bonfire.  The light of the sun had long left us, and soon the light of the bonfire dimmed, and we packed up our belongings.

It was a dear day with lovely companions.  I hope it will soon be repeated, especially with autumn leaves shedding their modesty and bursting forth with unabashed colour.
Photo by Jana Orálková. 

(When cameras abound, I tend to give mine a rest.  So, to see more pictures from the trip of a better quality you can check out Radim's photos or more of Jana's photos.)


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