Here we are at the top!
Anton, one of our new hiking companions.
As it turned out, it wasn’t too hard going. I could tell from our map that the back side of the mountain gradually sloped upwards and the woods were not so leafed out that we couldn’t mostly continuously keep the peak in sight. Finally we arrived out on to the openness of the plateau and were greeted by magnificent views of the sea in front of us and Babugan plateau—the area of the highest peaks of Crimea—behind us.
There was only one other group of people up there—a woman and her two young sons—so it was not the popular hiking destination I thought it was, and thus the lack of trails. We asked the woman how they came up to the plateau, and she told us of a different approach which sounded a lot more promising, trail wise. We determined to try it on our way back.
But first we took some time to roam the open plateau, amazing at the beauty of the surrounding area, taking many pictures, and eventually settling down to some lunch. This time Lilya did not bring a whole feast and just brought things to share, obviously with the idea of depending on food we would bring too. Maybe that first time with us she wasn’t sure us Americans would bring any food!
We searched some for the 1000-year-old yew tree that was supposed to be nestled in a crack in the rocks on top, and finally realized it was probably the sprawling tree in front of us. Most of it was clinging to the rocks over the vertical cliff face, so we really couldn’t see its thick and gnarly trunk without leaning over a very scary precipice. But it did remind me some of the very ancient trees you sometimes find in the high mountains of California.
Dima with Lilya.
And as fate would have it, we happened upon two young men—Anton and Dima—who were coming down from Babugan and knew the way out, and we ended up hiking with them the remainder of the afternoon. I mostly hiked with Anton who was eager to practice his English, and what a sweetheart he was. He grew up in Crimea and talked about his love for the land and how so many people did not understand that. When I told him how much I loved Crimea he seemed grateful that I recognized the beauty and specialness of this place. I didn’t get much of a sense of his companion, Dima, but Cheryl spent some time hiking with him and also said he was delightful. Much to everyone’s surprise, when I parted I asked Anton for his phone number with the possibility of arranging for all of us to go hiking again. He was excited about the idea—kind of an English language hiking club—so we made some tentative plans for a future hike. I’m not sure exactly how Lilya felt about them, but it turned out they all went to the same university and shared the profession of computer programmer, so had much in common. That and the fact they liked to hike! I’m thinking, “Here are some nice young men for Lilya to get to know (who doesn’t have a boyfriend).” But they aren’t Crimean Tatar, and I know most Crimean Tatars (96% is the figure I remember reading somewhere) marry within their people. But hiking partners? Seems that could be anybody. Well, I am sure I will have some interesting stories to report from our future hikes.
Love to all from Crimea where it is finally spring and my circle of hiking companions is ever expanding.