A few months ago Benjamin Siter from Družina in Življenje and I were talking about stuff when he mentioned “Hey… there’s a men’s retreat that is going to happen sometime in summer. There’s going to be a lot of walking. Interested?” It has been a while since the last time I ventured into the hiking. The reason is that I stopped was that I had almost lost my big toe on the right foot due to boots being a wee bit too short. The toe had to be operated and it scared me enough to not do any of hiking for the better part of the last five years. This time I wouldn’t have done it alone, it would be a group I’d join and people I could ask on suggestions for clothing or shoes, or whatnot, to not repeat the previous mistake.
Thus for the last few months I’ve tried to educate myself on clothing and fiber mechanics (polyester versus wool versus cotton, etc.), shoes, etc. and I bit the bullet on some shopping. “Buy once, cry once; buy twice, cry thrice” aye? Hopefully for whatever reason, hiking or otherwise, the purchases of the last few months will last for the long time. I’ve invested some into merino wool base layers, new trekking hybrid shoes, a backpack, a sleeping bag, etc. Many of these things I didn’t even have from before because I hadn’t done these kinds of things.
Anyway, one of the suggestions in email correspondence was to keep the backpack light, no more than 12kg. I somehow managed to have my backpack with all the food and water at precisely 10 kg, which was quite a bit less than what was suggested. I guess I could loose another kilogram to a kilogram and a half if I went with the 30l backpack (mine was 50l) and thus mounted the sleeping pad on the outside.
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make some things and accessories for it… For one, I had nothing useful to put my Katadyn BeFree bottle into that would be relatively easily accessible. For the other, I wanted some kind of a holder to hold my newly acquired German swiss knife. I also made a small pouch for medical stuff and added JV’s patch from an event years ago, that I wanted to use somewhere for a long time, but never found a good enough excuse for it.0 Lastly I fabricobbled together a pair of gaiters so that dirt wouldn’t fall into my shoes as I was walking (though I ended up ditching them for being too much of a nuisance and the fabric wasn’t right since it didn’t want to dry when it got wet).
Of course time being tight I made these accessories last minute. Literally. I think I may have had about 2 or 3 hours of sleep in the early hours of the 25th of June.
In the morning I secured a ride, so that I wouldn’t have to drive, especially in the sleepless state I was in, to the church of st. Joseph in Štepanja vas in Ljubljana. Honestly, I had no preconceived notions on how the trip would go and what it would be like. I think that was good because that made it easier as days went through. Not having expected anything I was pleasantly surprised oh so many times and didn’t overthink things before the trip even happened. Although I could probably have spent more time figuring out what to eat and how to eat on a trip like this. I was definitely underprepared food wise. And medical wise as well… Leuko tape hadn’t arrived in mail quickly enough and the blisters were thus much more annoying. Despite this, however, I quickly learned that among men in the wilderness one must be humble and be willing to help and share, and also to have the humility to receive something not your own. Praise God a few other people had Leuko tape so that we could all mend our feet, since pretty much all of us ended up with blisters.
The Slovene wilderness we travelled through was absolutely breathtaking. From beautiful cool forests, refreshingly chill streams and gorgeous waterfalls, to cute little old churches on the top of the hills. Many a times it felt as though we’re walking through a different time, because many places were without asphalt roads (which was a Godsent to be completely honest, walking by foot. Asphalt is too hot and too darn stiff and hard on ones’ feet) and many houses out there were unrenovated from a different time, sometimes in ruins.
This is roughly the route, that was plotted by Aleš Čerin:
- part: Ljubljana – dolina Zale: https://en.mapy.cz/s/mupofurelo
- part: Dolina Zale – Ljubljana: https://en.mapy.cz/s/camogozevu
Spiritually the trip was amazing. Spending time with men in prayer, in church and in the wild is just something different. It needs to happen more often. Men must be men and be around men more often in this kind of context. Aleš lead this part brilliantly as well as we talked about Joseph from the Old Testament and Joseph in the New Testament, the parent of Jesus. There were definitely new things I learned about both characters within psychological as well as biblical context.
Here are the photos from the trip:
Overall, I must say I’m very much thankful for this opportunity for having been part of this.
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