Italy – Dolomites – Rifugio Lagazuoi – comfort above the treeline

When I first started to research the Dolomites as a destination, I was intrigued by this concept of Rifigios – mountain lodges , very high in the Dolomites, that one must hike or cable car to get to, but once there you have warm beds and fine Italian meals. This concept of lodges that high up with all the amenities, is quite foreign in the USA. I mean, we do have cabins high up (like LeConte), and we so have lodges with luxury (like Paradise Inn in Rainier NP), but never both at the same time.


Well, in the Dolomites, there are many of these Rifugios, often a days hike apart. Note: I did consider trying to string a few of these together, so that we would hike from Rifugio to Rifugio…. But… we would have been doing a lot of walking already in Tuscany.. and also, there is always the possibility of weather issues. So – one night was enough. It was excellent. Easy cable car up, a comfy room, great meals, and nice above-tree line hikes galore.

As for why Rifigio Lagazuoi (9100 feet) , it was the extremely high location , views, and proximity to the WW 1 tunnels that made this an excellent choice.




In heaven 



view to the north east



the foot 


to the north 




The remnants of WW1 tunnels, used between the Italians and Austrians 


off to see a tunnel


headlamp mandatory



the dogs backyard



sunset from our dinner table


trying out new camera features


and even black and white



Woke up to shaky weather:


morning hike



made it to the bottom, and then the rain started 


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Italy – Dolomites – Val Gardenia – loop hike to Rifugio Puez – the Puez-Odle Altopiano

Well – for me, this was hands down the highlight of the entire trip. A 12 mike 6.5 hour hike above the treeline, in which we take a cable car up (saving 700 meters in elevation game). And then we did a long hike with the goal of making it to Rifugio Puez for food and water replenishments. After that it is a 1100 meter descent (killing the knees) back to the B&B. I had read about this ahead of time on a blog post I found (here ) , but it was not decided until we arrived and got expert suggestions from Margareth at our great B&B – Garni Aghel ).



We started out the hike together (actually Anna and I were mostly behind Sue and Tim – to the point that Tim told some hikers going the other way that they were “kicking our A**’s – ugh). We stayed together until around 1/6 thru, when they decided to take a shorter route back. Anna and I decided to press on and I am ever glad we did. It was amazing… simply awe inspiring in all directions. I was thrilled and happy. Even when the 65 hour hike took 8.5 hours, with a thunderstorm chasing Anna back to the B&B, with 15 Min to spare… J




We mostly followed trail 2.


the intrepid hikers, looking for the Rifigio Puez


As we got off the cable car, the views were all around us


The model posing for a shot



The hike was long, but ever changing 


when we could finally spot Puez, it looked an hour away.  it ended up taking 3 more hours




An unexpected alpine lake



some sheep, with our destination valley far below.




views and more views



best food ever (and replenished the water supply)


starting the long trek down





more of the trip down. you can see the valley on the left – far below


and finally, in the home stretch.. with the clouds-comin (whew)

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Italy – overview

13 days in Italy… now this was a great trip. Taken with our good friends Sue and Tim. We covered over 1300 KM’s from Tuscany to the Dolomites to Venice. Lots of good food, wine, and mountains.

The trip was

1. Land in Venice drive to Siena

2. 2 nights in Siena, Tuscany

3. Then 4 night walking from town to town in Tuscany with Girosole. (I highly recommend them) – then bring the Luggage from town to town, and provide walking maps, detailed turn instructions (turn at the barking dog”), and a smartphone with a GPS . outstanding service. Also, if needed, they would come and pick us up (though we never needed that)

a. Monticino

b. San Querco

c. Pienza

d. Montepulciano

4. Then headed north to the Dolomites

a. Van Gardenia – an outstanding B&B called Garni Aghel

b. Rifigio Lagazuoi a mountain lodge at over 9000 feet in the dolimites. Fine dining and accommodations, at an altitude that Brodie usually provides beef jerky, freeze dried food, and tents.

c. Cortina

5. Then drive to Venice, lose the car, and spend the final two nights in the city with the canals

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Italy – ahhh…. glorious Tuscany – “a few of our favorite things”

Ever since Anna read an article in Budget travel about a “Walking tour of Tucany”, we have wanted to go. It was even more beautiful and inspiring than we imagined. Here are our favorites:







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Tim driving to pick up Sue and Anna:

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But mostly… Tuscany was stunning view after stunning view:


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Costa Rica – Overview

Wow – what an amazing country. And such diversity… we started out with volcano/mountains, then the coast, then the cloud forest (really unique) and then a lake/volcano. Quite a whirlwind 7 days.

The overall trip

Everything I had read about Costa Rica turned out to be true:

1. The Tico’s (what the Costa Ricans call themselves) are wonderful warm people. It is the country’s greatest asset

2. The place is an amazing display of all of Gods creatures

3. There are lots of unclaimed dogs around, and no one seems to mind

4. It is cool in the mountains, but hotter than you planned for at the beach

5. The roads are ok, somewhat bad, and terrifying. Yes – you need that 4 wheel drive car

6. There are no street signs, and getting directions is an adventure. You need a good GPS app – we used Sygic and it was great

7. Why do they announce a school zone with a sign but neglected to paint the speed bump yellow?

8. Why do Tico’s pay zero attention to a double yellow line?

9. Many people speak English.. but when they don’t, like when ordering lunch, comedy can ensue

10. Our accommodations were great from start to finish, from a mountain spa, to a Villa on a ridge, to a treehouse, to a volcano observatory lodge . and yes, even an American holiday inn express at the start and end (with a Denny’s and a Starbucks – for the homesick). Just stay away from the 55 and over menu.

An amazing place.


from the villa pool

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arenal volcano starts to appear

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arenal volcano hiding

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no nonsense approach to wine

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the sand was hot?

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master of my treehouse

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nice sunset

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wheres waldo?

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Poas Volcano

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mmmmm Empanadas

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La Paz waterfall trail

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yes you need 4 wheel drive


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Costa Rica – Highlights and grand views


Poas Volcano (yes – hundreds around you)… you were warned not to spend more than 20 minutes at this place


from the villa pool


an ill fated hike near the poas volcano lodge.

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arenal volcano starts to appear

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Arenal volcano observatory lodge, with sunset.   and “greatest story ever told” on the TV behind us.

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Lake Arenal sunset

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waterfall at Arenal Observatory lodge property

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first view of lake Arenal

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on way from Monteverde to Arenal, on gravel roads, we see windmills

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Eden, our 2 story canopy treehouse

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wheres waldo?

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unnamed  remote waterfall along the road

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view behind the waterfall

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poas volcano – nice clear day

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Poas Volcano

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too short to get a good shot?

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the afternooon clouds approaching Poas

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A pose that I cannot hold indefinitely




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Costa Rica – bug, birds, plants


We saw nature everywhere we went, from the area around Poas volcano, to the beach ridge, and near Arenal.  But we saw the most diversity and interesting stuff in Monteverde, where we were blessed to have a guided tour of the Cloud forest  with Koky, a guide associated with Hidden Canopy treehouse (where we were staying).  he was an absolute delight and worth every cent – he even taught us how to take better pictures with our cell phones !

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A tukan at the La Paz waterfalls tour 

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at lunch, we were intrigued by these bird nests

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cat at the treehouse place

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great shot via telescope and our guide

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banafruit is at the top, and is the female part.   the item below is the male part of the banana (so they tell me) 

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butterflies at La Paz 

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butterflies at La Paz 


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