Rali and I have enjoyed hiking in the mountains of Bulgaria every summer. Here we are in 1996 on our first trip up Mount Vihren, the second-tallest peak in Bulgaria, at 2,914 meters. This is the final ascent to the summit. At this point, it was a lot of work for me to force a smile...I didn't have much energy left. Since this trip, we've climbed Vihren twice more, and each time was better. It's still the hardest hike I've done in Bulgaria, but the view from the top is worth it (see below)...
This photo was from the summer of 1998, about five days before our wedding. Meredith and Greg, my sister and her husband, came to Bulgaria early to do some sightseeing...and there are few sights better than the view from the top of Vihren. Some people have seen this photo and asked, "You carried a dog up Vihren?" No, we didn't carry her. Jackie loves the mountains and has come with us on every trip. From left to right, that's Jackie, me, Rali, Rali's sister Vera, Greg, and Meredith. Rali's dad was with us; he took the photo.
This photo was from early July 1998. At the peak of Vihren are a few pits, where climbers had stacked rocks to form protective walls to protect picnickers from the wind. Yes, it's bare rock, but if you're tired enough from the climb, you can take a nap anywhere.
Our traditional route is to go up the "easy" side of Vihren, then down the really steep side. It's not quite as dangerous as it looks in this photo, but it is a little dizzying to look down and see an almost sheer descent at your feet. When you get to the bottom and look back up, it looks like a flat sheet of rock that would be impossible to climb without serious equipment.
On that trip in early July 1998, five of Rali's former students from the Blagoevgrad high school came along. Here's the whole group in mid-descent.
Normally Jackie loves the mountains and never gets tired. But on this particular trip, again in July 1998, the climb up Vihren took a lot out of her, and as we walked for many hours back down to the town of Bansko, she started to walk more and more slowly. For the last kilometer or so, I helped her out. She fell asleep as soon as we reached the car and slept very well that night.
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