My children are among those who, in addition to walking itself, need an additional reason to go for a walk. Here I reveal a trail that offers the greatest motivation during the month of March.
Picking primroses, coltsfoot, wild garlic and dandelion leaves doesn't convince them any more. Štruklji or apple strudel in a mountain hut are too small a reward for the effort put in. Something entirely different, however, always works: animals – even if only small ones. And there's no problem on that front in the month of March. Whilst it's true that we (now) walk on the same path, based on the fact that additional motivation during walks and at the end point isn't required, I don't mind at all. So, where do we go?
We start in Lancovo and set off through village paths through Spodnja Lipnica to Kolnica. Just before the houses there is a small parking area on the left-hand side. From the parking area we walk the first part of the path on the right side of the Lipnica stream and visit the source of the Lipnica stream, or continue along the road to the Grabnarica stream. The latter is the left tributary of the Lipnica stream, both of which are fed with water from the Jelovica plateau.
We follow the road that leads up to the Jelovica plateau, but only for a short way until we reach the signpost for the Grabnarica stream. We then take the trail to the right and soon reach the first small wooden bridge. From here on the trail leads beside the stream, which we cross numerous times on small wooden bridges. If you are expecting a well maintained trail and fairytale bridges, then this trail probably isn't for you, since it's not currently that well maintained. However, if you are used to somewhat more adventurous and uncrowded trails, then this one is for you! It isn't dangerous as such, however, some of the wooden bridges tilt in places and parts of the bridge railings are missing in places, and/or wooden planks have been dislodged. For children this is actually particularly enjoyable, the only 'danger' for them is wet shoes!
Our family 'competition' begins right from the first bridge! When we cross it and see the Grabnarica stream, we start to compete over who will be the first to spot a crayfish. When you slow down and really take time to wait patiently, you can spot them, though it's not easy thanks to their camouflage, which means you can often only see them when they move. Crayfish only live in clean, running water.
The next 'competition' commences a little further along the trail, where the flow of the stream lessens and a spawning area can be seen. Frogspawn is a formation of frogs' eggs surrounded by mucous, which protects the frogspawn from other animals. During pairing in the month of March, toads lay a string of up to 6 metre-long fertilised eggs around aquatic plants.
Signs of forest animals can be seen all the way along the trail. Wild animals from the Jelovica plateau come to the Grabnarica stream to drink, hence the trail is rooted up in places by wild boar, while hoof prints of deer and other wild animals are nothing out of the ordinary. Lovers of wild flowers can admire spring flowers during March.
Our final destination is Grofov bajer (The Earl's Pond), which was formerly owned by the Earl from Lipnica Castle (also known as Pusti grad) at Zgornja Lipnica. In March the pool and its surroundings are full of toads, which is an added reason to visit! Toads are active during the night while they rest by day, except during mating, thus March is the ideal time to visit.
Toads are a protected species in Slovenia, and are classified as a vulnerable species on the Red List of Endangered Amphibians. Toad poison isn't dangerous for humans, since it doesn't penetrate our thick skin. However, it is necessary to ensure that we don't get it in our eyes or an open wound.
This is where our 'competition' ends. The winner is the one who kisses a frog! We still haven't had a winner, and neither have we got a prince!
Written by Nataša Mikelj, March 2020
Photo: Nataša Mikelj, Kaja Beton
It takes around 45 minutes to walk from the parking area in Kolnica to the pond – we're talking children's walking speed here. You can continue along the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail onwards through the villages of Vošče and Brdo and return through sun-bathed woodlands to Lancovo. Children, however, will probably find it more interesting to return along the same trail crossing the wooden bridges back to the start.