Translated Jeff Matthews
Last Saturday I kept the promise I had made to myself to go on a hike even if I had to go it alone. I set out—as I had often done before—for yet another trek to that last little northern tip of our region: the Matese massif up in the rugged fascinating mountains of the Campanian Apennines. My goal, as before, the transcendent peak of Mt. Miletto.
So it was. With no companions and, admittedly, not exactly at the crack of dawn, I cranked up my rickety but faithful off-road wonder-car in the direction of Caianiello along that ribbon of asphalt known as the A-1 autostrada and then onto a short bit of the Telesina highway and off again towards Piedimonte Matese.
I stopped at what was now my traditional coffee bar—the one that had been a mainstay for me during my Golden Caving Years in the Campo Braca grotto. Just as in the old days, I fueled up on good coffee and pastry to prepare for the climb I knew was before me. On the road, my slow but determined Vitara started eating up the kilometers again, up the winding road that leads to Castello di Matese, San Gregorio Matese and finally to the shores of that splendid mirror of water in which the peaks love admiring themselves: Lake Matese. Then, on the Spaccavitelli country road that runs along the north shore of the lake, I reached the spot where I always park the car: the small church of San Michele.
The climb started out, as is often the case, rough and hard, a steep climb amid large rocks, which at times seemed to be what was left of an ancient river bed. I wasn't warmed up and I could feel it. If indeed I made it all the way up, it would be a hike of 1040 meters to the peak at 2050 meters a.s.l. The weather was uncertain, and rapid cloud banks covered the peaks around me at times. But these conditions, plus the cold crisp air, also let me get in some good snapshots while I was still on the way up.
Ever onward. I finish the first stretch and am at the point that looks directly out over lake Matese. I see that the slopes around me, those that face north, still have snow on them. They get less sunlight and that spells colder temperatures. But I clip right along, no doubt helped by the fact that I have been over this section many times before and I pretty much know the mountain. At the first ridge I am at the splendid valley of the Esule (Exile), closed at the north end by the slopes of the Miletto, the Monaco hill, Mt. Crocetta and Gallinola. This is where, from spring through autumn it's easy to run into flocks of sheep, even some cattle and, more rarely, horses grazing. Now, however, it's deserted. The silence is almost absolute, broken only by my own heavy breathing, the crack of a twig snapping beneath my passing feet, and the cry of a single hawk flying above me for a while, keeping a careful eye on me before disappearing behind a peak.
I reach and pass the spring, a welcome pause along the way for clear fresh water, and then press on, up a slope covered with brush and small trees grouped together like leopard spots. It's getting noticeably colder; except for a few patches of sunlight with the help of the rapid winds, the cloud cover is now almost total.
I pass the second ridge and am at the small depression where there is a recent “swallow hole” just waiting to be explored and to give up some underground “treasure” hidden there in the heart of the mountain. I keep on along the climb that faces out on Campo dell'Arco (Field of the Arch). It is now so cold that my fingers are having some problems trying to hold the camera and take shots. I decide to call it a day. I stop there, have a small snack, rest a bit and head back down the way I came, back down into the valley.
Even if I didn't make it all the way to the top, it was a wonderful outing; the complete solitude made me appreciate the beauty of these places all the more. It also gave me the chance to think about some questions I still have no answers for. Miletto has always been a magic place for me and I feel certain that sooner or later it will grant me some of that knowledge that only nature, wild and pure, seems to able to communicate to the confused human mind.
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