Saturday, August 29, 2015

Samothraki Nature Observatory: Trek through the wilderness

Samothraki Nature Observatory: Trek through the wilderness

Late July 2015. 

The HCMR workers and friends finally did a trek to an area that we always wanted to explore (and obtain water samples, bug samples, vegetation data etc.). The upland transect across the mountain from the Fonias Valley to Vatos. 

I highly recommend a trek like this so I post our itinerary. Of course we may have detoured a bit to get our samples from springs and streams and scenic views etc, so maybe this itinerary should be modified to make an ecotouristic trek less challenging. However, the trek does need a knowledgeable local guide since 90% is off-trail and in difficult conditions. The trek is approximately 20 Km long starting at the road's end at 750 m and reaching a height of about 1350 m. and descending to sea level at Vatos Beach. Two nights minimum must be spent in the field and water is taken from springs and clean streams. 

Stars denote places where we overnighted: Upper Fonias and Lagdistres. The route (in Red) is charted by approximation on this Google Earth image.
Here is a summary and some snapshots: 

Day one: 19:00-21:30.  Trailhead from near Koufouklio peak (c. 750 m) reached by truck (up the zig-zag road). Then took path (well-marked) to "Karya" – near the upper part of the Fonias Valley. Camped at small make-shift free camp sites riparian forest next to river. Slept under stars, most without tent. Warm.

Day twoFirst part. 05:30 to 14:00. Walk up left major tributary of the upper Fonias towards Louloudi Peak. Veer left off river corridor up goat tracks in a funnel-shaped cone beneath the peak. VERY Steep, no trail, hands-to-rocks conditions - could be dangerous. Finally came out to rocky ridge immediately East of Louloudi after spring (about 1350 m asl). Ascent to granite-like boulder crest. Descent to col between the Fonias and Ghiali valleys. Three huge rounded ganite boulders (the "Kafanedes") mark the spot of descent into the Ghiali Valley (veer Left). Descent left to main stem of Gialli aiming for characteristic rock formation far in the gorge, way far below. Finally meet river with deep pools and perennial tributary coming in from L. Continue into gorge to a huge deep pool just before gorge becomes impassible. Rest here.

Day two:Second part. 22:00 – 23:00 (under full-moon). Hike into oak and Montpelier Maple forest up to col of Kotzamanis Peak (Right of the Peak) at a moonscape site called “Lagdistres” (at about 800 m). Sleep here. All without tents. Warm.

Day three: 07:00 – 11:30. Leave Lagdistres to descend to Agia Thekla spring (nearby, c. 30 mins.). Inspect traditional shepherd’s hut (one of two or so found on the mountain). Spring with great cold water. Later in about ’15 meet Kresmastos Stream. Continue on westwards through open landscape (almost like Crete hear...). Phrygana and plantlife with northern Aegean flora. Encounter rare plant community of Peucedanum longifolium. Descend down towards Ksydni area. There is a large Platanus grove on the slope. Then a view of Vatos beach. Descent veering towards L. Rest and swim at beach. Take water from upper part of pool in the cobble channel (springs in river cobble and gravels). Catch the tourist boat back to Therma (if it is not too windy). We were lucky and caught the boat at 17:00.

The Samothraki Nature Observatory research team members included Nikos, Yiota, Natalia, Anastasia, Vassiliki and myself. We were accompanied by many friends and supporters of the cause. We thank Phillipos, Yannis, Vaios, Marios and all who participated. The snapshots I post are only a small part of the material collected. A wonderful experience, but not to be taken lightly.

Day 1. Near trail head at about 800 m. Descending into Fonias Upper Valley.
Camp at Fonias.

Bedrock pool below Louloudi.
Day 2. Early morning in the Western tributary stream of Fonias - only Alder in the riparian here.
Team leader, Nikos, at the begining of the second day.

Early morning in the Western tributary stream of Fonias - only Alder in the riparian here.

Above the tributary.

Athletic training shoes should not be worn in these slippery granite slides.
Rest stop with Nikos in the steep bedrock valley below Louloudi.
Up Louloudi.
Perrenial spring at about 1300 m. or so.  Louloudi.
Campanula.on Louloudi.
Fonias on L and Ghiali on R. Granitic rocks.
Rounded boulders known as "Kafenedes" at the col above Ghiali. 
Ghiali valley with maple and Alder. And a huge raging stream.
Day 3. Goatherd shelter at Agia Thekla. 
The stream of Kremasta. Alder woods. 
Collecting bugs at Kresmasta.
Rare plants and rock formations.
These are called Peucedanum longifolium. 
Descent in the windy slopes - much like Crete here...
After a short stop in a Plane tree grove. Refreshing!
Steep descent after the Plane trees.  No trail. Northern Montane Phrygana.

Vatos Beach from Above.
Vatos Beach from the boat that takes you back to civilization.