About Starý Smokovec
We had to take the Tatra Electric Railway to get from Poprad to the town of Stary Smokevek at the base of the mountains. This is a very popular mountain area with lots of hiking and lots of people! The train was pretty full with outdoor types, although there is also a gondola ride up there, so some people were just going for that. We had two different plans. One involved hiking to the top of a mountain, but it was a one way journey of 7.4 kms (4.6 miles) and it was uphill every step of the way with an elevation gain of almost 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). And, once you were at the top you had to retrace your steps back down. The second plan was to go on the same trail until it meets up with another trail that takes you along the side of the mountain to a hotel and lake that's another 5 kms (3 miles) away. We figured we would decide what to do when we reached that intersection. There was a huge windstorm that devastated this area in November 2004. Winds of 108 mph toppled trees in the mature forest. There were more trees broken and blown down during this storm than the entire Slovak logging industry cuts in an entire year. It's going to take many more years to become what it once was. We got to the intersection, and unfortunately we decided on plan B. We had already climbed about 365 meters (1,200 feet) and the worst would have still been ahead. We headed along the route that would take us to the hotel and lake.