While Jason rested in Žilina, Alexa did some exploratory hiking in the Malá Fatra National Park, just north of Žilina. The park is very pretty, and the bus ride out is easy, so two days later we headed up there so that Jason could rest and enjoy the scenery and Alexa could do some more hiking. We stayed in the nice village of Stefanova, and brought lots of our food we had planned on using backpacking to cook in the kitchen at our lodging in Stefanova.
Alexa’s first hike was in the Vrátna Valley, and while Jason stayed behind, she did a hike up onto a ridge-line and over a series of three little mountains, the highest was 4,200 feet in elevation (the tallest mountain in the park is 5,500 feet). There were chains to use to get up the steeper, rocky parts, and it was a good and long hike with a muddy trail, so she looked like a serious hiker with some mud spots went she got back to Žilina. We left most of our bags and weight at the luggage check in the train station, and headed up to stay in Stefanova, since it was very nice and seemed like a better place to rest.
Terchová is the main town near the entrance to the Vrátna Valley, which is known for it´s hiking and skiing. Usually, it is fairly crowded, but we are here before the tourist season really begins in June and July. Right now it is definitely spring here and there are many wildflowers in the meadows and the spring here is awesome. There is a striking rocky gorge that forms the gateway to Vrátna Valley from Terchová, Jason took a short walk there to stretch out his sore knees after a few days of rest.
Terchová is known as the birthplace of Juraj Jánošik (the Slovakian version of Robbin Hood). Legend has it that he was from a poor peasant family, and his father was beaten to death by the feudal lord when he took time off to bury his wife, who had just passed away. The legend of Jánošik is that he become a bandit and stole from the rich to give to the poor, but was eventually caught when an old woman threw some peas in his path as he tried to escape, tripping him up and allowing the authorities to catch him. He is now a popular folk hero, and there are many movies, comic books and brand names with his image, including some cheese (not to sure about the connection, but it seems folksy).
As Jason took it easy, Alexa did another hike around the base of Velký Rozsutec, a huge rocky knoll that is prominently visible from Stefanová. She had great views of meadows and areas around the valley. It would be a nice hike to go up and over, but it is a rocky climb with chains to use for climbing and it didn´t seem like a good idea while hiking solo.
We really enjoyed the mountains surrounded by spruce, beech and maple woods and the many hiking options around the small village of Stefanova. We had a nice place to stay that cost us about 16 Euro ($20 US) and it was a nice place for Jason to rest and do short hikes while Alexa did some longer ones.