Sun Worshipping in Malá Skála

It was one of those days where the sun does more than warm the earth or your skin. Winter was long and hard, and this sun is almost hot enough to melt the memory. Almost. Sweat feels good streaming down my cheeks. In Český ráj, or Bohemian Paradise, I lift my head in reverence and let the brightness blind me.

We set up our camp and set off to explore Malá Skála, a village in the protected nature reserve of Český ráj. Minimal clothes, good shoes, a CamelBak full of water, and no destination in mind. After a while, Filip stops walking to examine the new freckles dotted across my nose: “You need the sun, don’t you?” I nod. Sometimes you can’t hide your roots. Florida-born, Georgia-raised, my body was craving Vitamin D like a junkie. Dear Sunshine, you’ve been missed.

It was one of those days where you just want to keep walking, even though you don’t know where you’re going or where you’ll end up. Where you can talk and talk about everything or go long stretches without speaking, and your company doesn’t care either way. Long treks in the wilderness always render the same experience for me: visually, the world appears to be pulling together, towards one center. The clouds, the trees, the rays of sunshine, stretch and unite in a high frequency and with each step, I become more attuned to it.

It was was one of those days where you think you might like to be a paraglider, but, amid fears and lack of equipment, you settle for the vicarious experience instead. Filip and I climb to the top of a hill and sit with a beer, watching brave men and women take flight. They run, fail, fall, disentangle, rise again, until finally the wind decides to sweep them up in one delicate breath. With a Na zdraví, we celebrate their small victories.

As we trek farther into the forest, I look back at Malá Skála–the cottages and bright colors engulfed in green–and think about all the circumstances that had to happen for me to be here today, walking endless kilometers through Czech countryside. Filip shows me the route he used to explore when he was a kid and the house he used to spend his summers in. After some scrutiny, we approach the overgrown vines and untamed foliage that have come to reclaim his grandfather’s old house. Peering through the windows, Filip says, “Everything looks the same, even the curtains.”

Twenty-three kilometers later, I’ll end my day when the sun does, because the sun is my king and this is one way to worship it. Streaks of popsicle pink and creamsicle will light the sky momentarily, like the burning embers of a lingering campfire. And I’ll remember Malá Skála as a place of endless trails and sunshine- a reminder that spring always comes after winter.


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Malá Skála, with a view of Vranov Rock Castle. The beginning of the trek.

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Trekking out of the village.

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A homemade swing spotted trekking out of Malá Skála.

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Czech flag flying in the distance.

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Lunch with a view. Soup and salad to break up the long trek.

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Filip leading the way.

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View of villages left behind as we trek into the forest.

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Me taking my time.

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Sheep gazing/grazing.

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Country stuff: a tractor packaging straw.

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Walking through the countryside.

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Random findings. Filip and totem pole.

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Looking back.

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Filip in his favorite place, the forest.

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Me on the skály, or rocks.

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Filip looking small among giants.

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Me taking my time.

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On the way to nowhere.

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King Filip of the forest.

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It was hot. Time to shed clothes.

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Our beautiful view from atop the hill, waiting for paragliders to take flight.

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The initial struggle to get the parachute afloat and an interested/ing onlooker.

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This female paraglider has gathered quite an audience.

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Step 1 complete. Now, run!

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Filip looks on with nonchalance.

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The perfect companion to our entertainment.

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Step 2 complete. Now, just keep your legs up and dodge those pretty trees!

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It’s smooth sailing from here.

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Humans are incredible.

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Bon voyage, little man.

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Victory beer.

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Weary, happy feet.

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The view.

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Into the forest again, as the sun sets.

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The golden sun pours out its last rays and the shade creeps in.

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Home.

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Me taking my time, with sheep.

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Home.

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Tired, suntanned, and content.

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IMG_4207 The sunset approaches in colorful streaks.

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Back to where we started. The end of a good day.

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