The Old Forest

Road From Magganitis
It is a nice winter day, so we decide to cross the mountain for a hike.
Goats on Road
But no rush…
Petropouli Main Square
We return to the main church in the village of Petropouli to search for the trail into the Old Forest. This will be our second attempt to find the path.
Petropouli Bell Tower
Petropouli bell tower.
First arrow for Old Forest
On a side street off the main square, we finally locate a single red arrow, inconspicuously placed on a stone wall.
Old Forest Red Arrow at trail start
After several false starts that result in us standing at the top of a muddy hill amongst blackberry brambles and weeds, we come across this red arrow pointing up some stone steps.
Old Forest trailhead
Here is the sign denoting the trailhead, which is only visible after you’ve actually figured out where you’re going.
Old Forest poultry farm
The first part of the hike takes us through an extensive poultry farm. The geese and large turkey are clearly perturbed by our presence. Time to move on.
Old Forest view to the north
As we climb into the hills, we get a nice view toward the North.
View toward North
Petropouli gets farther and farther away.
Old Forest stone walls
The hills are strewn with old stone walls.
Old Forest Sign
The trail forks here, with one direction leading to Raos Houtra Cave, and the other to the Old Forest.
Old Forest Sage
We come across some wild sage.
Mountain heather is blooming on the hillside.
Old Forest daisy
These little daisies are everywhere.
Old Forest Crocus
But we only see about three of these crocuses on our whole hike.
Old Forest Arrow
We continue to follow red arrows.
Old Forest Dot
Or red dots.
Old Forest Dot
The red arrows and dots are painted onto a variety of surfaces. Sometimes they are even found on loose stones, which means they could easily be shifted to point in any direction.
Old Forest periphery
We come to the periphery of the Old Forest. There is a mix of trees here, with a predominance of various oak species.

Old Forest periphery

Old forest periphery

Old Forest
The Old Forest, or the “Randi Forest,” is considered the most ancient forest in the Balkans. It is home to the rare Quercus Ilex (Holm Oak) which evolved during the Miocene Epoch 5 million years ago.

Ilex Oak

Old Forest
This Holm Oak forest is one of the oldest remaining forests of its kind in the Eastern Mediterranean. It makes up almost 25 percent of Ikaria’s total forested area.
Old Forest
The Randi Forest is an EU Natura 2000 protected ecosystem, and is over 200 years old, with the most mature live oaks having reached ages over 300 years.
The Old Forest
There are other species of trees and bushes contained within the Randi Forest, including arbutus, fyllyrea and cistus.
Old Forest Arbetus
This type of arbutus, or “Strawberry Tree” develops smooth cream-colored and red bark as it grows.
Old Forest Arbetus
The peeling trunk of a Strawberry Tree.

Old Forest Arbetus

Old Forest Arrow
We are careful to continue following the red arrows or dots.
Old Forest
This forest is notoriously easy to get lost in, even for native Ikarians. Some areas of the forest, which we won’t reach today, are so dense that they are almost impenetrable.
Cicada exuvia
The ‘exuvia,’ or the shed skin of a cicada on a tree trunk. This ghostly shell was left behind when a cicada nymph dug itself out from underground and molted for the final time, emerging as a winged adult.
Old Forest Mushroom
As we are hiking directly after a period of rain, the forest floor is thick with mushrooms of various kinds.
Old Forest Mushroom
This large gooey mushroom is over 6 inches wide.
Old Forest tiny mushrooms
These tiny white mushrooms growing on a tree trunk range from 1 to 3 millimeters.
Tree-loving mushrooms
Other tree-loving mushrooms.

Mushrooms in cracks

Old Forest Mushroom
And then there are the ones that are easy to step on.

Old Forest Mushroom

Old Forest Mushroom

Old Forest Mushroom

Puffball mushroom
A puffball mushroom.
After a steep hike, we reach a small church at the top of the hill.
Old Forest Church
The Greeks have a penchant for building churches in the middle of nowhere.

Church bell

Church Interior
The interior of the small church.
Wooden Jesus
Wooden Jesus
Metal Jesus
Metal Jesus
Moldy Jesus
Moldy Jesus…
Butterfly
Outside, the butterflies bask in the sun.

Butterfly

Marker at the top of the hill
The marker at the top of the hill.

It is cool and windy while we’re up here, but one of the violinists from our village tells us he comes up here during the summer when it’s warm in order to have feasts and play music with people.

The view from the top
The view from this hill is remarkable: the sea on both sides of the island is visible, as well as all the villages below and the castle Koskina on a neighboring hill.
View of Castle Koskina
Castle Koskina.
View to the North.
The view looking toward the northern coast of Ikaria.
Marker on the hill
The southern part of Ikaria can be seen in the distance behind the marker. From this point, the trail descends into the denser area of the Old Forest. If followed for several hours, it would take us back to Magganitis.

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