There are a couple of trails that you can take from the streets of Borjomi and quickly head up into the mountains and woods. On one of our days in Borjomi, we decided to head out on the 'blue trail'. This trail begins in the Borjomi Water Park and continues up to some hot springs. The Blue Trail is a 3 hour loop with a climb at the start, then levels off and a decline as you head back into the park. It was slippery on the way back down due to all the rain we were having, but was still totally manageable.
Stop by the Visitor's Center for a map, or just head to the water park and take a photo of the trail maps at the entrance. These came in handy as we wandered through the woods.
We arrived at the gate of the Borjomi water park pretty early in the day as we were to have more rain in the afternoon and wanted to avoid that the best we could. We hadn't realized there is a fee to enter and were confused when we were only charged 4GEL for the both of us instead of 5GEL each as the sign stated. Grateful for a discount we scanned in. We instantly saw a sign on our left that showed a map and description of the trails. Quick snapshots for reference and we were on our way.
As we got to the start of the trail we realized we were being followed by two little dogs. Well, one was more medium but the other had some short legs. We greeted our new friends, told them we had no food for them and started on our way. Undaunted by our words (surely they didn't understand English) the two dogs started our climb with us. We figured they would tire of us soon and turn back. But no! They stayed with us the entire walk and were amazing companions to have on the trip. So up, up, up our group of 4 went. The dogs were usually a few paces ahead of us unless they wanted to weave back and forth through our legs to ensure we were still coming.
The trail is well marked with blue and white lines on the trees. This first part of the trail starts off as rubbly pavement and then quickly changes to dirt (or in our case mud) and stone. As you progress the trail just becomes dirt and sometimes large stones. It's pretty easy to climb though the mud made it a bit tough; I was afraid my shoe was going to be sucked off at a few points! The trail is beautiful and the sound of the river is never far away. Suddenly, however, the tranquility turned and we were heard a tree fall in the woods and then the sound of chainsaws. Then we came upon the barbed wire.
There was a circular area cordoned off with barbed wire and a paper sign in Georgian that I cannot even begin to understand what it said. All I knew is that we saw some trees inside the circle that had our trail markings and we needed to get there. The little dog managed to squidge under the fencing without issue but we stood there with the medium sized dog sizing things up.
Finally we noticed a section of the fence that had been bent and pulled large enough for a small person to fit through. So Zac and I took turns holding the wire up and down for each other as we crawled through. This was a first for our hiking adventures for sure. Our other dog was able to make it through with us and we were on our way,
It was really weird to be in a barbed wired circle with the sound of chainsaws somewhere in the distance. Not super calming, but the beauty around us more than made up for it. Also the dogs didn't seem too worried so neither were we. We got to the end of the circle and needed to climb back out. Luckily, others had come before us and we found another opening. This one a bit smaller, though we managed just fine. We were outside once again! Both dogs had popped through far ahead of us and were showing us the way. I think they'd done this before.
As we wandered on we determined we needed to walk on the road and then across in order to continue. This is where the map checking came in. We didn't see trail markings for a bit and I get a tad nervous about being lost in the woods. I also love maps, so, decided it was time to consult. We were on the right track and heading toward the Saint Seraphim monastery. As we walked by the monastery we both said, "huh, thought that would be different" as we looked at a building that seemed like it was never finished. Then we saw this amazing one room brick building just sitting there in the woods. It was accompanied by a one room log cabin and a huge stone with prayer papers smashed underneath. Luckily there was a plaque in Russian, Georgian and English that told the story of the Saint and why these artifacts were in this location. We spent a fair amount of time in the church (which is so beautiful) and then basking in the rays of sun that peaked their way through the full trees. The dogs joined me in a little relaxing sun bathing time as we waited for Zac to take all the photos he desired.
Once our spirits were filled we continued on our walk, the dogs energetic and running ahead. We weren't far from the hot springs at this point and were really excited to check them out. Our excitement briefly waned when we saw that it was an additional 5GEL each to get in, but no matter.
There are some changing facilities and a new bathroom area and three soaking pools. The air was chilly and rainy and we were so looking forward to some nice hot water. Sadly, the pools were only tepid at best. Fortunately there were not many people here on such a chilly day so it was nice to have the place to ourselves. Disappointment about temperature aside, this is a gorgeous place for a soak. We didn't spend much time here as we were getting hungry and knew we had another hour back to anywhere with food. Also, the guys at the gate refused to let our dogs in (despite there being others sitting on the steps by the pools) so we thought we wouldn't see them again.
It started raining as we got dressed and headed back to the trail. Down, down, down and we got to a small part of a river stream crossing our path. There were a ton of people here and I was all ready to remove my shoes and cross the rapids when I noticed a bridge and our medium sized dog (I really should give her a name)! She was happy to see us and as she ran across the water we crossed the two log bridge (it's really way more stable than it sounds). Reunited and it feels so good! I think all three of us were wagging. The little dog was nowhere in sight but we had another one that joined our medium girl.
A group of four once more, and we headed back down. There were several 4wheel vehicles that crossed our paths bringing visitors up to the pools and the dogs went insane. Apparently they like to bark and run after any vehicle, and these were no different. Each time we thought that was the last we would see of them as they ran off with the vehicle, but nope. They would just stop and wait for us to catch up. Down, down, down we went through the slippery mud.
Once to the bottom, the path becomes paved and this is where we lost our oh so good feeling we had throughout our whole hike. We were dumped out into a very derelict seeming amusement park. The rides were really odd and seemed like they had been forgotten about until you noticed the paper signs indicating opening times. Nothing was operational but there was a lot of maintenance going on. One got the feeling of being at the state fair in off months or watching a dystopian movie about the methods used to entertain human children. There were a lot of families wandering through and having a great time even though the rides were closed and weed strewn. We carried on with our medium dog to the entrance.
We had been wondering if our dog would leave the park with us but we received our answer rather abruptly. No. No she would not. And so it was as we passed into a more open area of the park entrance the dog just disappeared. No goodbye. No thanks it was nice walking with you. Just vanished. We looked around for her, but did not see her. I think she was tired and went off to nap somewhere. We walked out the gates talking about how lovely the trail was, wondering where the dog went and talking about lunch when we heard this little bark behind us. The little dog followed us out and was wanting some attention! She rolled around a bit and was begging for food (of which we had none) and then decided we weren't going to yield anything and left. It was good to see her again. And this was a really good way to spend the morning.
If you are ever in Borjomi you should defiately hike the blue trail and take a dip in the not so hot hot springs! Let us know if you find friendly trail guides as we did!