At Lake Cerknica, when you turn around to the West, you see the great Javorniki Mountain Ridge: The Maple Mountain. For many centuries, the Maple Mountain was a formidable barrier, so much that the people on the other side still speak a different dialect and cook different dishes.
Nowadays, you can drive around Javorniki, or, if you dare, over it. For that, you can take unpaved forest roads which were made well over a century ago. But let me warn you: on some crossroads, you might encounter a home-made sign which will help you to find the way. On others, there are no indicators at all. Also, some signs may point to one village, while the sign on the next crossroad may indicate entirely different places (this happens on Slovenian highways as well …). None of these forest roads goes straight and together they form an interesting maze.
The GPS may not work because of the combination of slopes and trees. Occasionally, a tree may be fallen over the road or there are some holes. Before you go: fill the tank of your car first and drive carefully. Beware: in the middle of nowhere, you may encounter a truck full of wood which will NOT drive careful at all. And take the yellow sign seriously when you enter: it states “Forest Road, drive at your own risk”
On the Maple Mountain, there is a vast forest in which it easy to become lost.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the Maple Mountain is its vastness. There are very few marked trails here and mainly endless unpaved roads. There are some clearings and one of these offers a spectacular view but for the rest, it is forested almost everywhere, even to the highest peaks, which reach just over 1000 meter.
In the forest undergrowth, Ramsons (Slovenian: Čemaž) is common. This is a local delicacy, but it is not the flowers which are used. Instead, the shiny green leaves of this plant are harvested.
There are really maples here, even quite many, which mainly grow on the western side, where it is sunnier and warmer. They often grow together with wild Lime trees in a remarkable forest-association. The east-side of the mountain is colder, damper and quite steep in many places. This is the realm of the great Beech-Silver Fir forest. In many places, Spruce has been planted but apart from that, there are few alien plant species. Underneath the trees, we find a rich undergrowth. Slovenians especially appreciate Ramsons, a wild garlic, which is used in many dishes.
Here and there, mostly along the forest roads, there are flowers and in these places, there are also butterflies. There are no as many species in the forest as there are in open, flower-rich meadows but most are specialised forest-species which do not occur away from the trees. Because flowers are scarce, males of many of the forest butterfly species defend territories. This makes them easier to photograph because even when they are shy and fly away at the least disturbance, they often return to the same places. With some patience we can observe White Admiral, Southern White Admiral and the orange coloured Silver-washed Fritillary.
But the best place for butterflies is still outside of the forest. In the middle of the Javorniki mountain range, there is a single mountaintop which stands out because it has an open vegetation, practically without trees. Here, there are many more flowers and this, combined with the high location which sticks out above the main mountain range, is bound to attract butterflies. In favourable weather, we can expect Common and Scarce Swallowtail, many Blue-spot Hairstreaks and perhaps even Clouded Apollo …
Forest butterflies are common at the Maple Mountain, but they may fly high up in the canopy!
Sooner or later, Ravens fly above us. They come in pairs: Ravens marry for life. In summer you may encounter a small group: these are families with their latest offspring. Young ravens may form loose flocks and even gather in numbers where there is plenty of food and at safe sleeping places for the night.
But even adult Ravens are not just on their own: over the treetops, they have a wide view and they appear to know exactly what is going on. Whenever Wolves or hunters catch a deer, several pairs of Ravens gather out of nowhere for dinner. And this may be why they fly above us: to check if perhaps we may be hunting something edible. Hunters tell that the Ravens know the difference between a hunter with and without a gun, and follow only those who carry a weapon, in the way they follow the Wolves …
And what would a forest be without woodpeckers? They are certainly present. On Javorniki, we can expect Green, Grey-headed, Great Spotted and Black Woodpecker as well as rarer species like Middle Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. However, like most forest birds, you have to be both lucky and observant to notice them between the dense trees.
Woodpeckers are abundant in the forests of the Maple Mountain. This is the largest of all: the Black Woodpecker!