(The singular for “Alps” is definitely “Alp,” right?)
I finally started my “not so much of a hike as a scenic walk” around 14.00, a bit later than intended, but it was okay since the hike is projected to take an hour and fifteen minutes. My new friend and I would still have time to walk up, have a snack, and get back to the train before the sun started to go down.
The path to the Hütte, started out as a steep climb along a road, which leads to stairs before finally reaching a path in the woods. I’m not really sure what we expected, but based on the description of the path as a “scenic walk,” we didn’t prepare for the intensity of the climb: neither of us is particularly athletic, and we were wearing khaki pants and ballet flats. We’d have been better suited for window shopping, or a “scenic walk” (no bitterness here!).
The path is surprisingly steep, made of dirt, mud, and small rocks. Our initial response was self-deprecation broken up by frequent breaks. After about twenty minutes, we transitioned into bitter perseverance (we had traveled two hours to get there, after all!), and we started to suspect that we were lost. Despite the perfect weather, we hadn’t seen any other people; the path isn’t marked; and we considered it to be significantly more challenging than we thought it should be based on it’s description as a “scenic walk.” It didn’t even look like an intended hiking path and we had to move out of the way several times for logging trucks to pass by. (Until I saw it, it wouldn’t have deemed this possible either given the steep grade, narrow road, and sharp turns.)
Around the forty minute mark, we still had no idea if we were on the right track, so I turned on my phone. A miracle occurred and despite the fact that I’d had no service in town, I was able to locate us with the GPS on the side of a mountain. We were in fact on a Google-recognized path that led to our intended destination. The bad news was that it seemed we weren’t even halfway there.
I think that if either of us had have been there alone or with someone we knew, defeat would have been an acceptable outcome. However, despite the fact that both of us knew what the other was thinking, neither of us was willing to make the call. We had to make the best of what we both considered at that point to be an impossible feat, so we started paying better attention to our surroundings as a way of distracting ourselves, and not surprisingly, we started having more fun.
As we climbed higher, we saw the consequences of extensive logging efforts. I would have thought that these areas would be protected, but maybe this is how they prune the forest in lieu of allowing forest fires? Maybe the Alps and forests are sufficiently mundane for the residents here that it doesn’t phase them to use the wood? At the very least, this explains the huge trucks that somehow used the same narrow path going both up and down the mountain.
We also noticed that the colors really are brighter, especially as we approached the altitudes at which there was still snow on the ground.
After about an hour and a half, we did the seemingly impossible and reached the top of the mountain. Here’s what we saw:
We congratulated ourselves, admired the view, rested, ate our snacks, and finished our water before going back down. We did our best to mentally prepare ourselves for another hour in so in the woods since we were already exhausted. We had no idea it would only take fifteen minutes to get back to our starting point, but these few minutes weren’t without their harrowing moments.
The steep incline made going down too easy, and we were inclined to slowly jog down to reduce the impact on our feet and knees. Unfortunately, the small rocks that tended to slide under our feet and the cliff just off the side of the path made this a questionable decision and there were a few times when I wondered which would be the worse position: falling off the mountain, or being the one left after the other of us fell off the mountain.
Of course we both made it back down, and exactly ONE minute after the train departed from the station (It was right on time… German efficiency at its finest!). We hadn’t initially intended to catch this train, but when we realized that it was possible we got really motivated, only to have our hopes dashed upon arrival to the empty platform.
This did give us an hour to walk around the town a little more, and we found a sheep farm.
The sheeps’ view:
My friend fell asleep on the train ride back to Munich and it took all I had to resist doing the same. Back in Munich, we treated ourselves to a big slice of Apfelkuchen and I went to bed before 9:00. Was it worth not being able to walk for the next two days? Absolutely!
Here’s what I learned:
- Never go on a real hike, as opposed to a ‘scenic walk’ with my neighbor (Seriously, no bitterness here!)
- Always be prepared when visiting the Alps (read: don’t wear ballet flats!)
- Expectations make reality. The difficulty of the hike wouldn’t have been an issue had we have had proper expectations
- Learn German. This would have been tremendously helpful in any one of these tasks: navigating the trains, finding a suitable hike, or talking with any of the locals who might have been equipped to describe the hike.
- A shared sense of despair makes for fast friends