Today felt almost as though the Great Spaghetti Monster in the Sky had flipped a switch. We had been enjoying the most gorgeous golden autumn weather, but this morning the sky was gray, the wind whipped clouds across the sky, and leaves flew past our windows. A week ago, we were staying and hiking in the Alps, and the contrast could not have been more striking.
As with most of my ‘Gone Hiking’ posts… this one is photo-heavy so click away…
BV had yet another week off, and my Tuesday evening class was cancelled due to school holidays, so we decided to take advantage of the good weather and head south for a few days. Our original plan was to stay near Salzburg, but our preferred AirBnb got reserved out from under us, which sent us spinning in a different direction. We ended up booking a perfect little house in Reit im Winkl, with the added bonuses of it being a new destination for me AND sounding like the setting for a fairy tale. Naturally, BV had been to Reit im Winkl before, because finding a place in the Alps that he hasn’t already skied or hiked is damn near impossible. Outdoorsy guys… jeez.
Reit im Winkl is a major destination when it comes to winter or summer sports, but since we were there between seasons, it was relatively quiet. Preparations were clearly going on around town for the upcoming winter season, which our host told us would start on November 20th. Considering we were there a mere three weeks before, we could not possibly have had better weather. Everyone was out and about in t-shirts and light jackets, and if you forgot your sunscreen you may have found yourself a bit red-faced the next day. I even got to wear my sunglasses again, which was fantastic.
We got a few maps from our host, and tried to find some good round-trip possibilities for our hikes. There are many Alms (dairies), and Hütten (mountain shelters) in the area, but most of them were no longer open, or wouldn’t open again until the ski season was underway. That meant that a good breakfast and some snacks in the backpack were more important than usual, if we couldn’t find anything open along our hike. After some deliberation, BV had a general idea of where we wanted to go, so we packed our map, snacks, and cameras, and set out.
The village center was a short 10-minute walk from our AirBnb, and after passing through the town, we headed straight up the side of the mountain. On the way we found a “barefoot path” which featured obstacles for shoeless small visitors, as well as a lovely chapel perched on the mountain. Once inside, we learned that it was in memorial to the fallen in both of the World Wars. Things like that always strike me as odd, even after more than four years here, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that lives were lost on both sides of the line.
Seriousness aside, it was back to the trail. Our path climbed steeply along one side of a mountain stream, and across from us we could see ropes and ladders that made up part of an impossibly challenging-looking Klettersteig (climbing track). BV looked at it and said, “wow, that looks difficult… and fun!” I looked at it and said, “no flipping way.”
A few people were making their way up on the ropes, and we tracked their progress as we climbed our steps. We paused for photos at the top where the two paths intersected, and felt sufficiently silly about being as sweaty and out of breath as we were… especially compared to the people at the top who were having a drink after their much more hardcore climb.
From there, our trail led us through the forest, where the path was almost hidden by all of the fallen leaves. The light was beyond lovely though, and the trees provided some welcome shade after our hot climb up the hill. Our small trail eventually intersected with a gravel road, which gently sloped further up the mountain until we came to a closed Alm. Somewhat strangely, we could hear cowbells, but there were no cows to be seen. Ghost cows, perhaps?
At the Alm, after we learned that peeing on the fence is a poor life choice, we were back onto a smaller trail and back into the forest. This route took us around the back side of the mountain and underneath some massive rock formations.
At some point we were back on a gravel road, and took a detour up a dead end to see if there were any decent views. This involved a bit of off-roading, lots of burrs and other fuzzy things in my jeans, and ended up with my album cover for my singer-songwriter debut. If I could sing… or songwrite for that matter.
Back down the dead end we met a guy and his dog, who we followed through a deserted cow pasture of the most astonishingly green grass. At the bottom of the pasture we found an Alm that was actually open, and even had a few guests. I was dying for a beer, but the signs indicated that we still had at least an hour and a half until we were back in Reit im Winkl and the shadows were getting long quickly. We opted to save our beer until the bottom, and set off down the steep road. It was so steep in fact that we were nearly jogging and when we found ourselves in a village not ten minutes later, we were both a little annoyed that we had skipped the opportunity for that beer! But then we realized that it wasn’t Reit im Winkl as we thought, and we still had a little ways to go. Across a golf course. Seriously.
One exquisitely manicured golf course later, we were back on the road and definitely above Reit im Winkl this time. Passing by a group of girls on horseback, we cut through the pasture behind a Gasthof, and descended into the village. In total, we were out for about four and a half hours on this hike, which was right about what we had planned to do.
As we passed through the village, we vacillated between going home to clean up or going straight out for dinner, but hunger and thirst won in the end. A few beers, some Bavarian cuisine, and a cozy restaurant corner was the perfect end to the days’ hiking.
All in all, our day hike was a great success. We discovered along the way that the first part of our hike (up the giant hill) was a ‘black’ trail, meaning it was the most difficult kind. We were both out of breath, but it wasn’t really all that bad in comparison to other hikes we’ve done. We spent most of the day on black or red (medium difficulty) trails, and had no problems. Hiking shoes were, as always, a good idea, but Reit im Winkl would be a great destination for people of any experience level. In fact, on our hike we spotted signs for snowshoeing trails, and are already looking forward to our return visit to give that a try!
Have you been to Reit im Winkl? Did we miss anything?