Sunday Snapshots: Markers

Bavaria, 2015

Here’s hoping for a few more nice fall days in the forest…

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Hütte Hiking for Beginners

It occurred to me while on our latest Hütte overnight stay, that while I’ve written about some of our previous tours, I’ve never really written about the Hütten themselves.

In case you’re not familiar, the word Hütte translates into hut, cabin, lodge, barracks, hovel, and on and on and on. Leo.org gives me 23 different choices. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew tons of people who had “cabins up north,” and so cabin has always struck me as the wrong word for a Hütte, at least the ones in the mountains. I usually go with ‘lodge’ or ‘shelter’ since those seem more appropriate for a large wooden or stone structure that can accommodate anything from a few people up to 200 or so.

Hiking to and staying the night in a Hütte is one of my very favorite ways to spend a weekend this time of year, but I wouldn’t say it’s an experience for everyone. It is however, often the only way to get views like this.

At the Kemptner Hütte

So, think you want to stay in a Hütte? Read on and let’s see…  Continue reading

Sunday Snapshots: Uphill

Allgäu, Bavaria 2013

We’ve been trapped inside most of this weekend due to some much-needed rain in the area. While the break from the heat is nice, it is a wee bit sticky outside. It doesn’t quite compare to the dripping humidity that we experienced on this hike a few years ago, but I do wish there was some water around to stick my feet in. The bathtub isn’t quite the same as an Alpine stream.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 30

The last thing I said aloud was…

I don’t know exactly, but it was definitely something snake-related. Why snakes? Well, this evening BV got a few nice pictures via WhatsApp from his friend who lives in Tuscany. Long time readers may remember our visit there… sadly it’s been more than five years since we admired the view from their hill and now it may be longer.

Among the nice pictures of the flora and sun-soaked seating areas around their house, was a picture of one of their trees. Hanging out of that tree was a goddamned giant snake. Nooooooo! Nope, nope, nope.

BV then assured me that it’s a GOOD snake. If they have this kind of snake, it means that they don’t have vipers.

VIPERS YOU GUYS.

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

We’ve discussed going back down there nearly every year since our first visit. We haven’t managed it yet, life getting in the way and all, and now the place is crawling (slithering?) with snakes. I want to go back there, but AT WHAT COST? There are so many crooks and crannies in the old farm buildings that house their holiday apartments… my snake protocol before going to bed could be a very time-consuming search.

And please don’t tell me that the snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. I KNOW THAT, THANK YOU. I just don’t need to think about the possibility of getting out of bed in the morning and stepping on a bloody viper.

I’m currently a little more sensitive to this topic than usual though, because I had a VERY CLOSE snake sighting when we were hiking in South Tyrol a few weeks ago. I knew that there were small snakes lurking about, as last year the tripod cat that lived in the house behind ours brought one into our garden after we had befriended her. Coincidentally, that’s when we stopped leaving the bedroom double doors wide open all the time.

The snake I saw hiking though was not small, and no grass snake. Long story short, we were coming down the side of the mountain and the trail was completely buried in snow. It looked like a late-season avalanche, but I’m not sure. Either way, we alternated between trying to get over the snow directly where we could see one set of footprints (maybe that guy knew the way?) or bushwhacking through the fauna alongside the snow.

Note: I do not mean bushwhacking hyperbolically. I mean we were crawling through all kinds of low, scrubby pines, over rocks, working our way down the steep hillside that edged the snow. We went through God-knows-how-many spiderwebs in the pines, I was brushing tiny spiders off of my clothes constantly and just hoping that none took up permanent residence in my hair.

Eventually though we got to the end of the snowy area and found the trail again. Huzzah! Not five minutes later I saw something out of the corner of my eye, and saw a decent-sized tan snake with black markings curling around the trunk and branches of one of those exact same pine trees that we’d been climbing through. OH HELL NO.

Presumably we made enough noise clambering around that any of his compadres would’ve gotten out of our way. Nevertheless, I made eye contact with this snake and his little hissing tongue and he legit haunts my dreams. Not cool, sir.

I relayed part of this story to one of my groups when we were talking hiking in South Tyrol after my trip, and one of my students then told us a story about how he accidentally imported a snake from Tuscany. 

I’m sorry, you did WHAT?

He was staying with his family at a holiday apartment there, and they learned that a bunch of snakes liked to hang out inside this stone wall next to where they parked their cars. Several days after they got back to Germany, he backed his car up in his driveway, looked down, and saw a snake on the ground. He managed to capture it and then went on a wild goose chase of animal shelters that could take the thing. It eventually made its way to one of them, but apparently there was some interest in someone who wanted the snake to breed it. It was a young snake and hard to get (or something), and yes… dangerous. GREAT PLEASE BREED IT, RANDOM GERMAN PERSON.

At this point, I’m 95% sure Italy is covered in snakes. I love Italy. This is a problem. I’m going to have to get knee-high hiking boots and possibly also a shovel to hike with.*

 

*According to Texans, that’s how to deal with seeing  a snake.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Norway Road Trip 2017: Hiking Galdhøppigen

This way, folks.

By far one of the highlights of our Norway trip was our hike up Galdhøppigen, which at 2,469 meters high, is the tallest mountain in the country. I may never be a climber, or able to even get up one of those bouldering walls for kids, but hiking up that mountain means that I have climbed to the highest point in at least one country strictly on the power of my own two feet. That’s something, as far as I’m concerned.

However, when I’ve sat down to post about it, I’ve gotten too overwhelmed by the pictures and memory of the experience to continue.

I kept a travel journal on this trip, which I don’t always do, and I think the best way to do this is just to share what I wrote that evening. Maybe an addition or two will sneak in, we’ll see. And pictures, of course, because without pictures did it even happen? I’ll also share a bit of logistical info at the end, so if that’s your jam, stick around. Or just skip to the end. I won’t know the difference. So, to the hike!

Continue reading

Snowshoeing Inzell

Since last year’s attempt at snowshoeing was in March and basically a very wet and muddy bust, we were extra determined this year. That determination did not, however, mean that we reserved a place way in advance, which meant that we ended up going to Inzell, a place we knew nothing about. Why Inzell? Well, there was an AirBnb available and it was not as insanely expensive as the rest of the options in the area. It turned out to be an excellent location though, with piles of fresh, fluffy snow everywhere.

We were joined on this excursion by my sister, fresh off her 6-week European Grand Tour. She only had a few weeks left on her tourist visa, but luckily we were able to squeeze this little extra trip in.

After a loooong drive through the Bavarian countryside, in which we turned approximately 300 times without finding a bakery*, we arrived at our destination. We weren’t staying directly in Inzell, but in a village about a kilometer away. The village was entirely compromised of these grand old Bavarian farmhouses, and we were delighted to find that ours was particularly cozy (not to mention, nearly 600 years old).

Our host was kind enough to provide us with a map after we told him of our snowshoeing plans, and assured us that we’d find more than enough possibilities nearby.

Car unloaded and nerves calmed, it was time to get our bearings. We had spotted a path and the yellow signs for hiking paths at the end of the village, and decided a walk was in order…

Continue reading

31-Day Challenge: Day 20

Yesterday we walked through seemingly endless fields of grapevines. The sun was hot and the wind barely blew.

Today we hiked up 800 meters to a shelter. While we stopped for beer and a snack, I stepped outside to take a few pictures of the ever-changing skies. As I turned to go back into the house, something soft and cold hit my hand. It was snowing.

We’d been watching rain showers pass over the valley and peaks across from us, so of course we didn’t expect to escape it totally. There was something special about it; watching out the window as the soft drops fell, chatting to the Wirtin on the first day open of the season. That was as unplanned as the snow, and felt as lovely.

When people think of Italy, they think of the Mediterranean, brightly colored houses spilling down to the sea. They think of Rome, of Vespas and ruins. They think of Tuscany, of golden sunsets and dusty hills, vineyards and villas.

But this place?

I had never really heard of South Tyrol before coming here, and my theory is that the Germans are keeping it secret. It’s got all the charm and the same language as South Bavaria, with a slightly different accent and better food.

The area we’re staying in has one of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen. The views in the valley are lovely, all pastoral with a mountainous background. But when you go up?

You have to work for it, but the result is worth so much more than I can express.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 17 

Peeking over the green top of the mountain in front of me are a few jagged, stony spikes. From the altitude of our little hamlet, they don’t look like much. A steep, serpentine climb up the grassy hillside behind the village starts to reveal more. 

Running into a thin road, we continue along, passing farmhouses where cats sun themselves and cows munch grass. Coming past a chapel perched high up, we wonder who visits. Turning around, we realize that after the short and steep climb, a whole new world has emerged. 

Clouds wisp around high peaks still coated in snow. The light changes constantly, making one photo unimaginable. 

Leaving the road and turning towards the forest we decide against going higher now, instead aiming towards the grassy fields and scattered chalets surrounding the valley far ahead. 

A long shady walk through the forest brings decision time again. The first farm is just ahead but we’ve lost height. Seeking the sun and a less-populated place, we turn left up a gradually sloping forestry road. 

Small animals dart across the road and birds chatter their voices. The sound of a chainsaw behind us gets fainter and fainter as we climb. In the deep, shady places, snow still lingers. More moss hangs from the tree branches and blows across the path, proving the quality of the air up here. It sways in the breeze; the wind is picking up. 

The trees to our left are thinning as the path evens out. Ahead of us the view opens up as the trail gently curves off to the right around the mountain. 

A long valley twists ahead far below us, a road winding down its center, towns dotted along the way. 

We choose to turn left again through the forest, the trail markers promising a meadow. Finally after a few more twists and turns, a fence appears in the distance. Between the trees a grassy expanse is dotted with wild flowers. It won’t be too long before the cows are driven up but for today it was only us, our backpacks filled with bread, cheese, sausage, and wine, and one running deer, to enjoy the view we’d been looking for. 

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.