Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Hiking

I remain in a hiking state of mind. I’ve already mentioned the Tour du Mont Blanc but we’re also planning to do the Cinqueterra in Italy, Mount Etna on Sicily, a few Pyrenees hikes in France and I’m sure there will be several in Greece. We did the Samaria Gorge on Crete way back in 1979 and then again twenty years later with our kids. The gorge is now chokingly crowded in warm weather so we’ll have to search out another less traveled trail on that beautiful island. The first time the notion of hiking entered my consciousness was when I saw The Sound of Music. The indelible image of the Von Trapp family with their packs and walking sticks climbing the Alps to escape the Nazis still colors my visions of trekking. So, it makes perfect sense that my very first real hike was in the Swiss Alps. It was on my after-junior-year-of-college summer backpacking trip that I decided to leave my fellow travelers in town and hike up an Alp. Let’s Go recommended an all-day round-trip walk from Grindelwald, Switzerland ( up to the Kleine Scheidegg pass at snow line at the base of the Jungfrau and Eiger peaks. So, armed with my camera, some decent walking shoes, a small bottle of water and some snacks in an over-the-shoulder bag, I left the Interlaken youth hostel at dawn, took the mountain train up to the trailhead in Grindelwald, and headed up towards the Jungfrau. When I think back on that inaugural excursion, I now realize just how ill-equipped I was, but at twenty-one, all I wanted was to experience climbing an Alp. The four-hour ascent took me up through meadows and pine forests, across rocky streams and over stiles. The footpath also crossed a few farms and I met several bearded goats sporting clanging bells around their necks. Several lederhosen-wearing Von Trapp-like families passed me along the way and I swore then and there that hiking treks would become part of my future family’s getaways. The gradual ascent was punishing to my amateur hiking legs and at one point I thought, I cannot possibly take another step. But then the snowline finally appeared ahead and I managed to drag myself through the final, strenuous mile. My reward for reaching the pass was a well-deserved apple juice, and never had a cold drink tasted so good. I had a fellow hiker take the picture below (what’s with the knee socks?), sat and marveled at the scenery around me for almost an hour and then reluctantly began my descent. The fours hours up turned into 2 hours down and while the ascent tested my lungs, the descent uncovered muscles I’d never knew existed.  My thighs turned to jello about half way down but adrenalin and the thought of dinner kept me going. I arrived back at the hostel by seven p.m. after stopping in Interlaken for a drippingly delicious cheese fondue. My solo Grindelwald day was one of my most treasured memories of the entire trip and it inaugurated my love for hiking. Joe and I now have a year ahead of us to create so many more hiking memories.  

No comments:

Post a Comment