I love to hike. More than any other physical activity. It’s energizing and exhausting at the same time. A kickass workout requiring constant focus and strategy. It is one of the few activities in life that forces me to be in the moment. I can’t think about anything else other than where my next step will be. Precarious at times, the feeling of reaching the pinnacle is second to none. Some of the best days of my life have been spent hiking. Mind you, my family will say that I whine occasionally and take too many photography breaks but I still LOVE it.
My favorite hike so far is in the German Alps. In the National Park Berchtesgaden specifically. Gorgeous and well-tended with plenty of butt-kicking trails. I was there last September, with my family and our trusty Cicerone Guide, Walking in The Bavarian Alps, in hand. (For those die hard hikers, there is an official park office that sells more specific trail maps). After a little reading and research, Route 61 was settled upon.
(Note: Always, always, always bring water, food in a sealed container, a first aid kit, flashlight, and extra clothing when hiking!)
The three of us set out early. Nine and half miles with an elevation gain of 4,275 feet, the hike to Kühroint Alm is listed in the guide as a Grade 1. As in EASY. Well, it wasn’t easy at all but it was worth every second. (We accounted for the fact that we had zero experience in the park, so when the book said it would take 4.5 hours we tacked on a few extra hours for good measure.) We climbed for hours, stopping to drink water, listen to the creek water whoosh by, inspect foliage, and check out cool mushrooms, of course. An occasional biker would huff and puff past us, or zoom downhill from the opposite direction. After a few hours, I felt my determination fight with my omnipresent impatience. It’s really the greatest test of endurance and patience. You cannot succeed if you rush it. Pacing (and breathing!) is the key. The path went from well tended gravelly pebbles, to paved road to rocky outcroppings. Luckily, when path steepened sharply an abundance of trees shaded us as the sun climbed into the sky. By the time we reached the Alm, we were slick with sweat and hungry.
Alms are a super cool aspect to hiking in the Alps. They consist of (usually) a small restaurant, sleeping areas where bunks can be rented (some of them depending on the season) and public restrooms. After a lunch of homemade pretzels with sweet mustard, sausage (Weisswurst, everyone, the tasty Bavarian treat), and a liter of beer we relaxed for a bit before continuing to Archenkanzel. After navigating an open field with cows grazing (look out for cow pies! and the bull!) we found the path to what was allegedly a beautiful view of the Königssee.
Forty minutes later, after climbing uphill and downhill (can you hear my screaming legs) we reached Archenkanzel. The view was breathtaking. High above the lake, we could see for miles. St. Bartholomä looked so small in the distance, perched close to the edge of the water. It looked like a postcard. So worth every step it took to get there.
These are those moments when I feel tiny on Earth. When I see something so vast and so old and so removed my daily existence. It is truly awesome, very humbling and inspiring. The beauty of nature has endured for millennia and my gratitude extends to those responsible for its preservation. I could have spent the entire vacation climbing around that park!