We arrived just before 9 am and the trail parking lot was already full, although you can still park on the street. The trail starts with a bridge over the Poudre River. We hiked up the Meadow trail first. Unfortunately, a lot of the forest in this area is burned, which gave me some appreciation into the scale of these fires.
After a winding 1.5 hour drive from Fort Collins through Estes Park, we arrived at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. By 8:30 AM the small parking lot at Glacier Gorge was already full, so we continued down the road and parked at the Bear lake parking, which had plenty of room.
It was a nice morning on the trail at Devil’s Backbone. Despite the ominous name, it was a nice, short hike. The trail came highly recommend from a friend and it was covered in our new favorite guidebook, Hikes Around Fort Collins, by Melodie S. Edwards. The name refers to the rock formations that span the valley. Quoting Edwards:
The “hogbacks,” as they are known, which stretch from north of Fort Collins all the way down the Front Range and including Devils Backbone, are remnants of an ancient seafloor that has been exposed by wind and water over hundreds of thousands of years.
At the trail head a free trail map and interpretive guide are provided (aslo available here). It’s an easy hike that is family friendly and it allowed me an opportunity to test out the 3D shots with the Nexus 4 (here).
Until I can land a job as a full-time Alpine hiker, I generally start planning (dreaming of) my next trip on the flight back from my existing trip. Granted, the realist in me appreciates that wandering (it is very fitting that the german verb “to hike” is “wandern”) probably isn’t going to be my full-time career. Besides, what would I do for a vacation then? Most likely visit a metropolis and work as software engineer for two weeks. ;)
Before we get to the next trip, let’s wrap up this one. First, I want to make some comments about the gear that I used:
Handheld hiking GPS. I know Garmin’s stock went down when Apple announced it’s maps initiative, but the iPhone can’t beat the battery life and sensitivity of a dedicated GPS (currently), especially one that can’t get connected to the Internet. My Garmin eTrex 20 was fun on the trail, with constant moving averages and recorded the data to produce those great Google Earth maps.
Camelback. Absolutely essential in my opinion. I had a backpack with a Camelback sleeve and it makes a huge difference having the water fit nicely in the mid of your back vice carrying water bottles. Plus, it’s easy access to water. I was drinking about 3 Liters of water each trip and honestly, I should have been drinking more in the 80+ degrees.
Dry-fit clothing. I sweat profusely. After switching to all dry-fit clothing I adamantly avoid cotton on hikes. When we stopped for breaks and I took my bag off, my shirts would dry. The smell on the other hand…
A lot of spoken German practice for me, which was fun. After a few trips to Germany, I quickly became a fan of the German Trinkkultur, hiking and the language. I mean, it’s a great language for Computer Scientists since it uses a stack; in some cases all the verbs pile up at the end of the sentence and once complete, one pops the stack of all the verbs! I even was able to help hikers and tourist with directions in the area, in German! So, you know… go me.
Hotel-to-hotel-hiking is the way to go. My previous hiking in Berchtesgaden and Lauterbrunnen were both amazing in their own rights, but having a luggage service really opens up the day to maximize time in the mountains. This was also my first experience with a travel agency and Wanderweg Holidays really made this effortless. They also specialize in this kind of trip. I highly recommend you check them out if you are interested in a similar vacation!
So, what’s next? Some possibilities:
Another hiking trip. I would love to go back to German speaking countries (mainly for point number 1 above). But there’s a lot on this geoid where I haven’t been, mainly I’ve never been in the Southern Hemisphere! Despite a circumnavigation through both major canals and visiting Singapore (1 degree away!!), I’m still a pollywog. So, if it is a hiking trip, New Zealand is looking like the candidate. Or New Hampshire if we’re driving :)
Cruise. Cruises are effortless vacations. I get massive amounts of reading done on these while I’m sitting on a deck looking out onto the sea. It’s great, relatively cheap and easy. While great, we’ve done our share, so meh.
The Alps in the winter. My wife is a skier, I’m a faller-down-the-mountain-and-kill-myself-so-just-stay-in-the-lodge-and-read-guy, so it works out great! Plus, point 1 again.
So, probably back to Germany :o , but I’ll work on my plans some more. Of course, if you have suggestions, feel free to leave a comment! Well, I don’t have any more hiking adventures upcoming anytime soon, but I’m burning through a backlog of books and my database class is interesting (sounds of massive unsubscribing… :) ), so feel free to stick around.
Day 6 of 6. Satisfied with a filling pre-hike breakfast, we set out north from Weißbach to the famous Lamprechtshöhle (Lamprecht’s cave). The 700m of cave that is accessible to the public is just the foyer to the 51 km cave! The cave has the medieval version of the Goonies story: a famous knight (Knight Lamprecht) hid all of his treasure in this mysterious cave. The Knight’s two daughters, one blind, one greedy, inherited said treasure, but the greedy sister betrayed her kin and tried to take the treasure for herself. Somehow, the blind sister discovered this and cursed her sister with the treasure in the Frauenhöhle section of the cave. Then there’s this thing about a Baby Ruth bar and a pirate’s ship, or something like that, I’m not fluent in German remember :) Anyway, the tale convinced at least 198 adventurers to seek the treasure unsuccessfully, since that many human skeletons were found by more experienced spelunkers.
The entrance to the cave is marked with a wooden awning with a stone carving, which gives the cave a dwarven feel. We were fortunate to even get to see the cave since it was initially closed due to “High Water” when we first arrived. But, the attendant told us it would open in about ten minutes and we waited while she setup her kiosk and arranged all the plush bats by the cashier’s stand. We proceeded into the cave with caution…
After the cave, we continued up the Saalach a bit and then veered west to detour to the Vorderkaserklamm. Just one… more… gorge… I’ve mentioned before that it had rained after we returned to the hotels, each night in fact. However, we carried our rain coats with us every day, just in case. Well, at the base of this gorge, we shrugged off the sign that said something like “You will get wet on this ride.” After 40m of a single-file-wooden-catwalk, we were soaked. A deluge of water, all runoff from the mountain above, poured into the gorge. We took momentary shelter under a hanging rock and put on our rain coats and the otherwise beautiful gorge became a blur as we raced up the hundred or so steps to the exit. We were immediately greeted by two resting women who could do nothing but laugh at the sight of us, so we asked for a picture ;)
Out of the gorge and through the woods, back to Lofer we go. Stopping of course, for a snack at a well-timed snack-bar just north of St. Martin. Another healthy snack: Nussschnecken and Pretzels! Ending our day at the Salzburger Hof again, we completed our six days of hiking without luggage in the Saalachtal! One last night in Austria before we set off for a travel day in Munich where we had one more adventure…
Day 5 of 6. One of the nice things about a hotel next to a church, is that one doesn’t need an alarm clock. Initially waking up at seven bells, we finally stumbled out at three short bells (0745) for a light breakfast before saying Auf Wiedersehen to St. Martin.
Starting pleasantly enough on a shaded path, we reached the ascent on a road through the pastures. Basically, today’s goal was to get to Weißbach, which isn’t really that far from St. Martin, but it wouldn’t be all that fun to walk directly there. ;) Instead, the theme of the day was walk around the Gerhardstein “hill” (refer to map) and arrive to Weißbach through, that’s right, gorges and pastures. So, maybe about 3/4 of the ascent (at 1260m) from St. Martin, there was a small chapel (Eiblkapelle) that had one of the best viewpoints of the trip yet. We sat up there for a while, taking pictures and enjoying a snack before moving on.
The peak of our day was at the snack-station Litzalm. It was filled with hikers and bikers (of the bicycle sort) taking well-deserved breaks from wherever they came. However, we decided to press on. A rather steep and rocky descent (I’m glad we went in this direction) followed before we were back in a river’s valley. Finally, our stomachs got the better of us and we stopped at the Gasthof Lohfeyer.
I had another grilled-meat-sampler-plate with a Weißbier and being a bit more aggressive about asking for the check then on our second day, we were soon off to the Seisenbergklamm. The best gorge so far! A few hundred meters long and maybe just less than 100 meters deep (the website has plenty of great pictures, none of mine really developed well). The gorge is the gateway to Weißbach and our hotel, the aptly named Landgasthof Seisenbergklamm, awaited us. It rained again that night and we rested up for our last day of hiking which would be the return trip to Lofer.
Date completed: 21.6.12
Start Time: 0932
Start Elevation: 674m
Highest Elevation: 1323m @ 1256
End Time: 1612
And because I can’t get the song out of my head and because it’s the rare German version, here’s a treat:
Fortunately, we did not encounter said Holzfäller.
Day 4 of 6. Leaving our luggage again, we re-traced Day three as far as the Innersbachklamm, but continued through Reith and quickly through Au. Along the way we had great views of the Steinberge mountains. The morning was relatively cloudless, but the forecast called for heavy rains starting around 1700, so we decided to clip about two hours from the planned route. But back to the trail… We stumbled on a few hunting shelters (Jägersitze) in the dense woods, which when discovering them unoccupied, has a creepy feeling, like finding the “others” camp on LOST.
Next, we went through the Maybergklamm (we were taking the Route der Klammen, “Route of the Gorges,” after all) and up to the Auer Wiesen pastures. With panoramic views overlooking Au, we continued in the open slowly making our way back to Lofer. As we approached the Knappenstadl restaurant, we passed a small chapel dedicated to St. Hubertus. I took the photo at the well-trampled photo spot, where it should be obvious from the photo that St. Hubertus is the patron saint of hunters, which probably explains the many Jägersitze!
From there, we hugged the base of the Kienberg and popped back out in Lofer in the campground behind Castle Grubhof. There is a cultural difference about camping in Germany / Austria than in the U.S. that I can’t quite explain; it’s somehow more accepted but still has a certain stigma to it. In fact, a few years ago while I was traveling in Stuttgart, I saw a German comedy sitcom called, “Die Camper,” which captured the social drama of living in a RV-park. Anyway, the Grubhof campers were very content sitting on their lawn chairs in the shade of their pull out patios. From the campsite, we crossed the highway and arrived at our hotel in St. Martin, the Gasthof zur Post. Interesting typography fact: a roman cursive medial character, ſ, looks like a ‘f’ but is pronounced like an ‘s,’ i.e. the “long s.” A short trip around the church in St. Martin confirmed that the Gafthof zur Poft was indeed our hotel :)