Fränkischer Gebirgsweg (Franconian Mountain Trail): Day 4 – 5

Sometimes living fairly close to the trail you’re hiking has its perks….like getting a ride from your family. Which is how I got back to where I had left off before the bad weather.

Day 4:     3 June 2018 – Frohnlohe to Heidelheim – 21km

So on Sunday the family and I went to the Waldstein (restaurant on top of the hill that I hurried past on Day 3), walking a bit before having lunch. The food was alright, nothing to rave about, but what made this excursion special was the staff. They were outstanding. So if you’re looking for a nice Sunday hike with good beer and some Franconian food, check this place out.

At around 2pm my folks dropped me off exactly where I had left off the last time. I headed out at quite the pace, I wanted to cover the 21km to the campground before it got dark…and there was some climbing coming up.

The first side trail to some ruin I skipped, because I had some other ruins coming up that wouldn’t cost me at least half an hour off the actual trail. So Epprechtstein and its ruins will have to wait for some other time.

The next…..oh I wanna say 10km were very unremarkable, so unremarkable in fact that I’m having trouble recalling anything at all about that stretch of trail.

I know there was a short stretch through woods that was awesome and I found a small hidden lake, but other than that, those few hours are a blur.

What I do recall is the uphill climb towards ‘Großer Kornberg’, which was on a narrow path with lots of roots and finally felt like some actual trail hiking again.

On the way up I passed a rock formation called ‘Zigeunersteine’ (gypsy stones). One of the rocks is perched precariouslyand looks as if it might tumble over any moment. It can even be moved by a wooden lever, supposedly 😅

My next stop on the way up was the ruin of an old tiny fortress, destroyed in the 14th century. It’s always an eery feeling when I step into these old places, thinking of all the things these stones must have witnessed over the years.

I only took a short break, because time was running and I still had a few more hours to go.

As I was kinda rushing through the ascend to get to the top I didn’t give this beautiful stretch of trail the attention it deserves….sadly.

Once I made it to the top I was also rushing to get back down…..and promptly took a wrong turn.

On this trail the markers for the main trail are red with a silhouetted mountain range in white…..and there are designated ‘access trails’. Whose markers are white with a silhouette of the mountain in red….so pretty much an inversion of the main trail markers.

And if you’re not careful rushing along without taking a proper look, you’ll end up on a side trail.

Do NOT follow the white rabbit….errr trail marker

Thankfully, I only went down about half a kilometer before I noticed 😂

That little excursion cost me about a half hour…..merde. But what can you do about it except shrug it off and keep on walking. Which is exactly what I did…..for the next few kilometers of straight downhill.

And although uphill is harder while you’re in it, downhills are my least favorite things to do after the fact. They just screw with my feet and joints. Not fun. Especially at the end of the day when you just want to get where you’re going to finally make some food, put up your feet and rest.

After the downhill section I had to walk gravel and pavement for another hour at least to make it to a campground close to Heidelheim. I was hoping for a shower and maybe a beer in the common room (as advertised on their website), but when I got there, noone was there. I rang the bell for the camp host and wandered around a bit, but except for a few campervans, there was nobody in sight.

Thankfully, the washrooms were not locked, so I was able to use the facilities and wash up a bit. And there was clean water out of the tap, so I made pasta in a carbonara sauce for dinner and went to bed around 10, figuring I’d pay for my stay in the morning before I left again.

Day 5:     4 June 2018 – Heidelheim to Kohlberg – 28km

Well….the plan to be a responsible human being and paying in the morning for staying in the campground overnight didn’t really work out as expected. Because there simply wasn’t anyone around by the time I was ready to head out at around 7 am. So I am sorry to say that I dodged that 10€ bill and just started walking in the morning.

Mornings are always a magical time on any trail, the air is still fresh and crisp, there’s a golden tinge to everything and morning miles come easiest to me….even though the trail still consisted mostly of those annoying gravel roads or pavement through tiny villages and hamlets.

Also, you have to cross various highways/ big roads and of course the noise stays with you for quite a while before and after you can actually SEE the road.

Some part of today’s trail was exquisitely beautiful though, on a narrow path through some meadows with thousands of colorful dragonflies and butterflies (or flutterby, as I’ve come to calling them). Turquoise, green, purple, black, double-winged, four-winged, delicate or big, such variety. And of course, the wildflowers with their various blossoms and the smell of wild thyme. Sigh….even though it only made up about 10% of today’s hiking, it filled my heart.

I took two longish breaks in the morning, one at 8:30 for some proper breakfast (Ramen and hot chocolate – not mixed of course…) and one at 10 by a gurgling stream for A LOT of candy. The more i eat the less I have to carry, right?

It was already hot by 11 am on the ascent to Kothigenbibersbach (jeez, what a name) and I wanted to take another break in the shade of a bus stop. And it ended up like a slapstick comedy. First there was only the noise of  a lawn mower. OK, I can ignore that. Then, a high-pressure water cleaner was added to the mis, followed by a leaf-blower (in JUNE???? REALLY??!!??), followed by a small tractor and a row of motorcycles driving by.

So I said F it and walked a bit more to a natural mineral spring, where I chilled out for a few hours to let the worst heat of the day pass. This natural spring has a high content of magnesium and calcium, so it pretty much serves as an energy drink for hikers….and I took full advantage of it, pumping about 3 liters of the stuff out of the ground with a hand pump.

After a few more kilometers on gravel and asphalt I reached Arzberg and passed through as quickly as possible. The ‘G’steinigt’ is supposed to be one of the prettiest areas to walk through, because the river has carved a canyon over centuries, creating a unique habitat for plants and stuff.

But remember the thunderstorms I wanted to avoid by taking a break? Yeah, they hit pretty hard….washing out the trail and tumbling over some trees. so it was scrambling and boulder-hopping for me, after an already exhausting day and before the final climb that was looming just ahead.

As annoying as a big ascent at the end of the day can be, I’d rather do that than have to go steeply downhill any time. So I tackled a few switchbacks and then some wood path with a lot of roots to reach the top of Kohlberg. I got there at around 7pm and was pleasantly surprised to find a large flat area ideally suited for pitching a tent. Some nice soft pine needles as a mattress and my home for the night was found.

There’s also a lookout tower that you can climb, but after a day of hiking I passed on that (also, the staircase was too see-through for my slight fear of altitudes).

One problem I encountered was the fact that I didn’t carry enough water, so I had to ration the liter I had left to last me until the next stream in the morning. That meant cereal bars for dinner….not ideal, but it’s fuel, right?

A few mountain bikers passed me in my tent before it got dark, but all of them either ignored me or passed by with a short ‘hello’, so I wasn’t too concerned about being confronted about camping (which isn’t allowed, technically, in any outdoor space in Germany). I had the luxury of reading a few more pages of my e-book before almost falling asleep with my phone in my hand at around 10pm.


There will be one more installment in this series, so hang in there 🙂

Until next time…keeping you posted…


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