Zweitälersteig – Two-Valley-Trail in the Black Forest – Day 5

Schutterquelle – Waldkirch 21km

I woke up pretty refreshed and well rested at 6:30 and was actually surprised that I wasn’t extremely sore, after the day I pulled yesterday. I decided to take it easy today, I only had about 20km to do and most of that was going to be downhill.

I made use of the (not too terrible, but not great, hey at least it’s there) pit toilet and even took time to drink some morning tea and munch on a breakfast bar before heading out for the final day on this trail.
Walking today was as easy as anticipated, but it wouldn’t be an outdoorsy adventure if the trail didn’t throw one last curveball my way. This came out in the form of some pretty intense wind that I had to deal with all day. Aside from that, the trail today consisted mostly of gravel paths and pavement, so not exactly thrilling. if this had been the first day i really wouldn’t have been impressed with this long-distance path, but for the last day, I really couldn’t care less. A shower and some real food beckoned, so I made very good time.

There weren’t really any good water sources today, but I also didn’t need much, it being downhill easy walking. I ran out of water 4km before the finish line, but I just kept on walking and made it to my car by 1:30pm, completing the entire Zweitälersteig with a smile on my face. I really enjoyed the few days I got to spend outside, recalling previous backpacking adventures and still feeling like a badass hiker chick. What’s coming next? Well, we’ll just have to see about that, with the worldwide pandemic going on and the world seemingly going through some serious shit right now….

I’ll be keeping you posted…

Zweitälersteig – Two-Valley-Trail in the Black Forest – Day 4

Gschasifelsen – Schutterquelle ~32km

I woke up at 6:30 to a cacophony of birds chirping around me, it’s almost defeaning, the amount of yelling going on in the bird kingdom in spring. I watched the sunset, leaisurely munching on a Kind bar (one of the few bars I can still tolerate and actually like to eat), taking my time with packing stuff up. I only had 6km to go this morning and I wasn`t scheduled to meet up with Cat until 9. The sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as the sunset the night before, but it was still nice to watch the rays reach over the peaks and touch the valleys, slowly warming up the world. And warm up it did, I think it ended up being one of the warmest days of the year so far.

I left my little shelter hut at 7:30 and took my time strolling downhill towards the meeting point, passing another awesome hut along the way. This one even had a portapotty, such luxury in the woods….and a couple other hikers had stayed there the night before. I chatted with the two couples for a short while, the usual hiker topics of gear, trail and base weight….it’s the same no matter where you go hiking. After a nice people experience I continued down the hill toward a small village and the river Elz, where I sat and enjoyed the scenery, filtered some water and waited for Cat to show up.

She managed to find me and a nice parking spot and we continued on down the trail together. The trail that we walked on wasn’t anything special and if I had walked alone, it would have probably been a little annoying (since there was nothing really interesting to see), but being able to walk together, share stories and company, it was simply amazing. Especially when we took a break at the top of the climb and Cat shared her lunch with me….aaaahhhhh how glorious fresh bread with feta cheese and tomato can be. Thank you Cat!

A little more walking along forest roads, a little more conversation and then it was already time to say goodbye again. Cat had to go back to her car and I still had quite a bit to go for today’s camp. It was really crazy how many people I encountered out in the woods today, so many solo hikers, families, mountain bikers, tons of people. Especially when I came to a road crossing, I not only passed the 2 couples I had talked to this morning taking a break in the shade, but also a parking lot that was overflowing with cars and people. SO MANY PEOPLE!!!! Well, that’s what Sunday gets you…

A little further on I filtered water out of a tiny trickling stream, scooping with my cook pot. It took way longer than I wanted, but what can you do….water is essential. I was 22km into the day and still had 10km to go until camp and the next water. It was already 4pm and I wasn’t feeling the trail anymore. Forest road after forest road, with some actual roadwalking in between, not really engaging. So i pretty much went into zmbie mode for the remainder of the day. Plugged intio a podcast, trudging along the path, shutting off my brain.

About 2km before my destination my stomach let me know in no uncertain terms that I had to stop and feed it. Otherwise there would be no more walking for me today. So I sat down for a few minutes, munched on some nuts (peanuts with crispy paprika coating, yummy) and then just pushed through the remaining distance. I got to camp around 6, setting my stuff down in the small cabin. It wasn’t super inviting and had a strange musty smell to it, but at least it was out of the wind (and the accompanying pollen shower), so it was good enough for now. And a table and benches are an opportunity not to be passed up.

A short walk across a meadow brought me to “Schutterquelle”, a supposedly gushing water source. It was depressing….a small tiny trickle out of a pipe that led into an algae-infested pool. Oh well, what can you do…..So I sat my water bladder under the pipe to catch most of the trickle and waited….and waited….and waited. After 15 minutes it wasn’t even half full, but I was done with this day and hungry, and sore, so I figured I’d make do with the water I had and just collect more in the morning. When I went to pick up the bladder I accidentally bumped my hand into the pipe….and somehow I dislodged a pine cone some idiot had stuffed into it. Out came a rush of water that just kept on coming. So nice to have a full water bladder in a few seconds…LOL.

I headed back to the cabin, where one of the couples from this morning had also shown up. Kimchi Ramen and tuna for dinner (and some chili mac without the nasty frozen beef pellets for second dinner) and some polite conversation whiled away the time until it was dark. I decided to not sleep in the cabin, but rather set up my tarp outside in between some trees, shaking off a layer of yellow pollen before I was able to slip into unconsciousness. A long day, good company and a body not as sore as I had expected had me looking forward to my last day on trail the next day.

Keeping you posted…

Zweitälersteig – Two-Valley-Trail in the Black Forest – Day 3

After a very relaxing day off eating and hanging out with Cat, she once again went out of her way to help me and dropped me off in the exact spot where I had stopped two days before – the ‘murder cabin’. It was still pretty creepy and after saying goodbye to my friend (not for long though, stay tuned), I quickly headed onwards, tackling the first climb of the day. It was a mix of forest roads, single trail, but always steep and unrelenting. It was slow going in the morning, but I enjoyed trudging upwards and listening to podcasts. Along the way I passed several devotional shrines depicting the last walk of Jesus. Makes sense, because at the top of the hill is an actual chapel, only accessible on foot, where they still hold special services occasionally. I passed several older men doing some repair work and renovations of the shrines and it always baffles me, how religion can make people so devoted to something. I mean, here’s this myth of an old white dude that no-one has ever seen, who supposedly sits on a cloud and knows everything and is responsible for all existence. He is benevolent (but only to those who believe in him) and supposedly at the end of life there’s a great reward waiting for you, if you behave. Don’t get me wrong, i think if you believe in christian values and live your life according to them, I respect that. But more often than not, these values are interpreted in a way and twisted so that they benefit old white dudes, oppressing others and validating horrible acts against ‘non-believers’. Because….’religion’, you know? I guess I just have an issue with organized religion that seeks to exclude others simply by perpetuationg the ‘belief’ that their way is the right way.

Anyway, it was still nice to reach the top of the hill, utilising the benches set in front of the chapel to take a break and enjoy the view. I made some Ramen (of course) and watched people come and go, lots of families out for a nice morning’s walk.

I headed out again, climbing a little more, then descending again, just to climb some more. After the first climb of the morning, the trail pretty much went up and own and up and down all day, nice undulation terrain, always offering some spectacular views on the hilltops. I walked through forest, over open meadown, along a golf course, through more forest, the scenery ever changing and it was great walking, nice soft forest floor mixed with the occasional gravel road and even the remanants of an old (Roman?) roadway. The hiking itself just kind of flowed today, I felt strong, capable, and oh so hungry. I finished an entire bag of crispy, seasoned peanuts, ate some bars, candy, and I was still hungry. What’s going on today? Along the trail I passed several huts of varying degrees of comfort, from a almost-fallen-down dilapidated shed to an amazingly cozy cabin with benches stored inside and a fireplace out front. I was trying to take my time today, but I just felt like walking, continually moving along until I reached my destination for the night, which I did….at 5pm. Welp. It didn’t really make much sense to keep moving on, because I was going to meet up with Cat in the morning, and there were only 6km between the little tiny hut where I was at and our meeting point. Oh well, guess it gave me enough time to enjoy the view.

Over the next few hours a lot of mountain bikers made it up the hill to the hut, some stayed, some chatted, some didn’t, but eventually everyone moved on, leaving the place to me by about 7pm. Some kind amazing soul had somehow dragged an old wooden door up this hill and I used it to construct a sleeping platform. Million star hotel, can’t be beat really. I made some dinner, watched the beautiful sunset and listened to the birds and creatures of the night taking over the forest again, an owl hooting in the distence. It got colder again as the evening progressed, but I drifted off to sleep pretty soon, snuggled up in my quilt.

Tomorrow, the longest day yet is about to happen, keeping you posted….

Zweitälersteig – Two-Valley-Trail in the Black Forest – Day 2

It was cold last night..oh so cold. I woke up constantly, because of some draft or other hitting a sensitive area of my body, giving me chills. Clearly, I’m not used to this lifestyle anymore. I remember clearly a time when I woke up in almost freezing temps and heading out in shorts…oh well, what to do about it.
I did wake up fully with the first light, as usual, but I stayed snuggled up in my quilt until I saw the sun peeking into the valley. As I sat up I was greeted with a pristine morning, clear air, sunshine and a tiny bird twitching its tail and hopping back and forth right in front of my little shelter. Not a bad way to wake up…beats an alarm clock any day.
I packed up slowly, grabbed a cereal bar for breakfast and started walking downhill along a small river. There were some waterfalls not too far into my day and a pretty steady descent for the first hour, followed by some roadwalking. Along this road I suddenly heard yelling, pretty insistent, just before I was almost run over by a pretty big dog. I guess pupper wanted to see who was walking by his territory and came charging up. I stood stock still (he startled me and also…he was BIG) until he was appparently satisfied I wasn’t a threat and decided to listen to his owner’s calls. Phew…

A little more roadwalking, a little more downhill, crossing a road, and then….oof, the first uphill of the day. It was all still in shadows, a trail climbing in a ravine, always next to a stream. Beautiful, but also pretty cold. I was in shorts and just refused to stop to put on layers, I just kept moving. Uphill always warms you up quick enough anyway. It wasn’t too long before I made to the top of the first uphill push, taking a break on a conveniently placed bench by some huge boulders. I finished my breakfast bar, had some water and then continued on climbing some more.
Across another road, saying hi to the construction workers there, then up some more on wide forest roads. I mostly find these super boring to walk, but it gave me a chance to call my mom, chatting with her a bit to pass the time. Not too long after I hit the last uphill push, conveniently marked with a pretty cheeky sign. It basically says that if you can manage the uphill climb to the hut in less than a half hour, you do not need to see a doctor yet…albeit in the very heavy dialect of the region. I lived in the area for about 3 years, so I was fine understanding it, others might have a slightly more difficult time of it. The switchbacks weren’t bad at all, they reminded me of the PCT again, and needless to say I managed the climb just fine…in about 15 minutes I was standing at the top.

The hut was closed of course, but there were some benches outside, a running well and even a self-service station with a few drinks available for purchase. All that was left was beer though, and I didn’t really want that, so I made do with water. But….I found a power outlet and used the time I took for lunch to charge my phone…..ah, what would the modern hiker do without technology. I made some Ramen (yes, I STILL love to eat it) and just enjoyed the view and the sun drying my drenched shirt. A few people came by, but I didn’t feel like chatting, so after about an hour I packed my stuff and continued on.
The trail led into the woods, no more views sadly, and then all of a sudden turned sharply downward. And somehow, what had been amazing trail so far, turned into almost a bouldering experience. Barely marked, very, very steep and rocky, it was NO FUN doing that with a heavy pack. What shold have taken me 30 minutes max turned into almost triple that. I dropped about 520m/ 1760ft within two miles. Weaving around rocks, trying to find sure footing while being pushed downhill by my pack, I was pretty exhausted by the time I made it to the bottom. Legs slightly shaking, I stumbled further along, enjoying the trail leveling out again.

It was hot out today, the sun blazing down mercilessly as the afternoon progressed. At least the next few miles were level walking, along the river through a valley and a very stretched-out village within it. I decided to take a breather around 5pm. I was out of water at that point, the source next to an abandoned creepy (murdery) cabin was just a dirty trickle with a bunch of trash. And that’s when the difference between backpacking in Germany and backpacking in true wilderness was most obvious. If I had been on a trail somewhere in true wilderness, with nothing you’d consider civilization around for miles and miles….I probably would have put on my big girl panties and sucked it up, struggled up the last climb of the day with yucky water from a nasty stream. BUT, since I was literally in a town, had cell service and within a half hour drive of my friend….I caved…and called her. She was kind enough to come rescue me, giving me shelter for the night, pleanty of water and a nice meal….and great company. Thanks Cat :-* !
So after a pretty amazing, hard, long, hot and sweaty day, slightly sunburned, I was in an actual bed for the night. But….I was determined to keep walking. How that turned out…I’m keeping you posted!

Zweitälersteig – Two-Valley-Trail in the Black Forest – Day 1

To get away from the craziness that has spread across the globe in a matter of weeks, and to retrieve whatever measure of calm and serenity I could, I decided to make the most of a two-week vacation (that I was supposed to spend hiking a portion of the PCT) on a hiking trail in the Black Forest. I really don’t know anymore if I want to classify a 110km/ 66mi long trail as long-distance, because it just feels like such an attainable goal for me now.

But it is classified as a long-distance hike and a “Qualitätsweg wanderbares Deutschland”, a sort of quality stamp awarded to trails that fit vertain criteria, so I guess I’ll go with it and declare that I thru-hiked a long-distance trail during the 2020 pandemic…(adhering to the social distancing regulations, pretty much spending 5 days in the woods avoiding people as much as I could).

Day 1
I left my house at 6am and drove for about three and a half hours to the start of my hike – Waldkirch, a small town nestled in between mountains, where I was able to leave my car and start this adventure off with an immediate climb up to one of the tallest mountains in the Black Forest region in southwestern Germany, the Kandel, which stands at just above 1.200m/4,000ft and is easily recognizable because of its bald peak and almost perfect triangular shape. I had walked up to its peak before and remembered how beautiful it was in this area. It was a moderate climb, just strenuous enough to get my heart racing. I climbed for about 3 hours to reach my first milestone, Thomashütte, a small wooden hut perched on top of a rock that offered amazing views of Waldkirch and the Rhine valley. I always love that moment when you look back to where you came from that day and can appreciate how much can be accomplished in just a short while. You are always capable of doing more than you think, in the end, it’s a mental game, not a physical one…

Especially when you know there’s something waiting for you at the end of that long uphill climb, or someONE, as it were 😀 I was lucky to have a wonderful friend coming out to meet me at the hut, bringing some water and snacks, as well as her wonderful company, of course. I hadn’t seen her in over a year and it was wonderful to catch up. I feel so lucky having friendships where you don’t have to question your affection for one another and it doesn’t matter if weeks go by without the necessity of constant chatter….you just pick up where you left off, as if time and distance in between meetings didn’t even happen. We spent a good hour just lounging around in the sun, chatting and enjoying the view, with the occasional group of people walking by, some quiet, some obnoxious.

After a while we decided to keep on moving up the trail and it was nice having some company for a short stretch, the last uphill climb to the top of Kandel. There’s not much up there except a huge parking lot and a hotel (which is closed now of course) – and functioning bathrooms….always a nice treat when you’re out adventuring. There was a small truck selling food and drinks, but I didn’t buy anything….gotta eat that food weight, otherwise your pack will never get any lighter.

As the evening progressed all of the people crowded around the fire and on the benches close by gradually went home. I made some dinner, journaled, looked at what the trail would bring the next day and when it got too cold to sit outside (and the fire went out) I snuggled up in my fluffy quilt and went to sleep. I felt right back at home, doing what I do best, letting the world and its crazyness pass by on its own.

Tomorrow will be a lot more uphill, and also a lot of descent…Keeping you posted,,,