Monday, October 13, 2014

Hut Hiking

Our favorite thing about Germany is the Alps. An hour drive from our house gets you into the Alps and some great hiking trails. But in all honesty, we have hiked the same two – though scenic-  trails over and over again for years. Thanks to an infusion of alpine advice, we’ve finally expanded. Adam has crossed over to boy scouts and to a whole new set of hikes and I’ve been included in a Scandinavian hiking club. I can keep up with them now but fear those days are numbered when the snow comes and they strap on skis. 
Recently, Adam and Phil hiked with the boy scouts up to a hut, spending the night and doing a “hut hike,” something Phil has long wanted our family to try. Basically, they walked a few hours  up to a hut, basically a small kitchen for day hikers on one floor and has a room for overnight hikers on another floor. The boy scouts arrived at the hut, hiked around it all day, then sleep over and hiked down. The boys described the sleeping conditions as two long mattresses put on a huge bunk bed. Apparently, 13 people sleep side by side on each mattress. Sounds fun but Phil has not rushed out to organize another hut hike for all of us!
Our typical hut hike is more of a lunch break. Most mountains here maintain a hut on the top serving a set menu of warm food and drink. Typically, a hiker can expect to get a large bowl of linderhof soup, lentil soup, with or with a sausage in it, some sort of fruit cobbler for dessert and of course a beer. The huts are typically family owned, with kids the same as our kids clearing the tables, carrying multiple large glass beer steins back to the kitchen. We recently sat at a picnic table in the sun, resting after a hard ascent and watching the crowd. We watched a baby stick first his finger in his Dad’s beer and then his whole fist, licking off the beer with increasing frequency. It’s a different drinking culture here and definitely one that includes a beer on the top of every summit.
Our most recent new hike was just south of Garmisch, very near the Linderhoff Castle. I thought to combine our hike with a visit to King Ludwig II’s castle, completed in 1886, but we got a late start and were pulling three somewhat reluctant kids along so decided to skip this.  We went straight to a high mountain trail to Purschling, one of many peaks in the area. Purschling is home to the lovely August Schuster Haus and after refueling with plenty of soup and cake we headed for the rocky summit of Teufelstattkopf, about 1700 meters high. The steep trail is all rocks and roots and an exposed walk along a ridge in many spots. Once we saw the summit and the rocky ascent with a wire rope affixed to the rock, the kids were rejuvenated.  We held the rope, some of us more tightly than others, and got up to the small cross on the very top. The walk down was straight down, tricky footing until we made the main trail again that lead to a high alpine meadow and the August Schuster Haus again. Earlier, there were many hikers but after the summit, we saw no one else. We reached the car park just as darkness fell. A solid six hour plus hike. 
We’re really loving our expansion into the Alps. Lots of smaller summits to try, not to mention the big one. Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The kids want to hike it rather than take the cable car up but that will mean getting out of bed early on a Saturday. With our new teenage sleeping patterns, that remains on the wish list for now.


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