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From the Spring to the Falls - Walking the Lechweg in Austria September 2018

September 6, 2018

Buddha said "It is better to travel well than to arrive", but I don't always agree that that is the case. After 23 solid hours of travel yesterday(s) I finally arrived. And it is "BETTER".

Solana Beach - Union Station - LAX - Paris - Zurich - St Anton am Arlberg - Lech am Arlberg... Truly a Planes Trains and Automobiles situation. I arrived in Lech with a light rain and the last bit of light from the setting sun... as quiet as can be with just the faint sound of cow bells tinkling on the hills behind my hotel. Yes, arriving was surely better! The travel day was long, but everything went smoothly...even the #METOO moment I had with the Paris airport security agent / groper / masseuse who got all up in my business because my knee replacement hardware set off all the bells and whistles. I felt that she should have at least bought me dinner or flowers first. My room at the Hotel Kristall is classic alpine style, and perfect and I am having difficulty convincing myself to roll out from under the most delicious, billowy down comforter ever and head out for Stage One of the Lechweg trail on this cloudy, rainy morning.

"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure". Freya Stark

September 7 - Day 1, Lechweg Stage One Formarinsee to Lech @ 9 miles

European guesthouse breakfasts are very near and dear to my heart. What's not to love about a very fresh egg, cheese, butter and an array of dried meats with homemade bread? With a full belly and heart, and an empty-ish backpack I headed out to catch the bus to the trailhead of the Lechweg, at the Formarinsee, or Lake Formarin for the Deutch impaired. We hit some traffic on the road up (cows), and the bus driver had to get out and throw his weight around to get the road cleared. About a dozen or so hikers began the trek from the trailhead. I waited to let them clear out ahead of me and then hit the trail with soft rain falling and mild temperatures. A herd of horses swarmed us when we got off the bus... I think they've been snack trained. They headed back into the hills as we walked off and I could hear nothing but moos and bells. Heavenly.

Cows make me really happy. Oddly happy. So, today I was exuberant! ...and a little nervous. At one point I looked up on a terrace above me and saw a huge gaggle of them. I called to them, but didn't expect that they would come toward me en masse... jogging. They were so cute and some of them were so big! It was surely my favorite part of this most amazing day. Soon I saw where the spring waters of the Lech bubbled up from the ground and as I walked along that spring became a brook, then a stream and finally a river. Today with the overcast sky the water appeared to be white. Hopefully I will have some sunny days when it takes on a light turquoise hue. I passed a few people hiking up toward Formarinsee as I headed down, but other than that I was alone on the trail most of the day. It was very peaceful and I had to intentionally shift my mental activity from it's normal / homelife "to do" list thinking and slow everything down. The trail is well marked and I stayed on course until about 10 minutes out from town where the trail divided into a few different options: Lechweg (walking), Lech bike trail, and something called "via parcour". This is the trail I accidentally took, although no parkour actually occurred at any point... to be sure. I hit up the supermarket and grabbed some cheese, lettuce, antipasti, and seedy rolls for lunch/dinner and tomorrow's lunch, headed home for a hot bath and am happily back in bed after my meal and ready for tomorrow's adventure

September 8, 2018

Day two, Stage 2, Lechweg. Lech to Gehren @8.5 miles. From Voralberg to Tirol region.

"To move, to breathe, to fly, to float. To gain all while you give. To roam the roads to lands remote. To travel is to live..." Hans Christian Andersen.

Today was but a dream...

September 9, Day 3, Stage 3 Lechweg, Gehren to Steeg @ 10 miles +/-

"Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." Mary Ritter Beard

The Frau Lizbeth, who runs the Biobauernhof Gehrenerhof in Gehren asked me what time I would be leaving this morning ... and by "ask" I mean she told me I would be leaving at 8:00. Not to be bossed around, I took my sweet time and was out by 8:20 and into a brisk and peaceful Sunday morning.

Frau Lizbeth needed to know that I didn't need to leave at 8am to walk 9 miles in about 4 hours only to have to wait for my 4pm check in at the Landhaus Moosbrugger in the next town of Steeg! I had a lovely lunch at the Hotel Post and wandered the beautiful streets...and sat on a few benches...until 4:00. I'm far too tired to go find dinner out so I'll forage in my snack bag and tuck in early.

(The Terrain today was up through some meadows and into the forest high above the Lech river, followed by a very long curvy path down into a gorge and along the river. My dogs are barkin'.)

A couple of post scripts here:

1)OK... so I had a little problem on this leg. But, thankfully it didn't become a Big problem! In Steeg my booking was at the Landhaus Moosbrugger, so that's what I was keeping an eye out for as I neared town. There was a sign on the side of this beautiful building that said Lechweg, Haus Moosbrugger. So, naturally, I thought I had arrived at my lodging for the evening. There was an open door off the driveway, so I softly knocked and said hello. THANKFULLY, I didn't walk in. I took off my pack and fished out the paper confirmation and looked at the photo of the hotel and compared it with the building where I was. Not the hotel!!

At the tourist office in town I asked where Landhaus Moosbrugger was and she pointed directly across the street. Phew! That would have really been embarrassing if I had walked into someone's home!

2)For lunch I just pointed at the menu having no idea what it was. It turned out to be a delicious soup. Thankfully I understood that "bier" was just a typo, and I got exactly what I

ordered (wink, wink)

September 10, Day 4 Steeg to Bach. 9.5 (+) miles

"Many people suffer from the fear of finding oneself alone, and so they don't find themselves at all." Rollo May

Today began with a chilly-aired walk alone in the deep forest. Today, for the first time I decided to put on some music while I head phones, just quiet music from my phone in my shirt pocket. The first thing to play was Switchfoot, This is Home. Dangerous thinking for someone who loves this alpine landscape as much as I do. That began a thought. This clearly isn't my home (as much as I love it) ...but this mind space that I am in is very much what I want to be Home. Total peace, in and out. Complete freedom. No insecurity. Absolutely no fear. Wonder. Awe. Deep thought, uninterrupted. Can I bring This home? Mixed in too, with all that is spirit lifting is a sense of sadness for those who I want to experience what I am experiencing... and the realization that not everyone wants to do this kind of thing. It is exhilarating and exhausting. Not everyone considers that a vacation!

After an hour and some, I came to Holzgau, a town of beautifully frescoed buildings. Before reaching town there was a shed with some hanging keyrings for those who are walking the Lechweg. Self serve / honor system. My kind of souvenir. After a few minutes of walking the town of Holzgau and seeing the minibuses of day hikers loading and unloading in order to walk up to the Hängebrücke... the long and high hanging bridge, I headed up, and I mean UP the 30 minute walk to the bridge. Thanks to my week in August backpacking in the California Sierras I was ready for this kind of climb. It was fun watching people deal with their anxiety with crossing the bridge and more fun walking behind someone who was conquering it. The view was lovely. My favorite part of the day was after crossing the bridge, with all the day hikers heading back down to town, I was alone again, up high, green, steep meadows, looking down on the small villages below. In quiet and solitude I wound my way along the hillsides and eventually into Bach, my stop for the night.

September 11, Day 5 Lechweg-Stages 6, 7, and 8 @ 9.7 miles

HOWEVER... It was actually 14 miles, over 8 hours, with only 1 apple...and boy am I tired.

"Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out." John Wooden

I knew I would have to leave the trail briefly to go into the town with a bank and while there I also toured the wood carving enclave of Elbigenalp and that detour added a little to my mileage for the day. But a couple of times today I missed a turn off and added a significant amount of up hill mistake mileage that taxed me physically and also put me behind schedule time wise. I was able to make the corrections and managed to have quippy monologues along the way that kept me entertained. I finally completed those three stages I had planned for the day and was set to catch a bus to my next hotel. With my broken reading glasses I was able to see that the bus I had planned to catch didn't make the stop I needed to make after 2pm... I'd have to go to the next larger town and make a bus change. Once at the Bahnhoff stop, the bus driver decided that he actually Could speak English and told me that I could easily walk to the town where my hotel was and vaguely pointed the direction I should go. So, I started out. Scanning every street sign, any kind of marker I finally found a sign pointing toward a village near my hotel, so I pressed on toward Lechaschau with the hope of eventually finding Wängle. After about 45 minutes or so of tired, zombie walking, a couple in their driveway said something to me. I "explained" my situation and with broken English and hand signals they told me that Haus Diana, my hotel was still about an hours walk from there. The man turned and went in the house and returned with his car keys and blessedly drove me to my destination. Exhausted and famished, it was all I could do to not cry from gratitude and just the acknowledgment that there are kind people everywhere. We couldn't communicate, but he did mention Ahnold Schwarzenegger and Trump. So, not being able to communicate further was a blessing. At the hotel reception desk, the sweet lady who checked me in saw my broken glasses and said she would bring me an extra pair of her own that I could have. That gesture almost broke- me- down. I skedaddled up to my wonderful room with balcony overlooking the town below and the castles on the hill. I'm thankful for what hikers call a "zero day" tomorrow. I'll stay put in this town.

I'm also thankful for a host of other things. I'm thankful that I absolutely know that things always work out. I'm thankful that I've discovered that I am positive, resourceful and able. When you realize that there is no other way than to make a way, then that is what you do. I'm also thankful that I find so many things funny! It has delighted me to No End every time I pass a hiker or biker and they say "Great Scott!" I would often finish their exclamation with my own "Great Scott! She is sweaty!", "Great Scott! Look at the ol' broad go!"... Then I realized that they were actually saying Grüss Gott, a greeting which means God bless you. And, to that I can only answer, Yes. Yes He has. Over and Over again.

After a very larger serving of Putenschnitzel mit champinons I watched the sunset with the lights on the castle in the distance from my balcony. Tired, Fat and Happy.

September 12, Day 6 Lechweg-"zero day"

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." John Lubbock

I took a physical rest day today...and it was good. I got off to a slow start and stayed in that gear all day. My big "activity" of the day was to give my absolute best effort to find someone who would strap me to them and run off the side of a mountain. But, sadly, the only paragliding operation in town is on holiday. At any rate...instead, I walked down into town and looked at baby cows and did some marketing. Oh! And I saw something new to me! An electric robot lawnmower...the Roomba of the yard! Fantastic! And my zero day still had 5.6 miles. Also, I think it is noteworthy that I find myself at total peace, mind, body and spirit. The constant whirl of inconclusive thoughts, and to-dos and "remembers"...that barrage of chaotic thinking that is too often the norm has taken a well deserved hiatus. I highly recommend it. Tomorrow I march on to Hinterbichl. ...and I watch some clouds gathering over the mountain tops!!

September 13, Day 7 - Lechweg. Höfen to Hinterbichl (via Wïnkle and Wängle!)

@ 8 miles.

"Courage is knowing what not to fear". Plato

To walk from Höfen to Hinterbichl on the road would take about 50 minutes, 2.6 miles. HOWEVER, to walk the mountain trails with diversions and side trails was about 8 miles and took 4 hours. Actually, I knew that it wasn't too far to my next destination and that I had all day, so I just took a different mindset about the day, slowed my pace, took the side trails to see the Frauensee and the chapel on the hill. I didn't look at a map and hadn't any concern that I'd eventually end up where I needed to be. The little, tiny, not well trodden trail that was marked as a turn off to the Frauensee took me deep into a heavily forested area that led me to think, and probably talk out loud about Hansel and Gretel. (I think I've been alone so much that I am doing my thinking right out loud ...and sometimes with a really poor German accent). Anyway, those two came to mind today. After wandering in the deep for quite a while I was laughing about not having a clue about where I was. This is probably the time to mention that at no point on any day have I had any fear about being harmed or being lost or any irrational fears at all. But, this morning as I crested a hill and dropped down into a small hollow with a grassy area surrounded by trees my skin went cold and began to crawl. There were some signs of some dark spiritual stuff that has gone on there. I was very thankful to know immediately the Power available for protection, and defense against Fear that wanted to rush in. The Fear didn't get a foot hold in me, but I didn't stick around there either. I headed up the trail to Costaries Chapel, a trail that is marked with plaques of images of the cruxifixction, finishing up at a tiny chapel on a cliff overlooking the towns below.

That dichotomy and polarity , the Darkness and the Light... Fear and Peace... Quiet and Chaos... Hope and Hopelessness...Joy and Sorrow is something I thought about the rest of the day.

September 14, 2018, Day 8 Lechweg-Final Stage, Hinterbichl to Fussen. 14.8 miles.

Leaving Hinterbichl I crossed the Lech river and was on the first really flat stretch of the trail through Forschach, then winding into the forest and up into the hills. The road turned to a muddy mountain trail which crossed from Bavaria into Tirolia and dropped down to a stunning turquoise lake with a view of Hohenschwanstein and Neuschwanstein castles on the far side in Fussen, Germany.

Before reaching the castle, the Lechweg parts away and heads down to the Lech Falls and Fussen, marking the end of the trail. I knew that I wanted to go up to the castle and take some photos but also knew that if I headed down and finished the Lechweg trail at the falls I would absolutely NOT head back up to the I reversed direction and motored up the very steep and winding road to the bridge above the castle for the obligatory photo ops. It was

surreal to come out from a total solitude hiking trail into the Disneyland size crowds of Neuschwanstein central. I felt very small and slow in the middle of all that activity. Bizarre.

After the castle, like a horse running back to the barn I did the double time skedaddle down the last 4 miles to Fussen at the falls. Like on other backpacking trips, when coming out of the backcountry and into civilization, I always notice how good the people around me smell... I was hoping that they didn't also take note of me! It was a long and mostly all up hill day! #sweaty

When I stood on the bridge above the falls, I felt like it should be some kind of a monumental moment. I mean, for the love!! I walked kind of across most of a whole country!... from the point that this whole stinkin' river was just a bubble of water springing from the earth, for Pete's sake. Doesn't anyone notice that accomplishment? I was wishing a good smelling tourist might see me taking my sad, sweaty selfie and think that maybe my whole self should be in the picture instead of just my head and wrinkly neck, and offer to help out? I took the anticlimactic photo, head and neck(s), and then, it was done. Lechweg Over.

Fussen-town-actual was just a short walk away and I hit the city center around lunch time and the streets were full of happy people in cafes... quite lovely. I happened upon my hotel, as I usually do, without maps or phone service or other tech-nich things and got ridiculously quickly into the bath. Having only had breakfast at around 7:30 and it being about 3:00 I was wearing down. I read in my hotel information book in the room that there was a mini bar in my room with snacks and such...which sounded really fantastic while I was leisuring after my bath. After searching high and low I realized it was just a cruel hoax and there was no actual mini bar. I would have to dress and blow dry to go get food.

Before that though, I had to figure out my train ticket out of town that leaves at 6am tomorrow. Food would have to wait , so I walked to the Bahnhof to figure that out. The station has modernized since we were here with the kids back in 2006. There isn't a "ticket window" with a helpful human who would take my money and print me out a ticket. I did find the International Ticket Assistance Office, which looked more like a snack stand. The young girls working there told me to "go online" to book my ticket. At that point I wanted to give them the International Signal for #1 helper...but opted to find other resources for assistance instead. I stopped in at the Tourist Info Office in town and the woman there pulled up the information for the best train connections and said I could get a ticket at a kiosk in the station. I decided instead to go back to my hotel and just ask the nice young man at the desk to go online and book it for me. And he did. I was very thankful. ...and he confirmed that, in fact, my mini-bar was broken and not actually in my room. Case solved.

Heading out into the cute, crowded streets, I found a posted menu that had Putenschnitzel mit champinons und spätzle. Being just a tad more than a rookie, I knew this was the place for me, and I mowed that plate down. I was just really hungry.

With a few more swirls through the precious streets of Füssen for photos, I'm happily in bed feeling strong and accomplished...and pretty sure that I'm going to be losing at least two more toe nails on account of this adventure. #discountpedicures

So, my quote for the day comes from the band that really, over and over play the anthems for my adventures and my daily life. I had them playing on the mountains of today, and I celebrated that I'm not waiting for some reason to come alive... I am living! It is a choice. Everyday.

"Cause everyday the world is made.

A chance to change But I feel the same

And I wonder Why would I wait till I die to come alive?

I'm ready now

I'm not waiting for the afterlife.


*A choice is made*


I choose my fate

And I wonder WHY would I wait till I die to come alive?

I'm ready now...." - Switchfoot

Make the choice! Come Alive! Choose your fate!

Lech am Arlberg, Austria to Fussen, Germany

....and, that’s a wrap. #lechweg2018 is in the bag.

85 miles... 221, 673 steps, 506 floors.

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