Friday, August 01, 2014

Alp Peeping, or Where Have All The Mountains Gone?

 Having outwitted the weather on Wednesday, we had placed our bets on Thursday. When we woke up, we could only see our garden, a tree, and the roof below us. We ate breakfast, packed our stuff, and hoped it would all burn off like so much San Francisco fog. But when it was still there at 9:00am, we came up with a new plan: we would do our hike backwards, with an extra uphill leg at the beginning, giving the sun time to warm up everything and shake off the clouds.
 This is what it looked like. Beautiful, with lots of cowbells ringing and water falling. Speaking of cowbells, why is it that American cows didn't seem to get bells like these in Europe? It seems like it would be a great idea to know where your cows are when you're ranching in places like Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. My theory is that there are more predators in Utah, but Rob thinks there might be more to it.
 Rob got seriously happy because first he found wild strawberries that he picked down next to a creek (excellent movie! he says. Love Bergman! he says.). Then he found ripe huckleberries. This had the potential to derail the entire trip, because we have seen in the past that Rob can pick huckleberries with the best of them. But knowing that there was no oven waiting to bake them into pie tipped the balance in favor of the alps. We pressed on. I turned into a puddle. I took off everything that was decent and mopped myself with my scarf. My poor scarf! We decided to catch the train up at the 2/3 point, Wengeralp. We got on, and there was a little opening in the clouds that let us see this:
 The Monch! (In case you are like me and have no idea of your alpine geography, this is a triple-peaked mountain we're trying to see: The Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau which means the Ogre, Monk, and the Maiden. The monk in the middle is protecting the maiden from the ogre.)
 But this was what a lot of our trip was like: an Alpine striptease with little tantalizing glimpses of peaks behind clouds. This is the Wetterhorn. We saw it several times thinking it was the Eiger, but it's off to the side and looks a lot lower.
 Up on Kleine Scheidegg (a great huge train station of a town), we saw this sweet guy. A St. Bernard complete with cask! I am in love! We aren't going to the Bernard pass this trip, but they say that there was one dog who is credited with saving something like 40 people from freezing in snowstorms.
After fortifying ourselves with homemade plum cake, we set out on our hike. We'd been watching and hoping, and then when we sat down on a bench to have our lunch . . .
 We saw the face of the Eiger! Pretty magnificent, huh? It seems far away here, but it felt overpowering on the trail. Lunch was great, munching on braided bread and cheese and turkey. We moved on when the mountain had hidden itself again.
 Once we were almost to Mannlichen, we saw this lady in our path. We used two brave American boys as meat shields to make sure she wouldn't gouge us with her horns.
 Then we introduced ourselves. This one was really mellow. She didn't even flinch when four dogs greeted each other loudly on the trail. I had wanted to go to a farm where you could see cheesemaking, ride cows, and even sleep in the straw, but Rob wasn't sold on it. So this was my cow encounter.
Rob made friends with this cow who had a beautiful brass bell. I admired the bell, but I like the brown cows better with their soft brown eyes. So pretty!

 We waited in Mannlichen for another half hour, willing the wind to pick up and blow away all of the clouds, but it just didn't happen. In the end, this was our ultimate alpine picture: meadows and buttercups and cows and a peak in the background.
And then we boarded the lift and came down to Wengen. In two minutes. Rob and I don't think of ourselves as daredevils, but we both thought we might orphan the children when we looked out this window. I was once again glad for those Swiss engineers! And the Alps will remain on the bucket list for now. Neither one of us is done with the Lauterbrunnen Valley and its tall neighbors.

1 comment:

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