Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"I get to be on top!"

Austrians are serious hikers and trekkers.  I'm not sure if it's because of their proximity to some of the most rugged and beautiful mountains on earth or if it's just something they do -- an implicit expectation to be outdoorsy -- but either way, they hike...a lot.  I've noticed, though, that the Austrians (as well as most other Europeans) don't completely separate the outdoors from modern civilization.  They've managed to make enjoyment of a remote mountain trail with a half-liter of beer in a mountain hut both possible on the same day.  You can, of course, also do this in the U.S., but rarely is it the case that the beer you drink will be in a hut you hiked to -- and will have to hike from (to/from your car parked in the parking lot five minutes away doesn't count).  You can argue as to which approach to the outdoors is better -- a marriage of wilderness with commerce or a complete separation between the two -- although the former certainly makes it easier to wander remote, rugged trails without schlepping around a 40 pound backpack.  And the former is what Lisa and I did on a recent weekend.

Early on a Saturday morning, we drove to the jumping off point for our two day hike -- Filzmoos, a small town about 3.5 hours southwest of Vienna -- found the trail head, parked our car, then hurriedly set off since it was already after 10AM.  According to the guide book, the hike -- the Gosaukamm Circuit -- is only 22km (~13 miles), of medium difficulty, and circumnavigates a limestone massive featuring high forest trails, a 2,000 meter pass, and towering rock pinnacles.  We spent the night in Gablonzer Hutte -- a hut at about the half-way point of the hike.  This is our journey to the hut on a misty-turned-rainy afternoon...

Still hopeful it won't rain...
Stopped for lunch at the Hofpurglhutte.  Dig the window shutters decorated as Austrian flags.
So many trails!  Our destination:  Steiglpass.
On the approach to the summit of Steiglpass
It's raining.  And Lisa is not too pleased.
Screw the rain...let's summit this thing already!
The forested trail on the backside of Steiglpass
When we arrived at Gablonzer Hutte, we weren't quite sure what to expect for sleeping arrangements:  a double bed?  Two adjacent twin beds?  Nope, bunk beds! 
"This is the master suite!"
"I get to be on top!" (Tom Hanks, "Big")
Bunk beds, beer, and beef for dinner under that roof.
The hiking on the second day was a bit more tame -- mostly undulating traverses across a series of meadows -- without a drop of rain.  
One of the many rock pinnacles we passed
The cows and horses have a helluva view
"Who you callin' Bessie?!"
And, of course, a tasty beverage at the end of the hike.

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