With visions of Kind Ludwig still dancing in our heads, we decided to clear them by hiking to a meadow that I had spotted from the deck of the closed restaurant on Laber Mountain a few days earlier (Four Lessons in a Three Hour Tour). My husband got out his map and his map reading skills and we headed out to the Hoher Fricken. Hoher Fricken is not a “walk to the trail head hike” from Oberammergau so we drove to Oberau to start the hike. From what we had been able to read on the internet, we knew it would be steep, regardless of the approach. We had an afternoon start and the sky looked a little threatening, but we needed some exercise and we had our rain jackets.
This is a panorama on the deck of the closed restaurant on Laber Mtn, and how we identified Hoher Fricken and the beautiful green alpine meadow across the valley and high in the mountains.
Early this spring, I took a boot camp class at my gym and was introduced to Tabata workouts (named after Professor Izumi Tabata and also called other names like HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training). A Tabata workout, in its simplest form, is working to your maximum capacity for a short period (think forty seconds) and recovering for a shorter time (twenty seconds). You can do different sets of exercises for as long as your stamina lasts. It is hard, but scientifically proven to be the most efficient form of exercise and when you are in it, those twenty seconds of recovery feel amazing.
A few months ago I came up with a new theory, employing “Tabata Mentality” to deal with tough situations or things that are just hard (on whatever level) to get through (maybe it will appear in the blog). I’ll sum it up here, you can get through a lot of things using a Tabata, like laundry, picking up the kitchen, kid’s homework, listening to your husband, and a visit to the dentist. Well, about thirty minutes into this hike, I decided my theory was bunk. It doesn’t work, at least not in some instances, instances that go on and on and on like the trail to Hoher Fricken.
The path looked innocent enough as we started out across the usual perfect cow and flower-strewn meadows. It was your standard, Bavarian bike and pedestrian path; flat, meandering and perfect. We turned off of the path and onto a dry, rocky riverbed after about half an hour of blissful walking. That is where the fun ended and the work began. The air was humid and the riverbed was all uphill (this was not the trail, the real hiking had begun). I was bringing up the back as usual and working up a sweat trying to keep my family in sight. Ashley sweetly waited for me at the spot where we got off of the riverbed and not too far ahead was a sign for Hoher Fricken, 3 1/4 Std (over 3 hours people and I was already soaking wet).
So, here the real trail to our destination began and very quickly I was huffing and puffing and sweating and far behind everyone. The trail was steep and climbed up and up through a dense forest. You couldn’t see much except for the trees (ha ha) but it didn’t matter because I only watched my feet. The trail was steep and slippery with lots of roots crossing over it. Grant was far ahead and Ashley hiked near Scott but no one talked. It was not a talking trail on the way up.
I don’t know how far in we were, but I was still in a positive, hey I’m getting a good workout at least mood, when Scott waited for me to be in shouting range and sweetly barked, drill sergeant style, “I need to know where you’re at here on a scale from one to ten, are you a two or a seven…” Right. I was definitely eight plus to speak his language. “Okay, just checking. We’re at about sevens up here. I think we need to treat this like a sport today.” Where does he come up with this stuff? That was funny though and I was still okay and I had a great new quote, “We need to treat this like a sport!” I will be using that one in the future.
Up and up and up we went, back and forth along the switchbacks. I thought about my “Tabata Mentality Theory” but I quickly realized that without recovery, Tabata is not useful; I guess you cannot Tabata your way out of some things. One of the things I love about hiking or running is how my mind can wander but I couldn’t even think on this trail, so I settled on counting to 100. I counted to 100 over and over and my rule was that I could rest at 100 if I needed to and if not, I just started counting again. We arrived at a little cabin (no snacks here) and rested. I was feeling whiny.
The weather had not improved, I was sweating and my legs were burning and I was worried about hiking back down the trail. I conveyed these feelings to my husband and he replied, “I respect you. It’s okay to turn around (duh), but could we just hike another ten minutes up the trail so I can try and figure out where we are on the map?”
The dark sky and a view of Kopfel in the distance.
On up the trail with him checking on me occasionally and me answering with my number between one and one hundred. One hour later we sat down in the middle of the wet, slippery trail and pulled rain jackets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of our backpacks. My husband was too busy with his map to notice us and by the time he asked us if we wanted to hike just a little farther to eat, the kids and I had already eaten half of our sandwiches. He said he thought the weather might be too bad to continue but would I mind if he hiked on just ten more minutes to see if the turn off was around the corner? Fine, but I am heading back down because it was going to be harder going down than it was coming up. Ashley went up with him and Grant kept me company at a snail’s pace as I wobbled down the mountain.
Scott and Ashley caught up with us shortly because they hiked ten real minutes without finding any other trails and turned around. It was slow going. With our rest stop at the cabin, it took us about 2.5 hours to get back to that first flat and beautiful path. It was just as difficult going down the mountain, but more entertaining as the cooler weather and direction had perked the kids up and they sang along with Scott every song they could remember. We managed to stay out of the dry riverbed this time but ended up behind some fences that a farmer patiently showed us the way out of and onto that blissfully level path.
Back at the car we were wet and tired and a bit disappointed because we hadn’t found our meadow, we had just turned around on a slippery, rainy trail. Scott talked about a repeat attempt before we left and I just looked forward to dinner. I didn’t even want to think about it.
Some adventures take time to process. We took this hike a week ago and I have been struggling to write about our Hoher attempt since. I started writing that evening but although I had some strong feelings along the trail, I really had nothing to say about it. All that I had come away with was that it was a steep and slippery trail and it was not enjoyable. We have been on at least three challenging hikes (very enjoyable and longer than Hoher) since then and I keep thinking about Hoher, just like a bad boyfriend.
We were hiking somewhere along the trail in those clouds.
I told our apartment manager/resident hiker about our attempt and asked him if he knew anything about it or had hiked it, he replied in his peculiar way that is growing on us, “It is not fun to accomplish nothing.” And he said, “You should ask an Austrian.” Okay, I do agree with the first statement (the second statement I thought was funny, however he was very serious) but what about the joy of the journey and not getting hung up in the destination? There are some options here: maybe it takes a while to appreciate a journey or it takes other experiences to appreciate a journey or some journeys just plain suck (although that is a little too black and white for me).
I learned that it’s important to have more than one tool in my bag of tricks (Tabata, counting to 100, favorite place to go in your head, etc.). I think I know this, I just forget it often in the busy, loudness of everyday life. I was also reminded that just because an experience is not good and not what you were hoping for, it may evolve as time passes, just like years give one more insight into and understanding of people and events. I have thought about Hoher so much that like a book I can’t stop thinking about, it must be significant to me. I just might suggest a redo and maybe the redo will be a bit like the Alpine Coaster Redo, more fun and much less stress.