The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Wednesday 18 July - The Danube, by Fridingen

The last walk upon which I reported was a 'Donauwellen' route. In trying to find some information about that route before we embarked on it, I downloaded the 'Donauwellen' leaflet that set out a series of routes around the Danube and I said that we would likely sample another one or two as we journeyed along.

You may recall that my verdict on our first such route was that it was perfectly pleasant, but spent a lot of time wiggling through woodland, over the course of 13km, whilst only passing two notable points of interest.

When I downloaded a gpx file for today's route from Wikiloc.com, the comment that had been left by the originator of that file said (via Google Translate):
"First section to ruin Kallenberg is really nice with great viewpoints
The second part is unfortunately almost only in the woods on the way.
Only the castle Bronnen and the rocks at the hunting lodge are worth seeing on this section."

I thus had the expectation that it would be very much like last week's walk, only longer.

We were most pleasantly surprised! To the east of Fridingen the Danube runs along a valley flanked by limestone cliffs and outcrops, and it is really spectacular. Our route started on the north side of the valley and passed through forest and meadows, with some stunning viewpoints, before dropping down to cross the river.


A ruined castle/keep was visible across the valley from this viewpoint and we were to pass it on our route.

We knew we had to ascend again once we had crossed the river, but first we followed close beside the water for a while. The ascent, once it came, didn't feel as bad as I had expected. My hill fitness from May in Scotland must still be lingering.


Being amongst forest there was no vantage point from where I could get a snap of the whole of the castle ruins, so this is just a relatively uninteresting shot of the tower. The view from the surrounding wall was excellent - but unshaded, so we didn't stop here for elevenses.

A bench had been passed at 11.02, but as we were still on the north side of the river at that point, with most of the walk still ahead of us, it felt a little early for elevenses. Benches have been everywhere on our German walks to date, so we thought we'd stop at the first nice one we came to on the south side of the river. Admittedly, we did accidentally miss out one viewpoint (took the indirect forest loop path, but annoyingly missed the short out-and-back to the viewpoint itself) and that one may have been festooned with benches, but the next one we found was at gone 12.30. Elevenses became lunch.


Lunchtime view

Zoom of lunchtime view.

The first thing we did after lunch was to drop a chunk of height, on a path that zig-zagged own a remarkably steep slope, before contouring for a while. It wasn't a wide path, and you wouldn't have wanted to trip over one of the many tree roots, or slip on a piece of polished limestone:

I doubt this conveys the steepness. Photos never do, do they?

Our descent and reascent was accompanied by the sound of a male voice choir. They were part of a large group of ramblers who, by good timing, we encountered just as the path crossed a track at the bottom of this side valley. Had we been a couple of minutes ahead of ourselves, it would have been 'interesting' to squeeze past them on the equally narrow path that ascended the other side of the dip.

The route continued to weave (horizontally as well as vertically) through the trees, but they were nice paths through pleasant woodland, so it was enjoyable even in between the viewpoints.
Finally, as we reached the castle that we had looked at during our lunchbreak, we started our final descent, to recross the Danube, for our return to Bertie. I'd forgotten about the photos on the route leaflet (which included this next feature), so it was a surprise when we passed a large cave in the base of the rock upon which the castle was perched.


Again, because of the trees and the inaccessibility of the steep slope, I couldn't get a snap that included the mouth of the cave. It was large!


The castle sits upon the rock to the right of this shot.

Crossing back over the river on a rickety bridge (we could have used stepping stones, but there were lots of people in the restaurant just behind us, which would have almost guaranteed that one of us would fall off them) we just had one final ascent, on an easy forest track, to get back to Bertie, and our final viewpoint that sat just behind him:

See that huge building a little way along the valley? It's a Benedictine Monastery and we're currently sitting in the motorhome parking area next to it, ready for another walk tomorrow.

The stats came in at almost exactly 15km with 650m of ascent.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Friday 13 July - Donausinkungstelle

The car park in which Bertie is currently residing is one of the start points for a walking circuit, taking in three points of interest, thus it was easy to choose what to do with ourselves today.


I didn't find a gpx file to download, so this photo was our main point of reference for where we were going.

The start of the route (which we chose to tackle anti-clockwise) was a short but sharp shock as we ascended (only a modest 80m) at a gradient that got the heart and lungs working. There then ensued much wiggling through the forest, on paths and tracks, until we reached the first point of interest:


Initially we though it was a quarry, then decided it was a vast sink hole, then we found an information board that (with the assistance of Google Translate) confirmed our original assessment. Basalt was mined here from the turn of the 20th century until 1979.

There had been a dearth of picnic (or indeed any) benches up to this point (unusual!), so an early elevenses was had when we found one one, sitting next to the quarry:

A substantial construction, as picnic benches go

Of course, many more such facilities were then found, some at impressive viewpoints.

The waymarking on this entire route, in both directions, was outstanding. Even so, shortly after the quarry, whilst looking at an information board (making a quick fly-by assessment whether it was worth stopping to try to understand it) we both not only failed to spot a finger post, but we also failed to see the junction it was marking. It was only when we got to the next turn that the position of the arrows made me suspicious that we shouldn't have arrived from our direction of approach. A bit more looking around had me realise that we had been at that very junction before - in overshooting our turn, we'd completed a loop, back to our outward route. A backtrack put us right.

The second point of interest on the itinerary was (to our eyes) wholly uninteresting. A sink hole that was was so small and so covered in undergrowth that it didn't stir even the smallest 'wow' or 'gosh'. In fact, we would have unknowingly strode straight past if it hadn't been for the information board.

Much more wiggling around through forest (definitely in the 'perfectly pleasant but not spectacular' category of walking) brought us to the final point of interest, but this one we had already seen, having walked a small circuit from the car park late yesterday afternoon. This is, as far as we can make out, the main reason that people visit this place. It's the Donausinkuntstelle - the place where (due to limestone channels and chambers) the Danube disappears below ground in summer:

Where the Danube abruptly stops and dry river bed takes over

If our understanding is correct, it flows below ground for, on average, around 155 days per year.

These three photos were taken yesterday. We didn't cross the stepping stones today (or the dry river bed) keeping to the right bank instead.

The whole outing came in at 13km, with 300m of ascent and, to our surprise, until the last 1km, we met only two other people. Between the Donausingkungstelle and where Bertie was parked, people were out in force.

I downloaded a leaflet yesterday that sets out a number of these Danube-based circuits, and it's possible we may visit another one or two as we continue on our journey.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Monday 6 July - Along the River Wutach at Bachheim

I don't know whether this region is saturated with good walks, or whether by random chance we just keep hitting the good ones. Either way, we had another nice little outing today.

I hadn't seen an elevation profile in advance, but I suppose it stood to reason that, as we were going to be walking alongside a river, there would likely be some descent to reach it. It turned out to be 170m, which isn't much, but was made to feel more so by being covered in a relatively short distance (plus the knowledge that at some point we were going to have to regain it).

Once we reached the waterway the initial section alongside it was pleasant but not overly remarkable. Then we reached the first bridge:

See the 'window' in the rock face on the other side of the bridge?

From there we were walking along the very base of a limestone cliff, from under which, at a couple of points, there were streams gushing out:


It was a lovely and interesting place to be - nicely shaded on a hot and sunny afternoon.

Even when not under the cliffs, it was a steep sided valley, and in one place nature had won, by taking out the path with a land-slip. No problem, said the path maintainers, we'll just chuck in a couple of rustic bridges and everyone can continue to enjoy the walk as normal:

It was a small diversion to the other bank of the river - you can see both of the temporary bridges in this snap. Judging by her yelp, the woman just ahead of us was taken by surprise by the bounciness of the first.

The bridge that was to take us back across the river for the final time, for the return leg of our circuit, was a more substantial affair:

Why the roof? No idea!

A short distance up a side stream started our re-ascent, which then took us through forest and meadows. The sky was starting to cloud over by the time we got back to within sight of Bertie, but it was still another hour or so before the sun was obscured and the day started to cool.

Whereas our last walk was advertised as 8km but came out as 10, today's was advertised as 8 but came out at 6.5km (including the bit we added by way of an exploration of the area immediately surrounding our nightstop).

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Sunday 8 July - Blumberg

This post doesn't belong on this blog - it's not remotely related to walking. However, I thought the main subject deserved a bigger audience than it would get on our daily travels blog, so I'm duplicating it here.
............................

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Stellplatz at Blumberg.
Weather: Mainly sunny, with some cloud. Warm.

It was a mundane sort of a start to the day. After a run (7.5 miles off-road alongside the railway track; just me - Mick's still injured), it was time to take advantage of having electricity, with haircuts for us both as well as strimming of legs and beard (should I clarify that was for me and Mick respectively?!). All electronics were charged and I was just about to start on boiling water to fill the flasks, ready to move on, when Mick said that he'd like to stay here a second night and visit the art festival today. So we did.

Below is a small snapshot of the creations on display, all created with chalk directly onto the surface of the road. There were 99 2D works and 10 (?) 3D. The quality varied enormously from amateur to 'Master' and I would say that about a dozen were extraordinary.













Having intially walked through starting late this morning, we returned at 5pm to see the finished works. I didn't take as many photos this afternoon, hence many of the snaps above are of works in progress.

We did, of course, pay the €4 each entrance fee today (as today we were there to join in, not just to find a pub with a TV) and it was worth every cent.

Now we wonder what happens to all of the art. Do they send a street sweeper in overnight and erase all that hard work, or is it left to wear off by the passage of traffic? Either way, a lot of work has been put in by a lot of people (in hot, sunny conditions, but all things considered, hot is better than rain!) for a very temporary exhibition.

And now, as the day marches into 'late evening' we are hoping for a quieter night. Last night was blighted by boy racers nearby. The squealing tyres would have been bad enough, but these were accompanied by much tooting and yelling. After today's exertions, I'm after a good kip tonight!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Friday 6 July - Schattenmühle

Facts I knew about today's destination before arrival:
1) a car park;
2) by a gorge; and
3) walking routes nearby.

In keeping with normality, I had done no prior research, so I hadn't downloaded a map, nor any walking routes in advance. Thus, it was a bit of an impediment to arrive here to find that there was no mobile phone signal. However, there was a map in the car park, setting out 15 circuits (not all starting here; the map covers the surrounding area too), and the number of cars suggested that there was something of appeal nearby.

Following the waymarks for 'Route 5' out of the car park, a path, whose maintenance was clearly a fight against nature (the path clings to the steep side of the gorge and nature clearly wants to deposit said path into the stream below), took us upstream, via some engineered walkways and via a couple of modest waterfalls and cascades:



Meeting a road, and not immediately seeing where we were to go, we took a look at another map in the car park there and it took a while for me to locate the 'Standort' (You Are Here!) marking (or lack thereof; it had been rubbed off by years of fingers pointing to it) as it wasn't where I had expected. That temporarily discombobulated me until I realised that my baseless assumption that we were to walk the circuit anticlockwise was false.

Up a tarmac track (road?) we climbed, giving extensive views over the surrounding countryside, which today was much more agricultural than the meadows and forest we have seen over the last couple of weeks. Today there were crop fields aplenty, and the rolling land was more gentle in its undulations.

This cultivated field of wild flowers was buzzing with bees and aflutter with butterflies.

It was up at that high point that I finally was able to download a map. Whilst the waymarking was excellent, I still feel better being able to follow where we're going and see how it relates to our start point.

Through a village and out the other side, a path then took us zig-zagging steeply down to the river below. Our return route lay on the other side of that river.

Downstream from the bridge

The rest of the route undulated alongside the river, initially on track then on a path made interesting by the exposed network of tree roots. Where there weren't roots there was polished limestone, which isn't the grippiest of surfaces on a damp day.

I should have asked Mick to stand by (under?) this mossy waterfall to give it scale. I'm not sure it comes across as big as it was.

We returned to our start point having covered 10km, with 320m of ascent, which wasn't entirely in keeping with the advertised 8km with 240m ascent (and we managed not to go awry or deviate at all from the route on this occasion). Given that, save for a couple of minutes at the beginning, it stayed dry whilst we were out, we didn't mind the extra distance at all.

As for all those other cars in the car park, I know not where their occupants went, but once we were half a mile up the gorge, we met not a single person on our circuit and Mick, walking ahead of me, was constantly getting cobwebs in his face. There was, however, quite a crowd at the bus stop here when we returned, and when the bus arrived people alighted to return to their cars, so it seems that linear routes are a popular choice.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

More Strolling Around The Schwarzwald

I think that we've been in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) for ten days now. Ten hot and sunny days, until today (after a 20-day run of fine weather, we can't complain about today's rain). My opinion formed over this time is that the Black Forest is a very pretty region, without being spectacular. We have seen no jagged peaks, but plenty of rounded hills, glorious summer meadows, characterful houses and lots of forest.

One of the joys of the region is the quality of signage of walking routes. At every junction where there is a choice of destinations, there will be a set of finger posts, with place names and distances, together with supplementary symbols where applicable (viewpoint, restaurant, parking, etc). If there is a junction of paths where there is not a choice of destinations, then there will be a waymarker just along the path/track/road you need to take in order to stay on course. That waymarking, combined with OpenStreetMaps, is sufficient to give confidence that we can amble around merrily in an area, even if no-one has loaded a gpx file into my favourite walking-route-sharing website: Wikiloc.com.

Here are a few words and pictures about what we have been up to over the last three days (more info available for anyone who has the urge to read it, or to peruse more pictures, at http://thegateposts.blogspot.com.

Sunday - Above Todtnauberg

We escaped the heat down in the town of Freiburg, where we had spent three uncomfortably hot nights, by heading up to a car park that sits at 1140m, above Todtnauberg. I didn't know what we would find there, other than some slightly cooler air and a nice-sounding spot to spend the night.

After our arrival we ran elevenses into lunch, whilst watching dozens of people come and go. Eventually curiosity got the better of us: what was the draw, bringing all of these people here? We headed off in the direction that most of them seemed to be heading, opting to head up Stübenvasen, a rounded hill that the signposts told us was a good viewpoint.

Every route we have walked thus far on this trip to Germany has featured so many benches that there would never be any call to sit on the ground for a break


Another seating option: a massive tree trunk, into which sun loungers have been built, with steps also built in to give access to them. The view wasn't too shoddy either.

The advertisement of Stübenvassen as a viewpoint was a little optimistic, given its rounded shape and the trees surrounding it, but we didn't have to venture far down a side trail to look over to Feldberg - the highest top in the area (1493m), and our destination for the following day.

Looking at Monday's hill from Sunday's

Different tracks (almost all heavily populated) took us a full circuit back to Bertie, where we arrived having covered a few yards shy of 5 miles, with a modest amount of ascent. That was quite enough for me, as I'd started my day early with a before-it-gets-too-hot 7-mile run along the river at Freiburg.

Monday - Feldberg
Our first outing of the day was to be the short trail along the waterfalls at Todtnau, but that got cancelled when we found (again!) that an access charge applied. Only €2 a head this time, as against the €5 required at Triberg last week, but my reasons for refusing to pay for waterfalls still stand (actually, had it only been €1 I probably would have seen it as an opportunity to dispose of the bag of small change that has built up over many trips).

Onwards to the parking area for the hill of Feldberg (1493m) we went, only to find that the expected €5 parking charge was now €12. Call me tight, but that was more than I was prepared to pay just to walk up a hill.

The walk was salvaged when we found a free car park at the bottom of the access road, adding only around 1.5km in total to our outing.

I hate to think how busy Feldberg would have been over the weekend. It was heaving even on a Monday morning, albeit it was a gloriously sunny one. The massive multi-storey car park, together with the option of taking a gondola* up the main ascent, must significantly help visitor numbers.

I'm sure that many of the visitors only go as far as the large monument/viewpoint just by the upper gondola station, but plenty do make the descent/reascent over to the summit proper:




A different route was taken for our descent, but we must have been feeling lazy, as we didn't complete the 12km circuit that had been our original intention, although with the extra distance up and down the access road, we did cover 9km.

(*The €10 price for a return ticket on the gondola also included entry to the Black Forest Ham Museum, which is situated on the hill's lower summit (around 1450m?). The top of a hill, at a ski resort, didn't strike us as the most obvious, or the most accessible, location for a museum - especially one about the local ham!)

Tuesday - Falkau Falls
"When does a bit of water falling off a step qualify as a waterfall?" asked Mick.

It was a fair question, as the raging torrent-- --impressive cascade modestly falling trickle before us didn't really warrant being the sole focal point for Falkau Wasserfall Rundweg (Waterfall Circular Walking Trail):

Perhaps our perspective on worthwhile waterfalls has been warped by all those we saw in Norway last year?

At least the surroundings were all pleasant, so it didn't feel like we'd had a wasted outing, and it wasn't like we'd driven out of our way or had a long walk to get there (I knew nothing about this waterfall until I saw it mentioned on a signpost near to where Bertie was parked last night).

Technically we could have completed the circuit, but as the wooden staircase down to the bridge was damaged (we descended with great care) and as the bridge was completely missing, obviously having been taken out by falling trees, we opted not to clamber across the stream to pick up the continuation of the walkway on the other side.

The damage is visible in this snap

Thunder had started rumbling as we had left Bertie and the sky was looking ominous, so we didn't mind scooting back the way we had come (i.e. the shortest route). A good choice: the rain came within two minutes of us reaching shelter.

I didn't measure this outing, but it can't have been much more than a couple of miles. They added themselves to the 3.5 mile circuit of forest trails I had already run first thing.


Unrelated to any of the text above, a pair of walking boots we found in Schluchsee today.