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Monday, August 20, 2018

July 1st: Hollental Klamm


After breakfast, we packed our rain gear into the backpack so kindly loaned to us by the owner of Guesthouse Nicole, got on the bike and rode my pre-programmed route to Grainau, where the trailhead for the Hollentalklamm was to begin. The day was partly cloudy, and it felt warm, but I anticipated it being wet in the gorge. We rode past the parking lot and onto the trail, past the restaurant. It being a Sunday, there was a steady stream of hikers going from the parking lot to the trailhead, and once on the trail, there was also a continuous stream of hikers. Maybe the people density wasn't as dense as what I continuously saw during our Japan trip, but it was at least 20-40% of what we saw then. There were so many people continually coming up or down the trail that during the hike, it was a major problem to find a place to pee! The flip-side of this was that you saw all shapes and sizes on the trail, including several elderly folks who had hiking sticks.
We eventually got to a point where it was impossible to ride the bike any further, there being a series of steps up the trail. We got off the bike and locked it, changed Bowen into hiking sandals and then started hiking up. Right past the steps there was a clearing and a dirt road led off to one side. We would later figure out that it was a road used by cars to deliver supplies to the Hollentalanger Hut, the mountain hotel/hut/restaurant up the hill.

The initial part of the hike went through the forests and was easy walking, mostly featuring a stream next to it, no doubt fed by the gorge above. We then arrived at a cable car station, but the cable looked like wires: too small for human carriage, and we would later understand that it was used to ferry supplies up to the hut. (Supplies too big to fit in the cable car were dropped by helicopter) Past this point, the trail got more rugged, once again featuring steps and stairs, but still very easy going. When we got to the Klamm, I paid my entry fee, and Bowen was free because he was 6 years old. He was very unhappy not needing a ticket.
Gorge hikes are somewhat unique to Europe. At least, I've never seen them as frequently as I see them in the Alps, where it seems that every gorge has been engineered for hikers to visit (and pay a fee to do so). It's hard to describe, but fortunately I shot several videos. You get to walk along a walkway, with water running underneath, and in some cases above you, with the spray of water. The closest you can get in the San Francisco Bay Area would be to hike the Steep Ravine trail in the winter in the middle of a rainstorm, something I've done and consider very fun. But even that wouldn't describe the scale and the sound of water rushing through like a jet-engine. Of course, the trade off is that if you were to do the Steep Ravine trail in a rainstorm in winter, you're likely to get a wilderness experience and get the place to yourself. In Hollentalklamm on a weekend in Germany, you're just going to get lots of people in your pictures, and be continually negotiating with people going the other way, or moving over to let faster hikers overtake you and your Bowen.
The initial part of the gorge was dry, but pretty soon, I found a landing and got out the rain gear and put it on Bowen, and put on my rain pants and rain jacket myself, the only time I would do so on the entire trip. (I'm not complaining: it's great to have a bike tour in Europe where I'm not constantly putting on rain gear!!) Bowen did what every 6-year old does when confronted with water while wearing rain gear. He put it to the test by deliberately standing under waterfalls, stepping into puddles (he was wearing sandals and so got his wool socks very wet, though they stayed warm)
Once out of the hike, the scenery opened up, and we got to see some mountains! I then made the mistake of asking a German hiker an improperly worded question. I asked if the hike was a loop or an out-and-back. She said, "Yes, there are ways to make it a round trip." I didn't pay attention to her odd phrasing. What I should have realized was that I needed to ask a follow-up question: "How do I make a loop out of this hike?" As it was, I just followed other hikers up the mountain until we got to Hollentalanger hut. There, we ordered lunch and ate it, and I saw another family I'd seen earlier, and asked them which way to go to complete the loop? The answer: "Hike back down!"
It turned out that the loop fork was way down back near the exit of the Hollental Klamm! We got to the fork and turned off, since there was what looked like a mountain cave along the stairs, but that turned out to be a disappointment. Then some hikers told us that this was the loop, and that it would take 20 minutes longer. Bowen decided that it was a good idea to see something new, rather than retracing our steps, so we went on it.
The alternate path was gorgeous, granting us beautiful views of the mountains from high above the gorge, but of course, that meant that we had to do quite a bit more climbing, and for Bowen at least, it was much more than 20 minutes longer. I started to worry that we had been mis-led, but then the trail suddenly took a dive down to a bridge that crossed back over the gorge: we could see the gorge below, and then we realized that we had seen a fork off before the entry to the Hollentalklamm, so I became less worried. At which point Bowen said he need to go to the bathroom. I quickly borrowed some tissue paper from another hiker, but we couldn't find a place that wasn't exposed. Fortunately, the need passed.
By the time we got back to the bike, my GPS had said 12 miles of hiking. Even if I'd carried Bowen for 2 of those miles, that was a lot of hiking for a little kid. There was no question that we were not going to make the Zugspitz that day. We rode down the path, and now I was grateful that I was persistent about riding up as high as I could: downhills are way easier on a bike than on foot, and I was skilled enough to handle the mild-off roading this involved.

We rode back to Garmish and got an ice cream each downtown. Bowen wasn't done with his lessons for the day, though! When he ordered the ice cream and the server gave him a cup with a cookie, he asked: "Why do I get a cookie?" At which point she assumed that he didn't like the cookie, picked it off his cup and threw it away, and gave him a windmill instead! He was quite upset about it. I had to explain that when someone gives you what you want, the best thing to do is to say "Thank you," and shut up. There's no way for the situation to improve by talking. I'm not sure if he fully understood what I said, but at least he enjoyed the windmill a little bit.

My tough little guy was now too sore to walk to dinner, so after our shower and laundry routine, I rode the bike to a nearby restaurant and we didn't have to do any more extra walking. I promised him that tomorrow would be an easy day, mostly cable car rides.

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