When I first started hiking, I knew only of names: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Si, Sauk Mountain, Mt. Pilchuck. I loved Mt. Rainier for its ruggedness and how it reminded me of my insignificance, but never once did I consider how these mountains were all connected or why the roads leading to their bounty were where they were. Then, in 2011, I visited Zermatt for the first time, where the Matterhorn lives.
Initially I thought that being this close to the mountains would mean that I’d never make it up to Munich, but since December I’ve been there nine times, mostly to its airport. The weekend after bauma was one of these times, though for this trip I was heading back across the ocean to attend a friend’s wedding. The venue was Jekyll Island, which until receiving the RSVP for the wedding I hadn’t heard of before. But with clear blue skies, perfect lawns, and a gentle breeze, what’s not to love?
“… il y a simplement trop de monde,” a French hiker exclaimed as we walked by, referencing the increasing number of visitors into the city and its alpine hiking trails. And it’s true — Zermatt, or its well known mountain, anyhow, is a huge tourist draw. Its visitors office estimates roughly three million gawkers pass through each year, on average spending over 200 CHF per day. But even the prospect of needing to consistently assert that I wasn’t going to be a train-riding visitor but rather a gung-ho hiker wasn’t enough to keep me from coming back a second time this month, cheating on Rainier be damned.
After five weeks of not being in the mountains, I finally got a chance to drive into some valley and hike up some mountain again. This time, it was that valley. Deep in Switzerland to that iconic mountain, where all the tourists go.
Since middle school, I always figured if I lived internationally it’d be in France — I spoke the language, I had studied abroad in the country, and I even visited the Caterpillar factory that was the reason behind my learning the language in the first place. It was also in Grenoble, I think, that my love of mountains was subconsciously awakened. It is thus admittedly strange that three of the past five Independence Days I’ve spent not in France but rather in Germany, and that the language I’m beginning to resort to is now German rather than French. This, the neighbor to what I thought would be my foreign language destination, is now my home for the next months. Round two began quietly, not in Stuttgart as before, but in the Allgäu, heart of the German Alps.
It’s difficult for me to substantiate what impressed me most about D.C.; the extent of its attention to history and technology is rather breathtaking given the political order the city is principally charged with keeping. More by coincidence than planning, a third element — culture — came across as yet another defining pillar.
Winter was rather cold in Charleston this year, though sometimes swings in weather bode well for colorful skies at dawn and dusk. I missed a good sunset two weeks ago so headed to Pitt St later that week to make up for it. Clouds extinguished the setting sun quickly, but the trees had started to bud: summer is coming!
Partly due to missing last Saturday’s sunrise, partly due to not seeing much fall color, and mostly due to a completely-clear weather forecast, I decided to try my hand at backcountry camping one week after living the easy life in a Hendersonville cabin. This time, I’d be right next to my sunrise spot; take in the crisp, 6000 foot altitude air; and eat my heart out at the expansive views. They say that just a few days of backcountry camping can free the soul. Two days in the Pisgah wilderness and I’m in full agreement.