Completing the Trail Loop Project
Completing the Trail Loop Project

Completing the Trail Loop Project

On a mid-July Saturday, my wife and I had separate plans. She attended a dancing workshop, giving me the perfect opportunity to embark on a solo hike. The weather forecast was interesting, to say the least: overcast skies, a temperature around 15°C, and light(?) rain expected around lunchtime.

The previous weekend had similar predictions, but the weather turned out much better than expected. This lingering optimism led me to prepare for rain but hope for the best. If the weather became too harsh, I could always turn back. My goal was to complete a fun project I had started last year: hiking all trails to and around a particular mountain. Last year, I had already covered most of the routes, leaving only three sections. My plan was to tackle these remaining trails, including a side trail, a route around the main summit, and possibly a side summit that promised a good view. For the descent, I had several options, each with its pros and cons, which I would decide upon based on the weather – and my condition as I knew that it would be a long day anyways.

Bike Ride to the Trailhead

I woke up early without the need for an alarm, had a breakfast, and set off for the starting point. To my delight, the sky was crystal clear and blue, promising start to the day. I unpacked my mountain bike at 7 a.m. from the car and began the 6 km ride along a forest road. The path was technically unspectacular but offered some lovely views towards the mountain where I would spend the day. I maintained a leisurely pace, conscious of conserving energy for the long day ahead. The motto was to take it slow and steady.

Hike Part I: Ascending the New Trail

About 40 minutes later, I locked my bike and helmet to a tree and began looking for the fork in the main trail that led to my desired route. The trail was new to me, and I was excited to explore it. The path meandered through a forest, crossing alpine meadows and showcasing beautiful cascades in the stream. It was narrow but not too steep, clearly marked, and offered a sense of tranquility.

As I hiked on, the sky began to change from blue to a darker grey. Occasionally, I felt single raindrops, but nothing substantial yet. My plan was to gain most of the elevation before any significant rain started, hoping to avoid wearing my rain jacket during the ascent. Unfortunately I had left my umbrella at home – the only thing that I had forgotten that day and I hope I wouldn’t regret it.

The forest parts felt untouched, and in the latter part of this section, the trail faded, leaving me to follow waymarks from one to the next. It was one of those rare moments of feeling truly remote, with no one around for kilometers. The only sounds were the wind rustling the leaves, my footsteps, my breathing, and the occasional bird call – nothing and noone else. Even talking to the camera felt intrusive in such serene surroundings. It started to feel like a very long meditation.

Hike Part II: An Encounter with Cows (En’cow’nter?)

After the main ascent, I took a short rest to enjoy the first views into the distance. I snapped some photos and reminisced about previous hikes in the surrounding mountains. I felt happy, relaxed and calm. Moving on to the second part of the trail, which was still unknown to me, I discovered a little black alpine salamander right on the path. It was only the second time I had seen one in the wild. Last year I also saw one on the trail and just took a photo quickly. Later at home I did regret that I didn’t devote more time to that moment. This time I made a stop, kneeled down, changed lenses and moved around the salamander carefully to capture a good photo without frightening it.

This is one of those moments where I am grateful to see not only the grand vistas around, but also those tiny details like flowers, bees, or – like here – a salamander just a couple of centimeters long. There is just so much to see on such a hike.

Continuing the hike, the trail led me up and down along the mountainside, skirting around the summit. Soon, I heard the distant sound of about a dozend cowbells and saw a few herders directing their cows. We were on the same path, and it seemed if they were taking the same direction – I was being followed by a herd of cows! I quickened my pace to stay ahead, as I didn’t want to get caught up! After entering a larger alpine meadow where the cows eventually settled I didn’t feel chased any more. Just as I thought I was in the clear and walked around a group of mountain pines, I encountered another small herd. They jumped up and watched me suspiciously, ready to react. I quickly checked that there were nor calfs around – which could have caused dangerous aggressive, protective behaviour by the mother cows – and moved around them calmly and in proper distance, always keeping an eye on them until we were all relaxed again.

Lunch and the Secondary Summit

Half an hour later, I reached the alpine hut I was aiming for. There were only a handful of people there, and I enjoyed a nice lunch and a short chat. By this time, I had been on the trail for about four hours. Despite the forecast, it still hadn’t rained. Encouraged, I decided to go for the secondary summit. The ascent wasn’t high (just 150m) but quite steep and a bit slippery, but the view from the top was rewarding. I even saw a group of chamois with some young ones!

I took more photos and soaked in the panoramic views before heading back to the hut. Now, I had to decide on the route for my descent! The main summit was starting to be covered by clouds, so I opted to skip it and take a loop route instead. This decision proved fortuitous as I saw more chamois along the way. Not long after, the rain finally arrived, accompanied by strong winds. I donned my rain gear, which came in handy and marched on. My mood didn’t even get worse. I was somehow even glad that I hadn’t packed my rain gear for nothing. However, as quickly as the rain came, it went again and I stowed my equipment away again.

Descending the Trail

The descent took me down a steep trail I had walked last year already. I encountered more chamois at close range, which was a delightful surprise. The path was mostly familiar, and I made good time, reaching my bike without any issues.

The final leg of the journey was the bike ride back to the car. I was just SO glad to have the bike for the 6 km return trip rather than walking it! Finally, I arrived back at the car safely after pretty exactly 9 hours on the trail and 30km distance travelled. All my goals of the day were achieved, I was feeling very happy, relaxed and content. It was an excellent day, fulfilling a personal project and providing unexpected moments of beauty and serenity.

Final Thoughts

Completing this hike was so much more than just ticking off sections of a trail. It was a journey of meditation and a reminder of why I love being in the mountains. Despite the mixed weather forecast, the day turned out beautiful, with clear skies in the morning and manageable rain in the afternoon – which added a touch of adventure. The encounters with wildlife, the solitude of remote trails, and the satisfaction of reaching a goal all contributed to a memorable experience.

If you’re planning a hike, don’t let the weather deter you. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. And always keep your eyes open for those unexpected encounters that make the journey worthwhile.

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