Written 05 June 2014, Wertach im Algau
After yesterday’s big outing to Lake Constance and the city of Lindau, I knew my Lovely Bride would not be stirring about too early this morning. One of the premier activities which had been associated with Wertach by our hosts was hiking in all its manifestations. And so I was determined to get out in the clear mountain air and go for a walk, while allowing Susan to enjoy a more leisurely beginning to her day.
I clamped my shapeless boonie hat upon my head, hung a small pack with a jug of cold water over my shoulder, made sure my map & phone were with me and set out. There was no well defined destination for my tramp, just a tiny notation on a map of the area surrounding Wertach which indicated the presence of a wasserfall up a nearby trail. For a Texas boy who has been living with constant drought for the last decade or more, this was an irresistible lure.
The trek began easily enough. The first stretch of trail began only steps from our apartment, and was straight and trended slightly downhill. As I began, I encountered a small shrine beside the trail, which looked eerily similar to the roadside crosses which dot most Texas farm-to-market roads to indicate where some unfortunate lost their life in an accident. I continued on with a sense of foreboding and about a kilometer down the trail, I was faced with my first decision. The trail to the wasserfall made a 90 degree turn off the original trail and followed alongside a mountain stream. There were actually two trails, one on each side of the stream, with one being steep, narrow and overgrown in appearance, while the other was level, well graveled, and well marked. Fifty meters later, my choice, the well cared for trail, naturally turned out to be the wrong one and I was forced to ford the stream to get to the correct trail. Not an auspicious beginning!
Once on the correct trail, the path was easy and presented no problems. Stopping now and again, I would have a swallow of water or take a photo of the countryside. Strange bird calls including a loud & persistent cuckoo could be heard, and the trickling of the small stream kept me company. Thirty minutes into this stage, I began to hear a high-pitched ringing which gradually got louder. I emerged from the stream bed at a small farm track, and the mystery of my tinnitus was solved.
Just across the road was a small group of young heifers. As they spotted me and began to move along the fence in my direction, I realized each had a bell around its neck. I wasn’t sure of why they were so interested in me, but they followed along the fence as I sought the continuation of the trail. As I started up the next section of trail, I heard a noise and turned back in time to see a farmer on his tractor drive up to the youngsters with a bucket of feed. They weren’t really interested in me, it was breakfast time!
I left them behind and trudged up the trail. No longer the well cared for path, now mud and wet leaves were the norm. The farther along, the more the conditions deteriorated. The rougher the trail, the more I kept thinking of my wife’s parting words…”If you hurt yourself again, I know you’ll be fine, but I don’t want to have to deal with that in a foreign country!” Just because a guy makes one little mistake, they never let you forget. Well, it was actually more than one...maybe more like 3 or 4 over the years. But it’s not like I meant for those things to happen. Really, I don’t enjoy helicopter rides.
Trail conditions kept getting worse, and I kept scrutinizing my map. After all, my whole purpose was to find that wasserfall and take its picture. I kept edging up the steepening path, and never saw more than a trickle of water over the rocks in the bottom of the gorge. By now, the slimy trail had occasional honeycombed concrete pavers reinforced with t-posts driven into the mud trying to keep it all stabilized. A last map check showed me well past the point where the wasserfall should have been, I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and headed back to more solid ground in Wertach. I remembered the military truism that retreat is more hazardous than the advance, so I took my time and carefully picked my way down the gully until I found myself on terra firmer.
Arriving where the farm track crossed the trail, my bovine friends had left for greener pastures, and I decided to follow the track back into town. A mere 10 minutes found me closing on our apartment, rather than the 1½ hours the trail had taken. And that phantom wasserfall? I think I’m going to stop at the Rathaus and have a little talk with the Chamber of Commerce about their map.