The rain of the previous day cleared out overnight and Sunday dawned sunny and warm. With not-so-epic weather scheduled to come back in on Monday, this needed to be the day for our favorite travel activity, hiking in the Alps.
The hike I had picked out for us was to the Schachenhaus, a hütte (hut) at 1,866 meters (5,598 feet) in the mountains above Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A retreat built by King Ludwig II between 1869 and 1872, the Schachenhaus, like all hüttes, now serves as a rest stop for weary hikers. And we planned being quite weary after the three and a half hour journey.
The kickoff point for the hike was Garmisch’s Olympic Ski Stadium, home of the 1936 Winter Games. When we arrived, the gravel parking lot was already bustling with people getting all their gear together for a day in the mountains. After admiring the ski jumps, which we had never seen before in person, and checking out the stadium, we set off up the paved road.
After a short walk along the road, we reached a crossroads in our hike. We could take the upper or lower trail. The highlight of the lower trail was the Partnachklamm, a walking path carved into a narrow gorge. We chose the scenic route, paid the €6 admission and donned our rain gear.
Entering the narrow gorge, the 800 meter walk was quite stunning with the sun streaming through the narrow slit at the top of the 80 meter high walls. Water streamed down the walls, falling like rain. Numerous waterfalls emptied into the Partnach River that cascaded with a large force through the narrow channel.
Exiting the gorge and back into the bright sunlight, this was where our hike kind of went awry. Following signs for the Schachenhaus, we didn’t go the wrong way, rather the long way. The VERY LONG way.
It was a very pleasant walk up a not-too-steep grade with incredible views of the nearby peaks. At some point, the time on the signs jumped from three hours to four and a half hours. Consulting a map, it was at this point we realized that we had taken the long trail that wrapped all the way around the mountain.
It was decision time. Unfortunately, we surmised it was too late to continue on the trail we were on and make it to the Schachenhaus. It was also too late to backtrack and get on the correct trail. We decided to head back down and visit the Hintergraseck hütte. We had seen the trail to it on the way up.
Admittedly, I was pretty mopey on the way down. We set a lofty goal of having lunch at almost 6,000 feet in the Bavarian Alps but never made it out of the tree line. Instead, I worried, we were going to mingle with tourists dressed for a Sunday outing in town.
My mood changed when we settled into our seats on the edge of the Hintergraseck’s patio. We were amongst our fellow hikers all enjoying beers and the beautiful weather. With Paulaner Hefeweizen in hand, Merideth and I marveled at the panoramic view of the Alpine peaks. And lunch was very Bavarian. Merideth ordered Leberkäse while I went with the Landjäger, semi-dried sausage. We even had time to make a friend, the hütte’s sheep dog who split time between playing with us and watching over his sheep.
With a few beers in me, I was in a better mood on the final descent. Even encountering scores of normal tourists along this part of the trail couldn’t ruin my contented feeling. Almost back in civilization, we stopped at another hütte, where we each enjoyed more Hefeweizens and split a yummy Apfelstrudel. Continuing on after dessert, we were back at our car in a few minutes.
The silver lining to not accomplishing our goal, besides spending a great day together, is that we will need to return some day to try again. And now I know exactly what trail we need to go up.