Samstag, 17 Juni
I woke in the night and had to go to the bathroom. When I got snuggled back down in my sleeping bag liner, I couldn't get back to sleep. I am mere feet from the edge of a cliff, I thought. Now, yeah, I was in a very solid stone hut that had stood there for 115 years. I was in no danger. I knew that. But I had a very hard time convincing my acrophobic lizard brain that it was okay that I was right on the brink of a cliff.
Eventually, I did fall asleep. But I was up early in the hut, as usual when we're on a trek. Various cards hung on a wall by the kitchen, and I read through them. One said,
Ich fühle mich, als könnte ichAuf Englisch that reads,
Also kleine Bäume. Veilleicht Bambus.
Oder Blumen. Na gut.
Gras. Gras geht.
I feel as if I could
Well, small trees. Maybe bamboo.
Or flowers. Yeah.
Grass. Grass counts.
Early morning Moon over the mountain shoulder
The Moon doesn't seem so far away up here
We had the usual Swiss breakfast and said our good-byes. By 8:52 we were off down the mountain. We were in good form and determined to make good time. It's a lot less tiring to go down the mountain, be it noted, but it hurts just as much. Just different muscles to be abused.
Heading back down
Watch your step
After two hours of hiking down we got to the sign that said it was only an hour and fifteen minutes up to the hut. Man, we're slow Flatlanders. Time for a packs-off break. Find a potty path. Take painkillers. Then, it's off again, this time heading for the Oeschinensee. Various mountain streams leap and burble across our path.
Crossing the stream
A view uphill from the bridge
We came to a warning sign. There was a need for it. We had to spider climb down a ravine while holding onto a cable driven into the rock face. The locals walked up and down this as if it was nothing. I don't suppose we were in danger of much beyond skinned knees and hands if we'd slipped, but still, I wasn't planning on slipping. I thought to myself, there is adventure -- and then there are the Disney-fied faux adventures that most Scout camps offer. I like my comforts, but man, it's cool to get out and touch the edge of the raw for myself. And that's what we offer in our brand of Venturing.
At 12:32 we reached the road between Kandersteg and Oeschinensee and stopped for lunch. The sign said it was two hours up (we took four hours going down). Oy. A mom with an eleven-year-old son came up, preparing to hike up. She asked if we had a plaster. Her son was wearing blisters on both his heels. We, of course, had a full first aid kit with us. I would have fixed his feet fit for the day, but Mom fixed 'em her way. Her prerogative. She was very grateful. We were glad to have done our Good Turn for the day.
By 1:10, we were off to the Oeschinensee, a glacial lake up there somewhere. The road rose steadily, brutally. It rose about 500 feet in the space of barely a mile. We had to caterpillar it. Having descended several hundred meters already, this is the point at which we decided that the Swiss national motto must be "Uphill both ways" (Beideweg Bergaufwärts).
Up some more
Oh, be joyful
Just when we were about ready to drop -- and still the road rose some more -- we suddenly came to an open spot with people . . . eating ice cream. We had discovered a lost civilization on a hidden lake, with a restaurant!
Hidden lake, surrounded by mountain cliffs
We watched these guys across the valley all day long
Having restored ourselves with coffee and ice cream, we hopped a little tour bus that ran from the Oeschinensee to the Gondelbahn (cable car). All the sensible people take the Gondelbahn to the top of the hill and then walk down to the Oeschinensee. We were among the very few who walked the whole blinking way up. Ah, but now we would ride down in style.
All aboard the Gondelbahn
Down at last
We got to the bottom of the valley at 4:30. No bus was available, so we started hoofing it back to Kandersteg. The sign said "15 minutes," and for once it didn't lie. Even as sore as my leg was on asphalt, I could just keep that pace. We caught the bus to KISC in town, and by 5:00, we were back and waiting for dinner.
All seemed well, when T.C. noticed that his phone was missing. He was sure he left it up at the hut. His life was in that phone, and he was all but ready to start walking back up the mountain to get it. The staff at KISC called up to the Doldenhornhütte and were told that new guests had arrived, so they couldn't root through our sleeping room to find his phone. We would have to wait until the next morning to see if it could be found.
While we were up on the mountain, a Scout Troop from BSA's Transatlantic Council had moved in for the week. Also, a bunch of TAC Cub Scouts were in camp, and they would be conducting an Arrow of Light ceremony later on. It was interesting to meet up with so many Americans over there. My reactions to them was -- mixed. I value the experience of going new places and meeting new people, exploring new cultures. TAC is mostly about transplanting the experience of America wherever you go. Each has its virtues, I'm sure, but I had little interest in hanging around with all the other Americans.
We spent some time watching the TAC boys at play. One African-American Cub Scout had a straw hat which he left abandoned on the basketball court. Another boy started to pick it up. We told him to leave it alone, since the other boy would remember to look for it later. After a while, a boy about ten or eleven came over and started talking rapidly to us in a language I couldn't recognize. He was very blond, very blue-eyed, and his words had lots of k's and l's and v's. I figured him for one of the Finnish Scouts who were in camp that week.
I pointed to him and asked, "Suomi?" That's what the Finns call themselves. He nodded. I said we didn't speak Finnish. Could he speak English or German? He said, in English, "a little bit." Then he asked us if the boy's straw hat were "traditional." We said no, it was just a hat to keep the sun out of his eyes.
He seemed satisfied and wandered off. After he left, I suddenly "got" what he was asking. He must have thought the African-American boy was actually an African-African. He wanted to know if his straw hat -- an unusual item to the Finnish boy -- were part of some cultural costume peculiar to his country. Nope. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
We had some time left in the evening and walked the rest of the campground, which we hadn't had a chance to do before.
You can rent quarters in this now, but when the Tunnel was being built, this was the power house for it
A "place of quiet" (Ort der Stille)
Cub Scouts gathering
As the day drew to its close, I looked up at the mountains again, and the words of Psalm 144 returned to me.
Touch the mountains that they smoke
God is with us