typical day on a
day on a hiking trip? There's no such thing. Not only is
a day of hiking in Tuscany (left) quite different from one in
the Alps, but even in the same region, on a well-planned trip,
every day will feel quite different.
site is sponsored by Alyson Adventures, which offers hiking trips
and other active, outdoor vacations for gay men, lesbians, and
friends. For hiking trips, we search out regions that offer several
variety of great scenery and terrain.
for individual hikers to tailor each day to be longer or shorter,
based on their own preferences.
while there's no such thing as a typical day, the very first day
of our popular Edelweiss hiking trip offers a good example of
what you can expect.
spend the week in the mountain village of Zermatt, high in
the Swiss Alps near the Italian border. Zermatt is a car-free
town, easily accessible by a cog railroad.
some hiking trips, we change locations during the week. But there's
no need to pack your bags this week: All seven nights are in Zermatt,
in comfortable apartments.
apartment has a small kitchen. Wake when you're ready, step out
on the balcony for an invigorating view of the Matterhorn, then
enjoy a leisurely breakfast right in your apartment. You can hike
independently as much as you want to this week, but generally,
most of us will start off together. At 9:00 a.m., we meet in the
center of town and allow fifteen minutes for those who have last-minute
shopping needs: Camera batteries, film, sunscreen, or a hiking
walk up the main road in Zermatt for just a few minutes, then
turn right on a narrow ribbon of asphalt. Five minutes later,
the asphalt ends and we're on a hiking trail, looking down onto
the chalets and church steeples of Zermatt.
first section of trail is steep, and feels even steeper at
6,000 feet of altitude. The guide calls for a another break, and
checks in with everyone. If you're not at all winded by now, you're
superhuman. But if you're really having second thoughts about
this whole business, there's an easier route you can take, along
a more gently-rising dirt road, that also gets you to lunch.
trail loops through a pasture filled with wildflowers, switches
back into a small wooded copse, then comes out into the open,
again with sweeping views of the valley below, and the Matterhorn
we take a fifteen-minute break. For those interested, the guide
offers a brief lesson about using your map and compass. Some just
want a rest. Others decide that this spot, with a sign marking
the trails, and the Matterhorn glistening in the backdrop, makes
an irresistible photo op.
trail continues on, still upward, toward the ever-present Matterhorn.
Forty-five minutes later, we reach a fork. Most of the group,
along with the guide, will take the left fork, which offers a
more direct path to Zmutt, where we can get lunch. Those feeling
independent can take the right fork, for a slightly longer hike,
which will also get them to Zmutt.
the hiking trail levels out, then descends slightly. We pass
a flock of sheep, domesticated but allowed to run freely through
the region. Owners keep an eye on where their herds are, and round
them up twice a month to be counted and treated for any health
and a half hours after we left Zermatt, we reach the tiny hamlet
of Zmutt, which consists of only a few sturdy wooden structures,
supported on thick wooden legs above the earth. Two of these structures
are restaurants, serving day hikers up from Zermatt, and soon
we're enjoying a hearty lunch of bratwurst, potatoes, and salad.
lunch, the guide presents another option: Those who prefer a shorter
day can take the dirt road back into Zermatt, less than an hour
of easy, slightly downhill walking. A few choose to head back.
Most of the group continues, reassured that there's yet another
option not far ahead.
out of Zmutt, we cross a deep river gorge, follow a steep but
short uphill trail through the woods, and find ourselves on a
rustic road that makes for easy walking through the woods.
us, and just below the Matterhorn, lies the small mountain
lake of Schwarzsee. Matterhorn climbers traditionally start their
ascent from here, and Schwarzsee offers great views of the famous
peak. Schwarzsee is also a ski area in the winter. It's got a
restaurant and tram service, both operating year-round. From here,
everyone gets a 3-way option:
to Schwarzsee, about a two-hour uphill journey. By now, everyone
feels able to evaluate whether the additional hiking is right
down to Furi, just ten minutes along the road, where you can
take the aerial tram up to Schwarzsee.
down to Furi, from which you can walk, or take the tram, down
hiking to Schwarzee follows a forest ridge, then breaks above
tree-line, with sweeping views of the Alpine peaks. The tram ride
also provides great views. Hikers and tram-riders regroup at the
restaurant terrace at Schwarzee for a beer of soft drink, and
perhaps some freshly-baked apple strudel with cream sauce, as
the Matterhorn looms above.
again, there's a choice of easier or more challenging ways
to end the hiking day. The lift goes all the way back to Zermatt,
with a stop along the way. You can hike all the way back down
(about 2-1/2 to 3 hours), hike partway and then ride (about 2
hours of hiking, downhill but on sometimes steep trails) or ride
partway, then hike (less than an hour, on easy trails.)
way or another, everyone arrives back in Zermatt. The hiking is
over, but the day is not. On our French and Italian trips, we
include a wine-tasting. Here in German-speakng Switzerland, we've
decided the local beers are more interesting, and more representaive.
Before dinner, we've arranged a beer-tasting, with optional soft
drinks, to compare the quite different brands available.
dinners are included in the trip this week, but tonight is a free
night. The beer tasting allows everyone an opportunity to make
plans with others, and soon, groups of four or six are heading
off to an assortment of Zermatt's restaurants.
who still have energy after dinner have one more treat in store.
A short walk from Zermatt, you can be in near-total darkness,
and enjoy the spectacle of the Milky Way sweeping overhead.
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