Hiking the Austrian Alps

First Hike
By Joe Keith
  |  Gorp.com
Page 2 of 4   |  

My own hike into the Austrian Alps began in the tiny village of Maria Alm. Like all the villages of the Pintzgau Saalach Valley, Maria Alm is breath-takingly — almost maniacally — clean, rustic and subdued. Each house is just so, with oversized roofs and window boxes spilling bourgenvilla of every color over the quiet streets below.

From the trail head on the outskirts of town, I set off in the morning with several other hikers, carrying only a light day pack and plenty of maps, compliments of the Maria Alm Gasthaus. As we slowly hiked up and out of the valley, the land opened up beneath us, and we got our first sense of the vastness of the Alps themselves, wave after wave of mountains down to Italy and north to Germany and beyond. Then we disappeared for a while into an ancient damp pine forest and didn't reemerge until we made it to the first ridge where we saw, on the other side, the awesome snow-capped"Circus" range partially obscured (Ugh) in the clouds. And rising above every other peak on the range was the Hochkvnig (High King), draped over the village of Dienten below us, where we were headed for the night.

Halfway down the other side of the sweeping valley, which was covered in grasslands and wildflowers, (I was half expecting to pass the Von Trapp family at any moment) we finally stopped for lunch at the Gr|nig Cafi perched on a knoll overlooking the town. The cafi was the private home to a type of Austrian Doctor Doolittle. He had peacocks dancing around, German-speaking parrots, dogs playing with swans, and a personal watermill that kept not only his duck pond clear but powered his 12th-century barn. There we sat soaking it up, and unwinding with a few Weissbier as the sun dropped behind the Hochkvnig, throwing shadows across the lush valley while Doolittle's young son practiced his trumpet — the sometimes melodious sounds rising up the faces of the mountain and down into the village below.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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