Peregrination Vignettes

A bench called “Schmitten”

The Swiss are mountain goats. My apologies. Their hiking trails are graded by difficulty, and an “easy” Swiss hike is a “hard” American hike. The signposts along the trail, telling you which way to go, are color-coded with the difficulty info so you can presumably make reasonable choices.

In the pursuit of all things Rhaetian Railway, I rode the train to Filisur and hiked up the trail to the viewpoint looking down on where the train comes out of the tunnel and crosses the Landwasser Viaduct. The trail from Filisur to the overlook, was the trail to Schmitten. I assume Smitten is a village further up the trail, but the overlook for the train had a bench literally labelled “Schmitten”. It was appropriate because I was smitten with the train, the view, and myself for successfully getting there without falling off the side of the mountain.

I was ill prepared to hike in Switzerland. My hiking experience prior to that was hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, and the section of the Appalachian Trail local to the TN-NC border. The hiking in Switzerland was much harder. I had the right shoes and clothes, water and snacks, but I lacked hiking poles.

I was the only hiker on that trail that day. My hiking buddy refused to climb the trail. Well, he did have a blister on the bottom of one of his feet as his excuse. The trail started off with a straight up, narrow twist of dirt off from a junction of two other trails. Both the other trails looked actually hike-able. But the trail to the overlook, looked barely like a trail.

I quickly became glad that I was the only person on the trail, as I literally crawled along at the steep sections. The path being nothing but dirt, and me with no poles, footing traction was non-existent. So it was cling to skinny trees alongside the trail or crawl. The trail was dirt, narrow, and on the side of a slope. Being afraid of heights, this was not to my liking. I thought about giving up and turning back many times, but I persevered as this was one of the main reasons for my trip to Switzerland.

And I did succeed. I got to the overlook and the bench called Smitten, and in solitude sat on the bench and waited for trains to appear. In Switzerland, the electric trains make an eerie sound that echos off the mountains and across the valleys, so you can typically hear the train coming before it appears. I did get some shots, reasonably good shots. The trains don’t come often enough to get more than a couple trains an hour – give or take – and I didn’t plan enough time.

I crawled back down the trail, satisfied. More accurately, I slid down the train on my butt, terrified that I would slide off the side of the mountain but whatever. I got my photos. Next time I go hiking in Switzerland, I’ll take hiking poles.

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