Overcast and warm
We slept late again. I am giving up on the idea of long hiking days here and giving in to catching up on a year of missed sleep and hiking in the afternoons. Today we drove the car to the next town over – Schonried – and parked at the Horneggli gondola. Again, free parking. Things are much less crowded and more casual here than in Grindelwald. There are never lines for the mountain rides here, or anywhere in Switzerland that we have been. The only time we ever saw a long line for a gondola was 15 years ago in France – Chamonix.
The mountain rides are pretty short here. For example, the Horneggli goes from 1230 meters to 1770 meters. This was a chairlift with a plastic bubble cover to protect you from the elements. The ride was lovely, up over pastures and woods with great views of the area. We were not sure what we were going to do today – I had thought maybe we would do a 2 hour hike back down to Saaenmoser, the next town from Schonried, and then walk back. We looked at the trail signs and realized we could easily do a high level walk from the top of this mountain ride to the top of the Rinderberg gondola from Zweisimmen, a town about 15 minutes drive from Schonreid.
What a great hike! We saw more people on the trail today than we had seen all week. I think because it was Saturday and people from all over Switzerland come up into the mountains at the weekend. At the top of the Horneggli chairlift is a restaurant, but we weren’t hungry, so we hit the trail. Did a gentle uphill for 30 minutes and came to a group of houses and restaurants which you must be able to drive to (there were cars parked). This would be the place to go for a nice lunch in the mountains. There were about five restaurants.
In a big field a group of Swiss guys were playing some type of game. One guy bats and then there is a row of guys with these huge paddles that they throw up to block the ball. They are spread out in a field the size of a football field. Nothing much happened. Someone batted the ball, someone threw up their paddle and hit it, they all walked off the field.
From this area we walked for an hour along what we call a “pony trail” – level dirt roadway. Easy walking, which was just what we needed – exercise, but not downhill. We passed lots of people. Some in full hiking gear like us (boots, poles, packs), some very nicely dressed, casual jackets, loafers, smoking (these, I assumed, were French hikers). After an hour, the trail goes uphill along a ridge for another hour. Uphill walking was a relief after the pain of downhill the days before. 10 minutes before we got to the other gondola, we were on top of a hill where it felt like the top of the world. We could see the Lenk valley below, back to the Gstaad valley where we had started the hike, across to huge moutains in the direction of Berne I think and towards the Grindelwald mountains (I think we saw the Jungfrau). The only downside to this hike, was the intense smell of cow s**t for part of the hike – but what can you expect when walking through farm fields?
The hike from one mountain ride to the other was about 2 ½ hours, then we took the gondola down to Zweisimmen. This was a long gondola, more like the ones in Grindelwald. We arrived at the bottom, a couple of blocks from the train station, 4 minutes before the next train. We didn’t make it. The train runs sort of every hour (sometimes in 50 minutes, sometimes in 1 ½ hours). The next one was in 50 minutes. It started to rain, so we put on our rain jackets and found a tea room. I had my requisite hot chocolate for the trip, Steve had coffee and we both had cake – well earned after the last hour of uphill on the hike.
Took the train back to Schonreid. Our Easy Access pass covered both mountain rides and the train. On the train we just showed the pass. The train was very comfortable – padded seats with lots of room (this was a second class car). They came around and offered drinks and snacks from a menu. We almost got off at the wrong station, but someone screamed out to the conductor for us and we found out where we were and we hoped back on the train.
This area is full of gondolas and chairlifts, but only about ¼ of them are open for summer hiking. From the train I saw a chairlift with the same name as the one we took, so I assumed the next station was ours. Turns out several of the chairlifts have the same name because they go up to the same place and the next stop wasn’t ours. But the one after was (which I would have known if I had consulted my schedule).
We drove into Gstaad and had an early dinner of pizza – not great, but not too bad. An Italian pizza chef and a wood burning oven, but the crust just was not as good as you get in Italy. Still, beer and pizza was a fun end to the day – our first dinner out in Gstaad.