Lost in the urban woods

Gorgeous sunny day yesterday, the first time we’ve seen a clear blue sky and bright uninterrupted sunshine for what seems like months. We took Jake for a walk in the northern part of the Englischer Gardens, right at our back door and quieter — more forested and pastoral — than the southern section, which is familiar to tourists.

The number of people out doing the same startled us. There were literally hundreds of people — families, the elderly, joggers, cyclists, and dogs, dogs, dogs — out walking along the trails and paths. Everyone we passed had rosy cheeks from the crispness of the air, and a colourful scarf draped artfully around their necks.

The park is so big, we got lost. We crossed over the Isar river, and started following paths in the woods along the unexplored eastern shore. Our stroll turned into an afternoon marathon, and by the time we found our way back we had missed meeting our friends at the Deutsches museum.

It just never occurred to us to take a compass, or a map, or maybe taxi money for a lift back, for a casual walk in an urban park.

A good weekend. Saturday in the late afternoon I was invited to join my downstairs neighbours for "Tee und Kuchen" (tea and cake). We had a lovely chat, and I was surprised to discover that they are involved in producing books, garden books!! My determination to learn German was renewed as I flipped through the pages of gorgeous photography, wishing that I could read the words.

And communicate.

It’s a friendly apartment complex. Another of my neighbours is an elderly woman with an adorable Skye terrier, and though we can’t converse with each other beyond a smile and a "Gruss Gott", we always stop to fuss over our respective dogs in our respective languages. This morning I passed her arm-in-arm with an elderly blind man whom I often see walking along the path behind our buildings in the mornings. We stopped and greeted dogs as usual, she one-upping me with a cookie for Jake. As we parted I tentatively offered an "auf weidersehen" ("see you later"), which she quickly reciprocated. The gentleman returned it with something a little different, an "auf weiderhören", I think. Hören = to hear. Maybe I better stick to a simple Bavarian "Tchuss" from now on.

Hiking in Bavaria

Some pictures of a day hike we took a couple of weekends ago. We took the “Bob” (a regional train) out to a small Bavarian village, and walked between two lakes: Schliersee and Tegernsee. It’s about 15 km up and over some mountains — very pretty, and considered an “easy” walk by the locals. Oi. We ended up (me almost kissing the ground) at the village of Tergensee, at a monastery that has been brewing its own beer since 746AD or so.

I’m Over the Hump Now…

Last monday marked the end of my travels as influenza’s answer to Typhoid Mary. For a week I wandered from friend to relative, from relative to friend, passing my germs and leaving a trail of people waving goodbye with index fingers firmly pressed on hissing cans of Lysol spray disinfectant. I finally had to leave the province, and am currently hiding out in Vancouver with my best buddy, Meegan, and her husband, Kris, for two solid weeks. I did call ahead to warn them. Meegs, who loves me no matter what, welcomed me with open arms but warned me to steer clear of Kris, who is competing in a very important Dragon-Boat Festival this weekend. I kissed him on the cheek last night, and told him that I felt sure I was past the contagious stage, and if not, he couldn’t possibly get sick that fast. He cocked an eyebrow and did not look reassured.

Thanks to the miracle of modern antibiotics, my body has given up all attempts to cough up a lung. My energy is still only making abbreviated appearances, however, causing me much anxiety. Well, it’s the weather that caused the anxiety, initally, but I’m starting to relax. I’m used to a Vancouver where everyday life comes to an abrupt stop when the sun comes out. A Vancouver where, at the first glimpse of blue sky, you drop whatever you’re doing and make a frenzied dash for some outdoor recreational activity, before the rain falls again. Hence my anxiety at the cloudless blue sky and my concurrent inability to roust myself from the couch before noon each day. That was Monday. By Wednesday I stopped worrying. Now it’s Saturday, and the forecast calls for more clear skies and hot weather into the middle of next week. No fear of rain — I think that global warming would be a more realistic concern right now.

I have managed to get out on some interesting outings, for all that.

For the first couple of days, I took some scenic drives, and did some scenic sitting-on-beaches — Porteau Cove, Horseshoe Bay, a wonderful afternoon at Lighthouse Park, and Deep Cove.

Yesterday I felt well enough to attempt an easy hike. I hankered to sit at the top of Mount Seymour again, and take in the spectacular 360 degree view of the city, the ocean, the mighty Fraser River, the volcanoes Baker and Rainier, and to the north, the endless Coast Mountain Range, frosted with snow. I’ve never forgotten my last visit to the summit, nor the overheard conversation of the adventurers perched nearby, discussing the thrills of going airborne over the infamous “Humber Hump” on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway at 120km per hour. That was ten years ago. Back then I had a canine hiking buddy and a lot more energy, and was far more nonchalant about encountering bears. Life in Toronto since then has softened me up (the Humber Hump, after all, was smoothed out soon after my return), not to mention a good bout with the ‘flu. So, I consulted the “Lone Pine Pocket Guide to the Best Hikes and Walks of Southwestern British Columbia”, and looked for something easy to get me started.

I found one that sounded perfect: “Dog Mountain”. Easy, it said. “…it’s a great first hike for kids…for a quick summer hike after work…for older folks.”

“Heck”, he writes, “my 68 year-old mum accompanied me on one outing with no problems…”

Oh, the shame. I soon discovered that this “easy hike” was more of a tap dance among tangled roots and sharp rocks, challenged by my not-quite-broken-in hiking boots built for expeditions up the Swiss Alps, boots that felt like cement casings at the bottom of wobbly legs. And though the sun was shining and it was hot at the sea level, up here be snow, still. Rotting spring snow. Trail markers 20 feet up in the Douglas Fir trees assured me that the snow was in the final stages of retreat, but, every second footstep I took broke through to mid-thigh, leaving me cursing and with bootfuls of cold wet…snow. In places where the snow had melted, the trail followed active stream beds ankle deep in water, with lots of mud, and flies. Not fun. On my way out, a young Asian couple passed me, dressed in sneakers and club-wear, delicately picking their way quickly over the trail like forest sprites, seeming oblivious to the conditions. Maybe they were in love. Or I am truly, shockingly, out of practice on this hiking business.

It was enough to send me back to the couch. Remind me to send a grouchy letter to that author.