The 6 days I spent in Tyrol definitely proved to be very different than I imagined.
I set out from Innsbruck on Monday morning, after stopping by the Alpine Club to get any additional info I could. The guy at the Alpine Club was helpful and seemed to know the route pretty well. But, in broken English, he kept pointing at the map gesturing his hand in a “so-so” waving way, saying the weather wouldn’t be great and he wouldn’t recommend setting out, but that I could start today if I really wanted. I’m stubborn, so he told me where to go down the street to buy some detailed maps from the bookstore (this may have been my most reckless move of the trip so far, but I at least wanted to take as many smart precautions as I can). I grabbed those, and a bright red Mammut raincover at the sports shop next door, and set off for the train station to make it to my starting point: Sankt Johann. Hoping to beat the impending storms, I looked forward to some alone time on my gutsy solo venture. Lots of time to think, I figured.
The walk started with about 50 minutes along a road, just walking along sheep pastures on the way towards the mountains. Walking along a road felt a little strange and, for the first time so far, I kind of questioned what I was doing. But finally, I started seeing the red and white trail markers and I saw the first sign for the Adlerveg (the Eagle Walk in German).
The first few miles were steep, but nothing I hadn’t done before. It mostly just hit me that I was actually doing this: taking off on a long-distance trail by myself, in a new country where I didn’t speak a word of the language. It felt a bit crazy but also great.
I soon reached an amazing cave and stopped to take a lot of pictures. It’s sort of hard to believe this gorgeous cave (which doesn’t even translate in pictures) just sits in the middle of the mountains off this trail. Turns out the trail continues on down into the cave and then onward. Just as I left, it started to rain, but luckily the rain cover and my new rain jacket made it easy…until I got to a waterfall.
The waterfall itself was amazing- water gushing over a cliff 60m up right over the trail so there’s plenty of room to stand under the water. The eery part was seeing 3 hunters in trenches and bowling caps in the rain (did I mention I had heard 3 gunshots in the rain earlier?) They seemed a bit out of place, but luckily all was fine and I realized I probably was over reacting.
The rain continued just fine for the next hour or so. All of a sudden, climbing up a mountain to the summit, the lightning and thunder started. This is definitely the firsttime this entire trip, and maybe even in my life, when I really felt scared and the idea that maybe I’m a bit too fearless crossed my mind. What was I thinking leaving into the mountains on my own when lightning was expected? I scrambled faster and faster and finally got to a small hut. I checked each door but everything was locked up (I found out later, this hut was only open during the summer and usually only for food anyway).
The only thing I did find unlocked was a small woodshed, so I huddled in there for a bit. As the rain continued, I settled in, changed clothes, set out my soaking wet clothes to dry, and started to read, and got ready to stay for the night. Finally I saw some sunlight peeking into the crack of the door around 6, so grabbing my map and checking sundown, I decided to make a run for it. So glad I did.
As soon as I walked in the door, Annie, the hut owner, showed me where to take off my boots, had another guest show me the room (yes, that’s how home-unit felt) and asked if I was hungry. “Ham dumpling soup for dinner, sound good? 1 or 2 dumplings?” Getting my soup and settling into the cozy common area with the fireplace crackling was the best feeling. I ordered a 1/4L red wine and chatted with some people around me: 2 German climbers (1 33-year old from Berlin who was born before the wall came down) and another who does a sort of German foreign service and is now based in Tel Aviv with his wife, where he works at the German Embassy I believe), a middle-aged American woman from Santa Cruz, and an older German man who ended up playing the guitar for all of us into the night. I cannot even describe just how cozy and warm that room felt after a long day of hiking in the rain.
Soon enough we all retreated to our rooms, grabbing extra blankets along the way for the cold night. Luckily my room with the climbers was right above the fireplace on the 1st floor, so it was nice and toasty. I had a mattress on the floor in a room with 8 mattresses all lined up. Nothing fancy but it was just perfect. We read our books and finally turned off the light – each of us, I’m sure, anticipating the early and long day of hiking or climbing ahead.
The whole stay (including dinner, wine, breakfast, and my bed on the floor) was 22€ – not a bad deal at all.
You can find bookings and more information here. Apparently weekends, especially during the Bavarian holidays in the month of August, can be busy. The weekend just before I got there apparently was so busy that people had to sleep on mattresses in the middle of the dining room.