First Hard Hike of 2018

Brauneck is a mountain for the heart. I don't mean your sappy soul; I mean that muscle pumping in your chest that will be in your throat by the time you've hiked halfway up this steep mountain. This is our fourth or fifth time here. It's only 12-15 pop songs away from Munich depending on the traffic, so we come here for a good workout at least once a year. It's very green with great views from the top. OK, it's for the soul too.

Just 3 pop songs away from Bad Tölz in Bavaria, Brauneck is a popular recreation spot for skiers in winter, mountain bikers in summer and irresponsible parents in spring. Wait, Christopher, what was that last one?

Allow me to explain. The hike up to the Panorama Restaurant am Brauneck is always a challenge. It's kind of straight up at times on slippery gravel paths splotched with leaves, the kind of paths that can be dangerous if you have a heavy backpack that pulls you backwards. (Always lean into the mountain. I've probably said that before, but it bears repeating.)

Many parents take their five-year-olds up to the top on the cable-car lift and walk down the mountain because they're convinced their kids won't enjoy a vigorous 2-hour hike up a steep mountain; and while they are probably right about this, I think the real reason they don't walk up the mountain is that they themselves won't enjoy a vigorous 2-hour hike up a steep mountain. (We did see a family walking up the mountain this time. They had the most adorable two-year-old walking with her tiny backpack. So there are the exceptions.)

Besides being terrible for your knees, walking down Brauneck mountain is dangerous. It's so slippery all year round, but in spring, it's slippery on steroids with snowdrifts and soggy descents. We are not about to walk down the mountain. In fact, at one point, I turn to Zach the Platinum Coin Collector's Assistant and say, "If the last really steep kilometer before the Panorama restaurant is covered in snow, we can just call a helicopter to come get us."

About halfway up the mountain, we encounter our first snow drift, remains of the artificial snow from the snow cannons. This does not faze us. We remind ourselves that we are rugged, we are seasoned, the panorama restaurant at the top serves wine. Actually, the service at this restaurant is horrible. They have two or three servers for a zillion people. Everyone is irritated, hungry and thirsty. Best to bring your own thermos of white wine.

As we crest the plateau that sports a little reservoir, we see that the last kilometer is indeed covered in snow, so now we have a decision to make: trudge on and up the steep snow-capped cliff (it's practically a cliff, so I'm sticking with "cliff", or inch our way back down this slippery slope. We trudge onward and upward. You only live once (or 4.74 million pop songs).

To walk up a very steep slope in the snow with the wrong shoes, all you need to do is kick yourself and nice flat surface to stand on as you pull yourself up a few inches; then do this with the other foot until you've made it to the top of the mountain seven lifetimes later. (Don't forget to lean into the mountain. Here, if you don't lean in you'll fall down a snow-covered slope and wind up in a pile of very soggy you.)

The last few hundred meters straight up through the snow
At some point during these lifetimes, we encounter two elderly men with what must be their two young grandchildren. They are side-stepping down through the snow, and the grandpas are making jokes about breaking their necks. The children, trembling with fear, are wearing the kind of sport shoes that are bought because they have ponies and rainbows on then rather than good soles for walking in the mountains. One slip, and these kids will slide a few hundred meters down the mountain.

Thanks to a few hikers before us, the last 100 meters are like snowstairs--still slippery and sometimes muddy, but not at all rough-going. At the top I actually do a Rocky bounce before we head to the panorama restaurant--which is . . .

"Closed," says Zach the Platinum Coin Collector's Assistant.

I say a word I can't say on I Must Be Off! The lift is open, but the restaurant isn't? This doesn't make sense. There are hundreds of people at the top. The parking lot is full at the bottom. Or maybe it does make sense. What could be more terrible than terrible service? No service, I guess.

So after our 2-hour (actually almost 3 because we got lost in the woods for a little bit but we won't talk about that since it was kind of my fault) strenuous hike, we take the lift back down.

I must be off,
Christopher


Have you entered the 2018 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition? Read the guidelines HERE

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Christopher Allen is the author of Other Household Toxins (Matter Press) and Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). Allen's fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in [PANK], FRiGG, Eclectica Magazine's 20th-Anniversary Speculative anthology, Indiana Review, Night Train, Juked, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, and Lunch Ticket, among many others. Read his book reviews in[PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, and The Lit Pub. His creative non-fiction has been featured in Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen is a multiple nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, The Best Small FictionsstorySouth's Million Writers Award and others. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and semifinalist for The Best Small Fictions. He is presently the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018

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