We all need an escape from the everyday world. For the past decade (wow, that sounds old), the wilderness of southern Utah, with its red rocks, blue skies, and endless vistas, was my place of solace. There’s nothing like carrying your own food and water around all day and then camping out of the back of your car to help you regain some perspective on what you really need to be happy. I loved everything about those trips – the planning, the prep, the drive, the companionship, the sweat and dust, the pictures and stories. It was finally time to find my (our – Toby has also learned to love a good hiking/camping trip) southern Utah of Germany, or at least get away from the city life for a little bit.
Hiking opportunities in Germany are plenty. I decided on Eifel National Park, a two-hour drive from Düsseldorf that takes you past the historic Nürburgring (a highlight on its own).
The two days of hiking were thoroughly enjoyable, and the fresh air was good for us, but the phrase ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’ kept running through my head. First of all, there’s way more green than I’m used to. While the desert is also green, it’s of a very different quality – leaves are often smaller, with a grayish hue or are covered in tiny hairs. The green here is so intense. It even smells different; there are more layers to it. Desert air is simple and crisp. And warm and dry. We hiked with beanies and rain gear just in case the gray clouds dancing overhead dropped their load (only a few drops ever came down).
The sights along our trails were also of a different quality. In the desert you have wide open vistas of a landscape etched by water and rimmed by buttes and mesas. Here it’s like looking out over the green section of the big Crayola box. Sometimes, for a real euro feel, there’s even a castle or a fort, or ruins thereof.
Which highlights another difference. Deep in the deserts of the Southwest, it’s you and nature. You might not see another person for hours and miles. In Germany, you’re never far from civilization. Along with said castles and forts, some trails take you through entire towns. And it’s not totally unusual to find a Hütte (German for cabin) along the trail where you can buy a beer and some lunch or a coffee and a piece of cake – quite a nice addition to our wilderness experiences.
While it was an overnight trip, there was no camping for us. I wasn’t ready to be that adventurous – there’s too much rain and probably lots of weird bugs in all that green. Instead, we found a hotel in nearby Koblenz and enjoyed Italian food and gelato. If only there were a way to combine gelato with a long day of desert hiking….